Remembering Phil BolgerBy Wes Lewis #346 "Laurie Lee" (3ar)
I was first introduced to Phil Bolger's wonderful work in 1998 through Dynamite Payson's Instant Boats books. I labored for months over which plan-set to purchase, eventually choosing Bolger's Gypsy-a graceful, five panel, stitch-and-tape design to row, sail or motor. It turned out beautifully-my first boat!
Recently, my eleven-year-old daughter and I made a quarter scale Bolger Brick for her American Girl doll, which we now tow behind the Gypsy!
My favorite Bolger book remains Boats With an Open Mind. I love his casual, conversational writing style, his liberal sharing of design solution technique and methodology and his humorous and sometimes ornery temperament-all of which flow throughout his work. Phil was clearly a lover of all things nautical; incredibly knowledgeable and yet he seemed so real, so unassuming and genuine.
Of particular interest and satisfaction to me is that each boat discussed in BWAOM typically includes the customer's design request letter in addition to Phil's complete and very detailed response-how and why he solved the particular design problems (with an occasional philosophical jewel tossed in). I have learned much about boat design, construction and even nautical history from these readings. Additionally, I have grown to appreciate his creative and inventive mind, which tended to let form be subservient to function.
Since his death I have purchased five of his earlier books and feel like I've struck gold! I'll likely read these until the bindings break-savoring each new thought, pondering his brilliance of design philosophy and execution. My days are spent dreaming of which design to pick for my next Bolger boat! Admittedly, I'll likely only build/sail/power the bulk of them in my daydreams as the years roll by, but even that thought inspires me. And I believe that that would have made Phil grin.