dory fleet

Down to the sea in ships

Pacific City and Astoria honor their maritime heritage and culture with decades-old celebrations

In many towns along the Oregon Coast, boating isn’t just a livelihood or a means of recreation, but a way of life, the foundation that defines a community. In coming weeks, two towns will celebrate their maritime history with festivals that have been going strong, in one community, for decades; in the other, more than a century.  

In Pacific City, 2019 marks the 60th anniversary of Dory Days, which runs July 19-21. The festival opens Friday, but the real action starts at daybreak Saturday with a dory-boat fishing contest, followed by a pancake feed and the highlight of the weekend, the Dory Days Parade. It starts at 11 a.m. from the Bob Straub State Park, then moves into downtown Pacific City.

There also will be an arts and crafts fair, boat displays, a fish fry with dory-caught fish, a dune climb for the kids, bingo, and a booth manned by members of the Pacific City Dorymen’s Association to answer all your questions. 

The dory fleet got its start at the turn of the century after the Nestucca River fishery was closed, said Randy Haltiner, chairman of the nonprofit association. 

Originally, Pacific City fishermen rowed the flat-bottomed dory boats out to sea, and some continue to fish with them. Photo courtesy: Pacific City Dorymen’s Association
Originally, Pacific City fishermen rowed the flat-bottomed dory boats out to sea, and some continue to fish with them. Photo courtesy: Pacific City Dorymen’s Association

“They used to commercial-fish the river and they caught thousands and thousands of pounds,” he said. “They processed and canned at the mouth of the river in Nestucca Bay. It was unbelievable. When they shut down the river, the fishery moved to the ocean. There’s always been a natural protection from Cape Kiwanda. It protects the beach from wind and swells to where you can get safe launching.”

In those early years, fishermen rowed the boats, which were flat-bottomed for landing on the beach, with pointed sterns and bows. The parade includes the traditional boats, and a handful of the boats still fish, Haltiner said. The newer dory boats retain the flat bottom but generally have a square stern to hang a motor off.

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