Crosses the Bar . . . .

H. H. (Dynamite) Payson

b. April 13, 1928; d. March 23, 2011








Payson and plug

  Born to Herman W. and Ethel M. Perry Payson in Rockland, Maine, he earned his nickname, "Dynamite" as a youngster when he exploded from behind the couch to frighten his sisters, and particularly enjoyed the exercise if there was a young man in the room with an eye on one of his siblings. Lobsterman, boat builder and modeler, "Dynamite" was known worldwide for his no-nonsense, practical and straightforward approach to boat building. A self-taught do-it-yourselfer, influenced in part by his parents, especially his dad, and wizened by frugality, Dynamite made efficient use of material, equipment and words. It was his ability to think visually that led to an innate ability to solve boat building problems and to think that simplicity in both boat design and construction is a worthy goal. In the 1960s, naval architect Philip Bolger of Gloucester, Massachusetts was so impressed by Dynamite's treatment of one of his designs, The Gloucester Gull dory, that Bolger forged a working relationship with Payson. Dynamite explained to me one time that Bolger asked him to craft scaled plugs of new designs in order to get the bilge dimensions and to test the integrity of the design in three dimensions. Before his own death a couple of years ago, Bolger commented about Dynamite that "this collaboration and friendships has been one of the pleasantest enduring relationships of my life." My sentiments exactly. People like Bolger, Peter Spectre, Roger Taylor (founder of international Marine Publishing Company) encouraged Dynamite to write a "how to book." Dynamite was a reluctant author, never having graduated from high school, but he tested the waters of authorship, and ultimately wrote 10 prized books on boat building, modeling, and tool care and repair.  

Dynamite and Amy - Partners through life
If ever there was a love story, this was it.
Married 62 years.


Sue and I with Dynamite and Amy last August

  I met Dynamite in September 1997. I wanted his opinion about how best to replicate my passion (drift boats) as fine pieces of furniture. "Why do you want to do that," he asked? I explained to him my interests and then pulled from a folder some sketches of my ideas. He looked at the drift boat and changed the question: "What is that?" He then rummaged through some papers on the corner of his workbench and said, "I got a letter from a fella in Salem, Oregon awhile back asking me to model this boat for him. I wrote back and told him that I don't know the boat, but I could model it from a set of plans." The boat was a McKenzie River drift boat, and that "fella" was Bill Girsch, a guy who lives 12 miles from my home in Oregon. Imagine that! That 1997 exchange with Dynamite led to my discovery that lines and plans of Oregon's drift boats and river dories as they evolved over time did not exist, and that these boats had been, or were close to being lost forever. Over the next year Dynamite and I visited by phone and at his invitation in 1998 I spent two weeks with him in his shop testing the lines and modeling my first recovered boat, the McKenzie light board and batten. I've been at it ever since with his encouragement and support. As important, that "fella" from Salem and I are dear friends and we often marvel at the serendipitous way we were connected by a Maine boat builder/modeler/author sought by an Oregon tourist visiting Camden, Maine, who asked that Dynamite model a drift boat for him. We often talked about the two of us rendezvousing at Dynamite's for a reunion of sorts. Our wives, who joined us, indulged us this luxury in 2009.  

Bill Girsch (left) and I close the circle in 2009 by together visiting Dynamite. Bill got his model (and then some) from Dynamite, and together we forged a wonderful friendship. When this photo was taken, Dynamite reached out and grabbed our hands and held them tight - a most spiritual experience!




(lft to rt) Bill and Kathy Girsch, Dynamite and Amy Payson, Roger and Sue Fletcher


Memorial Donations may go to:

The Carpenter's Boat Shop
440 Old Country Road
Pemaquid, ME 04558

"Founded in 1979, the Carpenter's Boat Shop is an apprenticeship-school and community for all people. Whether apprentices are between college and life careers, jobs and new directions, alcoholism and sobriety, or simply transitioning into retirement, the Boat Shop provides a safe harbor before setting sail on a new course in life. While considering goals and directions, apprentices live in community and learn boatbuilding, carpentry, furniture making, sailing, seamanship, and perform community service. They also explore personal faith through reading, study, and discussion." Your memorial is tax deductible.

Tax I.D. # 222512976



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