Mark Wallace's Black Skiff

Sunday, April 2, 2017

PTD as an Oar Cruiser

In a post on November 13, 2016, we reviewed the Pacific Troller Dory (PTD) by Butler Projects . I received a set of plans for Christmas (thanks, Al and Gail) and built a concept model to implement ideas for making the PTD into an oar cruiser as defined in this blog (see “About this Blog” in the column on the right).

The hull of the original design consists of the bottom, two garboard planks and two side planks… she is double-ended  and identical at both ends. The concept model’s (8:1 scale) bottom and garboard planks are identical to the original.

Below are photos and descriptions of what changes could be made to the PTD to make one version of an ‘oar cruiser’.

Overview of the Pacific Troller Dory as an Oar Cruiser
Concept Model of PTD

These two photos show the fore and aft decks. Each deck encloses a watertight compartment with access through a hatch in the bulkhead. These bulkheads are in the same location as in the plans; 3’ 10“ (1168mm) from each stem, with tops crowned 2” (51mm). Since the center thwart has been eliminated, the side planks are reinforced by an inwale fitted with spacer blocks. The cockpit interior is approximately 7’ (2134mm) long and the cockpit opening (at the deck level) is approximately 4’ 6” (1272mm) long.

Comparison of the PTD as an Oar Cruiser and as Designed

The top edge of the side planks were reshaped so that the top of the stem was lowered by 6” (152mm) and the center (midships) was raised 2” (51mm). The side by side comparison of the ‘as-planned’ hull on the right and revised hull on the left shows these changes, resulting in a reverse sheer with less windage at the ends and slightly more freeboard in the cockpit area… admittedly not as pretty as the original.

Interior, Looking Aft

This interior photo, looking aft, shows how a reverse reading compass could be mounted, floor boards for a dry sleeping platform and anchor for the movable foot rest (which also acts as a back rest when sitting on a cushion at anchor) and a way to store a Danforth anchor.

'Sanitation' Bucket Stored Under the Seat
Forward End of the Cockpit
These two photos show the forward spray shield, the movable seat (slotted into the floorboards) and how a 3 gallon bucket with Gamma Lid 11” (279mm) high can be stored under the seat.

Hoops to Support Tent Shelter

In order to provide weather protection while anchored, one option would be to use hoops (like a Conestoga Wagon) anchored in the inwales. Each end of the ‘tent’ would consist of two upside down triangles with the base of the triangle attached to the end hoop and each ‘peak’ would be hooked over a deck cleat. A full-length zipper running from the cleat up to the top of the hoop would enable the ends to be closed off or opened for access to the anchor line, etc.

Anchor Line Arrangement

Because the hull is narrow at both ends, access to the anchor line needs to be done from the cockpit. Fairleads could be bolted to each end of the deck, enabling anchoring from either end of this double ender. The anchor line would run from the cleat to the fairlead and back to the cockpit area for storage. When ready to anchor, a 12’ (3.5m) very light line with snap hook (caribiner) would be hooked onto the anchor line and tied off at the cockpit. Pulling on the light line would bring the anchor line back to the cockpit where the anchor could then be recovered.

I’d love to hear about  your comments on this concept oar cruiser.


  1. I was pleased to read this article that I shall no doubt refer to again. I have the plans to the Pacific Troller Dory that I learned about on your blog. I have some more projects to finish before starting it but must emphasize how informative I find this blog. There are several posts I have in mind to return to in due course for one reason or another.

    1. Hi Andrew... thank you so much for your kind words.

      If you have any questions either about the build, or the modifications to the design, please contact me at

  2. Nice job on the model! It got me thinking about the sleeping arrangements and wondering how much headroom one might have, as it seems that for someone tall like myself (6'1"), I might be sleeping with my head under one of the decks. It's hard to judge freeboard from the photos so I was wondering what your thoughts are?

    On a separate, yet related topic, I was wondering if you've done, or have considered doing, an article on tent-like covers for small boats... This is something I'm interested in. Coming from a backpacking background I've always appreciated a well-built tent, that goes up easily, goes up tight (no loose fabric), provides ventilation, and also protection from storms. These last two can often be mutually exclusive! The solution often lies in a two-layered tent (inside layer breathes, while the flysheet is waterproof), but rigging this from inside a boat would likely prove impossible! I've also heard horror stories from people who capsized their boat while sleeping inside and the challenge they had "escaping" from the tent!

    I've seen the occasional picture of a cruising boat with a nice, tight tent cover and wondered how they got it designed and made. I guess the solution would be to find a company that builds dodgers and they might be able to pull it off. Anyway, thanks for a fine article. Mark

    1. Hi Mark... There are two posts (links below) on this site that focus on the 'shelter issue'.
      Regarding sleeping with head under the deck (sleeping room is about 7' but cockpit opening is about 4' or 4.5' feet)... yes, your head will be under the deck... however there is typically 18" from deck to floorboards... so as long as you don't wake from a nightmare by sitting up suddenly, the 18" should be enough... I tend to sleep on my side in a semi-fetal position, so the problem is much less for me, who is also 6'1" tall... Tom

  3. Slow on getting back on the trolling dory. For all the world it looks to me just about like the Bolger Sweet Pea. I built one a few years back and found it successful, although I did not use the Slipping Keel or sail. I wanted to build a 'pretty' boat, so I wound up giving the Sweet Pea to a Canadian friend who uses it a great deal as a straight rowing boat, and I went on to build a CLC Chester Yawl. I have been giving thought to building another Sweet Pea, but perhaps with a centerboard. Plans for the Sweet Pea are available form Wooden Boat or are in Bolger's 'Boats With An Open Mind'. I'll try to send you some pictures of the Sweet Pea.

    1. Hi... I'd really appreciate photos of Sweet Pea... Another of Bolger's really pretty little boats. You can send them to Thanks!