It suddenly dawned on me one bright October morn that barring
miracles or extraordinary effort there would be no Christmas
cruise that year. I’m not sure when the idea first began
but it wasn’t long before the notion of a boat for “cruising
under oars” was rapidly becoming a reality. One of the
considerations of course was time, the way to build boats
really quickly is not to work like lightning, it is to build
boats that are very simple and relatively small!
first job was to decide on a boat. I had reservations about
the shapes of some craft, the construction method or costs
of others and concerns about the seaworthiness of most so
design it yourself seemed to be the order of the day.
What eventuated was a plywood dory with a tombstone transom
(it’s not really a dory otherwise); a nicely curved
stem to force some shape into the sides forward, a strong
sheer kicking up aft to a high stern (thoughts of going surfing)
with the maximum beam (further aft than is traditional to
make the boat run straight in heavy following seas). Added
to this is a big skeg for directional stability and to balance
the windage, buoyancy tanks under the seats and a sculling
notch in the transom and the boat is looking very much the
the usual laborious arithmetic and fiddling with moments and
volumes, the sketched ideas were turned into lines drawings
and the drawings into a 1/10 scale model.
For speed of building, the dory was built by “stitch
and tape” techniques which eliminated most of the framing
and all of the building jig. Basically flat panels are cut
to shape and then joined along the edges giving the desired
shape, some minimal framing carried the loads from the rowlocks
and the seats and the seats formed buoyancy tanks in case
of a major disaster.
the shape of the panels was the difficult part. In this case
I built the model over solid station frames and when finished
wrapped light card around the boat, traced around the edges,
cut the shape out and transferred it to graph paper making
scaling up an easy Job.
Building the boat did not take long, a few hours here and
there over a couple of weeks saw her ready to paint and the
total cost of about $250 did not hurt the pocket too badly.
I can carry the boat on my own, essential for a boat that
will be used almost entirely single handed - she weighed in
at 42kg dry.
She rows extremely easily, better loaded than light
because of the heavily rockered bottom. It cannot- be driven
past hull speed even by a very strong person but is wonderful
for eating up the miles at a moderate pace. I’ve covered
3 1/2 measured statute miles in an hour without busting my
boiler and have travelled 25 miles in six hours with tidal
light weight and the narrow waterline beam combine to make
the boat feel a little tender when unloaded, especially when
the rower is unused to the wiles of dories. I carry about
30 litres of water in plastic jerrycans which improves her
stability and also helps the boat carry its way.
Like most fine ended boats she is pretty sensitive to trim,
if I find she needs to be a little bow down to stop her blowing
around broadside on while I try to row her to windward, or
conversely, stern down for downwind I have a ten litre plastic
container of water on a light line and toss it to the appropriate
end of the boat The line is so I can retrieve it without moving
from my secure seat amidships.
full load of camping gear and provisions makes things easy,
the boat rides better down on her lines a little, and she
is much more stable. Rough weather in one of these is exhilarating.
The motion of the boat is very easy, especially in a beam
sea when the rowers position right on the centre of motion
about which the boat pitches so the oarsman doesn’t
get thrown about in a seaway. It is amazing to watch as great
foaming crests disappear under the gunwale without any fuss.
The Light Dory has proven to be not only great for recreational
rowing but ideal for its intended job, a trip under oars from
Dargaville onto the Kaiparas northern reaches to Helensville
70 miles away in the south. It was a great holiday and a story
for another time.
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