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.
Water Craft’s latest issue marks the beginning of the boatbuilding season, which editor Pete Greenfield says begins when the sailing season ends.
It has pretty well ended here in the temperate zone of the Northern Hemisphere, but I’m not so sure that the boat building starts quite yet. But I do think November and the run up to Christmas is a time when many of us get into some serious boat-dreaming and boat noodling – my name for the delicious process of thinking through what kind of boat we want, what we’re capable of building and what would use it for?
As usual, the latest Water Craft is full of interesting crumbs to feed our obsession.
Designer Paul Gartside presents the first of a series of complete plans, including offsets, for boats you can build; this time it’s a shapely double-ended 12ft rowing boat for traditional carvel (or clinker) construction.
Fancy strip planking? Read how Nick Paull built the Canadian canoe that won him Water Craft’s special prize for the most professional-loooking home-built boat at the Beale Park Thames Boat Show.
More, Patrick Curry explains how he made hollow wooden spars for his traditional Dutch yacht, Bob Lloyd shows how to make a razee.
Pete is still working on his Phil Bolger-designed Chebacco boat in the outdoors (brrr! – rather him than me!) and Dick Phillips has been sailing a Chebacco built by Connie Mense that many of us saw on show at Beale. (For an intheboatshed.net post on this boat click here.)
Jo Moran has been sailing another boat we saw at Beale, the electric day-sailer Cirrus and Kathy Mansfield has been to Portsoy’s Traditional Boat Festival.
Watch this beautiful Phil Bolger-designed Spartina with its convenient balanced boomed foresail sailing on an East coast river, captured here by the excellent Dylan Winter.
His collection of YouTube videos as he sails anti-clockwise around the UK is well worth watching for the boats, for the sailing and for his entertaining and trenchant commentary, with which I largely agree – although you may not. Take a look and see what you think!
The Spartina is a powerful example of the range of Bolger’s work. It’s a serious mistake to think that he only drew utilitarian sailing and motoring boxes: the man had a real designer’s eye, and used it in drawing up many of his output of many hundreds of designs. I’ve been collecting his books for years, but his published material is available to all in the UK via the national library system in the UK. It’s interesting, illuminating stuff that more people should know about.
There are very few Bolger boats in British waters, which makes this Spartina a particularly striking find.
Dylan was very taken with this boat, and its foresail in particular.
There’s a lot to be said for a foresail like this on a small boat where there’s not much danger of anyone being hurt by the boom. On a boat with a real foredeck on which someone might have to stand, however, it could be a different story.
Of course, I’m not remotely influenced by the massive compliment in the information that goes with this video!
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