John Dory Boat Works founder passes away

Publish date:
David Finkelstein

David Finkelstein

David Finkelstein, who designed and built the John Dory line of boats, died earlier this summer.

Finkelstein started in the boating industry at age 14, working at Minneford’s Shipyard in City Island, N.Y. That was followed by a stint at Chris-Craft, where he assembled boats coming from the factory. After joining the military, Finkelstein was sent to West Point to teach cadets small-boat handling and navigation. He was later hired to service the New York State Police boat near Jones Beach, N.Y.

In 1960, Finkelstein leased land beside a marina in Brookhaven, N.Y., and established a boatyard that still exists. Stony Brook Boat and Motor offered a full lineup of marine services and operated a rental fleet. Finkelstein began to design and build fiberglass dories for anglers who wanted a sturdy, safe alternative to traditional wooden boats. He eventually started full production of the 12-, 16- and 18-foot boats for his new company, John Dory Boat Works. The line was named after an ancient goldfish called a dory.


The boats were sold through a network of national and international dealers and became a popular choice for rental facilities. The boats also were popular for bonefishing in the Florida Keys and Bahamas.

Admirers of the boats called Finkelstein an “admirably authentic American individualist.” He advised many naval architects, designers and other members of the boating industry.

In 1974, Finkelstein told The New York Times that he had an eight-man crew building 15 boats a week. “I could hire 30 more people and produce a hundred boats a week for dealers who are crying for them,” he told the paper. “But I would probably lose control over what is now a very happy and profitable operation. I don’t want to end up sitting behind a big oak desk.”

Finkelstein died July 2. He was 87.