Saturday 3 November 2012

L'Homme de Doris

I could be forgiven for thinking that I'd spotted  Michael AKA Dory Man on a  holiday trip, we were passing the little church at Hermanville Sur Mer in Normandy and saw this dory fisherman which was displayed in the  church yard.

The dory was clearly a working craft in this part of France which will be familiar to many, Hermanville lies just inland from Sword Beach, the most easterly of the D Day beaches, the coast stretching west past the famous allied landings at Juno, Gold, Omaha and Utah is very similar for 60 or so miles, long gently sloping beaches revealed each day by tides of around 5 meters range.

In Hermanville there is a dory association the Association de Doris de la Cote de Nacre sadly our trip was too short to visit, but it appears that they have recently restored a local dory the "Casino de Ouistreham" which took part in some maritime fetes during the summer. Further down the coast on the river Rance the Fete de Doris has been held for the past 14 years - do click the link to see film of the 2012 event, those green and orange painted oars in the starting sequence look great.

Sadly we didn't see any dory's on our recent and all too short trip, but the local fishermen were working out  in the Channel from the beach as above, recovering their boats by tractor. The boats we saw were altogether a more modern vee bottom design. but you can see why a dory would have made good sense as an inshore fishing boat in this area in the past.


  1. So, is Doryman the wooden still figure, or the guy standing in the surf?

    I must admit right here... when I see a fine old boat sitting aground, surrounded or filled with flowers, I get a bit testy and wonder aloud if that poor neglected vessel was in usable condition when first so abused.

    Down the road from where I live, there is a sculpture similar to this, only the stern of the poor boat is buried in the ground, stem to the sky, like a zombie rising from the dead.

  2. Hope you weren't offended Fortunately it was only a wooden cut out, but I think you should plan on visiting the fete de doris next year

  3. Fete de Doris on the River Rance - its an annual occasion at the end of August each year -- Visit 'Simple Sailing Low Cost Cruising' (My Blog) for a report and details -- the Doris by the way was used by the French not so much as an inshore fishing boat but as a vessel carried stacked on the decks of their larger sailing vessels which hunted for cod on the grand banks off the Newfoundland shore, The French vessls sailed form St Malo and other ports in Brittany and Normandy. Once the mothership arrived the Dory's (English spelling) would be lanuched into the ocean and would return to the mothership when their crew had taken sufficient cod through handlining. They are fascinating boats with a long history - responsible, in many ways for opening up America and Canada


  4. David - while we're familiar with the dory used aboard the offshore fishing fleet it seems reasonable that the dory type pre dates that use. Indeed I would suggest that given the pace of development of traditional working craft the adoption of the dory by the offshore fleet wasn't an overnight thing - rather the design already existed and was adopted for offshore use.

    The dory type can still be seen around France for inshore use. examples I have seen are on the oyster beds on the west coast around La Rochelle and on the Mediterranean coast working inshore.

    As you say they are fascinating craft

  5. I've seen dories around the French coast many times now, but first noticed the phenomenon in Brighton of all places - when I found the fishing boat museum there had a dory on show. The story was that the dory had been provided by a French fishing museum in return for a beach boat from our south coast.

    Apparently French sailors working the Grand Banks fishery would often bring old dories home and use them as inshore fishing vessels. So... My guess is that the dory is not from the Channel coast, but arrived there.

    The Danes also have a traditional boat in the form of a dory, but as it only seems to have been found in one specific location, my guess is that it doesn't originate from their either.

    The exception may be the British dory - the Parret flattie/flatner family - raises all sorts of fascinating questions btw, including the issue of how it comes to pass that the flatner's parts all bear Viking names, when the boat itself seems to be very unlike the boats the Vikings used. I wonder whether it might have had a separate but parallel development to the Banker type of dory.

    Michael Bogoger has some interesting ideas about the source of the dory, by the way!


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