Crossroads of training and license for Naval Arch.

Discussion in 'Education' started by AJacks, Jan 12, 2004.

  1. CDBarry
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    CDBarry Senior Member

    How many years did you work at Bath or Ingalls so that you know that real naval architects will spend all their life doing piping? Sorry, pipe designers do piping, not naval architects. I know what Westlawn says real naval architects do, but they don't have a clue.

    I've been all over the US and in Europe, and have designed dozens of craft, including some very interesting and demanding ones ranging from high speed amphibious vehicles to offshore oil rigs, including over a dozen small craft (<80', of which hundreds have been built of a couple of designs). I have had a very interesting career and only rarely did piping (which is actually much more interesting than it sounds like, especially when you are designing a steam turbine power plant from scratch). I did my first tug three years after leaving school and my first small passenger vessel during school as an intern (and returned the favor to another intern 20 years later). I've done two fireboats, other small passenger vessels, research vessels, fishboats and even some yachts. I also have two patents in high speed craft design, based on some very interesting projects.

    However, my career is probably typical in range, though maybe not in detail. Any NA who is interested in interesting work can find it if they want, and if they have a solid engineering background that enables them to be creative and to solve problems from first engineering principles.
  2. Willallison
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    Willallison Senior Member

    S'pose none of these people do either...?
    Tom Fexas Independent Designer
    Bruce King Independent Designer
    Jack Hargrave Independent Designer, Designer for Hatteras,
    Bertram, others
    Gary Mull Independent Designer
    Bill Cook Independent Designer
    Bill Shaw Independent Designer
    Charlie Morgan Independent Designer, President Morgan Yachts
    Rod Johnston Independent Designer, Founder & Designer J/Boats
    Dave Gerr Independent Designer
    David P. Martin Independent Designer, Designer for Ocean Yachts,
    Egg Harbor, Pacemaker, others
    Rodger Martin Independent Designer
    Luc St. Onge Designer, Doral
    Ted Brewer Independent Designer
    Bob Walstrom Independent Designer
    Robert Harris Independent Designer
    Dudley Dix Independent Designer
    Stephen Pollard Independent Designer
    David Beach Independent Designer, Architect for NMMA
    Jay Coyle Independent Designer,
    Technical Editor for Yachting Magazine
    Doug Zurn Independent Designer
    Dick McBride Independent Designer
    Dave Napier Designer, Bertram
    Fred Geiger Designer, Trumpy
    Robert F. MacNeill Independent Designer, Marine Consultant,
    former President Carver Boats
    Walter G. Hahn Designer, American Custom Yachts
    Richard C. Lazzara Designer, Lazzara Yachts, Gulfstar
    Eric Ogden Independent Designer, Designer "French Kiss"
    French 12M America's Cup Contender
    Eric Henseval Independent Designer, Architect for Van
    Peteghem-Lauriot-Prevost (MVP-VLP), Arradon Team
    D.A.J. (Dan) Parker Designer & President, Monaro Marine Ltd.
    George Menezes Designer, Sabre
    James Loeschen Designer, Jack Hargrave and Hargrave Custom Yachts
    J. Henry Martinak Independent Designer, Designer Café Yachts
    Thurber Whitey Project Manager, Rybovich Spencer
    Peter Eichenberger USCG Officer, Boating Safety
    Lysle Gray USCG Civilian Supervisor, Boating Safety
    Nicholas DeMateo Designer, Tom Fexas Yacht Design
    Norman Nudleman Independent Designer, Former President Westlawn
    David Fox Designer, US Navy Combatant Craft

    and none of these design firms / boat related businesses...?

    Sparkman & Stephens
    Farr Yacht Design Ltd.
    Robert Perry
    C.W. ©¯Chuck©˜ Paine
    Oracle BMW Racing's America's Cup Team
    Tripp Design, Naval Architecture
    John W. Gilbert Associates, Inc.
    MacLear & Harris, Inc.
    Francis & Francis
    Benford Design Group
    Van Peteghem-Lauriot-Prevost (MVP-VLP)
    Arradon Team
    Glade Johnson
    Paolo D. Smith
    Seltzer Design
    Michael Porter
    United States Coast Guard
    United States Navy
    SP Systems
    American Bureau of Shipping
    American Boat & Yacht Council
    National Marine Manufacturers Association
    Boating Magazine
    Sail Magazine
    Yachting Magazine
    Offshore Magazine

    American Custom Yachts
    Burger Boat Co.
    Café Yachts
    Cape Dory Yachts
    Carver Boats
    Cheoy Lee Shipyard
    Chris Craft
    Cobalt Boats
    Delta Marine
    Egg Harbor
    Four Winns
    General Dynamics/Electric Boat
    Grand Banks
    Hargrave Custom Yachts
    Hatteras Yachts
    Island Packet Yachts
    Lazzara Yachts
    Monaro Marine Ltd.
    Ocean Yachts
    P.A.E. Boatbuilders
    Palmer Johnson
    Pearson Yachts
    Rybovich Spencer
    Sabre Yachts
    Santa Cruz Yachts
    Viking Yachts
    Westport Shipyards

    There's someone here without a clue...I don't think it's Westlawn..... :mad:
  3. CDBarry
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    CDBarry Senior Member

    I'm not saying Westlawn doesn't understand the yacht business - they don't understand other than the yacht business, though they and people who have never set foot in a shipyard constantly tell students that it is only "calculating boiler scale", or designing sewer pipe. Commercial/military NAME is one of the broadest, most interesting fields of engineering available, and everyone I know in the field has done a wide range of very interesting projects. Yachts are a small subset of the field, and don't offer nearly the technical challenges, or the resources to address these challenges, except at the very highest (America's Cup, etc.) levels.

    It is also worth noting that many of the people on the list also have other qualifications. Though I knew Gary Mull for many years, for example, I never knew he took the Westlawn course - he always identified hmself as a UC Berkeley NAME graduate.

    This then goes to the idea that some have done Westlawn and have been successful does not necessarily mean anyone else will. It is likely that someone interested in yachts will have taken Westlawn, but to prove that if you take the Westlawn course, you will become ... is a much higher standard of proof. It is also possible that the relationship is inverse; many people who will become successful for other reasons take the Westlawn course. (And then go on to other forms of training, apprenticeship or whatever.) It is like Nike saying that if you wear Air Jordans you will play in the NBA. It may be true, but asking someone to invest several thousand dollars and two years requires a substantial standard of proof that there is some merit to the investment, and this requires some evidence that there is a cause and effect relationship. The other part is how many people take the Westlawn course and don't get big carreers in yacht design.

    Westlawn is a probably a legitimate route to the field, but at least now, probably less good a route than a conventional university education, useful only for those who have no other alternative, and they should know that the entire field is very difficult, especially without the type of credentials that are now common even in yacht design.
  4. 8knots
    Joined: Feb 2002
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    8knots A little on the slow side

    Mr. Barry, I hope you don't think I was saying your full of it! Simply even with a 4 year degree you will do the dirt work for a while! Thats all.
    I agree that westlawn is not the best route for all. The piece of paper earned will pale in comparison to a NAME degree from a 4 year school.

    For me personally Westlawn is a reasonable compromise. I am 31 with a wife, one kid and another on the way. I myself am not willing to give up a great job, 2 acres and a log home in the country to move to the cespool of the east coast I left many years ago. Alaska does that to you I guess. I do not want to subject my family to poverty and crime so I can go to school. There is not one N/A doing biz up here but millions of small builders working in AL. small jet boats mostly. In a nutshell...Plenty of room for a small design firm catering to the small pleasure boat market. Thats the direction I would like to go. 8K is a small price to pay for an education focusing on the direction I would like to go. I realize I will never win the commision for a navy ship but a fast ferry for the state of Alaska........Maybe?

    Have a good one 8
  5. 8knots
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    8knots A little on the slow side

    Let me crarify a bit..I do not mean a westlawn diploma means nothing. Rather it trains you in small craft design just as the propaganda states. The long list of graduates proves that Westlawn is a great start or a Value added item to your resume. Someone taking the Westlawn course should be able to handle any commision thrown at them just short of an aircraft carrier. If those are the contracts you are after then I would say Westlawn is not the choice for you!
  6. Willallison
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    Willallison Senior Member

    I have no idea where your anti-Westlawn stance stems from. It's true that Westlawn teaches little if anything relevant to the construction of large military vessels - but then they don't perport to either. And whilst I have no doubt that the design of recreational craft "don't offer nearly the technical challenges, or the resources to address these challenges, except at the very highest (America's Cup, etc.) levels. " - there are many aspiring designers (like myself) who have no interest in designing them.
    Like 8Knots, I don't doubt that I would gain more from a "proper university degree". But it's simply not a practical option for many. Just because Westlawn is a distance-ed operation does not make it any less of a legitimate entry into the industry.

    Please don't de offended by my taking exception to your remarks - I'm just a little bemused about why you would make them...
  7. CDBarry
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    CDBarry Senior Member

    I'm not anti-Westlawn, except that people need to understand the limits before they make their choices. Westlawn is probably not the best route to yacht design, though it may be the only one applicable for some people. Westlawn also seems to claim that yacht design is a relatively easy career to acheive success in, and that an exciting career is just a matter of completing their course, which is not entirely accurate. Finally, I am tired of Westlawn's claims that university educations are not applicable to small craft or that commercial naval achitecture is boring and only applies to large military craft design.

    It is also not just large military craft that they do not cover. They do not for example, cover damage stability at all. Damage stability is often the governing concern for FVs over 79 feet, and for any passenger vessel carrying more than 49 passengers. They only cover structures from a "rule of thumb" basis, which may result in an acceptable small craft, but will probably not allow an efficient structural design for a classed vessel, especially considering that whole vessel FEA is now routine in high speed craft and other light vessels. The coverage of systems topics is insufficient to allow a designer to understand topics such as HVAC, larger electrical systems, and numerous other areas that are important in craft such as dinner boats, ferries and so on. It doesn't cover tonnage issues in enough detail to develop an optimized tonnage limited vessel. The course does not cover propellers well enough to design an effective tug. Westlawn also does not address issues such as design synthesis and optimization in general, which is required to acheive the best possible solution in a vessel highly constrained by regulations and requirements. This is a great deal "short of an aircraft carrier".

    Recreational boats generally do not require this kind of engineering, so Westlawn is appropriate for routine design of recreational craft. It is not sufficent for the many types of commercial craft between 79 and 200 feet, though, and it is very important to understand that these limits.

    It is also important to understand that yacht design may not in fact represent a good career opportunity. If someone wants to spend this kind of money and time on what may turn out to be only be a hobby, that's fine. There are any number of hobbies that cost more - as I noted, finishing a championship dog requires about the same cost and time. It is also worth noting that there are any number of succesful yacht designers who are entirely self-trained, so this, especially combined with some general training in drafting, is another route.

    However, I repeat. If you intend to become a yacht designer you must have something very special because it is an intensely competitive field with few opportunities. You should be able clearly articulate what that special thing is now and then take whatever steps you need to in order to enhance that, and just taking a course (any course) makes you no more special than anyone else. It is like someone planning their life around being in the NBA - if you aren't six foot six, you might want to rethink your career plans.

    On the other hand, if you are interested in the marine field, there are substantially more opportunities in commercial and military ship building, and they allow a reasonable middle class income and a wide range of interesting projects. If you can, then a university education is a good route to such positions, but otherwise, evening vocational programs in CAD and engineering technology are readiliy available and will also allow entry into the field through apprenticeships and similar opportunities.
  8. MarkC
    Joined: Oct 2003
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    MarkC Senior Member

    Thank you for writing that CDBarry - very interesting viewpoint.

    'If you intend to become a yacht designer you must have something very special because it is an intensely competitive field with few opportunities. You should be able clearly articulate what that special thing is now and then take whatever steps you need to in order to enhance that, and just taking a course (any course) makes you no more special than anyone else.'
  9. Willallison
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    Willallison Senior Member

    I take your point CDBarry - but I would put forward that anyone seriously considering entering the design field would be aware that distance eduction such as that offered by W/lawn can't hope to provide the amount of information that you might receive in a more specialised university degree. It provides a general basis for those wishing to enter the industry - and many who do so then go on to specialise in a particular field (and take additional education to do so).
  10. CDBarry
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    CDBarry Senior Member

    Anyone who is interested in some typical small ship design tasks may want to check out the San Francisco Water Transit Authority's draft specifications and requirements for their ferries. Look under then in the Implementation Plan technical documents - buried deeply there is some requirements for the vessels themselves.
  11. waterman
    Joined: Feb 2004
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    waterman Boat Geek

    I've been reading these educational threads for awhile now. I find them particarlly interesting because this has been the monkey on my back for almost five years. I sit squarley on the fence between both camps. On one hand I hear and understand what CDBarry is saying. On the other hand, I agree with the other camp as well.
    As an older student, (I will be graduating next year) I have spent the last 5 years getting my math skills up to speed, and have now almost finished a degree in NAME. I have to admit. School Sucks! It has been the biggest disappointment of my life. By the time I will have graduated, I will have learned all of the basics of engineering (you can't learn it all in a lifetime), how ever, I will not have learned to design a simple boat either. (which is what I came to learn). The boats that I will have designed in school will be no more than a detailed conceptual design, regardless of the scale. No matter who I complain to about this, the standard attitude is "you will learn what you need to know on the job. Our intent is to give you the basics, the rest is up to industry". tThis is a hard pill to swallow when you have made a lot of personal sacrifices to better your life, to make a change, or to do something you love because you are tired of doing work that you hate. I understood that I would not learn everything when I came to school. However, I did expect that at the least I would learn how to design a basic boat along with everything else, from a first principles viewpoint. WRONG! What I have discovered is that the "boat design" I am learning is stuff I already knew from years of personal interested reading. The things I came to learn are things that I will "learn on the job". This is crap. Granted, I now know what books to look in when I need to remember how to do basic beam theory, However, I have not found much in the way of application. IN my opinion, unless you learn how to apply it, theory is just that,theory. nothing more. Theory that is not used (by learning apllications) is quickly forgotten. things that are forgotten are useless.
    It seems that what is important is the piece of paper. However, if I'm going to learn what I need to learn on the job, why not cut to the chase and skip the schooling process? Why should I have to learn all of this stuff (that I could have read in a book)? Why should I have to spend Five or more years banging my head against books, and then still have to struggle after I get out of school to learn what I should have been taught in school?
    I came to school to learn the conceptual leaps that bound the gap between theory and application (the stuff that books usually have a hard time doing), and am willing to learn, however, I have found that universities are full of people who don't like to teach,can't teach, are lazy, have limited social skills,are only worried about thier jobs (like everywhere else), and who generally frown upon the apllications? Alot of professors are so stuck in thier academic theory world that they forget that someone needs to apply the stuff they have spent thier life figuring out!
    Alot of time on this thread is spent on the practicalities of getting a degree vs. not getting a degree, and the benefits and detractions of both. A nice counterpoint to this topic is this: Unbeknown to alot of people, there are LOTS! of subcontractors ("engineering"subcontractors) out there who routinely design some of the most complicated machines we have ever devised: Airplanes, and belive it or not, there are alot of these subcontractors who don't have engineering degrees. Imagine that! Large portions of the helicopters and airplanes out there are designed and engineered by people without degrees. Scary, huh?
    So at the end of the day, I agree with both sides and am disgusted by the modern institution of a university. There is alot of hype on both sides. Everyone needs to justify thier own choices. However, at the end of the day, a motivated person will learn it thier own way, on the job.
  12. Guest

    Guest Guest

    You're right, but

    You are absolutely right about school. Unfortunately this is the way all professions (and trades) are. Some have interning or other opportunities. As I write this, my wife is getting some work done at the local dental school, so they don't just learn theory. This is difficult to do at most engineering colleges, at least for undergrads, though Webb has a very good interning program (one of the best point sof the school). Every apprentice plumber does the crummy, detailled work, as does every apprentice boatbuilder. The junior barber sweeps the floor.

    The field is far too broad to teach the details of any aspect of design in the way that some people seem to want - I bet you didn't design an oil rig either.

    However, if you have been alert, you will spend the next twenty years finding solutions to problems in your schooling that you didn't even imagine meant anything at the time. I recall a problem in practical shipyard shell plating development once that I happened to mention to one of my professors at a local SNAME section meeting. His response was pretty close to "Duh - didn't you take differential calculus?". I looked back and sure enough, there was the answer.

    Becoming a naval architect (or a vet - read Herriot's books, or anything else) is a lifelong learning process, I realized that this is why they call it practicing a profession.

    There are just no simple, quick answers to anything worth doing well.
  13. Guest

    Guest Guest

    Look at the Farr Website

    It is worth looking at the websites of some of the design firms that Westlawn cites to see how many people actually have what education. Google the Farr office in Annapolis and see just how many people are Westlawn vs university grads.

    The problem is that, with the availability of low cost computing, all of the things that were too expensive to do for a yacht aren't anymore.

    At one time a course that concentrated on drafting, especially hull lines, would be half of what was needed. However, now anyone with Rhino or whatever can produce a fair set of lines, and another piece of software does all the stability calcs. This has raised the bar for the level of complexity in design, and rule of thumb approaches aren't competitive any more.

    Even on this site we see that self-trained individuals are doing very interesting work, so Westlawn, et al, are becoming less relevant, because there is enough literature available for excellent self-education, but the top levels require much more background than ever before. Westlawn, and the recent grads, are being squeezed in the middle - they can't compete with Univ. grads for the top work, but pure CAD jockies can now do all the drafting, and much better, and can readily pick up what ever technical aspects they need for routine boats.
  14. Tom Ask
    Joined: May 2004
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    Tom Ask Junior Member


    I enjoyed the range of ideas presented in this thread, especially the criticism of college instructors. Three years ago I accepted a position as an Assistant Professor and I love getting into the theoretical aspects of our profession -- much more than my students enjoy hearing it. Coming from 20 years of industry experience, I would agree professors are not as driven as business people and engineers are. The environment is artificial and the end product rather nebulous. I will take the one posters comments to heart and try to maintain a practical touch. However, the problem with instruction in practical techniques is that they change quickly and you are then only educating the student for the next five years rather than his entire career. So there is a legimate arguement for both sides. I suppose the art of teaching is blending the theory and practice. Where I went to school U. Illinois, our education was entirely theoretical and I was frustrated by that.

    With regards to the P.E. license it has rarely helped me directly, especially in the marine field. Also with regards to making money in the industry, I would agree it is tough. I have made little money between my design (custom yacht products and marine HVAC) business and my book (Handbook of Marine Surveying). And so I teach for the stability. I have written peer reviewed papers in our field on FEA, CFD and AI technologies but the interest is small and these efforts are poorly rewarded. I think an appropriate level of realism and cynicism about the marine design industry has been expressed in this thread.

  15. Guest

    Guest Guest


    Just go to the Westlawn website ( to see a gallery of magnificent yachts and other small craft designed by Westlawn Alumni. Also the student design gallery will knock your socks off.
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