Great boat design booksReturn to boat design home page
Books on boat design are fascinating, and books of designs are both fascinating and can also be a superb cheap source of designs - particularly if you can get them from your local library or second-hand bookshop. Together with some of the free designs listed on my Boat design resources page they represent a great way to start building confident in the knowledge that the plans you are working with really are the business; they also provide an opportunity to study some of the variety of designs available.
Below I have listed some of favourites I have studied and some I look forward to reading - it represents work-in-progress, and I intend to add to it as time goes on. Where I know the book to be available I have included links to the relevant pages of book and software mail order houses Amazon and Barnes & Noble.
For those in the UK, I should point out that the magazines Classic Boat and Watercraft sell books and may have titles that are not currently available through Amazon.
I could not possibly list every relevant title that Amazon supplies, so you might wish to use their search feature on their home page.
Books on designHow to Design a Boat
John Teal, Adlard Coles Nautical
This is one of those slim volumes that seems to give you just the right amount of information; not so much that you feel you will never be able to retain the information or find it when you need it, but enough to make you feel you are understanding far more than you did before. My wife bought it by chance on a second-hand stall a couple of years ago, and it's still my favourite - I have read others, but because most have concentrated on racing types and deep-keel rich men's cruisers rather than low-cost people's boats, they don't really chime with my own perspective.
Elements of Yacht Design
Norman L Skene
Another slim volume - but it answers a host of questions left unanswered by Teale, including how to calculate the stresses on an stayed or unstayed spar, and what are the relative densities of a variety of ballast materials. There's more too on stability and metacentric height, although these days we can rely on Hulls 6 to work that stuff out for us! My copy of Elements was another second-hand bookshop purchase, and is dated 1936. I gather it's a highly collectable item, and although it is out of print, you may find a copy through the barnesandnoble.com Search Page .
Nature of Boats: Insights and Esoterica for the Nautically Obsessed
Books of designsThe Folding Schooner, 30 Odd Boats, Small Boats, Bolger's Boats, Boats with an Open Mind: 75 Unconventional Designs and Concepts
Philip C Bolger, International Marine
He has turned his pen to an enormous variety of types of vessel, but the superbly inventive Bolger has also done a superb job of providing home and low-profile boat builders with simple, buildable designs that work. Together with HH 'Dynamite' Payson (also listed below), he developed the plywood 'instant boat' concept from old-fashioned sharpie-style boat building techniques.
Apart from 'Bolger's Boats' I've read all of these titles from cover to cover, and can thoroughly recommend them. The designs range from the frankly conventional to the downright startling, and each is accompanied by informative and often entertaining notes. I'm sure I'm not alone in fervently wishing he'd sit down and write a book on how to design small boats in the same style - it would be an instant classic.
As presented, these books function as both a catalogue, but a good number of the designs suitable for home building can be built from the page with some lofting work. However, full-size plans are normally available at very reasonable prices from either Philip Bolger and Friends, HH Payson or Common Sense Designs.See my page of low-cost design sources for each of these.
Classic Small Craft: Complete Plans and Instructions for 47 Small Boats
the New Instant Boats
(Bolger is extremely proud of the GLD, by the way, and in one book claimed that the design had earned him an automatic pass into heaven. I understand it rows beautifully, but my slight reservation is that I've also heard that if you ever fall out it's impossible to get back in.)
Historical BooksAmerican Small Sailing Craft
Howard I Chappelle
A fabulous book, but be warned - if you buy it or borrow it, you may not have time to talk to your family and friends for a couple of weeks. I am afraid I don't know where it can be obtained from, but suspect that International Marine may have published it in recent years. Although a US book, I obtained the copy I read through my local library in the UK.
Boats of Britain
British Fishing-Boats and Coastal Craft Part 1: Historical Survey
Chatham Directory of Inshore Craft
Canoe and Boatbuilding for the Amateur
A Manual of Yacht and Boat Sailing
Other books of interest to designersSailing - A Beginner's Guide
My favourite 'how-to-sail' book, and I own a good few. Lots of comforting noises, sensible explanations of the physics of how boats work and a strong sense of history, which I always like.
Sailing, Seamanship and Yacht Construction
The Best of Uffa
Fox was almost impossible to describe in a few lines: he was just too big to fit into a small such a small space. A great boat building craftsman, helm, raconteur, crew and sailing teacher to royalty, bon viveur, pop chart-hitting singer (briefly), designer and inventor, he was also a great name dropper, egotist and eccentric. And it comes right out of the page at you so hard it's almost terrifying. Still, his achievements were real enough, and in his very collectable 'coffee table' books such as 'Sailing, Seamanchip and Yacht Construction' he discusses other designs work with evident enthusiasm, as well as his own. In 'Sailing Boats' he describes how he developed the modern planing racing dinghy (National 12, International 14, Flying Fifteen, International Canoe), explains their lines and construction, and tells some tall tales about his exploits in them. I haven't read 'The Best of Uffa', but I gather it presents 50 of his designs from the middle 1930s. I'm probably not going to read it; two books by Fox and his biography (which I've also read) are probably enough for any sane man. I've obviously overdone it, but in reasonable doses he's well worth reading. For his collectable books, try barnesandnoble.com Search Page.
This is Cruising
Pocket Cruisers - a New Approach
Long-time yachting magazine editor Des Sleightholme has a strong feeling that sailing should be made accessible to the common man, and it shows in a variety of ways, including his involvement in the Island Cruising Club, his invention of a simple lug rig to convert almost any small dinghy to make it sail and his enthusiasm for small boat cruising. Design nuts will find all sorts of useful ideas in Pocket Cruisers - if they can find the blessed thing anywhere. This is Cruising has been popular for years and must be regarded as one of the standard works on the subject.
The Magic of the Swatchways
Sailing on a Modest Income: An Anthology of Articles from "Yacht Sales and Charters" Magazine, 1925-27
Another British magazine editor, Maurice Griffiths was a man who fell in love with yachts and the sea in the early part of this century, and could write well about them - 'The Magic of the Swatchways' is one of the great books of sailing. Rather awkwardly for him, for many years he couldn't work out which yacht was the one for him - and so he bought and sold one boat after another. Eventually he made use of his experiences with so many vessels around the shallows of the Essex coast when he turned his hand to designing, and is justly revered for the popular shoal draft Eventide and Waterwitch designs. If you're English and are a little romantic at heart, I can confidently recommend 'Sailing on a Modest Income'. But I'm not sure about the rest of you? Would would a Texan make of Griffiths' descriptions of the creeks of Essex? Perhaps quite a lot!
Books I haven't read but intend to read when I canTraditional Boatbuilding Made Easy: A 12-Foot Skiff for Oar and Sail
Richard Kolin, Wooden Boat Publications
Boatbuilding: How to Build Any Boat the Stitch and Glue Way