By Ann Powers
Pacific City locals are more likely to know each other by their dory boat names, rather than what their parents decided to call them at birth, according to Nancy Bush.
And she would know — Bush was one of the first women to go out commercial dory fishing off the sandy beaches of Cape Kiwanda nearly 50 years ago.
“Once a dory woman, always a dory woman,” Bush said. “It’s beautiful out there. It’s just a different way of living.”
From Friday, July 14, to Sunday, July 16, the public is invited to experience that unparalleled lifestyle during the Pacific City’s 58th Annual Dory Days; a three-day celebration of the dory fishing. Hosted by the Pacific City-Nestucca Valley Chamber of Commerce and the Pacific City Dorymen’s Association (PCDA), the theme for this year’s festivities is, “Let the Good Times Roll.”
Which they most certainly will, given the event’s family-friendly, fun-filled schedule including an old-fashioned parade showcasing a fleet of authentic dories, an artisan fair, fishing competition, pancake breakfast, fish fry, filet contest, dune climb, live music, kids activities and more.
“It’s usually a pretty big draw to the area,” said Melita Spath, Dory Days co-chair. “It celebrates tradition and teaches youth about those traditions. We have a very unique history.”
The dory originated from the turn-of-the-20th-Century surf dories and Nestucca River gill net boats that sold fish to the salmon cannery established in 1887, according to the PCDA.
After 1927, commercial fishing was only allowed in the open ocean. Because the Nestucca had a shallow and dangerous bar accessible only at flood tide, a new larger surf boat was needed — and the “double ender” was born. It was pointed at both ends, had two sets of oars, and could be rowed through the Pacific surf and out to sea.
A motor well near a square stern was added later on. Small outboard motors were installed after negotiating the surf, for fishing during the day and removed when rowing back to the beach.
The modern Pacific City dory is open hulled and flat bottomed. It’s pushed or rowed into the Pacific surf, until deep enough to drop the outboard motor, and then powered through the surf into the open ocean. But even with motors, many dory men and women still row through the surf like their ancestors before them.
“We never had any problem,” said Bush, who can filet a fish in 23 seconds flat and still fishes occasionally with her family on their boat named Short Shot — which is also Bush’s nickname. “It was fun. But, boy, it was hard work.”
The dory fleet is also well known for its stellar safety record and committed call to action. Local officials said dory men and woman are frequently the first responders to distress calls and other marine emergencies.
Dory Days started in the ’50s as the “Fly-in Fish Fry.” While many things have changed, the fry has continued almost every year since the festival’s debut. This year, the fish hits the pan from 11:30 am to 6 pm at the Kiawanda Community Center. Children’s activities are also scheduled during the feast.
The Pacific City Dorymen’s Association was founded in 1996 with the primary mission to preserve and protect the historic traditions given to the community by the pioneers of the dory fleet.
Dory Days is a significant part of that preservation and protection. The Oregon Parks and Recreation Department recently added the Dory Days Parade and Festival to Oregon Heritage Traditions, a short list of events that encapsulate the character of the state.
“This is our 58th year and it’s really important to keep our heritage going,” said PCDA’s Randy Haltiner. “This event represents our whole community. We’re teaching our kids and grandkids about our traditions in Cape Kiwanda.”
The PCDA will operate a booth to answer questions from the public and have display of dory boats in the Cape parking. Spath said Dory Days proceeds benefit community events, scholarships and the Dorymen’s Association.
For more information, go to www.pcnvchamber.org/event-calendar.