The Life of Boats

By John C. Harris
November 2012

There is a hunger along the waterfront for efficient, interesting pulling boats suitable for schools, museums, youth programs, and fitness types.  We've been working on a 23'9" dory for competition and expedition rowing. There are four 9'6" sweeps, plus room astern for a coxswain. Scroll down for more photos.

CLC Team Dory Kit

I started the design with our 17-foot Northeaster Dory, and simply stretched it out in the computer to 23'9".  That would have been expedient from a design standpoint, but the shape wasn't right. Ultimately the Team Dory was a whole new hull design.  It does use all of the refinements that make the Northeaster Dory so easy to build, including computer-cut parts, LapStitch™ construction, bulkheads mortised in place, and stitching holes pre-drilled.  The tight kit combined with stitch-and-glue construction makes it plausible for an organized team to start and finish a Team Dory kit in a matter of weeks.

I had the very devil of a time arranging the seat geometry to suit all different heights of rowers.  Seat height and length are critical for efficient rowing.  This is often handled by having adjustable footbraces, but there simply wasn't room in the interior for that.  Years ago I had created scaled and articulated figures in CAD, which I could use to solve ergonomic problems in boat design:

Scaled Humans in CAD

My scheme was to make the seats broader on the top.  The footbraces are the forward face of each seat, and thus fixed.  Taller people simply slide their butts further forward, as shown here:

Scaled Rowers in the CLC Team Dory
Obviously we max out at around 6'7", but between 5'6" and 6'7" I think we'll capture a pretty good slice of the rowing population.

This seat design also allowed me to introduce something that's usually missing from these "gig" type rowing craft:  positive bouyancy.  The seats are in the form of "tanks" that average about 175 pounds of positive flotation each.  They'll make this boat easy to bail out in the event of a swamping in most conditions.  They also provide massive stiffness to the hull, and a spot for a small amount of waterproof storage. (Bulky gear for expeditions could be carried in waterproof bags.)

We built Team Dory hull #1 at CLC in early November 2012.  We started first thing Monday, and the hull was coated with epoxy on Saturday morning.  Neil Calore rounded up a team of boatbuilders for us, including two boatbuilders from the Independence Seaport Museum in Philadelphia. They hope to start building a fleet soon, and the Great Lakes Boatbuilding School is starting their own fleet.  Kits (and plans) for the general public await strenuous testing and a full instruction manual.

Here's a timelapse video of hull #1 going together.  Be sure to toggle to "HD" to see maximum detail.

A few stills from the week:

Team Dory - stitching hull frames

Stitching up the hull.

Team Dory - stitching top strakes

Team Dory - stitched hull

This was at lunch on the second day! 

Team Dory - flip hull for glassing

Flipping the hull over to start the epoxy work.

Team Dory - contructing seats

One of the seat assemblies, each of which doubles as storage and flotation.  They're built outside the boat as subassemblies.

Team Dory - laying fiberglass

Fiberglass on the lower hull interior, Day 2 of construction.

Team Dory - adhering rubrail

Clamping on rails.

Team Dory - 201 spring clamps

It took exactly 201 two-inch spring clamps. The rails could have been put on with screws, of course, if you don't have as many clamps as we do!
Installing Seats

The completed seat assemblies are installed.

Seat Fillets

Fillets around seats. The seats provide flotation if the boat is swamped.

Oarlock Mounts

Oarlock mounts.

Interior Cleanup

Cleanup before the first interior coat of epoxy. Openings in seat-tanks are for deckplate-style hatches.

CLC Team Dory Kit

Interior coating. Middle section of "stern sheets" lifts out for stowage.

Interior Coating

Team Dory Hull #1 will be a show pony, with a varnished interior.

Team Dory Rudder

The Team Dory's rudder.

Team Dory - shipping out

Departing for the Independence Seaport Museum, where she'll be painted and varnished.  The boat weighs about 210 pounds, making this flatbed trailer a ridiculous bit of overkill.