How to Build a Dory Boat Structure, Part 1

Learn how to build a houseboat, including constructing the hull, transom, ribs, stern and bow line.

| January/February 1976


A stable sailboat doesn't have to cost an arm and a leg. Bill Hyslop details how to build the structure of this boat and how to do it cheaply.


The oh-so-proper yachting press would have you believe that you must spend at least $2,000 to own a twenty-foot cruising sailboat. Hogwash! My lady and I built and outfitted Hina for less than $300, and $90 of that was spent on a suit of used sails alone!

Instead of using costly marine hardware, we made our own fittings from scrounged materials. We combined efficient, modern design concepts with older "tried and true" methods. At the start, we had only limited woodworking skills and a few hand tools, no plans and no blueprints to follow. We relied simply on intuition plus what little we could learn about the boat designs of faraway times and places.

The result: a crisply performing vessel that far surpassed our highest hopes. Hina sails beautifully! On a 2 1/2 month, 400-mile cruise around upper Lake Michigan, under all kinds of conditions, she kept us safe, dry and reasonably comfortable. In heavy weather, she took five- and six-foot waves easily and her classic lines drew admirers at every port.

Because she was such a success, and because I'd like to aid others who've dreamed of living on the water, I've drawn up this description of the Hina and how we built her.  

The Dory Story

Despite the cultural diversity on our planet, certain practices in the arts of seamanship and boat design have remained nearly universal. The sea presents the same circumstances to all, and people who choose to live and work on the water survive by learning to handle them.

In gale force winds, for example, waves roll high and travel fast, frequently breaking into white caps and releasing tons of force. To avoid being crushed by these breakers, small boat skippers keep the sharp ends of their craft pointed into the surf, so no broad surfaces are exposed to its power. Everywhere, seafaring people have built boats with high, pointed bows which offer little resistance to heavy oncoming seas and which tend to lift boats over swells.

mother earth news fair


Oct. 21-22, 2017
Topeka, KS.

More than 150 workshops, great deals from more than 200 exhibitors, off-stage demos, inspirational keynotes, and great food!