Phillip C. Bolger


Boat Designer, Gloucester, Massachusetts
By Joseph Gribbens
Nautical Quarterly 21, Spring 1983


When you call Phil Bolger on the telephone, the voice that answers says "Bolger." It used to ask a pointed "Yes?" It is a curt, Boston- accented voice, and there is an intimation of "What do you want?" in the single word it pronounces, a thing that makes the caller feel that he's interrupted something. He has. What he's interrupted is a thought process that's been going on for 50 years, with many such interruptions but with probably no real disturbance of its flow or its complexity.

Phil Bolger is thinking about boats, an intellectual and technical exercise whose ideal is a purity the designer seems to prize above all things - a rightness, an exquisite equilibrium that extends not only to what he calls "designs that are right of their kind," but to peripheral bits of perfection: the way the lines go down on paper, the way the parts of his recent small boats come neatly out of 4' x 8' sheets of plywood, the way the designer spends his workday, the way he expresses himself in person and in print.

Bolger is precise. He is also funny, self-deprecating, easy to challenge on dogma, free with conversation when he's in the mood for it, and oddly anti-precise in his libertarian tolerance of new and strange ideas. Conversations with Bolger, when he gets rolling, skip sideways from yacht design to politics, ancient history, the space program, sex, money, any number of things. And they are full of quotes and footnotes from H.G. Wells, Alexander the Great, Kipling, Mary Renault, W.C. Fields, any number of people. Although he works in a field that he claims is "really not worth the time of really able people," be gives it his time every workday and, one suspects, pretty much every instant, awake or asleep with dreams of an ultimate portable daysailer or some dead-simple outboard workboat. Bolger is inspired by thoughts of boats that will be pure and perfect, but unbothered - so he says - by boats that incorporate the "crude solutions" he cheerfully admits in a lot of his own work. "Some boats are better than others; but it's not important that they be better," he says in a conversation about the uses to which various types are put.

He means this "any sort of boat will do" in the general sense that a boat roughly suitable to its purpose can achieve its purpose, and in the social sense that it's good for people to enjoy themselves on the water whatever they're in, so long as they don't get drowned. But in a very thoughtful article he wrote for this magazine's ninth issue, Bolger described L. Francis Herreshoff's H-28 as "a deliberate mediocrity" in concept, but a boat that "if built exactly as designed down to the last detail (and the details are defined on sheet after sheet of large-scale drawings). . moves from mediocrity to a universal prototype, original essence of small cruising boat. . . It's a haunting and frustrating achievement. Generations of young designers and boatbuilders have tinkered with it, trying to make it faster, or roomier, or something. The result is always a mediocrity that looks mediocre. In context, different means spoiled. There's a lot to be learned from studying this design; but to apply the lessons you have to start over with a blank sheet."

In several remarks in his latest book for International Marine, Bolger illuminates his unique, austere approach to shaping boats. Burgundy, his sharpie variation of the L.F.H. Rozinante, is able to be built by Brad Story for less than a third of the cost of a Rozinante on the shop floor that looks like a Stradivarius. "`There's a catch," writes Bolger. "Rozinante is one of the all-time masterpieces of art. For visual satisfaction, three Burgundys don't equal one Rozinante Notwithstanding Brad's Yankee outrage (at her cost to build), I think the Rozinante is worth what she costs. But for somebody who doesn't have the price of a Rubens original, there may be some merit in a Playboy centerfold " - (i.e., Bolger's lovely Burgundy).

In discussing Wisp, a canoe-form 20' sloop built by a man who gave her the best of materials and finish, and didn't mind building three trunks for a pair of bilgeboards and an inboard rudder, Bolger notes: "This is a goldplater, something I'm seldom immediately comfortable with.. I tend to go off and try to produce something cheap and expendable that will do the same job." And writing about the angled, shield-shaped transom of Fancy a lovely 15' gaff sloop of Muscongus Bay inspiration, Bolger discusses the uselessness of such a stern and concludes: "I've often thought of offering a reward for a good reason why pretty girls shouldn't chew gum. A legitimate excuse for a stern of this kind would be welcome in the same way, as it makes me uncomfortable to draw something degraded in its action by its aesthetics."

There is a tension here between perfect but elite little boats like Francis Herreshoff's masterpieces and the boats for everybody that Bolger has designed with inspired inventiveness for decades. It is a creative tension for the designer. Bolger has drawn his share of goldplaters, and some of them boats that were exquisitely right, when he or the client gave the work few restrictions of time, money or materials. But yacht design is a game for Bolger, and limitations of time, money and materials are rules in the game. It is a game he enjoys playing, and the goal is to achieve boats that are beautiful, well-behaved, safe in a variety of mischances, and a pleasure to be in. They should also be simple in structure and rig, undemanding in maintenance, and easy on their personnel. These final qualities define Bolger's version of the game. He has applied himself to bringing simplified and frequently cheap boats closer to his own ideals of rightness for nearly 30 years, and more than a few of his 433 designs to date have come close. A very few, in the designer's careful judgment, have been close to perfect. But they are different boats - the title of one of Bolger's four books for International Marine - and they are products of different mental processes from those which produce designed-around-the-rule IOR boats, competent copies of traditional Yankee workboats, or even never-before-seen multihulls and performance powerboats.

Bolger's grandfather was an inventor, which may account for his grandson's inventive fervor in terms of genes. Among other influences, it probably does account for his freedom and freshness of vision. Thomas Patrick Bolger came to Boston from Prince Edward Island, an eager immigrant who "was a plumber who turned into an inventor," according to the designer. Grandfather Bolger invented things to be made out of steel that had previously been made out of wood, and his principal invention -"the one that made money" - was the steel icebox. Others were a very efficient ash sifter for coal furnaces and a plant box that irrigated itself. "He was an ingenious contriver," says his grandson, choosing his words precisely, and he was a man who had a safe full of granted patents when he died. Phil Bolger's father, William A., was salesman and business agent for the family company that sold the steel iceboxes "all over the place," in Latin America and Bermuda as well as in the U.S.

"My mother's people were master fishermen and vessel owners on both sides," says the designer, "but not in my time." The Cunningham family of Cunningham & Thompson of Gloucester owned the celebrated fishing schooners Arethusa and Ingomar, among scores of others, both built early in this century by Tarr and James in Essex, Massachusetts, from designs by Tom McManus.

William A. Bolger died suddenly in 1934, and it was a crisis for the family, although Phil, then seven years old, doesn't recall hard times. His mother, Ruth Cunningham Bolger - still a vigorous woman at 89 who keeps the house in Gloucester that she helped design with her husband and a perhaps overwhelmed architect, and still plants the flower garden with its hedge of lilacs - coped and carried on through the Depression so that her younger son never noticed much change. "She is a woman of strong character," says Bolger.

Phil's brother Bill, who he describes in contrast to himself as "a competent type," took a hand in his upbringing, being a fatherly ten years older, and gave the future yacht designer his first boat. "My brother thought it would be interesting to build a boat out of Masonite. . . It didn't work out at all well, so he gave it to me. He had made a skate sail, which I took, and he taught me to make the hardware for the sail and the boat in my grandfather's shop... It didn't sail very well, but I can say that I had a boat with leeboards, an unstayed mast and a wishbone boom 45 years ago."

Phil Bolger's "first real boat" -although the Masonite contraption would seem to be very real in terms of influence -was a 16' Chesapeake catboat designed by Ralph Wiley and built by brother Bill, a legacy to the younger brother when the older went off to war. "It was a very exciting boat to sail -big rig and nose-heavy," Bolger recalls. It was a boat that Bolger sailed until he followed his brother into the Army. Phil Bolger is of that generation that had its adolescence during World War II, and it is the generation that produced the Hell's Angels and now-forgotten bouts of "chicken" on the highways as games of courage to counter elder brethren who had experienced The War. Bolger went to Bowdoin to study History, but he was soon seduced by soldiering. "I called up a friend to see what he was going to do," Bolger remembers of that first summer after a year of college. "He said he was going into the Army, and I made a snap decision to go with ... . We were determined to be good soldiers -infantry soldiers - to do it right." Bolger and his friend were warned by the sergeant in charge of the exams that if they didn't score well they would end up up the infantry, so they "tried to figure out the wrong answers."

Part II

They didn't succeed. Bolger went to the combat engineers and his friend went to field artillery. Bolger was in the 1st Cay, in the Army of Occupation in Japan for a year, and he was, in his own judgment, "extraordinarily incompetent," although a crack shot on the rifle range.

"When I got out I went back to college on the G.I. Bill and wasted three more years studying History," he says. He graduated cum laude from Bowdoin, and he took with him not only laurels but a distaste for what he indicts as "an academic establishment that is wrecking American civilization." Bolger describes himself as "a card-carrying Libertarian," and he feels that students who learn on their own, and get good at something, should have the same access to professions as students who have gone through the motions of acquiring an academic ticket. Bolger soon sought a ticket in yacht design, a thing that, true to his principles, seems to be granted on performance rather than school credentials. When Bolger was back at Bowdoin, Lindsay Lord published The Naval Architecture Planing Hulls, and Bolger wrote him a letter that questioned some detail in the book. When he graduated, he was invited up to Falmouth Foreside, Maine, to work as a draftsman. Lindsay Lord was designing "very striking -spectacular - houses then," Bolger remembers. But it was a good apprenticeship in boat design. "Doc is certainly a very brilliant man," says Bolger of this versatile designer whose powerboats were very adventurous in the 1940s and 1950s. "No praise is too great for his generosity to me."

Bolger worked for Lindsay Lord for less than a year before Lord recommended him to John Hacker in Detroit, a fast-boat wizard who was busy with contracts for the U.S. Air Force. "It was, for me, a gathering of confidence," Bolger says of his months with Lindsay Lord, "and that was one of Doc's talents." With Hacker, Bolger needed all the confidence he could get. The company that had contracted the rescue boat for the Air Force -the Huron-Eddy Corp. -was what Bolger describes as "a menagerie of boat designers." The boat was the largest hull that Hacker had ever designed, a 90-footer, and it had three Packard engines with vee drives and with the props under the engines. Hacker had designed raceboats like this, and the project should have been a piece of cake, but the old man seemed to be much too responsible to the Air Force. "Jim Eddy, who was in charge of the weights, would come in and tear his hair over the extra structure that Hacker kept putting into it," Bolger remembers.

Bolger remembers a lot more illustrative things from his months with Lindsay Lord and John Hacker, and from part-time work for Francis Herreshoff as a draftsman when he came back to Gloucester from Detroit in 1952, but the most significant things he took from these short apprenticeships may have been attitudes rather than lessons in structure or mathematics. Lord, Hacker and Herreshoff have all been described as geniuses, and all three were independent men with inventive turns of mind, eccentricities, and an indefinable ability to work through a complex of requirements and possibilities to lines on paper that represented more than a sequence of problems solved.

It would have been a stroke of luck for any student of yacht design to have worked with one of these men; that Bolger worked with all three is extraordinary. And it seems to have been luck -"I went after them," he says, "but it was luck that they held still for it." Yet Bolger claims his brother, Bill, and boatbuilder Nicholas Montgomery as his real mentors. "My brother brought me up to boat design, and taught me to be critical," he says. Nicholas Montgomery, whose boatyard in Gloucester is now run by his son and grandson, with Phil Bolger as in-house designer, was "a thinker and an experimenter," Bolger says. Montgomery was an old school designer/boatbuilder who worked with carved models, and Phil Bolger haunted his yard as a boy. "I used to sit at his feet, and he would lecture me on boat design," the designer says, smiling through his beard at the memory.

Bolger sent a design for a clean-lined 32' sportfisherman to Yachting in the fall of 1951, and it was published in the January, 1952, issue. This first published design elicited "a satisfying amount of correspondence - probably three letters," and it caused Bolger to set up on his own in the house in Gloucester with stock designs for "mostly powerboats, with a few rowboats." None of these early designs showed obvious influence from Lord, Hacker or Herreshoff. The powerboats were lean and angular; the rowing boats -among them the original of the Gloucester Gull rowing dory - were plywood versions of dories and dory skiffs. They were original conceptions, and they were typically simplified in line and structure.

In the middle to late `fifties, Bolger worked up some production boats, two of which began to make his reputation and one of which tore it down. Bolger freely admits mistakes and disappointments in the boats he designs, and he does it in print. Mistakes are nature's way of telling you you're still learning. He designed the first Striker sportfisherman, and he learned some things about steel construction from the builder. The first Striker was a 24-footer, and Bolger, like Hacker with the Air Force boat, designed a complicated frame structure to be covered with 14-gauge steel. The Nassau-Suffolk Welding Company, which built the boat, used heavier plating for a monococque structure and dispensed with the framing scheme except to use it as a jig. The hull oilcanned in only a few places during its shakedown run, and "the builder much improved the job," says Bolger. Those first Strikers, with rakish, patrol-boat lines and clean planes of steel and later aluminum, were very beautiful boats. "They didn't sell very well because they didn't run very well," says the designer, "but they looked wonderful."

Bolger had been designing sea-skiff types in the `fifties, too, and in 1956-57 he designed a carvel-planked 31-footer for Egg Harbor that was a thorough success. "My boast is that it was about two years before any of them came on the used-boat market, and then they sold for more than they had originally." After this, he says, "pride ran before a fall." His friend Terry Kilborne came to him with a scheme "to build boats in Japan where boats can be built cheap." The result was the Out O'Gloucester 30, a "very radical design." It produced what Bolger describes as "the worst day I ever had." When launched, the first of these cruising/fishing powerboats "was 5 inches down in the stern, wouldn't steer, reached for the moon in trim." Fortunately, Yachting came out that month with an article by Ed Monk on shingles to correct trim problems in powerboats; we did exactly what Monk recommended, and it worked."

Bolger designed powerboats for Striker until the mid-1960s, and at the same time he produced a series of power "dories" and "sampans" for Captain Jim Orrell's Texas Dory Boat Plans. These were dead- simple flatiron/sharpie types in lengths from 15' to 45' for cheap and simple home construction in plywood, and they were exceptionally well-behaved boats despite their shoebox shapes. They were built all over the world - a slick 15-footer as a family boatbuilding project by the keeper of the Eddystone Light in St. Helens, Tasmania 110 boats from 18' to 30' built by native fishermen on Wallis Island in New Caledonia; hundreds more built by handy and penny-pinching customers in the U.S. A man in Rhode Island wrote Captain Orrell about his Bolger-designed 17' "Sampan Express:" "In rough water, it is unbeatable, and consistently puts the stock boats to shame in both speed and handling. In three-to-five-foot chop, while others are hanging on and hoping, we continue on at ¼ throttle. Surfing down the big ones is quite a thrill, and with the tremendous bow buoyancy no need to worry about digging in.

Bolger's interest in simple boats made from developable materials such as wide planks of pine or sheets of steel, aluminum or plywood goes back to that Masonite boat with the kite sail, although it has been influenced by such academic and/or purposeful exercises as Howard Chapelle's researches into sharpies and the worldwide success of the Texas Dories. Bolger feels that he has had more experience with sharpie types than anybody alive, experience that has included crewing a Star boat for years; owning sailing sharpies. dories and flatiron skiffs for decades; and designing hundreds of plane- sectioned hulls that gave good service. "It's a thing I can do - so I do it," he says, which expresses not half his belief in sharp-form, shallow-draft boats that go together simply and go against the ancient orthodoxy of round sections as the only able form for boats with seakeeping ability or even comfort in a bay chop.

Part III

Sharp-form boats nave their own orthodoxy in New England dories in Chesapeake skipjacks, and in skiffs, garveys and flatirons built for a hundred years from Maine to Florida, where Commodore Ralph Munroe, pal of Nat Herreshoff, was a partisan of the type. Howard I. Chapelle's Smithsonian Bulletin 228 describes them nicely (Chapelle was another partisan) and notes that: "The sharpie's rapid spread in use can be accounted for in its low cost, light draft, speed, handiness under sail, graceful appearance, and rather astonishing seaworthiness ... There is a case on record in which a tonging sharpie rescued the crew of a coasting schooner at Branford, Connecticut, during a severe gale, after other boats had proven unable to approach the wreck."

Bolger is a 1980s-and-beyond sharpie partisan, principally because these boats are able to be everyman's yacht, stuck together in the backyard from plywood available in the local lumberyard, and also because their performance can be exciting and their behavior forgiving with proper design. His sharp-form boats have ranged from the elegant Burgundy and Black Skimmer (shown in these pages) to the Thomaston Galley and the controversial June Bug (also shown here). June Bug recently raised the hackles of a from-the-first-issue subscriber to The Small Boat Journal, who complained of "Phil Bolger's box" and felt that the magazine had "lost sight of the definition of a boat." June Bug is definitely a box with a pointy end - "an order of magnitude away," as Bolger might say, from an Edwardian yacht tender of similar volume. But she's a lightweight, stable and useful vehicle as designed, and Bolger anticipated the man's arguments in 30-Odd Boats, his new book, by commenting on his sharpie purism: "The purist approach results in a very good boat that looks cheap and nondescript. So why not add just a little flare of side and a corresponding rake of stem? Then the sheer could come out of a straight-edged sheet and save at least one long saw cut and possibly a sheet of plywood, i.e., she'd be cheaper as well as `look more like a boat.' There's an attractive argument that a good boat will look good, and if it doesn't, the designer hasn't made the best of his requirement, or the requirement is too demanding to be prudent. May be. But it also makes me uneasy to deliberately design in something that I'm sure is wrong for the service, and in this case I decided not to do it."

June Bug is a pointed box, but she's a more subtle creation than the amateur flatirons that many of us remember from our first days on the water. She rows nicely, sails tolerably well with her spritsail and leeboard, weighs less than 100 pounds and carries 1000 in calm conditions, and her decked ends enable her to be launched like jetsam from a high-sided vessel without taking on water. She's practical, but she's as ugly as an inflatable by yacht-tender standards. Bolger admits as much, even though he carries an experimental June Bug with a pair of dipping lugsails on the deck of his Resolution. The letter to Small Boat Journal "really stung," he says, "because it's true." Nevertheless, he believes in both the usefulness of his boxes and their technical credibility. "I started designing boats of a type I was familiar with," he says. "I started designing imitations of things like Amesbury skiffs that were expensive to produce one-off - because they had been designed originally for production. Now I'm getting a better handle on prefabricated shapes - so that I eventually hope to be able to do some very complex shapes... If you can visualize the geometry well enough you can do it, and I think I'll get it if I persist. I don't intend to abandon the boxes."

Harold Payson builds and sells plans for 14 of Bolger's plywood "Instant Boats," some of them the inspired boxes, and all of them able to be built without lofting or jigs in 40 unskilled hours or less. Dynamite Nyson's covering letter for these small-boat plans reads like the Charles Atlas ads, and the plain but efficient little boats that result are as satisfying as adding 3" to the girth of your biceps after a month of Dynamic Tension. Amy Payson keeps albums of photos and letters from pleased home-builders, and Harold says of the boats that "a lot of them look real damned good - they look just like they're supposed to." Harold Nyson is a man Phil Bolger describes as "one of those people who don't overwhelm you with brilliance on first acquaintance, but you gradually notice that, whenever you get an opinion out of him, he always turn out to be right. I know two or three other people like that, and I sometimes wonder if civilization doesn't depend on them."

Payson has been building boats for 40 years, ever since his father took an ax to the first one to keep him from being drowned, and he was a commercial lobsterman in South Thomaston, Maine, until 1976. He built traditional bent-oak-and-cedar lobstering skiffs until 1967, the year he built the first of many light dories of Bolger's design. Payson and Bolger have become a perfect, if improbable, team. Bolger is, says Dynamite, "an intense sort of person - I can feel that intensity when he comes up here." Dynamite, despite the nickname, is not an intense sort of person. He is, despite constant interruptions by visitors to his shop, an intense craftsman who produces perfect versions of Bolger's odd but simple ideas for small boats, and he's the test pilot for their rowing and sailing qualities. He's not an automatic believer. "I don't think this thing is going to work at all," he said of an ultra-simplified, multi-chined plywood pram that was the latest Bolger project in midsummer. In mid-August, after he'd named it Nymph, tried it out, and decided to call it "the little sticktogether boat," he was high in praise of it. "That Bolger is amazing," he said, turning over the shapely little boat he'd painted ivory white, "see here where the frames fit - there are waterways cut in just where thechines have to have tapes of fiberglass all along - you can get them right in there."

Bolger's inventive small boats have a believer in Harold Payson. His larger projects have had a believer for 20 years in Stanley Woodward, an independently wealthy man, and a connoisseur of small yachts, who hire Bolger as the in-house designer for Majorca Yacht and Boat Construction Association (MYABCA), the yard he established in Spain's Balearic Islands. Bolger describes Stanley Woodward as an artist as well as yachtsman who has the skills to carry clouds of sail on his Bolger-designed boats with the aplomb of a Bully Waterman. Stanley Woodward designed the fanciful sculpture incorporated, la Ticonderoga, into the L. Francis Herreshoff Bounty ketches he built in Majorca, and into several Bolgerdesigned boats built in the Med. Perhaps the most spectacular is Moccasin, shown here on pages 72-75.

Moccasin started out with a request from Woodward for a Francis Herreshoff Nereia ketch with slightly higher freeboard. By the time Bolger finished thinking the project out, a whole new boat had appeared on paper —emdash;a lovely long-keeled hull with shallow draft, big centerboard, a New Haven sharpie's horizontal rudder, and an unstayed cat-yawl rig with a log-canoe topsail and what Bolger describes as "a masthead reaching jib-cum-spinnaker as well." Moccasin can set more than 1200 square feet of sail in light air; and she's a fine example of Bolger's eclectic style in rig and his favor for the powerful, low- aspect sailplans which working vessels carried, sometimes as singlehanders, in the past. As Bolger wrote in 30-Odd Boats in discussing an owner's doubts about a traditionally rigged 20' Tancook whaler type: "I reassured him about the rig, pointing out that the gaff rig was driven out of racing because the Universal and International Rules both penalized large sail area indiscriminately, taking no account of the advantages of rigs whose shape allows the boat to carry more sail without being knocked down. So it came to be taken for granted that a small sail set high was `more efficient' than a large sail set low. The logic of this, if any, eludes me. I once saw a champion 5.5-meter beaten hull-down by a 50-year-old Massachusetts Bay 18-footer (18-foot waterline, that is). They were both the same length and weight as near as made no odds. The old boat had half again the sail area, but her three-man crew worked less strenuously, with much simpler and cheaper gear, than the same number in the `modem' boat. If a big rig is cheaper and easier to handle than a small rig, and heels the boat less, I'd be glad to hear somebody try to justify giving the small rig a rating advantage."

Simple, unstayed, low-aspect rigs have been characteristic of Bolger's work over several decades, as well as boats whose hull forms have been designed to be shaped from flat-plane materials. The sharpies and flatties, from the simple boxes to such rakish conceptions as his Black Skimmer, cause Bolger some technical doubts in particular but not in general Sharpie experience, from Commodore Munroe through Howard Chapell to the owners of Bolger-designed boats that perform and behave well endorses his faith in the type. "Obviously something with hard corner will have some problems with eddies," he says. "The flat ends, with the jagged angles, make turbulence, so such a boat has to be relatively long... But there's nothing wrong with a square midsection, per se." In a further discussion of hull shape, Bolger says that "a bad type which is long will beat a good type that is short." The Cape Cod catboat, he says is one of the great conceptions because its midsection is so good that it car be very short and still sail well. The British deep cutter, he says, "is generally a bad type because it has too much displacement for its stability - and, as built, for its buoyancy - and therefore has to be long tc perform well." Almost any boat should be flat in the middle, not at either of its ends, he says.

Bolger has designed an amazing range of boats that stretch from the 6'5" x 3'2" Tortoise, an ingenious rowing/sailing box, to the 114'l0' replica of the 18th-century warship Rose, which was built to decorate the Newport, R.I., waterfront. In between have been well-behaved Whitehall boats, Friendship sloops, several ocean-crossing rowing vessels, lobsterboats, a pair of kayaks, deep-draft cruising powerboats, a bone-simple wing dory, the famous Folding Schooner (discussed in NQl4), and fast owerboats that the Italians should be building.

"I love to simplify things," Bolger says of his work. `And I think this is a minority outlook. I think the majority impulse is to make things more complicated." Even this statement is more complicated, the spokesman notwithstanding. Bolger admires the work of a great many other designers - "there are lots," he says. He admires William Garden's designs, "although I disagree with him on a great many technical points." he has an inch-thick sheaf of correspondence with Howard Chapelle in his files. He says he admires Olin Stephens "intensely - basically because he Lever does anything freakish unless he has to - he's always working back something recognizable as a boat." Among successful boats, he identifies Bruce Kirby's Laser as "a beautiful example of not trying to revolutionize anything, but just to get it right. It's finished; it's definitive." Bolger feels that Rod Macalpine-Downie's C-Class catamarans also fit his conception of definitive. He identifies Ray Hunt's International 110 as "a very pure conception, but not perhaps defimtive...well, close to definitive." He calls Francis Herreshoff's Bounty "the most beautiful yacht ever designed or built - a flamboyant thing with a riot of sweeping, visting, converging curves, all set off with intricate detail and ornament, [1 blending into a perfectly traditional effect overall." He judges the Gokstad ship "perhaps the most advanced wooden structure ever created by man."

Bolger has an intense personal and professional involvement with definitive. It is a thing he's been thinking about all his life, but with an independent point of view he once wrote about in these pages in discussing Francis Herreshoff: "L.FH. thought himself a lesser man than his father. . . He had no hesitation in imitating his father's designs (but never those of Burgess). More often, though, there is hardly a trace of his father's influence; the designs reflect an entirely different line of thought. It's surely remarkable that after 27 years of exposure to such a man as Nathanael Herreshoff, Francis Herreshoff remained so tranquil in mind that he strained neither to be like his father nor to be different."

Phil Bolger is like that. His work -influenced by mentors like Lord, Hacker, Herreshoff, Nick Montgomery and Bill Bolger, and inspired perhaps by the likes of Garden, Hunt and Stephens - is very much his own. It is nearly 450 different boats thusfar, nearly all different from the work of others, and nearly all different from one another. Bolger once designed a radical plywood daysailer for a sail-training scheme - a 21' x 5'6" progenitor of the Folding Schooner with sponsons along the topsides for reserve buoyancy, three spritsails with spars light enough for boys to unship, leeboards, plenty of room to sprawl around, and plywood carpentry straightforward enough for high-school woodworking shops. The sponsor of the project took the drawings to a number of people, including what Bolger describes in Small Boats as "a very distinguished yacht designer." "They one and all told him that the design was a disastrously bad one, would be slow and clumsy, and would quickly break up. They also told him that Bolger was notoriously irresponsible; wild ideas like this, they told him, were what you got if you didn't hold his nose tightly down on some safe and sane standard." The design was eventually built by another client, and Bolger reports that "she proved a lively sailer, though wet." She had no structural problems. As he wrote of the project in Small Boats: "What they say about me has this much truth: I do love unusual and extreme boats, and I was tickled at the thought of the outrage the design would cause and how it would be silenced when she was tried."