Boatbuilding Tips and Tricks Blog

Here are the latest few blog posts. The balance of this years, appear below the list of posts and the column on the right, the index, lists all posts since 2008 when I started this blog, over 400 posts and 9 years.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Alfred Johnson and the Centennial Dory

Alfred Johnson was born in 1846 in Denmark. He moved to the US, and settled in Gloucester, Massachusetts, where he worked as a commercial fisherman. Back then, the cod schooners sailed to the Grand Banks, and fishermen like Johnson fished with hook and line from dories. You may haves seen paintings, like those of Winslow Homer, depicting the life these fishermen experienced.

Banks Dory at sea

In 1874 Johnson was in a bar drinking and playing cards with his friends, and they were discussing the possibility that one person could cross the Atlantic in a small sailing boat. Johnson's friends laughed when he suggested he could do it in under 90 days. So, Johnson made a bet that he could do it.

He bought a 20 foot dory, and added a centerboard, ridder and sail rig. He also enclosed three sections of the boat with watertight bulkheads, so it wouldn't sink. He named the dory Centennial since this was the 100-year anniversary of the United States. On June 15th, 1875 he took off on his cross Atlantic adventure from Gloucester to Liverpool, England.

Dory Centennial Alfred Johnson

Johnson made a brief stop in Nova Scotia where he made some ballast adjustments, and then headed out to sea to make the crossing. Several ships spotted him and tried to rescue him, but he insisted that he was OK and on his way. One ship even passed him several bottles of rum. He encountered some bad weather, also, surviving even a a gale when the boat capsized. But he got it back upright and carried on.

He was averaging 70 miles per day, which is certainly adequate for a solo crossing in a small boat. On August 12, 1876 he landed the Centennial in Abercastle, Wales, where he rested for two days. On August 14th he took off for Liverpool, and landed there August 21, 1876. The people in Liverpool were notified that he was arriving, and he received a wild reception. He had made the crossing in 68 days, winning his bet.

I've been thinking about designing a similar 20-foot sailing dory using ply on frame construction. Anyone want to build a modern Centennial?

Drop me a note if you are interested at:

Jeff Spira, Naval Architect, marine engineer and boat designer

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