Eeek! Tale of a Sailing Canoe.
- Since my early boatbuilding days, I was - and still am - fascinated
by the unique designs and boating philosophy of Phil Bolger.
Obviously, many of you know how I feel! Here's just a quick tale of
one of his, apparently, less popular designs (In fact - except for
the original - I've never heard of another one). BTW, I posted the
only pic I have of her in the photo section.
My Eeek! saga began in the early 1990's, as I was doing volunteer
work as a biologist in the Kenai Peninsula of S. Central Alaska.
Alaska is truly a wonderland of breathtaking outdoor grandeur, and
everyone should visit. The summers are amazing, and of course, there
are only a few hours (or none at all, depending on your location) of
darkness each night. But the winters are just the opposite, and, as
you're whiling away the seemingly interminable hours of darkness,
it's easy for the mind to wander. In my case, it wandered a LOT, and
most often to the warm, sunny South and the joys of building and
sailing my own boat.
By the time I got off the plane back in warm, sunny, Texas I had
spent several dark months memorizing boatbuilding books and I was
very ready to get busy. A week later, all settled in, I was working
straight from the tiny plans published in Philip C. Bolger's 1982
book "Thirty Odd Boats," - I was building an Eeek!.
Eeek! is an 11'9" slab sided, plywood sailing canoe with a very
unique shape. Mr. Bolger says he designed it as the antithesis of
the dainty sailing canoe designs already available - specifically
the Piccolo (eeek being the noise a non-piccolo might make....).
Bolger's canoe is Swede formed, with most of the volume aft of the
centerline. The ends are very fine, and the flat bottom is very odd
in that the stern is the deepest point, AND that the rocker only
curves up towards the bow. Hard to describe and strange to see.
Well, I built one in my living room and on the back porch. It took
only a couple of weeks, from start to finish. I used 1/4" exterior
AC plywood, a sabre saw, nails and drywall screws. I covered the
chines and joints with polyester resin coated fiberglass. I made
the sail from polytarp, the rudder hardware from screw eyes, and
melted some old bullets to weight down the leeboard.
Then I took it to the lake! The Eeek! is also odd in that it is
sailed while lying down on your back! And it needs ballast. I think
75+ lbs of lead was recommended. I just bought a bag of playground
sand at the hardware store, and stuck it in a trash bag instead. It
made a good backrest, but wasn't much fun lugging to and from the
Performance: Eeek! really does need ballast. It's extremely tender,
and you sail it lying down because you also need your weight that
low. You steer with a push-pull tiller over your shoulder and only
your head sticks up out of the boat. The cockpit opening is much
larger than a kayak's, but you are all the way down inside the hull
and I am very, very happy that I never capsized her. Getting out
might have been problematic, and getting back in nigh on impossible
(now, however, I know about paddle floats). She did sail, though,
and I took her on many a trip across the lake. She wasn't too fast,
but she would go upwind, tack and jibe with no problems.
As a solo paddling canoe, she came into her own, though! I did have
some epic sails in her, but my fondest memories are of poking around
in the flooded woodland waterways below our local dam. She fit
through the tightest spaces between the trees and the best part was
surprising an otter. You can do that in any solo canoe, but Eeek!
can also be sailed, is quick and easy to build and cost (me) less
than $100. She worked just as Mr. Bolger envisioned. I would not
recommend her for open water, or even a significant chop, but for
general messing about, the Eeek! is lots of fun!.
She was exactly what I needed at the time, but, sadly, my Eeek!,
built in 1993, got her own significant chop about 4 years later. At
the time I had little patience for anything that wasn't a high-
performance racing dinghy, so the bit of rot (from leaving it out in
the weather for all those years), and the distracted life of a grad
student added up to a final trip to the dumpster - May she rest in