The Nautical World...

Monday, September 27, 2010

Are Dories Magical?

Short answer, yes.

Long answer, yes they are.

There is no question that a Dory is a magical boat. The sheer fact (I'm pretty sure the actual sheer of the Dory inspired that sheer) that the D in Dory is capitalized shows an almost 'human-like' existence. But why would a Dory want to be human-like when it's a Dory? It wouldn't.

I posted this picture a few weeks ago:

Pretty amazing right? This Banks Dory plowed through the water for a bit, then decided it would blast-off into space. It took these two humans along as rowing slaves. But, this must be an anomaly, right? Wrong. Please pay attention to Exhibit A:

...and Exhibit B:

After three conclusive photos, I'm sure that we can all reach the same judgement: Dories are way awesomer and other-wordly than we ever imagined.

So, this week I am in search of lumber. I need to get a shipment of white pine, preferably 1"x 12" in sections of 10' and 13' length. It's really hard to find it in these specific dimensions, but I do have access to a friend's (Matt) table planer, so anything a little bit bigger I can take down bit. 

So my first stop was Home Depot. I know, I know, there are some salt dogs out there right now spitting at the ground at the thought of me finding anything at Home Depot, but I'm poor and it's down the street and I'm ruled by the laws of supply and demand. As I was perusing the Depot, I came upon a section of really nice white pine, in fact, I was impressed. There were some great pieces in there but the problem was that all the edges had been gashed off due to some minimum-wage board slinger who didn't care. Can I blame him? No, but, I was still sad. I spent roughly an hour combing through hundreds of boards looking for what I needed, but when the edges would be fine, they would be home to a million knots. Now, knots aren't that big of a deal for the bottom, says John Gardner, but these knots were at the edges/almost falling out/gigantic. I decided to save my money and hold out for something better.

My next stop was Mason Mill in NW Houston. They had a ton of wood, warehouses and warehouses full of wood, every kind of wood-wood, wood, wood! There was so much in fact that I was getting very confused. They had a million types of pine and a million thicknesses, which would all be great, but they were all rough hewn. That means they would charge additional to plane it down and sand it and by the end it would be very pricey. Like I said, I have a planer and could do it myself, but I still wanted to hold out to check one more spot. Also, to make matters worse, every single worker there was ogling my girlfriend, so I could stay and fight them and their forklifts or flee back to the island. To the ISLAND!

Ideal Lumber in Galveston is my third place. I would have made it today but the traffic in Houston is so grotesque that it takes hours to go from A to B. I did talk to them on the phone and they seem to have a large stock. But with every new venture, a new problem arises. Most of their stock is finger jointed together. What does this mean? It means they are joined together in a zig zaggy way that may not be very good for ocean going vessels. I was trying to get nice long pieces, but I may have to settle for smaller ones and scarf (join) them together. So, I was wondering, would a finger joint be the same as a scarf? Would it be structural enough to be in a boat? I shall start going through the multitudes of online forums to see. Usually this ends up in 99% junk response but sometimes, it pays off. Most of the time some wooden boat know-it-all spends half a page talking about an answer that would take two sentences to accomplish the same thing. I think these kinds of people should have limited internet access.

This week is very busy. History test, spanish test, history quizzes, lectures, blah, blah, blah, blah. I should get some wood this week, and hopefully start the sub-assemblies towards the end.

Also, check out my friend's site. Seth and his wife Jen have a research company that takes marine biologists out on a sailboat to take samples or whatever the hell they do. Seth and I are pretty sure it involves bunson burners and lab coats, but we are boat people and that's what we focus on. Anyways, they have a very cool business model, and their mission is to provide a 'green' way to research the ocean, with little to no impact on the environment. Go check it out: JPL Marine Labs

If you like what you saw, hit me up, let's splice the main brace

And please, do tell your friends....

Dory ho!


Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Sheer Plan Lofted Due to Sheer Luck!

Puns are gross. Sorry.

So on Sunday my friend came over (Austin) with my other friend (beer) and the lofting process began....

Well, a lot of talking happened, but the basic lofting of the sheer plan happened which is a successful step in the right direction.

Truly, the sheer plan is the only thing I need to loft the Banks Dory... Curious? here's why:

Lofting enables you to have a life-sized set of plans in order to get angles and measurements 'real-time' as opposed to using a much smaller scale to go off of. If you were to expand those small scaled angles and such to full sized, the margin of error dramatically increases. Boat builders find their most useful information from the lofting operation in the creation of the waterlines. Waterlines are curvy lines in the lines plan that create the hydodynamicness (is that a word? it is now, ha!) of the hull. Anyways, it was really hard for the builders to fabricate these, so the plans were laid out and a long wooden batten would connect all the points to form the curve. Then the builders would 'pick-up' lines from the lofting floor. In short-speak, they made giant templates and used it to cut out the shapes from the wood.

So in a roundabout way, here is why the Banks Dory does not necessarily rely on this process. The Banks Dory does not get its 'waterlines' (not truly waterlines, if you want to know, email me, I don't want to bore everyone to death) from a plan. Her waterlines are dictated by the width of the planking material and the angle of the futtocks. Still lost? What makes the Banks Dory so simple is that her planking doesn't get steamed or twisted but simply bent over the natural curve of the frame. This creates her natural sheer and beautiful lines.

So that's why I don't technically need to loft the profile or half-breadth view. I still will, mainly because it will allow me to calculate the different bevels such as the strakes to the stem, garboard to the bottom, etc.

Now, what is necessary, is the sheer plan. This is a simple drawing, and with my dory, a very functional one. Since there is a set of futtocks at every station, then every station marked in the sheer plan ends up being a template for the futtocks. Pretty neat right? The Banks dory really uses the lines plan to her advantage, simplifying it in some ways, using it to the fullest in others.
Sheer Plan and most boring picture in the world

Enough about the lofting, let me clue you in a little on the logistical side of the house. So far, I have spent $50 on my dory. That was for a sheet of 4'x 8' plywood, 3 2"x4"s, a nice new t-square, and a carpenter's speed triangle. This is but a smidgeon of what I expect her to cost in the long run, especially when I cover her in silk and gold-leaf (kidding, unless there is a generous donor out there.) I will post receipts shortly, so y'all can quietly audit me throughout the process. Note on the quietly.

Spiffy has been begging me for a spot on the blog...
Also, I am having to come to a decision point on where I am to build this lady. I have 3 friends with garage offers, Austin, Seth, and Jocie. I am very thankful to them and their donation and I will gladly accept their offer when needed. There have been some other recent developments and one of my professors suggested that I ask another professor if my school could spare me a space. This would be another excellent option because then my fellow Maritime Studies students can use this as a a type of 'living history' project and write papers and all that jazz. Third option is that I approach a landlord in the Galveston Historic Strand area and ask them if they would be willing to loan me their property for a short time, then that way they could have an attraction to get people to lease the property. Who knows? I'm excited to see where this goes. There are so many options that it makes my head spin, sometimes it becomes really hard to decide what to do and what not to do. But, as my Dad puts it, "...ya I know it's hard when you are young and you have so many choices and you don't know what to do, but it's a hell of a lot harder being my age, having no choices, and still not knowing what to do..."

I will keep everyone informed, this should be an exciting week. I will find out about a space, I check out lumber tomorrow, and hopefully 'move-in' somewhere and finish the lofting. If you like what you see, have questions, or just wanna bug me,
email me at:

Tell your friends!

fair winds, strong rum, sharp knives, dry socks, hot coffee,


Friday, September 17, 2010

My Dory Model is Ready to Hit the Runway!

Aaaarrrggghhhhh! Sunday is National Talk Like a Pirate Day so I hope y'all are ready to growl and spit your sentences at people all day long. But if you can't talk like a pirate, just use a lot more profanity and you're covered.

Ok so tonight I finished the main phase of my boat model, WOOT!

Ain't she a beauty? No, She's not? How dare you! If you were one of those people who thought "Man, that model is uglier than a bridge troll who has been beaten with a bag of hot nickels..." then you are correct. This model is ugly. Maybe one day when I am 200 years old, retired and am looking for any reason to ignore my wife, I can create a spectacular replica. Instead I am 26, have the attention span of a field mouse, and am in a room filled with way too many shiny objects, so for me to accomplish this I deserve something along the lines of a Nobel Prize (Hey they have been handing them out for nothing the last few decades, why not me?) BUT, that is the point. This model IS ugly. It isn't built for beauty, it's a functional model. 

Functional you might ask? How are these functional? Well, I'm gonna give you a list just on the things it has helped me with:

  1. Visualize my offsets
  2. Made sure they were correct
  3. Checked all around measurements to verify they are correct (Even John Gardner recommends checking well-known boat plans)
  4. Provides a way to make a reasonably close estimate for the length of all your strakes from garboard to sheer (more on that later)
  5. Allows you to ensure frames match the beveling on the rockered bottom to better receive the garboard
  6. Helps with the concept of the bevel at both the stem and transom
  7. Provided a small scale lofting and construction operation so that I can address a lot of logistical issues (I would rather screw up the balsa wood than the white pine or oak)
  8. Kept my sanity (or made it worse, meh)
  9. Etc.
There are many many, many, many more benefits than just this. Models are even greater help with a boat that has a very curvaceous bottom (ooh la la). In fact, shipwrights used to make wooden models 1:8 scale and would pull the waterlines off of it to use in the construction. Making a model was the great grand daddy of CAD (computer aided design) programs. 

Notice on my model, on what should be the frames, I have made them a solid piece all the way across. I did this for structural reasons and so when my cat (soon to be a ship's cat!) bats it off the table, it won't break as easily. It also really helps visualize what the boat will look like. To be honest, mine now has me worried that the 4th station lines are incorrect because there is not a "fair" curve between everything. This is a great example of how it helped me solve a large-scale problem. So, I will go back, check and recheck my numbers, measurements, and all else to find out where the problem is. Better to do it with balsa wood and a hobby knife than white pine and a hand saw...

Ok, no more model talk.

I would like you to check out this guy's website: The Unlikely Boat Builder

This dude has a pretty cool gig going on. He one day just decided to start building boats and he had zero experience. This obviously didn't matter because he has done some really awesome things. This is providing some great info for me and some extra motivation. 

Thanks for stopping in gulls and buoys (yuk yuk, nautical joke hurrah!)

If you like what you see, become a follower, leave a comment, post a link to this site somewhere, tell some friends, whatever you can do to help with the revolution of the Neptune Nation...

Fair winds, strong rum, sharp knives, dry socks,


Thursday, September 16, 2010

Lofty Lofting

What a week. School is really starting to kick in, even more reason I need a boat, and soon!

Towards the end of this week I hope to begin the lofting (still trying to decide which type of plywood I want to sell my unborn firstborn male child for.) Traditionally, lofting was done directly on the floor of a boat shop, unless of course they wanted to save the pattern so that they could recreate this boat again and again. In this case it would would be done on some plywood type material. This way I can reuse it again for building another dory or maybe just for hanging on my wall (or I can use it to make a nautical themed beer pong table (or I can just stop messing around with ping pong balls and drink the beer directly)). Whatever the case may be, I am going to loft on the plywood.

Now, a Banks Dory has been built so many times that some people I talk to say I shouldn't even bother lofting it. There have been a million books so why waste my time? I am choosing to loft because I am going to use the finished product and "pick-up" my lines directly from it. Picking up lines refers to using your lofted boat plan almost as a template to guide you in cutting out your pieces. I am also choosing to loft because the great John Gardener told me so in his dory bible "The Dory Book," and I dare not incur the wrath of John Gardener. John Gardener is to Dories is what Bobby Fischer is to chess. You just don't second guess the guy.

So, I'll begin by purchasing two 4'x 8' pieces of plywood and some 2"x 4"s as support. I would like to bolt the plywood to the 2"x 4"s that way I can assemble and disassemble and move them around easier. We'll see how my attention span is when it comes time for that though, I bet I'll just nail that sucker (and then probably wish I bolted it later, ha!)

I originally intended to put a cool picture I saw the other day of some salty dudes lofting a boat probably in the late 1800's. However, I could not find the picture so I chose to tell you this miserable story instead. These days everybody gets a lot of grief for how easy we have it compared to the past. Like in my case, I will be building this boat with power tools, so I guess I can't really say it is being built traditionally. I mean I guess the old-timers had it a lot harder right? You know what, they may have not had power tools but they also didn't have things like youtube, facebook, wikipedia, or google to ruin their lives and sidetrack them for like three hours. I innocently decided to go search for that picture, and not only did I not find it, but I looked at ebay, craiglist, and wooden boat forum. See all those blue hyperlinks? It's like walking through a mine field, except instead of being blown up by a mine, you get derailed and end up spending an hour looking at the freaks that crawl around Wal-Mart (People of Wal-Mart, click it, I dare you.) Did you click it? Did you spend at least twenty minutes feeling nauseous? Anyways, I digress, on with the boat!

Once, I lay out the plywood and check to make sure both the pieces are not distorted or affected in any way, I can start the process. Firstly, make a baseline.
 ***Disclaimer*** All line's plans and offset tables are different. Some are drawn with a baseline, some use a waterline as the point of reference, some elevate the true bottom above the baseline, yada, yada, yada. (but, you yada yadad over the best part! No, I mentioned the bisque... (10 points to who can name where that comes from!))***Disclaimer***
So it is up to you to read your plans carefully. Some find it helpful to do a 'mini-lofting' on a piece of graph paper (that's what I did.) It allows you to work out all the kinks on a piece of paper instead of on your expensive plywood. Then, if you want to go even further, you can build a balsa wood model to check your accuracy even further.

Here is a picture of my 'mini' lofting and the start of my model:
You can see the profile view (side), and the half-breadth view(expanded to full-breadth). The start of the model is sitting directly on the full-breadth view showing that the plan directly corresponds with the model.

The way I started this was with my table of offsets. Here is the exact plan I am using:

This one page contains the entire plan for the boat. It's like the Rosetta Stone, in order to understand the hieroglyphics, you gotta know your Greek. Well in this case, numbers are your Greek and everything else is that jumbled mess of hieroglyphs. Notice in the bottom right hand corner. There is your offset table. As long as you know your numbers, you can plot the lines. The offsets are a certain distance from a certain reference point which will give you a certain location of a point in the boat. I could delve very deeply into this, but it's about 1:30 a.m. where I'm at and I just got done doing a bunch of homework. Alas, I promise I will, at another time, cover every aspect, that's a good reason for you to keep coming back!

So exciting, exciting! Sometimes the planning part can be very tedious. That's how it was when I was in the Marines. Planning just downright made you want to pull your hair out. But, the success of a mission relies on the planning, so it is a necessary evil. And, it's not all that bad, you get a lot of daydreaming in.

When you start to get stressed out, you just gotta find something to motivate you. This dory picture should keep me motivated for quite some time:
Take that wave!
I could honestly write a million captions for that picture. I don't think they are rowing, it appears they are blasting off into space.

Fair winds, strong rum, sharp knives,


Sunday, September 12, 2010

The Dory Plan

Ok, so, I've been around boats for quite some time now. I have rigged boats, scrubbed 'em, cleaned 'em, painted, tarred, caulked, steered, unstucked (real word?), etc. etc etc. But there is one important thing I have yet to do to one, and that is build one.

Notice the drama.

To even think about buying a boat is terrifying. I constantly hear that the two best days of a boat owners life is the day he buys it and the day he sells it. So negative, but so true it seems. Boats are a money pit. If you like boating but are landlocked, a great way to experience being a boat owner is to go stand in a cold shower with your raincoat on while you tear up hundred dollar bills. So there you have it, that is how the world has made me feel thus far...

It's not all horrible though. Here on Galveston Island I am surrounded by boats and am a crew member aboard the Elissa, the 1877 sailing barque. Now there's an expensive lady. I don't get to look at the books or anything but I know personally that the dollar amount of varnish I alone have applied to her yards and rails would resemble the GDP for several 3rd world countries. She does bring you back every week though, despite her nagging and high maintenance. That's what a pretty girl is capable of...
They always look good all dressed up

However, I digress, this is about MY boat. That's right, I decided to build my own. Not quite the size of the Elissa, but just as historical. Based on meetings with salty sailors, weather-beaten friends, and well-tattered books, I have chosen a wonderful working-class small boat--The Banks Dory.

The Banks Dory is famous way beyond the space I can spare for its history. It is thought to be derived from the French Bateau, a flat-bottomed, straight-sided river boat from the late 17th century. Yet, since boats were mainly made by the keen eye of a shipwright in those days as opposed to using an offset table or templates, it is very hard to trace its lineage. However, the Banks Dory doesn't need mention of an elaborate past; its fame was gained closer to home in the Grand Banks off of New England. In the late 19th century and the earlier 20th century, large schooners would depart Massachusetts up to the Grand Banks off of Newfoundland. The schooner would be carrying 20 to 30 Banks Dories. There thwarts were removed (seats and stuff) and they were stacked in each other like a bunch of dixie cups. Once there they would anchor and deploy the boats with a pair of fisherman in each. Then, the men would row or sail away from the mother ship and hand-line cod or halibut. The Banks Dory was known for her sturdiness and ability to carry literally tons of cargo. If a sudden squall would come on, it was up to these men to make it back to the ship, and hundreds, if not thousands, of men were lost over the years to events such as that. These dudes were no joke. You wanna hear about a real BAMF? Check out Howard Blackburn. Word of Warning though, standby to feel really inadequate.
Howard Blackburn be his name...
The Fog Warming, Banks Dory in good weather...

Anyways, like I said, I cannot devote nearly enough to explain this boat's greatness.

So on with maneuvers and let us press forward with the battle plan...

The first rule about boat building is that you do not talk about boat building. Just kidding, that's fight club. The first thing you have to do is start reading. Then talking. Then reading and talking. Then ask questions. Then, take all of this abundance of information (sometimes conflicting) and come up with your plan. That's what I did. I have to say though, the majority of my build plan is based off of one book. It's called The Dory Book by John Gardener. This dude is one crafty man. He is incredibly thorough and spares no details. When you first look at some of his line's plans (more on this later) it feels like you are staring at the Matrix. Then when you realize you are the one, you understand it (you mean when I'm ready I can stop bullets? No, when you're ready, you won't have to... ).
I have many leather-bound books...
I can't take credit for finding this book, that goes to one of the saltiest dudes I know. His name is Chester and he is a deckhand for the Seagull which is a tourist boat for the Texas Seaport Museum. He has built a few dories himself and he has stories that go on for days.

The planning is the most important part. I have built and rebuilt this thing in my head numerous times. Right now I am creating a balsa wood model. It's not that pretty, but it's a great way to really go through the building processes. This can help you gauge 'big picture' problems such as "Do I need to build the transom first or the garboard strake?" That was just an example but it all helps, that way when H-hour hits, you are ready.

Right now I'm in the process of securing a good build space, but stay in tune for the next phase which is very important, lofting.

Fair winds, strong rum,