Recently, I received a note from Miles Quick in New Zealand about an old favorite of mine. You all know how much I respect and admire Pete Culler. His swampscott dory is simply perfect. It turns out, Miles thinks so too.
Miles was looking for a small boat to enjoy the excellent sailing conditions in Auckland, which lies across a volcanic isthmus separating two harbours. Waitemata Harbour to the east opens on the Hauraki Gulf and the Pacific Ocean. Westward, Manukau Harbour opens to the Tasman Sea.
Miles' view from the bus on the way to work.
For these waters he needed a well founded and seaworthy boat...
"I kept coming back to a boat I saw in the book 'Pete Culler on Wooden Boats'.
Now THAT is a fine looking boat. It has all of the qualities I was looking for. Swampscott dories are good in rough water. They were used for several decades as commercial fishing vessels, first under oars and sail and later power. For sailing Captain Pete argues persuasively for a 2 sprit-sail rig that is easily handled in all conditions. A previous owner confirms that this is a fast and exciting boat to sail. It rows well, and the plans are available from Mystic Seaport. Definitely a boat worth considering."
Miles had never built a boat before and wanted to simplify the project by adapting to plywood a boat that was designed for traditional construction.
"When I sketched some ideas on paper I realised that with a few changes this could be a very simple boat to build. I converted the frames to bulkheads and moved the centreboard to sit squarely between the bulkheads. This is simple and strong construction and removes the need for oak frames. I converted the bulkheads into floatation chambers and seat lockers and was pleased to see that not only did the layout make sense, but the changes did not compromise the classic look and feel of the boat."
By taking construction details from three modern designers, Iain Oughtred, David Nichols and Jim Michalak, Miles created a beautiful boat he is really proud of:
"The boat, to my biased eye, is good from every angle. The beauty of Culler’s lines remains intact and the limitations of the builder are mostly concealed."
Jim Michalak inspired the bulkhead design. The frame sections are from David Nichols' book on lapstrake canoes.
The planks are glue-lapped, Oughtred style.
Motor well and centerboard trunk are supported by the same bulkhead. Each end has a sealed floatation chamber.
The dory takes shape.
Nicely conceived, skillfully executed.
He is still working on the sail rig and for the mast positioning he is taking inspiration from Ross Lillistone's Periwinkle.
"The actual sails are identical in size and shape to the original design, which has a small mizzen with a sprit boom and a larger loose-footed main. Culler’s essays describe how to get the best out of this classic rig: when the weather turns bad you furl and stow the mizzen and add some rake to the main; when it gets worse you reef the main, and when it turns really bad you use the small sail to get home."
"There is enough space between the 2 masts for a small canopy to protect skipper and crew against the severe ultraviolet we experience in New Zealand."
"The sail area is small (about 100 square feet), but that is one of the things I like about the boat. By all accounts she is very fast with the small rig. I hope to write a later report on how the sails and other ideas work in practice."
We're looking forward to it, Miles! Thank you for taking the time to write.