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The dory is a small, shallow-draft boat, about 5 to 7 metres/16.4 to 23.0 feet long. It is a lightweight and versatile boat with high sides, a flat bottom and sharp bows. They are easy to build because of their simple lines. For centuries, dories have been used for commercial fishing, both in coastal waters and in the open sea. Variant spellings are doree and dori. The British Royal Navy spells it dorey (OED).



Strictly speaking, the only true defining characteristic of the dory is that it is planked up with wide boards, "It should be well understood, that it is the dory's special mode of construction, not its hull shape, that sets it, and its related sub-types apart from other boats"[1]

More generally speaking, the dory can be defined as a small boat which has:

  • a flat bottom, with the bottom planks fastened lengthwise (bow to stern).
  • a hull shape defined by the natural curve of a sawn plank (never steam bent).
  • planks overlapping the stem at the front of the boat and an outer 'false' stem covering the hood ends of the planks.
  • (with some exceptions) a fairly narrow transom often referred to as the 'tombstone' due to its unique shape.[2]

The hullform is characterized by a bottom that is transversely flat and sometimes bowed fore-and-aft. (This curvature is known as 'rocker'.) The stern is frequently a raked surface (a narrow transom) that tapers sharply toward the bottom forming a nearly double-ended boat. The traditional bottom is made from planks laid fore and aft and not transverse, although some hulls have a second set of planks laid over the first in a pattern that is crosswise to the main hull for additional wear and strength.

Despite their simplicity of design, dories are well known for their seaworthiness and rowing ease. Because of their narrow bottoms, they do not exhibit much initial stability and have often been called 'tippy'. They exhibit high ultimate stability, however, tipping to a point and then stiffening up significantly and resisting further rolling tendencies. Dories by design are quite voluminous and can carry a heavy load for their size and will continue to retain their great ultimate stability even when heavily loaded.

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