What Is the Difference Between a Dinghy and Dory: A Comprehensive Guide

Are you a boating enthusiast trying to choose between a dinghy and a dory for your next adventure on the water? While these two types of boats may seem similar at first glance, there are distinct differences that can affect your overall boating experience. In this article, we’ll dive into the characteristics that set dinghies and dories apart, so you can make an informed decision when selecting the perfect vessel for your next voyage.

On the surface, dinghies and dories both appear to be small, open boats that are easy to maneuver in calm waters. However, when you take a closer look, you’ll notice differences in size, shape, and design that can impact their functionality. Dinghies are typically smaller than dories and are often used as auxiliary boats for larger vessels. They are usually propelled by oars or a small outboard motor and can be made from a variety of materials, from wood to inflatable materials. In comparison, dories are more substantial, with a wider and deeper hull that offers stability in rougher waters.

While dinghies and dories have unique features, they both have their strengths and weaknesses. Finding the right boat for you depends on your specific boating needs, whether you’re looking for a vessel for fishing, cruising along the coast, or exploring secluded coves. By understanding the key differences between dinghies and dories, you can choose the perfect boat to enhance your next waterborne adventure.

Characteristics of Dinghies and Dories

Both dinghies and dories are small, lightweight boats typically used for short trips in calm waters. However, there are significant differences between them that make each type of boat unique.

  • Size: Dinghies are usually smaller than dories, measuring between six and twelve feet in length. Dories, on the other hand, can be up to twenty feet long.
  • Hull: Dinghies have a flat or slightly rounded bottom hull, which allows them to navigate shallow waters with ease. By contrast, dories have a curved hull that provides more stability in choppy water.
  • Rowing and Sailing: Both dinghies and dories can be rowed, but dories can also be rigged for sailing. In fact, dories were originally designed for commercial fishing and were often used with sails to travel longer distances.
  • Number of Oars: Dinghies are generally rowed with a single set of oars, while dories usually require two or more oarsmen.

Overall, dinghies are best suited for short trips or as tenders for larger boats. They are lightweight and easy to transport, but their flat-bottomed hulls make them less stable in rough water. Dories, on the other hand, are better equipped for longer trips and rougher water. Their curved hulls provide added stability, and they can be rigged for sailing, which makes them a versatile option for fishermen and boaters alike.

However, keep in mind that there are many variations within both dinghies and dories, and their characteristics can vary depending on the design and intended use. Before purchasing a boat, it’s important to consider your individual needs and priorities to determine which type is best suited for you.

History of Dinghies and Dories

Before we delve into their differences, let’s take a look at the history of these two types of boats.

Dinghies, also known as tenders, have been around for centuries serving as transportation to and from shore for larger vessels. The word “dinghy” is believed to have originated from the Hindi word “dingi” meaning boat.

On the other hand, dories evolved from the traditional fishing boats of the North Atlantic. These boats were characterized by their flat bottoms and high sides, making them ideal for navigating through rough waters.

Differences Between Dinghies and Dories

  • Dinghies are typically smaller in size and used as tenders or as recreational boats for short trips.
  • Dories are larger and designed for fishing and commercial purposes.
  • The shape of the hull is another distinguishing feature. Dinghies have a round or v-shaped hull, while dories have a flat bottom and high sides. This makes dories more stable in rough waters.

Modern-day Uses

With advancements in technology and changes in the fishing industry, dinghies and dories have adapted to different uses.

Today, dinghies are still used as tenders but are also a popular recreational boat for activities like rowing, sailing, and even water sports. They come in various sizes and materials like fiberglass and inflatable versions.

Dories, on the other hand, are still used for fishing but are also used in recreational activities like river rafting and even racing. They have also evolved to incorporate modern features like outboard engines and lightweight materials like aluminum and fiberglass.

Comparing the Sizes

Let’s take a closer look at the size comparison between dinghies and dories. In general, dories are bigger than dinghies. While dinghies range from 6-15 feet in length, dories can be anywhere from 15-30 feet long. However, there are exceptions to this rule as some manufacturers produce smaller dories with a length of around 12 feet.

Type of Boat Size Range
Dinghy/Tender 6-15 feet
Dory 15-30 feet (some exceptions at 12 feet)

Overall, dinghies and dories have come a long way since their humble beginnings. While they continue to serve their traditional purposes, they have also adapted to modern-day uses, making them versatile boats for all kinds of boating needs.

Types of Dinghies and Dories

When it comes to small boats, dinghies and dories are two options that are often compared. Although both are small in size, they have distinct differences that make them better suited for different purposes.

  • Rigid Dinghies: These dinghies are made of hard materials like fiberglass or aluminum. They are more durable and can withstand rough waters, making them ideal for use as tenders or for fishing. However, due to their weight, they require more effort to launch and transport.
  • Inflatable Dinghies: These dinghies are made of PVC or Hypalon and are filled with air. They are lightweight and easy to handle, making them popular for recreational activities like sailing or exploring. However, they are not as sturdy as rigid dinghies and are more prone to punctures or tears.
  • Dories: Dories are small, flat-bottomed boats with high sides and a pointed bow and stern. They are traditionally made of wood and were used for fishing or transportation. Dories are stable and easy to row, making them perfect for calm waters or shallow areas. However, they are not suitable for rough waters or high winds.

When choosing between a dinghy and a dory, it’s important to consider the intended use and location. If you need a stable boat for fishing or transportation, a dory might be the best option. On the other hand, if you plan on using the boat for recreational activities or in rough waters, a dinghy might be a better choice.

It’s also worth noting that there are many variations of dinghies and dories, each with their own specific features. For example, some dinghies come with outboard motors or sails, while others have seating or storage compartments. It’s important to research and test different types of boats before making a final decision.


Overall, dinghies and dories are both great options for small boating needs. With different materials, sizes, and features, there is sure to be one that suits your specific needs. Whether you’re using them to transport goods or for leisure activities, these small boats are bound to bring a new level of fun and convenience to your water experience.

Dinghies Dories
Rigid Flat-bottomed
Inflatable High sides
Durable Easy to row
Heavy Not suitable for rough waters

As demonstrated in the table above, dinghies and dories have distinct differences in their design and features. It’s important to carefully consider these factors before making a decision.

Materials used in constructing dinghies and dories

When it comes to the materials used to construct dinghies and dories, there are several options available. The choice of material can greatly influence the durability, weight, cost, and overall performance of the boat. Here are some of the commonly used materials:

  • Wood: Traditionally, both dinghies and dories were made using wood. It is a classic material that adds to the aesthetic appeal of the boats. The type of wood used can vary, with some of the popular choices being mahogany, teak, cedar, and pine. Wooden boats require regular maintenance to prevent rot and decay.
  • Fiberglass: Fiberglass is a popular choice for dinghies and dories due to its durability, low maintenance, and ease of repair. It is also lightweight, making it easy to handle and transport. Fiberglass boats can be molded into various shapes and sizes, allowing for customization.
  • Aluminum: Aluminum is a lightweight but strong material that is often used for dinghies and dories that require a lot of mobility and handling. It is also resistant to corrosion, making it the perfect material for boats used in saltwater.

Each material has its advantages and disadvantages, and ultimately the choice depends on individual preferences and requirements.

When it comes to dories, some materials are more suitable than others. Dories require a material that can withstand rocks and other obstacles, as they are often used in rocky rivers or shallow water conditions. Here is a table comparing the materials suited for dories:

Material Advantages Disadvantages
Wood Classic look, good at absorbing shock Requires frequent maintenance, prone to rot and decay
Fiberglass Lightweight, low maintenance, durable, easy to repair May crack or puncture when hitting rocks
Aluminum Lightweight, strong, resistant to corrosion May dent or deform on impact with rocks

When deciding on the material to use for a dinghy or dory, it is essential to consider the intended use, the environment in which it will be used, the level of maintenance required, and the overall cost.

Uses of Dinghies and Dories

Dinghies and dories are both small boats typically used in the water. While they may look similar, they have distinct differences in their design and purpose. Understanding these differences can help you decide which type of boat suits your needs. Let’s explore the uses of dinghies and dories.

  • Dinghies: Dinghies are small boats, usually no more than 12 feet in length. They are designed as a secondary boat or tender to transport people or supplies to and from shore or larger vessels anchored offshore. Dinghies can also be used for fishing, sailing, or as a lifeboat on larger vessels.
  • Dories: Dories are small and open boats typically used for fishing or rowing. Unlike dinghies, dories have a pointed prow and flat bottom that makes them more stable in choppy water. They are also larger than dinghies, ranging from 12-22 feet in length. Dories are popular in the fishing industry and are commonly used for commercial and recreational fishing.

Both dinghies and dories have their own unique uses.

Dinghies are useful for:

  • Transporting people or supplies to and from shore or larger vessels anchored offshore
  • Fishing or as a lifeboat on larger vessels
  • Sailing or as a tender to larger boats

Dories are useful for:

  • Commercial or recreational fishing
  • Rowing or paddle boating
  • Transporting people or supplies in small bodies of water

It’s important to note that both dinghies and dories can be used for a variety of other purposes as well. Whether it’s for leisurely boating or transportation, both boats can serve different purposes.

When deciding which type of boat is right for you, consider your needs and what you plan on using the boat for. If you need a small boat for getting to and from shore, a dinghy might be the better option. If you plan on fishing or spending time on the water, a dory might be the better choice. Whichever you choose, both dinghies and dories can provide endless hours of enjoyment on the water.

Dinghies Dories
Small boat, usually no more than 12 feet in length Small and open boat with a pointed prow and flat bottom
Used as a secondary boat or tender to transport people or supplies to and from shore or larger vessels Used for fishing or rowing
Popular as a lifeboat on larger vessels Typically used for commercial and recreational fishing

With this information in mind, you can make an informed decision about which boat is best for you. Whether you choose a dinghy or dory, both boats can provide endless enjoyment on the water for years to come.

Maintenance and Care for Dinghies and Dories

Maintaining your dinghy or dory is essential in prolonging its lifespan and ensuring its performance on the water. Proper care can prevent costly repairs and replacements, so it’s crucial to know how to take care of your vessel.

  • Regular Cleaning: Saltwater and debris can accumulate on your boat’s surfaces, so it’s vital to wash it regularly with freshwater. Use non-toxic and biodegradable soap, a soft brush, and a sponge to clean the boat’s exterior and interior. Rinse it carefully, especially in areas with crevices, to prevent any soapy residue that can lead to discoloration or corrosion.
  • Protective Finishes: Dinghies and dories are exposed to different weather conditions, which means they require protective finishes that can inhibit damage caused by UV rays, saltwater, and other environmental factors. Apply wax, varnish, or other protective coatings to safeguard your vessel from wear and tear.
  • Keep it Dry: Dry your dinghy or dory after each use to prevent mold and mildew. Before stowing it, make sure that it’s completely dry, especially in areas that don’t get sunlight or air circulation. You can use a dry towel or a soft cloth to remove any remaining water and moisture.

Sometimes, your boat may require more extensive maintenance than regular cleaning and drying. Here are some additional care tips:

Engine Maintenance: If you have an inflatable dinghy with a motor, it’s essential to have it checked regularly by a certified mechanic. Follow the manufacturer’s manual for maintenance procedures, such as changing oil and filters.

Storage: Proper storage is vital in preserving your boat’s quality. Store it in a cool and dry area, away from direct sunlight, rain, and wind. If you’re storing it outside, cover it with a weatherproof tarp or cover to prevent exposure.

Repairs: Address any damages or cracks immediately. Small cracks can become larger and lead to leaks or other extensive damage, which can compromise your vessel’s safety.

Finally, maintenance and care for dinghies and dories may vary depending on their type and materials. Familiarize yourself with your boat’s unique features and maintenance guidelines and follow them conscientiously.

Popular Brands of Dinghies and Dories

Dinghies and dories are popular small boats that are often used as tenders to larger vessels or for fishing and leisure activities. There are numerous brands to choose from, each with their own unique features and specifications. Here are some of the most popular brands for dinghies and dories:

  • West Marine: West Marine offers a range of dinghies and dories, including inflatable, rigid, and fiberglass options. They are known for their durability and stability, making them a popular choice for cruising and fishing.
  • Achilles: Achilles is a well-known brand for inflatable dinghies and rigid-hulled inflatables (RIBs). They are known for their high-quality materials and impressive warranty, making them a trusted choice for boaters.
  • Zodiac: Zodiac is a leading brand for inflatable boats, including dinghies and RIBs. They offer a range of sizes and styles, from lightweight and compact to larger and more spacious options.
  • Porta-Bote: Porta-Bote is a unique brand that specializes in foldable dinghies and boats. Their boats are made from a high-density polyethylene material, making them incredibly lightweight and easy to store and transport.
  • Lund: Lund is a top brand for aluminum boats, including dinghies and dories. They are known for their durability and stability, making them an excellent choice for fishing and water sports.
  • Sea Eagle: Sea Eagle offers a range of inflatable dinghies and boats, including their popular Sport Runabouts. They are known for their high-quality materials and impressive warranties, making them a popular choice for boaters.
  • Boston Whaler: Boston Whaler is a well-respected brand for small boats, including dinghies and dories. They are known for their durability and stability, making them an excellent choice for fishing, cruising, and water sports.

Whether you are looking for an inflatable dinghy or a sturdy aluminum boat, these popular brands offer something for everyone. Before making a purchase, be sure to consider your specific needs and preferences to find the perfect dinghy or dory for your boating adventures.

FAQs: What is the difference between a dinghy and dory?

Q: What is a dinghy?

A: A dinghy is a small boat traditionally used for transportation between a larger boat and shore. They are typically made of lightweight materials and can be inflatable or rigid.

Q: What is a dory?

A: A dory is a small, flat-bottomed boat with high sides, usually made of wood. They were traditionally used for fishing and are known for their stability and maneuverability.

Q: What are the main differences between a dinghy and dory?

A: The main differences between a dinghy and dory are their size, shape, and intended use. Dinghies are smaller and typically used as transportation between larger boats and shore, while dories are larger and traditionally used for fishing.

Q: Can a dinghy be used for fishing?

A: While a dinghy can be used for fishing, it is not typically designed for this purpose. They are better suited for transportation between larger boats and shore, while dories are better suited for fishing.

Q: Which is better, a dinghy or dory?

A: The answer to this question depends on what the boat will be used for. If you need a small boat for transportation between a larger vessel and shore, a dinghy is the better choice. If you plan to do any serious fishing, a dory is the better choice for its stability and maneuverability.

Closing Thoughts

Thanks for taking the time to learn about the difference between dinghies and dories. Whether you’re in the market for a new boat or just interested in the different types of small watercraft, we hope this article was informative. Be sure to check back later for more articles on boating and water sports!