Instructions to Crew

Here a list of some of the commonly used nautical terms relating to the boat together with definitions. Also set out are some of the more important instructions, which should be learnt well. When rowing you may well not be aware of situations that are developing ahead of the boat and it is essential for everyone’s safety that you respond to the instructions immediately. At the end is a list of instructions relating to getting the boat ready for rowing and mooring up afterwards and for leaving the boat secure.


Bow:  The front end of the boat.

Stern:  The back end of the boat.

Port:  The left side of the boat when viewed from the stern.

Starboard:  The right hand side when viewed from the stern.

Thwarts:  The seats across the boat.

Painter:  The rope fixed to the bow.

Fender:  Soft object usually air-filled plastic used to protect side of boat when lying alongside.

Rowlocks:  The swivel mountings for the oars.

Looms:  Ends of the oars that are held i.e. opposite end to the blades.

Stroke:  The oarsman nearest the stern is called “Stroke”.  This person is responsible for setting the pace (acting on instructions from the Captain).  All other rowers are to follow him and row in time with him.

Position In Boat:  In order to make it easy to give instructions to individual rowers, they will be given a number based on their position in the boat.  The person in the bow is Number 1.  The person in front of him, No.2, the person in front of him No.3 and the stroke, the rower nearest the stern, No.4.  Please work out your number and if in doubt, check with the captain.  Use of numbers will avoid the risk of problems with names being muddled in the heat of the moment and will avoid confusion when two people have the same name.  Also numbers can be said quicker than names.


Getting into Boat:  When getting into the boat step into the bottom and do not step onto the thwarts.  If it is not possible to do this e.g. because the jetty is too high, it may be necessary to step on a thwart but if this is done it should be for the minimum time only and you should immediately move to stand on the bottom or the floor boards.

Moving about in Boat:  When moving about in the boat always stand on the bottom or the floorboards never ever stand on the thwarts.  When in the boat, only stand when absolutely necessary and at all other times remain seated. Standing up in the boat makes it unstable.


The following instructions will be used when rowing.  By always using these instructions all the time, you will become familiar with them and there will be no ambiguity.  People should react to the instructions immediately so that the boat responds quickly. This will allow the cox to know that he is in control of the boat and that he can make any necessary manoeuvres with confidence.

Shove off:  Order to push boat away from side either with the looms of the oars.  Never shove off with the blades as they are fragile. Alternatively the boathook can be used if only one person is doing this.

Ship Your Rowlocks:  Put the rowlocks into their sockets taking care to ensure that the leathers are in contact with the rowlocks.

Ship your Oars:  Place the oars in the rowlocks in readiness for pulling.

Give way together:  This instruction will mean to row ahead.  If possible, the instruction Oars should be given prior to giving the order ‘Give Way Together’ as a warning and in this case rowers should move the oars to the position of the start of the stroke to allow the stroke to start immediately.  When giving the instruction, the cox should extend the time of saying Give Way so that when Together is said all will know to start immediately.  If used in combination with the numbers then only those people should row.  I.e. Nos. 1 and 3 Give Way will mean the first and third rowers only are to row forwards.  Alternatively, for only one bank of oars the instruction could be Give Way Port or Give Way Starboard.  

Pull hard:  Row strongly.

Back together:  This instruction will mean to row backwards.  Again the use of hard in combination will mean to row strongly.  It is possible that on occasion rowers with oars on one side will be rowing in an opposite direction to the others.  In this case the instruction will be e.g. 1 and 3 Back.  Alternatively the instructions Back Port or Back Starboard can be given.  This will make the boat turn quickly in little space.  It is not usually practicable to give this instruction when the boat is moving quickly through the water in which case the ‘Hold Water’ instruction should be used.  (See below)

Hold Water:  This will mean hold your oars still in the water and resist the forward movement.  Often the instruction will be for two of the rowers on one side to hold water. Eg. 1 and 3 Hold Water or alternatively Hold Water Port or Hold Water Starboard can be given.  This is useful when turning the boat quickly as the keel tends to resist the turning of the boat so extra turning force is needed than that which the rudder can give on its own.  

Oars:  Cease pulling and hold the oars in horizontal position at right angles to boat.  This instruction is also given prior to giving the order ‘give way together’ to alert the rowers to stand by.

Easy All:  Pull less vigorously.  Easy Port or Easy Port would be given to help the boat turn.  To resume normal pulling after these instructions, the instruction Give Way Together would be given.

Toss your Oars:  This instruction means hold oars vertically with looms resting on the bottom.  

Boat your Oars:  The oars should be lifted out of the rowlocks and stowed inside the boat with the blades towards the stern.  If only some of the rowers are instructed to do this, then they will need to be careful not to disturb the others still rowing.  When coming alongside, it is useful for the instruction 1 and 2 Boat Your Oars to be given.  This will allow the two people in the bow to deal with fending off and managing the moorings.

Stroke together:  Give one stroke together.  If not all are to do this, order will be e.g. 1 and 3 Stroke or Stroke Port or Stroke Starboard.

Mind Your Oars:  Warning to keep blades clear of some obstruction ahead.  If the obstruction is one side only the instruction would be either Mind Your Port Oars or Mind Your Starboard Oars.  

Steer to Starboard:  This will mean to steer to the right.  To do this you pull the line attached to the rudder yoke on your right.  

Hard a Starboard:  This means to steer to the right as much as possible.  When steering make sure that the rudder is not too far over as it will otherwise act as a brake.  About 45  should give the maximum turning effect without slowing the boat too much.

Bow:  Order to bow-man (No.1) to boat his oar and stand by to fend off usually with the boat hook.


Check if there is any water in the bottom of the boat by lifting up the floorboard within the aft stretcher.  If there is and it is higher than the sensor of the pump check that the pump is connected properly to the battery and test pump by emptying bucket full of water into bottom of boat.

Unlash the oars, rudder, yoke and the bucket.  Put the lashings for the oars into the bucket. Ship the rudder and tie its line to the ring-bolt on the sternpost.  Check that the lashings on the rowlocks are securely tied to the stringers with clove-hitches.

If taking the boat from the buoy to the jetty, ship the two rowlocks at the middle of the boat and use the two short oars.  These allow the boat to be rowed comfortably by one person. Undo the long mooring rope. When ready to set off let go the short rope and move immediately to the rowing thwart.


Mooring Up:  When mooring up to the buoy, take the shorter of the two ropes on the ring-bolt fixed to the stem and pass it through the shackle on the buoy, back into the boat and then make a round turn round the ring bolt and two half hitches round the rope.  Then take the longer rope and pass it through the shackle on the buoy, back into the boat, round the first thwart and then make it fast with a round turn and two half hitches to the ring-bolt. N.b. if there is not enough room on the ring bolt for both ropes to have a round-turn then use a half turn.  The second rope should be left slightly slack as the main mooring will be the shorter rope. The longer rope is there for and emergency should the other one break. Taking it round the thwart and back to the ring-bolt will mean that if the ring-bolt is pulled out the second mooring will still work.

Rowlocks:  Lift the rowlocks out of their sockets and put one of the sides of the “U” behind the stringer.  This will stop the rowlock rubbing along the side of the boat and taking off the paint. Check that the lashings on the rowlocks are secure.

Rudder:  Lift the rudder into the boat, lay it in the bottom of the boat and tie the line through it round one of the thwarts.  Also tie the yoke to a thwart.

Oars:  Lay the oars on the thwarts together with the boathook.  The blades should be aft and the hook on the boathook at the bow end.  There should be two groups one on each side. One will have four oars and the other three oars and the boathook.  Lash them to the 1st and 4th thwarts taking care that all the oars are lashed and the blades are not .touching the sides of the boat.

Pump:  Lift the bottom board in the aft stretcher.  Wipe of sensor on the pump with a finger to remove any mud deposited there.  Any mud deposited on the sensor will retain moisture and the pump will think that there is water in the bottom and will not stop working and will drain the battery.  Check the pump is working by filling the bucket with water and pouring into the bottom of the boat.  The pump should start more or less immediately. The outlet is on the part side. If it is not working, check that the leads are connected to the battery properly.

Bucket and Bailer:  Put the sponge in the bailer and pass the line on the bucket through the handle on the bailer and then make it fast to one of the thwarts.

Floorboards:  Check that all of the turnbuckles on the floorboards and at right angles to the boards and are locking the boards in place.