Saturday, June 02, 2007

A day with the legend.

Yesterday, Bev and I drove our rental car up to Gloucester to meet with Phil Bolger. We expected to visit for an hour or two, but he and his wife spent the whole day with us.
We talked about boats in general and Bolger boats in particular. We talked abut our trip and the many ways we used the features of the AS-29. We showed them a slide show of our trip.
It was quite a thrill for me to actually meet the man who designed my boat. Phil's wife Susan spent a lot of the time talking about ways we could modify the boat to make it a real "world cruiser." I was really fascinating to hear her talk about how we could mold a second skin on the boat that would make the boat more impact resistant, more buoyant and more stable. She said we could use heavy duty construction foam (the blue stuff) on the outside of the hull to insulate and protect it, followed by a layer of 1/4" plywood and fiberglass to protect the foam. This process wouldn't add much weight, but it would add volume which increases displacement. We could carry more gear and supplies and still float higher in the water. Gluing the foam in the outside, combined with the extra layer of plywood would make the boat strong enough to cross oceans. She also suggested that we add a removable "V" to the bow if we intend to take the boat across the ocean.
I really liked her ideas. Not only would the changes make the boat safer, they would also make it more comfortable. It would be warmer inside when the weather is cool, and cooler when the weather is warm. I'm really going to have to give some thought to making these changes someday.
We also talked quite a bit about the boat's handling and trim. Phil and Susan suggested I try sailing without the mizzen to how if this would reduce some weather helm and make the boat behave better off the wind.
During the course of our chat, I discovered that I had made a mistake in building the boat. I left off what's called the "bottom plate" of the rudder. Somehow, as many times as I had looked at the plans, I didn't see the sketch of this plate. It's purposed is to channel the water pressure coming off the rudder to make the rudder more efficient. When I get back to the boat I'm going to have to pull the rudder off and add the plate. It should improve the steering of the boat, making it easier to handle when the wind picks up.
While we were there, Phil and Susan showed us the plans they are working on. One is a 34 foot version of the AS type. This is intended to be a real sturdy ocean cruiser. The other is a 50 something monster with a completely enclosed pilot house and a ramp for launching the rather large dingy. It has a cargo hold and special compartments for some serious photographic equipment the clients need to carry.
Phil is really quite an amazing character. He is now 80 years old and except for an occasional pain in his hip he is quite spry and his mind is as sharp as ever.
We all went out to lunch together at a good Chinese restaurant on the waterfront in Gloucester. During lunch Bev and Susan got into quite a heated discussion of politics. Phil and I just stayed out of it. Two highly opinionated women disagreeing about politics can be scary.
Phil and Susan now live in a house. This was a surprise to me as I had thought Phil lived on his boat "Resolution." He did live aboard for 14 years and the boat now sits in the front yard of his house. He and Susan were able to buy a "handyman special" at a really good price and have spent the last few years fixing it up. They put 12" insulation in the walls to keep their heating bills down and now there are two rooms in which they have no heat at all and claim they don't need it. Makes you wonder why all houses aren't built that way. A few extra bucks at building time translates into hundreds (if not thousands) saved every year for the life of the house. Home builders of America - take note: charge your clients a few extra bucks to build the house, then guarantee them lower fuel bills - you'll clean up. With the prices of oil, natural gas and electricity going through the roof, you'll gain an advantage over your competitors if you can honestly promise lower heating and cooling bills.
This same concept is what Susan was talking about when she told us about sheathing the boat with foam.
One of the topics we talked about was they way the boating magazines seem to ignore the common sense approach to boat design that is exemplified by Phil Bolger and Friends. Even magazines like "Practical Sailor" and "Good Old Boat" seem to ignore the home built market. Susan suggest that I write to the editors of these magazines (one of whom lives in Sarasota) and tell them of my experience with the AS-29. As she pointed out, my own experience proves that you do not have to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to have a boat that is safe, stable and able to cruise anywhere. Too many people think they have to work at spirit-killing jobs to earn large amounts of money to afford boating. They go out and buy big expensive boats that sit in the marina 95% of the time.
We also talked a bit about how so many boats today are overpowered. Phil pointed out a lobster boat that he designed. The boat was tied up in Gloucester harbor, probably because the owner couldn't afford to feed the 150 hp engine he put in it. If he had powered it with the 35 hp engine Phil designed it for, he'd be out on the water earning money.
I've included a couple of pictures of Phil and Susan and "Resolution."

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