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Alt Oarboat? Small Dory?

8741 Views 9 Replies 5 Participants Last post by  Chip
Any ideas for a whitewater oarboat that's not a raft or big dory? I've been rowing a Sportyak III, but she's probably 40 years old, and only has room for two people without gear, or one and minimal gear. Lots of bounce for the ounce, though, great ride, and good for a kayaker that's never rowed a raft. I'd love to find something a bit bigger, and more stylish wouldn't hurt either.
Boulder Boatworks now makes a HDPE plastic dory, but it's a full size boat, and needs a smarter and stronger person on the oars. I love that low maintenance plastic though.
Any ideas?
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Look up Grif, he's got a nice rig....Another idea might be some of those small cataraft fishing rigs, Jack,s Plastic Welding has some nice little rigs (Pac Cat). Or call some of the commercial rafting companies for an old raft.. Really alternative / lash a couple of inflatable Shamu's to a wood oar rig.
River legend Norm Nevills used a plywood dory-skiff with watertight decks and hatches (called a Cataract boat) on all his trips. Here are a couple shots (shame about the quality).

This is an interesting book, by the way.

This shows the beamy stern of the Nevills boats and flatiron shape. A narrow transom, like a Swampscott Dory might be better in whitewater.

I've not heard of anyone manufacturing hardshell whitewater rowing craft in plastic. (I run Jack's Cats from a wee Pack Cat to a 15 ft. stretch Flyer Cat. Fun boats and very adaptable.)
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hows this for a tiny dory?
go to for more...


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Just did some e-sniffing about. This one looks cool: polymer hull and wood goodies.

I reckon there's flotation built in under the seats. Probably be okay for moderate whitewater. This sort of hull feels tender (i.e. tipsy) but has high secondary stability:

They also build a hot-dog full deck dory for the big thumpers. Worth a look—

Boulder Boat Works, Inc. - Rocky Mountain Rowing Dory
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Just noticed that you already mentioned Boulder Boatworks.

Anyhow, the SportYak was originally intended as a yacht tender, so maybe sailboat catalogues and websites would be good hunting grounds for a similar boat. Maybe this sort of thing:
Hunter Liberty

Or this— plastic, not fiberglass, with built in flotation. The shape's not ideal for whitewater, but neither is the SportYak which resembles a bathtub.

Hunter quit making them but they're available used: $300-$900. You could pop-rivet d-ring tiedowns inside and get Jack to make you some custom flotation/storage bags.

This sort of search thing drives me nuts, but I'll curb my inner demon.

cheers‚ Chip
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I'm not nearly good enough to row a wooden dory, although I love the site, and that small dory looks like big fun. HDPE plastic kayaks are so great, I don't want anything else for a rowboat. The full size plastic dories are beauties, but too big for me. Yes, Chip, the bathtub look is an issue, and SportYaks don't glide well either. The Hunter Liberty looks better than anything I've found so far, so please turn your search demon loose! I have a good airless plastic welder, so I can make non-structual modifications, add splash boards, tiedowns, etc. Thanks for all of the info, everyone.
it sounds like you might enjoy a cataraft
Yeah, right! Who'd want a cat? Pretty worthless— except you can pee without getting up from the rowing seat.

Anyhow, the Walker Bay 10 dinghy might be even better for bouncing off rocks than the Hunter Liberty. Didn't check the price, but they're sold by West Marine and lots of boat dealers. Probably pretty widely available used. I've seen them on craigslist. No doubt the oarlock mounts would want reinforcing, and p'raps a 5/8" socket to use whitewater locks.

Walker Bay® | products | Dinghy, inflatable boats, small boats, small sail boats, row boats, small fishing boats

If my inner demon turns up anything further, I'll zing it your way.
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