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April 4, 2009

Brothers build Cape Ann's first 'green' boat

Another notable page was added to Cape Ann's flowing maritime history this past winter.

That was when two brothers built and launched the Robin Jean, the area's first "green" boat created by Bolger & Friends Inc., Boat Designers.

Sincerely concerned about helping out East Coast fishing communities — especially their beloved Gloucester - during the ongoing NMFS groundfish and lately the world's economic survivor series — Phil Bolger and his wife, Suzanne Altenburger, who already have 600 boat designs from dingys to a 1794 warship replica to their credit, have been actively promoting a long, narrow and shallow-draft earth and fisherman-wallet-friendly vessel.

These primarily 31- to 70-foot long vessels, best for fixed-gear fisheries such as lobstering and gillnetting, could be built locally by fishermen, mainly out of renewable plywood and would also require small power packages.

But Bolger and his wife still walk the same path today that Dr. James M. Knott, Jug and Cy Cousens/Webber's Cove Boatyard, and Robert Crowe Sr., did with the vinyl-coated, wire mesh lobster trap, fiberglass lobster boat and the hydraulic pot hauler, respectively, back in the 1970s. Their products became mainstays in different fisheries, especially lobstering. Most of the commonly-used fishing vessels under 65 feet along Cape Ann today were designed and built in New Hampshire, Maine and Nova Scotia.

"I have a lot of respect for Phil (Bolger). I was sure he knew what he was doing in this design," said Dave Mero of Gloucester. Mero and his 45-year-old carpenter brother Dan, of Buffalo, Minn,, began piecing together the approximately 32-foot long, 8-foot wide, by 12-inch deep Robin Jean in March 2008 for owner Robin Hubbard of Gloucester.

"I called a guy in Rhode island who had built a similar hull, and he reassured me it might not look and sound right, but it will come out right," Mero said. "A lot (of choosing this design) was their (Phil and Suzanne's) salesmanship, but most important, we liked the idea of their green fishing vessel that's pretty much unsinkable."

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