Roger Fletcher and the river boats of the American West

There is logic to this, but I won’t get into it. Suffice it to say that I had recently been thinking about the wooden dories and river boats indigenous to the American West. I don’t know much about these boats and have never been in one, so I don’t think about them much (of course, that means nothing, since I think a lot about lots of boats I have never been in – let’s move on…). Well, lo and behold, if my nightly missive from the good people at Google didn’t bring me a little something on the subject (courtesy of The Statesman Journal form Salem, Oregon). I guy named Roger Fletcher from Oregon has just written a book about these boats that is the culmination of his exhaustive research into them. He literally resurrected 13 designs (publishing 11) from the dead and has now preserved them. The boat is called Drift Boats and River Dories: Their History, Design, Construction, and Use, and it looks like a great resource. I certainly am inclined to raise a toast to Mr. Fletcher’s efforts – we need people like him to make sure great designs and the thinking behind them remain available.

I particularly liked a few passages from the article that found me:

“My passion for boats is tied to the parallels I see between the river and how one runs this course we call life,” Fletcher said. “The river is wonderful medicine for the river of life. That sounds kind of hokey, but that’s where my passion is. I enjoy fly fishing and I enjoy getting out, but that isn’t what pulls me. It’s the river itself, and the people who share the passion.”

His research, the hard work that it was, sucked him in… this led me down a path that brought me in touch with a variety of marvelous people whose passion for rivers and river people surpasses my own…” By telling the story of those people, he also tells the story of the boats.

“What I’ve done is define the key points in time in the evolution of boats — what caused the builder to quit building a square-end boat and start building a double-ended boat,” Fletcher said. “What were the circumstances, what experiences did he have and how did he do it? I discovered the history of these boats and my natural curiosity took over. These boats are Oregon’s unique contribution to the wooden boat world, and that has become more and more obvious as I’ve done the research.”

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