Boat Design

Best Boat Designs

Boat designThe best boat design is the one that keeps you safe, dry and gets you where you’re going. There are probably so many different boat designs that you couldn’t count them all. And that’s because there is no “one” best boat plan.

Boats are really designed locally. That means that every boat design is based on what the boat’s purpose is and where it will be used. A traditional riverboat is perfect for the shallow muddy waters of the Mississippi River system, but it wouldn’t get very far out into the Gulf before becoming a new reef. In the same way, the deep keel on a blue water sailboat would severely limit its usefulness in the shallow waters.

solar boat design

solar boat design

While all of this seems obvious, it’s the special conditions and uses that make great boat design necessary. Some boat designs call for a flat bottom like a “Pacific Power Dory” so that you can launch it right from the beach. Others need special considerations like open fishing decks or protection from running loaded in a following sea or how much wind will be encountered or from what direction.

All these things are taken into consideration by the boat designers. Boat design has been an important subject ever since the first caveman boldly stepped out on that floating log and promptly fell on his butt (probably trying to impress the little woman). As he pulled himself from the water, he probably thought “I need a better log.” And “Boat Design” was born!


Types of Boats

There are two basic types of boats.

1. Boats that go through the water have Displacement Hulls

Displacement hulls move through the water by pushing the water out of the way (displacement) and then the water comes in behind the boat to fill the area left by the forward movement. Thus, to move the boat forward in the water the length of the boat, an amount of water will be moved equal to the submerged area of the boat hull (the Displacement).

2. Boats designed to run on top of the water have Planing Hulls

Planing hulls are designed to lift the boat up as it moves forward. This causes the boat to “ride” on top of the water greatly reducing the amount of water displaced. This allows the boat to go faster with less friction. Instead of using all the power to move the boat forward, a planing hull uses some of it to actually lift the boat out of the water.

All boats are either one of these two types or a combination of both.

Hull Design

Some of the more popular hull designs

Flat bottom hulls: these can be displacement hulls like a river barge or with a combination of power and lightweight they can climb up on top of the water and plane.

Round bottom hulls: these are usually displacement hulls. Many sailboat hulls are shaped this way. The tendency to roll is checked by ballast or a deep keel.

Catamaran hulls: usually have two or possibly three hulls. Pontoon boats are one example. Catamarans can be powered by sail or motors or both. They can range from a tiny “Hobie Cat” type to a huge ferry capable of carrying hundreds of people or cars.

Vee Hulls: these are usually powered craft. There are many combinations of Vee hulls; ie: Vee bottom, Vee with flat pad sections, Vee with strakes.

Tunnel hulls: this design traps air under the hull and rides on the cushion of air to reduce friction and increase speed.

Cathedral hulls: these are a combination of a deep Vee and a catamaran shape.

Boat Designers

A Boat Designer can be a University trained Nautical Engineer or a self-taught designer. The proof of a good designer is in the boat. This is where experience comes in handy. Since men have been designing boats since before history was written down I want to just concentrate on some of the current designers that work with the designs that you can build yourself.

Think about it … there are places you just don’t want to take your tablet or laptop. That’s why nothing beats a good book, especially in the bathroom! For ten or twenty bucks you can get hours of good reading info, you can read it over and over. No battery needed.

One great boat designer is Sam Devlin. His designs have stood the test of time. In fact, he just celebrated his 37th year designing ships and boats of all sizes. His website offers designs for everything from little rowboats you can build in your garage to 45′ ocean-going yachts.

Another great designer is Jeff Spira, a Naval Architect who designs everything from 8′ to 120′. He has spent decades designing boats and floating docks and I particularly like his small “build at home” designs. His no-nonsense style of construction is great for the guy who just wants to get out on the water in a solid, well-built boat. You can build it as simple or as fancy as you want, but either way, you end up with a rugged craft that will last years. He also has a nice line of dories for river fishing. His line of Power Dories for the rough Pacific ocean look like they would be great anywhere. He even has free downloadable boat plans!

John Brooks has developed several sharp looking little boat designs for wooden boat builders. These are as much works of art as they are boats. If you want to build in the traditional style or learn more about of traditional nautical woodworking check out Brooks Boat Designs.

Phillip C. Bolger was a prolific designer. His eclectic style of boat design gained him a sizable following of admirers and a few skeptics. Many of his boat designs have been built and sailed around the world, in big seas, and on lakes. He developed designs for every type of sailing. I like his “Tennessee” design myself. Probably because it is so economical on fuel (I’m cheap that way). But, you can spend hours( and I have) reading and re-reading his popular book

Harold “Dynamite” Payson was a believer in building boats to be enjoyed and not just admired. As an experienced boat builder and designer, he grew to realize that there was a need for simpler boat designs that could be built by the amateur builder. Along with his friend Philip Bolger they designed boats that could get the amateur builder out on the water. The result was Instant Boats!