Award-winning designer Phil Bolger’s clever but neglected Cartopper

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Kellan Hatch’s Cartopper


Kellan Hatch’s Cartopper Kellan Hatch’s Cartopper


Kellan Hatch’s Cartopper has turned out to be a versatile little boat

It was good to read at The Chine Blog the other day that Phil Bolger has been presented with Woodenboat magazine’s Lifetime Achievement Award, along with Bill Garden. Both awards are clearly well-earned, but Bolger’s is perhaps particularly pleasing because so many people think of his designs as being the boxy antithesis of what Woodenboat is all about. To my mind, those who believe this heresy have spent too long reading the Internet, and not long enough reading his intriguing and often informative books.

Most people talk of Bolger’s widely celebrated and used Light Dory, but the news reminded me that I’ve been meaning to say something about the Cartopper, which I feel is a very much neglected Bolger design. Take a look at the study plans at the Payson website, which also sells the full-sized plans for boatbuilding. What you get is a proper boat-shaped boat with its centreboard placed well forward, which provides a lot of room in an 11ft 6in boat. Bolger designed an over-sized rudder to balance the rig, but that’s actually a well-tried approach that has worked for many years in traditional centreboard craft.

Thanks to Kellan Hatch for the photos. Like me, Kellan feels that the Cartopper is a fascinating design that reflects how many people use small boats, but reports that it can be a little tender and says that it isn’t self-rescuing without added built-bouyancy because of its strongly curved sheerline.

I think the answer is obvious, at least for solo cruisers: some water or other removable ballast in the spacious centre of the boat, and boxed-in bouyancy and storage tanks fore and aft.

If you’re interested in reading Bolger’s books describing his designs, a good starting point is Boats with an Open Mind. It’s available from Amazon in the UK and from Amazon in the USA. If you’re in the USA you can also get his excellent pocket book about the merits and demerits of alternative sailing rigs 103 Rigs ‘Straight Talk’ .

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