About the Boat
Phil Bolger once wrote that when he died and arrived at St. Peter’s gate and was asked why he should be let in, he would answer, “because I invented the Gloucester Light Dory.”
Phil built the first one in 1960 as an easily rowed tender for his leeboard sharpie, Pointer. The sharpie had no deck room to stow a dinghy so a skeg was added to make her tow straight. The first cruise of the pair was meant to show off the sharpie but the dory was what caught everyone’s attention. It was an instant success. Hundreds, and perhaps thousands, have been built. H.H.(“Dynamite”) Payson built them professionally for many years while selling the plans and his book, Building the Gloucester Light Dory.
I too was captivated by this boat the first time I saw one. The sweeping sheer, the tombstone transom, the height and rake of the stem, the flair of her sides rising from her narrow and double ended bottom, meld into an object of incredible beauty. The joining of her few parts, belie her complexity as a shining example of minimalist perfection.
I wasn’t disappointed when I pulled on the oars for the first time either. She quickly reaches her hull speed with surprisingly little effort. There is a musical sound of water passing along the sides and a slight trail of bubbles follows for a short distance astern, ten feet behind there is no trace of a boats passage. This is indeed, traveling softly on the earth. Like all fast rowing boats she is very tippy when first getting aboard but once seated, one quickly joins her, becoming a partner for an adventure, or a quiet contemplative drift over still waters. Although there are three seats, and the boat is capable of carrying a considerable load, she is best when rowed solo. Like any boat solely intended for rowing, she is sharp at both ends on the waterline and can be rowed backwards for tight maneuvering or better visibility.
Our Gloucester Light Dory
Our version departs from the plans in few important ways which will add longevity and reduce maintenance.
Her sides are Okume African mahogany marine plywood, 7/32” thick. This is plantation grown wood of the highest quality. The plans show a butt block joining the side halves, but I prefer a scarf joint because it is strong and cleaner looking. The scarf is two inches long which slightly shortens our boat from the usual model. The bottom is 1/4” plywood, covered with light fiberglass cloth on the inside, set in epoxy for wear resistance and painted with non skid. The whole of the boat’s exterior has been covered with polypropylene cloth and epoxy for abrasion resistance and strength. The internal chines feature a rounded fillet of thickened epoxy along their tops, to both add strength and to shed water.
We differ from the plans in a few other ways too. Our rail system has been greatly strengthened by adding a laminated inwale. The oarlocks are mounted in mahogany blocks on top of the rails which keeps the shafts plumb and strengthens this all important component, through which all the propulsion force of the oars is transmitted to the hull. Every part of the boat has been epoxy coated before painting to aid in resistance to moisture absorption. We use the highest quality polyurethane paint compatible with the epoxy coating, providing an attractive, highly serviceable finish.
At 65 lbs., this boat is easily launched and recovered from the water. She will sit happily up side down or right side up when on shore with no soaking required to keep her water tight. The limber holes in the bulkheads beneath the seats are hand hold shaped to ease in moving her, and the bottom at the stem base retains the weave of the polypropylene cloth for a palm’s width to provide a better grip. The breasthook is mahogany and has been fastened with large bronze screws bonded in epoxy. We attach the bow painter to it, reassured by its strength. A skulling notch has been provided at the top of the transom. We recently discovered it’s inobvious usefulness in keeping a tow rope aligned while rescuing a becalmed sailboat. The seats are fastened with removable screws for maintenance.
This boat will add a new dimension of joy to your life on the water.
There is no expensive, smelly fuel to purchase, no noise, no wake created. Once settled on the center seat you join the motion of the water and boat, a few quick pulls on the oars and you are away. This boat will be the first launched in the springtime and the last to be taken up in autumn, and in the winter you will pine for her company.
LOA 15′ 5”
BM @ SHEER 4′
BM @ BOT. 2′
DEPTH MIDSHIPS 14 3/4”
EMPTY WHT. 65#