‘Instant boats’ boat builder and author Dynamite Payson passes away

Dynamite Payson book on boat building

Dynamite Payson pictured on the front of his book about building the legendary Light Dory

It is with great sadness that we mark the sudden death of Maine lobster fisherman, boatbuilder and author Harold ‘Dynamite’ Payson.

His passing is the end of an era in home boatbuilding in which he and boat designer Phil Bolger inspired many thousands of home boat builders during a long and highly successful collaboration that began in the 1960s. Bolger died in 2009.

The Light Dory pictured above is one of the most important boats involved in this story, as the easily built light, fast and good looking rowing boat became the tender of choice for many US yachtsmen.

Where Bolger wrote intriguing and tantalising books about his designs and their possibilities, Payson wrote simply and clearly about how the boats were intended to be built, calling them ‘instant boats’.

As you might expect I read as many books from both authors as I could, gripped as I was by the idea that even a woodworking duffer like me could build a boat, launch it and be free of the drudgery of work, the demands of capricious and difficult bosses, and a difficult home life.

It was a heady mix. If what you need to improve your life are a few water-borned dreams capable of being achieved, Payson and Bolger are still among the authors you should read – although in one might use epoxy resin in place of Payson’s favoured polyester resin.

I was never lucky enough to meet Payson, but there are a number of obituaries available online that are far more informative than I could write. See The Bangor Daily News and Village Soup. (Thanks to reader Mike Goodwin for pointing these out, by the way.)

Payson’s impressive range of books describing how to build Bolger’s small boats, a variety of model boats and aspects of shop practice are available from Amazon.

3 thoughts on “‘Instant boats’ boat builder and author Dynamite Payson passes away”

  1. November, 11, 2011

    A fellow fan and boat enthusiast today mentioned Dynamite Payson's passing over the bar. This really does mark the turning of a page in small boat design, writing and building.

    I've owned and enjoyed a Payson built Gloucester Gull dory for over 30 years. What a joy to row and explore skinny water in and about Portsmouth, New Castle and Kittery. In a way both Dynamite and Phil were my pilots.

    1. Jack, Do youknow where I can purchase plans for the Glouster light dory? I have the book written by Payson.

      1. The Instant Boats site doesn’t list the Light Dory, so I’d suggest you try to obtain them from Phil Bolger & Friends. I may not be up to date, but the contact details I have are: P.O. Box 1209, Gloucester, MA, 01930, fax (978) 282-1349.


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