Building the Bouchie Dory Part 10 – The Transom

The transom is such a significant part of any boat. It serves a function in that it creates usable space in the aft portion of the boat and increases buoyancy. It also provides a structure on which to mount rudders or outboards and of course it is the favoured place to inscribe the name of a boat. It is often the only piece of brightwork or varnish that one might have on a boat. It so clearly represents the very concept of all things “boat” that it is commonly used in logos and signage in just about anything marine related.


The transom in a dory is unique in design. It has a form which we call a “tombstone” type transom. You won’t find it in any other type of craft. The dory is basically a double ender were it not for that tombstone transom, so what is the point of it? Well it serves a number of roles. First, it’s extreme rake provides the clearance needed when these boats are stacked on the deck of a schooner which is their traditional function in the Grand Banks fishery. That rake also prevents swamping from following seas. Lastly, when built with a sculling notch, it allows efficient propulsion under one oar. You might be required to do this if you lost one of your oars at sea or even if you needed to maneuver the boat in very tight spaces such as when you are bunched up along other dories waiting to be brought on board the mothership.


On the Bouchie Dory we’re building this transom out of two pieces of material because I didn’t have one piece on hand that was quite wide enough but even if I did, using two pieces allows fro optimizing grain orientation which means improved stabilization due to wood movement. 

I chose to use a spline in this glue up because the stock had a little bow to it, as you’ll see, and the spline improves alignment of the two pieces.  Biscuits or dowels could have been used instead and in fact glue alone could do the job just fine but I like my belt and suspenders “hoiked” up tight. Some little extra bits were glued onto the sides of our transom blank because our margins were just a hair too small for comfort. 

I chose to glue the transom and knee together because the plan is to use glued construction below the waterline so the garboards and bottom and transom will already be in the world of what I refer to as “modern” construction. might as well have the knee join the gang. If this were a fully traditional build I would use bedding compound in conjunction with rivets or bolts.

We will put off cutting the sculling notch until the boat is off the strongback. For now, it is more useful to us to simply bevel off the top of the transom in order to fasten it to the strongback.

Now this is a spoiler alert but I screwed up a little bit here and made this transom at least a quarter inch too thin. This will come back to bite us in a later episode but it will also challenge us to innovate in the face of adversity.