Design by Philip C Bolger Commentary by Joel White

Lobsterboats are so universal to the New England waterfront scene that not much thought is given to their origin or design. The coming of fiberglass to the lobster fleet has standardized the boats to the extent that a dozen or so hull builders, offering a range of models from 25 feet to 45 feet, produce virtually 95 percent of all the new boats hauling traps along the intricate New England coastline.

Don't underestimate the extent of the lobster fleet. In Maine alone, the annual catch of these succulent crustaceans averages about 20 million pounds [1987]. This translates to a lot of boats when you realize that the average daily catch of the fishermen is only 100 to 200 pounds.

Occasionally a design for a lobsterboat built of that old-time material, wood, crops up. There are still a few lobster fishermen who, for one reason or another, prefer a wooden boat. This little 28-footer designed by Phil Bolger of Gloucester, Massachusetts, and built by Dave Montgomery of Montgomery Boat Yard, Gloucester, for a local fisherman, shows a small inshore boat designed to work the fishing grounds close to her home port. For this reason, she does not need great speed and is designed to cruise at about 8 knots with her 6-cylinder Ford truck gasoline engine. Her beam is 10 feet, consistent with the trend in the fishing fleet to go toward beamy boats with length/beam ratios of around 3.

Gone are the days of the long, narrow Jonesporter type, which used to drive so easily and gracefully through the water. The modern lobster-catcher handles five times as many traps as did his grandfather, and needs much more carrying capacity and working space in his boat. Beam is the answer.

The lines of this boat show a nice, hollow waterline forward, with a 13-degree entry half-angle. This should make her dry and allow her to be driven against a chop without the feeling of butting into a wall. Her buttock lines in the run aft are somewhat curved, rising to a transom that just touches the water. This hull form is more easily driven than one with a straight run and immersed transom, but limits her speed to about 11 knots (wide open). If more speed had been needed, a straighter run would have been used, as well as a much larger engine.

The hull is a skeg model, meaning the rabbet line is lowest at about Station 4, and rises toward the stern in a fair curve; the sections have no reverse curve in the garboard area. Most of the backbone — the so-called skeg — is external to the hull. Skeg boats are a little easier to build than "built-down" boats, and probably drive a little more easily. Her displacement is given at 7,400 pounds.

The sections of this 28-footer show high bilges, with the bilge curve above the waterline, a plumb transom, and good flare in the forwardmost station. The sheer-line is quite high forward; Bolger says this is to allow easier planking of the flared bow area. I like the strong sheer on this little boat, both for looks and reserve buoyancy as well as for spray suppression. She draws 2 feet 9 inches and has a good amount of drag to her keel. This will help prevent broaching when running off before the seas, and also allows for a big propeller aperture with adequate tip clearance.

The rudder on this boat looks small to my Maine eyes, and has no balance. Lobstering demands great agility and good handling; a short turning radius is greatly prized in lobsterboats. A slightly larger rudder with a couple of inches of balance forward of the rudder stock would aid this.

While we're on the subject of propellers, notice the drawing for an alternate propeller location. Mr. Bolger

A Traditional Lobsterboat says, "I'd like to see this scheme published and discussed, although it was not seriously considered for this boat. I've designed eight or ten auxiliaries with off-center props in a recess on one side of the dead-wood, as shown. The object in each case has been to avoid having a hole in front of the rudder in a very shoal-draft sailing boat, and the props have all been two-blade folding types. None of them has any asymmetry effect under power, and all turn equally well either way, including backing up — in fact, they seem to me to handle at least as well as any centerline installation. It seems to me that this arrangement would be at least as effective as a cage in keeping pot warp out of the prop, with a hell of a lot less drag, and possibly improved steering as well, for the same reason that it improves the steering of the sailing boats."

It is an interesting idea, although I don't think it would take the place of a cage on a working lobster-boat. You have to be protected not only from fouling your own pot warp while hauling, but also the warps of your competitors all around you. The elimination of an aperture hole forward of the rudder is certainly a plus. A propeller working in clear water will always be more efficient than one in an aperture. In a sailboat, the cross-flow of water from leeward to windward through the aperture is detrimental to performance by forming eddies and turbulent water flow in the area behind the aperture. The propeller is nearly as well protected from grounding as with an aperture, but would be a little more susceptible to fouling pot warps and seaweed.

Her construction is straightforward and pretty standard for a small lobsterboat, with the exception of a couple of unusual features. One of these is the sternpost, which pierces the horn timber and rises into the hull, up to the level of the cockpit floor. While this is common in larger boats, it is not so common in small lobsterboats, where the horn timber is usually continuous and the sternpost is an external, bolted-on piece that can be removed. Bolger has a pair of hefty cheekpieces on either side of the horn timber to tie the stern securely to the rest of the backbone.

The other somewhat unusual feature is the long, massive engine bed resting on heavy floor timbers. This spreads the weight and thrust of the engine over a large part of the boat's bottom and will ensure that she isn't wracked by engine strains. I like this. I also like the way the protrusion of the skeg aft of the sternpost, which takes the rudder keel bearing, is a separate piece of wood allowing for easy replacement in case of damage in a bad grounding. Often this piece is a part of the main keel and is difficult to fix if broken.

I do think the skeg extension might have been a bit heavier in section, as the continuous turning and twisting involved in hauling lobster traps puts a lot of stress on this area.

Note that heavy floor timbers are shown in every other frame bay, and up forward (at least) they are not alongside the frames, but spaced away from them. This is preferable to the more commonly seen arrangement, where the floor timbers lie against the frames with the two members bolted together. My boatyard experience is that in older boats, the frames tend to break at these bolts because their section area is weakened by the bolt holes. Having the floor timbers separate from the frames, with the planking well fastened to them, makes a lot of sense.

Other than the above, the construction of this boat is normal. It is planked with %-inch cedar or pine, the frames are steambent oak, 1V* inches by 1 A inches, and the backbone is oak sided 4/2 inches. The deck and trunk top are -Vi-inch plywood, while the cockpit floor is 1 '/t-inch cedar or pine.

The outboard profile and deck plan show the usual arrangement of a working lobsterboat. Traps are hauled from the starboard side amidships via an hydraulic pot-hauler mounted on the main bulkhead, the pot warp leading over a davit block hanging outboard of the rail. When the trap comes up, it is landed on the starboard rail, where it is opened and lobsters (if any) are removed; then the trap is re-baited and set again. The large cockpit area is needed for all the paraphernalia that goes with the trade — barrels of bait, bait pockets, and (as most boats now have) a lobster holding tank with circulating water to keep the catch in prime condition in the hot summer months. The profile shows the riding sail that some lobstermen like because it helps hold the bow of the boat into the wind and chop while hauling — although a photograph I have seen of the boat does not indicate that such a sail was rigged.

Don't write to Mr. Bolger saying that this little boat is just what you are looking for and that with the addition of two berths, an enclosed toilet, and a nice galley it would be the boat of your dreams! It simply won't work. Even by moving the bulkhead and engine aft, the space forward is limited and the headroom is less than 4 feet. Lobsterboats are designed to do one thing — get a man out to his traps, haul them, and get back. They are not small cruisers, much as people would like them to be.

More information from Philip C. Bolger, 29 Ferry St., Gloucester, MA 01930.

Joel White Boat Designs
How To Have A Perfect Boating Experience

How To Have A Perfect Boating Experience

Lets start by identifying what exactly certain boats are. Sometimes the terminology can get lost on beginners, so well look at some of the most common boats and what theyre called. These boats are exactly what the name implies. They are meant to be used for fishing. Most fishing boats are powered by outboard motors, and many also have a trolling motor mounted on the bow. Bass boats can be made of aluminium or fibreglass.

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