By Ann Powers
For the TODAY
For more than 100 years, dory boats have gone out to sea from Pacific City. And for the locals, dory fishing is not only their heritage, their pride and their way of life — it’s also their addiction of sorts.
“When I haven’t had a dory I was going through the D.T.s,” said Skip Bailey, who has been dory fishing for nearly 40 years. “We grew up as dory people and we live and breathe that stuff.”
He’s not kidding, according to other dory devotees.
“Sometimes in the winter I just go and sit inside my dory and have a beer — it’s so nice,” said Capt. Mark Lytle, who runs pacificcityfishing.com. “Every person who has a dory will understand, because they do the same thing.”
Dory or no dory, everyone is invited to experience some of that magic during the 59th Annual Dory Days Festival, running from Friday, July 20, through Sunday, July 22, in Pacific City.
Hosted by the Pacific City-Nestucca Valley Chamber of Commerce and the Pacific Dorymen’s Association, the celebration features an old-fashioned parade showcasing authentic dories, an artisan fair, fishing competition, fillet contest, prizes, pancake breakfast, fish fry, dory boat display, kids’ activities, farmers market and live entertainment provided by multi-talented musician and impressionist Bret Lucich. This year’s theme is “Reach for the Stars.”
“Pacific City has always been the home of the dory and we want to preserve and protect that,” said dory fisherman Dave Larkins. “It is unique and we don’t want it to go away. We need to pass it on to our young people.”
Not only is the heritage unique, but so is the launching and landing of a dory boat itself. In fact, Pacific City is one of the few places in the world where this maritime marvel takes place.
The dory’s origins date back to the surf dories and gill net boats that sold fish to the salmon cannery founded in 1887 near the mouth of the Nestucca River.
After 1927, commercial fishing was only permitted in the open ocean. Since the Nestucca had a shallow and perilous bar accessible only at flood tide, a larger surf boat was needed and the “double-ender” was created.
This innovative vessel 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.
Today’s Pacific City dory is open hulled and flat bottomed. Dory fishers push or row their vessels into the Pacific surf, until deep enough to drop the outboard motor, and then power through the surf into open waters.
But even with motors, many dedicated dory men and women still row through the surf like their predecessors before them.
“It’s kind of a specialty,” said Bailey. “There’s only a few places in the world that launch and land like we do.”
Dory Days first kicked off in the 1950s as the “Fly-in Fish Fry.” The massive meal, which includes about 1,200 pounds of fresh catch, has been a main attraction nearly every year.
“It is all dory-caught fish right out of the Pacific,” said Larkins. “It’s one of the big draws of the event.”
This year’s fry gets underway at noon on Saturday, July 21, at the Kiawanda Community Center, 34600 Cape Kiwanda Drive.
Also on Saturday, a parade featuring a fleet of about 10 traditional dories and the ever-popular Dory Days princesses, will start rolling at 11 am from Bob Straub State Park and work its way through downtown.
Organizers said it’s not too late to participate. Parade applications are available at the local post office, 35230 Brooten Road. and on the event’s Facebook page.
Applications will also be available the morning of the parade for last-minute entries.
“Just show up and be ready to go by nine Saturday morning at the boat launch,” said Melita Spath, Dory Days co-chair.
The artisan fair runs Friday through Sunday, joined by the farmers market on Sunday at the South Tillamook County Branch Library, 6200 Camp Street.
The dorymen’s association will operate a booth to answer questions from the public and oversee the display of dory boats. Festival proceeds benefit community events as well as scholarships awarded by the association, many of whose roughly-500 members travel from near and far to be part of the yearly homage to everything dory.
“It’s kind of like a reunion for dory fishermen and their families from all over,” Larkins said. “I run into people I knew fishing back in the ‘70s.”
For more information about Dory Days, go to www.pcnvchamber.org/event-calendar.