I've been a longtime Googler and have read a lot of opinions about a lot of boats. It's great to have so many people chime in with strong feelings towards boats and boat design. I'd rather have the impression of ten or twenty people than a single "expert" on any subject.
I've done a lot of research on Jeff Spira's boats. Seems like the Carolina dory and Pacific power dory are some solid boats that walk the line on buildability, handling and solid, rugged construction.
At the same time, when I look at the shotgun spray of "dory" designs on his website, I find myself feeling a big skeptical.
I built a couple of boats years ago, first a Bolger Shoebox with my brother when I was 15 and later I finished a Reuel Parker sharpie that found itself half-built and victim to someone else's marriage. But it's been a long time since I've put blade to plywood or hardener to resin.
I'm thinking of building a small boat this winter. I live in an apartment in Chicago so it has to be something I can put together in my living room or dining room and drop out the window or off the back balcony. If I could do this regularly and store it in my apt., then all the better because it's hard to pull off keeping a boat in the city, and making the turn to my storage unit downstairs ain't easy. I'd also like to get my feet wet again with something simple and cheap if at all possible.
I own a Bolger Nymph that someone else built, which is my tender tender for a Rhodes 19 that stays on a mooring in the summer. The Nymph lives in the basement in the winter and was a trick to maneuver into my storage unit. It's fun to row around the harbor, but I'd like something I can take out into Lake Michigan and play around the shoreline. The Nymph feels good in the water but is quite small and spins like a top as soon as you let off the oars.
I've thought about this on and off for a while. I've considered a few different boats.
- Michelak Robote
- Gloucester Gull
- Spira Gloucesterman
Anyway, at the same time I get excited about Spira's power dories about building a v-bottom Carolina dory if I ever get back home to the Lowcountry of South Carolina.
After looking at his boats, I start to notice patterns. It's as if each boat in a class seems to be a stretched out version of every other boat in that class (with exceptions for the stitch-and-glue varieties). That, and a lot of these so-called dories look a whole lot like sharpies to me.
Now it could be that I'm just totally ignorant and latching onto the patterns I notice. And I think some of his boats are really beautiful (especially the ones in the 16-20' range). But some of them just look wrong.
The dory I'm considering seems like it has no business being so narrow. He says builders say it's the fastest boat of its size they've rowed. Well, of course it's fast -- it's practically a kayak in plan view. What about the other qualities that make a boat?
So -- after all that backstory, two questions. Does Jeff Spira know boat design, or is he just really good with Autocad and selling boat plans? And what would be a good boat to build that would be seaworthy, long enough to get some speed on and light enough to hoist hand-over-hand into my apartment window a flight-and-a-half off the ground at the end of the day?