Talk me out of a Northeaster Dory

Here is my situation:

  • I'm brand new to boat building, and looking at a Northeaster Dory as a winter project this year. 
  • I have minimal woodworking experience, but generally handy with fixing stuff around the house. I'm starting near, but not AT, zero
  • Reading the instruction book made me a little nervous, but not enough to scare me away. 
  • Attending a Dory building class just isn't realistic for me - at least until late next year. I'd love to launch next spring. 

My boath requirements: 

  • Easy enough for a first time build. 
  • Big enough to fit me, my wife and my dog
  • Small enough to easily launch on my own
  • Enough room to take camping with a friend and our gear (likely to the Boston harbor islands)
  • Will keep me afloat if the seas get rough
  • Car toppable would be nice, but not essential. Not having to spend $$$ on a trailer sounds great, but I'm okay as long as it is light enough to tow with my Subaru Forester
  • Primarily a rower - I likely won't install a sailing kit or motor

Trolling the interenet and reading the instruction book makes me think that the Northeaster Dory is a perfect fit for me. But I'm a newbie and know nothing. Am I wrong? Is there another boat that I should be considering? 


12 replies:

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RE: Talk me out of a Northeaster Dory

I won't talk you out of it, in fact I'd encourage you to make the committment! At 100 lbs though car-topping a 17' long 5' beam craft might be a task better avoided unless you plan on having another able pair of hands available every time you plan an excursion.

These CLC kits are pretty easy to put together if you follow the instructions, even for novices. The brain work's been engineered out, the necessary skills are easily acquired if you're at all comfortable with hand and light power tools (sanders mostly here) and sticking to the requirements when mixing epoxy resin.

There ought to be plentiful sources for help in your Boston area should you have questions that can't be answered in a post or two here.


RE: Talk me out of a Northeaster Dory


Spclark is right, the Dory is a bit of a boat to handle putting on top of a car but it can be done. (We put one on top of a VW Beetle after a class once!) There are side boat loaders that can make it easier. Towing behind your Forester is no problem. I towed mine all over the east coast. With a Trailex trailer the whole rig is less than 300 pounds. And these are one of the easiest boats to build in the CLC arsenal. I just finished teaching a Dory class at WoodenBoat and there are at least three of them to be finished in the Boston area. If you'd be interested in talking to any of them I can get you in touch.

George K

RE: Talk me out of a Northeaster Dory

   It's tough to talk anyone out of building a Northeaster Dory, because it's a great boat and fun to build.   I built mine in about 8 months of weekends and have now used it for 2 summer seasons. I had previously built 2 stitch and glue kayaks. 

I think the dory would check all of the boxes you listed other than it's absurd to think you could cartop it. However, I have trailered mine over 2500 miles behind my VW Jetta and you hardly notice you are towing it.  The Trailex trailer is pricey but it's so light that it's worth it... you can move the boat around and even launch it by hand.

The dory is not hard to build and if you only build the basic boat (no sailing config), then the only real woodworking is making the thwarts and a little shaping of the rails.  ( I don't consider stitching and filleting plywood panels to be real woodwork since they're all already shaped).  But why would you not put in the sailing rig too?  The boat is a joy to sail and with the lug rig, can be switched from sailing to rowing in about 30 seconds while underway. The sailing rig IS a lot of woodwork - shaping the mast and booms, foiling the daggerboard and rudder, and building the dagger trunk. You can always do that later.

The other boat you should consider is the skerry -- for only two people and a dog it's big enough and looks a bit easier to build as it has precut plywood thwarts instead of solid wood ones, it's 2 ft shorter, and has one less plank on each side to glue.  Might be a slight bit easier to row too... although the dory rows great, amazingly well for its size, but due to its light weight and narrow waterline. 

I'm planning to build a skerry this winter to leave at my lake cottage... but the dory likes salt water!



RE: Talk me out of a Northeaster Dory

   You picked the perfect boat! I'm building one now ( my fitfh build from clc)  stick with a boat that uses the puzzle joints as a first build they're much simpler not only to assemble panels lengthwise but also because all the wiring holes are drilled which identifies where everythin goes .

RE: Talk me out of a Northeaster Dory

Thanks for the insight everyone. Good to know that car topping may be less realistic than I thought. 

NYyaker - I'd be more likely to get use out of a sliding seat than a sailing rig, and my budget isn't unlimited, so that is why I'm not considering that route. 

Now it is just a matter of saving my pennies and convincing the wife to let me drop a few $K on a boat kit this fall/winter. 

RE: Talk me out of a Northeaster Dory

   Hey Jameson, The Dory is a great boat and versatile, can’t talk you out of it.
It'll be light enough in rowing configuration to cartop with two people. My small (5’0”), but admittedly tough wife and I loaded it atop my full sized truck with little trouble. Two guys should have no problem at all. The hardest part is flipping the boat prior to loading.
For Boston Harbor you'll probably be fine with the flotation as designed. If you plan to exit the harbor think about adding additional flotation bags bow and stern. It's hard to self rescue in conditions likely to swamp you. Plan ahead and you can glue in pad eyes or blocks on initial build.
There are much less expensive trailers available but still small and light weight. Should be easy enough to find used in your area. The big bonus of the Trailex is that it's light enough to use as a hand cart. Glad I spent the extra but if counting pennies would have been happy with a $300 used jobby.
I row as much as sail and like the fixed thwart configuration in rougher conditions. That's another thousand saved. But amortize the expense over the years you’ll likely enjoy the boat and it’s small change.

RE: Talk me out of a Northeaster Dory

I am this close to pulling thr trigger and placing my order.  This would be a first build for me and from what I have read, probably a good choice.  It would be good to chat with people who are currently building or have launched.

- George K:  I saw your offer of connecting some Boston area builders with Jameson.  If you could do the same for me that would be great!  I am located in coastal Massachusetts just south of NH.  Or ... My inlaws are on Long Beach Island/Baregat Bay, NJ.  I am heading down this weekeend and may be able to sneak away for some boat chat if you have any connections in that part of the world.



RE: Talk me out of a Northeaster Dory


Send me email at gkrewson at bellsouth dot net and I'll forward it on to the guys.

George K

RE: Talk me out of a Northeaster Dory


i live in the ny area and have a dory (with sailing rig) if you want to look at it and talk about the build. I'm around this weekend and if you are driving to NJ via I-95 I'm only a mile out of your way.   Email me a jda2wheels at gmail


RE: Talk me out of a Northeaster Dory

Jeff - I'm in Stoneham, MA. Not too far from you. 

If we both pull the trigger on a dory build, let's connect. 

RE: Talk me out of a Northeaster Dory

Hi all,

Thanks for all your prompt replies - Sorry for my slow response.  After my post I discovered the builders directory and found Dan and his nicely trimmed out Northeaster.  Dan is about 4 blocks from my in-laws place on LBI and was more than happy to show off his fine work and talk boats.

Jameson - Absolutely.  Since I am not getting too much resistance from the boss I think I will have a winter project (just have to clean out the barn and make a workspace.)  You can reach me at j.jeffgilbert at

RE: Talk me out of a Northeaster Dory

I've just started building my own Northeaster Dory, so I hope that you, too, have gotten underway, Jeff. I look forward to hearing about your progress and sharing mine.

By the way, I'll be posting updates and photos about my building experiences on my blog --  

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