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Building the Whitewater Doryak

A fully decked, solo drift boat.

Tuition: $1,500


With the 2008 publication of Roger Fletcher’s Drift Boats & River Dories, these highly maneuverable shallow-draft boats have undergone a great surge in popularity. Originally designed as fishing boats on Oregon’s McKenzie and Rogue rivers, river dories have found admirers on shallow fishing streams and whitewater rivers around the world.

In 2019 Brad Dimock and his team at Fretwater Boatworks adapted the classic Briggs Grand Canyon Dory to the one-man footprint of the once-popular plastic rowboat known as the Sportyak. The resulting 9’ boat, called the Doryak, has proven remarkably adept for running whitewater rivers around the West, including several transits of Grand Canyon. Incredibly stable and maneuverable, it is also just plain fun. Fully decked with four hatches, it can easily pack camping supplies for an expedition of a week or two.

Students will be building two Doryaks as traditional plywood-on-frame boats, but assembling them in the more modern free-form method without forms or strongback.

Brad Dimock has been building, rowing, crashing, repairing, restoring, and researching river dories in the Grand Canyon and the West for four decades. He’ll begin this course by having students loft the design and expand the frame patterns, then create the frames, transoms, and stems. You’ll also scarf together sheets of marine plywood into full side panels. During the first week, students will assemble the hulls, install chines and gunwales, and begin framing the decks and hatches. Week two will see the completion of the hatches, decks, a bilge system, a bit of fiberglass work, and paint. With luck, you’ll float them at the end of the week. Two lucky winners of the lottery will take one home for the cost of materials.

During the week you will gain the knowledge and skills to build your own Doryak, her larger cousin the Grand Canyon Dory, or any number of other similar craft. You’ll learn lofting, scarfing, fabricating parts, free-form assembly, and outfitting, as well as many of the arcane arts you’ll use along the way. You’ll use a minimum of fancy tools, relying more on adaptation and improvisation. Brad will also discuss maintenance, storage, and repair.