Saturday, April 5, 2014

Cartopper - The Joy of Simpicity

This time around, we'll look at a classic design that's geared toward a much more manageable set of guidelines.

Cartopper by the late, great Phil Bolger.

I picked this design for a specific reason. I am happy to say that Wise Marine has teamed up with St. John's Prep, Danvers, MA to offer a summer boat building course. After much deliberation, this was our choice. The selection process was fairly involved. We had a few specifics that needed to be addressed:

1. Sensible balance between aesthetics and simplicity - It must come together without over-taxing un/semi-skilled amateur builders, yet it must be pretty enough to be worth the effort.

2. Looks like a boat quickly - With a limited amount of shop/class time available, lofting (full size drawing of the dimensions and shape of the boat and all of its parts) is out of the question. The sooner it starts looking like a boat, the sooner the goal is in sight, thus minimizing the risk of participants "losing steam" early in the process.

3. Easy to own - Not everybody has or wants a garage, a trailer, and all of the other accoutrements that usually come with boat ownership. Cartopper can travel on roof racks and store just about anywhere.

4. Proven design - Thousands of them have been built all over the world.

These were the main talking points. There were others, but they were comparatively minor.

Here is a link for info on the design:

There are thousands of photos of Cartoppers out there. They will give a better idea of what the boat is about than anything I can post here.

Phil Bolger and "Dynamite" Payson did a great job speccing the "instant boat" approach to building this design, as well as many others. That being said, if one is willing to give up some of the "instant" in exchange for more of the "boat," then there is one relatively simple change that will make a huge difference in her final appearance. A former co-worker built one for use as a tender to his cruising sailboat. He built it without a centerboard trunk, since it was never intended to be anything other than a rowing boat. The change he made that contributed so much to her looks was to spilt the topsides and bilge panels into two planks each. Both panels were cut and assembled on the floor to the same outside dimensions as noted on the plans, but with an epoxied lap. When they were assembled, the shadow line from the lap really accentuated the hull shape and de-emphasized the "boxiness" that some people have noted on plywood boats. I had to be convinced that his boat was, in fact, a Cartopper.

We will be building our fleet exactly as drawn. No changes, no modifications, no "improvements." It's not often that I can say that. I started one years ago that will be a prototype/display for reference during the course. It is set up for the split panels as described above.

If you are in the Boston area this summer and are looking for something fun and interesting to do with your son/daughter/husband/wife/neighbor, then come to our shop and build a Cartopper.

Here is info on the course offering:

I'll be back soon with another design selection. Yes, it will probably be plywood.