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Anke and I live aboard WAYWARD, and wrote about it's design and construction at

Access to the net comes and goes, so I'll be writing in fits and spurts.Please feel free to browse the archives, leave comments where you will and write... I'll respond as I can.

Fair winds!

Dave and Anke
triloboats swirly gmail daughter com

Friday, February 10, 2012

Vessel Design Space and the Tree of Boats

Tree of Life by Karla Gerard

If it looks like a boat, it'll likely act like one.
Remembered from Go Build Bour Own Boat by Harold 'Dynamite' Payson

Fill the space above the boat with sail; she'll balance.
Advice passed down by Allen Farrell

Vessel Design Space is a figment of the mind. Infinite in all directions, it contains every possible design variation as a point within it.

Growing within VDS is a beautiful Tree of Boats, if you will, of all the boats which have utility... which work. The trunk of this Tree is rooted in the displacement of water.  Every design, budding as a leaf or flower at the far end of some branch, will float.
The very first log that a human boarded (I'd bet it was a kid!) lies near the root of our ToB. A low branching is between solid log craft (rafts) and hollowed crafts (dug-out canoes and most of the rest). We climb and climb. There's a branch between hulls that have a pointy end and not. There's one between open boats and decked.

Everyone's ToB is a bit different, depending on how one thinks about design. Which branch is 'lower' (more fundamental); solid/hollow log or mono/multi hull? Stuff of hot debate in coastal pubs, the world over. Each ToB is like the Bansai... a reflection of one's mind.

One common design path is to specify, as nearly as possible, one particular leaf on our Tree.

A designer will specify hull shape, construction method (down to the nails!), scantlings, layout, rig. Some go so far as to suggest the color scheme!!! Of course, no two leaves end up identical, but effort is expended - from design through construction - to make them as alike as peas in a pod. This is especially true with production boats. 'Customization' may allow some twiggy branching, but this approach confines one the fine end of a limb.

The power of this approach is that the designer (who presumably knows the business) embeds his or her knowledge and experience into the design. The builder gets the full benefit of that knowledge of engineering, the accumulation of good ideas and occasional flashes of inspired innovation. Once a design has been 'proven', one can get a pretty good idea how a boat built to the same design will function.

Downside is that one size must fit most. In stock designs, some present alternate rigs or interior layouts. Some go so far as draw alternate superstructures or keel arrangements. Even in custom designs, it is the designer (not you) who ultimately balances your competing desires. One has been narrowed down, second hand, to a few alternatives among infinite possibilities.

This is similar to a chef who gives you the precise recipe for a given dish. Follow this recipe, and you will achieve a scrumptious result.

But what if you don't have ingredient x, y or z? What if your guest is lactose intolerant and vegan?

I'm that other kind of cook. My cookbook has a few, skeletal recipes - full of variables - and a lot of methods. I love the kind of cooking where the result has the sensual feel of dish that inspired it, without, perhaps, a single ingredient in common. A white sauce, for example, can be made in so many ways... some of them not even, exactly white... but close your eyes and let your tongue decide.

Back in my Tree, I see a big, hearty branch at flat bottomed boats, developed from cylindrical/conic sections (i.e., designed for non-tortured sheet materials). Along this branch lie sharpies, dories, shories and box barges/scows. A good branch! Full of DIY potential.

I inch along the limb of least resistance, and arrive at TriloBoats (near full box barge/scow).

These are like being given a pack of cards (ply sheets) and trying to make boats with the least number of cuts. Just in terms of hull configuration alone (length, beam, draft and height), you can see that this is a branchy limb!

Once you've got a hull, you design a superstructure for some purpose you have in mind. What're your favorite rigs (among the thousands), and among them, which work well with your intended use? How do you like to live? How many of you are there? Do you get along? Do you need a private head? Do the masts intrude below decks? Do you like to sleep together (double bunk)? Are you tall, or short? Tall and short? Sitting headroom or standing? And so on and on.

You are the expert on these matters. In the custom design process all these things must be absorbed by the designer, juggled with one another and fit within the constraints of the overall design. This is often expensive, frustrating and, ultimately, disappointing to both designer and client.

My (inexpensive) StudyPLANS ask a lot from the builder. They specify the hull side panel shape, which may be used with commercial  ply sheets (whole or cut down) for a range of beams. Interiors are up to you, as are rigs and lateral resistance. Several construction options are suggested, but not detailed. In other words, the StudyPLANS take you out on a limb... 8) ...but there are many branches you must choose your way among. Are you a shantyboater? A sailor? A powerboater? A liveaboard? Who are you? You decide.

For some time, now, I've been working on a DIY Design/Build Book for TriloBoats. I see it as auxiliary to, or in place of the StudyPLANS. I'm packing it with rules-of-thumb, methods, considerations and suggestions. It tries to answer why one might turn left or right, rather than which way one should. This blog has been a step toward it's eventual release.

But there's nothing radical in any of this. No boat is beyond you. We live in the Information Age. Excellent resources abound. You want to design, build and sail a boat? It's well within your grasp. The simpler the boat, the sooner you'll be on the water, but don't let complexity stop you if that's where your heart leads. Educate yourself, get your finances together, tool up, build and go!

Our Tree of Boats is in full bloom!

1 comment:

  1. Very inspiring. Makes me want to ditch the mortgage.