Phil Bolger has left us

Discussion in 'Boat Design' started by Westfield 11, May 29, 2009.

  1. Westfield 11
    Joined: Apr 2008
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    Westfield 11 Senior Member

    I read today that noted designer Phil Bolger died recently at the age of 81. Mr. Bolger had been in declining health and took his own life with a .45 caliber handgun. He will be missed.
     
  2. Commuter Boats
    Joined: Oct 2006
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    Commuter Boats Commuter Boats

    I have no less than six of his books and so much enjoyed reading them. In his essays he would talk not only about the virtues of a design but also what might be improved. I found it a rare honesty.
    He will be missed.
    Thank you for the heads up.
    Gerald
     
  3. rwatson
    Joined: Aug 2007
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    rwatson Senior Member

    Sounds like he left the world like he designed boats - with no nonsense, on his own terms.

    You have to admire the style.
     

  4. TerryKing
    Joined: Feb 2007
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    TerryKing On The Water SOON

    New York Times article on Phil...

    http://www.nytimes.com/2009/06/01/us/01bolger.html?hpw

    Philip C. Bolger, 81, Dies; Prolific Boat Designer

    By BRUCE WEBER
    Published: May 31, 2009

    Philip C. Bolger, whose hundreds of boat designs, from classic schooners to sportfishing yachts to simple dories and dinghies, ranked him among the most prolific and versatile recreational boat designers in the world, died on Sunday in Gloucester, Mass., where he had lived nearly all his life. He was 81.

    The cause was a self-inflicted gunshot, his wife, Susanne Altenburger, said. His mind had slipped in the last several months, and he wanted to control the end of his life while he was still able, she said. They had discussed the matter of his death, she added, but he had not told her of his intention. “He wanted to make sure to leave me out of the loop,” Ms. Altenburger said.

    Carrie Kimball Monahan, a spokeswoman for the Essex County district attorney, said on Friday that the medical examiner had not yet determined the cause of death.

    Mr. Bolger, something of a cult figure in the world of recreational boating, was a bit of a mad scientist, an experimenter who did not mind trying things and failing and then acknowledging his failures. Though he thought a boat could be perfect, he never thought a boat needed to be perfect to be useful or fun.

    One of Mr. Bolger’s foremost interests was making boating easier and more accessible for people who were not full-time enthusiasts. For them he created the so-called instant boats, plywood craft that an amateur could build in a matter of hours. Often referred to as Bolger boxes, many were criticized as being out-and-out ugly — “They looked like floating packing crates,” Dan Segal, a boating writer, said — and Mr. Bolger acknowledged as much. But if you wanted to be able to build your own 12-foot boat and have some fun with it, the Bolger box was it.

    Among Mr. Bolger’s nearly 700 designs were power boats, rowboats, fishing boats and sailboats, including many of the long, narrow, flat-bottomed sailboats known as sharpies. He designed, on the one hand, what has been called the world’s smallest dinghy, a novelty boat that actually folded up. On the other hand, he designed a replica of the H.M.S. Rose, an 18th-century British frigate, that was used in the 2003 film “Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World,” which starred Russell Crowe. The replica is now at the San Diego Maritime Museum.

    Mr. Bolger was an iconoclast, a designer willing — eager, actually — to part with tradition, especially if it meant solving a practical problem. He had no loyalty to symmetry, for example; if necessary, he would move the mast, or even the centerboard, from the center of the boat. Indeed, instead of modifying existing boats, which is how boat design has largely evolved, Mr. Bolger liked to design on the basis of problem solving.

    “If you said to him, ‘I want an inexpensive cruising boat for two people that I can put on a trailer,’ he’d design around the criteria,” said Mr. Segal, the former managing editor of the magazines Small Boat Journal and The Yacht. “He was, as far as I know, unique in this approach.”

    That is not to say Mr. Bolger didn’t have a fine eye for a boat’s lines. In fact, he created several boats considered beauties, if not masterpieces — his Gloucester light dory, for example.

    (More at NYT...)

    Phil Bolger was one of a kind... Always ready to try something new. The rest of us Old Guys should try to keep THAT feeling alive...

    terry@terryking.us
     
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