A dory is a small, shallow-draft boat that is 15 to 22ft in length. These boats are lightweight and are very adaptable for commercial fishing and also for whitewater rafting. Some common variations of the Dory include: Cape Ann Dory, South Haven Dory, Swampscott and the Banks Dory.
I started wondering one day about when the dory boat first was used. I tried to research it on the internet, but there’s not a lot of information, and the information I found is somewhat conflicting. So I figured I would try and put the history of the dory boat together, as best as I could.
No matter where the dory boat got its start, it has been in use for hundreds of years. One source reported that the dory boat could be traced back as long ago as 300 AD, when dory boats were used as surf boats on the Arabian Sea. I read yet another story that traces the origins of the dory boat to a type of boat used many years ago along the Mosquito Coast of Nicaragua and Honduras.
In the late 1700’s the dory boat became a boat of choice for fisherman in New England and Nova Scotia. The Portuguese had been using a type of dory boat for fishing for many years. Banking Schooners would carry these dory boats on them – they were popular because they were cheap to make and easy to stack and carry. The fishermen would sail out to sea on the Schooner and then put the dory boats in the water. They would spread out and fish, bringing their catch back to the Schooner.
I’ve read two stories as to how the dory boat became popular in the United States. One theory is that they are descendents of the “bateaux” which was a type of boat being used by the French in the waterways in the north. The other story is that they created based on the Portuguese fishing boat. No matter how they came to be, the dory boat became the preferred vessel for fishermen in New England in the late 1700’s and beyond.
I also wondered where the name dory came from. Yet again I found conflicting theories. One theory is that the name came from the John Dory fish that was plentiful in Nova Scotia. The other theory I saw is that the name came from the Douro River in Spain and Portugal where the original dory boats were used.
Dory boats are not only used for fishing. In the 1920’s the boat was brought to the Pacific Northwest and the McKenzie River in Oregon. Shipbuilders like Torkel Kaarhus and Woodie Hindman built and modified the boat for use on rivers. In the 1960’s the dory boat evolved yet again to be used for whitewater rafting trips. Early in the 1970’s the dory boat was put into use in the Grand Canyon on the Colorado River. To this day you can ride a dory on the Colorado River.
Dory boats are still used for fishing today in New England and Nova Scotia. They are also used as dinghy boats for yachts or as life boats on large ocean liners. Dory boats are popular as recreational boats for the average person. They are easy to maneuver and can hold quite a lot of weight. One person can easily pilot a dory boat. In fact you can even build your own dory boat if you are so inclined. For more information on dory plans click here.
Did you ever want to build your very own dory boat? I found a great place where you can get dory boat plans to build your very own Banks Dory. These plans are beautifully laid out and include detailed images along with well written instructions. With the help of these plans you will have the dory boat of your dreams. Now this is something that you can proudly pass along to your family.