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Re: Bolger Commissions. Any progress?

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  • adventures_in_astrophotography
    Hi Don, ... We gave up on our commission, #668 Auriga, this past fall. Here s a rather long account of what we know and what happened. It s an unhappy story
    Message 1 of 56 , Jan 5, 2009
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      Hi Don,

      > Curious to know if those with outstanding commissions ( 1 is 7 years
      > old?) are seeing any progress now that the big gov'mnt project is
      > reported to be complete.

      We gave up on our commission, #668 Auriga, this past fall. Here's a
      rather long account of what we know and what happened. It's an
      unhappy story that I wasn't sure I should relate, but honestly I feel
      better getting to tell it to an audience with an interest.

      The navy job, as far as I've been told by PB&F, ended some time ago.
      There was a technical paper to be published, a copy of which we were
      promised but never received. I'm not sure if it ever went to print.

      Last February, after more than a year of no response to our letters,
      we received a phone call out of the blue from Phil. He said they
      were back on track and would be working on nothing else but our
      commission, that all of our outstanding questions over the previous
      seven years would be answered, and thanked us for our patience and
      understanding. A couple of unspecified health issues were mentioned.
      This was not the first time we had been called out of the blue and
      told they were finally working on our design, but it sounded more
      definitive than the previous commitments.

      Several letters and phone calls were exchanged, and we finally got
      our first real look at her since the original proposal in 2001. We
      received four detail sheets. By this time, Auriga had grown from a
      slender 49' x 10' x 25" to over 50' x 12'-6" x about the same draft.
      Her displacement went to over 30k lbs. The design was considerably
      more complex than the original proposal. For example, the engine
      room had gone from being "outdoors" under a stern launching ramp to
      being fully enclosed and requiring complex custom sheet metal
      ducting. She now had three rudders. The rig got more complicated,
      too, with additional standing rigging and more sail area. There was
      a suggestion that we should install a navigation monitor in the head
      connected wirelessly to the nav monitor at the inside steering

      Prior to getting the detail sheets, I asked if the stern deck could
      accomodate a Jinni skiff in addition to the 12' FastBrick (which I
      completed building two years ago but have yet to launch), Phil said
      yes on the phone and I thought it was settled, but a few days later
      we got a drawing of an all-new design that folded up and had a
      battened cat-schooner rig - the "Perfect Skiff '08" most of you have
      seen in MAIB. What you didn't see is the completely unworkable
      original design that featured three rudders, two centerboards, eight
      spars, and had an offset mainmast that made it impossible to sit on
      the rail on the port tack. All of this to reproduce the capability
      of the simple and elegant Jinni. On top of that, it had been
      determined that the port side of Auriga should now have a large
      recess built in to accomodate the folded-up skiff, and that an
      expensive welded steel davit assembly would launch it.

      The aesthetics of the sheerline and wheel house had long been a
      concern to us, and we had been promised back in 2003 or thereabout
      that Phil would make a stab at a new sheerline, but this never
      happened. Last year, we were promised several simpler, more
      traditional wheelhouse sketches, but never saw them either.

      While waiting for answers to our questions on the detail drawings, I
      did another round of preliminary costing, based on what I could glean
      from the detail sheets. The cost of building her had more than
      doubled since my original estimate in 2003. Some items had nearly
      tripled. Most of this was due to poor exchange rates (Deutz and
      Sillete components) and high commodity prices (epoxy, coatings,
      metals, etc.). We also fielded a couple of calls asking us to resend
      our rather long list of questions, as they had lost our file at one
      point, and some individual letters at another.

      At this point we had a long talk about our goals, requirements,
      capabilities, and resources, and realized several things almost

      1) Like the frog slowly boiled, we had been incrementally agreeing to
      seemingly minor changes that, taken together, made our boat
      enormously more complicated than the simple boat we had in mind back
      in 2001.

      2) The source of this complexity was Susanne, not Phil. In fact,
      there was very little Phil Bolger in this design anymore, it was
      clearly Susanne's work, and it met nearly none of the most important
      original requirements we wrote down back in 2001. There was none of
      the simple functionality that drew us to PB&F in the first place.
      Still, we bore much of the blame for agreeing to many of these

      3) We could not afford to build the boat as it was currently designed.

      4) Even if we could afford it, working alone and part time it would
      take me at least 10 years to complete, putting us both near or over
      60 when we finally got to sail her.

      5) The boat as designed would cost a lot of money to operate and
      maintain once it was in the water.

      6) The size of the boat and rig, and especially the complexity of the
      rig, were more than Nancy could confidently singlehand. The double
      sloop rig has six halyards, four sheets, and requires reefing at
      least two of the four sails at a time (at least it looks that way -
      we never got an answer to that question, either).

      7) PB&F were once again working on other projects and not only our
      commission. We could tell this from the fishing boat articles and
      their comments to us. We had no confidence that they would ever
      complete the design and we were worn out waiting for it.

      8) Given all of the above, especially the cost and complexity issues,
      we would have to scale back our goals to coastal and island cruising
      rather than ocean crossing world cruising and require a design more
      suited to that style of cruising.

      With heavy heart after investing our money and seven and a half years
      of our lives in the project, in October we wrote a one-page letter to
      PB&F informing them of our decision to terminate the commission and
      giving them most of the reasons described above. We asked if they
      would help us identify an existing design that was much smaller,
      simpler, less expensive, and less time-consuming to build. We
      expected that they would either be very disappointed or elated to get
      the project out of the way, but were hopeful that we could purchase
      one of their existing designs.

      What we got in response was obviously written by Susanne, and
      consisted of five pages of 10-point dismay, anger, condecension, and
      insult. It contained demonstrably wrong assertions about what we had
      agreed to in the past. The most disturbing was that they (she?)
      thought that we would "take the project seriously enough" to both
      quit our jobs and build full time completely indoors as soon as we
      got the plans. She even laid out a timetable for us to give notice.
      She wrote that PB&F would have nothing to do with the project if it
      was to be built part-time and outdoors, especially in Colorado.

      There was also a paragraph listing several recent commissions for
      large boats that never got built, or partially built, or the client
      had changed their plans. At least one (thankfully unnamed) client
      was ridiculed for deciding to do something different with his life.

      We were devastated. We had clearly communicated to them in writing
      that I would be working alone and outdoors way back in 2003. We even
      bought land in 2003 and erected a small workshop in 2004 specifically
      for this purpose - I had just sent them photos of the place back in
      February. They had never mentioned these preconditions previously.
      There were many other points of serious miscommunication or
      disagreement in her letter. We supposed we would be added to the
      paragraph of unfulfilled commissions in any similar letters to future

      After some careful thought, we replied with another letter pointing
      out where we disagreed, and noted our displeasure with some of the
      comments. We once again asked that they help us identify a simpler
      design. We told them we didn't want our association to end badly,
      and preferably not end at all.

      That was in early November of last year. We have not heard back, and
      sadly, I doubt we will ever hear from them again, unless it is to be
      excoriated in some future MAIB column.

      #668 is a great design, clever at every turn and no doubt a perfect
      home afloat for someone. We hope the design gets finished and
      somebody builds it, but unfortunately it can't be us. At this point
      we are still trying to determine what we're going to build.

    • Jon & Wanda(Tink)
      I respect a man that askes for a hand up more then a hand out. The person with a hand up can give a hand up to others making the world a better place. A person
      Message 56 of 56 , Jan 19, 2009
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        I respect a man that askes for a hand up more then a hand out. The
        person with a hand up can give a hand up to others making the world a
        better place. A person that just wants a hand out cares little about
        others. Homeless for many is a choice I have knowen more then a few.


        --- In bolger@yahoogroups.com, dave seeton <daveseeton@...> wrote:
        > Hi Doug
        > Your concerns sound sincere & valid.
        > Yet I live in a town in rural America where we just dedicated a new
        Animal shelter but we don't have a shelter for the homeless & the
        temp is going down to 19 tonite. And there are literally 100's of
        cities like this across the country. I am always amazed that
        Americans will jump & run to help people around the world but ignore
        the homeless, the hungry, the battered, the abused, and the mentally
        handicapped in our own back yards.
        > Just my opinion.
        > Speaking of fishing boats. I talked to a fellow that has come from
        > Haiti and is now back there. They have no timber left there.
        > Hurricanes, internal strife and a host of other things have ruined
        > timber and boat building industry. Most of the trees were cooked
        > charcoal and used for fuel. Many fishermen no longer have boats.
        > are guys that can help feed the country. Seems like boatnicks
        > some of us here could push some help down there way somehow.. Maybe
        > build one to ship down there. Not a bad thought you know.
        > My Haitian friend carried some Locust seeds down there to
        > They may well grow so fast they will run everyone into the sea and
        > will windup the most hated man on earth.
        > If they grow there they could supply lumber for boats or any other
        > need. They can be harvested in less than ten years. As firewood
        it is
        > exceptional and when young it provides fodder for cattle and
        > The seeds can be eaten if it's honey locust and maybe not the best
        > but beer can be made from the paste inside the pods.
        > Just one Bolger fishing boat or light sharpie with a sail may
        > feed a half dozen families or more. An organized effort might be a
        > great thing for such people. The professional builders in these
        > groups with their know how may likely be able to supply ideas on
        how to
        > build work boats efficiently. There are organizations that ship
        > medical supplies and other needed equipment all over the world and
        I am
        > sure they could figure out how to ship boats as well.
        > Just thought I'd throw in this maybe worthwhile thought.

        > Doug
        > [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
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