Roger Fletcher’s book, Drift Boats and River Dories sat on my shelf for many years before I actually picked it up and leafed through it. Why I waited so long I couldn’t tell you — I think at first glance it looks like a dense, “how-to” dictionary on wooden boat building. Which it is. In a really, really good way.
Not only does Roger give an excellent step-by step-breakdown of a multitude of different designs, but Samuel Manning’s illustrations of the process are the major cherry on top and incredibly helpful in understanding not only the process, but boat terminology, too.
I just wasn’t at that point in my life where I wanted that kind of info when I first picked it up. I am now, though, and if I would have taken an extra three seconds to leaf through the chapters of the book, I would have realized that there’s so much more past the actual building of boats, too.
The history of the people, specific boats and river drainage’s that sculpted how and why these boats were built is fascinating and totally worth the read if you’re into river boats at all.
As Gray’s Sporting Journal reviewer Chris Camuto wrote back when it was first published, in the February-March 2008 issue: “There are two books in one here: a superbly written and beautifully illustrated history of the evolution” of the boats; “and a how-to book on building the traditional drift boat. Fletcher’s purpose in this truly masterful book is as lyric as it is practical.”
The only ding I’d give the book is that it could be updated to incorporate more modern materials like the polymer hulls that Boulder Boat Works uses, but beyond that you owe it to yourself to check out Roger’s book if you’re a river boat dork or knows one that might want it as a gift.