Design Competition

Discussion in 'Boat Design' started by Stumble, Apr 21, 2019.

  1. Stumble
    Joined: Oct 2008
    Posts: 1,896
    Likes: 71, Points: 48, Legacy Rep: 739
    Location: New Orleans

    Stumble Senior Member

    It has been a while since I have been here, but since then I am in the process of going back to school to become a Naval Architect. Related to this one of the non-profits I have worked with (Sails for Sustenance) is planning out a design competition open to anyone who is interested. The concept is for an open fishing boat that be prepped in the US and then shipped economically to third world countries where fishermen are currently using primitive boats (dug out canoes and the like).

    My though is something like a ~20' sailing/rowing dory designed for stitch and glue construction, but that is not a necessity. Just where my thinking is. Because they are reasonably seaworthy, the construction method is reasonable in primitive conditions, and we could assemble kits and ship a container of them at a time for minimal cost.

    As part of this competition the faculty at the University of New Orleans NAME program have agreed to act as judges and the local SNAME chapter is going to provide logistical support.

    My question is if anyone has done something like this and may have some suggestions for how to put it together. We have some time with submissions not likely to be until the new year sometime, but I would like to start getting everything put together.

    If you have any experience with this type of design competition, or just thoughts on it please let me know. At this point there is little set in stone and all suggestions are welcome.
    Doug Lord and bajansailor like this.
  2. bajansailor
    Joined: Oct 2007
    Posts: 1,430
    Likes: 426, Points: 83, Legacy Rep: 37
    Location: Barbados

    bajansailor Marine Surveyor

    This is a wonderful idea - however I have a feeling it will be incredibly frustrating to try to implement the actual construction of the boats once a design has been selected.
    Fishermen the world over are by nature a very conservative bunch really, and do not usually welcome change readily, even when you can (try to) bowl them over with overwhelming evidence and statistics as to how wonderful your new boat is.
    Have Sails for Sustenance obtained sponsorship for the costs of the materials for the kits and the labour (at US hourly rates.......) for cutting out the kits and getting them ready for shipment overseas?

    The FAO have some basic designs for boats of this size which are usually based on local boats in a region, and then modified slightly to try and make them better.
    And these will have evolved slowly with time and experience, and introduction of new materials and methods.
    Here is a link to one of their books of designs.
    Fishing boat designs: 2. V-bottom boats of planked and plywood construction (Rev.2)

    I think that the biggest / most logical step forward from a simple dugout canoe is not necessarily a slightly wider dory (or similar) - rather, why not keep the narrow hull concept but use two of them in the form of a catamaran?
    I remember Edwin Gifford of Catfish Ltd in Britain in the early 80's coming up with some designs for simple plywood sailing catamaran fishing vessels - a fair bit of googling eventually found this link which mentions the Sandskipper 24' cat. There was also a 36' Catfish which could be / was built in aluminium with two very simple dory shaped hulls.

    I was involved in an FAO project here (Barbados) almost 20 years ago - they were doing workshops on fishing boat design and construction in all of the English speaking islands in the Eastern Caribbean between Grenada and Antigua, and I was helping out with doing surveys on boats, taking lines off hulls and then drawing up lines plans for the workshop attendees to get a practical example of how to do it.
    One of the best workshops we had was in St Vincent - no fishing boat builders came, but all the builders / repairers of the marijuana smuggling boats attended, and were very keen to learn about new designs and developments. For them in those days speed was the answer - you had to be able to out-run a Coastguard vessel. And these boats were fast - they told me that they could leave St Vincent at sunset, get up to Barbados, drop off a 500 lb shipment and be back home before midnight. A round trip of 200 miles, half of which is to windward in typical tradewind conditions.
    And at the end of the day, after all the workshops were completed everybody patted themselves on their backs, said what a success it all was - and nothing happened afterwards re improvements in boat design or construction. Everything just seemed to quietly fizzle out.
    Doug Lord likes this.
  3. Phil_B
    Joined: Mar 2019
    Posts: 23
    Likes: 16, Points: 3
    Location: New Zealand

    Phil_B Junior Member

    Hi Stumble

    This has already been done - take a look at this UN paper which was prepared to do exactly what you want.

    Fishing boat designs: 2. V-bottom boats of planked and plywood construction (Rev.2)

    The boats are intended to be produced economically by relatively unskilled labour and using readily available material and fastenings. The boats are not intended to be high speed types but rely on low powered economical engines. It might fit the bill without the delays and problems of waiting for a suitable design.

    If you really want to start from scratch, then I'd write to various magazines that deal with this type of craft - so "Billionares Megayachts De Luxe Monthly" might not be a good starting point! >};o) - and/or contact designers that produce this type of vessel. I know John Welsford has done such a design for East Timor ( so again, the concept has been developed.

    And of course, posting on forums such as this one helps spread the word too! >};o)

    Have you considered CKD (Completely Knocked Down) kits? In other words, assemble the frames/bulkheads, make the keel and cut out the panels etc. That way the boat can be quickly assembled from the kit of parts and the volume to be shipped will be much, much lower than a complete boat. As a non profit organisation, then shipping (say) 20 or 30 boats in one container will be a lot cheaper than shipping the same number of complete boats in several containers. Plus it will allow the people on the spot to gain the skills needed to assemble and maintain the boats, so likely to be of greater benefit than simply giving them a complete boat that they cannot "understand" and look after. Having some investment in the boat is all to the good.

    Plus, the parts, made under factory conditions will be much more accurate than attempting to loft them and cutting them out in the field, so to speak, resulting in a good quality boat.

    Good luck with whatever direction you take and keep us posted on progress.
    bajansailor likes this.
  4. Dejay
    Joined: Mar 2018
    Posts: 520
    Likes: 84, Points: 28
    Location: Europe

    Dejay Senior Newbie

    Also hot humid conditions and lack of safety gear might make working with fiberglass and epoxy much harder. Much easier to learn with videos on the internet, but they might not have internet.

    It could also be interesting to make it more about building local industry. Instead of sending them kits, send them a CNC router to set up their own boatyard or "makerspace" and cut their own kits. And organize a supply route from China where all the materials are made and are cheap. Of course that's a whole different ballgame.

    PS: Not quite stitch and glue but this reminded me of the harry proa cargo ferry.
    bajansailor likes this.
  5. bajansailor
    Joined: Oct 2007
    Posts: 1,430
    Likes: 426, Points: 83, Legacy Rep: 37
    Location: Barbados

    bajansailor Marine Surveyor

    Re Phil's link to John Welsford's Trover, I think that one would be hard pressed to try to improve on this, even if there is a design competition at stake.

    And I think that I would choose one of these over one of the FAO designs any day if I was a fisherman looking to build a better boat than my dugout canoe.
  6. Stumble
    Joined: Oct 2008
    Posts: 1,896
    Likes: 71, Points: 48, Legacy Rep: 739
    Location: New Orleans

    Stumble Senior Member

    There is a lot to unpack here, and thank you everyone for your thoughts. I will try to address the issues raised in order, If I miss something it is careless not intentional.

    1) Bajan - Luckily Sails For Sustenance has a lot of existing credibility with the local fishermen. They have been working for years with the locals and have a lot of embedded good will, as well as local governmental support. If we can get the boats to them at a reasonable price they have already expressed an interest. One of the issues they are dealing with is that there are no longer any trees large enough to make dugouts, so a lot of fishermen are sitting on the shore unemployed because they lack any boats, so I am not terribly worried about uptake.

    I plan to take some time with the FOA designs, I was unaware of this resource and plan to take a deep dive in the near future.

    Catamarans are an interest of mine, but they are expensive to build and have minimal carrying capacity for the amount of materials used. Combined with the local's complete lack of familiarity with them I think going this route would be a stretch. But I had a similar thought about Pacific Proa's.

    2) Phil_B

    I have only had a very cursory glance at the FOA boats, but from what I can see they are using frames with plywood skins. Which is a pretty traditional method, and may wind up where the project goes. But I think a stitch and glue design could be even easier to produce. As mentioned above I plan a deep dive into the designs to see how far they could take us. They also assume a level of dependance on engines that we simply cannot assume. Even the 8-9hp motors they designed for are simply out of reach for Haitian fishermen. But I am very interested in what they came up with, I am just not sure if they are the best option for us.

    The CKD process is exactly what we are thinking of. We have or can likely acquire the funding to fill a 20' container with kits, so if we can put 20-30 of them in there and ship in entire kits the cost of shipping would be pretty trivial per boat. We also have a local boat yard we are exploring partnering with who could do final assembly on island. The workers are basically untrained, and material availability is functionally non-existent. So when I say a kit, I mean litterly everything that would be necessary to end up with a boat. Even finding things like screws and nails cannot be relied on.

    On the other hand, if we are bringing in 20-30 kits we may be able to bulk buy materials like epoxy or polyester instead of trying to break components down into the smallest unit per boat. Say buy a couple drums of resin instead of 30 5 gallon buckets.

    We came to the same realization about having the kits and wood cut here that you did. Having them computer routed and prepped, even at higher US labor rates is probably faster and cheaper, and certainly more reliable than having the work done there.

    3) Dejay

    I think your heart is in the right place, but... Sending a CNC router, who would use it? Few people have even seen computers let alone knows how to use one, and they don't have electricity anyway. And even if they did there isn't a hardware store available to buy the plywood at. Long term the goal of SFS is not to provide hand outs, but to help build local industry. But they have to start with getting people moving in the right direction. If we can get a working boat yard up and running, paying people a wage to build the kits, then we would consider moving production there. The advantage of shipping in kits is if the yard falls thru we can still put the kits in the hands of the local communities with a local expert and see boats built from them.

    4) Bajan (again)

    I really like the design, but our design brief is a little bit different, and while it actually isn't finalized yet, there are some concerns with the boat Welsford drew up. 1) Our brief assumes no motor, all propulsion should be assumed to be from rowing or sail. The Haitian fishermen cannot afford either the engines or the gas to operate them. A small percentage of the fleet use 2-3hp motors on the run back if loaded with fish, but that's it. Welsford's boat assumes first world use of a motor for propulsion which we cannot. We need good directional stability under oars, which the planning surface sacrifices, and while adding a centerboard and rudder may be a possible refit it would take a pretty big rethink of the design. Such that it may be easier to start from scratch.

    Keep the ideas coming guys, I have turned this thread into a list of things I need to explore in more detail, and it is helping to crystalize my thinking about what the final brief should look like. One of the major considerations though has to be a complete reliance on row or sail. Any boat optimized for an engine just isn't going to work for us.
  7. Phil_B
    Joined: Mar 2019
    Posts: 23
    Likes: 16, Points: 3
    Location: New Zealand

    Phil_B Junior Member

    Hi Stumble,

    I vaguely recall (but not from where, unfortunately) that John Welsford's Trover design was originally intended for paddling and/or sailing - though I could well be wrong on this point. Most days, I can't remember what I had for breakfast and there is only corn flakes in the cupboard! >};o) I know that the East Timorese were in the same position as your intended users - the government had stolen their outboards and burned their boats in an effort to starve them to death. So the design was a basic one that could be rowed/paddled and, if my memory isn't playing tricks, rigged with a basic sail too.

    John is very approachable and a friendly and helpful guy. Might be worth dropping him an e-mail and pick his brains on the matter to confirm my admittedly hazy recollections about this design.

    His website is here and you may find one of his designs that would suit:

    John Welsford Small Craft Design

    His e-mail address from the website:

    This is getting interesting fast! >};o)
  8. bajansailor
    Joined: Oct 2007
    Posts: 1,430
    Likes: 426, Points: 83, Legacy Rep: 37
    Location: Barbados

    bajansailor Marine Surveyor

    Thank you Greg for these additional details, especially re the constraints - I really think that for the Haitian fishermen working under sail power alone a catamaran hull form has to be the most practical / logical way to go.
    However if oars are the main form of propulsion then yes, a relatively narrow easily driven skiff would be more logical - but it then has limitations re stability (and cargo carrying ability).
    Ok, a cat would be a bit more expensive because you are effectively building two (slightly narrower) skiffs - but the gain in efficiency, carrying ability and (especially) stability would surely make up for this?

    Re the second link in my first post above (re - a bit more googling found this link where you can download the complete book in pdf format (or you can alternatively purchase a hard copy for $55).
    Login | The National Academies Press

    The Boat Design & Construction chapter starts on page 13.
    On page 17 is a rather poor photo of a Sandskipper 24' catamaran - they mention that she weighs a ton, but can carry 3 tons of fish and gear which is pretty impressive.
    And here is a quote from the pdf re multihull craft :

    "Multihulled boats have a number of positive features for small-scale fisheries. Their hulls have low displacement to length ratios and high length to beam ratios (long and narrow) and therefore offer minimum resistance and are easily propelled. Moreover, the stability of multihulls makes them ideal candidates for sail power. Small catamarans are lightweight and can be beached and carried with relative ease."

    On page 25 there is a basic GA drawing of a smaller (16') version of the Sandskipper - this version is able to carry 1.5 tons of equipment and fish (which is again pretty impressive).

    The hulls of both Sandskippers are essentially simple dories, and should be very easy to construct from kits.
    And these boats were designed almost 40 years ago for working off exposed beaches in Sri Lanka with breaking waves (I used to have a catalogue about them, but I cannot find it now), hence their seaworthiness is assured.
    And there is a good chance that they can still be 'improved' a bit more now.

    I think the main problem that you would have with catamarans is that they simply look different to 'conventional' fishing boats. But if you build a prototype, and demonstrate that it is a very viable type of fishing boat, then I am sure that prejudices and skepticism would quickly be brushed aside, and the Haitians would embrace them enthusiastically.
    Last edited: Apr 22, 2019
  9. Stumble
    Joined: Oct 2008
    Posts: 1,896
    Likes: 71, Points: 48, Legacy Rep: 739
    Location: New Orleans

    Stumble Senior Member

    After a little digging the Trover was designed from the get go with a 15hp outboard in mind, with that in mind there was no need to consider alternative power options. So while the intent was very similar, this availability drove the entire design. Sadly we have nothing like that much available power, so our design will necessarily be quite different. Trading the flat aft sections for a bottom with a some directional stability will be key, and while the Trover has a great kick up motor well, it is just added work for us with little advantage. A rounded stern with additional buoyancy, and some directional stability under oars would be better.

    Still a great boat for what she was designed to do, but I don't think it will work for us.
  10. BlueBell
    Joined: May 2017
    Posts: 1,407
    Likes: 301, Points: 83
    Location: Victoria BC Canada

    BlueBell Ahhhhh...

    You may want to ask the fishermen what they need in their boats, what they are lacking.
    SOR update if you will.
    No point in sending something that doesn't fit the bill.

    What are they using for power then?
    Boat size?
    Sea conditions?
    bajansailor likes this.
  11. Stumble
    Joined: Oct 2008
    Posts: 1,896
    Likes: 71, Points: 48, Legacy Rep: 739
    Location: New Orleans

    Stumble Senior Member


    I am not immune to the advantages of multihulls, I own two of them. I suspect that for our purposes the additional material cost and labor cost to build them will make them non-competitive, but I would love to see one show up in the competition, they do have a number of advantages. I am just not sure that for our purposes they will win out. But I am prepared to be proven wrong.
  12. Stumble
    Joined: Oct 2008
    Posts: 1,896
    Likes: 71, Points: 48, Legacy Rep: 739
    Location: New Orleans

    Stumble Senior Member

    One of the first principles of SFS is to work very closely with the local collectives to make sure the help offered is really what they need, not what we think they need. The current SOR is primarily based on the input of local fishermen as well as economic reality of how much they can afford. Mixed with a dash of what type of design is possible to be built locally with available skills and tools. We are not telling them what characteristics the boat the use should have, we are telling them given their options, this is the best design we can come up with to solve their needs.

    Their current power is being provided primarily by rowing and drag sailing (just putting anything in the wind current to catch a breeze. Any number of things have been used for the drags, up to and including potted plants, in the morning the shore breeze would carry them out, and in the evening the sea breeze would bring them back. The fishermen who have worked with SFS are now also using sails made from discarded racing and cruising sails from the US recreational market, cut and sewn on island to fit their needs by local seamstresses.

    Size - highly variable but we are targeting the 18-22' range. This is the prototypical size, large enough to reasonably make the fishing grounds, and inexpensive to build.

    Sea conditions - Any and all conditions found around Haiti. Of course these men are very experienced mariners and smart enough to not go out when hurricanes are coming, but they fish to eat, so every day not fishing is a problem.

    Time line - The competition will likely be formally announced in the Fall, with the first round of judging around the new year. The plan is to have the finalists built by a US yard for final testing and proofing and an awards ceremony sometime in the Spring for the winning design. The first fleet of kits will then be loaded up and shipped to Haiti probably around the end of Spring 2020, beginning of the Summer. With boats hitting the water as soon after that as possible. Figure 12-14 months or so from now before the first boats hit the water.
    bajansailor likes this.
  13. rob denney
    Joined: Feb 2005
    Posts: 763
    Likes: 122, Points: 43, Legacy Rep: 436
    Location: Australia

    rob denney Senior Member

    As well as designing the haryproa cargo ferry mentioned above which has been shortlisted for the Marshall Islands version of what you are doing, I have entered (and won) a couple of design competitions and years ago I ran one. We got 30+ entries for an 'ideal cruiser', including cats, tris and monos. The winner got the materials to build his boat. Huge fun but a lot of work for designers, organisers and judges. My advice is to make the rules as loose as possible, while including all the known requirements. Pretty sure you will be surprised at what turns up. We certainly were.

    If you want more info or there is anything I can do to help, email me at

    Please also keep me in the loop regarding the competition entry information.


    rob denney
    Dejay, Doug Lord and bajansailor like this.
  14. W17 designer
    Joined: Oct 2010
    Posts: 147
    Likes: 41, Points: 28, Legacy Rep: 21
    Location: Vermont, VT

    W17 designer Senior Member

    Great idea ..but I think it would be helpful to all who may want to help if you could collect and post some photos of the types of boats presently being used. From that, new offerings should be able to at least improve on the present situation. From my perspective, I find the Trover to be more complex in structure than perhaps justified. I also think one needs to define the type of fishing to be undertaken as this can have a large influence on the required space and stability. Would a simple open dory work ? These can be built with minimal framing. Also, are they launching in open surf ? This will affect the sheer needed. Just look at the boats used in the Philippines.
    One might also consider long slender hulls (with some sealed ends for guaranteed flotation) that could be individually rowed out in suitable conditions, with the ability to lash two together for stability with bamboo beams, to survive and get home should conditions worsen. If the shape suits, you might also consider the ABC System of construction as developed for my W17, as it saves all the wires or ties of stitching. Check here for the options

    Good luck to all
    bajansailor and Dejay like this.

  15. Squidly-Diddly
    Joined: Sep 2007
    Posts: 1,716
    Likes: 120, Points: 63, Legacy Rep: 304
    Location: SF bay

    Squidly-Diddly Senior Member

    I want a "sport-universal-vessel" (SUV) boat. About 20', row, sail or outboard, planing dingy hull shape. Micro-cuddy forward, mostly to keep seagull dung off certain things and maybe keep the outboard locked up, and for smallish people to huddle. One or two sliding seat stations, as well as rear sculling oar. Twin Dagger boards would be multi-purpose and could also serve as outriggers for fast sailing, or gang-planks, or cross benches and two level decking for cargo separation and seating or table tops or spray shields (you'd want to carry about 4 boards). Bermuda rig with built in provision to use boom as crane for 60lbs weights(I've watched several people stubble and "lose it" trying to carry objects from dock to boat), and provision to use both sails as tent over entire boat so it could sit in heavy rain and not sink. Easily tow-able, barely car-toppable with two strong people and mid-size or larger. Design Emphasis: 50% sail, 10% row, 10% cargo, 10% motor, 10% sleeper, 10% fishing/duckhunting.
    bajansailor likes this.
Forum posts represent the experience, opinion, and view of individual users. Boat Design Net does not necessarily endorse nor share the view of each individual post.
When making potentially dangerous or financial decisions, always employ and consult appropriate professionals. Your circumstances or experience may be different.