View Full Version : swampscott for sale

02-16-2011, 10:34 PM
Taking a look at this Swampscott on Sat, in RI

17', with a rig, etc, supposedly built in 1943 in NH. Looks to me like the "Dion" Swampscott drawn in the early 20th cent lines that you can find online, I think the one Gardner based his (slightly) modified sailing Swampscott on

Just speculating. Owner claims it's copper clinched but then described rivets and roves over the phone... I can't figure out why the bottom isn't all yawning plank seams but he claims it's tight. So, I'm thinking later than '43, plywood bottom... or something

we shall see!


02-17-2011, 06:51 AM
Best of luck! Take a good camera and a sharp knife for probing the bottom planks...

02-17-2011, 10:00 AM
good idea re. the camera.... it's always a little hard to "survey" an old wooden boat when the proud owner is standing there. . .

02-17-2011, 10:09 AM
You might have better luck determining the condition of the hull with a small ball peen hammer. Good wood and rotten wood have a distinctly different ring. For a boat this size, just rapping with your knuckles will give you a pretty good idea of condition. Owners generally do not like folks poking their boat with a knife, but will tolerate no end of knuckle whacking.

02-17-2011, 10:32 AM
yeah, I know--I mean about the knife. Having an owner (or even worse, broker) around is the worst. I'm not too worried about paste and putty covering up rot... the old guy who actually owns it (the seller's dad) stripped a bunch of paint in various places, I just can't imagine how that bottom is tight after so many years of barn storage...
anyhow, I'll bring a small brass hammer I've got lying around, that might look professional
At least there's not a whole lot to look at there

02-17-2011, 10:42 AM
Even your thumbnail will find soft wood. Good luck with that dory, I've seen her advertised. I would look if I didn't already have a dory.

02-17-2011, 12:20 PM
I watched it fade out to nothing on Ebay, I'd emailed him a bunch of questions and it took him a few weeks to get back to me, plus it's over 3 hours just to get down there, but it does look like a pretty good one. Like the sheer a lot. Plus it has the triangular rig that I like a lot more than a sprit (for Swampscotts anyway). Not sure if I can convince him that "canvas sails" aren't all that much of a selling point . . .

James McMullen
02-17-2011, 01:48 PM
Could be copper clinched in the laps with just rivets through the frames. That's how a lot of boats over on this coast are built. I don't see any intermediate frames in the pics though, just the sawn frames? Also, you hope maybe it's got a double-bottom with staggered seams if it's not plywood. You could certainly add a double-bottom if it's not already there as a well-proven fix.

I wouldn't pay too much for it, but if the planking is sound, it certainly looks like it has potential!



02-17-2011, 06:14 PM
yeah, I'm thinking splines at the very least, as far as the bottom; but even splines open up after 10 years in a barn. We'll see. He is actually asking more than I think it's worth ($1750) but it comes with two running 2hp outboards (for some reason), trailer, rig. I dunno. Hard to say. My gut says it's not worth nearly that but I might be able to talk him down a bit and then sell the outboards...

I could certainly buy the materials to make a bran' new one for that $$. (I was looking at Gardner yesterday, I couldn't believe he's got expanded planks with offsets for a 16 footer. That's like the first instant boat. . . )

02-18-2011, 07:26 PM
Depends on how much work she needs. I was content to pay two grand for an 18'8" dory, ready to go, with trailer. I'm not sure I've seen any cheaper than this one.

02-19-2011, 07:12 PM
well, she's mine now ....

Looks like the whole boat's made out of what I would call pitch pine, or hard pine. A couple of rotten laps, the two or three planks that make the bottom haven't opened up all that much but you'd be bailing pretty fast if you took her out. Somebody glassed the bottom and garboard a long time ago (inside and out, ugh) but the previous owner stripped most of it off. Anyway, more project than I wanted but definitely a worthy one. No rivets anywhere, all clenched copper nails. I haven't looked at the transom all that closely but it might be pitch pine also, or mahogany. Mostly a solid boat, a survivor for sure. It came with three potential masts, a nicely preserved old boom with a yolk (unless it was a gaff from some other boat), a cotton man and jib, both of which are pristine. Weird. Two engines, one of them the cutest little 2 hp. Evinrude I've ever seen, about 25 lbs. three sets of oarlock sockets, no oars, the usual dory floorboards, stern sheets and thwarts all mahogany. PRetty cool, can't wait for warmer weather!
pictures eventually

James McMullen
02-19-2011, 10:13 PM
Nice! I got an old Swampscott to restore right now too. . .you wanna have a race to finish to make sure each of us keeps our nose to the grindstone? I got so many projects going right now I could use help in focusing :D

02-19-2011, 10:28 PM
Well... you win! It's, let me see, 26 degrees out with gusts up to 50 mph. . . I got a kayak rebuild first (indoors), won't be able
to do anything on the hull until about, probably, mid April. How bad is yours?

Got a kind of a quandry, too--just measured this boat's gorgeous sails, beautiful leatherwork, sewn grommets, bolt ropes, corner patches--they're about 20 sq ft short of the square footage shown at


(scroll down for "Dion Dory"--it's the exact boat but with a 2' shorter rig both in height and boom length)
So's this would be a good time to make or have made some sails, but then, I might sail it with the old ones and find they're perfectly ok ... or, hold on to your hats, I could make a little mizzen (always like that Drascombe thing)

02-19-2011, 10:42 PM
Obviously I'd scarph about 18" to each spar, too
James what's the story with your dory?

James McMullen
02-19-2011, 11:46 PM
What is the story with my fine new ol' dory?
And the quest to restore her to her former glory?
I always do relish
A tale to embellish
So check out this thread (http://forum.woodenboat.com/showthread.php?126628-Check-out-our-new-(old)-Swampscott-Dory!) if you want to hear more-y.

I apologize in advance for the screaming deal I got on mine compared to what you had to pay. I know it's really not fair at all. :(
If you lived closer I might well have offered you this one. . .

02-20-2011, 12:32 AM

Have fun! Take lots of photos of the boat in original condition, as you may need to refer to them later in the restoration. I also bought an old solid wood dory and refinished her -- wonderful project. As to the sails, try 'em before you change anything.


02-20-2011, 09:10 AM
Thorne, maybe you could post your old, footsore post about pictures... I can't seem to find it even though I tripped over it five times at least, randomly.
I'll post a couple of "before" pictures but since my trust fund PIN # got lost, I won't be working in a heated barn.

And James, thanks for the sympathy but I bid pretty low. Me with my little surveying (tack) hammer. But... in my heart of hearts, all I could hear was, "this oughta be free"... out on where I lived most of my adult life (Martha's vineyard) it would have been a couple hundred bucks at most. Not complaining--heck it's a genuine piece of New England historicality and fully complete with genuine nostalgic sails

02-20-2011, 09:18 AM
No problem -

Here's how to post photos on this forum:

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02-20-2011, 10:01 AM
thanks, Thorne, I'll get some pics later today

I just examined it in the bright sunshine and I'm getting pretty psyched--the rot's almost totally restricted to one plank. There are a few other spots that could use dutchmen, that's not a problem. IT's got a sawn oak inwhale, like James McMullen's free dory--and in the bow and stern that big hefty inwhale was mortised I guess for decking fore and aft, which is kind of weird. Mahogany stern sheets and thwarts notched over frames, an open breasthook.... all this is to the letter exactly like the Gardner version of the Dion dory. which is pretty cool

James McMullen
02-20-2011, 10:30 AM
That sounds like great news, earling! I'm getting pretty psyched for you. . .and for me too, come to think of it. . . Hooray for trad. lapstrake Swampscotts!

02-20-2011, 10:53 AM
Yeah, James, these old dories are the bomb.
1st of many photos:

Weird mortises (not really mortises, just cut-outs in the caprail)--any ideas?


02-20-2011, 10:54 AM
mast step needs to come out and be re-engineered

http://i167.photobucket.com/albums/u135/earling2/swampscott/P1000757.jpg?t=1298220885 (http://s167.photobucket.com/albums/u135/earling2/swampscott/?action=view&current=P1000757.jpg)

02-20-2011, 10:55 AM
bottom planks


02-20-2011, 10:55 AM
full complement of floorboards, which I like


02-20-2011, 10:56 AM

02-20-2011, 10:57 AM
no comment necessary (at least it's only one plank)


02-20-2011, 10:58 AM
knees, undercut thwart


02-20-2011, 10:59 AM
stem needs a little work


02-20-2011, 10:59 AM
giant blob of bondo and glass... nice


02-20-2011, 11:00 AM
the proud swampscott bow

'02 registration


02-20-2011, 11:07 AM
that's it, hope I didn't jam the servers

I'm thinking maybe I'll try and find some shop space somewhere... I really want to get going on this. That way we can start the BiCoastal Swampscott Restoration Gentlemen's Bout, '11

02-21-2011, 08:04 AM
A real beauty! It will be a thrill to sail.

James McMullen
02-21-2011, 08:18 AM

Do you suppose that "mortise" or whatever you call it at the gunwale is because it once was decked over in the ends?

02-21-2011, 10:08 AM

You'll want to start with the hardest bit - that plank. With any luck the rot won't involve the stem or other planks.

I agree with the guess about a rear deck / flotation box, which looks like it wasn't completed. Unless you need to pull the gunwales, I'd leave the notch there as character...

02-21-2011, 11:14 AM
Yes, I was assuming some kind of end decks, but flat ones? no crown? And no side decks? strange. I don't mind the notches at all, I'd just leave them there... I like the idea of a decked swampscot but really it's the side decks that you need, not the bow and stern ones that much... anyway, they're well done, I'll try and figure out some cool thing to use them for . .

Thorne, yup, there's a little rot going into one of the plank laps beyond that rotten plank forward but it's not bad, a little minor graft work ought to fix it. That stern box was actually finished--the mahogany stern sheets are sitting in the back of my truck. Whoever built this thing was slavish about sticking to the Dion plans--in Gardener's drawing, it even lists that aft bulkhead thing as "removable", and it is. Comes right out. I guess i should order The Dory Book... I was wondering if it's possible this was THE "Dion" dory? No idea who he was or when he formalized the lines of this thing, but it's weirdly compatible with the drawing (I think I posted the PDF link earlier, don't have it on this computer)

Lazy Jack
02-21-2011, 12:42 PM
Those "notches" are merely classic swampscot dory gunwhale cap styling. I built my Chamberlain Gunning dory with the same cap styling per Gardners drawings only I left a notch for the water to escape so it didn't pool in the corner.

02-21-2011, 12:57 PM
Really? That's in The Dory Book? (which I dont have)

James McMullen
02-21-2011, 02:57 PM
You definitely need a copy of The Dory Book! I keep mine under my pillow at night.

02-21-2011, 06:46 PM
I'm out of the loop, man. Ok, off to Amazon . . .

02-21-2011, 11:14 PM
Best of luck, as I believe it is out of print. Very bad to have such an important resource either unavailable or horrifyingly expensive for new builders.

Alibris has 'em from $34-104, but I think the extra money for the 1987 Mystic edition is worth it - http://www.alibris.com/booksearch?author=gardner&title=the+dory+book

John W Smith
02-21-2011, 11:52 PM
Let's see here... our kind hosts have it listed as in stock here (http://boatstore.com/Dory-BookThe-John-Gardner/productinfo/300-043/), or you can pop over to Mystic Seaport's online store - link is http://www.mysticseaport.org/index.cfm?fuseaction=shop.museumProduct&storeNavigationID=34C05AA0-B0D0-D05E-1ABE5E6A04B46C37&productID=E54E2459-D10D-44BD-8B88127A453EE4C9. Both $29.95 for mere mortals, discounted at Mystic Seaport for members.

Very nice dory, BTW...lotsa yarr potential! :arg

02-22-2011, 10:30 AM
what really hurts is that I KNOW I have that book somewhere, along with American Small Sailing Craft, 100 Small Boat Rigs, a couple of other standards... it's making me nuts. I feel like I'm missing a limb

Anyhooo... I ordered it from Thorne's link. Hardback. Supposed to get here by Mar 12. I guess somebody's hand delivering it personally from California.

Bob Triggs
02-22-2011, 01:10 PM
The caprail detail is from John Gardener's drawings,(in the Dory Book, and especially Fred Dion's Dory), taken directly from the working fishing history of the Swampscott Dory. If anyone was faithful to the practical details of early working craft it was Mr Gardener.

The Swampscott Dory was used for fishing and lobstering, which in the early to mid 19th century was primarily a handline hauling fishery. These boats evolved with a rounder bilge and mid section as they were not meant to be stacked on schooner decks like their parent design the "Banks Dorys" were. Swampscott Dorys were a perfect design for two fishermen to haul up and down the beaches of New England, rowing out off shore to fish each day, and even for several days, then often sailing home loaded with a simple working sail, and hauling back up the beaches at night. The boat sits nicely in an upright position between trips. The earliest Swampscotts could be over 20 feet in length and easily handled loads in excess of a ton, plus several fishermen and gear. The National Marine Fisheries Service has some great archived historic photos of these boats at work.

The early pictures of working Swampscott Dorys show the dory fisherman; standing with one foot on the rail and the other foot in the bilge, hauling the line up by rocking the boat rail downward toward the submerged line, taking a haul on the line while then tipping the boat by stepping back off of the working side rail and shifting the weight away from the taught line, rocking the boat as a lever while hauling. At the top of the hauling effort the fisherman would then again push the rail downward, tipping it toward the work again while holding taught to the previous line gained, and repeat. The rail amidships would get abraided by the chafing action of the hauling lines, especially true of lobster pot lines that are in water long enough to grow barnacles etc. It wouldnt take long to cut into the sheer planking. Many of the earlier boats had no real rails or caprails to begin with.

So it made sense to build up the sheer amidships to protect it. Less work was drawn across the foreward and aft rail ends and so there was no need to build them up so much. In the earliest photos of these boats it is evident that the rails were built up simply, with planks or slats just nailed on where needed. No doubt the influence of the sailing and racing Swampscott Dory, and eventually the Alpha and Beachcomber Class Dorys (Still basically a Swampscott Dory), lead to a more refined detail on the rails as these later 19th century boats were not "working craft" in the ordinary sense.

That's my story and I am sticking to it.

Your boat looks like a great find!

02-22-2011, 01:47 PM
well thanks Bob--amazing story. Never would have come up with that explanation. So it's a kind of formalized, gentrified interpretation of pure new England cheap cussedness.

one of these lines really struck a chord: "easily handled loads in excess of a ton"
I used to fish for bay scallops (5 bushel limit) out of a 14' wooden Amesbury Skiff, which is basically a fat, cut-off Swampscott. If you imagine 5 bushels of live scallops, two 30" ring drags, about 200 feet of 5/8" rode, two 6 gal. gas tanks, spare parts, lunch, me, a 50s vintage 10 hp. Johnson and a culling board, you can imagine how much these types of hulls can carry. I'd guess there was probably about 800 lbs payload all told on the way home. A 14' Amesbury doesn't have much actual floor space because of all the flare. Another sentence struck me, about the way they hauled lines. I actually used to pull my drags exactly the way you describe, only I used an overhead kind of gallows pole--I would rock the boat toward the load, then jam the line, rock it away from the load, take in a few feet ... etc. Saved my back probably. It was amazingly efficient in the typical November/December 1 foot pond chop, beam on. (I should add--I never once got the rail under water, even with me and a drag bursting with jap grass and clacking scallops that probably weighed around 80 to 100 pounds right on the rail. The drags weren't meant for hand hauling, but when you get a freebie, what are you gonna do?)

Also, this was a very old, nail sick boat from the 40s or so, so it had some open lap seams above the waterline. I used to amuse myself by watching the seawater spurt up through the garboard lap up forward on the way home coming into a chop. (it would plane on the way out, unloaded) Anyway, I have a lot of faith in these lapstrake dory types. And affection. The old types are best.