Eclectica Daybreak over Colburne Passage near Sidney, BC, Canada filler
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 The Rivals

“Nymph”, by Phil Bolger

This is the boat that made me believe that I, too, could build one.

Nymph profile drawing

I found the plans for this boat in a book that I had borrowed from the library: "Build the New Instant Boats", by Harold H "Dynamite" Payson. Judging by the stains and scribbled notes in the book, someone had actually built one right from the book. This encouraged me to do the same.

I went out and bought the basic materials, and a couple of tools that I felt I needed. Not much; the only expensive tool was a good-quality jigsaw for cutting out the panels from the plywood. All my materials came from the same lumber yard frequented by house builders; some exterior Douglas Fir plywood, and a couple of two-by-fours for things like gunwales. A friend with a table saw and a router ripped the two-by-fours into strips and rounded over the corners.

The actual construction took place outside, on the deck off our kitchen/dining room. There were a few head-scratching moments (due to inexperience), but generally the boat went together quickly and easily.

So how did she turn out, you ask?

What a great boat! With one adult aboard, it hardly draws any water and requires almost no effort to row. It can turn quick circles in its own length, and is great for exploring along a shoreline. Because of the effortless rowing, it can make easy progress even against a stream or ocean current. It can carry three adults for short distances (but don't try this in a chop), and I use it routinely on salt water for one-mile round trips to a nearby island.

When going head-on into a chop, waves breaking on the forward transom splash into the boat; this could be fixed by making a small deck that came back as far as the mast partners. Even so, Nymph handles this situation better than my other boat, a fibreglass Whitehall copy that is over two feet longer.

If you want to build one, I would recommend buying the book AND the plans. She can be built from the book alone, but so many "how-long/wide/thick-is" questions can be directly answered with a scale ruler and the accurately scaled plans (the plans in the book are reduced to fit). This can be a great comfort to a novice who needs reassurance that things are unfolding as they should.

A basic materials list and some pictures from the book are available on the Nymph page at Dynamite's web site. You can also order the plans from him here.

Here she is:

Forward quarter view

I think this picture shows that a plywood boat does not have to look like a box. My hat is off to Phil Bolger for designing such a pretty and easy-to-build boat.

The boat is about five years old in these pictures, and has seen considerable use. The only maintenance so far has been re-oiling the gunwales with raw linseed oil.

Forward quarter
Forward Quarter [Enlarge]

Bow [Enlarge]

Bow view

This view shows a modification to the plans since the book was published. You can see that the segment of the longitudinal thwart between the aft pair of frames has been cut out.

This clear area makes it easier to step into the center of the boat when boarding in less-than-ideal circumstances.

Aft quarter view

What a pretty sheer.

The boat is equipped to take a mast, leeboard, and rudder. When these pictures were taken, the mast and boom were finished, but some work remained on the leeboard and rudder.

Aft quarter
Aft Quarter [Enlarge]

On the water
On the Water [Enlarge]

On the water

Ready for adventure, and waiting for the photographer to finish.

See how high she floats.

The land in the background is Salt Spring Island, just west of Fulford Harbour.

Leeboard view

Her sailing rig is now complete.

Here she is close-hauled on the starboard tack, with the sprit to windward and the leeboard to lee. Both the rudder and the leeboard ride quite deeply in the water.

Until these pictures were taken, I didn't know her sailing trim was this good.

On the water
Leeboard [Enlarge]

On the water
Stern [Enlarge]

Stern view

Still on the starboard tack, in a gust of wind.

With that shallow bottom and spade leeboard, she turns on a dime and is very quick in stays.

With her transom completely out of the water, she moves along quite smartly.


Her bow is also nicely out of the water here, but when that transom slaps a powerboat wake the splash ends up in the boat.

I keep a bailing bucket tied to the end of her painter for those occasions.

On the water
Approaching [Enlarge]

On the water
Leeboard to Weather [Enlarge]

Leeboard to weather

With the oiled wood, she makes a pretty mini-ship.

I don't notice much difference with the sprit and the leeboard on the "wrong" side of the boat. There are always other factors that affect on which tack she is better.

This view shows how the oars are stowed while sailing. The oar handles are resting on Frame "A" on either side of the the mast.



The sail is made out of nylon. This was not a great choice (too stretchy), but I had the fabric.

Nymph is cramped and extremely tender, but she sails better than any boat so small has a right to. If you are agile, she is good in winds of up to about 8-10 knots, with weather helm in the gusts. I find no need to carry the "leeboard" on the lee, as it appears to work equally well to windward; this is a good thing, because taking the time to swap it over when tacking would leave you vulnerable to gusts.

Her biggest adventure so far is a five-nautical-mile round trip in Satellite Channel to Portland Island (near Sidney, BC) in a good wind with two adults totalling 300 pounds aboard. This trip took us about five hours, including some time spent on the island (to stretch, of course).

Here she is, beached on Portland Island.

(The whole island constitutes Princess Margaret Marine Park.)