Make and Make Do  

By Rob Rohde-Szudy - Madison, Wisconsin - USA


Motor Well Modifications – Part 1
On to Part 2

Motor Well Slot Cover for the Bolger Light Schooner
…or other boats with similar motor wells

click images to enlarge

Phil Bolger’s Light Schooner is a fun boat. It’s very fast and has plenty of room for both of your friends. (We both know perfectly well that the rest of them abandoned you after the last “hull flipping party”.) It also works very well as a power launch for fishing, so long as you don’t mind traveling at displacement speeds.

There are a few issues with the design, though. First, most builders seem to feel the design should have incorporated closed bulkheads for flotation. The lack of flotation is because it was originally designed very light for racing. Anyone using it for anything else soon encloses the compartments. The other complaint is the motor well, which is not quite so easily remedied.

I find only one redeeming quality of this motor well – the motor is invisible to thieves when the boat is tarped. But a simpler well would allow me to easily remove it! I thought it would be great to have the prop in front of the rudder for helm control even when not moving. In practice there is too much gap between them for it to make much difference. The stowage hatches are not terribly useful wedged next to the motor, but certainly better than the open compartments specified. The open compartments leave a nice space for the fuel tank, but you need the buoyancy. And you want those gasoline fumes to drain out the bottom, not collect in a compartment to explode. But when you deck it over, at least one hatch cover is nearly useless because of the gas tank tied down on top of it. (You do tie down your gas tank, don’t you?)

But the biggest trouble is the slot. Bolger doesn’t specify a cover, but apparently this slot becomes a geyser when sailing at high speed unless it is sealed reasonably well. I haven’t tested this, but I believe it. Several builders have sites about this boat, but none talk much about how they sealed off the motor well slot. One gets the impression that nobody is entirely satisfied with the results. Here’s how I dealt with it.

The most obvious approach is to use the piece of wood cut out of the hole to plug it. I built one of these by attaching it to a piece of ¼” plywood. I also added a strip of wood in the motor well to trap one edge of the plug, and a screweye as a lift handle on the other side. To hold it down I drilled holes in both the plug and the lip it rests on. Pretty obvious so far, right? Here’s the clever part. It is “sewn” down by a 1/8” line stopper knotted on the top side of the plug, passing down through the plug, then coming up through the hole in the lip. This line locks the plug down and can be cleated inside the motor well.

Here’s the underside with it “sewn” closed.

Here’s the cover closed, from above.

The arrow is pointing at the screweye, which is very important. Since fresh latex paint tends to stick to other latex paint, it took a bit of force to get the thing open. After uncleating, the standing end of the lanyard was passed through the eye. Pulling on it gets the cover loose. After the paint started getting harder and oilier, this wasn’t necessary anymore.

It’s a bit of a pain to use because of little clearance between the motor’s lower unit and the plug. I have to just about tangle the prop in my steering lines to get the plug out. Once the cover is maneuvered around the motor’s lower unit, it can be hung by the screweye, cleating the line to retain it while motoring.

And here it is motoring at maybe 4 mph:

This is how much water is in the well when sailing at about 4 mph. At higher speeds there might be a little more water sloshing around in there, but it never turns into a geyser.

But if I had to do it over, I’d go with a simple Michalak-style motor well for any sailboat. Live and learn. Then again, Michalak’s Dani Jay has a motor well rather like this one. No big deal unless you try to sail it, but he did draw a sailing rig. (Under duress, though.) So maybe Dani Jay builders should consider keeping it simple and skipping the sailing rig.

To be fair, I voluntarily complicated this with remote steering. I further complicated this by using a Johnson 5.5, which is much bigger than the specified 2 hp 1 cylinder chainsaw-with-a-prop. Where I live, “fisherman sized” motors are cheap, but a 2hp engine is an expensive novelty. And I like having all the power I want at a very quiet ½ throttle, as well as having full gear shift, which suits my remote steering.

But the sheer size of the old beast caused a problem or two. Here’s how the motor didn’t fit:

And here’s the notch I cut to fit the bigger motor.

Suffice it to say that this system should work much easier with the steering and motor the plans call for.

Next time we’ll talk about some more radical modifications to improve (I think…) this motor well.

Rob Rohde-Szudy
Madison, Wisconsin, USA

On to Part 2

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