About Dories

Modern and Historic Dories

Whitewater dories are pure grace in design, with high action on the water and impressive stability through big waves.  They are durable, sleek, and stable in whitewater to the point that they can safely carry passengers and payload.

The Grand Canyon-Style Dory in Action

Martin Litton rowing at 91 years old

Modern-day dories follow the form and shape of traditional boats but shapes have been fine-tuned, and materials now available increase the strength and handling on whitewater rivers throughout America. Their form follows their function as we all like to describe them, and to quote one of America’s living legends, Martin Litton, “Those who have to ask, ‘why a dory?’, will never understand, no matter what type of answer you give.”

Historic dories have a colorful past, having been used predominantly as fishing boats on high seas and in rough water.  The “Grand Banks” dories were open-decked, and often stacked on schooners of the 1800’s to be dispatched for fishing halibut and cod.  The seats were removable so that they could be “nested” and heavy oars of stiff spruce were ten feet long.  Author Joseph Garland explains in his book, Lone Voyager, “The bank dory was built to take a beating…[men swung a dory] over the rail, dropped [it] into the sea where [it] bobbed, like a cork until its crew jumped in, cast off the lines and bent to the oars.  Their weight gave it stability, and a load of fish would give it even more; yet it was steadiest when it was tipping, and the farther it leaned–even to the gunwale–the more stable it would be…a strange boat.”

Dories are full of lore, and the nature of these boats bring out extraordinary stories of high adventure, love, loss and myth. John Gardner eloquently quotes in The Dory Book, “The sweet lines of some of them, all but took my breath when I saw them for the first time, out of the water, in all their naked elegance.  I reveled in their good looks, and desired them as much for their beauty as for their use.”  We couldn’t say it any better.