I came across Spira International’s website on a random internet search. I was intrigued by some of the designs and happily surprised that the boats could be built using construction-grade lumber. The Carolinian Carolina Dory seemed to have the qualities I was looking for. Designer Jeff Spira notes: “The design was taken from the Grand Banks Dories after the advent of power. The built-in rocker hull common to a Grand Banks dory was replaced with a flat bottom which would allow the boat to plane under power. These boats, primarily used for fishing in the inland and near shore waters of the Carolinas, did not require a lot of horse power to move along at a good clip.”
The Vermont Dory was first developed by AGB in 2004 to build upon the abilities of the original guideboats that had been in use in the Northeast since the 1800s. As the “pickup trucks of the Adirondacks,” they were used for hunting, fishing, and hauling in areas where there were no roads. They were light enough to drag or portage overland, stable on lakes subject to heavy winds and waves, agile in rivers and streams, and capable of carrying two people and a week’s worth of gear. The Vermont Dory was recently modified with a wider beam (44″) and a broader flat bottom (30″) to be more stable, and to have more carrying capacity—up to 700 lbs.
Under sail, the Weekender is like a sports car and very snappy in response on most points of sail. It can sail remarkably close to the wind for a gaff rig, and the self-tending jib makes tacking a snap. Its club foot is an excellent touch to the rigging, making singlehanding very simple. The Weekender can ghost along with hardly any discernible wind, although in light air it can be a bit hard to tack if the boat doesn’t have quite enough way on; the long keel requires some momentum to overcome its resistance to sweeping sideways when tacking. I have found that moving my weight to the downwind side forces the boat to heel, and it will gain speed and increase its ability to turn.
John Harris, the proprietor of and chief designer for Chesapeake Light Craft, designed the PocketShip as his personal boat. “I’d owned a production fiberglass pocket cruiser, which sailed well but was hellish uncomfortable,” he explained. “I had a hunch that I could design a sailboat with a 15′ length-on-deck that not only sailed extremely well, but was ergonomic for someone of my 6′ 1″ height.” The boat had to be light enough to tow to Florida behind his four-cylinder car, fast and seaworthy enough to sail overnight to the Bahamas, and commodious enough for a week’s cruising once there.
Paul Gartside’s 16′ Gaff Sloop, his Design No. 218, has its roots in SJOGIN, a 22′ traditional double-ended Scandinavian workboat built in the late ’50s. Paul designed a modified version of it, his Koster Boat, Design No. 176, and later developed three smaller versions. The last of them, Design No. 218, is the Gaff Sloop, a 16-footer with a transom stern. When Jonathan Sheldon of Hereford, England, enrolled at the Boat Building Academy (BBA) in Lyme Regis, he decided that this design fulfilled all his criteria for a new boat. He wanted a trailerable, stable, traditional-looking boat that he could sail, row, or motor either singlehanded or with a sizable crew.
John had taken his inspiration from a working peapod built in around 1886 in Washington County, Maine. It was the same peapod I had been drawn to in American Small Sailing Craft. Author Howard Chapelle notes that particular peapod was, when the lines were taken off in 1937, the last of its kind ever built Its type was used for lobstering near Jonesport up to about 1938. John’s Lighthouse Tender Peapod has a shape very similar to the original working boat; the chief differences in the new boat are a sternpost that is nearly vertical rather than raked, and the absence of a keel, which allows his boat to sit upright on the beach.