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By Mike John - Maclean, NSW, Australia

I completed this project a little while ago, but I decided to write this article now as a tribute to Phil. I have only been boatbuilding since 2001, but I came across the designs of Phil Bolger early in the piece. Thumbing through a boatbuilding magazine one day, I found a picture of Queen Mab. Queen Mab, Design #638, is 7' LOA and Beam 32". The boat is designed to double paddle and the sailor sits in a comfortable seat facing forward when sailing.

I wrote my first letter to Phil requesting information about Queen Mab. This was his reply.

Phil added little extras to his letters to me.

He added a little extra note about sailing in Boston. I now had images of a little fleet of Queen Mab's sailing together in Boston. That is when I decided to make a mold and build mine out of fibreglass. I could build more for that race. It was a small project and perfect to learn how to build a solid GRP boat. The design displacement is 200lbs and I was under that (wish I still was). This meant I had some room to move on the empty weight of the hull.

I ordered the plans and with the plans came this letter from Phil.

Phil offered encouragement and interest in our builds in his letters.

I found this letter encouraging. Again, I had visions of a race of these little boats. The video was great. It showed Dave the owner with his Queen Mab. It was a chance meeting between Dave and Phil I think, but Phil got in the boat and had a sail in light airs. More encouragement here as the designer had sailed this design, personally.

Work began as I set up the frames in chipboard (particle board), covered the chipboard with light dowel stringers (round dowel did not have to be bevelled), and covered the stingers with cheap mdf and cardboard. Over that went a light cover of chopped mat and polyester. A man has to know his limitations, so I had a plasterer help me and a professional finished the fairing and made the mould.

Here is a sequence of my GRP process.

Framing
Dowel on frames
Mdf and cardboard at bow
Strips of mdf on the plug to get the level for the plaster.
Removed strips and plaster the gaps in plaster
Plastering
Finished plug, note skeg thickness
Finished outside of mold with water release outside
Inside finished mold

The mold has a water release. With the boat upright, the water fills from the bottom and forces the product out of the mold. The cracking during the process is worrying, but the hull was good. With the mould finished, I wrote a progress report to Phil and a letter came back with advice about my mould and rudder.

"I got advice back about my mould and rudder."
Second page

This letter was a surprise to me. The boat was designed for wood and I did not expect any help if I was going to be a heritic and make it out of plastic. Phil wrote about a thicker rudder, but I had already built the rudder, so I went with what I had. He was right of course.

I built the hull using three layers of 450gsm chopped mat and polyester. It arrived out of the mould at 30lbs. I asked him about building more than one and I naively asked if he had a catalogue (sorry Phil but he was polite to me as always).

The rest of the build went well and I made a fibreglass deck. The boat for some reason would not stand up on its own, so my long suffering parents had to hold it up.

Long suffering parents Elle (Ellen), is helping with the holding.

I named the boat Elle (pronounced L). That polyester stuff stinks, so thank you for the encouragement Phil. You kept me going. I sold the boat as a tender for a yacht, but I still have the mould.

When we are gone, it is the pictures, writing and drawings that we make that survive. With so many of these records produced by Phil, he will be long remembered.

Mike John


*****

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