trailer configuration for Swampscott Dory : LUSENET : Open-water rowing : One Thread

I bought a 17 1/2 foot Swampscott Dory last May. It is all wood construction with a "double" bottom. It spends most of its time on a trailer. When painting it, I noticed that the current bunk arrangement on the trailer is damaging the bottom. What I have now is a single 12" wide carpeted bunk. The problem is that the bunk is acting like a wedge against the oak rub strips that comprise the double bottom. Especially when bringing the boat out of the water and back onto the trailer. I'm thinking there must be better options for supporting the boat when on the trailer and for ease of launching and reloading the boat on the trailer. Does anyone have experience with prolonged use of dories and trailers?

-- Judith Peach (, August 08, 2001


My 16 ft. plywood dory (not a double bottom) has resided on a trailer for 10 years without damage. From your description I can't quite picture your trailer's means of support, or the damage that you describe. I can say that a reasonably well made boat on a reasonably well fitted trailer should not result in hull damage, so something must be wrong. Without seeing it, the problem might be the boat or the trailer; maybe both. The general principle is, the more fully supported the boat is across and along its entire bottom, the better (it's never perfect). The more the boat is required to "bridge" between trailer supports, the more stress results in the hull, and the higher the risk of damage. I once bought a wood boat - not the dory - which was warped from being kept on a trailer with a few skimpy points of support. If your trailer support is good, the damage is more likely to be from defective hull construction, and a suitable repair/reinforcement may resolve the matter. If not, modify the trailer. You have to fix the boat either way.

-- Kim Apel (, August 10, 2001.

Thanks for the response. Sorry I wasn't clear about what's supporting the boat now. There is a 12" wide carpeted plank running down the center of the trailer. And there is a bow stop at the front. The problem is that the flat bottom of the boat is 21" at its widest point. So, the 12" wide board doesn't really support the bottom there because the rub strips (which are about 2" wide, one on each edge of the flat bottom) don't contact the board. So, when the boat's on the trailer, it's really only supported for about 18" at the bow and stern.

My ititial thought was to replace the board with rollers, which would make the boat easier to launch. But after thinking about it and reading your response, I think I will probably just add a 6" wide board on each side of the 12" one in the center. This would make it so the rub strips are supported pretty much for the full length of the boat.

The damage to the hull, so far, is that the inner edges of the rub strips are worn. This seems to be because the bottom gets dragged up onto the 12" board, and as the boat goes forward, the 12" board gets a little stuck in the V formed by the rubstrips coming together at the stern. There is also some separation of the bottom and lower planks from the frames, that may or may not be related.

It seems like from your response that a continuous board supporting as much of the flat bottom as possible is preferable to intermittant supports, like rollers.

-- Judith Peach (, August 11, 2001.


you might want to consider removing the existing 12"-wide center bunk altogether once you've installed the new 6"-wide bunks. The less bunk carpet touches the boat, the easier it will be to push off and pull back on the trailer. Two bunks placed just where you need them should support the hull just as well as a wide slab. You even could, as I've done, install the two bunks not parallel to each other, but tailor them to conform to your hull shape as it develops from bow to stern. My bunks are a few inches further apart on one end than at the other.

-- Michael Kaspareck (, August 12, 2001.

Thank you, Michael, for your idea of removing the 12" bunk. I hadn't thought of that. I'll try leaving it on, first, and then take it off and try that. The boat is double ended, almost, so it would be hard to taper the bunks to fit under the rubstrips.

-- Judith Peach (, August 12, 2001.

I have had a Crawford fiberglass Swampscott on a trailer for at least ten years. At first, with an arrangement of bunks and rollers it started to damage the hull. Then a light came on. Dories are flat bottomed! They can ride on a flat trailer! I hackswawed all of the bunks and rollers off the trailer and bolted on a sheet of half inch plywood. I reinforced the underside of this sheet with some 2x4 around the edges. Then I tacked on some green artificial grassy looking stuff - used for outdoor carpet. It looks a bit strange but it works perfectly. For unloading I get the stern into the water and lift a bit on the bow, and it slide off nicely. For reloading I lift the bow onto the trailer and haul it on with the winch. When the grass is wet it is really quite slick and the dory comes aboard quite easily. It is not necessary to align the dory with bunks, etc.. Any alignment can be done up in the parking lot. I use the dory a great deal on the Maine Island Trail, sleeping aboard. So when I start out, with sail, oars, motor, gas can, battery, camping gear, et al, it is quite heavy. In spite of that I can always single hand it. Calm seas & a prosperous voyage Malcolm Forbes

-- Malcolm Forbes (, August 13, 2001.

We put the two 6" wide bunks on yesterday, one on each side of the original 12" wide one, with about a one inch gap between them. So, now we pretty much have a big flat deck like you're suggesting. We also put one roller at the back of the trailer, thinking that would make it easier to load and reload the trailer.

Interesting that you have taken your dory on the Maine Island Trail. I just finished reading the article about the trail in the latest Open Water Rowing newsletter. I thought it would be fun to take a dory out there. We regularly row it in Vermont on small lakes, swamps, and rivers with three people and some gear. It seems to go better with some weight in it, especially if there's a wind. It can be hard to keep it on course when it's windy...I wonder how that would be on the must get scary sometimes.

-- Judith Peach (, August 13, 2001.

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