The late John Gardner of Mystic Seaport combined a massive understanding of the history and practicalities of small boat design and construction with an ability to write lucid and interesting prose to guide the novice through his or her first few projects.
When I got a copy of "Building Classic Small Craft" about twenty five years ago I had just completed the Joel White Nutshell, about which I have already enthused - here- and was ready for a larger project. The book was a treasure chest of interesting shapes and romantic histories, evocative of the coast of Maine in its transition from a series of traditional fishing ports to a holiday destination, conjuring up the spirit of Winslow Homer.
Here were fully detailed drawings of everything from planks to spars and sails, with simple instructions and words of encouragement. Long evenings were spent agonising over which of these evocative craft should grace the shores of Loch Melfort.
Dories evolved in ancient history when wide flexible planks of cedar or pine were available, many presumably coming form old-growth forests long since destroyed. Plywood is of course an excellent modern alternative, stable and capable of providing a watertight glued structure. Also there weren't too many planks to cut, unlike some of the other lovely designs in the book.
Like most amateur projects my dory was massively over-built. The hull planking came from 9mm marine ply, sourced from an ordinary builder's merchants, put together upside down over a temporary strong back set into the frames. The latter were cut off to length in due course and remained in the finished boat.
To get the sixteen foot length most of the planks had two scarfs.
I hadn't learned the delights of epoxy and glued the lands together with a polyurethane glue that went off in contact with moisture, not a problem in Argyll, but a plant spray was useful in occasional dry days. I didn't entirely trust the glue and added hundreds of copper nails as well, quite unnecessarily.
|Don't paint the inside this colour - it attracts dung beetles|
|End of shed unbolted to get her out - it never recovered|
In the Spring of 1988 the dory Anne, named after an understanding wife, took the water.
During the build process I had dreams of the result being an ideal boat for messing about, perhaps evening sails with a few friends, one in the bow with the case of beer passing refreshments down the line as required. Homer had after all got five boys aboard his admittedly slightly larger craft. But the dory turned out to be no picnic boat. Neither wife nor dog showed any great enthusiasm for going out in what was in reality quite a racy machine.
|Dory and Nutshell|
|The new Commander|
Eventually dory Anne found a new owner, younger and fitter than I and with friends willing to experience the excitement of a hull that heals just so far, the rail exactly on the water, but that is almost impossible to push further. Under her new commander she made frequent explorations down the loch, invariably bringing her new crew home safe and well, if a little wet. I don't think the experience was unique, because when John Gardner's Volume Two came out there were drawings for wider, improved version. The quotation above comes from there.
From a construction point of view the dory lasted well. She endured many years of minimal maintenance and is still around somewhere, but I don't know where. She has been through a number of changes of ownership, generally and as far as I know has never been sold.