Dyer 29

By Jack Hornor

Revised by BoatUS editors in October 2012
Dyer 29
Principal Dimensions & Specifications
Measurements should be considered approximate and the manufacturer’s specifications may be relied upon. Bow & stern appendages are generally excluded.
Length Overall28' 6"
Maximum Beam9' 6"
Maximum Draft2' 6"
Displacement/Weight6,700 lbs
Fuel Capacity110- 135 Gallons
Water Capacity24 Gallons
Speed Range14 - 24 Knots

Even after more than four decades in production, the Dyer 29 is in greater demand than it has ever been and is considered by many to be one of the most handsome small boats ever built. We should all be so lucky to grow old as gracefully as has this classic design built by Warren, Rhode Island boat builder, The Anchorage Incorporated.

Design credit for the Dyer 29 goes to Nick Potter who undoubtedly was much influenced by traditional New England lobster boats when he drew the lines back in 1955. The actual overall length is 28' 6" and the beam is a narrow 9' 6". The bottom is v-shaped forward and progressively flattens out toward the stern. The bottom rolls into the hull sides with a radiused turn rather than a sharp corner-like edge and there is long wine glass-shaped keel integral with the hull. The keel is cut away aft for installation of the propeller and rudder and protects the running gear from damage by accidental grounding. Draft is 2' 6" and weight is upward from 6,700 lbs. depending on model and engine selection. There is nearly 5' of freeboard at the bow and a classic sweeping sheer that drops a foot and a half between the bow and the transom. Various deck configurations have been offered over the years including a flush deck bass boat and several trunk cabin models with either folding canvas or fixed top over the helm and portions of the cockpit.

Dyer 29

Photo by Matt Leduc at Fleet Yacht

The Dyer 29 is not only designed to look like a seagoing vessel, she is built to be a seagoing vessel. The hull is constructed with a minimum of seven layers of hand-laid fiberglass cloth. Nine layers are used below the waterline for added strength.

The method of hull construction has changed little over the years. However, as fiberglass technology and molding techniques improved, fiberglass covered plywood and solid fiberglass decks and deckhouses of earlier model boats have given way to molded fiberglass composites utilizing a balsa wood core material. These composites provide greater rigidity and considerable weight reduction.

The decks and hulls are joined at an outward turning flange with a substantial guardrail fit directly beneath the flange to prevent damage to the sheer. A full-length spray rail is fit along the hull side above the static waterline to deflect water away from the hull. On older model boats both rails are wood although, on newer models, wood has been replaced with vinyl for more impact resistance and less maintenance.

In the early 1990s, the cockpit was slightly reconfigured when Dyer switched from fiberglass-covered plywood to a molded fiberglass composite cockpit. With this change, the ungainly engine box was replaced with a slightly raised bridgedeck over the engine and fuel tanks.

Dyer 29

Photo by Matt Leduc at Fleet Yacht

Dyer's builder has always attempted to accommodate owner&s specifications for interior modifications. They have also offered a long list of options for both the trunk cabin and bass boat models. For this reason, it would be rare to find two Dyer 29s that were identical.

Perhaps the most outstanding and consistent feature of all Dyer 29s is their huge cockpit that accounts for more than half the boat's overall length. The cockpit easily accommodates four fishermen or a half-dozen guests for an afternoon or evening harbor cruise. Of course, large cockpits come at the expense of cabin space. The standard cabin layout was essentially the same for all models although the trunk cabin model has standing headroom while the flush deck bass boat model provides minimal headroom. Forward are two 6' 6" V-berths and there is a small but efficient galley along the port side. Some early trunk cabin models were built with a small dinette along the starboard side of the cabin and a marine toilet below a forward berth. Later models offer the privacy of an enclosed head in place of the dinette, in which case, meals are eaten in the cockpit.

I would be hard pressed to recommend the Dyer 29 as the ideal boat for extended cruising, however, if you are willing to sacrifice a few of the conveniences of home, weekend cruising and short vacations will be quite comfortable. Ideally the Dyer 29 is a two-person boat for overnight travel because there are only two permanent berths although, with all that cockpit space and a little ingenuity, she can provide sufficient accommodations for a small family.

More than 40 years of production and countless repowers have resulted in numerous engine and transmission combinations in existing Dyer 29s, although all are single inboard installations. Engines roughly range from 170 hp gasoline to a 315 hp diesel models. In view of this substantial range of available power, cruising and maximum speed are hard numbers to clearly define.

Currently the 29's standard engine installation is a 200 hp Volvo diesel that, according to the Dyer's literature, provides a cruising speed of 17 knots at 3,500 rpm. At this speed the engine is reported to consume seven gallons of fuel per hour. Top speed is reported to be just over 20 knots.

In a 1990 article, long time sailor and Dyer 29 convert Bob Bavier wrote, "At our cruising speed of 14 knots we burned a little over 3 gallons per hour". Although Mr. Bavier's boat was a 1985 model equipped with a 200 hp Perkins diesel engine rather than the, now standard, 200 hp Volvo, the question remains. Why more than a 100 percent increase in fuel consumption in exchange for a 21 percent increase in speed? The answer lies in the simple fact that the Dyer 29 was designed for comfort not speed. The hull form is what is commonly referred to as a semi-displacement type. Without getting into too much technical jargon about speed-length ratios and such, this simply means that, given enough horsepower, the boat will develop lift and exceed the speed limits imposed by the laws of physics on displacement hull forms. The semi-displacement form is a compromise between a full displacement form and a planing form which, as evidenced by the comparison above, does not operate very efficiently at high speeds. I would expect similar economy to that experienced by Mr. Bavier for the current engine if operated in the same 14-knot speed range. Such a huge cost for a few extra knots does not make sense to me but it's nice to know you have the extra power when you might need it.

As I said, the Dyer 29 is designed for comfort not speed. She particularly shines heading into a chop where her fine entry, high freeboard and rounded chine combine to produce a smooth ride in all but the most extreme conditions. The 29 can be a bit tricky to handle in a following sea in part because the fine entry that makes her superb in a chop acts against her in a following sea. Sharp attention to steering is necessary and this is where the extra horsepower will come in handy in gaining control. All things considered this is a great sea boat and it would be difficult to find a more comfortable riding boat in this size range.

In an attempt to gather some insight on common problems of older Dyer 29s, I recently paid a visit to Bob Stine at Black Dog Boat Works, Inc. of Denton, MD. Black Dog specializes in maintaining, repairing and renovating older Dyer 29s as well as other classic yachts, sport fishermen and trawlers. As luck would have it, I found three Dyer 29s undergoing varying degrees of renovation and repair. Although two of the boats in Stine's shop were models from the late 1950s, none were undergoing repair due to major problems resulting from age. According to Stine, these boats truly do grow old gracefully and most of his work involves upgrading systems and machinery, not necessarily fixing things that have broken. Bob explained that he has renovated some older Dyer 29 models for less than $10,000 and others for well over $50,000. The major cost factor in renovating is what to do with aging engines. Rebuilding a gasoline engine could cost under $3,000 while upgrading to a new diesel could exceed $20,000. (2005 estimates)

What separates the Dyer 29 from every other vessel that was first built nearly 45 years ago is that you can still go to the manufacturer and buy a new one. The Dyer 29 story is clearly a long way from over and I, for one, hope they are around for at least another 40 years.

Naval architect Jack Hornor was the principal surveyor and designer for Marine Survey & Design, Co., based in Annapolis, MD. He was on the boards of the American Boat and Yacht Council, the National Association of Marine Surveyors, and the Society of Boat and Yacht Designers. He and his wife sailed their Catalina 42, Legacy, based on Maryland's Eastern Shore.

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