Bolger Sneakeasy — A step-by-step 1997 construction pictorial of my box-keel Bolger Sneakeasy

December 14, 2010 at 8:39 pm  |   Boat Building Projects,

I ordered my Sneakeasy plans for the older ‘square’ design from Dynamite PaysonPhilip C. Bolger’s “Boats with an Open Mind” (McGraw-Hill International Marine 1994) describes both that version and the box keel version I built. Apparently, there are no expanded panels available for the latter (I assume those plans would be available from Bolger). So, I entered the box keel hull into my free Hulls program and plotted out the expansions on Tyvek on my 6′ by 32′ plotter. I didn’t end up using all my plots; for the sides it was just as easy to clamp plywood to the boat and transfer by hand.

I used 3/4 inch plywood for the keel, 1/2 inch for the bottom, and 1/4 inch for the sides. The frames were constructed from 1/4 inch plywood and 1×4 framing, with 3/4 inch plywood frames for the crowned deck. The deck has just three 1×2 inch longitudinal supports, with 1/4 inch Luan plywood crowned over. (I intend to build and install some more intermediate ‘upper’ frames to fair the deck a bit more.) The deck is covered with 6 ounce glass and epoxy, which is mostly invisible beneath the varnish. The deck cracked at the bow, which was filled and repaired. Otherwise, the deck is light but seems plenty stiff. West epoxy was used mostly, although the frames used some 5200. I used 1/4 crown staples (fast!!) and sealed hull inside and out with epoxy.

I first installed an old 15 Hp Mariner on a remote control and wheel. The boat planed instantly and produced almost no wake even at full throttle – 16.5 mph. Turned, banked, and tracked beautifully. A little wetter in a chop than I expected. I’ve now installed an electric 25 hp Evinrude, which produces up to 22 mph at the present 17″ pitch. I’ll be playing with props so that we can get about 100 miles down the river in an afternoon. I would guess that the hull weighs about 400-500 lbs.

An interesting letter regarding the history of the Sneakeasy …

“Dear Mr. Carlson…I’ve gotten a lot of pleasure from your excellent schooner website. It has inspired me to think of building another Bolger boat. I built a Surf with my dad 20 years ago. The boat’s still going strong, though the fir plywood is showing its age with checking and whatnot. The boat even survived a big hole smashed through the aft quarter when a tornado blew down an apple tree onto the overturned hull. I’m thinking replacing her with either a light schooner such as yours, or a folding schooner.

“I thought you might be interested to know of the derivation of the Sneakeasy name. My father, Jim Schultz, commissioned the orginal outboard-powered design (not the box-cutwater derivative you built) from Bolger in the early 80s. It in turn was derived from a low-sided original that was powered by a steam engine.The boat was built by a high-class professional named Jim Shea in Sturgeon Bay, WI. He used to work for Palmer Johnson.

“My Dad was casting about for a name and asked me what I thought. The boat’s style seemed reminiscent of the Prohibition years, so I suggested Rumrunner or Speakeasy. (I hope I’m not insulting your intelligence, but in case you don’t know, a speakeasy was a sort of illegal tavern that operated during Prohibition). He liked Speakeasy, and so she was christened. A reporter from the late Small Boat Journal did a story on the boat, but got the name wrong. I’ve tried several times to correct the mistake. I wrote Bolger once and talked to Payson on the phone. Neither of them seemed very interested in putting the matter straight, and I guess it doesn’t matter much anyway. Sneakeasy does seem to speak to how she slips through the water with minimal fuss.

Unfortunately, my dad entered his final decline as the boat hit the water. He used it only once. It has been in one brother or another’s barn or shed in southeastern Wisconsin ever since, and I think it has been wet only three or four times. I hope you don’t find this note too long-winded. I’d like to join the [Bolger] discussion group you founded, but our Internet access here at the Denver Rocky Mountain News (the newspaper I work for) has a lockout on chat groups and so forth. I might be able to find a way around that. In any case, my address is I’d like to hear from you sometime, and I promise I won’t wear out my welcome.”

Sincerely, Hank Schultz September 1, 1999