Construction and Design Journal – 14ft Dory for Rowing and Sailing – Part 15

by Roy Heberger - Boise, Idaho - USA

CONSTRUCTION BREAK – December 3, 2004

It’s been two months since I made and entry or did any work on the boat.  Bummer.  The month of October I’d written off because of travel and house guests, but I’d planed to get back at it in November.  Well, I won’t go into details but I got dragged kicking and screaming out of retirement to provide technical assistance to an environmental law firm and two conservation organizations on a settlement proceeding concerning the relicensing of a major, three-dam hydro-electric project on the Snake River.  So, I’ve been busy.

I have put thought into the dory, and that has resulted in a few changes.  For example, I will still include the forward bulkhead, but it will be open above thwart elevation.  That way I can slide the oars into the forward cabin as needed.  I will have a canvas cover designed in place of the hatch I’d intended to put there.  That will keep rain out, but not be secure.  I still plan on a lockable hatch (or two) at the aft bulkhead.

Also, I’ve decided to build two mast steps – one just forward of station 3 for day sailing and one just aft of station 2 for “camping” trips.

I hope to resume construction after the holidays…maybe sooner.


DECKING/FLOOR BOARDS – January 22, 2005 (It’s about time!)

Well, isn’t this embarrassing!  It has been since early December, but I finally got back to work on the boat.  What boat?  Yeah, well, yesterday I’d e-mailed an old high school friend (the older brother of a senior-high-era girl friend) in response to a message I’d received from him earlier in the day.  In the message I started out of the blue to write about the boat not getting built in my garage.

Well, Merine thinks I just needed a break after busting my balls from January to early October.  That may be a factor, but I articulated to Denny that maybe it was something else – fear of failure. It’s my boat from sketches to a graph-paper design, to a full-scale drawing on the lofting board, to what’s sitting on the building jig.  Maybe it won’t perform.  Maybe it will handle like a pig.  Maybe, maybe, maybe… maybe frogs fart.

So, last night just after midnight I went out into the garage to have a talk with the boat.  I promised it I would restart work on it’s “deck boards” (the longitudinal planking that will sit above the hull upon which you stand and rest your feet) on Saturday (today).  I did!

Thank goodness that I’d taken reasonably good notes at boat school and developed the manual for the Banks Dory.  Without that I would not have been able to get started on the traditional method for building the frames (Brazilian cherry) for the deck boards (9-mm Okume) that will sit on the sole of the boat.  I built six frames today.  Sunday I will put finishing touches on them so they fit properly.  I will construct a nomogram to mark the frames and build the actual, tapered, deck boards.

The lofting board is back on the floor of the garage.  There is sawdust everywhere again.   The table say has been screaming as has the belt sander.  The air smells like RBC.  And I did a reasonably good job of making those frames.  I’m back!

DECKING/FLOOR BOARDS – January 27, 2005

Yes!  The nomogram worked out just great.  I have two sets of deck boards constructed and sitting on top of the frames I made earlier in the week.  Each of these boards is unique in shape with the exception that each has a matching mirror-image board on the other side of the center line.  So, using a tick-stick and bevel gauge I’d make one board.  I’d then lay it in its intended position in the boat to get the final fit.  If it fit, I’d then flip it over and try it in the position opposite.  If it fit there as well I trace it and cut on the lines.  I used a jig saw then planed the edges to get a straight line.  The boat-school manual I wrote for the Banks dory was invaluable!

As it is the procedure, once you do a few boards, it gets easier.  Economies of motion take over once several have been completed.  For example, the bevel angle of the next board can be picked up from the last board.

All the boards for the space between stations 3 and 4 and stations 4 and 5 are cut.  I will sand the edges before fastening them in.  Also, I will have to modify the inner-most boards and forward frame at station 3 where I will construct a dagger-board trunk.  For that set I will cut the frames at the center line so I have separate starboard and port deck boards for easy removal.  I do not think I will have to do that for the set between stations 4 and 5 as the distance is shorter between those two frames.  I think I can remove that set of boards between the thwarts I will construct.

I think I will begin the dagger-board trunk on Friday (tomorrow).


I pulled out the belt sander and put some rounded edges on the deck boards before moving to the next project on Friday.

DAGGER-BOARD TRUNK – January 28, 2005

Using 12-mm Okume for the sides and RBC for the ends and supports, I fashioned a dagger-board trunk and got it all screwed and glued today.  It was so warm outside that I worked with the garage doors open until late afternoon when the temperature began to drop from the 55 F it had been in the garage.  After I closed the door, I turned on the heater and went inside for the evening news.  When I came back out the temperature was between 60 and 65 F – good for epoxy work.

So I took the trunk apart laid all of the pieces out, pulled the two-part West System epoxy down off the shelf, mixed a batch, and applied a coat to what would be the insides of the trunk.  Using wood flour as a thickener I got it to just this side of the peanut-butter stage before applying it to the surfaces that would be glued.  In fastening the pieces together with brass wood screws, I ended up having to re-drill a few holes deeper so the screws would seat properly.  I left the heater on all night.

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. I admire the reach for an unconventional design. But I wonder what it is like in a wind? The windage possibilities seem to be nearly tragic in possibilities (large radii on the end-canopies’ chines would have helped, perhaps). Yet I saw photos of one like this pass through an Everglades Challenge — was the wind mostly abaft the beam during that event?

  2. Wade, good comment. This boat is a compromise in most ways. I built it to row and sail, and kt does both. It is not built to go anywhere fast, comes about with the mast in both positions in moderate winds, with the main and the jib or just the main, and with more difficulty in very-light breezes. Sails okay down wind, in broad a reach , and a tack about 35° off the wind. In heavy winds that sails come down.

    Years into its use and as I age, I experimented with a small, 1985, Honda, direct drive, 2-hp, 4-stroke outboard on a motor mount built to port and adjacent to the aft cabin. But for it being a bit of a reach to start, stop, and comtrol speed, it worked very well. So after much deliberation over the next two years, I built a motor well in the aft cabin. I had to open up the aft bulhead, converting my lockable hatch to a sliding hatch to cover a new hole cut in the cabin top to allow me to put the motor down into the new well. While that was a huge compromise for rowing and sailing, I find the motor very handy.

    Bottom line — I really enjoy all activities aboard this boat, but it would do much better sailing, I think, if those cabins were not on it. But then I’d likely miss the dry storage fore and aft. Would I do it again? Probably, I’d suggest a covered fore deck or a low cabin amd an open stern. Sleeping on board is already Spartan and might be moreso.

    Thanks for your observations.


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