Build a Traditional Dory Row Boat


These plans are for a building your own row boat.

One day while hiking in the woods of southeastern Massachusetts with my young sons, we came to a cranberry bog reservoir and spotted a boatlike shape in its depths. We pulled it ashore and found it to be the battered remains of a little dory. A real old-timer, with frames made of natural crooks of apple wood, pine planking and clinched boat nails. Easily 50 to 75 years old and obviously the product of a master dorybuilder!

She was too far gone to rebuild, but we covered her bottom with polyethylene plastic to make her float long enough to try out. And as we had anticipated from the looks of her, she proved to be one sweet little rower. At the same time, she was wide enough across the bottom to have none of the "crankiness" for which dories are both famed and feared.

Using her as a guide, we built a new dory. This reincarnation is just as sweet a rower—and not as fussy to build as you might suppose.

Build her as a utility boat, as a tender, as a silent sneak-upon-'em fishing skiff, as a trainer and fun-boat for the kids—or just as a conversation piece. The first time you take her out you'll be flabbergasted at how easily she darts along with light pulls on the oars. Of course, she can also be sculled— propelled by a single oar stuck through a hole in the transom and wiggled back and forth with a certain twist of the wrist.

This gives a narrow rig that can sneak between moored boats and dock piles like an eel. And as a bonus, she can be sailed; she's just the right size and width to do well with the rig from a sailing surfboard or dinghy—say something between 45 and 65 sq. ft. area. If you don't care to sail in a bathing suit in April or October, pop your sailing board's rig into this dory and sail in dry comfort until warm weather comes!