Sheltered from the prevailing wind and waves by Cape Kiwanda and marked by “the rock” due west the beach at Pacific City, Oregon is home to a unique fleet of flat-bottomed, beach launched, ocean-going fishing boats. The dory boats of Pacific City.
The Nestucca river was the original fishery at Pacific City and in 1886 a small cannery was built near the mouth of the Nestucca to process the abundance of Salmon that came from the river. But so effective were the netting techniques of the early pioneers that by 1927 the Nestucca river salmon runs were in dramatic decline and the river was closed to fishing to preserve what was left of the salmon.
With the closure of the Nestucca to fishing the locals turned their attention to the sea. Using horse-drawn wagons they launched their “double-enders” from the beach and rowed them out through the breaking surf in search of new fishing grounds.
The next step in the evolution of the dory was the addition of outboard motors which were mounted in motor wells inside the boats. The motor well design permitted ready access to the sometimes reluctant motors of the early days and it also solved the problem of where to mount a motor on a double-ender that doesn’t have a transom. In those early days motors weren’t used for launching through the surf, the crews preferring instead the reliability of oar power to get through the breakers, but once safely off the beach the motors were fired up and used for running and this expanded the range of the boats significantly.
To this day many of the locally built wooden dory boats still feature the internal motor well design. Having the transom free of the motor makes it easier and safer for the person pushing the boat off the beach, and when it comes to fishing having the motor mounted forward of the transom helps keep gear and fish from getting tangled up in the propeller and lower unit.
The flat bottoms of the dory boats makes it possible to launch the boats in the shallow beach breakwater and it also makes it possible to run the boats up onto the beach to get clear of the surf when landing. I’m not sure if there’s a record for the longest dory boat beach slide but the cowboys you’ll see in the video certainly deserve a blue ribbon. If you come down to the beach at Pacific City to watch the dory boat action please pay attention to the boats coming in and stand clear.
Another interesting equipment adaptation is the tilt roller boat trailer that allows the boats to gently roll off the trailer into the breakwater for launching and also enables the boats to be loaded back onto the trailers from dry land.
During the prime June, July, and August season dory crews enjoy good catches of salmon, cod, sea bass, and Dungeness crab all within a few miles of the beach however more adventuresome crews may convoy up to 20 miles off shore in search of tuna.
Pacific City is located on the Oregon coast off highway 101 between Lincoln City and Tillamook. It’s a great beach for sand, sun, and surf, and the view from atop cape Kwinda is well worth the climb. But a word of caution; yes you can drive down onto the beach, but I wouldn’t recommend it. Salt and sand isn’t good for cars and getting stuck is no fun.