Breeze 4.9m Dory

The commercial and contracting sectors have embraced the Breeze dory because it is virtually indestructible, unsinkable and it floats in a puddle. The same hull, but in a more developed form, is available to the recreational sector. Geoff Green visited the Waikato region to find out more.

Breeze 4.9m Dory
Breeze 4.9m Dory

The Breeze 4.9m dory is built by Charles Bree and Sharon Prujean at Breezecraft in Mercer, on the banks of the Waikato River. Charles has been manufacturing rotationally moulded polyethylene boats for 15 years and Breezecraft recently bought their new premises on the side of State Highway One to allow further expansion. They have produced the 4.9m dory for two and half years and Charles says it was modeled on the lines of a traditional commercial dory.

"The dory design offers many advantages for the market we target. It's shallow draft, stable and when produced from polyethylene, incredibly tough," he says.

"We are aiming at the hard wearing end of the market, not the flash high-gloss sector. The boats are built to be operational work horses through to comfortable pleasure boats with a focus on reserve buoyancy and long life."

The strength and indestructibility of the polyethylene material is one of the boat's major selling points. The hull is produced in a solid, single skin form that differs from the double skin hull construction most other polyethylene manufacturers offer. Charles says he has purposely pursued toughness and the dory's 18mm-22mm solid bottom is immune to everything from rocky beaches to determined sledgehammer attacks. "No matter what you do, you won't break this boat. You may scratch, gouge or dimple the surface, but you won't break it."

In support of his claim he directed me to Brian Perry Contractors who are excavating the silt from Auckland's Orakei Basin. They use 18 stripped down dory hulls as dumb barges which are loaded with two-tonnes of mud and debris using a 12-tonne digger. They are then towed in line astern six at a time (the front boat is towing 10 tonnes of weight), floated into a lifting frame, hoisted by crane into the air, then tipped on end to spew the mud and rocks into a waiting truck. Each boat will go through approximately 200 cycles before Perry's annual 8,000 cubic metre target is met.

In one instance the crane driver rotated the tipping sling the wrong direction and the Breeze dory, laden with two tonnes of mud, slipped from the lifting frame and crashed six metres to the ground. It bounced, required no repairs and was immediately put back into service.

Perry's are not the only contractors pleased with the performance of their Breeze dory. Fletchers now use seven at their Auckland sewage works contract. Before acquiring the Breeze dories, they used alloy hulls that were dumped in a landfill once they became unserviceable after six month's work. Fletcher's longest serving dories are Breezecraft's first two production boats, which first saw service during the construction of Auckland's remodeled Viaduct Basin, before being pressed into service at the sewage works. They have been in service for two and half years, and according to Charles, will still be going strong in many years to come.

"We are really confident of the strength of these boats. We haven't had any warranty claims despite the abusive duty," says Charles.

Breezecraft have a total of 35 commercial dories in use, including many in survey as tourist, diving and fishing boats. They also have 44 pleasure-oriented dories in the market place.

Recommended horsepower is between 30 and 40hp but the hull is rated to take a 50hp in heavy load situations such as a commercial fishermen wanting to shift a load of flounder and wet nets, or eco-tour operators taking out divers to swim with the seals.

Another of the Breeze dory's strong selling points is its impressive reserve buoyancy. Breezecraft have designed the seat module as a sealed buoyancy chamber that fits around the circumference of the boat midway between the floor and gunwale. This provides a great deal of buoyancy to support the boat if it is ever swamped.

The seat/buoyancy chamber is a one-piece unit that runs full length down both sides and spans the boat at the stern, centre and bow. It fits into a step in the topsides and is retained by 32 screws that are screwed through the underside of the topside step and into the seat.

The transom has a cast alloy plate bolted on the outside to accept the engine. The bolts pass through the alloy plate, polyethylene transom, large tanalised plywood reinforcing pad and finally a stainless steel angle bracket. The other face of the stainless bracket is bolted to the underside of the seat module so that the thrust of the engine is distributed around the boat's circumference.

The floor is heavy tanalised ply and it sits on pine bearers (clear grade) that run fore and aft along the bottom of the boat. The bolts which retain the floor have large welded flanges to spread the load on the outside of the hull, and a second washer is clamped onto the inside of the hull with a nut so that the bolts become studs protruding from the bottom of the hull. The bearers and plywood floor are drilled to accept the studs and a second nut (and washer) clamps the floor structure together.

Polyethylene is inert so there's no reaction to the stainless bolts or tanalised pine and the boat can be left outside in the sun, wind, rain and freshwater.

Breezecraft offer a number of extras that can be fitted to the boat, over and above the standard seat and centre console modules. A small cuddy locker can be fitted to the bow, a helm seat can be specified in the centre and additional lockers can be fitted in the stern quarters. These lockers provide still more buoyancy if the boat is swamped and two adults standing in the stern could not force the power head of the Blue Band Mercury completely under water despite trying to do so.

So how does this indestructible, unsinkable shallow draft package come together on the water? Well, I've always viewed the dory design as a low speed hull and I think its fair to say the Breezecraft fits this category.

When lightly loaded and running at speed, the dories fitted with the 40hp Mariner and 50hp Honda needed positive trim to keep their respective bows clear of the water because with neutral or negative trim they bow steered when running along the other boat's wake.

A 30 or 35hp trim and tilt engine would provide more balanced performance in a family situation because this engine selection best suits the dory's low speed strengths.

Although the Breeze dory is available in two hull forms, one with a slight vee forward, and the other with a completely flat bottom, both run at speed with the bow clear of the water, so the shape is academic when going fast. At slower speeds the vee shape would assist the bow penetrate the waves.

The dory's flat bottom panel is presented to the water at speed and the pitter-patter of the short chop could be felt in the soles of my feet when standing at the centre console. The answer was to sit on the straddle seat (optional) and this was comfortable because I was isolated from the hull.

In summary, the Breeze dory is available at a keen price and it's very well suited to the rough and tumble work-boat world. I think the recreational version is a touch agricultural in construction and appearance, but there again, it's undeniably strong, unsinkable and an entry level version with a low horsepower trim and tilt engine would get you out and about no trouble at all.

LOA: 4.9m
Beam: 2.050
Weight: 280kg basic hull
Recommended horsepower: 30-40hp
Maximum horsepower: 50hp
Price: Hull only with seat and centre console: $4,950 including GST

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