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Sailing Boat - Boat Design Reviewed

Sailing Boat - Boat Design Reviewed

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Published by: fralgiugia on Aug 22, 2011
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A Stretched Lobster Skiff

— Design by Philip C. Bolger —
Commentary by Mike O'Brien

aine 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 dis-
tance between mold stations from 2 feet to 2 feet 8
inches. He changed the stem's fore-and-aft offsets pro-
portionally so the bow profile shows more rake. Heights
and breadths were left untouched. These alterations
increased the hull's displacement at the marked water-
line 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 some-
times works as well as sitting down at the drawing
table. Bolger points out that stock-boat manufactur-
ers 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 rou-
tinely 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

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 tol-
erable, 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 fiber-
glass 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 vol-
ume by swelling the topsides higher and farther aft.
The altered boat proved easier to plank than its pre-
decessor, 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 dis-
placement and stability early on, which helps prevent

Bolger assigns some numbers to Shivaree's perfor-
mance: "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 short-
er 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 fric-
tion 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 sug-
gests that lapstrake, strip, or cold-molded construc-
tion 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 suit-
ed 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 let-
ter, 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
Sometime or Never. The
drawings below describe alternate
construction methods for

220 —

The stretched lobster-skiff
hull combines a striking
appearance with efficient

The drawings indicate
carvel planking, but
plywood-lapstrake, strip,
or cold-molded construc-
tion will be better if the
boat must live on a trailer.

Particulars, Sometime or Never



Weight (empty) 1,100 lbs
Nominal displ 2,300 lbs

40-hp outboard

— 221 —

Compared to older Bolger
lobster skiffs,
or Never shows a finer
forefoot. The designer
recovered the lost volume
by szoelling the topsides
higher and farther aft.

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