View Full Version : Yacht Design 101

Dent Harrison
09-18-1999, 05:49 PM
I would like to know if anyone can recommend a starting point for learning sailing yacht design. My goal is to design and build an 18m (60ft)(max) wooden yacht for circumnavigation and high latitude sailing/cruising. My desire is something akin to a Danish Seiner (with pilot house.)

I have read some basic nav arch books, including SNAME's "Principals of Naval Architecture" but they were all geared to ship design. I also borrowed and read Neilsen's "Wooden Boat Designs" to get some ideas on shape and proportions. I am stuck though as to where to start. Any suggestions?

Bob Cleek
09-18-1999, 06:56 PM
If you are asking where start learning about naval architecture because you want to build a 60ft vessel for circumnavigation... well, you have a LONG way to go, partner! Frankly, it's a question that is hard to take seriously, but, because we all started somewhere and everyone's welcome in this fraternity (er... right, Scott... sorority as well!), I'll offer a bit of free advice by way of a question: If you wanted to drive across the country, would you go to the automotive engineering forum and ask where you might get started studying automotive design? Or, on the other hand, would you start with some research on what cars are offered for sale already?

Many people have designed their own boats. I used to sell boats and these home-designed home built boats are always coming on the market. They are not of interest to the sailing community, and they are in general "Jonas" that no one wants anything to do with. In short, they are a waste of time. Now, I realize there is always that amazing Leonardo-like exception. After all, Heddy Lamar holds the patents on the basic circuits for cellular phone technology and the proximity fuse for anti-aircraft shells... but I knew Heddy Lamar and you, Sir, are no Heddy Lamar!

The design of sailing vessels is a very exacting science which, when mastered at all, is only mastered after a lifetime of study and experience, not only in academia, but also in the school of hard knocks. There are, perhaps, maybe less than twenty yacht designers and naval architects in the whole twentieth century whose designs are worth building. If you are only going to build one boat in your life and then risk that life on circumnavigating the vessel in the "high latitudes," do you think you are going to do as good a job as one of those twenty grand masters who have designed dozens, if not hundreds of boats over the last 100 years? If the answer is yes, by all means, enroll in MIT's naval architecture school and "go for it!"

If not, spend your time studying the works of the masters, and then pick the boat that fits you best. Names like Herreshoff (father and son), Burgess, Atkin (father and son), Sparkman and Stephens, Hess, Giles, Alden, Mull, Garden, and Gilmer are the sort of people whose work you should study. There's really only enough time in one life to become a good architect or a good builder... few ever mastered both unlesst they grew up in the business.

In short, your ambitions are unrealistic. A man's got to know his limitations... especially if he means to take on the sea.

Dent Harrison
09-19-1999, 05:59 PM
Perhaps I should have prefaced my question with a short bio. I am 32 and have grown up around the sea, having sailed both sides of the Atlantic from a very early age, as well as the Pacific from Victoria. My father was a submarine engineer and commander for 40 years, my grandfather performed search and rescue, and my great-grandfather sailed to China as a merchant seaman. I have crewed on boats racing out of Halifax as well as ocean paddling in a Klepper while in my teens. I am now a professional engineer specializing in mechanical engineering, and have worked in a variety of positions including Production Manager for a power electronics firm. I am now lucky enough to work now in a Naval Architecture/Marine Engineering firm specializing in warship and icebreaker design, which is owned by a major shipyard in Canada. I am currently working on the propulsion layout for a 35,000hp military ship. I feel lucky because I have a career which dovetails nicely with my interests and ambitions.

I recently helped our community as a volunteer redesign and rebuild a 288ft wooden bridge over the past couple of years, with only a crew of 4 of us physically sawing up Douglas Fir dredged up from the river bottom and assembling them into 25 ton trusses. Working with the civil engineer hired for the project, the traditional design was refined and updated subtly to meet current code requirements, resulting in a much stronger bridge for about the same amount of wood.

I agree with the sentiments that there are some very good designers out there. But for myself, how can I assess if a design will satisfy my requirements if I cannot reasonably understand the fundamentals of the subject. My goal is to learn enough to lay down a rough set of lines and compile a realistic set of specifications so that I can consult with Nav Arch's and have a reasoned conversation. Taking a master's degree in Naval Architecture is an option, but this is for my own interest right now. I am not in a hurry to set sail next year, or even 5 years from now, I have other priorities, but this is a long term project which I enjoy and have reasonable expectations.

I am not out to be the next Aage Neilsen or Seaborn, I admit I don't have the creativity to design something from scratch. But starting with an existing design of something appealing, then refining and reworking it to suit a new set of requirements and take into account decades of improvements is not unreasonable.

Obviously this is not the forum to be looking in. Thank you for your concern and interest.

Bob Cleek
09-19-1999, 11:30 PM
Well, Dent, why didn't you SAY SO in the first place! LOL... This is indeed the forum where you belong! I'm amazed you haven't got the books you need in your office library! Okay, scratch the last response... here's where I'd suggest you start.

The first "bible" is fortunately still in print: Howard I. Chapelle's "Yacht Designing and Planning," WW Norton, 1936, SBN 393 03126 8. I'd also recommend his companion volume, "Boatbuilding", also by Norton, 1941. (Sorry, mine's a first edition, no ISBN, but the bookstores have it.)

As a trained professional, you will undoubtedly treasure a copy of Norman L. Skene's "Elements of Yacht Design," Kennedy Bros, NY, 1927. I have the Fifth Edition of 1935. You will find copies if you write for the antiquarian nautical booksellers' catalogs in the WoodenBoat classifieds. A copy should run you somewhere between thirty and sixty bucks, but worth it. Chock full of super technical mathematical equations and engineering formulae. The 5th edition is the first to contain the engineering data on power plants and propeller design. Earlier volumes apparently did not include discussion of these.

I also have a copy of the Eighth Edition of "Skene's Elements of Yacht Design... revised and updated by Francis S Kinney." Dodd, Mead & Co. 1973. This is a much updated version of the original and to a large extent Mr. Kinney's own work. A better, more modern work for your purposes, but lacking the classic charm of Skene's original editions. The Kinney revision of "Skene's" (as it is often cited) contains invaluable design data and copies of Herreshoff's and Nevins' scantling rules.

I would also recommend L. Francis Herreshoff's "Commonsense of Yacht Design." This is another almost unobtainable volume today. Peruse the used booksellers lists and pray... when you find one, call and order it immediately, or it will be snapped up for sure! Herreshoff has tons of data on design and his writing style, while opinionated, is most entertaining, unlike his contemporary and buddy, Skene, who is very dry reading and really more of a reference work.

I highly recommend Larry Pardey's "Details of Classic Yacht Construction - the Hull" which is still in print. While it has little in the way of design and engineering content, it is an excellent work on actual construction techniques with many good engineering problems solved. It is worth the hefty price of admission (originally $85.. but now selling for about $45, I think) for the copies of Herreshoff's, Nevins' and Lloyds' scantling rules in the appendices.

For long distance cruising vessels in wood, I will shamelessly recommend the design firm of Laurent Giles and Partners, Lymington, Hampshire, UK. [www.laurentgiles.co.uk] They have an extensive collection of stock designs for wooden construction, as well as an ongoing custom design practice. You will find their managing director, Barry Van Geffen, to be extremely helpful. (Tell him I sent ya!) They will provide study plans and even detailed drawings of their stock designs very reasonably. (The listing is on their web site.) They have suffered my reworking of one of their designs with the utmost graciousness!

Now that you've established your credentials, Dent, we expect you to become a regular in here. Keep us posted on your research and good luck!

Ian McColgin
09-20-1999, 12:12 PM
Dent, I like your thinking. I've dreamed of high latitude sailing but it will be 4 years before I get started in my Marco Polo 'Granuaile.' By then, some one else, maybe yourself, will have won the Tristan Jones Award for a Nautical First that No One Else Wanted To Do At All - to wit over Norway and along the Arctic Sea Route, down the Bering, south to bounce off the Ross Ice Shelf and back to the Atlantic & home - A sort of Bi-Polar Circumnavigation.

I've become enamored of the Marco Polo for the task. And Dr. Lewis chartered a near cousin for Antartic use. Narrow's nice. Though you look at the Carr's and the things Tilson sailed and clearly most any well-found boat will do. My impression is that the design features you really need are:

1. Sea keeping. Check "Seaworthiness: The Forgotten Factor" (can't remember the dutch name of the english author) A brilliant analysis of the Fastnet disaster race and enough naval architecture that the experienced sailor (you) can easily factor in to design ideas.

2. Insulation, a big stove, & huge tankage, esp for oil. Here your stability issues get interesting.

3. Amenities for getting iced in, like retractable keel maybe, removable rudder and prop for sure. This begins to make her look like an enlarged 'Golden Ball" by LFH.

Keep us up on your thinking. G'luck

Bruce Keefauver
09-20-1999, 12:23 PM
Hi Dent,

For some more recent books check out these 3 books by C.A. Marchaj; "Aero-hydrodynamics of Sailing", "Seaworthiness: the Forgotten Factor", and "Sail Performance". His book on seaworthiness is especially readable. Another good text / reference is the new "Principles of Yacht Design" by Larson & Eliasson. (I think that all of these books are still in print.)

Gresham CA
09-20-1999, 12:34 PM
Dent, If you are looking for the formal education then you could do a lot worse than checking into Webb Institute on Long Island, NY. I understand they are the most respected in the country. Try this site. http://www.webb-institute.edu/

[This message has been edited by Gresham CA (edited 09-20-99).]

John Gearing
09-20-1999, 11:16 PM
Well I don't want to sound like a wise guy but I gotta admit that after reading your letter I was wondering where you'd gotten hold of that SNAME book and so I double clicked on the icon that gives me your biographical info....and realized that you are a marine engineer. That's a handy little feature of this forum! That said, might I add that the Westlawn School has a home study program in yacht design that is said to be pretty good. In terms of what boats you might look at for inspiration, for high latitude work consider Arctic explorer Donald MacMillan's "Bowdoin" which was designed by Bill Hand as I recall specifically for high latitude work. It may give you a jumping-off point. When one chooses a boat in which to go off cruising, the choice is always highly individualistic. That is as must be for each of us has our own requirements for such a design. Schooners, yawls, cutters, ketches, sloops, multi-hulls have all successfully circumnavigated. Enjoy your reading and thinking and dreaming and do keep us abreast of you thoughts and ideas! We're all pulling for you!

09-21-1999, 06:43 PM
Well done!!!! I've been reading these posts for sometime. Most people are knowledgeable and helpful. Cleek is ,unfortunately, usually right...but this time...LOLOLOLO,
It has been an incredible pleasure to see your perfectly placed post thrust square in the petute of that pompous person!!!LOLOL

Dent Harrison
09-21-1999, 06:54 PM
I would like to thank all for posting replies and suggestions, they are very much appreciated. I will keep you apprised of the details as they emerge. I am organizing my planning around the standard ship procurement process (with a few short cuts)of mission need, concept exploration, feasibility, preliminary design, contract design, detail design, and finally, construction! So right now we are in mission need and concept exploration.

Some concepts I do want to investigate further will be AC electric drive. This is what all the larger ships are moving too, and it does make sense for smaller boats as well. There are many advantages in terms of flexibility, redundancy, and efficiency. Something along the lines of a 240Vac 3phase system would work well, though 600Vac 3 phase means all electrical components are completely standard and available off the shelf in marine approved packaging for very little premium since they are so widely used.

I am also interested in the controllable pitch propellers mentioned in the WB88 article on Seiners that got me thinking 10 years ago about this. I want to find out more about how these were made in the 1900s, they must be elegantly simple given the tolerances that could be achieved by machinists at the time. I would want one not to control the pitch (variable speed, reversable, ac motor looks after that) but to simply move between full pitch and feather
for maximum efficiency. I think I can build one in my very small machine shop here at home.

I also want to explore further the concept of water-displaced-fuel system for maximum stability and fuel tankage. Essentially you fill the tanks with fuel and top off with water. Then as you draw down the fuel, you add water into the tank to keep the weight the same, maintaining the same trim and displacement. This has been done in destroyers with great success. Yes, there are alot of issues to deal with but water and fuel don't mix, you do have to deal with treating microbacterial growth, and preventing too much sloshing for things to get foamy. But it does work, and given the premium of space on our smaller boats, and the desire to sail more upright, and the ability to have lots of fuel, I think it merits investigation.

I would also like to thank all those who suggested more formal education, that is out of the picture right now. I have promised my significant other that she could do her masters and PhD before I went off the deep end with this project!! That and a newborn is keeping us very busy right now. So the books and reading, and hopefully the insightfully comments of this forum will be enough for now.

Cheers, Dent...

Bob Cleek
09-21-1999, 11:53 PM
Derek... you old lurker, you! Glad to see I was able to lure you into the daylight! LOL to you, too! Oh, call me anything but collect! But pompous... I don't think so! Don't be a stranger anymore.... join in the fun! Welcome to our merry band of brigands.

[This message has been edited by Bob Cleek (edited 09-22-99).]

Scott D. Rosen
09-22-1999, 07:56 AM

I'm intrigued by the idea of fuel/water displacement for tankage. I can see how it would work on a destroyer which has much less motion (and less sloshing) than a small yacht, and would also have the room for an effective mechanical fuel/water separator. How would you envision it working on a small yacht?

Also (sorry for the possibly stupid questions about to follow as I'm a lawyer not an engineer), why would an AC drive system be better than the traditional method of propulsion--combustion engine connected to transmission connected to drive shaft connected to prop. Wouldn't there be a greater loss of efficiency and more complex machinery to fail? If you substitute one larger generator for the two engines many yachts use now (one for propulsion and one to generate A/C) you lose an important redundancy as well.

[This message has been edited by Scott D. Rosen (edited 09-22-99).]

Ian McColgin
09-22-1999, 11:18 AM

Don Street has a good basic discussion of controlable pitch props and the two major design choises: Sabb where the shaft is hollow and the control is a solid or Hundsted type with solid shaft and tube control. The MaxiProp is self controling by hydrodynamic blade pressure - very cool engineering but I've sailed with a Hundstead and want one for Granuaile - can't be beat.

By-the-way: Make a water chest over your prop or props like you see in some Eurpoean fishing boats. Mostly dry storage but if you need to work on the prop - clear fouled line or change a damaged blade (if you go Hundstead) - you can unbolt the bottom for access. Reaching down a couple of feet of freezing water sure beats diving around the long way.

Street also has some generalist remarks about diesel-electric and hydrolic propulsion that are way beneeth your level, but his central point - in a small system, any loss matters - makes a good arguement for direct shafting unless the vessel layout contradicts. His arguement that conventional engin-tranny-shaft-prop is better from a maintenance point of view is not really relevant for engineer types but is correct for us rag&stick types who think of two stroke as either a dance step or a deviant practice.

It'll be interesting to see how the fuel/water bit works. It off hand seems like a big ship solution to a small vessel non-problem but you're obviously giving this a great deal of thought and may well come through with something good. I have about 1000g fuel and 1200 water. My tanks are in two pairs and really long but are so well baffeled that free surface has never been a problem. Given the shape of the boat, little changes in the metacentric height as the tanks empty are of no import.

Keep up the good and interesting work.

Scott D. Rosen
09-22-1999, 11:33 AM
A thought on the tankage issue. I have about 120g water in two tanks, one forward and one port. Needless to say, my water usage affects the pitch and heel of the boat. My fuel usage is so small that it has virtually no affect on the boat's balance. I can tell my water level by the degree of heel and by how well I can see over my forehatch. It would be great to have a fresh water/salt water tankage system (salt water rather than air to displace the fresh water) for balance and stability. Sure seems like a lot of trouble though for a small (30ft) yacht.

John Gearing
09-22-1999, 12:27 PM
Well Dent, you are certain to get us all talking about interesting technology! Straighten me out on this water displaced fuel tankage idea though; I thought fuel tended to be lighter than water. Gasoline sure is and I thought diesel was as well. Do I have that backwards? I was thinking that you'd have to draw the fuel from the top of the tank. How much fuel do you plan to carry? I thought this was going to be a sail boat. Or are you thinking along the lines of a motorsailer. If the latter, I highly recommend taking a long hard look at the motorsailer designs of William Hand. These were great boats that combined rugged seakeeping ability with decent speed and comfort. The other things to keep in mind are simplicity and cost. Simplicity in systems to save initial costs and keep maintenance and repair costs down. Cost itself might delay how soon you can start living your dream. Some years ago Woodenboat did a two-part series on Hand motorsailers and the second part included an article about a couple who bought and renovated one about 60 feet long. As I recall they were running a GM 6-71 diesel in her through a conventional drive system, in addition to a normal complement of sails. They had a generator and plenty of nice creature comforts, including a real engine room! Towards the end of the article they tallied up their typical running costs. The figures make sobering reading for all of us who "dream big" (I know I do!). Something to think about unless you have a budget like NAVSEA SYSCOM. Sure, you could put fly-by-wire in a Piper Cub, but is it necessary?

Dent Harrison
09-23-1999, 05:47 PM
The fun part of concept design is the freedom from practicality for a little while...us engineers have to get our kicks somehow! This boat will probably end up being designed backwards-the machinery first and make the hull fit. Yes, this will be a heavy displacement motor-sailer, with I hope substantial (several thousand miles range at a reasonable speed 8-10kts and able to hunker down and survive mid sea-state 9.) The sailing performance will be limited to what a short-handed crew can handle and I can live with that, I won't be in a hurry anyway.

As for AC drive, true it is more complicated than a traditional drive. The fundamental rule of design is you have to be comfortable and knowledgeable about your equipment, period. For me, I would prefer it for the following reasons: better shaft line alignment, freedom to position engine(s), abiltity to have multiple engines running generators to provide charging and main propulsion, and the ability to have multiple engines to better match the power/speed curve. You can also time-share the engines and run them individually at higher powers to take advantage of the SFC curve, and get longer life between overhauls. You can also have a stealth boat being able to run the propulsion from the batteries if desired (why you'd need it I don't know, but hey, it is simple to do!) So with two smaller engines up higher easier to service and all services running from electricity, it makes maintenance easier, and perhaps, enjoyable! It also makes refrigeration and hydraulic systems easier to implement.

As for CP props, yes I have seen the ones mentioned, however, if I can build one, then spares become a non-issue. Did I mention I want to have my small milling machine and metal lathe onboard to provide complete mechanical services at a reasonable price where-ever I roam to support this habit?

Water-displaced fuel system. My only thinking on this is I would like to have as much ballast as possible come from useable weight rather than lead on the keel and wdf is a way to do help with this. Yes, diesel floats and that is the trick of the system, you have to maintain pressure in the tanks and add water as you take fuel out. There are many papers in the open literature (SNAME and the like) which describe these systems. It is something to look at, but yes, if it is too complicated so be it. When I have finished reading up and realize just how little I know, I will be in a better position to narrow the concepts a little to the realistic.

Bob Cleek
09-23-1999, 11:07 PM
I'm not going to lock horns with a naval engineer here, but I'd offer a couple of observations and questions. First, liquid ballast, water or fuel, seems to make a lot more sense in flat bottomed ocean going vessels than in sailing vessels, where the object of the game is to get the most weight in the smallest space as low as possible. Hence, little has improved on the lead ballast keel, although I'm now researching the possibility of home-workshop casting of an expended uranium keel! (LOL) If you think of a sailboat as a lever with its metacentric height at the fulcrum, it seems to me, who flunked physics in high school, that filling a boat with water isn't going to do much but reduce the freeboard and the cargo tonnage. What you want is heavy weight way down below, don't you?
As for electric systems. Don't you reach a point of diminishing returns in smaller vessels? I made friends with a big old YTM with a couple of ALCO diesels in her and GE motors. She could raft up to an Iowa class, plug in, and power the whole battlewagon on just one of those ALCO's. But then, that tug was NOTHING BUT engine and 100 feet long. I agree that the diesel electric drive avoids a lot of hassles, but at the cost of size and weight. (This new hybrid auto motor technology is highly promising, though!) It sounds like by the time you get all this engine technology into her, you won't have a sailboat at all. Wouldn't it be better to consider keeping it as simple as possible. Without that diesel electric power plant, you wouldn't have to carry the lathe and machine shop aboard, and so on... I did do some research on electric power plants and discovered this, from engineers like yourself: the size and weight of the battery banks and/or generator systems do not make the technology practical in the size and type of boats we are talking about. You could be the one who makes the big breakthrough, though! I'm hoping you do!

K.E. Baisch
09-26-1999, 08:17 AM
Hi Dent,

If you are considering going to school, you should look into the yacht design program at the Landing School. It is an intensive ten-month program in the design of vessels 100' and less. Unlike the Webb and MIT-type experiences, where you focus on designing a part of large ships (propulsion systems or hull strength etc) -- the Landing School program teaches you to manipulate the lines of, and understand the forces acting upon the WHOLE BOAT. You learn some hand drafting, then you get to use John Letcher's Multi-Surf software. It's a very demanding program but would give you the tools to do what it sounds like you want to do.

By the way, they get some mighty interesting lecturers there. Olin Stephen's comes by twice a year. (He critiques the designers' work in the spring). Bruce King, Meade Gougeon, Eric Sponberg and others.
For someone like you, the Landing School may be a perfect fit.

You can find their web site through a WB link or call them at 207/985-7976.
They are located in Kennebunkport, Maine.

If you're not interested in school, then I second several books mentioned already.

--Skene's elements of yacht design. (Out of print but can be found. An important book)
--Principle's of Yacht Design, by Larsson & Eliasson. A lot like Skenes. Not a replacement for, but great to have in addition to it.
--The Marchaj books are very important.
--The Common Sense of Yacht Design by Herreshoff is great, if you can find it.

Some that I didn't see listed (I may have just missed them) are:

--Preliminary Design of Boats and Ships by Cyrus Hamlin
ISBN # 0-87033-391-7
--Yacht and Small Craft Design by Gordon Trower
ISBN # 1-85223-709-0
(This book is out of print but can be found and is worth the search).
--Desirable and Undesirable Characteristics of Offshore Yachts by the Technical Committee of the Cruising Club of America. Edited by John Rousmaniere
ISBN #0-393-03311-2

You're well educated but you're not a yacht designer. Reading will enable you to choose well when hiring an NA or yacht design firm.
I strongly advise against designing your own boat until you have had some training. That's a good way to get dead.

Good luck. I hope this helps you.



Dale Harvey
09-26-1999, 10:12 AM
If you actually want to go where you say, forget the books and engineering. Take courses in Nordic language and vacations in the region. These people have been working there for milenia. They build the props, boats, gear, that works. Much of what they know has probably not even been written down, and even less has been successfully translated. If you want to stay alive in Artic waters, talk to the natives.

Bob Cleek
09-26-1999, 05:07 PM
Dale's is probably the best advice on this subject yet!

Ian McColgin
09-27-1999, 11:16 AM
Just been reading William Gilkerson's "Ultimate Voyage." It's a phantasy that will inspire. Unlike much phantasy, it's 'pro-democracy' rather than imperialistic, but it's still all guys having adventures. Still a good read - a bi-Polar circumnavigation..

Phil Bolger and Friends
01-02-2000, 09:47 PM
For that environment steel seems more survivable. An integrated design to live on healthily, survive 4-seasons aboard, is arare animal in the current market-place, but has been done. Studying up on what typically is conventional wisdom will not go far to get to a serious proposal and execution. Too many guild-related conventions that stand in the way. Doability, survival, ability to go coastal around ice and or over/through ice won't be found in any text-book. But such designs have been done. But not in traditional or modern wood construction. And should not be with a straight face. You might want to come back... Yes we've touched Amundsen's Gyoa (?) etc. etc. but this project you can use pleny of wood - but not on the hull or spars...

Dent Harrison
01-03-2000, 08:57 PM
I think there has been a small misunderstanding about my "high latitudes" requirements. It is my intention to spend alot of time cruise in the arctic/antarctic regions, but I am not planning to spend the winter! I want to be warm and safe to push into the ends of the seasons, but that is all.

Our office specializes in ice-strengthened hulls for all ships of all ice classes, including tankers, military, and icebreakers. I am very familiar with what is required to withstand ice, either breaking or sitting frozen. There is usually snow on the ground where I live from late November to mid April, so by the time this boat is launched, I will have had my fill of deep, cold, long winters. But the north has always fascinated me, and this boat is a means of exploring, traveling, and living that I have always wanted and intend to achieve. I want a wooden boat, good under sail and power (in that order) which will keep me warm and dry.

Interestingly, two years ago one of the Canadian icebreakers went up north on a science mission. She went up from the west coast, and pushed far into the northern icepack. Then she sat there for a full year frozen in, drifting with the ice pack. So it can be done, and a big icebreaker is the boat to be on, not a small wooden boat. I think even Henry Larsen with ST. ROCH pulled his boat out each winter to save from being crushed. When it is that cold, I intend to be at the other side of the globe!

Many thanks again to all for your helpful suggestions.

Cheers, Dent...

Kevin Lynch
01-03-2000, 09:30 PM
I'm sure you've read it, but just in case...

If you like high latitude exploration, you need to read SOUTH by Sir Ernest Shackleton. It is an incredible story about Antartic exploration (1907-1909) in a wooden boat...
You've got to read it.

01-03-2000, 10:40 PM
I was once a Nuc Officer on a Trident Submarine. (Surprised you didn't I Bob?)
You probably know this already, but the maintenance requirements associated with AC and/or DC motors & generators represent a lot of overhead. Atmospheric conditions play a large role in the lives of brushes and rings. And don't forget bearing alignments. Urggg. I'd much rather be sailing than climbing into tight spaces over and over again. Don't forget to bring along an electrician/machinist, or you'll be the guy.
Oh, and the grime! Your local auto mechanic x2. Did I mention battery maintenance?

Regarding seawater in the fuel tanks: Great concept (if they're large). Since water is heavier than air a full tank is always a plus stability-wise. When they're full the associated weight stays in one place rather than sloshing around. Like Dent said, the trade off is buying and maintaining a purification system (water in a compression engine = bad), as well as keeping the sealife out. Periodic tank inspections and cleaning will be required.

As you know, and its been said before, at sea, simple is better.

Good luck, and have fun doing that creative engineering thing. Tony.

Bob Cleek
01-04-2000, 01:03 AM
You know, Dent, I just remembered back to my youth, growing up in San Francisco. My dad would take me down to Ocean Beach when I was little to check out the flotsam after a good storm... great beach for that, sometimes you'd find one of those green or blue glass Japanese fishing floats they used to use... drifted all the way across the Pacific to my doorstep. Anywho... one of my earlier sailing ship loves was Gjoa, about a sixty five foot cutter or sloop that was hauled out at the foot of Golden Gate Park in a graving dock on display. She'd been the boat with which Roald Admunsen had been first to complete the Northwest Passage. Sailed all the way from Scandahoovia to SF back in "ought-something." She just sat there, exposed to the wind and salt air, decrepit with a rusting iron fence around her, next to the American Legion Hall (where in high school, they old soldiers would let us drink under age if we sounded like we were thinking about enlisting... HA! Fat chance! LOL) Finally, the Swedes (I think) came and took her back... rather embarrassing for SF, I'd thought, since she was such an important ship, to be neglected so. I hear she is completely restored and on display in one of their maritime museums. She was specially built for the job. I know that she is well documented and her lines are probably available.

Now, certainly, a lot has been learned about ships for ice bound use since then, especially in terms of steel and so on, but she might be worth your checking out if you are looking for ideas. At least you know the boat's up to it.

Phil Bolger and Friends
01-06-2000, 07:24 AM
We saw Gyoa in Oslo Norway high and dry as a major exhibit in Norway's National Maritime Museum - a short walk from the Oseberg ship etc.

If cruising the high latitudes just means putting on more sweaters, any halfway reasonable conventional design will 'do' - used, available anytime in the market, now. How they would deal with impact of unavoidable 'hard water' flotsam is a question that applies across the board. Even additional protection along and well above waterline will still keep the hull a 'wear'-item with relatively short life-expectancy. And not every piece of ice will hit just at the icebelt.
It is good to hear that more and more navies around the poles of the world will charge for 'rescue-missions', if they deem it fit at all to risk their lifes for romantic pursuits in crafts with decidedly limited capabilities in those conditions - the beauty of wood and ice...
Building her 'bulletproof' like Gyoa requires a medium size forest of prime lumber, seasoned to prime condition, and tooling and manpower that goes far beyond any reasonable budget - both building and maintaining. Depending on actual shape and scantlings, while likely useful during the 'expedition', her necessarily dense and massive framespacing is prone to accelerate the usual decay issue of massive wood- construction once the temperatures are more moderate - figure a solid 5-digit+ portfolio to burn up its dividends for annual upkeep beyond the usual drain of ownership. You reckon you can see and dodge any floating menance 24/7? Global warming might help.

Finally, the inherent proposal to spend high 4- to growing 5-digit manhours on any boat, ANY BOAT, which won't offer the equivalent of a 4-season habitat - afloat in Tahiti or dragged up on the gravel beach at Tlukquimuck - requires some serious reexamination of basic premises. Since 'going professional' in the early 1950s we've seen a good share of tragedies attempting such ventures, with the easier ones just being divorce and bankruptcy. The assumption to view one's life as static and under full control from external 'distractons'during the endless gestation-period of the job, never mind the predictable process of growing and thus reevaluating/questioning the merits of the project over too many moonphases and lost family-life, is optimistic to say the least.
And of course she'll never be 'finished' not to mention 'right/perfect'...

Rather, do it fast, do it soon - take kids of any age with you, what a treat it could be -, with designs that can be done over the least form 1040 cycles possible and be gone to savor the flavor of the dream - rather than planning and drudging for forever under the assumption of personally reinventing a whole patent-office of wheels.
And with a real job to work in, plus family, other interests, perhaps it can't be done after all - often quite predictable early on!! Then make the regular money, live a full life, and burn some of that income that would have gone towards felling several 400-year oaks to find that one perfect grown knee and do a guided expedition with full insurance and electric socks to find out that you either missed something after all (how much really?) or that a 'quicky' immersion into the region will actually sate your appetites - until you need another 'fix' some time down the road..

Bruce Petrovick
01-06-2000, 09:50 AM
Recommended reading - "North to the Night" by Alvah Simon. Published by Broadway Books. Good account of a winter spent above the Artic Circle in a 36' sailboat. When you get there, remember - Nanook is always around!

01-06-2000, 12:47 PM
This is probably irrelevant. (That'd be novel here wouldn't it?) I spent a year on Baffin Island as a guest of the DOD. IMHO the Arctic is more interesting to see in IMAX theaters than to live in. Perhaps a short visit would have been more interesting. A year was a lot like the story about the guy hitting himself on the head w/ a hammer 'cause it felt so good to stop. The place makes a better story than an experience. Summer is bleak, like sensory deprivation, unless you've suffered through the nearly endless winter. But, hey, to each her own, but there's probably a good reason why so few people live there.

Ian McColgin
01-06-2000, 01:12 PM
Tom, I take it this means you'll decline to join me in a summer's dash across the Russian Arctic sea route. Actually, I bet that even when I start getting serious, they never give permission since they are so devoted to hiding the wholesale environmental depredation they've perpertrated up there.

01-06-2000, 01:59 PM
Truth to tell, that sounds more interesting than I'm comfortable admitting. SWMBO would probably veto such a projact. Thanks anyway for the invitation. Post pictures so we can all feel your pain. The endless year of Cold War B.S. and being stuck with people I'd never choose and with no oportunity to beg off probably colors the memory. The one bright memory of it was the few Inuit peoples we saw. Seriously tough folks. Happy too. I don't remember seeing one of them not smiling.

Scott Welch
01-06-2000, 10:41 PM
I feel the need to add a few comments here.

First, some background: Like Dent, I want to do some Arctic cruising. In the late 60's and 70's I lived in the arctic (from ages 6 to 18), in Resolute Bay and Chesterfield Inlet. I spent the last 5 years working on a 30' supply boat on the west coast of Hudson Bay, as well as maintaining all of the power equipment for a biological research camp (25 outboards, 10 snowmobiles, complete diesel generation plant, etc, etc, etc). Our camp was completely isolated during breakup and freezup, with boat access in the summer and snowmobile access in the winter to the nearest town (pop. 125, with a plane once a week). If the timing was just right we could get parts in about 4 weeks, so needless to say we were inventive.

Now, the comments:

First, Phil B makes excellent points about the time/effort/size of the boat. Most of the travel in the arctic (we're talking things like 200 mile offshore passages in snowstorms) are done in boats that you would not believe -- freight canoes (take a look at http://www.cloxt.com/visor/norwest/features.htm ). I've also had the pleasure of seeing both the Gjoa and the Fram, and "massive" does not do them justice. Parts of the hull of the Fram are 5 FEET thick... of oak!

In ter

01-28-2000, 04:07 PM

I understand that Westlawn, mentioned in an earlier post in this topic, is now offering an (abbreviated/condensed/less complete?) version called Westlawn Lite. Don't know whether that would suit, but you could ask.

Don Braymer
02-15-2000, 05:14 PM
John Alden took a pretty good shot at a circumnavigation vessel at 60' 5 inches.
Nets out at an easy 9.5 knots in a 15 knot breeze.

Take at look at the plans at dirigosailing.com while you are in between reading the other twenty books. A drawing can be worth a thousand words.

My dad once said that you have to decide if you want to "work on the boat or go somewhere". As long as you are aware that it will take a lot longer to design it and build it, than to buy something actually better, go for it.


02-16-2000, 06:03 PM
First let me state the quality of the posters on this forum seems to have gone up tremendously, and that I am proud to be associated with it.

Dent You may want to contact some of the ocean racing teams. Granted your not building a racer, but since they make crossings on a regular basis, they may be a good source for you. Especially since the boat you are building falls into the same length category.

Dent Harrison
02-16-2000, 06:29 PM

Thanks for the suggestion. I have been looking at the racing boats, in passing. I actually just completed reading Derek Lundy's "Godforsaken Sea" about the Vendee Globe, 1996-97 race in which Gerry Roufs was lost. These boats are too high strung for my tastes. I am looking for at something to tramp around the world in, paying my way as a journeyman machinist, rather than racing hell-bent-for-leather. I will gladly trade the light weight and speed for strength and redundancy of a very solid design and systems which will last for many, many years. So a big, beamy, floats-like-a-duck-and-sails-like-one-too solid boat is what I am after. I just read one of the past issues of Wooden Boat about EDA FRANSEN and this is very close to the type and size I am after. (For thems without the issue, it is a Danish Seiner hull, 53ftLOA, 15ft B, 8.5ft draugh, holds 20tonnes ballast.

Thanks again,


Dent Harrison
02-16-2000, 06:29 PM

Thanks for the suggestion. I have been looking at the racing boats, in passing. I actually just completed reading Derek Lundy's "Godforsaken Sea" about the Vendee Globe, 1996-97 race in which Gerry Roufs was lost. These boats are too high strung for my tastes. I am looking for at something to tramp around the world in, paying my way as a journeyman machinist, rather than racing hell-bent-for-leather. I will gladly trade the light weight and speed for strength and redundancy of a very solid design and systems which will last for many, many years. So a big, beamy, floats-like-a-duck-and-sails-like-one-too solid boat is what I am after. I just read one of the past issues of Wooden Boat about EDA FRANSEN and this is very close to the type and size I am after. (For thems without the issue, it is a Danish Seiner hull, 53ftLOA, 15ft B, 8.5ft draugh, holds 20tonnes ballast.

Thanks again,


Bruce Keefauver
02-17-2000, 02:55 PM
Dent: A more moderate cruising refinement of the Open 50 or 60 types of boats worth consideration is a design such as Beowulf owned by the Dashews. This is an aluminum 77’ water-ballasted ketch with a lot of miles under her keel. (She also carries many systems for engineers to play with.) For more information, check out www.SetSail.com (http://www.SetSail.com) and look at the book “Offshore Cruising Encyclopedia.” I think there is a production version built by Deerfoot Yachts. This type of boat is very different from the traditional cruising type, and seems to be quite capable, and certainly could be constructed of wood/composite.

Dent Harrison
02-17-2000, 06:00 PM
I have had a copy of the Cruising Encyclopedia for several years and respect much of what Steve Dashew proposes and designs. I fully agree that his designs are a very good and well founded on extensive cruising experience. His executions can sometimes be improved, but that is only because I work in the field. I also fully agree with all his reasonings for an aluminum yacht. Our company is building about a dozen 47ft rescue boats (v-bottom, self righting without a keel) out of aluminum for the Canadian Coast Guard (based on the US MLB design, but Canadianized for our requirements with bigger engines) and aluminum does make alot of sense for boats and yachts that will spend more time in service than in maintenance, however, bare aluminum is just too ugly for words. So if I have to paint and varnish, let it be wood. But essentially it comes down what performance do you want to emphasize.

I agree, anyone looking into serious cruising should read this book well before leaving, it is well worth the cost.

Cheers, Dent....

12-12-2000, 01:52 AM
I dunn been around three times and almost a fourth. Smaller is better if you really want to go sailing. And have money in your pocket when you go. The days are about gone when you can find work while cruising unless you really have a skill that doesn't replace a local one, and the days are gone when you can step off the boat with your bow and arrows and get a couple of fat oinkers. I built an experimental electric drive 35 years ago and charged the batteries by towing an original HamiltonFerris type rig. It also powered my old ham radio.....but I gotta tell yu it wuz a pain in the gazoo. Keep it simple, go now and enjoy life.....don't spend all your time working on the boat.

Alan D. Hyde
12-12-2000, 09:25 AM

I am not qualified by either training or experience to make sound unassisted judgments in these matters.

Nevertheless, much of my living is made by means of research, and whatever one does, good research often helps and never hurts.

Many good books have already been recommended. It will be beneficial to read everything you can find about yachts and boats in the North. Frequently, small details of another's experience can help to illuminate one's own thinking.

Amundsen and Nansen knew much, and are worth your study.

An interesting account that hasn't been mentioned is "Northern Light," by Rolf Bjelke and Deborah Shapiro (N.Y.: Clarkson & Potter, 1986). "The Shetland Bus" (or "Across to Norway" in the States) also tells much about the type of wooden vessel you seek to master, in winter conditions and under wartime constraints.

It has been many years since I read them, but some of the various books by Peter Freuchen (sp?) and Vilhjalmur Stefansson may also stimulate your thinking. Immerse yourself in the subject, and you will grasp the great opportunity to learn by the mistakes of others, and not merely by your own.

Bolger and Cleek are both right: the experts should be consulted. But when that has been done, it will be you and your vessel that are tested by the elements, and you who will be responsible for the outcome. You must educate yourself to make good choices, for the final decisions belong to the shipmaster, and to no one else.

For every thousand men who think about these things, there is perhaps only one who carries them through to completion.

Good luck!


06-25-2002, 11:52 PM

Here is a site about the high latitude sailing and adventure of Bill Tilman. Great site I,m not sure but in one of the old photographs there is an empty scotch bottle propped up on an iceburg, is it propaganda, or do you think they actually drank it? LOL


A. Mason
06-25-2002, 11:59 PM
Somewhere along the way, the primary purpose of a yacht designer/naval architect has gotten lost. Whether you are referring to firms such as Herreshoff, Sparkman & Stephens, Rhodes, and Alden, or individual designers such as Alberg, Neilsen, Atkins, Garden, Potter, Mull, and Perry, their business is more or less designing a seaworthy vessel to the specific requirements of a client.

On a personal level, my father, the late naval architect Al Mason, spent most of his long career translating a client's specific ideas and "notions" into a seaworthy dependable vessel. Yes, the services of a professional does cost money, but on the other hand, what is your life worth? In the past, design services were calculated at 1% of the building costs of a design.

Contrary to assumptions, the practice of naval architecture is not paved with gold. My father answered dozens of letters over the years from aspiring yacht designers who wanted to work for him by advising them to get a good paying day job. My father regularly practiced what he preached.

Additionally, there is a tremendous difference between "custom" designs and "stock" designs. A "custom" design is one dictated precisely by a specific client. The naval architect/yacht designer creates as nearly as possible what the client believes they want. A competent architect/designer will never cross the boundary of human safety simply to appease a client's naive whims or misconceived ideas.

A "stock" design was, and probably still is, a basic method for a dedicated architect/designer to earn some money between the "custom" jobs - i.e., to "drum up business" - by creating an appealing design incorporating popular trends. In addition, at least in the past, "custom" designs were frequently offered after the fact as "stock" designs. In my father's case, he earned more money, over time, from the sale of blueprints of publicly offered designs than from any single commission.

Yes, a dedicated creative professional would always prefer to "do their own thing" but not if it means being naked, starving, and homeless. A dedicated professional, like my late father, would attempt to bend over backwards to provide a client with the vessel of their dreams, but he would become more obstinate than a surly mule if the client demanded something my father, through his long experience, knew would be completely assinine. Nothing kills a professional's hard-earned reputation faster than a boating disaster attributed to the design.

Please rethink your decision to personally design and build your own blue water cruiser. Or are you one of those "know-it-alls" who do your own legal work; home design and construction; clothing design and construction; health analysis, etc.?

A sixty-foot design is a considerable investment of money, not to mention time if you plan to build it yourself. There are a myriad of factors involved in creating a "safe" vessel. I sincerely advise you to re-think the idea that you can teach yourself enough in your spare time to both design and build a vessel by yourself adequately enough to survive your planned adventure.

By all means read everything you can find on boat design, boat construction, material strengths, hull shape test tank analysis, climatic conditions, product descriptions, etc. The more you know, the better able you will be to explain your specific needs and desires to a dedicated professional who can successfully translate your vision into a safe and seaworthy reality.

FYI, back in the late 1920s when my father began his career, he only needed to create four drawings for a design - Sail & Rigging, Inboard Profile & Accommodations; Lines and Offsets; and Construction/Sections - for both professional and amateur boat builders. His last designs, in the 1980s, required 20-23 highly detailed drawings to convey the same information.

[BTW Dent, somewhat like you, I descend from a seafaring background. In addition to my late father, my maternal grandfather was a Norwegian boat designer/builder whose day job in the U.S. began at Nevins. His father was half-owner of a regularly circumnavigating three-master clipper ship known as Larus. I decline to continue my Norwegian boatbuilding ancestry. I will say that although I have quite a nautical ancestry, I am not stupid enough to believe that I can design and build any kind of boat even though I was my father's sole employee for over thirty years and have at hand dozens of books and hundreds of technical papers on the subject. I've probably forgotten more than you can hope to learn .]

If you want to design a build a dinghy/skiff/rowboat for use in the local pond - go for it! For circumnagivating and high latitude sailing/cruising, consult a professional.


Matt J.
06-26-2002, 07:14 AM
Either Cleek chaged his logon, or someone else stayed up too late on a Tuesday night. :rolleyes:

[ 06-26-2002, 08:22 AM: Message edited by: Matt Joyce ]

06-26-2002, 04:28 PM
Ah, yes, there is a bit of a time gap between posts here
...this guy Dent is probably frozen in somewhere by now smile.gif

12-05-2004, 07:46 AM
I thought I'd drag up this chestnut for Christmas. (I was researching/daydreaming Westlawn).

I didn't know that Phil Bolger used to post on here. I wonder if Dent ever built his boat. I know that Ian Mc Colgin is not doing his Bi Polar Circumnavigation yet (how about it Ian).

Appropriate to the diesel electric, there is a great article on this in the latest Professional Boatbuilder.

Ian McColgin
12-05-2004, 08:12 AM
Not yet, but I am closer to starting the rebuild. I too wonder if this project is going forward.

12-05-2004, 08:18 AM
This is classic. Thanks!

In the Swamp. :D

12-05-2004, 10:31 PM
Any second hand steel yacht will handle ice conditions better than anything made of wood. The high latitudes require a sturdy little ship, not a toy or a piece of furniture.

I found mister Cleek's recommendations for designers and books rather amusing. Contrary to his views, most of the significant naval architects throughout history weren't Americans. Additionally, the only half-decent yacht design textbook currently available is Swedish (Principles of Yacht Design, Larsson & Eliasson). Chappelle and Skene's are so archaic as to really only be of historical interest. Handy for the odd 'rule of thumb' early in the design process, but not much help to competent engineers.

12-06-2004, 04:18 AM
This is an interesting post. I didn't realize that it was so outdated before reaching the end. I was going to e-mail Phil Bolger untill I realized that was 4 years ago.

I also think that Anita Mason was right on target. When you think of all that is involved with such a pursuit, it just seems to make so much sense to hire the professional or choose a basic proven design by a top professional. Certainly you should know all you can as the skipper of such a craft, but the technical part alone takes many many years and designing many successful yachts can only be done over a lifetime...if you have the talent and education.

I can think of at least a couple of analogys here that parallel this situation. The first would be the design progression of sailboards for the world speed record back in the late 1980's, during the rise of Windsurfing. Jimmy Lewis, the best know surfboard designer in Hawaii and probably the world at the time shaped the fastest sailboards for several years and his designs won the sail powered speed record time and time again. Many many large sailboard companies used engineers of all types to design competitive winsurf boards to compete, but the end result was Jimmy Lewis's boards just kept winning. It seems that no matter how hi-tech they went, studying every possible characteristic, the experience and talent of Mr Lewis won out. Only after a several years went by were highly successful sailboards produced by other companies and then only those that put lots and lots of money into R&D.

Second, as a professional photographer I have seen the advent of the digital revolution and the desktop computer make affordable equipment availble to the masses and many folks with a camera and a computer have become "photographers". The point is, anyone can snap a picture but no matter if you have $50K worth of equipment, you still have to have the "eye" to satisfy the customer. Just because you know all the technical information and how all the equipment works, it doesn't mean you can produce professional images day after day... This devaluing of the talent of photographers is paralleled somewhat by folks who easily underestimate the value of a skilled and experienced designer and most of all a "talented" designer.

My point... if you were going to invest lots of money and time in a project that can not fail (or you could die), would you consult a "Jimmy Lewis" or design a board yourself. Additonally, even if your design was functional and worked OK, wouldn't it have been worth having it turn out as a "gem" of a performer because a real talented expert designed her?

Another really important factor to consider is that the best designers produced many successful designs but they also experienced the journey from design to launch to analysis of performance over time...many times.
Nothing, I repeat nothing can take the place of this continuum of experience from mastering the science and developing your talents... to production of many successful and some not so successful designs...to analyzing the success or lack thereof of said designs over time.

Finally, to be fair I must point out that most of us here are passionate about the conceptualizing process, the building process and finally the sailing or boating process...we enjoy the planning and building as much as the final using of the boat. That factor alone is the deciding factor for many...as they would not want to miss the "labor of love" of building their own boat. I have been working on my boat for about 3 years and I can't remember when I didn't have some element of my boat to think on and to decide on how to procede next. Shes always there for me to think about and to challange me in problem solving for the next step.

If you don't love the process from concept to building to launch, then you should either abbrieviate the building process as much as possible or just buy used with minor refurbish and go sailing.

Good luck no matter what you decide.


Phil Bolger and Friends
03-14-2005, 01:33 PM
Meanwhile,in March 2005, north of the border, an arctic survival machine continues to be slowly outfitted by her owners. 55'x 17/13'x2'6" x 60.000lbs x twin screw, leeboard, Chinese Gaff Sloop motorsailer has acquired an R-value of around 30 (better than most homes anywhere) for reasonably defensible consumption for heating from her 1500 gals. diesel tanks. Designed as a full-time year-round two-some liveaboard for the Northwest Territories along the Mackenzie River and lake system where the temps vary between minus 55F to around plus 100F - 'true' continental climate straight fom the pole...-, her hull was built professionally to 'get over he hump' - i.e. 25-30% work done - with the truly manhour-intensive detailing done by her owners who will be more fastidious in matters of plumbing, heating, ventilating, insulating than most ship-yards could contemplate being. Surviving where and when not even heliopters may reach you at super-low temps focusses the crew's mind when it comes to getting fundamental basics just right.
This is a dedicated design for this purpose, not a makeshift 'upgrade' of some 'quaint-quality' traditional approach with a few cans of spray-in foam gone wild. Nobody has a right to ask to be bailed out when going into harm's way 'on a lark'. If the 'Call of the Arctic' reverberates in your brain-pan, then you must be rigorous from earliest design-doodles to final touches on that all-weather ventilation system. Our client was the first to point that out. Leaving the -Territories for South-East Asia after a few years of 'roughing it' at the plausible edge of boating seems like a modest proposal. Concerns of diesel fuel becoming a useless paste - a reality that will soon kill you under the Northern Lights - won't keep you awake there - pirates may.
The man had worked 'up north' for a number of years and is thus not another 'arm-chair' warrier - we are ! And we'll likely never spend a 9-month winter aboard her either. But we can read maps, gov. reports on weather, and we must listen to him in order to cover all bases that are necessary to have our client and his wife survive; it never pays to kill your clients... This boat had to be 'unprecedented' in her attributes in order to work as a survival machine in extreme cold, dark and emoteness.
When Design #645 "Walrus" gets launched though WOODENBOAT won't be there - because her hull is steel - up to an inch thick.

03-14-2005, 01:55 PM
Have you read Alvah Simon's book "North To The Night"? He and his wife planned to spend an entire winter 'frozen in' but she had to leave at the last second to see her dieing father so he wintered in alone. He almost didn't make it. Good read.


03-14-2005, 03:04 PM

Charles Burgess
03-14-2005, 04:23 PM
Since there has been continued interest in this topic over the past 6 years, I figured I'd throw my 2cents worth into the pot.

Anyone thinking of sailing into the high latitudes in a wooden boat should take careful note of traditional vessels in Norway where the Viking heritage is still obvious in their designs.

The original author stated that he wanted an auxillary engine on his sail-cruiser. My advice is to have the design centered on the optimal placement of the engine so as to behave neutrally in relation to a sailboat's movement in 6 degrees of freedom.

The design should aim for a Dynamic Stability Factor of 75 or 80.

I would want double plank on oak frame construction; with the inner planking being white cedar and the outer planking being white oak; full keel (none of the fin-keel stuff of the the Fastnet 1979 disaster - proved that the traditional full-keel had a higher DSF than fin-keels do); a fiberglass skin over the outer planking (don't glass the inside...use tongue or similar oil).

Finally, sailing a 60 foot sail-cruiser short-handed: use a gaffed schooner rig. Two masts, yet each gaff sail is smaller in area and easier and safer to handle in rough conditions. An added plus is the relative redundancy in having more than one mast.

11-28-2009, 07:45 AM
For that environment steel seems more survivable. An integrated design to live on healthily, survive 4-seasons aboard, is arare animal in the current market-place, but has been done. Studying up on what typically is conventional wisdom will not go far to get to a serious proposal and execution. Too many guild-related conventions that stand in the way. Doability, survival, ability to go coastal around ice and or over/through ice won't be found in any text-book. But such designs have been done. But not in traditional or modern wood construction. And should not be with a straight face. You might want to come back... Yes we've touched Amundsen's Gyoa (?) etc. etc. but this project you can use pleny of wood - but not on the hull or spars...
Sleepless nights got me thinking about working hulls and our most recent ramblings. MMD, This design thread addressed your specific concern on dealing with ice. I haven't seen Charles around lately. The forum has had some diverse groups sharing their thoughts over the years.

12-01-2009, 10:09 AM
Good point, about steel for living long-term in ice.

Working folks using working craft tend to do so where there is a point of doing so. And not too many folks do commercial fishing for instance in the vast reaches of Nunavut for instance, beyond local/subsistence fishing - when there is is liquid water that is...

Good try, but just missed the mark again.

Paul Pless
12-01-2009, 10:23 AM
Note to self: Must find and bump the thread showing oyster's icebreaker design/build.:D

12-01-2009, 10:32 AM
Judging by his contributions so far, I expect him to suggest mounting a big salt-shaker on the bow-pulpit.

12-01-2009, 10:33 AM
Would it have to be 'sea-salt' in Erster World?

12-01-2009, 10:37 AM
Susanne, I disagree. There are many commercial fishing vessels "working the ice" off the east coast of Canada, along the coast of Labrador. Big, nasty, brutish steel vessels fishing for redfish, shrimp, haddock and other species. My B-I-L has done extensive scientific research on the fish stocks in the area and has spent many months aboard fishing ships in heavy sea ice in the area. Sometimes tough to shoot away gear, but the ships certainly fish in the ice.

There is not much of a commercial fishery along the northern shores of Nunavut because the market is only local and cannot sustain the cost of vessels large and tough enough to fish in the extreme ice conditions there in the "shoulder seasons" when they can operate in the sea ice. If there were good roads out to carry product, making the market large enough, I'd bet that there would be a three-season commercial fishery off Gjoa Haven.

I helped build an aluminum vessel (42-foot fat little trawler/cargo type boat to be used for freighting and hunting seal and walrus) for an Innuit band in Ungava Bay many years ago. There was concern about how aluminum would stand up to the cold and impact with slob ice, as opposed to the tried-and-true steel. Apparently it did just fine, except that the Innuit quickly gave up on trying to hunt from the boat. It was too noisy going through ice!

12-01-2009, 10:58 AM
Nothing beats actual experience, mmd.

If that is your routine working-environment, it suggests that there is enough liquid water to make that a viable proposition - on the background of the Canadian Coast-Guard to break ice and fly helos or air-cushion vehicles (St. Lawrence).

I am glad you are confirming my perspective on the plausibility of commercial fishing in and along 'Canada's North-Slope' archipelago.

Erster's 'archeology' revealed a reference to 'do the Mackenzie River System' for 2-3 years on end as a private 'pleasure' (?!) 365-days/year live-aboard venture, after arrival from the lower 48 states or B.C.

While Erster's pride of the 'find' is undeniable, the context is - as usuall the case in 'Erster-World' - all mismatched...

Ian McColgin
12-01-2009, 11:18 AM
I wish I could find a site with pix or fuller description of Walrus. There was a time before the spinal arthritis got so bad that I fancied the Arctic experience, or imagined I would. Certainly plenty of cold weather experience but there's a world of difference between mountaineering with night temps under -30F but daylight in the daytime or even a couple weeks ski-touring in way northern Sweden, including a good case of "Lapsickness" which any high latitude types know as well as sailors know seasickness, which by the way it much resembles, but at least that was still only 14 days of no full sun.

Anyway, my musings included a low stress and low aspect rig, leeboards or lifting keel, a waterchest above shallow props to allow removal, and a removable rudder. Fortunately since nothing can really stand against real ice crushing stresses, in the live-aboard yacht range even up to 20 or 30 tons it's easy to design for floating above rather than crushed in. The real hazard then comes at spring thaw when, since the ice is less dense than water, the boat may essentially sink below where the ambient water will end up.

I was never 100% for steel as proper wood construction with Arctic conditions in mind will withstand the stresses and run-ins just fine - it's not an icebreaker after all.

Seems to me that ancillary planning like polar bear proof caches for food, fuel and shelter along with super fire prevention and fighting equipment, fuel warming gear, etc. are also the difference between a terrible survival epic or even disaster and an extremely interesting experience.

There's a vast body of arctic literature on which one can, sounds like the Walrus folk did, draw.

12-01-2009, 11:31 AM
Ian McColgin,
we started with Canadian Got. weather data, Mackenzie-River guides, maps, experience by client living and working there for years etc. He wanted indeed to go back.

#645 WALRUS has
- Chinese-gaff Sloop rig,
- leeboards,
- no under-water/few over-water through-hulls,
- air-cooled diesels,
- massive insulation- and ventilation system,
- inside insulation fuel/water/provisions-storage and engine-room ,
- high enough topsides for most bears to need stilts,
- outboard-hung rudder (removable),
and ice-out is indeed the killer. Assumptions were by clients to stay in quite no/slow-flow coves/oxbows, bays, lakes - if not outright Fall haul-out whether planned or ad-hoc, by local tracked Caterpillar if and when available where...

Her R-value, fuel capacity, physical safety, people-space volumes were deemed adequate by client and designers for 7-9-months of doing 'hard time' after entry on own keel, i.e. survival without Coast Guard/Armed Forces intervention; at -30 to -50 (-65 possible!!) defrees F nobody does much helo-flying anyway...
Erster though will put on his big mittens, Pooh-bear boots, and call upon rugged McMullen to help go and defeat the big bad dark arctic snow-monster, or whatever makes him do things these days... And the extra-big salt-shaker of course to be prepared - always prepared.

Ian McColgin
12-01-2009, 11:48 AM
Thank you Susan. Fascinating project.

12-01-2009, 11:54 AM
Thank you for the interest and the kind words.

12-01-2009, 12:28 PM
Susanne, I was enjoying this resurected thread and your input about the design points... until you resorted to playground sniping at your ' enemies' Please stop it , and keep to the subject matter.

12-01-2009, 12:43 PM
Good counsel Andrew.

I clearly have developed 'a habit' in light of some folks' approach to the topic. So far it has helped me balance my stomach acid-levels...

I trade you self-restrained responses by me for your input on the plus-side of this Thread.

Oops, I was in Wooden Working Craft Thread mode... But I'll stick with my offer anyway here or there. Come hither Andrewe.

12-01-2009, 12:43 PM
There's a great book by Fridjof Nansen (sp?) called Farthest North that I read some years back. You may be aware of it--it truly details how to live while your boat is icebound in the pack. Correction: it details how men 100 years ago did it with wool, oilskins and canned goods cooked on "primus stoves" and a Victrola and a handful of 78 records for entertainment.
The boat use, Fram, was sheathed in greenheart, IIRC, and was designed from the board to go into the pack and remain frozen in place while drifting with the ice. Nansen and his crew did so for several years. Designed by Colin Archer, it was described as a poor sailor and one of the entries details how the crew couldnt wait to be frozen-in rather than suffer more (liquid) sea time.
Then they found out about pressure ridges....
Its a great read for any sailor whether dreams of the arctic haunt you or not.

George Ray
12-02-2009, 06:51 AM
Bolger Walrus - 4sale -$400K: WOW! What an interesting/functional vessel .... form follows function in the nicest way.

Type: "Walrus" displacement motorsailor
LOA: 62' LOD: 54' LWL: 52' 3
Beam: 13' 1
Draft: 2'
Displacement: 66,350 lbs (full load)
Ballast: 10,000 lbs lead
Designer: Phil Bolger, Gloucester, MA, USA
Builder: Syltes Shipyard, Maple Ridge, BC & Paul Albert
Construction: Welded Cor-ten steel hull and deck with transom hung rudder and aluminum pilothouse


12-02-2009, 04:55 PM
After a lot of work and money invested Sale is apparently due to health issues. And thanks for the kind words. Her four-arctic-seasons capability is not visible here but has been assured to have been copiously installed.

I should add that the ballast quoted is in addition to quite stout bottom-plate structure, box-keel construction, 4000ah house battery-bank, etc. Built-in steel is cheap and necessary heavy-weight functions do fine 'double-duty'.

David Cockey
12-02-2009, 05:46 PM
"Fish tugs" on the Great Lakes typically worked as long as they could get out of the harbor. In some communities the fish tugs were the defacto ice breakers. The Evelyn S, now at the Michigan Maritime Museum has a wood hull which is completely sheathed in welded steel. http://michiganmaritimemuseum.org/exhibits/evelyns/

Tom Robb
12-03-2009, 04:21 PM
I wonder what ever became of Dent Harrison and his plans. Life perhaps?

12-03-2009, 05:10 PM
Dent, having sailed in those water compensated ballast destroyers ( I assume you're talking our "280s") I can say, forget it at that size. The risk of pollution today is too great. The wasted fuel at the interface between the water and the fuel, the minimal volumes we're talking about. It's not worth it. None of the stokers enjoy the work involved in keeping ATH, ALG or IRO's fuel/water interface free of microbes. Ask my brother about it, he did his Phase IV ms eng time in ALG. Convenitently he's on the forum listed as "sailor's brother". I'm sure hell have something of value to add to the discussion being a "280 lady" himself. My time in them is restricted to a couple of months at sea but nevertheless, I know what I like and that's not it. Love the thought of electric though. Wish I was better at electricity than my grades showe me to be in college. (Maybe this will bring him out of the woodork? Pardon the possible pun)

12-04-2009, 01:40 AM
The link provided by George Ray shows some interior shots and based on those photos, alot of insulation has yet to be installed and the heater stove has also not been installed yet nor the leeboard and mast. The boat looks new and hardly used at all.Shame the owner has had to abandon his dream.Hopefully a new owner will finish her interior and actually get to use the boat in the conditions it was intended for to test all the sytems out and the feasability of such systems in actual low Arctic 4 season use. The single leeboard working in slush ice is going to be interesting as will the Sonic drives off the two diesels.