to the Boats or to The
Cheap Page or to Michalak's
the Pirogue 12 (Instructions, sorta, and
Boat Honor Roll (People who've built
Bolger boats from 6ft on up).
Fatchen's Bolgerama-Down-Under: Tres Amusant
Schooner Home Page: Tons of Bolger Boat Links;
great photo links;
- and Tim's Square
Boats too. AS19-29-39 and whatnot by Bolger.
Samson's Newsletter Chebacco
News: Almost 30 issues!
some Bolger, some Michalak, some Atkin...
Dynamite Payson's Instant
Boats page. The muthalode of small
- Charles Andrews says:
- I've read a number of Bolger's books, and I've
been a devoted follower of his work for the last 10
years. I even commissioned a design: look for the
wild brigantine in Boats With an Open Mind, the
section on *Period Pieces,* that's the one. I've
built the Scooner, which I still have. I cruised
Black Skimmer and I have an unfinished Elegant Punt
in my basement.
Anyway... I really think Phil can realistically
be grouped with the greatest yacht designers of
this, or any century: he's right there with the
Herreshoffs, father and son, the Atkins, Garden,
Peterson, Stevens...but with a difference. Phil is
the only one of the bunch (other than,
provisionally, John Atkin) who designs great
vessels for amateurs to build cheap. Boat after
boat of his shows his encyclopedic erudition and
creativity in the area of boat design; and he's
nearly always ready to point out areas where he
hasn't quite thought something through, which may
make him unique among designers. His books on boats
are, quite simply, a gold mine of information,
probably not duplicated by anyone, other than
perhaps William Garden; and even Garden doesn't
reveal his creative process to the extent Phil
- Links take you to a table of contents &
comments for each book:
- Bolger's original cache of "Instant Boat"
- Hard-to-find, but worth it.
- About thirty, and not really so odd.
- 100 Small Boat Rigs
- This is a great book. Bolger goes over just about
every rig you can imagine, including some which you
probably haven't, with a cartoon-sketch accompanying
Out of print but a few copies may be lurking around
from Boatbuilder Books for $19.95. Include $3
shipping in the USA, $6 Canada, $12 elsewhere.
- Fax: 407-459-1558/Vox: 407-459-3636
- Box 540638, Merritt Island FL 32954
- 103 Small Boat Rigs
- Republished by Phil Bolger & Friends, the
three new rigs come in an essay on the merits of the
Chinese Gaffer. It may sound odd, but the CG is well
reasoned and has antecedents in the rigs of Commodore
Munroe's sharpies and in an obscure 1939 book by
circumnavigator Conor O'Brien called Sea-boats,
Sails and Oars.
- A reprint of Small Boats and The
With An Open Mind
- The only collection of designs currently in
print, and well worth it. Includes many classics:
AS29, Martha Jane, Micro, and more.
Books - titles by Dynamite Payson you're likely to
see referred to again and again.
- Payson's Instant
Boats web page. Plans and information.
- Instant Boats
- Nail and glue designs. External chines for simple
- Build the New Instant Boats
- Build the Instant Catboat
- Build BOBCAT, a 12-ft catboat.
- Build the Gloucester Light Dory
12-ft row-and-sail sharpie,
a very popular design - maybe the most popular
Chris has broadened his cruising horizons with a
Michalak shantyboat, Harmonica.
Scientifically named Occam's Razor, I might add.
Photos on Jim Michalak's web page here.
This lug-rigged sharpie is a very popular Bolger
design since it sails well and isn't too big for
one person to handle. Robert Berger's web page has
some nice pix of his.
16-ft sharpie camp cruiser with a
I found this nice example somewhere on the Web
and lost track where. Several people have since
told em where. I guess I should update the
Long Micro is a 19-ft box-sharpie with a small
keel. In this picture she's about 5 feet off the
Here's an atmospheric shot of Bill Parkes'
This design comes in several versions (plywood
chine, like this one; lapstrake; a 25-footer; and a
motorsailer). Chebacco owner Bill Samson tracks the
worldwide Chebacco builders' community in his
web-based Chebacco News.
Here's the motorsailer, built by Bob
Both photos are from Bill Samson's excellent
Bill Samson's paddling pirogue on the rugged
coast of Scotland.
Bill says: "Cop a load of this! Sheila and I had
just paddled across the mile or so of open sea to
the island of Lismore! Good eh? (We must have been
out of our tiny minds!)"
(This is not the same as the Pirogue 12
or the Common Sense Designs Sailing
Pirogue. Yes, there are at least 3 Bolger
This the the Edey & Duff Dovekie.
It's a trailer-sailer camping cruiser. The mast may
look odd because the sail has been brailed up to
the mast for the night.
Jim Plourde owns this one, and it's anchored in one
foot of water and one foot of mud scarcely 500
yards from where I live.
If this were England, 1900, I suppose this would
be a leeboard canoe yawl (no, there's no
An all-time classic design. Larger than the
Micro at 23', trailerable, with water ballast. The
cabin is small but spacious given its size (sounds
like a real contradiction, but sailors know exactly
what this means!)
The cockpit is huge. Anyone have some photos? And
yes, my image is sailing slightly uphill.
- The plans for the Bolger Pirogue 12 are right here on
this web page. They were published in Messing About in
Boats in the June 1, 1997 issue. If you mail Bolger
$25 he'll send you two 8-1/2 x 11 sheets with the
original plan on them; it is essentially a shareware
design and he invited people to build from the plans in
The plan here is sufficient to build from. If you do,
Phil would like you to send him $25 as a builders' fee
"or 2% of the sale price" if you build one and sell it to
This is not a difficult building job, but it helps to
have built a "stitch & glue" boat before. If you
haven't, read H. H. Payson's Build the New Instant
Boats, see Chesapeake Light Craft's web site for a
kitbuilding description that applies to this boat or find
& Glue Primer on Jacques Mertens' web
- I've been paddling and sailing one for a couple of
years thanks to a loan from John Harris. I have lots of
small tips (or preferences) which should go in here -- so
expect some more soon. Any topics in italics are
things I have been too lazy to get to so far. Sorry about
- In addition, John got his sails assembled (one gaff,
and one lug) at a very good price from Sailrite.
They no longer sell completed sails, only kits, but the
price is very good (under $100 for each of these). Ask
for the "Bolger Sailing Pirogue Gaff Sail" or the "CLC
Mill Creek Lug Sail" depending on which one you
Out the Sides
Draw one side full-size on a piece of 4ft x 12ft
plywood made by epoxying one and a half sheets of 1/4"
plywood end to end. To mark the points which determine
the sheer (the upper curve of the side) and the
chine (the line where the bottom meets the sides)
measure off the stations shown on the plan, and then
measure off and mark two points on each station line, as
Once you've done this, connect the dots with a
long flexible batten (strip) of wood. A 10ft length of
1/2" PVC pipe works, too, and it's cheap. If you don't
have eight hands or a couple friends to help you bend the
pipe to a smooth, fair curve, drive a nail into each
marked point and push the pipe or batten up against the
nails with weights (bricks, books, tools, gallon jugs of
water). Make sure there are no kinks in the curve, and
mark along it with a magic marker or a pencil.
The important part of the layout are the curves
themselves. Don't worry about the actual height of the
sides; the imaginary grid takes care of that. If one
point or another is obviously wrong, trust the bent
batten and draw the curve through wherever the batten
says it should fall.
Then flip the side over and trace around it for the
second side (easy!) and saw it out.
Cut out the four bulkheads: 1, 2, 3, and T. Note that
transom "T" is one inch thick. It's quite small and you can
probably get by with 1/2" thickness, well filleted with
Assemble the bulkheads and sides stitch & glue
fashion. Note that Bulkhead 2 is temporary and is only
screwed in or glued with something like white glue or blobs
of house caulk which can be scraped off (or use two vertical
1x2s joined by a slab of plywood).
Turn the assembly over and lay plywood over the bottom.
Mark the outline of the sides on it. Cut out the bottom and
attach it, stitch-and-glue style. John Harris added internal
chine logs, or wood strips, to reinforce this
Add the shoe, an extra layer of plywood down the
center, outside, to stiffen the bottom and help prevent
These are strips of wood which stiffen the upper
edge of the hull. They only have to extend as far as the
fore and aft bulkheads. Use epoxy and clamps to attach
them. Round over the inner edges to spare your flesh.
Decks are attached in the same way that the
bottom is attached. If you build solid bulkhead air tanks
as John did, you do not need to glue flotation foam to
the underside of the foredeck and afterdeck. I would
epoxy on a 3-inch-wide backing block of 1/4-inch
material across the stern (under the deck) for mounting
hardware through the deck, and add an internal or
external V-shaped breasthook of 1/4-inch material
at the stem, extending back about four to six inches.
This makes it easy to attach a nice padeye for a painter
and various fairleads as required.
For both the rudder and leeboard, 1/2-inch is
thick enough. Laminate two pieces of 1/4-in plywood under
some weights against a flat surface, or find the material
of your choice. Cut it out as described in the plans and
fair the leading and trailing edges. See below for a
bungee-scheme adapted from John Bull's book Sail Your
Canoe. It pulls the rudder down while allowing it to
pop up when it touches bottom. The fact that the rudder
is not weighted is one of my biggest complaints about the
peeros John built. John, on the other hand, doesn't mind
pirouetting in place inside the boat to reset the rudder
to a full down position.
If you happen to have some 3/32" or 1/8" sheet
aluminum running around, it can be used as the rudder.
Round over the leading edge a little.
Cut it out as shown. Fair, or round over, the
leading and trailing edges of the leeboard. Extend the
fairing on the leading edge most of the way to the
centerline of the board at the top. When you're heeled
over, the water can come up nearly this far. Same for the
The mast and rigs.
John designed a simple and effective mast
step. The mast partner is a piece of wood
attached to the upper side of the deck with screws from
below. John decided to use some spare jibs from a racing
dinghy as sails just to get them in the water during
their first season:
- Jib spritsails
They work, but the mast is a little too tall for
comfort in such a narrow boat! John settled on a small
balanced lug, which works well.
- Balanced lugsail
Bolger has drawn a tiny gaff rig, but after
experimenting I'm far from convinced that it's a very
good idea. One nice thing about the peero, you can
experiment with rigs like crazy without running up much
of a bill. You need some tarp and a couple masts, one
short and one long. For more about the sail rigs, see
Sails from Polytarp:
- Bolger's recommended gaff rig.
- Balanced, battened airfoil lugsail with club:
- Sharpie sail: another of Craig's
- Batwing sail: yet another experiment.
on Small Changes
Don't be afraid to personalize your pirogue with
additions which you like. For example, John added rubrails
on the outside and used a push-pull tiller instead of
Bolger's suggested steering pedals.
- Push-pull or "Norwegian tiller" and rudder bungee
- If you decide on a gaff sail or batwing sail, make
it not 9'9", but about 10' 3" to 10'9" depending on
your height. You don't want to duck under the boom
each time you tack. It's a royal pain in the arse.
It's also nice to be able to see under the sail
without craning your neck. This is supposed to be a
relaxing little boat to sail.
- If you use the balanced lugsail, you can get by
with an 8' mast. I made one from a piece of "red cedar
baluster" which cost me about $6. It's squared with
rounded edges as it comes from the home center.
- Alternative mast step.
- Bulkhead 3.
- Paddle stowage.
- Chine log.
- John put the chine logs inside the boat (a
chine log is the wood strip that forms a place
to fasten the bottom to the side) because he thinks it
looks and sails better, but you can put them on the
outside like many of Bolger's Instant Boat designs, or
just use an epoxy fillet with fiberglass tape and
forget the chine log.
- Inner Leeboard Backing Block.
- Outer Leeboard Braces.
- Leeboard Forward Position.
- Recessed Foredeck & Hatch.
- John added a pair of adjustable kayak footbraces
under the foredeck. Some sort of footbraces are
essential. These are deluxe. Yours can be simple
- Craig Skeg.
- Sometimes I just felt like paddling the peero. The
rudder is annoying when you're not sailing so I came
up with a little skeg that drops over the pintles.
Much, much better: [image to come].
- John's seat design is a stroke of pure genius:
[image to come]. Imagine an oval of
plywood with the narrow end cut straight across. This
is the backrest, straight edge is the bottom and rests
on the bottom of the boat. A reinforcement is epoxied
to the back, and a line runs through the
reinforcement. One side of the line is tied into a
padeye (or simple hole in the gunwale) and the other
passes through a jam-cleat. Just about instantly
adjustable seatback position, very comfy too. Look
You can order the sail kits for this boat from Sailrite
and the price is very good (under $100 for each of these).
Ask for the "Bolger Sailing Pirogue Gaff Sail" or the "CLC
Mill Creek Lug Sail" depending on which one you want.
Surely I must have some. Ah yes. The best way of rigging
the lugsail is found here: [URL] the system of
halyards was described by George Holmes, one of the
inventors of the canoe yawl, back in about 1880. It does a
great job of keeping the sail taut in the luff and at the
same time keeps the yard waggling to a minimum. I have some
diagrams and photos which will go up ASAP.
- This is scanned from Messing About in
Boats. I have modified the plan only to make the
dimensions clearer, clean up spurious bits of scanner
crud, and fill some areas with grays to help you
visualize the shapes. Click on the image to see it
I don't sell boats. I thought I
might extract a few Bolger boat classified ads from
Messing About in Boats from time to time. The
real motivation is to convince you to subscribe
to MAIB. The secondary hidden agenda is to get you on
the water in a Bolger boat if you're really,
really afraid to build your own.
These are from September and October 1998. I can't
promise that I'll update these very often, and I can't
promise that I'll even keep this section here.
to the Boats or to The
Cheap Page or to the Top.