Modern cruising rowing boat hull shapes and designs : LUSENET : Open-water rowing : One Thread

I am finishing construction of a Gloucester Light Dory and am looking forward to a great rowing season in 2001. But as this project is coming to a close, I am starting to think about the next construction project. This coming rowing season I will be learning a lot about how to row, what works and what doesn't, and what I will actually use the boat for, as I use my new Light Dory.

For the next building season, I hope to be able to find a design which would be "world-class" state of the art for the intended use.

Boat characteristics: very efficient and fast under oar suitable for open water, possibly decked (Lake Michigan) flotation, self-bailing(?) and wet-boarding capability Carry two persons, optional second oar position Optimized for single oarsman possible shelter under deck use for cruising and exercise will be trailered or beached

Is there a chine hull shape, plywood construction design that would fit these criteria? Are rounded hulls superior for this type of boat? Which design finds a good compromise between the desire for a lightweight, long, fast, efficient hull shape and a need for stability and seaworthiness in open water?


Paul V

-- Paul VandenBosch (, December 11, 2000


Dear Paul,

From both a rowing and building standpoint the Gloucester Gull is an excellent entry level boat. It's a classic example of, what I call, first generation, recreational, open-water, fixed seat, rowing craft. It's an easy to build, easy to handle, seaworthy rowing craft. It's not exceptional in any area, but it's performance is good enough that it'll permit you to sample some of nearly everything open water rowing has to offer. You'll have a craft that'll permit you to fully participate in any fixed seat "messabouts". These events attract a wide variety of craft whose owner's love to talk about their craft. Swapping boats at these gatherings is common. Rowing other boats is the best way to find out what you want to know. Be sure to check out the other inquiries on this Forum. Good Luck.


Andre de Bardelaben

-- Andre de Bardelaben (, December 11, 2000.

Hello Paul, I got the same on-going thinking about the ultimate rowing boat. I have been using a flat bottom skiff (sharpie) 18' long and really enjoyed it. The next one would be: - Round bilge, around 18' long, 2 fixed seats, 1 removable seat when used solo, around 4' beam, counterbalanced oars with narrow spon blades, adjustable foot braces, skeg with small long keel, inside deck with scuppers, below the gunwhale, coaming and watertigh foot well with a manual bilge pump. - Plywood, good looking and pleasant to use. No varnish, only oil or paint. No sail. Probably still a dream, but perhaps some dsigners/architects could help. Best Regards. Michel

-- Michel (, December 12, 2000.

The Merry Wherry looks like a fast design, and is offered in kit form:

I would probably have to add decking for the big lake. Are there any other similar or better designs, either kits or plans?


-- Paul VandenBosch (, December 16, 2000.

Hi Paul The discription of the boat you want sounds just like the boats I build.I call them shark river dorys.The only problem is there are no plans just a paper template and some mesurments the rest is in my head.they are 20 feet long 4 wide decked and have flotation chambers in the bow and stern the ones I build might be a little fancy for your use they have varnished mahogany decks with white seams like the old speedboats had.If you like let me know and I will email you some snapshots keep the wind at your back Phil

-- Phil Reinhardt (, December 19, 2000.

PAUL: Jonathan Aborn's Monument River Wherry designs are very fast and relatively easy to build in plywood with taped chines, 17 to 18 feet long with 44 inch beam, bottom plank and two planks each side. They are double-ended, decked fore and aft. In the Comparative Results of Oarmaster Trails, 1990-1998, printed in OWR, Issue 12, February 99, Aborn's Wherry was the overall top performer. I don't believe Jon actively markets his designs, but you might drop him a note at 28 Old Bridge Road, Buzzards Bay MA 02532. Keep Pullin John Mullen

-- John Mullen (, December 23, 2000.


I have been rowing a couple different designs the last two seasons and it might help you out in deciding what to build next. The first boat I built specifically for rowing was a Gunning dory from John Gardener's book. 18 feet long and almost 5 feet wide at the gunnels. I built it out of 4 mm Okuome plywood on sawn oak frames. It is double ended and is incredibly seaworthy. I have rowed it all over and accross Buzzards bay in both rough and calm weather. It truely is a great design for open water. I built mine with watertight compartments at both ends and painted it red for increased visability. It can be rowed single or double and because there is so much room in the boat it is comfortable for four and five hour rows.

The second boat is one of my own designs. It is nearly 21 feet long and only 30 inches wide with a deep Veed hull section. Admittedly it is the result of taking things to the extreme. The boat is very tender but super efficient with minimum wetted surface and a long waterline. The round hull shape stays virtually upright in all sea conditions but the cramped quarters make it somewhat uncomfortable after a few hours of rowing. I am about to set the boat up for single/double sliding seat drop in units.

My suggestions: 18 to 21 feet, about four feet of beam, double ended, with the ability for adding a drop in rowing unit. The ocean race rowing boats use sliding seats and after several hours rowing without one I think the full body movement keeps you much more comfortable in the boat. I wouldn't hesitate in a little balast added low in the boat. Check out the Traditional Small Craft Association Quarterly for some ideas.

Good luck

-- Don Chapin (, January 04, 2001.

It is very interesting to hear that the Gunning Dory is recommended as a type of rowing boat that would be a top quality design. For rowing boats, I have usually tended to trust the more traditional designs because the outboard motor seemed to send rowing designs into the dark ages, at least until recently.

This kind of brings me full circle, because one of the first boat plans that I copied from a book in the library, back 20 years ago when I was a college student, was the Surf Dory, right next to the Gunning Dory in Gardner's book. I still think the Surf Dory is one of the most beautiful boat designs I have laid eyes on.

You mentioned that your Gunning Dory was almost 5 feet in beam. My scale says the Gunning Dory lines show a little over 4 feet beam, while the Surf Dory is a little over 5 feet beam. Were you unsatisfied with the performance of the 5 foot beam boat that you built?

I'm thinking that I need to slim down the Surf Dory lines to about 4 1/2 feet, or even 4 feet (by stretching out the stations and rescaling the lines), and compare it to the Gunning Dory lines. The width of the Surf Dory is what made me hesitate to build it, for fear of a slow rowing boat with a lot of drag in the water and difficult to turn. I live on the shore of Lake Michigan where there is some wild surf, and my plan is to use the boat to play in the waves (rowing single), but I still want good speed. I probably should just trust Gardner, because I would likely be ecstatic with the performance of the Surf Dory as drawn.

But before I start working on this project, are there any modern designs which exceed the performance of the Gunning or Surf Dory types, for the uses listed in the original post?


Paul V

-- Paul VandenBosch (, January 06, 2001.

You might want to check out Jim Michalak's 14' x 42" Roar2 stitch and glue (a Web search should find it). Jim will mail the plans to you for $15 US. I'm building one for a one-week trip this summer in and aound the Gulf Islands of western Canada.

-- Brian Walker (, May 24, 2001.

Dear Paul. In all modesty I must submit that the A DUCKAH! is the boat you are looking for. It was developed by adding 3 feet in the middle of the Delaware Ducker built by Quarter Moon. Length is 18 ft. and beam is 4 ft at deck but much less at water line.

I was impressed at the 1st Small Boat Show at Newport when Ben Fuller beat me rowing a Quarter Moon Boat. Well, yes , mine are glass but you could get the lines from Mystic ( Dave Dillion) if you like to do things the hard way.

-- jim Thayer (, July 18, 2001.

I own an Alden Double, and have considered useing the hull as a male plug for vacuum bagging a second boat. I was thinking of useing a 5/16" foam core with kevlar on the inside and glass on the outside. I allready have a second rowing station and oars. The boats would be used for camping treks with our 6 & 9 year olds on the great lakes and other inland watters. Any sugestions?

Dan Ensley

-- Dan Ensley (, November 21, 2001.

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