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Building the McKenzie River Drift Boat

A fast-paced week building the iconic plywood river dory.

June 11 – June 17
Brooklin, Maine
Cricket Rust
Experience Level
Activity Level

This is a six-day course ending on Saturday

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 the late 1940s Woodie Hindman created the archetypal McKenzie River dory: the 16 Double-ender with Transom. This elegant design has proved excellent for rowing in swift shallow or whitewater streams, and handles well with a small outboard motor for flatwater and lakes. Students will be building this dory as a traditional plywood-on-frame boat, but assembling it in the more modern free-form method without forms or strongback.

Cricket has been building, rowing, repairing, restoring, and researching river dories in the Grand Canyon for almost a decade. She will begin this course by having students loft the design and expand the frame patterns, then create the frames, transom, and stem. You’ll also scarf together sheets of marine plywood into full 16’ side panels and floor. By mid-week, students will assemble the hull and begin installing chines and gunwales. By Friday, the class should be busy fitting seats, fly deck, and floorboards, and applying the last of the oil and paint. With luck, you’ll float her on Saturday! A lucky winner of the lottery will take her home for the cost of materials.

During the week you will gain the knowledge and skills to build your own McKenzie River dory, 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. Cricket will also cover maintenance, storage, and repair.

  • Who is this course best suited for?

    This course is appropriate for students with some knowledge and experience.  Basic knowledge and use of hand tools is required for most shop courses.

    This course involves a moderate level of activity throughout the week including: standing and working sometimes throughout the day, some hand planing or sanding, working on group projects that require occasional participation

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