Rowing Commands

Getting Under Way in a Standard
From Alongside:
At the order "Bear off" the bowhand bears the boat off and the near side crew on the stroke thwart springs the boat ahead.

From a Boom:
If at an inner berth order the bowhand to bear off by pushing the boat astern to clear the other boats alongside. At an outboard berth order the bowhand to move the boat ahead.

From a Buoy:
Order the bowhand to "Let go". Have the remainder of the crew at "Oars" to immediately be able to get under way.

In Fenders:
Bring fenders inboard.

Ship Crutches:
Place the crutches in their sockets.

Select Your Oars:
Each rower grasps their oar (stroke oarsman outboard oars) and raises the blade to the gunwale.

Toss Oars:
The oars are raised smartly to a vertical position with the looms resting on the bottom boards - blades fore and aft.


The oars are lowered gently into the crutches, care being taken not to allow the blade to touch the water. The crew sit squarely and upright on their thwarts with the oars horizontal and blades "feathered", i.e., parallel with the water. NOTE: When given under way "Oars" or “ship oars” is an order to stop rowing and assume the position described above.

Give Way Together:

‘Give way together’ is then ordered.

  • In a tideway it may be necessary to have the crutches shipped and the oars cossed before ordering the bowhand to bear off to avoid the boat being carried away by the tide.
  • These orders are given in rapid sequence and are executed in precise unison by the crew.

There are then four parts to a complete stroke:

1. Leaning forward and lowering the blade in the water ready to start the pull.
2. The sweep of the blade toward the stern to give the headway.
3. Raising the blade out of the water and turning it flat (feathering).
4. Swinging the oar back to position for the next stroke. Be careful not to make
this recovery too rapidly. Give the crew time to breathe correctly.

Pulling Orders

When a pulling boat is under way, any order to the crew is obeyed by completing one full stroke after the order is given. The exception is "Hold water" which is obeyed instantly.

All such orders should be given at the moment when the blades of the oars are in the water. Obeying the order the crew should take their time by the stroke oars. 

"Port" or "Starboard” orders

When "Port" or "Starboard" is included in the order it refers to the bank of oars on the port or starboard side of the boat respectively, i.e., "Give way port" if only the port bank of oars is required to give way.

"Back together"

"Back together" is the order to back water together by pushing on the looms of the oars instead of pulling (or "Back port" or "Back starboard").

"Easy All"

"Easy All" is the order- to pull less vigorously so that the speed of the boat will be reduced. If the boat is being turned, "Easy port" or "Easy starboard" may be given. To resume normal pulling the order- "Give way together" is given.

"Stroke together"

"Stroke together" is the order for all to give one stroke together.


"Oars" is the order to stop pulling which is given when the oars are about to be boated or tossed.


  • If the oars are not to be boated or tossed the order "Oars" is given; for example, when ordering "Rest on oars". This order allows the crew to relax by laying their oars athwart the boat with the grips on the gunwale, blades flat.
  • With a heavier oar, such as is used in naval whalers and cutters, the grip is slipped under the gunwale, the weight of the outboard end of the oar holding it in place.

“Shipped” and “Boated”

Oars, crutches, etc., are "shipped" when placed ready for use and "boated" when stowed away in the boat.

"Mind your oars"

"Mind your oars" is a warning to the crew to keep the blades of their oars clear of some obstruction ("Mind your port oars" – "Mind your starboard oars").

"Eyes in the boat"

"Eyes in the boat" is an order to the crew to keep their gaze from wandering abroad and to pay attention to the job. There is, tendency with new Scouts to watch the blade of the oar, which should be discouraged at an early stage.