Questions from a perspective Westlawn student

Discussion in 'Education' started by chrisvs, Jun 7, 2007.

  1. chrisvs
    Joined: Jun 2007
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    chrisvs Junior Member

    Questions from a prospective Westlawn student

    Hello everyone

    I have a few questions regarding a career in yacht design. I am a Mechanical designer/draftsman (graduated from community college and registered as a certified engineering technician here in Canada) with 16 years of experience, and have a broad background designing heavy machinery and equipement for the mining industry.

    I am an avid boater and have had a lifelong love for anything to do with boats and the water. I am strongly considering enrolling with Westlawn in the hopes of starting my own business as a subcontract CAD/Design facility working from home once I graduate from the program. I of course would also consider relocating for job prospects from larger design offices or pleasurecraft manufacturers should they arise, and offer decent pay.

    My question is, what are the prospects for success based on my current bacground plus a diploma from Westlawn? I would be happy to just start as a caddie doing overload work for other design offices (if that type of work exists) from home on evenings and weekends. Is there a demand for people with this type of credentials in the industry right now? Is there a demand for overload work in the yacht design/small craft design industry? Any opinions would be apreciated.
    Last edited: Jun 7, 2007
  2. timgoz
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    timgoz Senior Member

    "Prospective Student" I think you meant. :)


  3. chrisvs
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    chrisvs Junior Member

    Oops! Where's spell check when you need it!:D
  4. chrisvs
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    chrisvs Junior Member

    Thanks timgoz, I have changed the title.
  5. timgoz
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    timgoz Senior Member

    I see you,ve not yet recieved any helpful replies.

    Sort of a hard question as there are so many variables, mainly dealing with your abilities and such.

    Hopefully some of our resident designers will chime in.

    Actually making it a point to visit some design offices in person would be an informative endevour.

    Good fortune in your search, both for info & employment.

    Take care.

  6. dgerr
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    dgerr Senior Member

    Westlawn, like any school, cannot and does not guarantee jobs; however, Westlawn alumni have been remarkably successful in the boating industry. The best thing is to let our alumni speak for themselves. Here are a few comments from our alumni:

    “I was offered a job at a fairly up & coming boatyard as overall projects manager (I supervise the individual project managers.) I also have quite a lot of input with product development and alterations including a new 65-ft. Ron Holland design. Coupled with a few hundred thousand sailing miles, it should be mentioned that it was the Westlawn schooling—helping me formalize any expertise I may have gathered over the years—that played a key part in helping me secure the job!!”
    Cal Tomlinson – February 2007
    Overall Project Manager
    Discovery Yachts Limited
    Southampton, England

    “Thank you for my final lesson report. I am definitively happy with the result. It was a long ride. I enjoyed it. It feels good to graduate and I can tell you that the knowledge acquired has helped me a lot already. Westlawn’s no-nonsense, practical engineering approach suited me well, especially as a part of my post-graduate studies. I reckon Westlawn has an important edge here over other courses in the field. The SG2 [Westlawn’s technical-reference manual for students] and the rest of documentation are a wealth of information which would have taken me years to gather and compile.”
    Liviu Armeanu – January 2007
    Design Engineer
    Kelsall Catamarans Ltd.
    Waihi, New Zealand

    “Westlawn gave me the training, background and confidence to make the jump from a yacht carpenter to a yacht designer. I have worked as Chief Engineer at Mako Marine, designing flats boats to cabin cruisers, as the Designer and Prototype Manager for Pursuit, and have been at Jamestown Metal Marine Sales for the past 10 years.

    I started in the marine industry 30 years ago, as a carpenter building plank-on-frame sport fishing yachts in South Florida. Today, I am a Project Engineer for a major outfitting company. Some of my projects include the SBX, part of our missile defense system, the DDG program at Bath, the new Woods Hole Ferry under construction at Halter, polar tankers constructed at Avondale, articulated tug barges under construction at Bender.

    As a Project Engineer I supervise a staff of designers who have attended various institutions. None match the background and depth I got from Westlawn. I would like to find Westlawn students interested in ship interiors, outfitting, and/or HVAC to employ here at Jamestown.

    The training I received Westlawn has been responsible for my career, not only the knowledge in vessel design, but also the work habits of self motivation and extra effort.

    Has my Westlawn training been useful?

    Yes, worth every penny, every hour of extra effort.”
    Click on the link below to read D.C. Reiher’s complete comments on Westlawn:
    D. C. Reiher – November 2006
    Project Engineer
    Jamestown Metal Marine Sales, Inc.
    Boca Raton, Florida

    “Occasionally someone will ask, "How did you get into yacht design?” It's not an easy question to answer to the layman as I'm sure your story and others are as detailed as mine. One thing is sure, Westlawn provided me with the advanced knowledge and inspiration I needed to pursue career interests. In hindsight, without the technical yacht design experience Westlawn taught me it would have difficult at best to even get a foot in the door. This industry, especially then, is tight-nit and requires very specialized trades to participate. Westlawn uses a practical approach to teaching and this is reflected in the course material. It is a great tool for designing because of its practicality. I use it quite often in my designs as there is no one resource that has as much information and tools available for that specific purpose. The bonus is the historic designs and designers that are often referred to in the material. All of these things are reasons why it is a valued yacht design reference.”
    Geoff van Aller - February 2006
    Chief Designer
    Trinity Yachts
    Gulfport, MS

    “I wanted to let you know that I accepted Steve Van Dam's offer last Friday and have pretty much started working for Van Dam Marine. (Today when I opened the Van Dam Web Site and saw my name under designer it really sunk in). I say "pretty much" because it will still take a month or so for me to get up there on-site, but I have started off site from my office here. (As you may know I also received an offer from Glacier Bay Catamarans at the same time.)

    So what can I say except I couldn't have done it without you, Stu and the rest of the gang back at Westlawn. I'm very excited about what the future holds, and hopefully this is a testimonial to other students that all the hard work and long nights pays off, if you stick with it.

    I can't thank you enough and—as I always have said in the past—I won't forget you, and Westlawn and I hope I'm called on whenever you or the school needs my help. I will always be there for Westlawn.”
    Harvey Kulka – November 2005
    Yacht Designer
    Van Dam Woodcraft
    Boyne City, MI

    “Since I have added Yacht Design Lite to my resume I have had several job offers from different companies and even a promotion with the company I am employed with now. If any one is wondering if it would be beneficial to complete the program, I would say YES.”
    Charles Bursk – November 2005
    Tiara Yachts
    Holland Michigan

    “My initial contact with Team Shosholoza [the South-African America's Cup team] came about with the help of Westlawn. The head of the campaign, Salvatore Sarno, is a former Westlawn student. As a Westlawn student myself, I contacted Westlawn and through this Sarno. I flew down to South Africa and got the job on the design team. During the spring of 2005, I resigned from the full-time design-engineer position with Team Shosholoza, and am now independent consultant engineer and designer, based out of Bielefeld Germany.”
    Alexander Friess – August 2005
    Bielefeld, Germany

    “I have enjoyed the Westlawn course enormously. It’s an excellent program that I know you are working hard to make even better. When I look back and think about how little I know about yacht design when I started, I am astounded at how much I’ve learned and at how much fun if has been.”
    Robert W. Buck – May 2005
    Swampscott, MA

    “Concerning the Westlawn Institute of Marine Technology, I am proud of my diploma, and I have it on the wall. I must say ‘thanks Westlawn.’ I love the American mentality because I have learned to share my knowledge with other Architects. In France or even in Italy this is impossible....only secrets!

    The School has been very important for me because I have learned to design craft from the hull lines to electricity, from the weight to speed estimation..... Once again I'm really proud to have my diploma.”
    Otto Ranchi – May 2005
    Ranchi Design
    Trieste, Italy
    Click on the link below to see the Otto Ranchi Design Gallery

    Otto Ranchi is the developer if the Arrow System Design (ASD) high-speed hull from used on patrol boats and offshore racers.

    “I just wanted to wish you and the Westlawn staff a great Jubilee evening on the 17th Feb. Westlawn continues to be a huge influence in the design field and I can’t speak more highly of it. Keep up the great work.”
    Kevin Dibley – January, 2005
    Auckland, New Zealand

    “Just thought I'd drop you a note to congratulate you on your 75th anniversary. While I never did graduate, I did study the Westlawn course for six years. It was a great foundation for my career!

    I enrolled in Westlawn in 1968 while still in the Navy, completing my lessons at sea in the chart room of the ship. I continued studying until August of 1974 when I had a design published in "Motor Boating & Sailing."

    I am currently a NAMS surveyor in Annapolis and have had my own successful business for over 16 years. I have been employed by two yacht yards and the US Navy. I spent three years on the drawing board primarily working for the Navy but doing some independent smaller design projects.

    In the last 20 years I have traveled to 40 countries surveying all manner of vessels from ocean going tugs and floating dry docks to yachts and high speed patrol boats.

    Many thanks for helping me establish a rewarding and wonderful career.”
    John Howell NAMS CMS – November, 2004
    Annapolis, MD

    “I am a Westlawn grad who has worked in the industry for over 17 years and am now presently holding the position of Sr. Development Engineer at Pursuit Boats (a division of S2 Yachts, Inc.). I have had several colleagues of mine inquire about the Westlawn program and I am always eager to provide a wonderful appraisal of my studies at Westlawn. It was exciting when ABYC decided to adopt the course and I was also pleased to hear that Norman Nudelman was once again part of the faculty. Keep up the good work and good luck with your future endeavors.”
    Earl G. Alfaro – October, 2004
    Sr. Development Engineer
    Pursuit Boats
    Ft. Pierce, FL

    “It has been interesting for me to look at your [Westlawn’s] Web Site and to know that after over 70 years, the Westlawn Institute of Marine Technology, as it is now named, is still operating. In 1930, I enrolled as a student with the Westlawn School of Yacht Design and gained my Diploma in Advanced Yacht Design on 15th June 1939, signed by Gerald Taylor White [co-founder of Westlawn]. It was the start of the Second World War, and I was seconded into essential industry where I was the Draughtsman Designer with Shipbuilders Ltd. This firm was engaged in the building of Minesweepers and Fairmile Patrol Boats for the N.Z. Navy. Then, when the U.S. entered the war after the attack on Pearl Harbour, we were building 114 foot Powered Lighters for the U.S. Army and the Navy. At the age of 92, I would probably be the oldest living past student of Westlawn.

    Fairmiles that were built here in Auckland, NZ were 112 feet in length and I think had about an 18 foot beam. There were twelve built for the NZ Navy and they were designed in Britain. The frames were laminated and they were shipped to us from India .We built the boats with Kauri timber, a very good native timber often used here for boat building. The boats were powered with three 600 H.P. triple screw Hall Scott gas engines each.”
    Thomas C. (Tim) Windsor – July, 2004
    New Zealand
    Click on the link below to read more about Tim Windsor:

    After the war, Tim continued his design career with his first commission of a 27-foot patrol launch for the New Zealand Coast Guard, and then with may sailing and power boats.

    “I completed your Yacht Design program in '98. I wanted to thank you for posting the info regarding the Bluewater Sailing Magazine design competition. I was recently contacted by the editor and informed that my design was chosen as the winner. Thank you Westlawn. I would have never noticed this completion without your website, and certainly would not have been capable of developing the design without the know-how your course provided. Thanks again.”
    Doug M. Frolich – March, 2004
    Marshall Yacht Design
    Larkspur, CA

    “I am aware of the transitional changes that Westlawn is going through, and I wish you the very best in keeping it together. I am glad that you have been chosen as the new Director of Westlawn, and you have my 100 percent support. In these last years, I proved to myself, that Westlawn is really a very practical and valuable school. Design theory from the Westlawn books proved to be very accurate in reality, and always on the safe side.”
    Ivan Erdevicki – February, 2004
    Naval Architecture & Yacht Design
    Vancouver, BC
    I’ve only posted here the comments going back to 2004. There are still more posted on the Westlawn website at:

    Also see the list of success stories at:

    And the alumni gallery at:

    Westlawn has trained more practicing boat designers than any other several schools in the world combined.

    If you have questions, by all means call us.

    Dave Gerr
    Westlawn Institute of Marine Technology
  7. chrisvs
    Joined: Jun 2007
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    chrisvs Junior Member

    Thanks Tim and Dave for your replies.

    Dave, I have no doubt in the ability of Westlawn and it's success, and am certain that it will be the right choice for me. I am 95 percent certain that you will be seeing my application in August (I would do it now, but that brand new Four Winns I have down at the marina keeps calling my name:D ).

    I guess my concern is that alot of the people that are listed in your success stories have prior experience in the marine industry(at least I seem to be reading it that way). I have none. Certainly no educational institution guaranties a job, and I am not looking for that.

    Would you be able to give me an idea of how many graduates successfully enter the workforce that have had no prior marine industry experience? I would hope my prior mechanical experience would help, at least from a systems point of view.
  8. dgerr
    Joined: Jul 2004
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    dgerr Senior Member

    If you go to Westlawn’s “Consumer Information” page at:

    you will find that 60% of Westlawn students are not in the boating industry when they enroll and 40% are. This ratio has been roughly constant since Westlawn was founded 77 years ago. As far as we can tell, there’s no difference in the success rate of the two groups after graduation.

    Though some of the alumni comments I posted are from individuals already in the industry, others are not. This reflects the standard variation in the backgrounds of Westlawn students.

    I urge you (or anyone with questions about enrolling in Westlawn) to give us a call. We are very approachable (it’s what we’re here for), and we can give you specific, detailed answers regarding your personal considerations and goals.

    Dave Gerr
    Westlawn Institute of Marine Technology
  9. snakefeet
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    snakefeet Junior Member

    chrisvs, with your background in machinery design I think you could be useful to a boat-related company almost immediately. Switching over to designing
    propulsion and auxiliary machinery arrangements, shipboard piping systems and the like should be fairly smooth for you.

    I know a guy who designed hydraulic systems for cranes at his last job. Now he builds structural hull models in ShipConstructor. He knew CAD and he could follow instructions.

    If I were in your position I would think about looking for a job (or a sub-con gig) as a mechanical systems designer for a naval architecture / marine engineering firm, a boat builder or a repair/refit yard right away and then consider one of the yacht design courses. In other words, sell the strengths you have right now; there are companies out there that need them, and then cross-train into yacht design. Who knows, maybe an employer will even help you with tuition.
  10. DavidJ
    Joined: Jun 2004
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    DavidJ Senior Member

    I agree with snakefeet. Get a job in the marine industry first and then do the yacht design program. There are tons of drafting/design jobs in the big ship industry and lots of the outsource work you talked about to. Shipyards and consultancies would love to have you right now.
  11. chrisvs
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    chrisvs Junior Member

    Thanks gentlemen for your replies.

    I have considered applying to some boatbuilders/shipyards using my existing skillset, but for family reasons have decided not to pursue that just yet. Reason being, I would like to keep my kids in their current schools, preferably until they are ready to move onto college. I figure that I can buy some time by doing the yacht desigh course first. The nearest boatbuilder is about a 1.5hour drive away (Stanley Boats). Now, if my current job dissapears for any reason (who knows these days) you can bet that I will be applying to every boatbuilder and shipyard that I can think of.

    The reason for asking this question was to feel out just how feasable a career in this profession would be with an existing mechanical design background and a diploma from Westlawn. From the sounds of your replies, it seems promising.

    Thanks again!

  12. thailandboy2004
    Joined: Nov 2007
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    Location: greenville, south carolina, usa

    thailandboy2004 Junior Member

    chris, you say you have experience in designing? i take it you have some experience in cad? if so and you are willing, would you do some design work for me? if so look under my thread and contact me...thanks tom
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