My first boat, an 18ft 'Little Sister' Banks Dory

Construction photos of my first boat

It can be seen that there is no radius between the hull sides and bottom, this was a mistake. I should have added a radius of about 20mm prior to fiberglassing. In retrospect I really dislike stitch and glue, and much prefer stringer frame (using a strongback). In my opinion stringer frame is easier to get right for amateur builders

The dory was built with 4mm thick ply for the sides and 6mm for the bottom. This was thinner than specified and a mistake. The boat was wobbly and lacked rigidity. Thus I was forced to add a gunnel and inwale, frames at every 50cm and gussets. It would have been much easier to build the frames first and add plywood later. In addition I should have used more screws in the process of adding frames as the epoxy failed under huge loads 2 years on.

This may have been because the epoxy had fully cured before glueing the frames on, rather than adding the frames the day after the ply was epoxied. I did sand back the epxoy to get a good key, but an extra one hundred screws at 3 cents each would have been prudent. More recently I have added a small keel and keelson.

About 3 photos down can be seen the skeg which worked well for quite some time, before being replaced by a rudder. With the skeg and with a good 70kg of water ballast I was then able to control the dory in strong winds, as opposed to being at all ends previously

Also note that the trolley 2, the one with large wheels, was lowered by about 5 inches to aid in stability. It worked very well for almost 2 years, but I could not store the boat upside down, and it was overly complicated, taking too long to make and too long to paint. I found that cheap painted radiata pine used for the trolley lasts quite a few years even if kept outside

Notes on boat construction

  • Construction method was stitch and glue, I do not like this method
  • Bond between sides and bottom was via fillet as opposed to chine log
  • Overall build quality was very fair
  • Adding ribs after building the hull, was a huge amount of work
  • I would much prefer to use a strongback next time, build the frame first, then add plywood later
  • I went overboard with limber holes, not really neccessary for an epoxy coated boat that is stored upside down

Painting the dory

The dory is now painted. although not to showroom finish I think it looks a lot, lot better than before. The main point is that as I row past onlookers I feel I am in a nice boat, as opposed to prevoiusly when I felt my boat was fairly unattractive. After epoxy I then faired with epoxy/microsphere paste applied with a scraper. Then 2 coats of water based undercoat, and then 3 coats of acrylic water based paint on top of that.

I was happy with the waterbased primer, it sanded very well. The primer permitted the hull, particularly the outside to be much much smoother than was the case with epoxy only. I sanded between each layer of primer and between each application of epoxy fairing paste. Yes polyurethane paint would have been better, but I suspected that the price could not be justified. Afterall the paint is not the main water barrier, that is the epoxy. Thus the paint serves to improve apprearance and protect the epoxy from UV. I chose the colours based on paints I had at home. I would have preferred red/brown paint over cottage green, but as this would cost money I decided against it as I had cottag green to hand. The inside is a light grey, made by mixing the outside grey colour 5:1 with an acrylic gloss my housemate found in the dumpster, I thought that pure white would have too much glare.

I chose to paint the ribs a different colour to the inside hull. Not sure if this was worth the effort. To get a good deliniation between 2 colours was difficult. Perhaps I could have used tape for this, but did not have the patience. To sum up, painting the dory was well worth while, it has transformed the boat in terms of appearance.

Realistic appraisal of my first boat

The boat was worth building, however in my opinion it is not a good boat for general purpose use. The boat was (I no longer use it), optimised for rough weather rowing with two people on board. The boat was too large for a single rower to control in any sort of wind due to high windage, and really needed an additional 150kg of weight to work well. This extra weight could be provided by addition of an extra person plus gear, but in general this 18ft rowboat was too large to be a good one person rowboat. I have now progressed to a smaller 13.5ft rowboat of my own design which I much, much prefer. In my opinion a good general purpose rowboat would have suited me a lot better, as opposed to a specialised design as shown by this banks dory

In particular
  • The boat was very tender, it needed agile occupants or a lot of ballast for good stability
  • The boat is otimised for rough weather rowing for 2 people
  • Windage was huge, I would carry 70kg of water ballast just to reduce windage
  • The boat needed a skeg, not shown on the initial design
  • Painting the boat greatly improved its appearance
  • A dory has such a sloped transom, that it makes adding an outboard motor very difficult
  • I added small outriggers to increase rowlock to rowlock distance and make rowing easier

  • I had to add large bulkheads, ribs and an inwale to fix boat flex issues
  • The overhangs are too extreme, resulting in a relatively short waterline length for such a long boat
  • The boat rowed like a dream assuming there was no wind
  • Building the boat out of 4mm sides and 6mm bottom was a mistake, 6mm sides and 9mm bottom would have been much better
  • The boat handled rough conditions very well, though needed skill to handle as it was tender
  • The boat was too large to cartop
  • The boat was far far too tender to be able to sail without assistance of an extra hull for stability

Boat Trolleys

My early kayak trolley was used for the dory, this worked OK though the small wheels had issues going over bumps, however suprisingly this trolley proved strong enough. I then built trolley number 2, which I used for a long time. It used large 27 inch bicycle wheels which gave exceptionally low rolling resistance. I could easily push the boat with one finger on the flat whilst moving the boat from my house to the river. The downside was that this raised the center of gravity too high and made the boat unstable, and it was at risk of sliding off. Additionally this trolley was overengineered and overly complex.

I then built trolley number 3 (sketch shown and photos to follow), which used stronger bmx wheels with a lower center of gravity. It was also much much simpler. Boat trolleys are very good means of moving boats. A simple trolley using two bmx wheels can support a suprisingly heavy boat and move it with very little effort. I can recommend boat trolleys for those without a car wanting to move a boat any reasonable distance.

Please note that I now have a car, though I now have two small wheels permanently attacted to my new boat to assist in moving it from the roof-rack to the water, a system that works very very well.

Sketch of a new improved trolley based on my two previous attempts.
Features include a lower center of gravity (using bmx wheels) and a simpler design
Additionally having a flat top assists in strong boat upside down to keep out the water
Not shown is a small leg with a brace that greatly assists getting boat on and off the trolley single handed
Please note that this trolley has now been built, to an even simpler design, and works well, simpler is better!!