Who doesn't like these big single chine dories! They're easy to build, they look cool in the water and they make ideal recreational craft or no-nonsense workboats. This has been one of our most popular plan sets over the years and is a classic which can be built entirely traditionally, or with lightweight ply and epoxy.
This 19 footer makes a great camp cruiser, and I know from owning one for years that it'll haul a LOT of gear. Its really a bigger boat than the plans imply and theres space for two rowing stations, plus piles of gear. This boat would be a good choice for camp-cruising the islands and campgrounds up the West Coast Marine Trail from Olympia north, or a summer in the warm waters of Desolation Sound. The interior can be all tricked out for sleeping aboard, which is often a nice option to sleeping ashore. A canvas cover can be rigged for weather and removable thwarts and Therma-Rest seats and pads add to the comfort factor. See the “canvas coverings” article under “builder resources” for more ideas.
Speed is not one of the prime characteristics of the dory but once up to hull speed it will ghost along, even loaded, with a minimum of effort. Don't expect to average much more than three knots under oars, and for those who enjoy the quiet pleasures of sailing, the 78 square foot rig will be fun and manageable. The rig matches the traditional lines of dory and the mast and sprit is short enough to fit inside the boat for transport. It gains stability with loading and this proven design tends to handle big water with casual proficiency.
Human and sail powered cruising is still the most satisfying, and trips done this way become memorable accomplishments, but for those who want a bit more power, a choice of small outboard motors can also be clamped over the transom or shoehorned into waterproof wells inside the hull. Inboard wells locate the motor nearer the center of the hull to provide a smooth transfer of power to the water, and also prevent the hobby-horsing so common with transom hung motors in rough water. For an even quieter powered experience try an electric trolling motor inside a well, with an extra fully charged backup battery function as useful ballast. For drifting, you can motor upstream until the battery weakens then drift back down to the put-in, eliminating the need for all the hassle of a shuttle vehicle. The hull has minimal rocker which helps it slip through the water more efficiently, and is quite shallow draft with the rudder removed.
The four sheets of traditional Frank Davis plans are almost suitable for framing and the plans as drawn show a nice combination of ply/epoxy construction and traditional, so each builder can modify the boat to suit individual needs. I always encourage builders to customize their boats to suit their own needs, and builders are invited to email to discuss ideas. Build out as a mini-yacht with a small hard cabin for shelter or keep it open and simple. Build it with or without the centerboard and rudder and add those later, or do it all at once. Sail rig details include specs for running and standing rigging, centerboard and rudder. Its probably not a car-topper but it could certainly be a truck topper with a stout rack, and its one of the safest designs for family recreation, and these dories always seem to have good resale value.
Comments from builders
Paul... you were right about locating the motor-well off to the port side of the centerline, instead of exactly in the middle of the hull. We have more room to move back and forth in the boat, and I even made the motor-well long enough to pivot up the 4 stroke Honda so we can do beach launch and landings without worrying about the prop. I got some of those foam rollers and they make it a lot easier on these sloping beaches. The room to pivot the motor up took extra space but it’s more convenient and being off to one side helps. I did install a 4 inch deep plywood keel on the back half of the bottom like we talked about and once up to speed I can point the motor straight ahead, so I know its working. We love the dory and I think we must have had about half a ton of gear and people in the boat after we launched. It was so loaded down with gear I was afraid my little trailer would break on the way to the launching ramp but we made it.
... my experiments with different sail rigs were fun, but after all I ended up going back to the sprit rig that came with the plans. I might still add a small keel to help when under sail, although if theres any wind at all I can push one of the chines down in the water and that seems to help. That sprit rig also looks like it matches the boat the best. My son-in-law keeps trying to get me to hang a motor off the transom but instead I bought him a nice set of 8 foot oars so that took care of that. I didn’t build this thing to listen to a motor all day and theres all kinds of nice quiet lakes within a days drive of here.
Paul... any more ideas for a small hard deck up forward to make the dory more comfortable for overnighting aboard? When we stated this project I promised my 9 year old daughter we’d put the boat on Lake Washington and do SeaFair in Seattle and this year we watched the US Air Force Blue Angels while rafted up with the other boats. That was way cool, and I also put up the little tent shelter so we could rig the Porta-Potty. I got compliments on the boat too.
Paul... I didn’t realize how big this thing was until it starting filling up our garage. It is sort of fun and I hope its as much fun in the water—and my son is building some oars in his high school shop class. Hes sending you some photos of the interior layout he likes, so how about you help him get this thing finished so I can have my side of the garage back! Sincerely.
Newport Beach, CA
... talk about stable! We went for an overnight camp trip with the whole family and 2 of the kids slept in the dory while we camped ashore. All loaded down with gear and with five people in the boat it really feels solid. Some of the lakes here have small islands with campsites and its nice to get the kids (and myself) away from the TV for a couple days. Those big watertight compartments sure come in handy—now I wish I’d made them larger.
Green Bay, Wis.
Paul... I really love this 19 foot sail dory but now I want a cartopper. I hate that trailer and the last trip we even had a flat. Your 16 foot Pacific Troller gun dory looks doable for some solo open water rowing. I guess we’re back to those difficult choices you and I discussed when I started this project.
... thank you for your patience and extra effort Paul. I received the tube of plans this afternoon. The mail is very unreliable in Costa Rica so it was good to get the plans while I’m here in Florida. Can’t wait to get started—you have my highest recommendation.
Playa Palo Seco, Parrita, Costa Rica
Paul... I was about 12 years old when I used to see your boat projects in Outdoor Life magazine and I think my dad still has your “Upgrading Small Sailboats” book. I’ve waited long enough and now I’ll start on the 19 foot sail dory. I saw one of your 19 footers here in the harbor and I asked him where he got the plans and I really like the looks of the boat. I can keep it in the marina next to my dad’s 32 foot powerboat and it will be perfect for fishing and rowing around the harbor. I’ll get it in the water and work on the sailing rig as I have time. And I still want to talk about doing the lightweight version so if you can tell me where to get that hardwood ply.