Pull up a seat: We’re watching a dory build from scratch

Follow along as Raindog Boatworks builds a dory that blows our mind

Back in September, I wrote here about what I thought was one of the most amazing little wooden dories I had ever seen. At just nine feet long, the fully decked, one-man Raindog Boatworks “Doryak” looked to be about one of the most fun boats you could ever row. Super fun, but super small too. 

Then I reached out to the owner of Raindog, Justin Gallen, and he told me about another boat that he was designing from scratch. 

My mind basically exploded. 

It was essentially my dream boat: a two-person, fully-decked, 10-foot-6-inch dory that can fish one angler and row whitewater. I had looked for plans, probed forums, asked multiple companies if they would ever consider building such an esoteric boat—all without much luck.

I chewed on Justin’s ear for way too long, but with very little arm twisting, he agreed that he would keep me posted on this build. It’s rare that you hear about an idea for a boat and watch it play out from scratch in front of you in relative real time—but that’s what I have for you. On the Thalweg blog, we’re going to follow along from concept to fruition. 

The boat is going to be called the “Gunnimoon” which, Justin says: “Is a compound of Gunnison (where his shop is located) and Honeymoon (given the romantic two-person nature of the boat).”

Over the next few weeks and months, expect updates from Justin on the trials, tribulations, and, hopefully, the fully formed birth of this radically designed whitewater fishing machine.  

The lines have been drawn, models made, and the first hull is taking shape.

So without further ado, I’ll let Justin explain the boat in his own words below:

The aim of the Gunnimoon is to be the perfect middle ground between the classic full-sized Grand Canyon dory (designed by Jerry Briggs) and the innovative and sporty design of Brad Dimock’s Doryak.  When I first started building Doryaks in my shop, my friend and fellow river runner Adam Stalvey was helping me with the build and we began brainstorming ideas for future builds, including a slightly larger hull with passenger space.  In the spring of 2021, my friends John and Veronica were able to take themselves and their two dogs on a Doryak.  It worked, but the boat was clearly exceeding its capacity. During the summer of 2021, the people I met on the river loved the idea of smaller boats because of how user friendly and responsive they are, and how they allow you to go on lower volume and rockier rivers that would be too challenging for the full sized boats.  However, the single person boats mean just that—you are solo.  River running is usually a group activity.  People really wanted to see a passenger seat in a dory that is comparatively compact in size.  They wanted a similarly sporty and responsive boat that was equally user friendly to the Doryak but offered room for a river buddy and a little more gear.  

I started sketching the boat in August of 2021, starting by setting an arbitrary goal of keeping the boat around 10′ 6″ (it just seemed fair and even I guess).  The lines were heavily influenced by a blend of Dimock’s Doryak, Brigg’s Grand Canyon Dory, and the traditional McKenzie drift boat, but eventually I started articulating the lines to what my eye saw as pleasing and functional.  After building several mockups and making many changes, I believe I’ve found the lines for a spirited and intuitive little dory.  It has the classic look of a Grand Canyon Dory, rolling bevel on the bow, ample rocker, but proportionately a little more volume in the stern than the classic dories. 

The challenge was putting the passenger in a seat in front of the oars, while leaving enough room for the handles of the oars to clear the passenger.  This proved difficult in such a small boat, but eventually I came up with the idea of putting the passenger’s footwell where a bow hatch would typically go.  It’s cozy “not going to lie) but the passenger is safe from oar strikes.  This location also gives room for a reversible lounge chair by filling in the passenger footwell with a folding seat and reversing orientation, resting your back on the bowpost and facing the oarsperson.  This provides some relaxation and some face-to-face conversation.  The passenger footwell’s position all the way in the bow also allows for anglers to cast, being supported either by the gunwales or a removable leg or hip brace (more tinkering will reveal how this ends up working).

The deck pattern creates a flat spot in the center of the boat that is about the area of a queen-sized mattress, plenty of room for two people to snuggle up on a multiday trip.  Six hatches provide ample storage for gear, food, and beverages, and displaces water that splashes onboard during rapids.  An automated bilge pump flushes out the water that spills in.

Here are some more photos of the mock ups and of the current build.  Hoping to have it flipped by Thursday! I can’t even sleep. I’m so excited!

Justin Gallen

Raindog Boatworks