Choice of hulls... recommendations? : LUSENET : Open-water rowing : One Thread

I'm planning on a 450 mile solo rowing trip beginning next Spring on the Snake and Columbia rivers. I have some experience in building boats, completing an 18'x8' tug at present. My question has to do with the following requirements.

Can anyone recommend a hull plan (or available stock boat) for the following?

Approx 20'x5'... midships depth 22+", room for minimal sleeping berth forward, small cooking galley aft, weight less than 700 pounds net.

So far I have encountered two designs I'd consider such a voyage in. Glen-L's "sweet caroline" dory-skiff (20-LOA X 6'Beam) and John Gardners "19 Foot Surf Dory" as lined out in his "The Dory Book" (and other books). These two boats have the necessary room for spartan accomodations, Gardner's boat having less "wet" surface area and Witt's "caroline" having more deckspace.

ANY AND ALL recommendations would be highly appreciated.


Mark E. Jones Lewiston, Idaho

-- Mark Jones (, October 23, 2003


Hi Mark, For river work, I'd get a river dory, ie. drift boat. And I wouldn't plan on sleeping in the boat. You will need to get out anyway and stretch your legs, use the "head", cook, etc. I have not built one, but these kits looked interesting.

Notice that the bow and stern are heavily rockered, this allows you to spin the boat and it keeps the wetted surface small allowing you to move around on the surface of the river without being caught by the current as much. I say this after having watched a guide keep a drift boat in place on the Rogue River by just rowing. I'd estimate the current was running at 4 to 5 knots.

I'd also plan on not going over the Columbia bar at the mouth of the river.

Yours, -Gary-

-- Gary Powell (, October 24, 2003.

Oh yeah, one more point, after the trip is over, what do you plan on doing with the boat? A common boat type is much easier to sell if this is a one time adventure. A boat more suitable for those future trips may also make sense. I've heard that a glass swampscott dory was used to traverse the Snake from Dave at Gig Harbor boats. So the Gardner surf dory is a similar boat.

So are more rivers in your future, or a cabin on Lake Cour'd-lane? A river boat generally has too much windage to be much fun on a lake.

Something else to think about. -Gary-

-- Gary Powell (, October 24, 2003.

Mark, I row a 16' Swampscott dory I built from Gardner's plans. The Surf Dory you're considering is similar in design, but it's a double- ender. These are great boats, very seaworthy and move well under oars. There's a bit too much windage on my boat, and I've never taken her down a river, still I think you're on the right track. They're also nice to build. There was an article in WoodenBoat Magazine (#168) a couple of years ago about a guy (Ed Davis) who built the Gardner surf dory, then outfitted it with sails and a tent as a camp-cruiser for extended trips. Lots of good information there, including construction -- worth checking out. You can get back issues of WoodenBoat from their website. G'luck Doug

-- doug culhan (, October 25, 2003.

I'd like to build John Gardner's 19' Surf Dory and lighten it up by using Bead and Cove or Stitch and Glue methods. That would make it more suitable for one rower to handle and simplify maintenance. Are there any builders with advice or input on this idea?

-- Steve Griggs (, December 31, 2003.

The Ed Davis design noted in WB 168, and mentioned by another commentor is a beauty. I am currently approaching completion on the "Fred Dion 17' Swampscott Dory in my Haines, Alaska home/shop and i used the "seam batten" construction method w/ epoxy and bronze fasteners. This is the same technique as Ed Davis used on his WB 168 (modified) Surf Dory.

I seem to recall that the surf dory in "The Dory Book" is a true double ender--with both ends the same. The super cool Ed Davis design is slightly different at either end; thus, some additional steps will be needed in framing it up, if the traditional method is used.

Now for the bead-and-cove vs. stitch and glue question: I have not built w/ bead and cove, it seems to me that it is always used where the hull form is rounded and that's why it works--round beads in round coves. It is a similar to traditional Carvel planking. Boats that are similar to the Surf Dory that are round-sided (and round- bottomed), would be suited to the bead-and-cove method; one such example is the Peapod--both ends the same and round bottomed/sided

However, all dories have flat bottoms. The lapstrake Surf Dory, the Swampscotts, Beachcomber Alphas, the Chamberlain Gunning Dory, etc (all shown in J. Gardner's "The Dory Book") are "knuckle-sided" -- that is, the cross-sectional frames are generally planked with wide, flat boards, not round, narrow planks. This structure allows for Stitch and Glue construction and light weight designs using 1/4 inch marine ply--provided that both surfaces -in and out-- were sheathed in cloth and epoxy.

I am nearing completion on the 17' Swampscott, using the Seam-Batten method shown in the Wm. Chamberlain Gunning Dory. This produces a very stiff, very strong hull form--epoxy and s.bronze fastenings. It is a pretty slow (but fun)process--not an instant-boat.

I am all for you tackling the Surf Dory using plywood and stitch and glue. The other method that is perfectly applicable to the dories is Glued Lapstrake. If you go for the stitch and glue, my suggestion is that you: a) plank, drill, wire and epoxy-tack the hull on temporary frames and carefully, accurately, permanently connect the stems; b) fit and epoxy tack the bottom (3/4" to 1" thick); c) remove the roughed-out hull from the molds; c) double-tape and glass the entire interior in one day with epoxy; d)THEN install light-weight, laminated frames.

Some might think this is bass-akwards; my suggestion is that you quickly create and seal entirely the hull in an epoxy-glass envelope; then do a good job of stiffening the hull--light-weight frames, thwarts, knees, inwale, outwale.

For general tips on all small-boat epoxy/plywood construction, check out the book by Ian Ohlright (bad spelling) on glued-lapstrake construction.

It you want a traditional look for the surf-dory, with the cool lines of the lapstrake, and the very significnt cost/structural advantages of plywood, go with the glued-lapstrake,


-- Burl Sheldon, Haines, Alaska (, December 29, 2004.

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