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Thread: Considerations for a first build -- Sailing Dory

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Sep 2020
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    Brooklyn, New York, USA
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    Default Considerations for a first build -- Sailing Dory

    Hello all,

    I'm excited to finally embark on this journey of building a wooden boat. With Winter approaching in these times, it seems like the perfect opportunity to get stuck into a long project.

    I've been doing lots of research the last while and I'm quite set on building a Swampscott style dory, though I'm undecided on which one. I really like the simplicity and clinker construction of the dory and it seems manageable for a first attempt at boatbuilding. I would like to use the boat primarily for sailing and I don't plan to put any motor in so it should row decently well too. I'll be using it in ocean waters with no plan to take it far out or in bad conditions but ideally it could handle some lumpiness and whitecaps just in case. It would be nice if I could bring 2 or 3 friends out on it too for some cruising and fishing. I'm not particularly experienced with sailing just yet and I don't have experience in wooden boats like this. I do have quite a lot of woodworking experience outside of boats.

    I'd like to make a traditional build, using non-ply boards and copper rivets. I figure if I'm going to do it at all, I may as well go all in. I even plan to use tamarack knees for the frames if I can, and I've started talking to Josh Swan about procuring some from him. For the rest of the timber, I wonder if you all might have some recommendations about getting the kind of boards I need for the planking. I live in NYC, so I'm looking at suppliers nearby but haven't found anything definitive yet.

    As for the models I'm considering, here is my shortlist so far, in no particular order:

    • 21' Beachcomber-Alpha from the Dory Book
    • 18' Mower Dory design from Building Classic Small Craft
    • 18' Swampscott Sailing Dory from the Dory Book
    • 21' X-Dory (I think?) by Mower, I found some barely legible plans at Shellback's Library


    Can anyone comment on the sailing quality and building experience for these and how feasible they are for this project?

    Gardner goes into quite a lot of detail on the Beachcomber and Mower dory build, less so on the 18' "one-design" Swampscott. He has a lot of detail on a smaller 16' "modified Swampscott" in the other book, which could also be an option. The plans I got for the 21' "Swampscott Racing Dory" seem just about sufficient (if I'll not misread any of the numbers!) but definitely lacking in detail. I imagine if I could get a hold of the right Rudder magazine issue, as mentioned in this thread, I would manage it too. Does anyone have a lead on the full plans for this?? It seems there may be multiple versions of it out there, with maybe one available from Mystic as also mentioned in that thread. I've seen there's an 18'8 Culler Swampscott that sounds a solid boat too but I've not studied the plans for it (available at Mystic) and I think I prefer a simpler rig.

    I think I most like the Mower dories so far. It seems from what I've read that the 21 foot model is the best sailing of them all, bar perhaps the Beachcomber (though there is some mention in this discussion that the beach-alpha is not optimally designed for sailing). There is mention that the "Sea Chanty" design in the Dory book has some similarities to it, and then the 18' Mower Dory is obviously related but I can't seem to find much about their sailing abilities. Has anyone had experience in one of them? The 18' Mower seems to have an awkward thwart placement at the centre board which Gardner changed to allow for better rowing. On the other hand, in the Beachcomber, I like the simplicity of the open hull design, while the others are all decked to some extent. Would it be possible to leave any of the other designs without a deck? Or would that pose too much of a risk for taking on water? (And does the Beachcomber take on water easily?)

    As for the build: Assuming I can find long enough planks, I plan to rent a small garage somewhere nearby and work on the project there. Should I be worried about timber kept like this over the winter? (Could I even do this build outdoors in a yard if a garage is unavailable?) I also won't have heavy duty machinery beyond maybe a jigsaw, circular saw, and handheld planer. Is that enough or should I make sure to get my planks milled to be guaranteed square and made to the right thickness? I am prepared to work a little harder with handtools and should have some extra manpower at times, but I know there is a limit to what's practical.

    I'm sorry this post has been very long. I'm sure a lot more reading on my part will help to understand better but I believe much is a matter of experience and I could do with some guidance on where to look and make sure I'm not completely up the wrong tree. My next steps are to start drawing a couple models in full size to see how they feel and help envision the steps for building them.

    -- Kilian

  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2000
    Location
    Conway, MA
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    5,911

    Default Re: Considerations for a first build -- Sailing Dory

    The Mower dories all stem from his 1898 X dory design and all sail beautifully.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    May 2010
    Location
    Chicago
    Posts
    749

    Default Re: Considerations for a first build -- Sailing Dory

    I might stir up a hornet's nest with this reply, so here goes: You say you are not "particularly experienced at sailing," The question is whether you are experienced at dories? While dories are legendary for seaworthiness in experienced hands, they can feel tiddely when you first step aboard one. Your location suggests that you can probably find people with sailing dories within an hour or so drive and I would highly recommend you bundle up and do so. They might even have some in the livery fleet at Mystic Seaport. If you decide to keep on, you probably want to pay attention to weight wrt launching, and don't be tempted to make it any lighter than designed. Try to get some experience rowing back into a harbor where there is a lot of choppy water bouncing off hard breakwaters, etc. Rowing in a confused sea is an art. Have fun!!

    Ken

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Dec 2003
    Location
    Sound Beach, NY
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    Default Re: Considerations for a first build -- Sailing Dory

    Welcome aboard!
    I have owned two sailing dories, not the ones you mentioned, though I admire those. Let me suggest ML Condon for lumber, and Jamaica Bay for learning to sail your dory. You can build a boat outdoors with basic tools, I have, many others too. Keep us posted on your choice and progress. I would love to see the finished project.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jan 2000
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    Cushing, Maine
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    Default Re: Considerations for a first build -- Sailing Dory

    I don't know of any traditionally built dories that have full sized plans. Back in the day people figured on lofting or making mini modifications, doing some fairing on the fly. For rowing, check and make sure that you can lay back. The forward thwarts on many of these are connected to a board trunk which sticks up. Only really an issue if you have a crew, and you need to be rowing from forward position to balance the boat. If you plan to row any distance at all, the 18 footers would be a better bet.
    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."

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jul 2010
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    northeast Ohio
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    Default Re: Considerations for a first build -- Sailing Dory

    I would like to see you build any one of those dories. They are ones I'd like to build myself, although that will probably never happen.
    I really like the 18 foot Mower dory myself. Started a thread on it a while back and there was some good responses and pics in there.
    I would suggest a benchtop planer and a bandsaw and tablesaw as well as your hand, and power hand tools.
    I think there is a boat club in your area that may be worth looking in to. You may be able to build there and get some help at the same time.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Sep 2020
    Location
    Brooklyn, New York, USA
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    Default Re: Considerations for a first build -- Sailing Dory

    Hi all, thanks a lot for your responses! It's really encouraging to get this input and I definitely have some more direction on where to look to better get further along in this, now including trying to seek out some local dory-sailors!


    Quote Originally Posted by Thad View Post
    The Mower dories all stem from his 1898 X dory design and all sail beautifully.
    Thad, I loved reading about your reproduction of the original X-dory. I think it may be top of my list if I can find a way to pull it off. I am going to try make a 12:1 scale model of it using the "study plan" I found and making up for missing details using Gardner's Beachcomber plans. Hopefully that gives me a sense for how I could manage it. Do you have a suggestion for where to get my hands on more detailed plans for this model? I messaged the Mystic museum about the version mentioned on their site but have yet to hear back.

    I also saw you used some impressive dimensions of pine for the build -- 26' planks for the sheer strake and a 26" wide board for the base?!! Anyone I call up asking for boards in these sizes seems to think I'm absolutely bonkers!


    Quote Originally Posted by johngsandusky View Post
    Welcome aboard!
    I have owned two sailing dories, not the ones you mentioned, though I admire those. Let me suggest ML Condon for lumber, and Jamaica Bay for learning to sail your dory. You can build a boat outdoors with basic tools, I have, many others too. Keep us posted on your choice and progress. I would love to see the finished project.
    I have been in touch with people at ML Condon. They have some good timber there and it seems one of the most straightforward options I've found so far, given where I am. They told me they don't have boards longer than 16 feet though, so I am still holding out for a source for longer boards if I can find anyone cutting them. But it looks more likely that I may just have to take the plunge and use multiple planks per strake to make up length.


    Quote Originally Posted by timo4352 View Post
    I would like to see you build any one of those dories. They are ones I'd like to build myself, although that will probably never happen.
    I really like the 18 foot Mower dory myself. Started a thread on it a while back and there was some good responses and pics in there.
    I would suggest a benchtop planer and a bandsaw and tablesaw as well as your hand, and power hand tools.
    I think there is a boat club in your area that may be worth looking in to. You may be able to build there and get some help at the same time.
    Thank you, I hope you find a way to get your dory built! I really liked this thread of yours too, it definitely made me appreciate Gardner's Mower dory as a worthy option. Some really great pics of that dory in there and also from Thad's X dory. I think I would rather it with less decking and maybe different seating if I were to make it though.
    Last edited by kiliantics; 10-08-2020 at 01:58 PM.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Feb 2006
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    Pennsylvania
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    Default Re: Considerations for a first build -- Sailing Dory

    This sounds like a great project, but I'm wondering where the finished boat will be kept. Will it be on a trailer? Traditionally planked boats dry out, opening the seams, if left out of the water for extended periods. I'd be particularly concerned about the bottom planking on a dory.
    -Dave

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Aug 2019
    Location
    Providence,RI USA
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    182

    Default Re: Considerations for a first build -- Sailing Dory

    Try New England Naval Timbers. Not sure how to contact them though. If you want to drive to Rhode Island. Newport Nautical timbers is great.

    And I love those designs too!

    Mike

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