View Full Version : Gloucester Light Dory
04-18-2001, 10:24 AM
I am thinking of building Bolger's light dory. I'll be using it here in southern California to row around the harbor as well as taking her up and down the coast a bit.
I am looking for any anecdotal experiences, comments, construction tips, etc. How does she handle in less than ideal conditions?
I know this is not a "traditionally" constructed craft, but ever since I've seen one, I've been daydreaming about building one and rowing it around. I've searched here and on the net, but haven't found as much as I'd like to know. I am ordering Payson's book.
Also, I have two young boys and wonder how suited she is to taking them out for occasional short excursions. Any input at all would be valuable to me. Thanks in advance.
04-18-2001, 10:47 AM
I own one & like it - sort of. Someone quipped that you can't chew gum in one because you disrupt thebalance, and that's just about right. Right for me at least, but then I weigh about 220. I've often thought that a wiry 165 pounder with a five gallon jug of water under his knees would be able to enjoy, and do more with, this boat than I can. But even such a one would not, I think, want to try to accomodate children in this boat.
04-18-2001, 11:17 AM
You should also part your hair in the middle. Mine is naturally parted with a big bare spot.
Dorys were designed for three things: ease and low expense of building, carrying a heavy load of fish and gear and stacking in a small space on a schooner's deck. Unfortunately, they also have a simplicity and beauty of form and so get used in many ways where they are not very suitable.
04-18-2001, 12:19 PM
I've had the pleasure this winter of rowing my friend Steve L's Gloster Gull and she's a good light rowboat.
It's interesting to compare rowing the Gull to rowing Leeward, my 18' gunning dory.
The forms are very different. The Gull is your basic slab sided fishing dory that's been slimmed down a lot and lowered freeboard. Leeward has some knuckle to her sides, with lesser deadrise. While neither boat has much initial stability, Leeward has huge final stability. I commonly stand on the garboard, healing her to maybe 20 degrees, especially if I'm hauling something heavey. Roll the rail down, secure the load over the oarlock, & lean back to let the rail lift it up. Roll it down again trimming as it goes and try again.
The Gull is very tippy at first. Once you're sitting down and used to it, you realize that there's pretty good stability when you're in the boat but the initial stability is more squirrely than a canoe.
I think a Gull is very suitable for outings with kids because it teaches them proper boat behavior. She's very easy to row and you'll easily put some disance on her once you're in shape.
When light she'll pound a bit in a headsea but it's not a big problem. The shape is bouyant enough to crawl over most anything that's not actually breaking surf. However, she will tend to broach in a following sea and, unlike Leeward, might well get girded and rollover. However, it's very easy to hold her as the wave passes and if you do this rather than try to surf, you'll be fine.
I think I'd put floatation in the bow and stern for your intended uses. Take a warm day to do some capsize drill, bail her out swamped drills and all that good stuff. It's fun for the kids anyway.
She's light enough that a child over 7 or so might well row her in sheltered places if the right sized oars were made for the chile.
04-18-2001, 12:42 PM
I built a Light Dory two years ago just to have something on the water in Maine. I like the boat just fine for solo rowing--it rows easily, especially on flat water, and it is fairly fast.
With two aboard, in my experience, one must sit aft. When both try to row, she goes down by the head and becomes impossible to steer. My wife usually takes the forward rowing station, because she's lighter, and we have tried to use large rocks or sandbags aft for proper trim, but this has never been very convenient or effective. Unfortunately, our 85 lb black labrador just won't stay back there. With three people aboard, the boat balances just fine.
The forward rowing station rowlocks appeared to be too close together for my liking, but they haven't been as awkward as I feared, at least for my wife. Loaded with everything but the kitchen sink for a weekend island camping trip, the boat balanced out well and proved a very able cargo carrier.
Like any dory, this one is subject to being blown off course by the head. But bringing her back to course in these circumstances is not nearly as laborious as it is in a Banks-style dory, a type I also admire. The worst handling I have found is running with waves of about 3', in which it is a handful to hold her straight, as it would be in just about any boat.
Also, the sculling notch can best be described as a decorative feature. I'm a fair hand at sculling, but I've not been able to do any good with this one. If you're solo, you have to be so far aft that you have too much weight over that very acutely raked transom, so you loose any tracking ability. I've thought about reshaping the notch, but it's pretty cute the way it is. It's also a very good handhold for lifting the aft end of the boat.
I used 3/8" Meranti marine plywood on the sides and the bottom. Bolger, as I recall, specified 1/2" for the bottom, but I figured that the difference would be made up by sheathing the bottom in ****** cloth set in epoxy, which I did only on the exterior bottom and only up to the waterline. From the waterline to the gunwale I gave it a coat of epoxy, all of which I then painted. I found the edge of the cloth difficult to handle at the waterline, because it develops a fringe and tends to stand up, presenting fairing and sanding problems later. It worked out all right, however.
I didn't care for Payson's plywood scarfing technique (he sets down a band of ****** cloth over waxed paper, soaks epoxy in, positions the panels on top, places another band of ****** cloth overtop, then more epoxy). I reverted to Bolger's plans, using a butt joint with a backing plate of Douglas-fir about 3" wide under the frame (see plans), glued and screwed. Payson's way, however, would have the true advantage of easily making the panels a fair one-piece unit before bending them over the molds.
I also canted the footrests aft, which was a good idea. I would recommend that before you set the footrests, you should finish the thwarts, set the rowlocks, get in and try positions that feel most comfortable--then place the footrests.
I also made my boat a glue experiment. I found an old piece of oak in my barn, which I used for the transom framing, gluing it up with resorcinol. I used Airolite for the bottom-to-chine-logs joint, and epoxy for the sides-to-chine-logs. I also used bronze screws throughout. I have no signs of glue failure as yet. The boat could be made much lighter than I made mine, and many people have done so--but in those 3' waves, I appreciated some heft.
I've never found this boat to be intolerably tender. You have to pay attention getting in and out or having crew swap positions under way, not unlike a canoe. I think it would be OK for children with due care for the conditions and appropriate adult supervision.
04-18-2001, 07:14 PM
I built Bolger's Light Dory Type V,from his book Small Boats, in 1980, and used it until I bought a minivan and found that, at 112lbs, it was too heavy for me to cartop singlehanded. I'd done just fine with my old pickup.
I found the design rather tender, even though Bolger claimed that it was an improvement on the Gloucester Gull. It also tended to pound in short chop (what dory doesn't?)
But it rowed very sweetly, either solo or with a passenger in the stern.
The fellow who bought it from me uses it for flounder fishing on the Cape. Even got his picture in it on the cover of the Mass Fisheries book a couple years ago. You coulda knocked me over with a feather!
04-19-2001, 09:39 AM
Thanks guys, this is just the kind of stuff I was looking for. Does she stiffen up when heeled over, say when leaning over to boat a fish?
04-19-2001, 11:30 AM
I may be the only dissatisfied builder of LIGHT DORY, the design Phil Bolger counts as his ticket to heaven.
I was long interested in the design. In 1988 in issue number 7 of "The Instant Boatbuilder", a newsletter oublished by Jeffrey Hull in Corpus Christi for a few years, Jim Michalak described building it in true Instant Boat style without the building jig of the plans. He had only the midships fram in the finished boat that he reported weighed 65#.
When I finally built, I went a step further. I used the laminated stiff gunwale Bolger introduced in WINDSPRINT to eliminate the midships frame completely. My boat weighed 70#. It was tippy, but I sat low in the boat, and it rowed nicely in calms. But by the time the breeze picked up and was brisk, it was hell to keep the boat headed into the wind. In a real breeze I (180#)would be pulling on only one oar and it would still keep falling off.
My 6'-3" TORTOISE tracked like a dream compared to the dory.
I wrote Phil that I must have gotten it too light. He replied that you couldn't get it too light.
I was going to try a larger skeg and a full-length keelson; the bottom was completely smooth.
The lauan underlayment started delaminating, so I gave it away.
Perhaps it needed that full load of fish to get it down in the water.
04-19-2001, 12:07 PM
You got the problems ID'd.
It's well to have three rowing stations. One forward for when you've a passenger, one about where he drew it, and one just enough aft that your weight will bring the stern down a little for a following sea. This means that you really need to get rid of the fixed thwart since the two solo positions will be too close to each other.
The initial squirrley bit is just in the nature of the boat and you either learn to balance past it or not. It's nothing like the unforgiving things that Pete Culler's 'Otter' can do to you.
04-19-2001, 04:56 PM
Since you ask, I should say that I found the Light Dory too tender for fishing. If I were to build something like it again, I would go for a design with a knuckle in the sides, like his Sweetpea, to give a bit more secondary stability for boating fish. I'd hate to try wrestling an angry 12lb bluefish aboard a Gloucester Gull.
I think of it as a rowing boat, not a utility.
04-23-2001, 05:42 PM
My two cents.
I've been rowing my Bolger Light Dory for the last 5 years in a variety of conditions and it works just fine. Any dory is sensitive to trim when the wind is up. Going up wind you need to add weight in the bow. It makes the boat act as a weathervane. Downwind the opposite is true, weight needs to be in the stern. I've tried alot of things and have settled on a canvas bag of rocks(about 40 lbs).
I have had a wide variety of passengers and the best seems to be one in the stern and one in the bow, with weights close to each other. It is tender with two adults ,but I usually make them sit on the bottom rather than the thwarts. Perfect balance seems to be two ten year old boys(my son and his cousin).
I think it's a perfect fishing boat. as my wife and I catch bass and blues from it. My builder made the stern thwart removeable so it can be a fishwell for the toothy fish.
The lack of freeboard in the stern quarter can be a blessing when you are releasing a fish or sliding one in over the gunnel, or a curse in a quartering waves. It's the only place I've taken a wave into the boat, but I probably shouldn't been trying to surf that day!
For all it's good points I'm starting to look for a boat that can be rowed doubles a little more comfortably, and has more room as the kids grow. It might get handed down to the ten year old.
It's a great boat and you can learn an awful lot from rowing it. Have fun!
05-14-2001, 01:23 PM
I built one when I lived in Oregon, and it was ok for the rivers, and flat water, but I agree about the ballast and multiple rowing stations needed. I wasn't happy with her stability, and when I saw the adirondack guide boat, I thought THAT was what I really wanted. It's a great pulling boat for two, very deep and stable. Better for kids too I imagine. (there's a class once a year at the Brookfield Craft Center in CT, and I could put you in touch with the builder. While the GLD was fun to build I would opt for more of a true dory like commonly fished in Oregon (I have simple plans for one if you like) I also built a strip canoe which was very satisfying and great for kids (17' Tradition from canoe magazine--there's tons of those designs out there, tho) They're great, and light, easy to cartop, although a foot shorter would have done me fine. Or you could go with a regular fishing rowboat for max stability and very easy to build in plywood. All the best. Jeremy.
05-16-2001, 06:57 PM
Jermedia, I would be interested in seeing the plans you have. Maybe you could contact me via email. I want to thank everybody for their input. Anybody have any more suggestions for a boat that would be rowed mostly inshore, but seaworthy, something to take a steep chop if need be, and won't get swamped. My heart says dory, but I'm open to suggestions. Oh yeah, fairly easy to build, (I don't mind lofting) as it would be my first full sized project. Thanks again.
05-16-2001, 10:22 PM
Phil Bolger drew a 15 1/2 ft vee bottomed rowboat he called Crystal. I remember seeing it in Annisquam harbor 20years ago. I thought it was a handsome little boat. It was designed to handle chop and be unswampable--positive flotation similar to his Sweet Pea design. He published the plans in one of those books of his, I forget which one.
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