Old School Dory Cool

Bob Triggs

Stop Killing Wild Steelhead!
This boat is based on a mid 19th century design called the: "Swampscott Dory". Originally the boats were used for beach and near shore fishing, primarily small commercial teams or individuals, though some were worked many miles from shore for days at a time. Some were rigged with a working sail, or spritsail. The early working form was as much as 24 feet l.o.a. and would carry as much as 1000 pounds of fish etc., and one or two men, who were often up to their hips in their catch on the way home. These boats are a development from the original Banks Dories, which were used on the fishing Schooners that worked offshore from New England.

This version is significantly more stable and easier to use from a beach, and to launch into surf, or to return to the beach in surf, because of it's double-ended design. Later on the boats were popular with racing sailors, and the boats were modified in design considerably, evolving into the Beachcombers and Alpha Dories which were a serious racing class on the east coast and on the west coast too, well through the early 1940's. By then the boats had gained centerboards and boomed mainsails and jibs etc, and it took two at least to sail them, steering with an oar or rudder. These things were fast. Small boat building expert and historian author- the late John Gardener- writing in his famous work "The Dory Book", called the Swampscott Dory: "The aristocrat of the Dories". This boat shown is based on one design from that book.

When I got this boat it was kind of smashed up, rotted, damaged and neglected for years. Over a period of a few years of occasional tinkering, moving it from shop to shed to barn to tarps in yards, from one friend to another, I ended up replacing almost 90% of everything to get the boat into working order. I used mostly salvaged materials except the copper roves and nails, and a few newer bronze castings. As a practical matter it was over the top for time involved. But I just wanted to do it, for the fun of doing it. I always loved the saltiness of the Doryies used in the New England and western fisheries for over 100 years. And I learned a lot from doing it this way. Basically rebuilding the boat in reverse. Oak, Cedar, Fir, Honduras Mahogany, Sapele, Ash, over 800 copper nails and roves, hundreds of found bronze screws, mostly good salvaged lumber, blood, sweat and tears.

I row this thing from the beaches around here, go camping with it, fish from it. And it's just flat fun and handles wicked good. On milder nights I can row under the night sky, beneath the stars and moon sometimes, and the seals will tag along with me for hours on end. I can row along a beach in less than a foot of water and not touch bottom. In heavier conditions, wind and chop or breaking seas, it handles very nicely and will come into the wind or downwind handily from any one of three rowing stations. At a bit over 16 feet she handles very well with one or two on board. If I go on a longer trip the added gear is much desired ballast. Sea run cutthroat fishing from this boat is a sweet ride, but I still prefer to get out, beach the boat, and wade fish from shore mostly. I don't guide from this boat, I don't want to beat it up. And it is "tender", like a canoe, until you get used to it. I do use it for picnic trips, which I donate to the local salmon restoration program or Marine Science Center fundraisers. I am thinking it would be fun to row to Alaska someday http://olympicpeninsulaflyfishing.blogspot.com

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Registered Potamophile
As cool as the other side of the pillow. :cool:

Long ago, some fellow fished out of Shilshole in a similar rowing dory. It was the perfect boat for mooching.
Bob a beautiful boat. A great restoration. I have always admired the lines of the dory, and as you have well stated it is a versitile and beautiful craft.
Thanks for posting and saving this work of art.


Not to be confused with freestoneangler
She is gorgeous, Bob! Quite different than when I last saw her. Looks like all the hours of hard work were worth it

Alex MacDonald

that's His Lordship, to you.....
Now that is what i call a "bitchin`" boat, Bob. Really nice job! I see you've got gudgeon & pintles installed for the rudder, too. She's gotta be a true joy to row!

Rob Ast

Active Member
Sweet looking boat, Bob. I'm sure there were times during the reconstruction where you asked yourself if it was worth it. One look at it says "hell yes".

Bradley Miller

Dances with fish
Holy crap: that is what I would call;
in both visual and literary tale; a great and beautiful story.
Maybe this belongs in the Arts and Literature section. Just sayin'.

I now want, thank you very much (or not!) a small boat.

Great post.