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Thread: Phil Bolger consensus?

  1. #1
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    Default Phil Bolger consensus?

    Hello all,
    I'd like your honest thoughts on Bolger - in terms of his approach to design, his lasting legacy, and his more memorable impacts in the development of modern naval areas

    good wiki on him https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phil_Bolger

    who's read his book 100 rigs? (now 103) it sounds very interesting but I have not seen it referenced recently on any forum

    which side do you all find yourself on the centerboard vs leeboard debate? etc etc

    I feel like so many of his approaches are based on pragmatic experience, but of course I know I have nowhere near the amount of experience to really judge them
    Some of you do

    I'm quite upset that he left so many of his designs incomplete, he was prolific of course, I guess that's the downside?

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    Default Re: Phil Bolger consensus?

    He was a genius who did it his way. Besides his profound understanding of moving through water, he had an amazing, at times radical, aesthetic, and a profoundly practical approach to engineering, especially his recovery of engineering for progressive failure. These attributes he coupled with a mix of self-confidence and realism.

    I used to fancy that if I ever had enough money I'd give him a design brief (not really far from how Meg is) that would basically be that it fit in a box say about 50' x 10' x 8' give or take, as much sail as possible, et cetera, and ending with, "By the way, make her beautiful." How cool would she be.

    Bolger was right when he serenely said that God had to let him into heaven for designing the Gloucester Gull.

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    Default Re: Phil Bolger consensus?

    I like this lapstrake version the best


    (I know this is a calypso by Benjamin - but copied/inspired very much from Bolger I believe)

    I know the genius of the design is its simplicity for plywood construction, and most of them thus have no laps...

    Have you read his rig book? https://www.amazon.com/103-Sailing-R.../dp/0966699505
    I'm fascinated by the sound of it... and plan to read it when I can (as I have a lot of theoretical background, but this sounds like 100% experience)
    Last edited by Dirc; 02-01-2017 at 09:42 PM. Reason: mistake

  4. #4
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    Default Re: Phil Bolger consensus?

    I admire his rig book the most. Brilliant synthesis.

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    Default Re: Phil Bolger consensus?

    I have all of his books except the fictional one, and I'm sorry to say thats a shocker IMHO. Otherwise I refer to the design books regularly, often pull one out and browse for ideas and inspiration, much admire his construction methods and really do admire the little stories that go with each design.
    I've several sets of his plans, corresponded with him by snail mail in the 80s, and consider him to have been a major influence on my own design practice.

    Which design do I consider his best? Good question, the answer depends upon which side of the bed I got out on on the day I'm asked. There are so many that fit a mood, or a purpose, or a dream.

    John Welsford
    An expert is but a beginner with experience.

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    Default Re: Phil Bolger consensus?

    Bolger was a free-thinker who refused to kowtow to traditional assumptions about what should be -- both in boats and otherwise. This, combined with a genuinely creative flair led to the most wide-ranging catalog of designs produced by any naval architect. He wasn't afraid to experiment, he wasn't afraid to share his more outlandish concepts, and he wasn't hesitant to admit to errors, either. For all of that he'll always be at the top of my list of favorite designers.

    I think I have all of his boat books, and enjoyed the columns he wrote for magazines over the years, too. His pragmatic attitude toward much of the design work he did rankled many traditionalists. How can plywood and house paint possibly produce a worthy craft? And so on.

    What's almost comical is the degree to which many of the current high-end, super expensive boats these days mimic Bolger "box" boats. (Google the photo file for Wally yachts). And I think he was the first to design boats to fit in standard shipping containers. Now it seems everyone is doing this.

    His best design? Can't say. I've only built one of his, the minimal kayak. It served well and performed better than I had expected it would. I'm a long-time admirer of the Chebacco, and may yet find myself sailing one.
    -Dave

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    Default Re: Phil Bolger consensus?

    Though is boats were often boxy and clumsy looking, this was probably for a the demands of a particular portion of his market. I know that he had an admiration for Albert Strange boats, among the most beautiful boats around.

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    Default Re: Phil Bolger consensus?

    Okay, I'm going to cop it for this, but IMHO he seems to be over-rated in some ways. For example the title of "Boats with an open mind" seems to imply that his mind was much wider than other designers and it's sometimes said that he had an unparalleled range of designs. From what I can see, it's arguable that Bolger's range of sailing craft is actually narrower than that of (say) Bruce Farr, Nat Herreshoff, Olin Stephens, Phil Morrison or other top designers.

    He may have had some importance in coastal cruisers and amateur boatbuilding, but in the world of mass production boats and racing designs he seems to have had no real influence. There seem to be very few of his boats in Australia, NZ and the UK; his importance is mainly in the USA.

    Reading the wiki page on Bolger it seems that people believe that his use of chine logs and stitch and glue construction were novel. If the dates in the Wiki article is true, then the reality is that such techniques were far from novel when Bolger adopted them, which (according to a piece on this forum) was in the late '70s. Boats like the International Contender (circa 1968) had chine logs and the Mirror dinghy etc (C 1964) was stitch and glue. The claim that Bolger's design led to the popularisation of stitch and glue in the '80s is extremely odd since the Mirror dinghy had been subject to a TV series in the '60s and by the time Bolger's book came out there were tens of thousands of Mirrors and many thousands of other types afloat.

    Bolger's designs may have been based on pragmatic experience, but so are the designs of just about all good designers. Look at Olin Stephens - he crossed the Atlantic more than once while still a young man. Bruce Farr was working as a boatbuilder and winning international dinghy championships in his teens, I think. Phil Morrison came out of the same sort of background, and it's very pragmatic - either your dinghies win races or they don't.
    Last edited by Chris249; 02-02-2017 at 12:43 AM.

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    Default Re: Phil Bolger consensus?

    Chris I see your points also... the very boxy designs are what I'm not certain about, sometimes they strike me as genius, and other times, amateurish(but I know they're not)... are we spoiled today with many ply designs that don't shy away from high build time & cost to make hourglass shapes?

    ...
    also
    I'm a fan of junk rigs lately (no pun intended lol)... so this AS34 is a gorgeous rig, but the doghouse (almost) is not to my taste
    Clipboard01_t.jpg

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    Default Re: Phil Bolger consensus?

    I like his writing more than his designs, especially in his first book "Small Boats", the Nautical Quarterly remembrance of L. F. Herreshoff and the thought-provoking novel "Schorpioen".
    "... and the great shroud of the sea rolled on as it rolled five thousand years ago."

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    Default Re: Phil Bolger consensus?

    the Blueberry, really interesting design, love the rig, and layout and size, but the very hard chine mostly looks right, except at very certain angles


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    Default Re: Phil Bolger consensus?

    I wish I could have met him in person . . . I did correspond with him a couple of times and his replies were wonderful - sort of on topic but with plenty of thinking from a mostly practical/pragmatic sort of approach (like how to dispose of human waste from a vessel frozen in in the Antarctic).

    The comparison with Farr et al is a little unfair, Bolger's designs (and commissions) catered for quite a different market, I wouldn't consult a F1 car designer (Farr etc) if I wanted something to cross the Gobi desert for example.

    His talent was really in the writing and analysis, his books and stories must have inspired (even if what not to build) more builders than any other designer of his era.

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    Default Re: Phil Bolger consensus?

    I'm a big admirer. I'm not sure there has ever been a designer who had more range than Bolger. He studied historical boat design and rig design. He was endlessly curious. And it allowed him to confidently design everything from a 100+foot square rigger to the Tortoise pram. He was best known for his Square Boats series with Dynamite Payson, but that was only the most well-known of his work. It was designed for a purpose: to slant things toward extreme ease of build, decent performance, and devil take any traditional design sensibilities. And they mostly worked admirably. Micro and her bigger sisters were genius boats - if you valued the way their design brief tilted. Like many innovators - he attracted a 'cult' following for those boats. And some of the 'true believers' made larger claims than the boats warranted. But despite that - his 'box boats' will probably always find a following amongst beginning builders who value function over form.

    And at the same time, he could design sweetly gorgeous boats - like 'Blueberry' mentioned above. Or 'Blacksnake'. Or the rowing gig 'Victoria'. Or 'Fancy' - a daysailor. Or 'Spur II' - a personal favorite.

    And not all of his design performed beautifully. He was prone to exploring concepts with designs that he sold hoping the first builders would bets-test for him. These boats - which I call his Rough Draft Designs - sometimes worked and sometimes didn't. Read back thru James McMullen's muttering to hear about some that didn't. A buddy of mind built a 'Surf' instant boat, and it was pretty wretched. Fast in the right conditions, but tender as hell, and uncomfortable.

    I own and refer regularly to one edition of his rig book.

    I'm not sure, though, that you'll ever find a consensus. Too many people know only his Box Boat work, and deride him for it. (Some of which is fair, and some of which is close-mindedness, imho).
    David G
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    "It was a Sunday morning and Goddard gave thanks that there were still places where one could worship in temples not made by human hands." -- L. F. Herreshoff (The Compleat Cruiser)

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    Default Re: Phil Bolger consensus?

    Moccasin








    Simpler is better, except when complicated looks really cool.

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    Default Re: Phil Bolger consensus?

    Cruised in a Dovekie for 12 years and in a Shearwater Yawl for 18. Met him at Peter Duff's funeral a year before he himself departed. I have one reply in his own hand to a question I mailed regarding his Gypsy design.

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    Default Re: Phil Bolger consensus?

    I look at designers like I look at musicians or painters or other creative people. Just because someone makes a living playing jazz doesn't mean she can't rock out; just because someone paints portraits for a living doesn't mean he cannot create impressionist landscapes.

    Bolger chose the path of encouraging home builders with designs that performed adequately for the amount of effort and expense required to build them. In his writing, we learned that he enjoyed and believed in a more democratic approach to boating than yacht clubs and corporate boatbuilders are willing to tolerate.

    That he COULD produce other types of vessels is abundantly clear by his designing for Egg Harbor Yachts, or Moccassin, as Paul showed, or the tall ship, Surprise, and others.

    Kevin
    There are two kinds of boaters: those who have run aground, and those who lie about it.

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    Default Re: Phil Bolger consensus?

    His ideas have their place -- he gave a lot of non-craftsman-like people (such as I) "psychological permission" to build a boat they could build -- and a boat that you use is the best boat. If you developed your skills and went on to more luscious designs, all well and good, and such a case would also have been enabled by Bolger in many cases. -- Wade

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    Default Re: Phil Bolger consensus?

    Quote Originally Posted by Chris249 View Post
    Okay, I'm going to cop it for this, but IMHO he seems to be over-rated in some ways. For example the title of "Boats with an open mind" seems to imply that his mind was much wider......
    I always thought of that title a different way, more that to fully see the value of the designs the reader, builder and ultimately sailor might want a open mind. I have always found birdwatcher a challenge to my mind but have more recently started to see the advantages. The great difficulty with simplicity is it looks obviously in hindsight, it is very rarely as simple or obvious in the beginning. He truly was a genius, I would recommend highly the following pod casts, as someone else said he really understood the flow of water and explains reducing chine drag here

    http://www.furledsails.com/article.php3?article=777
    http://www.furledsails.com/article.php3?article=778

    Also hours can be waisted and inspiration found on http://hallman.org/bolger/isometrics.html

    As others have said 101 rigs and boats with an open mind are constantly referenced.

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    Default Re: Phil Bolger consensus?

    "He was a genius who did it his way. Besides his profound understanding of moving through water, he had an amazing, at times radical, aesthetic, and a profoundly practical approach to engineering, especially his recovery of engineering for progressive failure. These attributes he coupled with a mix of self-confidence and realism." Ian - you nailed it...

    I'll add a letter I wrote to Phil on 9/7/2004 thanking him for his life's work & it's incalculable benefit to me.

    Dear Phil Bolger,

    I’m the guy who built & launched your design # 505 "PCB 505" in April of ’01. (a 27'x8'6" power boat) The boat’s great. I keep trying to think of another boat to build but can’t figure out how to improve on this one significantly. This year, with diesel costing $2.20 a gallon, I’ve slowed to a cruise of 17+ kts @ 3000rpm on my 200hp Volvo and have been averaging 3.75 knots per gallon – fast & efficient! The boat hits the sweet spot for the local conditions & my needs.

    This letter is not about boats however – it’s a letter of acknowledgment thanking you for your effect on my development as a designer and artist. Through your books and through the process of building & living with PCB 505 (and 2 of your other design s- “Cartopper” & a 19ft power dory) I’ve become a much better designer & builder & artist. In a recent project I became aware of how often the example of your words and designs lead me to think & design with an open mind. Mr. Bolger, my point here is to say how useful you have been to my thinking. I’ll try & explain this process, as much for my understanding as yours.

    As a youth of 10 or so growing up near Los Angeles, I found certain boats, mostly pictures of boats that is, to embody a kind of integrity, a purity of form, function & idea profound to me. Absent of any practical boating experience whatsoever, my relationship to boats was purely visual & emotional.
    As I grew older, I came to trust the more traditional forms of boats, houses & furniture. They looked right, and I guess my hunger for meaning and values led me to trust old stuff more than new. It’s an attitude that worked pretty good, most of the time and when it didn’t, tradition was always an available defense. Professionally, as an artist, woodworker and house builder, I maintained a reverence for traditional form.

    My first encounter with your work was around 1977. I think it was “Small Boats”; it was a disturbing experience. None of it looked right, but the rational, powerful practicality of your work was too compelling to dismiss. It’s taken me some 25 years to articulate the result of the encounter. Here’s how I would put it now: the needs of the boat being designed were driving the design process. The questions to ask are what does the boat do & what does it need. Essentially, each part, as well as the whole craft must address the sea, weather and the passage of time in all their infinite combinations. Of course the boat mostly takes care of people – including sometimes their need for traditional notions of beauty. In other words, what would boats look like if they designed themselves? (Keeping in mind, they had to seduce humans to build & take care of them.)

    Your work has helped me see tradition as one possible design influence, definitely useful as a visual language, but not representing any inherent desirable value. This has been immensely liberating. It sounds pretty common sense written out like this, but in my life this has become a profound concept, extending into all aspects of my thinking. It helps me to design things from the inside out, from the things’ point of view. You have expanded my understanding & experience of beauty to include engineering and functionality, a considerable thing and I thank you for it. This in a nutshell is what I’ve learned from you and while it sits a little plain here on paper, I hope my appreciation gives you some pleasure. I wish you well.
    Sincerely,
    Peter St. John

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    Default Re: Phil Bolger consensus?

    There are true believers, skeptics and those who like some of his work.

    Typical range of reactions.

    Everytime I actually thought about building something I would see a user report. That typically killed it for me.

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    Default Re: Phil Bolger consensus?

    I built and used his Elegant Punt, and very much admired the curves he designed into the 3 panels. It worked very well. (But it worked even better with a skeg.)

    After that I designed and built a 10 ft pram and 2 ply canoes, all from his influence. They also work very well.

    I too have a hand-written letter from him, exploring the idea of a larger boat (before we bought Drake). A keepsake.

    I admire his understanding of boats and moving water very much.

    Dave

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    Default Re: Phil Bolger consensus?

    I love the Nymph, Chebacco, Harbinger, and Gypsy. He made a vital contribution to amateur building of vessels. I don't like the glass butted joint he helped to popularize, but it's functionally proven and has other advantages over scarfing.

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    Default Re: Phil Bolger consensus?

    One of my favorite Bolger/Payson moments came up in one of his magazine articles. Some here may recall it with greater accuracy that I will.

    The problem was to make a stern wheeler that could plane.

    Bolger started with the easiest hull to make plane - basically and large flat bottom. Think of a planing scow.

    Next was how to make the paddle wheel work. At speed a normal open design paddle wheel would fling water all over, including a lot forward. In a nutshell, Bolger filled in space, making what amounted to a barrel with fins sticking out. He did some other slippery shaping of the fin angles to keep the thing from picking up too much water.

    I think that Bolger and Payson built to that but the boat could not quite break free at the bow, so still not planing. Ah, let's add a canard. And that worked until they crossed over another boat's wake and the canard collapsed.

    I can just see those two laughing as they treaded water among the splinters.

    Bolger was fearless at trying stuff. And Payson's high speed boat carpentry made the perfect complement.

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    Default Re: Phil Bolger consensus?

    Quote Originally Posted by upchurchmr View Post
    There are true believers, skeptics and those who like some of his work.

    Typical range of reactions.

    Everytime I actually thought about building something I would see a user report. That typically killed it for me.
    I'd disagree. He does not inspire the typical range of reactions that a boat designer does.

    Because he was as innovative, and as prolific, as he was... and because he was as blunt and matter-of-fact in his (usually well-grounded, but sometimes premature) opinions as he was... there were MORE true believers. And MORE 'looneys' - as Thomas Firth-Jones calls them. Example: His best-known plans seller was based right here in Portland - and was well known in the boating community for his own 'idiosyncracies'.

    Also MORE detractors - put off by the strange aesthetics of the box-boats, and other things (from his bluntness, to his success, to his refusal to join - mostly - the electronic age, to his including his brilliantly idiosyncratic wife as an equal part of the design team, to his political views, etc.).

    He was unique. A bit larger-than-life in some ways. And he inspired equally outsized opinions/reactions.

    Not much 'typical' about the phenomenon.
    David G
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    http://www.harborwoodworking.com/boat.html

    "It was a Sunday morning and Goddard gave thanks that there were still places where one could worship in temples not made by human hands." -- L. F. Herreshoff (The Compleat Cruiser)

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    Default Re: Phil Bolger consensus?

    I own all his books, but I've never felt inclined to build any of his boats. I like the way he explored design ideas, and his willingness to say what he tried that didn't work.

    In particular, I don't like some of his interpretations of sharpies. He liked to lift the bow and make it fairly wide, so it was more like a scow with a pointed bow. I think traditional sharpies with the stem rimmed just above the water work better. And I don't think leeboards are as practical as he claimed, especially on a boat that sails off a dock.

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    Default Re: Phil Bolger consensus?

    One of the things I have found most intriguing about Bolger is his talent for the aesthetic gesture. Some commenters regard his designs as brutally functional, but this is not always so, and the aesthetics appear in many guises. His Tiger Lily lightweight express cruiser has classic mid-century modern express cruiser styling with no encumbering details. Wyoming does something similar for the 1920s. A raised, crowned plywood deck forms a high, ugly reverse sheer at the bow, but Bolger evokes a graceful false sheer by a molding and an "eyebrow" molding over the cabin windows (viz. Otter, Lynx, Blackgauntlet II, Moccasin). Without being wedded to a personal, "signature" style, his work resonates with many antecedents in the design literature, whether viking longships, Dutch schuyts, Humber canoe yawls, scow schooners, Gloucester fishermen, or Beetle cats. Every boat designer's work tries to combine many characteristics: speed, capacity, seaworthiness, suitability for a particular use, beauty, and economy. Bolger may not have excelled in all of these dimensions, but no one has given so much thought with so much success to combining all of them.
    Peter Belenky

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    Default Re: Phil Bolger consensus?

    Quote Originally Posted by David G View Post
    I'm a big admirer. I'm not sure there has ever been a designer who had more range than Bolger.
    Bolger did some interesting stuff, but looking at qualitative data like construction techniques, speed, length, displacement, hull style and numbers, usage and the type of waterways the craft can be used for, you could say that he's got many rivals in range. It's interesting to muse on how we can estimate this sort of stuff.

    Olin and Rod Stephens and their firm designed boats from J Class and 12 Metre America's Cup winners, to a Canadian-style leeboard sailing canoe rig, yacht tenders (Interclubs), two Round the World Race winning ketches, powerboats to 195ft+, one design racing dinghies (Lightning, etc), military craft (the DUKW), zillions of production boats, schooners like Brilliant and a replica of America, ultralights like Spirit, offshore one designs like the T10, sailing superyachts, motor superyachts, working tugboats and trawlers to 110ft, a submarine chaser, a PT boat, a patrol boat for Cuba, commercial ferries, a 200'er designed to carry yachts, 9,500 ton barges, coastal freighters, even a mobile causeway.

    Ray Hunt's got to be up there, with work that ranged from the 110 to champion offshore racing powerboats, the Boston Whaler, champion Metre Boats, the Concordia yawls, many production yachts, Bertrams and other production powerboats, a working lobsterboat, a design for a US Navy destroyer's hull, parafoil kite rigs, mast-aft rigs, quadrilateral jibs, possibly pilot boats, etc.

    Farr's designs run from a 10' yacht tender to superyachts, America's Cup racers of various types, round the world racers, singlehanded racers, 18 Foot Skiffs, production trailable cruisers, a 51' cruising sharpie, ketches, fractional rigs, masthead rigs, cat rigs, pilothouse cruisers, 44' Libera class boats with 10 guys trapezing off wings, one design dinghies and of course a huge number of normal racing boats. His construction ranges from ply to nomex and carbon. His keels range from fins to centreboards, canting keels and canards.

    Nat Herreshoff, of course, did everything from yacht tenders to warships to one designs, America's Cup boats, giant schooners and catamarans.

    Morrison has designed ocean-crossing Stand-Up Paddleboards, ocean-crossing rowing boats, world champion high performance racing skiffs (like world International 14 champions), a Transatlantic Singlehanded Race winning 60' trimaran, windsurfers (if I recall correctly), many popular production racing dinghies and cruiser/racer yachts. His construction ranges from clinker to carbon.

    With respect, people whose designs range from warships to stand up paddleboards and from plywood dinghies to transatlantic multis appear to be at least as versatile as someone whose designs seem to normally be pretty much in one corner of the boating area. I'm not attacking Bolger, just putting the case for other people to be equally respected for their versatility.
    Last edited by Chris249; 02-02-2017 at 07:45 PM.

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    Default Re: Phil Bolger consensus?

    I liked Phil's writing and way of thinking. He was capable of designing some really good looking boats, but of course he is most well known for his boxes. His design ideas were more accessible because of his writing than most others.....He is missed

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    Default Re: Phil Bolger consensus?

    thank you all for great additions to this thread, the different perspectives, and I particularly enjoyed the letter. I've already thought along those same lines after spending a long time going over all of his designs. He certainly was capable of going all over and abandoning traditional design. I look forward to reading the books mentioned

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    Default Re: Phil Bolger consensus?

    Quote Originally Posted by johnw View Post
    I own all his books, but I've never felt inclined to build any of his boats. I like the way he explored design ideas, and his willingness to say what he tried that didn't work.
    This goes for me also. Although I did build two instant boats—Teel and Eek. They were both miserable plywood boxes.

    But actually, I can't even begin to describe how much his writing has meant to me since I first read him in the 1980s. I still like to browse through his books and follow his train of thought. I admire that man very much.

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    Default Re: Phil Bolger consensus?

    Quote Originally Posted by photocurio View Post
    . . . I did build two instant boats—Teel and Eek.
    You built an Eeek!? Do you have any pics? Until now, I thought I was the only other Eeek! builder. Very cool.
    I liked mine, btw, though it had its limitations, of course.

    Most of what I'd say about Bolger's work has already been said here. I do get a bit frustrated with naysayers who are only familiar with his plywood boxes, though.

    Anyway, I'm a fan, count him as one of my great influences, and - like Mr. Welsford - I refer to his books regularly.

    I was out rowing a Gloucester Gull on the day he died. I wish he were still around.

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    Default Re: Phil Bolger consensus?

    Phil Bolger and Dynamite Payson got me started building boats. They presented boatbuilding as an achievable goal in my life and I took the bait. These days, after five or six boats, I'm not sure if it was a blessing or a curse but those two men opened a door for me that will never be closed. I never built a Bolger boat but I did build an "Instant" boat (dory/skiff) of my own design that a buddy and I fished out of for like twenty years. I have most all of Bolger's books and like others have said, his books are a great resource for understanding boat design. Bolger was so honest about the good and bad of his various designs that it really helped a lot in understanding why some boats are good for some things but not for others.

    Another enduring attribute of Bolger was his sense of humor. He wasn't afraid to find the humor in his own boat design adventures. I admire him for that.

    I would have built a birdwing Bolger Beach Cruiser but he wasn't interested in having a birdwing anything but very politely wrote me two different hand written letters saying "no" to my birdwing mast invention. He said it would be too much "me" and not enough "him". At least he was honest and I respected that.

    I did get to meet him in person at the 2007 WoodenBoat Show when he was being honored at the Saturday night dinner. I got to show him a model of my double dory catamaran that utilized two "Instant" built hulls. He said he liked it and that it reminded him of his catamaran oyster carrier. That was a way cool moment for me.

    In closing I'd like to post my favorite all-time Bolger design, his Swedish Cruiser. It is totally impractical unless you need a very seaworthy blue water/thin water boat that can be easily solo sailed and is strong enough to take bottom almost anywhere on the planet. It doesn't even have standing headroom but is unique in that it can store a full-sized dory on its deck. If I were a rich man, I would build one very similar (except for the mast, of course).

    Last edited by kenjamin; 02-03-2017 at 09:02 AM.

  33. #33
    Join Date
    Dec 1999
    Location
    Oriental, NC USA
    Posts
    4,084

    Default Re: Phil Bolger consensus?

    I agree with Chris249. Like many, I have read Bolger's books and seen his cartoons in Small Boat Journal as well as seen many of his creations up close on the water. Saying that he could draw an aesthetically pleasing boat is kind of like saying Picasso could draw stuff that looked real. As an engineer, I consider function to be an integral part of beauty in a object that is deemed to be useful, rather than just seen. Bolger was certainly into function and often too far into it for my taste. There was often more than a bit of weird in his work. More often than not, the builder of the first one of his designs was left to discover the good and bad aspects of some of the more innovative or strange aspects.

    He was honest about this though and would caution builders about taking a design beyond the range he intended for it. Nevertheless some builders thought his work to be infallible to their later regret. Some years ago a builder of one of his little 14' fast trawlers attempted to run the wide Neuse River in a northeaster on the way to a woodenboat show in Beaufort, NC. Now Bolger had cautioned against taking such a little vessel not designed for rough conditions out is just the kind of weather that we had that day on the same water that I live on. The boat was found several miles downwind on the shore and his body found in a life jacket further back along the same path. Unless you are an expert seaman, taking a small flat bottom high superstructure boat out to run downwind in such wind and waves as existed that day is inviting disaster. This is not a condemnation of either Bolger or his boats but it is rather a caution about how people can develop and unhealthy reverence and place too much faith in what they do not understand.

    I'd venture a thought that if Bolger had never produced any of the boats known as Bolger boxes, that he would not be nearly as well known. While I like functional, I don't like ugly and many of his boats fit easily in the ugly category. Some are functional as well as aesthetically pleasing and I did wonder why he so often seemed to deliberately do work that avoided being attractive. People can be complicated and our ruminations may not get all that close to the truth of Bolger or his reasoning for his designs.
    Tom L

  34. #34
    Join Date
    Dec 2015
    Location
    Dorset, UK
    Posts
    580

    Default Re: Phil Bolger consensus?

    Surrounded by a sea of round boats in Europe, i'm actually most attracted and fascinated by his 'box' boats.

    I found them attractive in a cubist fashion. I've only felt the same looking at Picasso's artwork and scupture. To me they look surprisingly modernist.

    I've tried to understand why? Most nodern naval architecture broadly convolutes aspects of diamonds, triangles and circles while Bolger was able to combine the same curve of areas with the square. While this has aspects for for structural efficiency, its now surprisingly contemporary, modern architecture has shifted in this direction of late. A refreshing anti thesis to the perhaps conservative nature of yacht design, where fundamentally the sea never changes.

    He was fearless with the application of engineering when a change of materials appeared: the constructional layout of Micro is profoundly efficient for its intended builder, purpose and materials. On paper, Micro is a symphony of inter related solutions for small boat inshore trailer cruising. Reading the plans (and I'm sure owning the boat) for that time your in Bolger's head, and its a beautifull and educational place to be.

    I might have to scratch the itch and build Micro, to form an experienced opinion.
    Last edited by Edward Pearson; 02-03-2017 at 04:10 PM.

  35. #35
    Join Date
    Jul 2013
    Location
    Aquitaine
    Posts
    708

    Default Re: Phil Bolger consensus?

    I'm with Edward. I have always been intrigued by the functionality of his box boats. I actually got back into building boats as a result of reading about Payson's build of Sweet Pea in WB. It was in the first copy I read. I didn't build that design, but an Oughtred, after toying with a Winter Wren from Devlin.
    Now I need a small cruiser and it has to be low budget and finished by mid May. A friend has built three of Bolger's designs, one was a Micro, the others a Bobcat and an Aurey pram. So, like Edward, I am scratching the itch OK, my Micro has a bit of flare to the sides, a slightly sharper bow with some rake and the transom leans back a bit. But it is essentially the same boat, if a little less boxy. State of play right now is: ready to put the side panels on. Turning before the end of the month. Weather a bit unhelpfull right now.
    His books fetch quite a bit on Amazon, which says something.

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