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Thread: Lowell's Surf Dory

  1. #1
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    Default Lowell's Surf Dory

    Visited Lowell's Boat Shop recently and fell in lust with the 18-foot surf dory they have on display in the museum section. Gotta have one! I've heard that the original plans and patterns went to another museum (not Mystic). Anyone have any dope on this? Or some plans gathering dust?

    By-the-by, the boat shop is well worth a visit. They are still building boats there, and other wooden things as well. Highly recommend visiting!

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Lowell's Surf Dory

    I had a dory skiff built there in 1984, and have tried to drop by annually ever since. I have been thinking about having them build me a surf dory, but of course, the expense is worth a year of retirement income! But social security might feed me in the lost year :-) so I continue tossing the idea around. Besides the classic good looks, its diverse ability to both sail and row well, solo or with two or three adults, is attractive. These boats are generally better left in the water, but I think Lowells is still epoxy-glassing the bottom and garboard strake, and also encapsulating the interior bottom and garboard, so the boat could survive on a trailer. In my experience with my first dory, the planks above the encapsulated areas do dry out during trailer life, and after a few years weep water during afternoon sails (they do not tend swell fast enough before the boat is back on the trailer until next weekend), but that is no great problem. I hope you find your way to one. -- Wade

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Lowell's Surf Dory

    Are there plans in any of John Gardener's books? I seem to recall a surf dory in their. -- Wade

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    Default Re: Lowell's Surf Dory

    There is, but it's a double ender and quite a bit more boat.

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Lowell's Surf Dory

    Thanks for the responses, fellas! Gardner has quite a bit on dories in his "Traditional Small Craft..." book, but nary a mention of the word "Lowell." He focuses on Chaisson and Chamberlin, and I'd love to know if he had a reason for leaving out Lowell's, or whether it was just an oversight. In the book he gives credit for the surf dory to someone else (Chaisson, I think) but if you go to Lowell's they will tell you they developed it for local fishermen who had to buck the seas kicked up at the mouth of the Merrimack River. Amesbury is on the river, not on the shore, so fishermen from there had to get through the rough water at the mouth in order to get to where the fish were. And of course Gardner wrote "The Dory Book" and I've not checked it for Lowell designs. It's on my to-do list. And yes, Lowell's did go to glassed bottoms and garboards years ago, recognizing needs brought on by changing times. I'm sure though, that they could build you one "the old way" if you wanted it. For me, the boat would live in the water all summer so the issues you run into with traditional boats being dry-sailed would not be a problem I don't think. Probably take in water on first launching each year.....but that would just give me an excuse to spend time at the docks!!

    I plan to use her for flat-water river exploration and camp-cruising. Between sail and oars, should be fun.

  6. #6
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    Default Re: Lowell's Surf Dory

    When John was writing Lowell was still in business so info on their designs was proprietory. I suspect too that Lowell was heavily into the fishing dory business so did rather fewer recreational dories than did the small volume shops. When the shop first shut down ( the family wanted out) many of the patterns went to Strawbery Bank. A bunch of concerned citizens bought the building and wanted to keep the shop alive so it is it's own NFP today.
    Ben Fuller
    Ran Tan, Liten Kuhling, Tipsy, Tippy, Josef W., Merry Mouth, Imp, Macavity, Look Far, Flash and a quiver of other 'yaks.
    "Bound fast is boatless man."

  7. #7
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    Default Re: Lowell's Surf Dory

    I think Gardener did include a Lowell Grand Banks dory in one of his books, but that doesn't help you. Maybe Lowells Boat Shop would sell you the offsets, if you can work from those? Would not hurt to contact them. -- Wade

  8. #8
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    Default Re: Lowell's Surf Dory

    Hi Ben -- yes, fishing dories were their bread and butter, with the others as adjuncts I think. I had heard that Strawberry Banke got the patterns and whatever drawings there were. It may be that the use of patterns had obviated the need for keeping up drawings. Presumably SB still has what they got, unless they de-accessioned over the years. I agree that John Gardner had to veer away from publishing the intellectual property of Lowell's but don't you find it curious that when he wrote about the history of dory design there's nary a mention of Lowell's? I do.

  9. #9
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    Default Re: Lowell's Surf Dory

    Quote Originally Posted by John Gearing View Post
    Hi Ben -- yes, fishing dories were their bread and butter, with the others as adjuncts I think. I had heard that Strawberry Banke got the patterns and whatever drawings there were. It may be that the use of patterns had obviated the need for keeping up drawings. Presumably SB still has what they got, unless they de-accessioned over the years. I agree that John Gardner had to veer away from publishing the intellectual property of Lowell's but don't you find it curious that when he wrote about the history of dory design there's nary a mention of Lowell's? I do.
    --- Maybe there were more local dory shops when he was publishing, so Lowells didn't stand out that much, opposite to the situation today, when there are so few dory shops, and very few with a 200 year history? -- Wade

  10. #10
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    Default Re: Lowell's Surf Dory

    how about Old Wharf Dory Co. in Wellfleet, MA ???
    not a surf dory, but a swampscott... i don't know the difference

    here's a nice one i saw on craigslist:

    https://southcoast.craigslist.org/bo...690517223.html


  11. #11
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    Default Re: Lowell's Surf Dory

    The Lowell surf dory is, at 14', the shortest dory that rows worth a darn - far better light than laden. Personally I much prefer a dory 18' a bit more.

    There's nothing that special about what will work for a surf dory. Basically not the slab sided banks boat, but rather a 3 (if plywood) or 4 strake boat with the garboards flatter than 30 degree deadrise. This makes for a boat a bit nimble, some say tippy, in its initial range, what with the narrow bottom, but fantastic stability as the garboard (and next strake if not plywood) gets more fully immersed.

    After heroic efforts of avoid a broach which set me up for a spectacular pitch pole, I learned that if the wave was high enough and my position was a bit out so's we'd risk the sommersault, I'd let her broach and surf sideways to safety. It's in the low angle of the garboard and no hard angle chine to dig in.

    Enjoy & G'luck

  12. #12
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    Default Re: Lowell's Surf Dory

    I think a Swampscott dory is essentially a surf dory, for going out fishing launched from a beach -- 'surf dory' sort of a trade name for Lowells? -- Wade

  13. #13
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    Default Re: Lowell's Surf Dory

    Surf Dory

    The round-sided Surf Dory, often referred to as the Swampscott-type dory, was developed from the original dory designed by Simeon Lowell with the founding of his shop in 1793. Even after the later development of the Banks Dory, fishermen who had to come into the beaches through the surf preferred the Surf Dory. The rounded bilges give extra buoyancy amidships, taking the boat up and over the waves onto the beach. As a result of the success of this design, the U.S. Life Saving Service, forerunner of the Coast Guard, used these dories for life saving missions for almost a hundred years.
    Surf Dories are wonderfully seaworthy boats and more stable when light than the Banks Dory, thus we offer them in shorter overall lengths. They row extremely well and, because of their outstanding stability, lend themselves even better to sailing and family boating than the Banks Dory. Our standard Surf Dory and Sailing Surf Dory hulls are offered from 14’ to 20’ overall.
    Surf Dory Specifications
    Length
    Overall
    Beam Depth
    @ Mid-ships
    Weight
    (Approx.)
    14′ 59″ 17″ 230 lb.
    16′ 61.5″ 18″ 280 lb.
    18′ 64″ 19″ 340 lb.
    20′ 68″ 20″ 400 lb.
    “The various successful adaptations of the classic… skiff built by the Lowell Boat Shop is testimony to the versatility of the design.” John Gardner (Classic Small Craft You Can Build, Mystic Seaport Museum, 1993)

    Please correct me if I'm mistaken, but I think Lowell's dory is a bit wider for it's length than most Swampscotts.

    It's even wider than Gardner's 19' surf dory, which is 60" at 19 feet, while Lowell's scaled up would be 66".

  14. #14
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    Default Re: Lowell's Surf Dory

    There is an interesting version here (link) in plywood. The builder got the plans from Mystic. : https://duckworksmagazine.com/2018/1...-and-handsome/

    --Wade

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