How to learn boat design

Discussion in 'Education' started by Malibrodic, Dec 17, 2019.

  1. Ad Hoc
    Joined: Oct 2008
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    Ad Hoc Naval Architect

    Sorry for not being clear.

    I mean if you ONLY want to understand this field of engineering as a hobby - then what is there to stop you? Nothing would prevent you having cake making or beer making as a hobby, so why would you think learning naval architecture is any different? Just do need to be hesitant!

    Conversely the same is true.
    What is there to prevent you from pursuing this as a career?...nothing. If you don't apply you'll never know! And don't give up at the first rejection...if this is your passion and desire...keep going.
    bajansailor likes this.
  2. Ike
    Joined: Apr 2006
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    Location: Washington

    Ike Senior Member

    Well said. I have worked in the engineering field most of my life, even though I do not have a BS in engineering. I worked side by side with many really top-notch engineers and naval architects, several who were what I consider brilliant. Almost all of them have years of hands on experience. The worst engineers I dealt with did not have that kind of hands on experience. I can recall one who had never even been to the site of the facility he was doing the design work for, for a renovation of the site. Anyway, I learned early on to go out, get your hands dirty and see what it is you are working on. (a rather irate machinist made that painfully clear to me back in 1970, because he couldn't make what I had designed, and he was right) So, the education is important, but the hands on is just as important. Learn the fundamentals and then go see exactly how they work on boats. Besides, the hands on can be a lot of fun. Who doesn't like sailing or power boating?
    bajansailor likes this.
  3. TANSL
    Joined: Sep 2011
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    TANSL Senior Member

    I agree and I think that must be the process. Otherwise, understand how something works and why, without having the basic theoretical knowledge, I don't think it works.
  4. Malibrodic
    Joined: Dec 2019
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    Location: Croatia

    Malibrodic New Member

    Thank you everyone for your time, encouragement and advice.

    Yeah, my family is working on ships through generations, from simple fisherman to captain of ocean tankers.
    It is interesting life, but I want to see anther side of coin.

    I look Westlawn course and it seems good introduction to NA. As you said it it is nothing like real degree in NA but with my background in ME, I think I will understand where is needed more learning.
    Unfortunately money is little bit tight currently and I didn't expected so spicy price. So my plan is to buy some books which you suggested, use university library and this site. We will see how that will progress. Long journey ahead.

    Now there's nothing left but blood, toil, tears and sweat.

  5. Six Pack
    Joined: Apr 2019
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    Location: Italy - Lake Como

    Six Pack Junior Member

    A few years ago I was in a similar position as the OP. I had looked at the Westlawn course for a long time, and signed up without much further research .

    They offer two different courses, the "Elements of Yacht Design" and the full course. I had originally planned to go for the full one and had saved up money to take it. Fortunately, my wife talked me out of taking the full one, so I went for the "Elements" course, which I would like to review here.

    The price tag for the "Elements" course is 4400 US$, which is the price for one of the four modules of the full course - 17k+ US$. Additionally, you pay 100 US$ per month.

    I graduated about a year ago.

    To make it short...

    • The course is outdated, to term it mildly. You get paper books with plenty of typos sent via snail mail! The quality of illustrations is somewhere between bad and beyond recognition (see below)
    • The forum is deserted, the website ancient
    • Can't say anything nice about the instructor
    • and more...
    A picture out of the book "Modern Boat Building" (from 1985 !) , that came with the course. And no, this isn't a particularly bad one.

    A page of the book "Interior Design Methods for Yacht Design and the Boat Building Industry", that came with the course. A whole book talking about colors and types of wood, etc... with illustrations in black and white. Seriously?

    Even though time has passed since I graduated, the extreme disappointment about the course makes me angry to this day when I think about it. Every time I open a book about boat design, I get the feeling I learned more by reading for an hour as compared to taking the whole Westlawn course.

    The course has not been revised for decades. Instead, "errata sheets" and a "student guides" have been added. Additionally, the forum contains advice and corrections for every single lesson. Instead of learning boat design, I struggled to figure where to find the latest correction of the correction. Frustrating.

    Least impressive side of the course was the instructor. Communications were limited to cut & paste when lucky. I had my work called "useless pretty pictures", waited for weeks (at one time a whole month) for answers because he was on holiday, etc... There were enough mistakes made by him "correcting" my work to fill a whole page. For instance, I was "corrected", that a foot to an inch wasn't 1/12 but 1/10. When I pointed this out to him, an apology or even acknowledgement of his error remained missing.

    Sorry for the rant, I will stop here. If you're still considering taking the course, have a look at the Professional Boatbuilder Magazine, issue 176, 178 and 179, where Westlawn is discussed in detail.

    You can also search this forum where people post their experience, which appears similar to mine.

    To finalize, my opinion. The school was bought by a businessman in order to make it profitable. Recipe here seems to be: don't put any money in, squeeze out as much as you can, and reassure everyone who asks that behind the scenes extensive work is done to update the whole lot. However, my brief email exchange with the owner and personal experience indicate the opposite.

    There simply is no excuse for a "course" like this, with that price tag, in days where e-learning platforms offer excellent extensive courses, very affordably!
    I feel like I wasted plenty of time, nerves and money. In that particular order.


    Here is a list of books I bought, every single one more informative for a fraction of the price of the Westlawn course:
    • Principles of Yacht Design (by Lars Larsson, Rolf E Eliasson and Michael Orych)
    • Hydrodynamics of High-Speed Marine Vehicles (Odd M Faltinsen)
    • Powerboat Design and Performance (Dag Pike)
    • Boatbuilding with Aluminum (Stephen F Pollard)
    • High Speed small Craft (Peter du Cane)
    And a few more that were also very informative:
    • The Nature of Boats (Dave Gerr)
    • Hydrofoils - Design, Build, Fly (Ray Vellinga)
    • Locus of a Boat Designer (Kotaru Horiuchi)

    PS: After Westlawn I took a course with Lloyds Maritime Academy. I got my diploma for marine surveying about two months ago, "with distinction"! ;) The course modules were always between excellent and OK, the "Tutor Marked Assignments" a very good starting point for individual research. There was an active forum and working e-learning platform. The diploma is recognized in the industry, as opposed to the Westlawn diploma. They offer a course for Naval Architecture as well.
    bajansailor likes this.
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