Should amateurs design boats?

Discussion in 'Boat Design' started by river runner, Sep 9, 2012.

  1. frank smith
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    frank smith Senior Member

    like the Titanic ?
  2. frank smith
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    frank smith Senior Member

    this is a clever amateur designed ocean going boat.
    The rig is self tending , as it should be.
  3. Wavewacker
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    Wavewacker Senior Member

    Does anyone know if that yacht is for sale?

    Huck Finn would be proud!
  4. Crag Cay
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    Crag Cay Senior Member

    The better question is "should incompetent people design boats?"

    Obviously then the answer is probably not, unless it's part of their own experiential learning process for which they take full responsibility for their own well being.

    But there is no reason why amateurs shouldn't become competent and there's dozens of examples of that being true. There's no shortage of material or courses out there to study and remember, even university trained people are 'amateurs' until they find someone who will pay them for one of their designs. Working as a surveyor or consultant, or whatever doesn't make you a 'professional small boat designer' unless there are designs of yours sailing around out there for which you got paid. Not renderings, not concepts, but paid for designs that have been built.

    So to become 'professional' you need to combine competence with an ability to design something which is desired by others. This is where the amateur is often at an advantage because they are frequently drawn into some restricted aspect of boat design either through a particular passion or extensive practical experience that convinces them that there are short comings in what is on the market. They are also able to spend an 'uneconomic amount of time' on their early designs whilst the bills are paid by being a surgeon / sailmaker / school teacher, etc (real life examples).

    Too many graduates of university courses with a professed ambition to be a 'yacht designer', unfortunately have nothing to contribute. They may be competent, but the vast majority will perhaps work in the 'marine industry' but few become professional designers. MRINA might mean 'competent' but doesn't mean 'professional small craft designer'.

    We were discussing this the other night, and many of those there in 'the pub' couldn't remember exactly when they became 'professional'. For most it was certainly a long time after they had been designing boats and was usually when one of their designs suddenly caught the attention of the press through race results or a voyage, etc.
  5. erik818
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    erik818 Senior Member

    Why reminding of the possiblity that we may drown ourselves with our amateurishly designed and built contraptions? Are there any statistics or other scientific evidence supporting the view that amateur designs are involved in a higher percentage of accidents than proffessional designs? What scant information I've seen indicate that fatal boating accidents are caused by reckless use (mostly being drunk and/or not using a PFD), not design failures. Any design has it's limits, and I would expect the boat designer to be better than average to know the limits of his own boat.

    I agree with the OP that the tone in this forum sometimes isn't as respectful and curteous as I would desire. I guess that's the backside of the anonymity on internet. My only advice is to ignore answers and recommendations you don't like. One single good advice make the question worth asking, and the advice you ingore may be of help to someone else.

  6. bntii
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    bntii Senior Member

    Yes- I see the use of 'amateur' as a red herring and the query so broad as to be meaningless.
    Far more telling is the procession of a persons work from that of a novice to the master of a given pursuit.
    Talent and the application of effort are the bricks and mortar of this.

    If you want to design, design- don't talk about it..

    So to answer the question I don't like:

    Should a novice design a boat?
    Of course he should- how else might he learn?
    Last edited: Sep 11, 2012
  7. FranklinRatliff

    FranklinRatliff Previous Member

    Professional engineer doesn't mean professional boat designer

    Lee Taylor's rocket boat was designed by a man who was probably a fine professional engineer inside his field but had never designed a boat in his life. He selected the steep sponson angle of 7 degrees strictly on the basis of lowest hydrodynamic drag without regard to reaction to waves.

    Attached Files:

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  8. LP
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    LP Flying Boatman


    Thanks, Paul.
  9. Village_Idiot
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    Village_Idiot Senior Member

    I concur with others that it doesn't take a NA (by definition of formal education) to design a good boat. It does take experience and knowledge and good observation skills. One who has lived around boats all his/her life, has asked questions about how/why certain things are designed the way they are, observes issues as well as attributes of various designs, and has the ability to put that knowledge into their own design.

    After all, a formally-educated NA is mostly a parallel synapsis of all that knowledge, except it may be gained in years as opposed to decades. So the NA has a few decades of information over the amateur boatbuilder. Still, it is dependent on the individual's knowledge, skills and abilities that can close that gap significantly.

    As my Daddy always said, "You can send a fool to college, and you'll end up with an educated fool".

    Or, as a devout man may say, "A team of NA's designed the Titanic, while an amateur built the Ark". :p
  10. latestarter
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    latestarter Senior Member

    The Titanic is a poor example to use in this context.

    The incident was entirely down to driver error.
    The lack of lifeboats was due to the owners of the company overruling the designer.
    The fact that lifeboats left not full was down to the crew.

    None of the above was the responsibility of naval architects.
    Because there were claims that the ship was unsinkable and it then sank meant people blamed the designers, as far as I know the designers did not claim it was unsinkable, it was PR men. Other liners of the day may not have stayed afloat as long given the degree of damage.

    If you choose to drive your car at near full speed with visibility less than your stopping distance and hit an object many times your mass you can not blame the manufacturer if you get injured.

    There is a boat being built by a member on here with a religious flavour (I was shocked to see photos recently that it was in progress) which does not inspire confidence.

    I am amazed at the help the professionals give on this site. I can not imagine other professions doing this.

    Thanks Frank Smith for mentioning T. Harrison Butler. My father had his book on metacentric analysis which I read as a teenager and was fascinated by. I did consider Naval Architecture but I felt I was more suited to Civil Engineering instead.
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  11. hoytedow
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    hoytedow Carbon Based Life Form

    Here is a better example:
  12. ldigas
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    ldigas Senior Member

    Personally, I don't see much difference whether my loved ones disappear in the work of a professional or in the work of an amateur :(
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  13. FranklinRatliff

    FranklinRatliff Previous Member

    Between boats, airplanes, and cars, cars are probably the hardest for amateur designers to screw up.
  14. SheetWise
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    SheetWise All Beach -- No Water.

    I don't see any reason that amateurs shouldn't design
    boats, ships, or spacecraft -- as long as they realize
    that the laws of physics will apply to all designs --
    whether the designer went to school or not.
    1 person likes this.

  15. FranklinRatliff

    FranklinRatliff Previous Member

    Amateur Spacecraft

    Burt Rutan was an amateur spacecraft designer but still managed not to get anybody killed.
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