Planking the Deblois Street Dory

Deblois Street Dory Building

Bar Harbor, Maine

Planking the hull

I spent the last 24 hours in Bar Harbor helping a customer get the planking going on his DSD. He has been pining after his own D' Street Dory for a few years and is very excited about his project. We met at the Small Reach Regatta, where he and his wife row and sail their current stitch-and-glue dory. He wanted to build a real dory and one with more performance and capacity than the others available. He chose the DSD!

Hull #1 built in 2007, on the shores of the Maine Coast

He set up the strongback very accurately, scarphed planks, and got everything ready for my visit. I arrived at 11am and after the 10-cent tour of his new, beautiful, custom house perched on the edge of Acadia National Park, we got to work. By 8pm we had the garboards fit and glued and looking perfect. Pretty good time for 2 people going hard at it and taking a lunch and dinner break, too. Garboards are often a two-day project because they can be the trickiest to fit.

The latest mkII version of the DSD under construction on MDI

The DSD kit is available, just give a call at 207.602-9587 or email

A Deblois Street Dory

to The Compass Project in Portland, Me is building a DSD with a group of kids and they are doing a great job.

The boat is built like dories have always been built, using the bottom to erect stem, frames, and transom, then turning over the boat upside down on a strongback. Everything is plumbed and braced then planking begins.

Here the garboard has been installed and the sheer clamp is being fit. This is the only departure from traditional dory construction, the incorporating of the clamp helps tie together the frames into plumb and lock in the ends of the boat. It is a bit of a 3D puzzle!

The Perfect Rowboat, Sailboat, or Both?

Do you like the idea of a boat that can row and sail but they often don't like the idea of compromising on one or the other? It is a trade-off. A good sailboat's lines are not good for rowing and a rowboat's lines are not good for sailing. The latter is true mainly because the hull is quite narrow and fine on the waterline, especially at the ends. A fast rowboat's lines just don't provide the stability, often, for sailing and the addition of a slot for the board introduces drag and makes the boat slow for rowing. Wooden Boat's long time manager of their boathouse often cites the Joel White Shearwater as an example. Reluctantly, listening to customer demand, Joel White added the centerboard and it really made a difference in the sailing ability: it made it possible. But it also introduced noticeable drag when rowing: the boat was slower under oars.


is very similar to Shearwater, only narrower and longer on the waterline, no daggerboard, and therefore faster under oars.

because of the moderate keel to provide some lateral resistance and enable excellent tracking for rowing. We don't have a centerboard, so there is no drag induced (though a tight fitting plug for a daggerboard trunk can fair the slot to the hull reasonably well). I've been asked a number of times, and I just will not add a daggerboard to Drake. She is just a blast to sail downwind and can sail as high as a beam reach quite fast. The sail adds tremendous range when you consider the sail as auxiliary power.

Deblois Street Dory

But if you want to sail upwind, and row well, you need a boat with a lot of flare in the hull and a shape that provides excellent secondary stability. Joel White's Shearwater and his 18' version of the boat are good examples. Another ideal example is the dory. What I love about the dory is that it is narrow at the waterline and flares out to a generous width, for a rowboat, at the rail, usually 4'8-5'. The Deblois Street Dry is nearly 5' at the rail. The stability this shape produces lends itself to sailing (see photo of me sitting on D St D's gunwale), but the narrow width at the waterline when the boat is not heeled means that it will row well. The double ended shape of the waterline on a dory keeps the ends fine for rowing ability. Drake shows a similar shape (see photo): narrow waterline, 4'1" at the gunwales provides secondary stability.

The Marblehead Gunning Dory is, to me, perhaps the perfect boat. If I could have only one boat (let's not think about that...what a shame that would be!), I would have a gunning dory or a Swampscott Dory. Come to my annual

Shop Talk & Messabout

to see both of these dory types in the flesh and meet two experts on dories: Sam Manning and Walter Wales.

Thank you to Chris Partridge, blogger in the UK:

Rowing for Pleasure

for bringing up the subject of rowing vs sailing characteristics in a boat

Invitation to Fall Shop Talk & Messabout in Portland, Maine

Please join me for the 2nd annual – “It’s a tradition now” – shop talk and messabout. This year we’ll welcome our guest designer/builder Walter Wales. Also with him will be WoodenBoat’s Associate Editor Karen Wales (Walter’s wife) and renowned illustrator Sam Manning and his wife Susan.

Walter is an acknowledged expert on the Marblehead Gunning Dory originally built by Will Chamberlain of Marblehead, Massachusetts. Sam illustrated John Gardner’s “Dory Book”

Walter and Karen will bring their Gunning Dory REPUBLICAN, built in 1960 by Capt Gerald Smith from Will Chamberlain’s molds.

Walter and Sam will talk about the history, design, construction, and use of this famous dory type. In addition to REPUBLICAN we’ll have a couple other dories on site to look at and discuss.

You can read about the Marblehead Gunning Dory in John Gardner’s books, “The Dory Book” and “Wooden Boats to Build and Use.”

Bring a boat because afterward we’ll head to East End for a sailing and rowing Messabout. Snacks and drinks provided in the shop, but bring a lunch

WHAT: 2nd Annual Shop Talk & Messabout

WHERE: 25 Deblois Street Portland, Maine. Deblois is off Brighton Avenue

WHEN: Saturday, Oct 23rd 11am. Messabout after lunch. Sunday rain date (stay posted on my blog for weather update)