The Swampscott Dory Tender

A Swampscott dory is the epitome of a small boat. The jaunty sheer, the lapstreak planking, and the unassuming workman like construction are the definition of form following function. The Swampscott Dory Tender in The Dory Book, by John Gardner is the perfect combination of these qualities in the smallest possible package and I have long dreamt of building her. Every time I crack open that book I find myself looking at that design, but I have never been able to squeeze the project into my schedule.

Gardner's book is a great read. He covers the history of the dory as well as the different construction techniques. Everything that he writes and the way in which he writes it makes me want to build a Dory, and I always fall on the little Dory tender as the one I want to build. I must have lofted it three times only to have the project scuppered by a move or a job change. Finally I had to draw a copy of plans that included all the construction techniques I intended to use, just so I could scratch the itch of wanting to build it.

My dory would be light (as I knew I would need to transport it to and from the water) so I settled on glued lapstreak construction and 1⁄4" material. Given the length I couldn't see this as a problem. I wanted to build it in the traditional way, by attaching the frames, stem and transom to the bottom and then bending the whole lot with the appropriate amount of rocker. This way, as is the case with traditional dory construction, all the building molds are part of the structure and they are incorporated into the build process thus saving time and effort. Gardner describes the original Chaisson boat as having three frames instead of the five that he specifies, so I wanted to go back to the original layout of three. Finally, in the interest of reduced construction time, I would combine the three lower strakes of Gardner's boat by flattening the frames in that area.

Douglas Brooks convinced his friend Tom to build the dory after having made a half model from my plans. Tom's boat shows that the construction techniques are plausible with the exception that the lightweight planking could not hold a fair curve from the stem to the transom with only three frames in between (I suspect the results might have been better with higher quality material but empirical evidence will always trump the theoretical). In addition, the garboard pushes the torture limits of 1⁄4" plywood and I don't think a higher quality material would have made a difference there. So I have detailed a few of the changes that Douglas recommended. But even without these changes, the boat Tom and Douglas built is just as wonderful as I had imagined it.

The updated plans include a detail that shows battens along the length of the plank laps. One normally sees these beveled to a point so that the batten offers a surface for the upper and lower plank to land on. In this case the top edge of the batten is lined up with the top edge of the lower plank supporting that plank alone. Lapstreak construction continues as it would otherwise. The batten fairs the curve between the frames and provides a good clamping point for the next plank without otherwise altering the details of glued lap construction. It is an elegant solution, and Douglas deserves full credit for its inclusion. The garboard strake will still push the limits of 1⁄4" plywood (and your patience) but if you can stick it out, the end result is a great boat that is small enough to car-top to your favorite fishing hole.

hull flipped

Hull fresh off the moulds ready to be finished inside - rub rail, thwarts etc.

Even if this is not the boat for you, I must recommend getting Gardner's book. It is a great read and there are several plans to inspire the dreams of any armchair sailor (or builder).

Complete Dory Tender Plans -- $150.00 plus shipping 4 Arch D (24" x 36") sized sheets showing:

  • Lines Plan and Offsets
  • Construction Plan and Materials List,
  • Frames Patterns (full size, no lofting)
  • Stem and Transom Patterns (full size, no lofting)
You can contact the designer, Marc Bauer, via email at marc.a.bauer at gmail dot com.

Marc Bauer
August, 2009

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