Dawn Kish photo

Cricket and I are pleased to announce four boatbuilding classes we will be teaching in 2024. We made a decision a couple years ago that we work together far better as a team than teaching solo. It gives is far more time to break away and work with folks one-on-one, or scamper off to find parts and materials. And often when one of us fails to get a concept across, the other of us has a different approach that does the trick. Here is our line-up for the coming year:

Recreating Woodie’s Last Boat. Zion Canyon Mesa, Springdale, Utah. March 24-29


Woodie Hindman is generally credited with perfecting the McKenzie River Drift Boat in the late 1940s. Earlier this year the Hirt family donated their Hindman drift boat to the McKenzie River Discovery Center. It was built by Hindman after he had retired and is said to be that last boat he ever built. Cricket and I were there when the boat was presented, and she noticed the curves were different somehow–more elegant. When we worked with Roger Fletcher to record those lines they turned out to be very different indeed, and yes, far more elegant than the Hindman replicas we have been building for years.

For this class, we will be building one or two replicas of Woodie’s Last Boat (depending on number of participants). We will start with the measurements we refined with Roger Fletcher, then draw and perfect the lines full size on a lofting table. From there we will build all the parts–transom, frames, bowpost, and side panels. Then we will assemble the boat(s), affix the bottom, roll it (them) up, install gunwales and seats and voila! If we can find a suitable piece of river nearby, we may even get to float them. At the end of the course, whoever is interested in owning a boat will throw their name in a hat and the winner(s) will take them home for the cost of materials.

In this course, as in all our courses, you’ll learn what it takes to go from crude plans or numbers to creating an elegant boat–skill you can use to create your own drift boat or river dory.

Our host is Zion Canyon Mesa–a newly created nonprofit facility high on a mesa top in Springdale, Utah, overlooking Zion National Park.  Cost for this course is $900, meals and lodging on your own. Camping is available in the vicinity–inquire for details. Local hotels have off-season rates as well.

Registration opens at 8AM MST, January 6. The first ten emails dated after 8AM (not before) to braddimock@fretwater.com will get in–after that there will be a waiting list. At that point we’ll direct you to the payment portal: 50% down, the remainder due February 28. Cancellations 30 days prior to the course will get a 75% refund. After that, the deposit is forfeited, due to the difficulty of refilling the spot on short notice.


Fretwater Boatworks, for the first time ever, will be offering one scholarship for this course. Our hope is to engage young minds in the craft of boatbuilding. We feel that the best way to further the legacy of this trade is to inspire creativity and curiosity through the lens of hands on learning. For this opportunity, this spot will be fully paid for and all tools and materials will be made available. (Transportation, food and lodging not included)

To apply for this scholarship please send an essay explaining your interest in the course and the craft to cricket@fretwater.com. Minimum age is 18 unless parent or guardian will be accompanying. No carpentry skills/experience or tools necessary. Essays are due February 1, with a decision awarded by February 15.


Building Diablo Canyon, Martin Litton’s first dory. McKenzie River Discovery Center, Leaburg, Oregon April 29-May 9


In 1962 Martin Litton worked with legendary drift boater Prince Helfrich and boatbuilder Keith Steele to design and build a variation on the Oregon drift boat suitable for Grand Canyon expeditions. The boat they created, originally named Portola, was later renamed Diablo Canyon, the first in a series of dory namings memorializing enviromental disasters caused by mankind. Diablo Canyon and her sister ship, Susie Too (later renamed Music Temple), became the core of Litton’s growing fleet that became Grand Canyon Dories.

Although the original Diablo Canyon no longer exists, we have worked with measurements from the Music Temple (which resides in Grand Canyon National Park’s collection) and photographs of the original Diablo to recreate this iconic boat. In September we built a 1/6 scale model to test the lines.

For this course we will draw and perfect the lines on a lofting table, then build the hull. Decking should prove quite challenging, as the curved deck plan is quite tricky. At the end of the course one lucky winner of the drawing will take the boat home for the cost of materials.

Our host for this build is the newly created McKenzie River Discovery Center, which is located in and around the old Leaburg Fish Hatchery where Keith Steele built Martin’s original boat. How perfect. What’s more, Steele’s son Steve, who helped on the original and later went on to a lengthy career of boatbuilding himself, plans to join us for the build. This is a rare opportunity to immerse yourself in the heritage of Oregon Drift Boats and the birth of their offspring, whitewater dories.
There are few more beautiful locals than the McKenzie River valley.

Cost is $1600, and you can sign up here:

Building the Diablo Canyon

Building the Doryak River Dory, WoodenBoat School, Brooklin, Maine, August 18-31


In 2019, Cricket, Justin Gallen, and I designed and built the first iteration of what we came to call the Doryak. Based on the footprint of the SportYak, a one-person plastic rowboat used on whitewater rivers from the 1960s through the ’80s, we adapted it to a shape based on Jerry Briggs’s immortal Grand Canyon Dory, creating far more elegant, rowable and maneuverable whitewater dory. It was a gamble–not knowing if the shape could be built or if it would actually work in whiteewater. But we hit a home run with the design and, with a few tweaks, began building them for ourselves and clients across the country. Doryaks now have nearly a dozen transits of Grand Canyon, most without a flip or a hit, and have been on whitewater rivers throughout the USA. They have become a phenomenon.

Dawn Kish photo

In this course we will draw the boat up on the lofting table, refine the curves, and build all the parts. Based on sufficient class size we will build two boats. We will then assemble the hull(s) and go about the more intricate process of decking. By the final Friday we should have boats in the water. The lucky winners of the drawings will take them home for the cost of materials.

This course will be at the amazing facility that is WoodenBoat School, on the waterfront in Brooklin, Maine. The school has a remarkable fleet of rowboats and sailboats for students to use after class in the beautiful waters of Eggemoggin Reach, a spur of Penobscot Bay. But be careful–this place is highly addictive.

Registration opens at 8AM Eastern Time, January 2. Many classes fill in a matter of minutes, so you’ll want to be poised to push the button the minute it opens. Click here:

Building the Doryak


Building the Ultimate McKenzie River Drift Boat, WoodenBoat School, Brooklin, Maine, September 1–7


This has long been our most popular course at WoodenBoat School. We will once again be offering it, but with a slight twist this time–we’re moving to a newer design–the last boat built by the great Woodie Hindman–described above in our Zion course. We expect to have a full class, so will be building two boats, and two lucky winners will take them home for the cost of materials.

Registration opens at 8AM Eastern Time, January 2. Many classes fill in a matter of minutes, so you’ll want to be poised to push the button the minute it opens. Click here:

Building the Ultimate McKenzie River Drift Boat