Long and skinny or ... long and wide?
April 01, 2021 12:22PM
Long and Skinny or Long and Wide?
Should a white water dory carry its passengers in the middle? Or out at the ends the ends of the boat, like a Briggs?

I want the weight in the middle of the boat rather than out at the ends. For a lot of reasons.

In a high rocker boat passengers out at the ends are high up rather than low down. That makes the boat unnecessarily tippy.
Weight in the middle is more side to side stable and easier and quicker to turn.

Traditional Oregon dory builders know this. They have always put the payload as two or even three passengers across on a front seat relatively far back from the downstream end of the boat. That's how they perform best.

Two rogue traditions changed that: fly fishing and the Grand Canyon. For fly fishing you have to separate the two passengers. The boats become less maneuverable but that's the price you have to pay. The Grand Canyon is an odd story. Martin Litton paid Keith Steele to make a decked boat big enough to take four passengers. The Susy Two. Keith wasn't into it. He chopped in 15x48 boat in half and stretched it out to 19 feet long instead of scaling it up proportionately, so it was a long skinny boat with passengers at both ends.

He didn't want to build any more so Martin Litton got Jerry Briggs to do much the same. Not many Grand Canyon runners have ever tried to change anyhing. They build long skinny boats that are annoyingly side to side tippy. If a 19' foot boat had been scaled up proportionately, from the original Keith Steele boat, it would have been 60" inches wide not 48.

If it had been scaled up proportionately it could have carried all four passengers in the middle instead of the the ends. Which is how Oregon dories are supposed to work.
Re: Long and skinny or ... long and wide?
June 06, 2021 10:08PM
Ever talk to Brad Dimock down in Flagstaff on that thought?
Re: Long and skinny or ... long and wide?
June 06, 2021 10:53PM
No I've never met Brad. I'd like to. He's one of the most experienced decked boat builders out there.

I'm prejudiced toward wider boats than the Briggs but people I know and respect still like narrow. Some stuff boils down to personal opinion.

The white water world is such a separate culture many such boaters have never rowed anything but a Briggs. I've built and rowed both (narrow and wide). New boats are finally starting to appear too. Jason Cajune has a new hot rod decked boat now, that is 58" inches wide and 19' feet or so long. Mine is 66" inches wide. Cyrus Happy (Ray's River Dories) makes some wide Deschutes River boats too. I rowed one of them on the Snake that belongs to AJ DeRosa. It's a huge boat made with 20' foot side panels, with a 69" inch bottom. It is surprisingly nimble and easy to row. Unlike the Briggs it is not side to side tippy, and all that buoyancy makes it ride so high in the water it's still amazingly quick and easy to turn.

Wide boats don't cross the river as quickly as narrow boats. When ever you gain something here you are guaranteed to lose something somewhere else. What ends up as "best" turns out to be the best set of compromises for you.


I'm trying to get my current decked boat finished. I have some health problems (I assume not permanent) that keep me working in slow motion, for 3 - 4 hours a day max. After a year and four months I'm still trying to recover from Covid-19. And on top of that I leave on a 6 day road trip day after tomorrow.

I do expect to be rowing this new boat before the Summer is over. We'll see. If it turns out to be a dog I'll be permanently disgraced.
Re: Long and skinny or ... long and wide?
June 07, 2021 05:22PM
The original McKenzie River boats were all made from plywood with 16' foot side panels and 48" inch bottoms.

In architecture or in computer graphics, if you want to scale something up so it is proportionately the same but bigger (or smaller) you use a constant multiplier for all dimensions. That is how Autocad and SketchUp work.

For instance, if you want to scale a boat made with a 16' foot side panel up to a larger boat using a 18' foot side panel, that's an increase characterized by a 1.125 multiplier. If you started with blueprint dimensions for the smaller boat and multiplied each and every number by 1.125 you'd get the same boat, scaled up to a little bigger. The original Mckenzie blown up to use 18' side panels would have a 54" inch bottom.

16' is to 48"
17' is to 51"
18' is to 54"
19' is to 57"
20' is to 60"

The above dimensions would all make the same boat, albeit at different lengths. Proportionately they are the same.

By contrast any boat made with a 19' foot side panel and a 48" inch bottom is, by comparison to the original McKenzies, a substantially different boat. The Briggs with its 19' foot side panels and 48" inch bottom is the longest narrowest river dory ever made. That isn't necessarily bad. It is what it is.

The Montana Riverboats Honky Dory started off as a boat made with 16' foot long side panels and a 56" inch bottom. That is a wide boat. There are dimensions for an HD made with 18' foot side panels now too. That's the same boat scaled up to be bigger. That one has a 63" inch bottom.

People like the HD. The closest thing I've heard to a complaint was Larry Hedrick saying it was so easy to turn you had to pay attention and keep your hands on the oars at all times. It ferries well too, which makes it easier than other boats to sneak out of a big wave train. With rafts you can't even think about ferrying out of a wave train. They turn so slowly you end up sideways to the big waves at just the wrong time and then over you go. With a raft you pick a line and point it straight ahead, and maybe twist a little left and right to hit any diagonal waves head on. But forget bout leaving. Once a raft is there in the wave train you have to ride it out.

Hard-chined dories are more nimble than rafts. That's why people like them so much. Some dories are more nimble than others. Some are side-to-side tippy and slow to turn. Others are more like sports cars by comparison.
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