Phil Bolger’s Storm Petrel

New! A Storm Petrel has been launched in Juneau, Alaska. The boat was part of an eighth grade student's project. Read about it at Tim's Storm Petrel. As of this writing (June 2004) the keel and sail rig are still under construction. Be sure to check out Fritz Funk's other listings at his site Boatbuilding and Boat Projects from Juneau, Alaska.

In late 1990 (after completing the Swifty) I came across an article published in Small Boat Journal (unfortunately now defunct) by Phil Bolger describing his design #337, Storm Petrel. The boat was a 16'4" x 5'2" motorsailer in the “Instant Boat” tradition. I immediately took to the boat and wrote to Bolger for his current thoughts and information on ordering plans. The answer I got was rather vague about the design but he gave the impression that it was not his best effort and probably not worth building. Besides that, he didn’t know where the plans were.

Discouraged, I put Storm Petrel aside and went on with the Pirogue and the modified Swifty 14.

In early October, 2000 I discovered the Yahoo! Bolger Discussion Group where a number of recent postings concerned the Storm Petrel. Apparently one of these boats (and probably the only one) has been plying the waters of San Francisco Bay for about 15 years. Matthew Long gathered some text and pictures from the boat’s owner, Marc Lander, and these are archived on the above noted site. There are some good pictures of Lander’s boat in the Bolger Group’s file area.

Interest renewed I sent a fax to Bolger. I stated that I was looking for a docile performing sailboat that would also handle a small motor as an equal partner, give dry storage for gear and occasional overnight shelter for one person, and be able to take somewhat rough coastal seas when necessary. The features that I really like are the simply attached keel (I’d think it could even be removed for some non-sailing uses), the basically flat deck over the closed area (I can see a flat cover when only goods storage is needed with the deck then flat enough for stretching out, fly fishing or whatever; and an interchangeable hatch with depth for human accommodation), the forward free-flooding well, the self-righting capability, reasonable length/mass/bulk for easy trailering and performance that seems to match our needs (we like quiet and slow).

He promptly replied that the plans were now available for $50 ppd. and that the boat would probably meet our needs quite nicely. Plans are now in hand and, assuming that I proceed to actually build the boat, I will post “in-progress” pictures here.

The one thing I didn’t like about Storm Petrel is the keel depth. This boat would live on a trailer and an 18" draft would severely limit my choice of launch areas. I wrote to Bolger and he proposed a modified keel per the illustration below. The original keel and rudder are the dotted lines. The revised keel and rudder are solid (Phil sketched an end plate on the rudder which is not shown in the illustration). The keel itself will be plywood, somewhere around 1.5 inches in thickness. Lead ballast inserts would be placed in such a way that the center of gravity of the new keel would be in the same lateral location as with the original keel. The submersed weight of wood keel and ballast would be about the same as that of the steel keel. I also approached him about a supplemental dagger-type keel and the response to that was negative.

What follows are excerpts from Phil's letter to me:

The plywood keel is likely to be stronger for beaching etc. than the designed steel one though the latter could readily be strengthened with more flange to the hull. In ballasting the keel, allow for the greater buoyancy of the thicker wood keel.

We don't think that the high aspect ratio centerboard is a good idea..... a board like that is prone to stalling, especially in a hull that has no high performance potential. She would sail with the keel simply cut off at your desired level of draft, but extending the keel back to the rudder axis, as sketched, will improve its effectiveness with little effect on helm balance.

Do not expect or try for high performance in this hull, especially with the small designed rig. (August 28, 2001)

As of the end of 2003 I've not much to show in the way of progress yet (a couple frames finished and tucked away in the garage) but the following pictures show a crude balsa model that I made a year or so ago.

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