Question about Northeaster Dory in 2-5 ft waves

Hello all,

I wanted to ask about how suitable the Northeaster Dory was for sailing in seas with between 2-5 ft swells. Is this within the realm of possibility or should I go for a different boat design?

I mainly wanted a boat to use for fishing off the coast of Long Beach in Southern California. 

11 replies:

« Previous Post       List of Posts       Next Post »

RE: Question about Northeaster Dory in 2-5 ft waves

I suppose it goes without saying that where you intend to sail you might have wished CLC had designed a SouthWEST Dory, but I digress...

Understand that you yourself need to be up to the task also to get the most out of what the NED is capable of delivering. If you're not an experienced sailor already you might find it worthwhile to enlist the aid of more experienced hands to help you gain familiarity with how a NED behaves under conditions that might see others to reevaluate their plans for the day while still ashore.

The NED benefits from a tradition of watercraft design well suited to conditions you describe. For a 17' hull to be able to carry 800 lb payload safely a lot of thought and planning has gone into designing for the challenges. Under those conditions, in a 100 lb boat with almost 5' beam you may find added ballast aids stability.

RE: Question about Northeaster Dory in 2-5 ft waves

(And yes, CLC DOES have their Southwest Dory.. a bigger, heavier craft than the NED.)

RE: Question about Northeaster Dory in 2-5 ft waves


Good point about the SouthWester.

I liked the design of the Southwester but I am new to sailing and boating in general and was concerned about how easy it would be for one person to control two sails rather than just one. Are two sails anymore difficult to control?



RE: Question about Northeaster Dory in 2-5 ft waves

Not really. A little practice and it will feel natural.

With the cat yawl, you mostly ignore the second sail anyway once it's rigged for the specific conditions. See how in this video from Okoumefest, Dillon isn't doing much of anything with the rear sail.

A jib (up front) needs a bit more work than a mizzen (in back), but that's also easy to learn.

I used to own a schooner that had 3 sails and that became natural after a few times out on the water.

Of course, getting really good at it, like racing good, will take a while, but for just a safe fun ride it's not a big deal. Don't let two vs. one sail scare you away from the boat you actually want.




RE: Question about Northeaster Dory in 2-5 ft waves

I should think a NE Dory would do okay rowing in 2-5' waves, if you can manage to keep both oars in the water halfway consistantly.  She ought to ride like a duck, especially if you keep the weight down low.  Under sail, it might be a different story, depending on what sort of excitement the wind is getting up along with those waves.  Nothing for it but to gradually work your way up the Beaufort Scale to see how she, and you, manage.  Given that you are new to sailing, this ought to be approached very carefully.

As for the Southwester Dory, there are a number of reasons that might be a better boat for what you are doing.  First of all, yes, the cat yawl or cat ketch (this one is in the gray area that way as to which it is) isn't a whole lot more complicated, and one like this is a great rig for "lugging what she won't carry" (Phil Bolger's phrase) in a squally or gusty breeze by easing the main (fore) to spill some wind while carrying on with the mizzen.  It's a great heavy weather rig, and mighty handy in tight quarters, as well, by backing the sails one way or the other.  I had a Sea Pearl 21 cat ketch for many years, a surprisingly good boat in half a gale out on Lake Erie, but I had to work my way up to where we could trust each other like that.

Also, the Southwester has a lot more built in buoyancy to help keep you from foundering when you start taking water aboard in rough going.  With boats like these, that's a "when" not an "if" especially with the NE Dory.  Remember, this is basically a rowboat with auxiliary sail.

Anyway, it's trying to sail, or trying to carry too much sail, that usually gets sailing rowboats like this into trouble.  Y'all be careful out there.


RE: Question about Northeaster Dory in 2-5 ft waves

   I've sailed boats my whole life, spent some time in everything from an Optimist to a 75 ft schooner, raced various centerboard dinghies all that time.  Part of a family of 5 that sailed our Catalina 22 from FL to the Bahamas and spent a couple of weeks there when I was a teen.  I've seen the ocean in all its glory all over the world on submarines, destroyers, cruisers and an aircraft carier.  I was stationed in San Diego - Point Loma - for a couple of years where I lived aboard my CT 41 Ketch, so I know your area well.  The worst I've ever seen was North Atlantic on the aircraft carrier in December.  Sustained winds over 80 knots for a couple of days, waves up to 30 ft. - pretty awesome.

I built my NE Dory 3 years ago, sailing here in Texas on a large lake, once in a while down on the intracostal.  I added a little extra floatation under a bow seat and side seats in my dory, in addition to the per-plan floatation.

Putting in all the above info in order that you might take my opinions with some degree of confidence, stated by someone who has more skill and takes more risks than most.  I've saile the NE Dory in up to about 22 kts wind, up to about 2.5 ft waves (short period lake waves, not ocean waves).  Even in 15 kts/2ft waves I've had water over the lee rail and spray over the bow.  I love my NE Dory.  It is a great boat, and I know dories fed us cod for years as operated from mother ships on the grand banks, BUT...  I wouldn't take the NE Dory out into the open ocean (which you have as soon as you clear the breakwater in Long Beach) for more than a mile or two, and only when I was absolutely sure of the weather.  I've tested my dory, even with the extra floatation using both a hand pump and a bucket and am quite sure I'd never be able to self-rescue if swamped in anything but almost calm water - whenever you sail a boat this size there is ALWAYS a chance of capsize.  I'd be much more confident rowing in larger waves, but again, if you ever took a 4 ft breaker at the wrong angle and got rolled, you'd be in trouble if offshore.

So I'd consider the Southwester if you're really planning to go out off of Long Beach.  Or, how about the Guider?  It has already proven it can handle a lot - but read up on it's trip to Alaska and you'll find that even it can't handle everything, and an exposure suit was a lifesaver.  Be safe out there.

RE: Question about Northeaster Dory in 2-5 ft waves

   And I forgot to mention the Skerry Raid.  It will feel like a small boat in a big ocean, but again, is already proven as an option that might be safer in conditions where you have to wory about a capsize/broach or taking a wave over the side.

RE: Question about Northeaster Dory in 2-5 ft waves

I'm really glad Bubblehead answered this. Take his advice. I'm an inland lake sailor and truly love my Northeaster Dory. I find it performs very well on inland lakes in winds up to about 20 mph (with gusts to 30). But I'll add that I will only sail in winds over 15 if the water is warm enough so that capsizing is not life-threatening. (That means a water temperature of over 75-degrees. It's amazing how quickly hypothermia can get to you when you are wet and it's windy!)

So the thought of sailing my dory on the ocean in anything close to 5' seas is absolutely terrifying to me. I suppose you could have a 5' sea with a calm wind if there is a storm far offshore, but I also imagine that a stiff wind is normally required to kick up those waves. Wind, big waves, ocean water temps . . . not for me.

If you decide to sail on the ocean in an open boat (preferably the Southwester Dory), stay within 1/2 mile of shore, make sure the wind will blow you back to shore, make sure you won't be blown onto rocks and cliffs, and don't go out if the forecast predicts winds higher than about 12 mph. But that's just my advice and (as I said) I don't sail on the ocean. . . . Surely you could find a big bay or inland lake where you could learn to sail?   

RE: Question about Northeaster Dory in 2-5 ft waves

   Wow!! thank you guys for all your responses this is really helping me answer a lot of questions I have had in the past weeks.

Lazlo thank you for the input on the input on the two sails. I initially thought it would not be too much of a problem. But my grandfather who has had sailing experience told me I should start out with one sail. I agree with you though that it does not seem like too much trouble.

Gramps I agree that the southwester dory with its buoyancy tanks would be a real help if the boat flipped which I really like.

Bublehead thank you for your insight on this. 30ft waves and 80 knot winds sounds terrifying yet must have been amazing to see. I actually was looking at the guider but the weight and size made me think I should go for a lighter boat as it would take less time to assemble, I may be wrong on this though. I also like the fact that the southwester has the option for a motor well which would be very useful in longbeach as I could keep away from any large cargo ships there and get back to shore more quickly. would I also be able to do this as easily with Oars?

Birch2 I agree with you about 5ft waves being pretty difficult to navigate. I am mainly planning to use this boat on calmer days but wanted to base the discussion on more difficult conditions where if I needed to get back to shore quickly I could. the Channel Islands here seem to provide some barrier against pacific swells but not always so I wanted a boat that could take 5ft waves long enough for me to get back to shore.


RE: Question about Northeaster Dory in 2-5 ft waves


A few notes on reading your post and some of the replies. If you are new to sailing and boating, I would recommend practicing in Alamitos Bay to get your sea legs ready before venturing out into the semi-protrcted waters behind the break wall. Long Beach has beginner and intermediate sailing classes at Lido sailing center for really cheap and thats a good way to learn while you are working on your boat.


Once your ready for it sailing & boating inside the breakwall is quite nice, the wall blunts the majority of the force from the open ocean swell, leaving just some residual energy, some pointers though;

It can get kinda windy and a bit choppy in the afternoons, nothing unmanagable if you pay attention, morning time is calmer.

Dont get too close to shore or the break wall outside either, stay at least as far out as the end of the pier from shore, about 200 yards, technically you have to stay well clear of the swim line anyways. The wind tends to blow nearly directly onshore and it makes it very hard to tack back out, at least one nice sailboat is grounded on the beach here each year. 

Dont get too close to the lee side of the break wall in a larger ocean swell either, it creates small backswash / eddies that can suck you back onto the rocks.

It is best to stay as far away from the large ships as possible, especially out to sea, they are travelling much fast than they look and it may be better to slow down and go well behind them if in doubt. They are going much slower entering and exiting the harbor, but take caution crossing the queens gate and the cabrillo gate where they enter and exit the harbor. Additionally bewear of other motor boats, they usually dont follow the rules and are careless.

Outside the breakwall I dont have much help to offer you, usually we dont have that big of waves, the swells are usually long period so not to bad, but tacking could be hard. Just use common sense, if in doubt, dont go out.

PS if you need a sailing partner I would be happy go with you and to learn more, I have been eyeing the Northeaster and Southwester for similar goals for a couple of years not.

RE: Question about Northeaster Dory in 2-5 ft waves



 I would recommend you look at a number of designs better suited to the open water conditions you may encounter off the coast of southern CA.  

I built and sailed a NE Dory.  It is a wonderful boat but not really intended for open ocean sailing.   

I currently sail and row a Iain Oughtred Caledonia Yawl with a mizzenmast and balanced lug mainsail.  This is still considered a small open beach cruiser design but the difference in performance, stability and safety as compared to the NE Dory is night and day.

There are many other designs that I would recommend that you also research including the John Welsford Navigator, or Francois Vivier Ilur.   

Whatever boat you end up with I would also recommend that you practice capsize and recovery drills under calm water conditions so you can survive the real deal.   I did this with my NE Dory and was disappointed in the amount of floatation with the standard design  






« Previous Post     List of Posts     Next Post »

Please login or register to post a reply.