Homer Alaska - News

Story last updated at 9:46 PM on Wednesday, May 11, 2011

'Maki' and 'MahiNa,' rowing boats

Boat of the week

By Michael Armstrong
Staff Writer


Photo by Michael Armstrong

Dave and Marianne Aplin stike an American Gothic pose with their oars and rowing seat next to one of their Necky Amerirow boats, the Mahina.

In Marianne and Dave Aplin's Amerow rowing boats, you could row from Seattle to Skagway and along the coast of Norway and Greenland. Adventurers Jill Fredston and Doug Fesler did that in their own Amerow boats, as described in Fredston's book, "Rowing to Latitude."

The Aplins have rowed their boats a little bit closer to home.

"Instead of a book called 'Row- ing to Latitude,' we'd write a haiku called 'Rowing to Mud Bay,'" Marianne Aplin said, joking.

The sturdy, Kevlar hull 19-feet 5-inch rowing boats can handle major Arctic exhibitions. Weighing just 60 pounds, each boat can hold 300 pounds of gear along with a person. The cockpit is sealed off from two other compartments fore and aft, so even if it gets flooded by a heavy wave, the boat won't sink.

"I think the seaworthiness of this is unmatched," Dave Aplin said. "They're a work horsy boat that handles really well."

Fredston helped Vancouver, B.C., boat builder Mike Neckar of Necky kayaks design the Amerow, based on the Ameruk double-kayak hull. From a distance, the Amerow might pass for a kayak — except for those sweeping, 9-foot long oars. A removable rowing frame bolts into blocks in the cockpit. The rower sits on a sliding seat, with feet resting on blocks.


Photo by Marianne Aplin

Dave Aplin rows the Mahina with his dog, Luna, riding along.

Unlike a kayak, the rower faces backward, but that gives the Amerow a huge advantage. Rather than paddle with only arm and shoulder muscles, a person rows using mostly hips and legs.

On a calm, summer evening, Dave Aplin said they like to row from Land's End to Gull Island.

"It's just spectacular," he said. "It's easier with the rowboats."

"Only my hips are a little bit sore," Marianne Aplin said.

The Aplins first heard about the Amerow boats after a friend, James Dolma, recommended Fredston's book.

"It seemed like so much fun and a cool craft for Kachemak Bay," he said.

The Aplins bought their boats from Jerry Lewanski and Janis Fleischmann of Anchorage. Both boats were from the first production line.

Dave's boat is named Mahina, Hawaiian for "the moon," and Marianne's boat is named Maki, "on the sea." Dave has put in a fishing rod holder on the Mahina.

When fishing, Aplin ties the oar handles together with bungee cords so they're spread out like outriggers.

"You can stand up in the cockpit if you want," he said. "They're steady."

The Aplins' dog, Luna, sometimes rides on the stern deck of the Mahina. Wearing a doggy life vest, she sits on the bottom of an airline kennel strapped to the boat.

Like a kayak, all the Aplins need to launch the Amerows is a good beach. They put in at Mariner Park, Bishop's Beach and Land's End. Both boats fit on the top of a pickup truck shell, and a kayak rack with rollers makes loading the boats fairly easy.

The Aplins don't push the seas and prefer to row in calmer waters.

"It's such a good craft here," Marianne said. "You can usually find a place to row."

Michael Armstrong can be reached at michael.armstrong@homernews.com.