Blackberry 14

In the November 1, 2004 edition of Messing About In Boats, I presented a stretched version of my 11' dory, called Blackberry 14. Below is the text of that article.

Plans in PDF format may be downloaded here.  Click on picture to see larger image.

Blackberry 14
14 1 x 48 
Recreational Dory
A design by John Bell 

I am of the opinion that rowing is one of the simplest, most economical, and most enjoyable ways to get out on the water. Its also great exercise in that its so much fun that I hardly notice it is good for me.

I used to have a 15 dory that I was very fond of.  It was fast and fun, although inexperienced rowers found the 24 wide bottom to be a little skittish until they got used to it. The narrow bottom widely flared hull was actually quite stable once you got used to it or as long as you didnt try to stand up. It was a bit of a hassle when fishing, though, requiring the angler to stay in the middle of the boat if he didnt want to dump out the tacklebox. The trouble came when freeing a snagged lure or landing a large fish. You simply could not get close enough to the side to look over at what youre doing without heeling the boat precipitously.  More initial stability was indicated for it to be used for casual angling. In answer, I drew plans for an 11 dory called BLACKBERRY. On a lark, I posted the one page plan to the internet to see if anyone would like it. I was surprised and pleased to see that a few intrepid souls did more than like it. They were willing to risk their time and treasure to build one for themselves. The prototype was assembled by a local man. He invited me over one afternoon to try her out. She turned out to be a satisfying boat to row, as well as being a very handy size and  attractive to look at. So far, I know of at least six BLACKBERRIES in use all around the world.

Eventually I started thinking that a longer BLACKBERRY might be worthwhile for times when a passenger or two might wish to come along, so I drew the 14 version presented here. The extra length will make her faster and increase her carrying capacity by a large margin. She wont be as good in rough water as the narrow bottom dory that inspired her, but shell still be satisfyingly fast and fun to row. BLACKBERRY 14 is also a handy size, easily cartopped or trailered. Shed do well towed behind a larger boat, too. Finished weight depends a lot on the materials chosen and extras added by the builder, estimated at anywhere from 65-100 lbs.

Unlike most other home built boats, rowboats are the one type where building actually makes economic sense. (Observation gleaned from experience: its always cheaper to buy an older motorboat or sailboat than it is to build a similar capability from scratch. Been there, done that, got the scars to prove it!) There are lots of good rowboats offered for sale, but most seem to be targeted to higher disposable incomes than the median boater.  These boats simply dont exist on the used market, either. Therefore,  if a boater wants a good rowing boat, emphasis on good, then the most economical way to get it is to build it himself.  I dare say its possible this boat could be built for $200 by a frugal builder with cheap lumberyard materials. Its also possible to spend three or four times that! Most of us will probably fall somewhere in the middle, but its still less than the thousands a new store-bought pulling boat will usually set you back.

In the interest of getting more good rowboats on the water, readers are cordially invited to build BLACKBERRY 14 either from these plans or to download them from the internet. And because I know someone will ask: No sail rig, no motors.

BLACKBERRY 14 Construction Notes

For how to build for the complete novice, buy a book by Michalak or Dynamite Payson. What I know about the process came from what I learned from them.

Shes drawn for either stitch and glue or conventional chine log construction. The chine logs could be either inside or outside, with outside chines being the easier and faster route. 

The hull is cut from the expanded panels shown. Depending on how the builder chooses to build her, shell take either 3 or 4 sheets of plywood. I would not object to making the bottom out or 3/8.

The topsides are then bent around the three temporary forms. The forms are not shown as part of the nesting because they are disposable. They could be made from screwing together a few sticks of scrap or cut out of some cheap OSB panels.

There is an alternate expansion for the bottom shown that shows how it can be gotten out of a single sheet. This pattern  is only to be used with either internal chine logs or stitch and glue construction. If its used with external chine logs (my preference for this boat), its just not wide enough.

The drawings show the stem and transom framing bevels.

The gunwales are two courses of  nominal 1x2s laminated on the outside of the hull to finish 1.5 x 1.5. Whatever you do, dont remove the temporary forms from the hull until the gunwales are on! The shape will suffer if you do.

Id also suggest a couple of thwarts fore and aft and/or a breasthook at the stem and knees at stern to help her hold her shape.

The drawing doesnt show it, but a skeg is strongly suggested, about 2 long by 4-5 deep, sawed from a length of lumberyard 1x6.

Im partial to using a simple removable box 12 x 14 x 7 tall instead of installing a fixed rowing thwart, but if someone wanted to put one in it would be just fine. Seven and a half to eight foot oars are recommended.


July 2005 Update


The first Blackberry 14 has been built by Bill Folsom in Ft. Collins, CO.