Human-powered watercraft

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A racing scull
Paddling surfboards
Hand-operated cable ferry

Human-powered watercraft are watercraft propelled by human power. The three main methods of collecting human power are directly from the hands or feet, through the hands with oars, paddles, or poles or through the feet with pedals and a crank or treadle.[1] While most human-powered watercraft use buoyancy to maintain their position relative to the surface of the water, a few, such as human-powered hydrofoils and human-powered submarines use hydrofoils, either alone or in addition to buoyancy.

Oared craft[edit]

Main article: Watercraft rowing

Oars are held at one end, have a blade on the other end, and pivot in between in oarlocks. Oared craft include:

If the oars are used in pairs with one hand on each oar, it is called sculling, and the oars may also be called sculls.[2] Sculled craft include:

If the oars are used individually with both hands on a single oar, it is called sweep or sweep-oar rowing.[2] In this case the rowers are usually paird so that there is an oar on each side of the boat. Sweep-oared craft include:

If a single, stern-mounted oar is moved from side to side while changing the angle of the blade so as to generate forward thrust on both strokes, it is called single-oar sculling.[3] Single-oar sculled craft include:

Paddled craft[edit]

Main article: Watercraft paddling

Paddles are held with both hands and can have blades on one or both ends. Paddled craft include:

Poled craft[edit]

Poles are held with both hands and used to push against the bottom. Poled craft include:

Pedaled craft[edit]

Pedals are attached to a crank and propelled in circles, or to a treadle and recipricated, with the feet. The collected power is then transferred to the water with a paddle wheel, flippers or to the air or water with a propeller. Pedaled craft include:


Other, less common methods of collecting human power to propel watercraft include:


See also[edit]


  1. ^ David Gordon Wilson (2007). "Pedal Power: Chapter 1 - Human Muscle Power in History". Green-Trust.Org. Retrieved 2011-07-27. 
  2. ^ a b "Sweep vs. Sculling". Virginia Boat Club. Retrieved 2011-07-27. 
  3. ^ Joseph Needham, Colin A. Ronan (1978). The Shorter Science and Civilisation in China. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 9780521315609. Retrieved 2011-07-27.