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42348Re: [bolger] Light Dory MK V?

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  • Bruce Hallman
    Mar 1, 2005
      Will Samson wrote:
      > As far as I know the current Light Dory (plans available from Bolger OR Payson) > is the 'type VI' - so it post-dates the type V in Small Boats.

      Here is the text from the 1980 Small Boat Journal
      where Phil Bolger explains the lineage of his dory designs:


      Phil Bolger Comments: From Small Boat Journal V.1#7 March 1980

      A 15'6" Light Dory

      My leeboard sharpie, Pointer, was launched in the summer of 1960. She
      had no place on deck for a dinghy, and I set out to design and build a
      good rowing tender. I wanted one that would live in rough water and
      row well enough so I could feel free to anchor far out from landings.
      Besides, I'd been one of those "pretty thin on the ground at the time"
      who had a mission to see that a generation didn't grow up in total
      ignorance of what could be accomplished with reasonable practical
      rowing boats. I pulled out a design I'd made back in 1952 called
      Golden River, a planked dory that had rounded sides and was a good
      deal slimmer and lower than the usual fisherman's dory. (Fig.1) These
      were nice boats to row, but the construction was so finicky and
      laborious that only a few were built. I revamped it for sheet plywood
      construction and in a moment of inspiration very much improved the
      looks of the sheer line. (Fig. 2) This drawing wasn't supposed to be
      seen by anybody but me, by the way; my brother said something about
      the shoemaker's children going barefoot when he saw one of the
      drawings I'd made for my own use.

      I built her that winter, very roughly, having no pretensions to being
      a competent carpenter. If you stand back fifty feet that boat looks
      real good, said a kind friend. In fact, it did (Fig. 3), and still
      does; Damian McLaughlin owns it now, along with the sharpie, and he's
      refinished it elaborately.

      I gave it a quick trial, hurriedly added a skeg to make it tow
      straight, and took off for a month's cruise around Cape Cod and the
      Islands. The cruise was meant to showoff the sharpie, but wherever I
      went,nobody looked at her. They were all looking past the stern, at
      the dory on the end of her sea painter. There were so many compliments
      that I thought I must have a commercial product, and when I got home I
      redesigned it again for production. I'd like to note that the dory
      shape was originally adapted to series production out of sheet
      material, namely wide planks, and these boats have the sharp flare so
      they can be stored and transported in compact nests. This third
      version had the stem rounded back where I'd had a miserable time
      trying to twist the plywood onto the fore foot. The fore-and-aft
      straddle thwart had made her seem even more tender than she was by
      nature because it prevented stepping dead center of the bottom; I
      changed that for three conventional thwarts. I put the gunwale
      stringer on the outside so water and mud would run cleanly out when
      she was on her side; the proportions of breadth and flare made it
      possible to step on the gunwale as she lay on a beach, bringing the
      far gunwale nearly up to an out stretched hand with which she could be
      pulled up on her beam ends. I corrected the angle of the rowlock
      sockets, though to this day I don't understand why it is that a
      rowlock that cants out with the flare makes a boat seem hard to row.

      With my heart in my mouth I ordered a batch of ten of these boats from
      Art Rand's boat shop, on speculation, and bought some small ads. (Fig.
      4) The ten sold out, and another ten, and another and another, and
      another. The demand was scattered, but it was there. There were more
      compliments, including one I'll treasure forever from Buckminster
      Fuller. Palawan was seen to sail through Buzzards Bay with a brace of
      them nested on deck. Ralph Wiley ordered one for the deck of a cruiser
      he was building.

      The modest success was nice, but I soon had enough of handling sales.
      I tossed the business in Art Rand's lap and went off for a year to
      work in Stanley Woodward's yacht yard in Mallorca. When I got back,
      Art had got himself into a financial bind and gone out of business.
      For vanity's sake, I wanted the design to stay in circulation, so I
      drew the plans again and made a present of that version to Capt. Jim
      Orrell, the Texas Dory man. He called it the Gloucester Gull and
      circulated it nobly; I'd guess he must have sent out thousands of
      plans. But we quarrelled over it: he got angry because I wouldn't draw
      up a sailing rig and a motor well for it, and I lost my temper because
      he went ahead and had somebody else do both over my objections. These
      I thought, should have been respected, especially as my reasons were
      that the modified version was somewhat dangerous as well as

      When I was working up my book, "Small Boats, "I designed (for the
      book)what was supposed to be an improved version, with longer entrance
      lines, drew weight more concentrated to go better against a head sea,
      and the construction supposedly cleaned up a little. (Fig. 5) This
      version really is better, but not by much, and most people don't think
      it's as good looking as the 1961 design, which just keeps on selling.

      The absolute final version, as far as I'm concerned, is Type VI. (Fig.
      6) This one was drawn up to Harold Payson's order. He both builds them
      and sells the plans, which is the way it should be, ideally. I think
      it must have been one of his boats in which the hero of "Swashbuckler"
      pursued the heroine of that rather disappointing movie

      I've spent a good deal of time in the past 10 or 15 years trying to
      warn people that dories aren't the best solution for all nautical
      problems. They need lofting and jigging preparation that make them
      expensive to build one-off, and they're full of sharp bevels that make
      them tricky for novice carpenters. All of them, and this one
      especially, feel terribly tender, and they're hard to get into and out
      of in consequence. They have a wild, bouncy motion in a seaway, which
      keeps them dry but can do horrid things to your stomach. I've watched
      one that was being towed behind a close-hauled sailboat in a strong
      chop and a heavy rain, and her cork-screwing among the waves was
      throwing the rainwater up and out of her bilge 6' in the air. Over in
      England they've solved the stability problems of dories by bestowing
      the name dory on copies of the Boston Whaler. S'truth!

      Be that as it may, these light dories are not bad boats. I've several
      times rowed 15 nautical miles in five hours, and more athletic types
      have done much better than that in them. If a single oarsman has sense
      enough to stay solidly planted on his or her butt, low in the boat,
      these boats will go through a wicked-looking sea. And though it's not
      hard to design a boat that will perform and behave better for most
      purposes -- even in sheet plywood, let alone molded -- it's not at all
      easy to make it as graceful to the eye.

      This design seems likely to be the permanent monument to my erratic
      career as a designer, and if so it will be mostly because one day in
      November of 1961 I happened to bend a batten around a very pretty
      sheerline indeed.
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