Dory Boat Heritage and Pride in Pacific City

By Ann Powers | Monday, June 24, 2019

Pacific City locals tend to know each other more by their dory boat names versus what’s listed on their birth certificates. That’s because for more than 100 years, dories have been ceremoniously launched into the mighty Pacific from the sandy shoreline off Cape Kiwanda.

Dory fishing is a longstanding heritage, great source of pride and a celebrated way of life for this quaint coastal community. And you'll be able to celebrate with them during the 60th Annual Dory Days set for Friday, July 19, through Sunday, July 22, in Pacific City.

Hosted by the Pacific City-Nestucca Valley Chamber of Commerce and the Pacific City Dorymen’s Association (PCDA), this year’s theme is Diamond Dory Days honoring the event's six-decade run. The family-friendly, fun-filled schedule includes an old-fashioned parade showcasing a fleet of authentic dories, an artisan fair, fishing competition, pancake breakfast, fish fry, filet contest, dune climb, live music, kids activities, a farmers market and more.

For some historical context, the dory originated from the early-1900s surf dories and Nestucca River gill net boats, which sold fish to the salmon cannery established in 1887. After 1927 commercial fishing was only allowed in the open ocean.

Because the Nestucca had a shallow and dangerous bar accessible only at flood tide, a new larger surf boat was needed. Consequentially, the “double ender” was born. It was pointed at both ends, had two sets of oars and could be rowed through the Pacific surf and out to sea.

Later on a motor was added near the stern. Small outboard motors were installed after negotiating the surf, for fishing during the day and removed when rowing back to the beach.

The modern Pacific City dory you see today is open hulled and flat bottomed. It’s pushed or rowed into the ocean's surf until the water is deep enough to drop the outboard motor, and then it's powered through the surf into the open ocean. But even with motors, many dory men and women still row through the surf like those who ventured before them.

Experiencing a dory launch through the ocean’s cantankerous waves is a unique spectacle of seafaring bravado you don’t want to miss! Pacific City, also known as Home of the Dory, is one of the few places worldwide where this maritime marvel exists. It’s a sight to be seen as the massive bows diffuse the waves (sometimes heading up almost vertically) and claw through the turbulent tide and surge out to sea.

Dory Days debuted in the 50s as the Fly-in Fish Fry. The massive meal, which includes about 1,200 pounds of fresh catch, has been a main attraction nearly every year. A dory’s fresh catch of the day often includes include bottom fish, ling cod, Dungeness crab and salmon.

The PCDA was founded in 1996 with the primary mission to preserve and protect the historic traditions given to the community by the pioneers of the dory fleet.

During Dory Days the PCDA will operate a booth and answer questions from the public and oversee a display of dory boats. Festival proceeds benefit community events as well as scholarships awarded by the association, many of whose roughly-500 members travel from near and far to be part of the yearly homage to all things dory.

All photos courtesy PCDA. 

The Oregon Parks and Recreation Department certainly recognizes the event’s importance. The state agency added the Dory Days Parade and Festival to Oregon Heritage Traditions, a short list of events that encapsulate the character of the state.

The dory fleet is also well known for its stellar safety record and committed call to action. Local officials said dory men and women are frequently the first responders to distress calls and other marine emergencies.

Find more information on this year's Dory Days here

If you’d like to test your own dory fishing finesse, charter a boat with Captain Mark Lytle at Pacific City Fishing. When you’re done catch a cold one at the Pelican Brewing Company on Cape Kiwanda Dr. overlooking one of Oregon's famous haystack rocks and consider booking your memorable getaway stay at Headlines Coastal Lodge & Spa. Check out other great things to do, restaurants to visit and places to stay in Pacific City and the surrounding Tillamook area here.

For this week's upcoming happenings on the North Oregon Coast, our Daytime Events page guides you to activities to discover the area's environment, hone your crafting abilities and practice your surfing skills. For evening entertainment, including trivia nights, live music, dining events and beyond, our Nightlife calendar gives the run-down on for each night's events. 

About the Author Ann Powers
Ann Powers is a reporter and writer who has lived and worked on the Oregon Coast. She is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin - Madison and currently working on her master's degree in multimedia journalism at the University of Oregon's Portland campus. Originally from Wisconsin, she now calls Oregon home, describing it as, "the Midwest of the Pacific Northwest," due to its dairy-state status, beautiful environment and friendly people.