Construction and Design Journal – 14ft Dory for Rowing and Sailing – Part 1

by Roy Heberger - Boise, Idaho - USA

This is a written account of the design, construction, and initial use of a dory for rowing and sailing – that at the same time was recently inspired and long thought about. 

Journal Started January 2004

Completed November 2005


This is a written account of the design, construction, and initial use of a dory for rowing and sailing – that at the same time was recently inspired and long thought about.  I had thought that this accounting of the design and construction of this boat would start out as rather general, and I had expected that later it would develop into roughly daily entries.  As it turns out it did just that, but there were entry lapses as well.  So my “catch-up” entries were again rather general to account for those lapses.  I wish I had tracked the number of hours it took to design and to build this boat as many people have asked about that.  I did not.  I will say that while the design and construction of this boat took place over a span of about 18 months (January 2004 to July 2005), the actual time spent working was much less than it may seem.  I spent much time in thought, procrastination, and in dealing with my doubts and fears.  Also, there were times devoted to other of life’s things.

As I edited this journal, it occurred to me that this project was a lot of work. Dah!  Going into a project such as this you think you understand what it will take in terms of time, effort, materials, tools, and commitment, but as I read the pages here it occurs to me that I had only a clue.  Would I build this boat again?  No, likely not.  In part because I’ve been there, done that.  In part because there are things I would do differently.  Will I build another boat?  I don’t know.  Certainly, a nice 18- or 20- foot Lowell Skiff (looks like a power dory) would be nice to fish from and to sleep aboard, but I don’t see me doing that kind of project in Boise, Idaho.  If I lived on or near to big water perhaps I would build that boat.  Maybe in my next time around, when I take up making music and learning to work with my hands much earlier in life – and I don’t stray from big water as I have in this life.  I can see building a little car topper dory for myself and giving the solo dory (Six-Hour Canoe) to someone.  I can also see building a fleet of small, inexpensive stitch-and-glue dories to give to family for summer fun.

This journal begins before actual work on the boat – even before I had a design in mind.

Thank you, Merine, for being so understanding and supportive during this time!  Acknowledgements are included in a section all their own near the end of the journal.



Ray Frechette, a good and long-time friend, called to ask if I would help him with a project.  My reward would be half the hardwood we were to remove from a new, flood-damaged home in Boise’s north end.  An unusual thing occurred.  My mind moved quickly – red oak?  I’d rather it is white oak. Why?  Why, boat frames of course.  White oak is more rot resistant than red oak.  But a beggar can’t be a chooser, so I said yes, I’d help.  We spent roughly six hours pulling up this beautiful Brazilian Cherry (Hymenaea courbaril – in the family Caesalpiniaceae).

Nope, it wasn’t red oak after all.  Locals in Costa Rica call it jotoba, courbaril, or guapinol according to a tropical hardwoods website I found.  I call it my recycled BC or RBC.  I don’t know anything about its qualities for boat building.  I sent an e-mail to Richard Jagles via WoodenBoat, but received no reply.  I will use it saturated with and encased/encapsulated in epoxy for the frames and the other deadwood of this boat and perhaps for other boats as well.

Ray and I spent another few hours hauling the RBC to my garage, where I air-stacked it for thorough drying.  Months later we spent perhaps another four-to-six hours pulling nails and staples and re-stacking it into two piles – his and mine.  My stash of Brazilian Cherry resided in a neat stack under my river dory and trailer since early spring.  As to water damage, I could see some cupping and some warping initially, but much of that dissipated in air-stacked storage.   For a small investment of time and effort I now had a wind fall – enough material for frames on several boats.  Wow!

DESIGNS – Summer and fall 2003

In the summer of 2003 I had decided to build a small wooden boat for rowing and sailing.  I started out by completing lines drawings for several very small [7-ft. length overall (LOA)] dories and for some 9-ft. LOA dories.  None sat well with me, and by fall I was thinking about an 11-ft LOA dory.

As the holidays approached I decide to let it rest until January 2004.


THE DESIGN – December 2003 through January 2004

When issue number 176 of WoodenBoat came out, my attention went immediately to the article on pages 28-32 about construction of a large (27-ft. LOA), self-righting dory for transoceanic rowing – rowing around the world.  Well I don’t see myself doing that, but I do see myself spending chunks of time on inland waters getting exercise and seeing new things in a boat on which I could spend weekends or even a Spartan week at a time.  So, I designed a double-chined, 13-plus-ft. LOA (inside), self-righting dory as inspired by the article in WoodenBoat.

In early January I completed drawings of the profile and half-breadths of the hull and cabins on using a scale of 1″ = 1′ (i.e., a 1 : 12 ratio).  I made detailed measurements to develop my tables of offsets, and from those measurements I developed the body plan showing views from fore and aft.  I went through many sleepless nights thinking about details.  I’d get up after several hours of sleep and a few lying awake thinking to sit down with some note paper on which I drew some rough sketches and made notes about scantlings.

Part 1 – Part 2 – Part 3 – Part 4 – Part 5 – Part 6 – Part 7 – Part 8 – Part 9 – Part 10

Part 11 – Part 12 – Part 13 – Part 14 – Part 15 – Part 16 – Part 17 – Part 18 – Part 19



  1. This looks like a very interesting project. I look forward to reading more about it.

    For myself, I am designing a row/sail boat. I think, other than extreme high performance or pure racing, this is the way to go in sailing.

    My boat will be much smaller. It will be only 3ft by 10ft and displace around 360 lbs total.

    • Best wishes on your build. I hope you,have as much fun and an occasional challenge with the process as I did.

  2. Thanks for these entries and real descriptions of the process of salvaging wood and your efforts in building your boat. Did anyone get back to you about the effects of water on B.C.wood? Or strength issues?

    • Catching up…

      No, there was no reply after my query; however, the hardwood has performed very well over the years. I have gone from spar varnish to paint simply due to what dimensional lumber does over time and seasons. It holds the paint much better than it did the varnish. The BC is very strong, likely more than required in this build.

    • Ralph, I’m nearly deaf due to too many years near an engine room and then playing the blues in a band. I have a lot of difficulty on the phone. I’ll pay more attention to posts here on Duckworks if you have further questions.

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