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The Newfoundland Dory

The finest seaboat ever built.

In 1793 the Newfoundland Dory was invented by Simeon Lowell an Englishman who came to Massachusetts. The Newfoundland Dory became the boat of choice of the Newfoundland fishermen on the Grand Banks of Newfoundland. There has probably never been invented a finer seaboat than this one. The boat has been built in many different sizes over the years with one or more oarsmen. Although they are rather rare now in the olden days they were a common sight around the coves and harbors of Newfoundland.

The dictionary of Newfoundland English defines a Dory as: “A small flat bottomed boat with flaring sides and a sharp bow and stern, providing both stability in the water and easy stowage in stacks on deck.”

The author’s great-grandfather spent many an hour fishing for codfish on the Grand Banks of Newfoundland when he was a seven year old boy from a deep-sea Dory. Often when he was out fishing he was entirely on his own until the fishing vessel that he went out there on came back and took him and boat aboard.

The Dory’s are completely handmade of all the finest material available. They are made of Sugar Pine, Juniper, and Oak and are held together with wood screws. The boats are painted a traditional buff yellow with ship’s green trim. The Dory makes an excellent row boat with its flaring sides and narrow bow and stern. On the stern in the Dory is a narrow band some that is V-shaped tapering down to a point at the bottom of the boat and flaring up to about a foot wide at the top. These are actually flat bottomed boats with a floor being wider at the forward end then the aft. The bottoms are flat with a 2 inch flare fore and aft, this causes the Dory to draw more water aft making it easier to handle and track better.

Simeon Lowell’s Dory was probably named after a redfish found in Nova Scotia waters called the “John Dory Fish.” This boat is often called the Little Lady of the North Atlantic. As the years went by the fishermen of Labrador and Newfoundland became quite adept at building their own Dories, and they did an excellent job.

It wasn’t unusual for the Dory men to get lost at sea and have their families mourning them ashore. Sometimes these men were picked up by passing freighters that would usually take them to where the freighter was going. One such a pair of fishermen who’s Dory strayed away from the fishing schooner Mary Rose was picked up by a German freighter going to Hamburg along with their boat. When they finally reached Germany they sold the boat there and sailed back to Newfoundland none the worse for wear.

By 1950 fishing on the grand Banks had declined to such an extent because the long liners and bottom draggers had taken the place of the Dories that Dory fishing became virtually extinct. The Canadian government finally placed a moratorium on fishing on the grand Banks because the modern methods of fishing had almost destroyed the fishery. It is doubtful that the fishery will ever return as it once was, but you can be sure that there will still be some Dory fishermen.

Even so, Dories will still be strapped to the decks of freighters and fishing boats to be used in case of emergency. They are still the finest seaboats ever built they ranged in size from 12 to 28 feet. The most common was the 12 foot Bank’s Dory that held to fishermen and all their gear. This same boat was also roomy enough to hold their catch of fish. The 12 foot Dory at all other dories had their lengths measured by the length of their bottoms. The 12 footer was actually 15′6″ overall length. The other most popular away for a Dory was the so-called Newfoundland Dory that measured 15 feet on their bottom.

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