Design by Philip C Bolger Commentary by Mike OBrien

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Maine outboard-powered lobsterboats enjoy a reputation for efficient speed, good load-carrying ability, and handsome appearance. Philip C. Bolger began drawing an evolving family of these skiffs in the 1950s. His latest thoughts appear in the 21-foot 4-inch Sometime or Never.

This launch represents a stretched version of the designer's 16-foot Shivaree. The 16-footer has plenty of beam (7 feet), so Bolger simply increased the distance between mold stations from 2 feet to 2 feet 8 inches. He changed the stem's fore-and-aft offsets proportionally so the bow profile shows more rake. Heights and breadths were left untouched. These alterations increased the hull's displacement at the marked waterline from 1,750 pounds to 2,300 pounds. (If Bolger had scaled up all dimensions, rather than only the length, the resulting 21-foot 4-inch by 9-foot 4-inch boat would have pushed aside about 4,100 pounds of water.)

As almost any skiff builder knows, "stretching" boats is common practice. And creating a new design by sliding molds back and forth on a strongback sometimes works as well as sitting down at the drawing table. Bolger points out that stock-boat manufacturers of the 1930s often used the same molds for hulls built to different lengths. Matthews, for example, built standard 38-, 46-, and 50-foot power cruisers all based on the same molds. On a larger scale, ships are routinely chopped in half athwartships and lengthened by the insertion of new midbodies. We're told that this surgery often results in greater speed with the same power.

In addition to their virtues, some lobster skiffs share a common fault: they can be wet. Twenty years ago, I worked an 18-foot fiberglass cousin of this boat (not a Bolger design) on the Chesapeake. Driving into a steep chop resulted in a high-pressure shower. Warm

Bay water — and my youth — made this behavior tolerable, but I worried about my fellow skiff owners to the north and east. Many of them coped, I learned later, by adding wooden spray rails low down on the fiberglass hulls.

Unless driven too fast while loaded too heavily, the skiffs shown here shouldn't need spray rails. Some time ago, while drawing a revised version of his Seguin (a 15-foot 6-inch by 7-foot design created in 1956), Bolger fined up the forefoot and recovered the lost volume by swelling the topsides higher and farther aft. The altered boat proved easier to plank than its predecessor, and it behaved better in rough water.

Traces of the new Seguin's hollow-cheeked appearance can be seen in most of the designer's recent lobster-skiff derivatives. Bolger describes the shape as having "a nice blend of sharpness and buoyancy [so] that the boat is perfectly dry at all speeds, even in a chop with three people sitting forward." It would seem that the configuration reduces and redirects spray. The bow wave rolls down and out, rather than climbing the sides. When running off in a sea, the hull picks up displacement and stability early on, which helps prevent broaching.

Bolger assigns some numbers to Shivaree's performance: "With two men, she made 29.8 statute miles per hour powered by an old Johnson 50-horsepower outboard. She planed level with her bottom and took sharp turns smoothly. With the same load, she made 15 miles per hour powered by the 25-horsepower Evinrude that's on her now You're welcome to infer that she would make close to 60 miles per hour with 100 horsepower, and I bet she would do close to 12 miles per hour with 15 horsepower. I like the way she can run slowly with the light 25 without dragging half the bay behind her — as opposed to how she behaves

A Stretched Lobster Skiff with the heavy 50."

The designer predicts that the new 21-foot 4-inch hull will run faster than his 16-foot Shivaree when pushed by the same 25-horsepower motor. If each boat has 50 horsepower strapped to its transom, he expects that they will be about even in speed — with the shorter gaining a slight advantage in smooth water. (Much of the shorter boat will be in the air, and its shape will be of less consequence, but the weight and surface friction of the longer boat still must be factored into the equation.) In rough water, the longer boat will win "by slicing through the crests more smoothly."

If a boat will be kept in the water, Bolger usually recommends carvel planking on bent frames for this type of hull ("set work," some would call it). He suggests that lapstrake, strip, or cold-molded construction might be more appropriate if the boat is to live on a trailer. In any case, the scantlings detailed on the 21-footer's plans are noted as being "suggestive only." The alternate construction sections shown here are taken from the drawings for the 16-foot Shivaree. British builder Paul Billings cold-molded the prototype Sometime or Never to a yacht finish.

The characteristics that make these boats well suited for their ancestral job of inshore lobstering allow them to perform all manner of waterfront tasks for pleasure or profit, and, as we have seen, they are amenable to being scaled up or down in size. In a letter, Phil Bolger expressed some ideas for the future of the type: "I've played with the idea of a further stretch, to 25 feet 6 inches, which would create an improved Tartar [an older design of similar intent]. I blew a great chance with that boat by giving her keel too much rocker. For that matter, stretching this hull to 30-odd feet would make a fine slicer. How about if we go to 70 feet — like a 1900s commuter?"

Designer Philip C. Bolger can be reached at 29 Ferry St., Gloucester, MA 01930.

Particulars, Shivaree

LOA 16' Beam 7'0" Displ 1,750 lbs Power 30-hp outboard

Bolger started with his 16-foot Shivaree. He increased the distance between station molds from 2 feet to

2 feet 8 inches and put more rake into the stem. The result: the 21-foot 4-inch Sometime or Never. The drawings below describe alternate construction methods for Shivaree.

Particulars, Shivaree

LOA 16' Beam 7'0" Displ 1,750 lbs Power 30-hp outboard

Bolger started with his 16-foot Shivaree. He increased the distance between station molds from 2 feet to

2 feet 8 inches and put more rake into the stem. The result: the 21-foot 4-inch Sometime or Never. The drawings below describe alternate construction methods for Shivaree.

Bolger Boat Plans

Particulars, Sometime or Never

LOA 21'4"

Beam 7'0"

Weight (empty) 1,100 lbs

Nominal displ 2,300 lbs

The stretched lobster-skiff Power 40-hp outboard hull combines a striking

Philip Sinn Boat DesignPhilip Sinn Boat Design

Compared to older Bolger lobster skiffs, Sometime or Never shows a finer forefoot. The designer recovered the lost volume by szoelling the topsides higher and farther aft. The drawings indicate carvel planking, but plywood-lapstrake, strip, or cold-molded construction will be better if the boat must live on a trailer.

Carolina Boat PlansPhil Bolger Shivaree Plans

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