The steersperson is a very important member of the dragon boat crew because without him/her, the boat won’t leave the dock.
In a canoe, a paddler can change the stroke to make the boat head in different directions but in a dragon boat, the stroke is purely for powering the boat forward.
Since a dragon boat is about 10 metres long, paddlers have little influence on direction. Thus, there is a need for a steersperson.
A dragon boat is steered with a sweep oar rigged at the rear of the boat, generally on the left side.
It acts like a rudder but looks like it belongs in a giant’s row boat.
With that oar, the steersperson can manoeuver the boat around a lake, straight down the race course or gently to the dock.
The blade exerts pressure on the water so if it is pulled away from the boat, the bow will go to the left and when pushed towards the boat, the bow will veer right.
The language of the boat includes commands that will aid a steersperson.
When leaving the dock, “back us down” calls for all to paddle backwards.
“Hold the boat” means to put paddles vertically in the water to prevent drift.
And “draw” requests one side to pull water towards the boat to help it side slip in that direction.
These words seem foreign to a new paddler but with practice, they do make
At any time, the steersperson can override the drummer’s control to ensure safety.
Since the dragon boat has a low profile, boat or wind driven waves easily slosh over the gunnel. That means we may need to quickly steer the boat so as to meet larger waves head on. But, even more power rests with this person because he or she is the one to decide if lake conditions are safe for paddling.
Like with the drummer, choppy water can cause a sense of instability but none of our steers people has been lost overboard. If you are interested, we’ll teach you how to paddle or steer. Recreational paddling happens every Wednesday until the end of September. What a great way to spend a beautiful evening on the lake.
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