What's the best way to learn boat design as a hobby?

Discussion in 'Education' started by adt2, Sep 29, 2009.

  1. adt2
    Joined: Sep 2009
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    Location: Magnolia, Texas

    adt2 Senior Member

    I have no interest in becoming a professional yacht designer, and I don't intend to make it a career. I simply have a long-standing passion for boats - particularly old, wood boats - and a dream to "sell up and sail" one day. I am currently a technical writer and graphic designer; I have a ton of experience in AutoCAD and SolidWorks, but no experience with Rhino.

    I've bought and received the first lesson in the YDS course; it's mostly fluff, but, to be fair, they tell you right on the website that the first lesson is more of an "intro" course - which is why it only costs half of what one of their normal lessons costs. The first lesson is supposed to be read along with Chapelle's Yacht Designing and Planning, which is a wonderful book, and Skene's Elements of Yacht Design, which sucks quite badly. It's like reading a Victorian-era Excel spreadsheet (if there were such a thing). I'm sure the formulas are wonderful references, but, quite frankly, it's like reading about watching paint drying.

    Anyhoo, I was just wondering what the state-of-the-art is these days on opinions about boat design education. With no ambitions to make any money at this, have I gone overboard by signing up for a course? Or is YDS a cost-effective way to learn what I want to learn (namely, to be able to design a safe, seaworthy vessel that won't float upside-down and doesn't look like Ray Charles did it at night)?

    Thanks in advance for your opinions.
     
  2. hoytedow
    Joined: Sep 2009
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    Location: North of Cuba

    hoytedow Wood Butcher

    Be humble and read the postings from this group of boat designers. Collectively, you will benefit from centuries of experience with tried and true, as well as, new methods. I just joined this month and already am awed by the magnitude of knowledge being shared by the stellar minds on this site.
     
  3. Guest625101138

    Guest625101138 Previous Member

    I am an engineer and boating hobbiest. I started thinking about a retirement project about 7 years ago and am about two years from starting the real thing.

    The quickest way to learn is by doing. First step in the process is to locate a nice body of water that has enough room to thoroughly test what you build first. You need somewhere to build that is convenient so you can do it as a regular hobby. If you are retired then you might have the time to spend travelling but the garage is usually a good place to build so this will limit the size anyhow. You may need the partner's permission to do this if you have that situation.

    Set some objectives for your first boat and set out to see if you can achieve them. Must have some performance objectives like it will float, is stable, will reach some target speed or travel to some location and there is a budget. For example it might be the tender for a larger boat that you one day design and build. The targets could include learning about material. For example a tender needs to be strong enough for some rough use but being light makes it much easier to handle.

    This will bring in a whole lot of factors that you will need to research. It is a little step that will give heaps of experience. You cannot buy experience. You really have to know to do.

    You should also gain experience on boats around the size you would like to build. This can be done by hanging around yacht clubs and showing interest. You should get offers to crew or just day sail. Some yacht clubs have open days aimed at increasing membership.

    There are very few who can design and build every detail of anything. It is also good practice to have any design independently reviewed so be prepared to seek out an experienced designer to bounce ideas off. The more you know yourself the more discerning you will be in selecting the reviewer. So look around for someone that fits this requirement.

    Rick W
     
  4. adt2
    Joined: Sep 2009
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    Location: Magnolia, Texas

    adt2 Senior Member

    Thanks

    Rick - Thanks for the well-thought-out reply. I actually have an empty 32' x 40' workshop where the boat will be built, and some preliminary plans for building it in pieces. I live a good two hours from the nearest put-in, and I don't want to pay to have a 55'-60' boat moved that far.

    My son and I will be building a 16' outboard early next year for use next summer on the local lake. Next project will likely be some sort of larger, family-friendly vessel (lobster boat or something similar), and then a larger boat for use on a long-planned Great Circle trip around the eastern U.S.

    Depending on how the family likes living aboard during the GC trip, I'll probably want to build a bigger, heavier cruiser for living aboard after retirement. I'd like to do the Northwest Passage, Hawaii, New Zealand/Australia, South Pacific, Mediterranean, etc. I have ideas for all of these boats already; what I need is to learn how to design/draw them, so I don't have to pay somebody thousands of dollars for plans each time I decide to trade up...:)
     
  5. Guest625101138

    Guest625101138 Previous Member

    Start a thread on your proposed build. Set out the basic requirements and post a preliminary drawing based on looking at boats of similar function. Ask for some input on what you design. There are various ways to predict performance.

    There are heaps of threads where people have set out with an idea. Some progress, some stall and some just get bigger and better. This thread shows what I mean:
    http://www.boatdesign.net/forums/boat-design/boxy-fisher-catamaran-idea-20022.html

    For a little boat that presents minimal risk in terms of cost and personal safety then you cannot go too far wrong. Even if it is a total wipeout as a boat it will be a fantastic learning exercise and think of the experience your son will gain - hope he stays interested.

    I would still look for an experienced designer to review the work on a 16ft powered boat. Again think of this as the cost of a course. For a one day review of a small boat a good guy will deliver value. The trust you will build will be worth a huge amount when you get into bigger and better things. Most serious engineering work has regulated or coded design review. So it is not a weakness on your part, just following good practice. In the end your family's life could be at stake in a boat used for long-distant cruising.

    Rick W
     
  6. Ad Hoc
    Joined: Oct 2008
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    Location: Japan

    Ad Hoc Naval Architect

    adt2
    "..Anyhoo, I was just wondering what the state-of-the-art ...I have a ton of experience in AutoCAD and SolidWorks, but no experience with Rhino.."

    Well, first thing do not touch or use a computer to "learn" from such programs. These are just tools, nothing else.

    Buy 1 or 2 nice simple books on boat design. But the trouble is which book? There are many but many are also really "construction" books and not "design" books per se.

    Anyway, go to your local library, see what they have. If they don't have much, this is where the education starts. Doing a little research in finding what book is applicable helps to focus the mind and understand what it is you want.

    Once you have 1 or 2 books..read them. Then see what does or does not make sense. Read them again..and if after that still not sure, ask away with the questions. Since you need some basic background before you can ask questions, otherwise they shall just lead to more questions. Half of the problem for newbbies, is the terminology. Naval architecture is a branch of engineering. As such words have very clear meanings. Often words which are used commonly by poeple are also used in engineering but have very different meanings.

    So the "language" barrier is another hurdle you shall be faced with.

    Once you have done all that...build some models (if you can) to bring the theory into real world applications. This helps to forge in your mind what is what and how things work and where/why the theory works.

    Good luck...a nice long road ahead. But, don't be fooled into thinking you can do this overnight, or with software. It is a long road.

    I've had some 6~7 years of Uni (still dabbling now with my phd) followed by some 7 years of "formal" training and then another 10~15 on top after becoming qualified, and I'm still learning.

    Whatever level you aim at, all you need is an open mind and patience, and never be affraid to ask questions.
     
  7. adt2
    Joined: Sep 2009
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    Location: Magnolia, Texas

    adt2 Senior Member

    Rick / Ad hoc - Thanks to both of you for taking the time to respond. I appreciate it. I actually already have the plans for the little outboard; bought them last summer from Glen-L. I'm in the process of taking measurements from the paper patterns and inputting them into AutoCAD so a buddy can use his CNC machine to cut the frames. My son and I are really looking forward to the project. I'm hoping to kindle a boat flame in him (he's six) similar to mine.

    I work with engineers all day long, and am familiar with the "language barrier." I keep a copy of "The Sailor's Lexicon" next to my bed, and whenever I come across a word I don't understand, I look it up. I'm not afraid to admit when I don't know something...makes life easier (especially when you're married :)).
     
  8. Fanie
    Joined: Oct 2007
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    Location: Colonial "Sick Africa"

    Fanie Fanie

    In the old days they didn't have computers and boats were slow. Now they have computers and boats are fast. What does that tell you ?

    No it's not computers, but it helps for some things. Putting a computer on the boat would actually slow it down. Well, it's extra weight :D Rick is always first on the easy answers :D so take his advice, you have to put the practical with the theory. One sometimes have an idea untill you get on such a boat then you discover it's not really what you expected, the only way you can know is if you try it.

    Don't be scared to try new things. It can be expensive but it is also called innovation. If you get something right there will always be a horde of others claiming they either did it before or it's their idea ;) If you never do anything out of the box you can just as well just get some plans and build a tried and tested rig. It's the safest :D
     

  9. Fanie
    Joined: Oct 2007
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    Location: Colonial "Sick Africa"

    Fanie Fanie

    I thought you are going to design the thing. Then I saw it's a little outboard. Then the buddy is going to...

    I thought everything in texas is BIG !

    Which part of Texas did you say you are from ? :D
     
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