As far back as at least the 1930ʼs river enthusiasts navigated North Americaʼs shallow, fast-moving waters via the wooden dory, a wide, ﬂat-bottomed, oar-driven boat with a rounded, rocker proﬁle.
With a high, pointed prow (and sometimes stern) the boats kept passengers drier. The wide, ﬂat bottom added stability in the churning waters. The rocker design meant more of the boat stayed out of the water, making it easier to turn in narrow, rocky, shallow channels.
The dory is still around but designs have changed. New materials — aluminum and ﬁberglass — mean lighter construction and more ﬂexibility of use. The dory is going into places it never went before. And as the dory has evolved, so has the name. Now we call them drift boats.
The current generation of drift boats come in all shapes and sizes. From a mere 12-foot length to 16, 18, and 20 feet, the boats can be wide or narrow, ﬂat or round-bottomed, high front end or low front end, and pointed or squared off. Their rowed and powered,durable, and multi-purpose.
But they all have one thing in common.
Meant for shallow waters, eventually they hang up on rocks or ground on sand bars and river islands. And when they hang, they have to be pulled and dragged. The longer and wider the boat, the heavier. And the heavier the boat the more difﬁcult and time consuming the effort to set the craft free and on its way.
Some years ago builders began experimenting with smooth sheet plastics as an add-on for boat bottoms. The plastics made the boats easier to drag and protected the hull from dents and scratches.
But there were problems. The sheets also added weight. Mechanically fastened, builders drilled holes, attached the sheets, then caulked and sealed the hull. Not fun. And the sheets were costly.
In 2005 the company introduced DuraSurf™ UHMW-PE (then marketed as DuraSlick™). Ultra High Molecular Weight Polyethylene (UHMW-PE) has one of the lowest coefﬁcients of friction of any thermoplastic. Itʼs also incredibly tough and abrasion resistant. Manufactured as a compression molded roll and treated for bonding, the thin-gauge, UV stabile plastic could be cut into sheets up to 24 inches wide. The plastic could be applied directly to the bottom of the boat with a marine grade epoxy. No drilling and no holes. A drift boat with a length of 18 feet and a width of 54 inches (for example) could be covered using just 3 lengths of DuraSurf™ 18 inches wide and 18 feet long!
The success of DuraSurf™ has led to applications with other types of boats including outboard rescue craft, jet boats, airboats, and ice boats. Rivercraft of Norwich, NY utilizes a .030″ UHMW tape on the bottoms of their rescue boats and ice boats to provide wear resistance and a good coefficient of friction.
As part of the DuraSurf™ family of products, Crownʼs alternative to plastic sheet has become a highly sought component in the engineering of shallow water craft. Read more in Pete’s Blog.
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