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Building a Swampscott Sailing Dory

An exercise in traditional wooden boat construction.

Tuition: $1,500 (two-week course)

Dory sailing

Here we offer another in the long line of traditional dory courses that we’ve presented over the years. Led by noted dory historian, educator, and master builder Graham McKay, students will build a round-sided sailing dory common to 19th-century fishermen using traditional methods. John Gardner’s The Dory Book will be the reference text and you’ll loft the boat in place and build by “eye and feel.”

Over the two weeks, students will construct the 18′ dory along with requisite sailing gear including the centerboard and trunk, rudder, and rig. The round-sided nature of the sailing dory makes for a more time-consuming building process requiring careful spiling and scarfing of planking stock. Only a minimal amount of epoxy and modern materials will be used.

Swampscott sailing dory on the water

Starting from square one, students will build the bottom, all the frames, stem, and transom on workbenches. Cross-cleats are then attached to the bottom followed by trimming and beveling the bottom plank edges. The dory will be built right-side up. After the setup has been braced and shored all around, fairing battens will be attached and we’ll be ready to begin planking. The shape of a dory is largely governed by the natural bend taken by wide boards of uniform thickness. Graham will demonstrate lap widths, cutting gains, scarfing, and fastening, and these will be daily exercises as the dory takes shape. Interior joinery and assembling the spars, rudder and tiller will keep everyone busy during the second week.

Each student will experience the entire construction process from beginning to end and leave with the confidence to take on an exciting dory project on their own.

I rate instructors for a living, and I can say that Graham McKay is a truly gifted teacher. He has the perfect blend of knowledge, wit, patience, forgiveness, and humor.”
S.C., Fort Montgomery, New York
I just wanted to tell you and your staff how much I enjoyed my course with Graham McKay. It was the best week of my life, and I learned so much from the course it was unbelievable. WoodenBoat School is one of the coolest places I have even been to!”
A.D., East Haddam, Connecticut