From one pair of oars to six pairs of oars

The entire family: From the left, Rival with six pairs of oars, Harald with four pairs of oars, Babben with three pairs of oars, Alexandra with two pairs of oars and to the right a boat with one pair or oars, yet to be named. Photo Roy Arild Nilsen/

Over the centuries, the Oselvar boat has been built in several different sizes. The smallest boat with one pair of oars can be shorter than 4.5 metres and the largest boat with six pairs of oars can be longer than 10 metres.

On the right, you can see the entire Oselvar family together. The boat on the left measures 18 “alen” (1 alen = 55 cm) long and was built at the Oselvar workshop in 2001. On the far right, you can see a boat with one pair of oars measuring 8 “alen”, also built at the workshop in 2022.

We measure the length of Oselvar boats in “alen”, internally from stem to stem. 1 “alen” in boats is approximately 55 cm .

A “båtalo” or “alen” in boats must not be confused with a “normal alen” which was 62.75 cm when it went out of use. The latter has varied in length throughout history.

Drawing by Arne Emil Christensen
Length alone does not define a boat. Here are two different boats measuring 12 “alen”, a regatta boat rigged for two pairs of oars and a boat for three pairs of oars. Photo: Kjell Magnus Økland, from the book “Oselvar, den levande båten”.
Smallest and largest boat built at the Oselvar workshop: Building no. 19, for six pairs of oars, 18 “alen” (10 metres), delivered to Telemark University College in 2001. Boat builders Nils Olav Solbakken and Leif Harald Amundsen together with apprentices Hallgeir Bjørnevik, Maik Riebort and Frode Ryan. The boat for one pair of oars is building no. 114 measuring 8 “alen” (4.4 m), completed in 2022. Boat builder Stig Salbu Henneman. Photo Vidar Langeland/Oselvar workshop