Marine    Design

Tools of the Trade

    This page is really intended for new boat designers, students, and almost-students.  I mentioned to a retired Naval Architect friend that I felt as obscure as a tuba player - designing boats in rural Nova Scotia.  “Hold on a minute”, he said, “my son is a tuba player, and he just won an award from the Lieutenant Governor for teaching tuba”!  Great... boat designing in rural Nova Scotia is more obscure than tuba playing.  If it’s what you really want to do though, then I’d suggest you do it.  Spend time on and in water - watch how it behaves, and how things behave in and around it.  If you want pure speed while sailing notice that the fastest boats are nearly flying.  Find a way to fly completely clear of the water and stay there as long as you want until it’s time to land.  Learn from others: in a school (if that works best), from other designers, and especially builders.

    Boat design has always been a type of functional sculpture, and many of the new computer tools - machines and especially software are fantastic aids to modelling.  You likely don’t need the most expensive ‘whatever’ to do your best, though.  A sense of design usually comes from experience (not just with boats), but don’t worry about how good you’ll be at the end of your career or even next week - you are what you’ve got now, so get to it!

Here are some tools I find particularly helpful:

    TouchCAD 3D - my favourite design software. TouchCAD is fast to learn and user-friendly and has some amazing features. Here’s my review in the Nov/Dec, 2009 issue of WoodenBoat Magazine.

    Here is a small movie that I made after taking the lines off the shell of a Roué 20, designed by William Roué (the designer of the Bluenose schooner).  It was exported directly as this Quicktime movie after I modelled the hull.  It’s a very pretty boat!  The movies may be quite large and in high resolution, but I’ve kept them all small for the website.

    VectorWorks - I use VectorWorks for 2D work (drafting) mostly, though it has also become a varied and powerful cross-platform rendering and modelling tool.  I tried AutoCad years ago for one year and hated it as it was tiring having to put my brain on backwards to use it.  VectorWorks was like breath of fresh air.  In fairness, I understand AutoCad has improved from years ago.

    The suite of marine programs from Formation Design Systems - including MaxSurf, HydroMax, HullSpeed, SeaKeeper, MultiFrame, etc... are excellent design and engineering tools.  MaxSurf is less user-friendly and more expensive than TouchCAD, but is very accurate and interacts seamlessly with other FDS programs.  I can export hulls/surfaces from TouchCad into MaxSurf for stability work in HydroMax.

    I use Skype a lot because it allows you to live where you really want to and speak with clients and boat shops “in person” for little cost.  I especially find it helpful to be able to show them what I’m working on with the screen sharing option.  With Skype you can live in a beautiful, out-of-the-way place while working ‘virtually’ anywhere on earth... even on a boat!

    There are lots of paint and rendering programs that are very powerful, and they’re good for finishing what likely starts off as doodles and drawings.  Check them out.  If it feels clunky or the results aren’t good I’d suggest you move on to something else.

    Artlantis - A fantastic rendering program that imports directly from TouchCad and Vectorworks.

Good luck... and get on with it!

    Here’s a small copy of the presentation about TouchCad that I presented to the IBEX show in 2012 in Louisville, KY. Please note that when I design the 30’ sport boat hull in the second part of the movie, it’s been sped up: what took 14 minutes and 40 seconds to complete has been sped up to take only 10 minutes and 50 seconds.  I tried to fit the whole movie and presentation into a 15 minute period so had to compress the design part due to this time constraint.  It’s still pretty quickly made!Tools_files/Final%20Presentation.mp4Tools_files/Final%20Presentation_1.mp4shapeimage_4_link_0

And here’s a neat view of the same hull, with a background of the lines plan that was developed from the model.  This is what’s seen on my monitor while designing.

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