Phil Bolger first designed the powered trimaran
layout for what would become the Bantam for a client
who wanted to recreate a river voyage in a sneakbox.
That project never got going, but later Bolger redid
the idea for a Dutch couple with a wish list that
Phil thought fit the Bantam: a light stable economical
overnighter that would tow easily, fit in a garage,
and handle a chop. He called it the Bantam 16-20.
The bow would come off and stow in the boat for trailering
or garaging, and the cabin top would lower to the
That boat never got going either. Here is the drawing
from June 1999 MAIB:
I started the Bantam in February of 2001. It was
the first one built, and served as a kind of proof
of concept for the design. Here is Bantam 5 years
later on the Erie Canal...
For those readers considering building a Bantam,
I'll just list the changes I've made. My wife considers
it "perfect", and so do I.
- Deck more of the pontoon bows for storage/ seating.
The anchor stores in a laundry basket under one
deck, and a spare 3-gallon tank under the other.
The suggestion to store the anchor in the detachable
bow section was impractical.
- Use four 3/4" bolts to attach the bow piece
instead mating blocks as in the plans.
- Widen the stern pontoon decks to allow under storage
for two 6-gallon tanks on one side, and spare anchor/storage
in the other. There is additional storage under
the shelves that hold the tanks.
- Build low extensions on the pontoons to add length
and make boarding easy. When the boat was first
in the water, it was down at the stern, so I bolted
extensions on to help it float a little higher.
I later made these extensions permanent.
- Add 4" of foam and ply to the pontoon bottoms,
and 1" to the hull, and add 4' of 1/4"
ply doubler on battens to the bow sections between
the pontoons. The boat needed to sit higher, and
resist a wave impact to the bridge.
- Close the stern off and extend the motor mount.
The boat handles better, is quieter, and now there
is a new rear deck. The engine controls run under
raised cedar decking, and the steering cable runs
just above the decking.
- Make the windows and steering station removable
instead of hinged. The windows store on the floor
when the boat is moored or on the trailer. This
is a lighter arrangement, and simpler.
- Substitute the lighter and more reliable Honda
15HP for the 25HP Mercury four stroke. Making the
boat as light as possible is the key to efficiency.
- Make the cabin roof lighter. The method and details
of raising and lowering the roof was the toughest
problem. It now takes only a few minutes to close
the roof down and make Bantam secure on her mooring,
with a lower wind profile and better security from
mischief. The aluminum hoisting poles store along
the transom when not being used. Here is a photo
of part of the three step roof raising/ lowering,
a one-person job.
- Change the plexiglass side, bow and stern windows
to lighter clear vinyl. The vinyl stores in the
pontoons most of the time, or stays up when making
a longer trip in cool weather.
- Move the galley/storage to the forward end of
The Bantam tows on a double PWC trailer modified
with a slide up the center.
We spent 12 days and nights on Bantam for our trip.
The 15 HP Honda with remote and power tilt gave a
top speed of 12 knots, and we cruised at 8 to 10 with
very little engine or hull noise, using around 3/4
gallon per hour. Total trailer weight ready to launch
is 1800 lbs.
The only future modification planned is a new steering
seat outside the cabin that swings to different positions
and is removable. Part of the enjoyment of cruising
on Bantam is the ability to change your position when
steering. You can use the inside seat, stand, or rest
against the galley top. The new exterior seat will
mean you can stretch your legs out outside the cabin
while steering with your right arm on the wheel.
My wife and I just got back from a 670 mile 12 day
trip on the Erie Canal, and had a wonderful time,
almost totaly due to the to the pleasure it was to
be on the boat. We ate every meal but one aboard,
slept aboard every night, and cruised 8 to 12 hours
a day, and were not ready to quit when it was over.
My wife and I are planning another two-week trip
next year. It is impossible to describe what pleasure
the design gives. Our thanks to Phil and Suzanne.
For anyone considering building a Bantam, plans are
from Phil Bolger and Friends, PO Box 1209, Gloucester,
MA 01930, Fax is 978-282-1349.
Articles about Phil Bolger and his boats: