What is a Dory? – Part 1

Just like there are many types of boats, there are also many different kinds of dories, and often the information and descriptions on these crafts are very contradictory. Dories have been changed and adapted by boat builders to suit local conditions and purpose of the boat. The classic dory has a classic name, The Grand Banks dory, which is famous for its straight sides, straight bow, level bottom, and narrow transom. The boats were originally made to be a fishing dinghy and they were so light they were relatively easy to stack when not in use.

Cheap to Make

Dory’s became very popular as they were inexpensive to make, and the stackable design meant that the boats could be transported by a larger vessel to the fishing grounds then put in the water locally, so that they could be used for fishing. When the fish were all caught and it was the end of the day, the smaller crafts would all be loaded once more and taken home.

Grand Banks Dory’s

These boats had a reputation for being unstable and were hard to sail because they were so light. It was only when some weight was added (fish) that the boat would handle better. As the designs changed then stability improved. Dory’s change greatly in their shape, and sometimes it is difficult to tell if a particular craft is actually a dory. It is not uncommon for each locality to have its own design depending what the boat was going to be used for. Some dory’s even have curved sides with little or virtually nil trace of a flat bottom.

Transoms also started to become wider, but this was in an effort to add stability to the boat. For those who have ever tried stepping into a dory then they will know how unstable the crafts are. Stepping into the stern for example would lift the bow up considerably and sometimes catch a wave. A great deal of the time Grand Banks Dory’s were used for fishing, and it was not until a large catch had been brought aboard that they were fairly stable. For most of the time they were hardly ever empty. But even though they were fairly unsteady they were virtually impossible to tip over due to the high sides and the stern and bow being so narrow.

Rowing Dory’s

Today’s modern rowing dories are even lighter than those of the past, this can be seen as an advantage but also causes a great deal of problems when it is caught by wind. These modern boats also make the weight distribution on board more critical. We continue in our search of what exactly is a dory in part two of our series. Then we look at the differences between a St Pierre Dory, a Beach Dory, and Swampscott Dories. These highly popular little boats have changed little in design since they first took to the water and are still used for fishing all over the world.