View Full Version : Flat Bottom Skiff vs Swampscott Dory

11-14-2000, 08:50 PM
After building one boat from a kit and spending a week at the Wooden Boat School, I am about ready to start a "real" project from plans. For simplicity, I have been thinking about a flat bottom skiff such as Wooden Boat's plan for the "Perfect Skiff" or one of the Karl Stambaugh designs from Chesapeak Marine Designs. But somehow I keep coming back to Ian Oughtred's glued lapstrake Swampscott style dories.

I have been leaning toward the Oughtred 16 foot Stickleback, but I have read a few comments that dories are not much good for sailing. Of course I have heard the same about flat bottom skiffs.

So here is the question. How does a Swampscott dory compare to a flat bottom skiff in terms of stability and sailing qualities? I am obviously a beginner and I will sail mostly on inland lakes around New England. I expect that I will sail mostly by myself. But I will sometimes take my wife or 6 year old son along, which means I want to minimize the frequency of capsizing.

Thanks for any comments.

11-15-2000, 08:59 AM
A few comments relative to the stability of a Swampscott style dory can be found at this site:


Many Swampscott style craft have been set up for sailing, used primarily for inshore use
here in New England. The flat bottomed skiff does not adapt as well to a sail rig.

This is my opinion only and I would enjoy a good debate on the subject.

[This message has been edited by abe (edited 11-15-2000).]

Ian McColgin
11-15-2000, 10:46 AM
Being a fan of both general types, I'll try to share thoughts that make the decision a little clearer, maybe . . .

Both the flatty type and the dorys have examples of good an bad sailing. Let's assume that you're only looking at examples that do sail well.

Traditionally designed flatties, like the Cotuit Skiff, sail best floating on top of the water and have lots of sail area. They can really excell in calm but I've seen them ably (if daringly) handled in some boisterous conditions.

Dorys of the swampscott and chamberlain shapes have a shallow angle deadrise at the garboard and distinctive knuckles between midstrake and garboard and skere strake respectivly. The 'banks' shape - pretty much straight line up from the garboard - does not sail so well.

The dory's weakness is the lack of stern bearings causing her to squat in the water as you pick up speed. This plus the relativly larger wetted surface and more displacement mode make it easier to design a fast flatty than a fast sailing dory.

Being in general lower sided, the flatty should be easier to make light, which may or may not matter in your trailoring.

The dory gives greater carrying capacity and seaworthiness, which may come into big values if you evolve from day sailing to camping/cruising.


Classic Boatworks - Maine
11-16-2000, 06:22 AM
A Swampscott dory will sail a whole lot better than a flat bottom skiff. And when you learn to sail very early in your career you will learn not to capsize. This is left to sailboards (ie: sunfish).

Paul H Miller
11-16-2000, 08:48 AM
For a great compromise take a look at the Marblehead dory skiff. The plans are available from Mystic Seaport. I've sailed flat bottom boats, dories and dory-skiffs, and the Marblehead is the nicest I've tried.
Good luck!

Stu Fyfe
11-17-2000, 01:02 PM
Check out Doug Hyland's Beach Pea. Plans are available from WoodenBoat. Glued Lap full sized plans. Moderate skills necessary.

12-07-2000, 09:02 PM
Thanks to all for your comments and suggestions.


05-21-2004, 09:35 AM

05-21-2004, 11:45 PM
Beg, borrow, steal or buy a copy of Building Classic Small Craft by John Gardner. It originally came out in two volumes, but now is combined into one book. You'll spend hours looking thru all the designs whether you decide to build them or not. Towards the end of Vol 2, there's a chapter on a 16' Swampscott that was modified for better sailing ability. There's also a chapter for a sailing flattie. There's enough information in the chapter to build the boat directly from it; you'll need to loft the frames, but this is fairly simple on a Swampscott, and even easier for a flattie.

Frank E. Price
05-22-2004, 07:49 PM
Kind of like most things, isn't it? Given the question above, the real answer is, "it depends."

My experience includes one dory and one sharpie skiff. The dory was Bolger's light rowing dory (Gloucester Gull). It was designed for rowing and was an excellent rowboat, provided you didn't need to carry much weight. Wouldn't take a lot of weather, but what 15 1/2 footer would? I would not even consider a sail on it -- too narrow and not enough freeboard or washboards. Had the boat until I wore it out.

The sharpie skiff is the current boat, the 18' skiff in American Small Sailing Craft. It's wide (compared to the dory), heavy and rows like a truck. But it's a sailing work boat; rowing is for backup or in tight quarters. It's about three years old. Even with the half-size sail that's on it, it sails fine compared to rowing it. It's not fast with that little sail, but yesterday was the first time I dipped the rail under for a second or two.

The Swampscott is obviously not much like the Gloucester Gull, but whether it sails "better" than a flattie kind of depends on what kind of sailing you intend, no? By the way, from my studies I believe a flattie is like but not the same as a sharpie or flatiron skiff, the flattie being relatively beamier and frequently having some deadrise in the stern. They're all flat bottomed boats, but the sharpie skiff has to be the easiest to build. For RobFM that's apparently not a large factor.

It's all good clean fun. Build both and tell us what you think.


P.S. Good grief! This started 3 1/2 years ago. Rob, what happened? Venchka, you sly dog!

[ 05-22-2004, 08:57 PM: Message edited by: Frank E. Price ]