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Orders For Pulling Boats

Like everything else, boating has its own set of terminology and jargon. Most of it has developed to avoid confusion, which could be potentially dangerous, and so we use many of these terms when we're afloat. We build this up for Scouts gradually (so it isn't like learning an entirely new language!) and, before they know it, they're using it themselves. 

Don't feel the need to memorize the list of orders for pulling boats below; it's intended as a reference sheet for when hear something and you're not sure what it means, or if you want a refresher before the next season afloat. 

Sight your oars

Crew checks oars and crutches are ready for shipping

Ship your Crutches


Crew ship their crutches in the crutch plates

Ship your oars


Crew place their oars in the rowlocks or crutches ready for pulling

Let go forward

Let go aft


Bowman or Stroke let go.  Coil up and stow the painters

Bear Off

Shove Off

The bowman or other crewmen use the looms of their oars to push the boat away from the jetty, landing stage or the bottom should the boat be grounded.

In fenders

Out fenders

To be given as separate orders when leaving and coming along side

Stand by to give way

(or just - stand by)

This order is given to alert the crew before ordering "give way together". The crew lean forward, backs straight and arms extended to the full, with blades in readiness for pulling.

Give way - together



Give way - port

Give way - starboard

This is the order to start pulling, and is obeyed together by the whole crew. Timing is taken from the stroke.

If only one bank of oars is required, then the order "giveaway starboard (or port) is given.


This is the order to cease pulling. Take one more stroke and sit squarely and upright, oars horizontal and at right angles to the fore-and-aft line of the boat, blades feathered (horizontal).

Oars across the boat


Pull the oars in and lay them across the boat resting on the thwarts.

Lay on your oars

Rest on your oars

A more relaxed 'oars' position

Hold Water

This is an emergency order to reduce or stop the way of the boat by holding the oars at right angles to the fore-and-aft line of the boat and with their blades held still in the water. It should be obeyed immediately. If required to hold water with one bank of oars only, starboard or port is added to the order.

Stand by to back water

Given to alert the crew before ordering backwater together.  Hold the oars close to the chest in preparation to back water.

Back - together

This is the order to back water together by short pushing strokes on the looms of the oars instead of pulling.  If only one bank of oars is required to back water, the order "Back starboard" or "Back port" is given.


This is the executive order for all to give one stroke together.  If only one bank of oars is to give a stroke then the order “Give way Port” or Give way Starboard is given ("Stroke starboard or "Stroke port").

Easy all

Easy on your oars

This is the order to pull less vigorously.  If the boat is being turned, the order ‘Easy Port’ (or starboard) may be given.

Eyes in the boat

An order to the crew when it is necessary to regain their attention


If a dedicated Bowman is not assigned, this order is given to the bow oarsman, when coming along side, picking up a mooring or other task.  If a Bowman is present then the order will warn them to ready themselves.

Way enough

This is the order to bring the boat alongside which requires the crew to pull one more stroke, pass looms of the oars over their heads (to bring the oars close alongside the boat).  It will be followed by ‘Boat Your Oars’.

 Toss oars




Toss oars may be used in double banked boats in lieu of weigh enough. The order will lift the oars vertically with the blades fore-and-aft.

Oars Down

In double-bank boats when oars are tossed

Ready for pulling

Fend off port

Fend off starboard

This is used to warn the crew to fend off in order to prevent damage to the side of the boat when coming along side.

Unship crutches

Take the crutches out of the crutch plates, can be left hanging by their lanyards.