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Thread: Spira dory designs and good urban rowboats

  1. #1
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    Default Good urban rowboats

    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
    • etc.

    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?
    Last edited by fatschoonerrat; 12-02-2011 at 01:30 AM.

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Spira dory designs and good urban rowboats

    more informatioin.

    How will you get the boat to the water, cartop, trolley, car trailer.
    How much storage space do you have?
    How much space do you have to build a boat
    Where do you intend to row, river, bay, great lakes?

    My opinion, and this is based on having built and rowed a dory a lot. is that dories are excellent sea boats, very seaworthy. However most people will not go out in very rough conditions. They will say, gee the forecast does not look flash, I will not go out today. I believe the general purpose skiff is a better all round boat than the dory. I am not against dories, I built one, just saying that if your not going out into rough stuff, you can get more of a boat from a general purpose rowboat. More of a boat for given dimensions etc.

    As to speed, generally a fast walking pace is fine for me. To get this speed, a boat around 12 to 13ft can do this speed with reasonable effort. Going bigger and longer, will produce a boat that can handle rougher conditions. However the general purpose rowboat is a very capable boat, in my opinion it is underrated.

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Spira dory designs and good urban rowboats

    spira international glousterman has a beam of 3ft. Am sure it will be a fast boat on a river. but I personnally would not take it out into rough conditions
    Glouchester Gull, exceptionally seaworthty. good boat. possibly tender for those not familiar with dories.
    Mickalak Robote. looks like a nice easy boat to build, however there is no flare in the boat. Again a nice boat, but for me the lack of flare would im my humble opinion limits its ability to go in rough conditions

    If your looking for a general purpose rowboat, whcih has a degree of ability for rough weather, perhaps, looks for something 12ft to 13ft long, a beam around 4ft to 4ft 5", and a little bit of flare, Also the transom should be sloped a bit to keep out following seas, The transom should not be too wide.

    Depends on what you want to do.. If your going out in the Great Lakes, go for the Glouceester Gull. If your sticking to the river, the other 2 designs would be fine.

  4. #4
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    Default Re: Spira dory designs and good urban rowboats

    Does Jeff Spira know boat design
    Yes. Mostly his designs on the spirainternational page are made for easy home construction, but he also does very large commercial work too...just not on his page. He has about a half doze categories of boats and then multiple sizes within those. They aren't just stretched versions of each other though, but I can see why it looks that way seeing as how they are the same basic design just in different sizes. I personally know several people who have built his designs (myself included) and they work out just fine. As with any designer though, YOU have to determine what will best suit your needs and that may be one of his or it may not be.

    So, can we get more details about your inteded uses for this boat so that we can assist by making good suggestions? There's no such thing as the "best boat" but there is a "best boat for this application"
    George

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Spira dory designs and good urban rowboats

    "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? "


    sounds like a SOF kayak to me, how about a ancient greenland style craft?
    unless your the incredible Hulk I cant imagine hauling a dory through a second story window at the end of the day on the water... and those better be some big windows as any of the boats mentioned is nowhere near fitting through a typical window

  6. #6
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    Default Re: Spira dory designs and good urban rowboats

    SOF is the way to go if you're going in and out the balcony every time. Lots of design choices:






  7. #7
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    Default Re: Spira dory designs and good urban rowboats

    Buy all of John Gardner's books, and read about the myriad designs therein. You'll learn so much about their history, their uses, and their construction that you'll come away with a deeper understanding of power, sail, and rowing boats, hull shapes, and how they interface with local waters to where they originated.

    There's a spectrum of designers, from the haberdasher with a decent Rhino program on his computer, and those with extensive training and history of vessels like Tad Roberts. Those with strong reputations and well established businesses typically got there for a reason. Those with web-only businesses and a lack of produced boats to get opinions from builders may not have the same credentials. I do know that the Tillamook from Spira is actually a design from Gil Vik from the 60's, just done up into his particular scantlings. That boat has a strong heritage.

    E

  8. #8
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    Default Re: Spira dory designs and good urban rowboats

    Thanks for the replies. Sorry for my long-winded first post. I was in a post-Thanksgiving haze.

    Those skin-on-frame boats look promising.

    I'm looking for a boat that is easy to build (I have a drop of experience with stitch & glue boats), as lightweight and small as possible and fairly seaworthy. The idea is to have something I could take out on Lake Michigan after work in light to normal conditions (up to about 3' of steep, short-period chop) in the spring, summer and fall.

    Unfortunately, it's only going to work if it is small because there isn't anywhere to store the boat outside of a harbor or yacht club. I already keep a Rhodes 19 on a mooring here, but it's expensive and I have to store the trailer on top of it. I had to get a 8' or smaller dinghy, which is why I bought a Bolger Nymph. But the Nymph isn't a whole lot of fun to row.

    I live on the second floor. We have storage units downstairs, but a boat of any size would be hard to snake into the unit because of tight turns. Hence the window idea. It seemed like Spira's Gloucesterman with its narrow beam and 40# weight would be something I could hoist over the rail of my balcony and weave through my kitchen into the apartment. It's a huge 1BR so there's plenty of room to build.

    I own a kayak, but it's back home in Charleston, SC. It's too heavy and cumbersome to keep in the apartment. It's an old rotomolded sea kayak and probably weighs 60 or 70 lbs. I generally prefer rowing to paddling and being in an open boat than a kayak.

    Maybe I just have to move to the country and build the boat later.

  9. #9
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    Default Re: Spira dory designs and good urban rowboats

    I agree with Jim and Daniel on the SOF boats. I was out in the shop working on my stripper canoe and the htought came to me "why not a skin on frame" I came back in here to suggest it and see that I've been beat to it.

    Check out http://gentrycustomboats.com/ or http://www.kudzucraft.com/ for some good sources of SOF boats. In particular I like Dave Gentry's Ruth pictured above (the one with the guy in it rowing) She's a sharp looking craft, light weight and easy to build.

    The other option may be to build a nesting boat, one that come apart into two sections that fit one inside the other. You could lift it up one half at a time and then store it in a closet or stand it up in the corner.
    George

  10. #10
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    Default Re: Spira dory designs and good urban rowboats

    ok, now we are getting somehwere

    Having personally owned a kayak and a rowboat, I can see why you prefer a rowboat, they are more enjoyable. (comfortable) IMHO.
    Skin On Frame seems the way to go. If I recall correctly, Dave Gentry emailed free plans for a 12ft x 4ft skin on frame rowboat called the shenandoah whitehall. To me it would be about the perfect boat for you and I would be happy to pass them on,,, I just want to ensure Dave Gentry was happy with that first.

    this is what i am making next .. however if your going down the skin on frame route, then it becomes easier to build a mulitchine boat, which would proabably be better
    craft than a 3 panels boat for SOF, Dave Gentry's plans would be better. Seriously,,, it is a really well thought out boat. I will build one after this one. I assume Dave is on holidays for a couple of days (he is allowed), but no doubt he will pop in before too long

    http://www.tacking-outrigger.com/rowboat_13.html

  11. #11
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    Default Re: Spira dory designs and good urban rowboats

    I THINK Dave is now selling his plans, but I could be wrong. If that is the case then I'd not think he'll want people giving them away. I do know that you can buy patterns from him for a very reasonable price and save a lot of work laying out the frames
    George

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    Default Re: Spira dory designs and good urban rowboats

    Dave is indeed selling his plans. I was looking at them just last night. I spend a lot of time at his website, mainly dreaming with some intermittent periods of drooling. You should check it out! His prices are very reasonable. I hit him up for the plans for the Disko Bay Kayak before he started selling them, which he kindly provided, and will buy the plans now that they are available. Just because I believe in supporting products I enjoy. Search for "skin on frame" or "Disko Bay" and check out some of the previous build threads. SOF builds look really easy and user friendly. I'm just waiting until the end of the semester to dive into my kayak build.

    Good Luck!
    Last edited by OnionEyes; 11-25-2011 at 11:19 PM.

  13. #13
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    Default Re: Spira dory designs and good urban rowboats

    I just laid eyes on Ruth for the first time, and I'm already in love.

    How would a shape like hers handle a moderate chop or an obnoxious cuddy cruiser wake?

  14. #14
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    Default Re: Spira dory designs and good urban rowboats

    Quote Originally Posted by fatschoonerrat View Post
    I just laid eyes on Ruth for the first time, and I'm already in love.

    How would a shape like hers handle a moderate chop or an obnoxious cuddy cruiser wake?
    Personally, I'd be more comfortable in Shenandoah. It would offer more versatility and also at only 14 feet it would take up less of your livingroom

    Last edited by JimD; 11-26-2011 at 10:49 AM.

  15. #15
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    Default Re: Spira dory designs and good urban rowboats

    Hi all - thanks for the kudos!

    To me, RUTH, sounds like the ideal boat for Fatschoonerrat. I agree that the Shenandoah Whitehall is more versatile (and also more capable in rough going), but RUTH fits his situation much better.
    Her lighter weight, and particularly her shape, makes her much easier to carry around (I just lift her over my head and start walking). Her apparent footprint is much smaller than the Whitehall, too - she takes up a longer, but smaller amount of wall space if you hang her up. Also, her length means you can lean her up against the building, then go inside and just reach out the window and pull her inside. I used to do this on my balcony, and a shorter boat would have required a lot more reaching.

    Moderate chop and cruiser wakes are not an issue for RUTH, in any case.

    In fact, any of the Wherry type rowboats would be suitable as far as being capable in those conditions, and would also easily fit through a window . . . Ken Basset's Liz and Firefly, CLC's Annapolis Wherry, or the Appledore Pod would all be good. RUTH, of course, weighs less, and is quicker and far less expensive to build than any of those.

    I've rowed the Michalak boat and a Gloucester Gull, and they'd be more than fine in those water conditions - but I sure wouldn't even dream about hoisting one into my second story living room!

    Dave Gentry

  16. #16
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    Default Re: Spira dory designs and good urban rowboats

    Yes, I can see how Ruth would be much easier to carry. The wider the boat, the more awkward and difficult to lift, the narrowerer the easier. Super easy to lift an 18 foot kayak onto the roof of a car, almost impossible to do the same with a four foot beam dinghy half as long.

  17. #17
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    Default Re: Spira dory designs and good urban rowboats

    Hey, everyone. I spent a good chunk of time reading accounts of building Ruth, including a man from Ontario and jsjpd1's awesome account of building his Ruth practically from scratch. I also got to know this site a little better, a gold mine for ideas and inspiration.

    The problem with Ruth is she's just about 18' and I only have 16' or 16 1/2' of storage length in my dining room.

    I'm convinced sof is the way to go for a lightweight build without sacrificing size. Do y'all have any other favorite boats under 50 lbs. around 14' or 16' and a max. beam of 34"? Fast and relatively seaworthy non-kayaks? I know that's particular, but this seems to be the place to ask!
    Last edited by fatschoonerrat; 12-02-2011 at 01:28 AM.

  18. #18
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    Default Re: Good urban rowboats

    How about interbreeding Ken Bassett's Firefly, an 18' pulling boat



    With one of the many nesting dinghy designs?


    Each of the pieces could be manageable in your storage.

    Engineering the joint will take some care.

  19. #19
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    Default Re: Spira dory designs and good urban rowboats

    Other than RUTH, there just aren't any SOF wherries in existence, of any length.

    If you hold your hands 18" apart, it doesn't look that significant . . . .

    So, I suspect you could shorten RUTH, fairly successfully, to 16'6".
    She wouldn't have as high of a top speed, wouldn't be quite as stable, and her lines wouldn't be as fine, but she'd likely be more than acceptable to row. Note that I'm not advocating this, but it certainly wouldn't be the first time a boat design was modified.

    As of the nesting idea, it's a good one for a finished product - but the design and construction is the issue. When I designed the nesting dinghy above, it took more mental effort than I expected to modify it from the original. SOF has even more issues - I've had some requests in that area, too, and have worked on a nesting SOF canoe design, but have since put all that on the back burner in favor of more easily built designs. An SOF nester can be done, but there are a number of considerations and construction aspects to take into account - not just the joint.

  20. #20
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    Default Re: Spira dory designs and good urban rowboats

    What if your wherry and your whitehall were hanging out, had a little too much wine and.... What would their offspring look like? Alternatively, is there a 15' sof dory in your design future?

  21. #21
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    Default Re: Spira dory designs and good urban rowboats

    So, what about propping the boat up at an angle against the wall? Or hanging it diagonally from corner to corner of the ceiling? You've probably already gone through these scenarios, but I'm just trying to brainstorm solutions.

  22. #22
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    Default Re: Spira dory designs and good urban rowboats

    "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?"

    This thread may have exhausted by now, but, & there's always a but, has anyone considered the Thomas Hill "H.Homer" dory. It weighs in at only 59 lb (26.8kg) 11'8"x 3'8" (3.623m x 1.12m) & is entirely plywood, which is a little more forgiving than skin on frame.

    I'd love to hear your comments.

    m

  23. #23
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    Default Re: Spira dory designs and good urban rowboats

    I've built a few Glouster Dories, and I can tell you, none of them were in the 40# range. And yes I have lowered them out of a second story window/door.
    The first one only. Swore I would never do that again!
    Dave, Ruth is beautiful.

  24. #24
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    Default Re: Spira dory designs and good urban rowboats

    As said above, anything heavier than a SOF kayak is absurd in your 2nd floor situation.

  25. #25
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    Default Re: Spira dory designs and good urban rowboats

    Update, October 2012

    I concluded that there was really no way I'd be able to get anything but a kayak up and into my apartment. I nearly built a CLC stand-up paddleboard this summer but decided to take that budget and buy a road bike. Just ran across an account of the CLC Eastport Pram, which I could carry up the stairs with a friend and keep it inside. Would lean against the wall and make a good conversation piece, ha. So that may be the winter project. A little boat that I can dump in the back of my truck and sail around the harbors and inland lakes and row upwind and when the wind dies.

  26. #26
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    Default Re: Spira dory designs and good urban rowboats

    have you taken a look at the GA sof boats? http://www.gaboats.com/boats/

    they seem to have a wide variety of sizes to choose from, down to 8'

    I wonder what a SOF gloucester gull would look like...

  27. #27
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    Default Re: Spira dory designs and good urban rowboats

    Since lightweight skin-on-frame boats need regular, fairly closely spaced stringers anyways, there is absolutely zero reason to accept the over-simplified slab-sided dory hullshape. None whatsoever. Choose a peapod or a Wherry or a whitehall or something as your model instead. It will be every bit as easy to build skin-on-frame and use exactly the same amount of wood as a crude dory shape built that way.

    The only way those slab-sided dories make any sense is when the accepted compromise is that they are simpler or cheaper to build--such as plywood or wide-sawn planks. With skin-on-frame technique, that is very much not the case.
    If this post did not meet all of your needs, please consult this thread for more options.

  28. #28
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    Default Re: Spira dory designs and good urban rowboats

    I was only kidding James, although I suppose I added that last tidbit to see if you would find it

  29. #29
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    Default Re: Spira dory designs and good urban rowboats

    Would joining the Lincoln Park Boat Club be an appealing option? http://www.lpbc.net/
    "Now and then we had a hope that if we lived and were good, God would permit us to be pirates." ~ Mark Twain


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