Essays, books, articles and more

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Paddle wheels
If you've ever wondered how paddle wheels work or wanted to add them to your pride and joy, here's the stuff you need to know. Thanks to Michael B Holt for letting us in on the secret.

Beach cat
An impressive high-tech attempt to develop a high performing beach cat. You have to admire this man!

Cruising dinghy
It can be done - and done well. This is an essay by John Perry about a 15ft cruising dinghy that he designed and built some time ago. Also very impressive.

Multihull stability
A serious-looking stab at the subject of multihull stability. Thanks to Mike Goodwin for spotting this one.

Jim Michalak's pages
Ex-aerospace engineer turned boat designer Jim Michalak's pages include essays that are often more informative on boat design than many books I've seen, and they're a lot easier to read. Do check out his designs and links. His catalogues are also well worth reading, and he's also written a fine book on how to do boat design the way he does it, with a great deal of careful calculation intended to make sure your design works as it is meant to do. Needless to say, his own designs have a fine reputation for performing as advertised.

'Canoe and Boatbuilding'
WP Stephens classic book 'Canoe and Boatbuilding - a complete manual for amateurs' is included in the educational section at Dragonfly, and is full of very pretty boats and canoes - the drawings are easily nice enough to hang on your wall, and some aspects of the designs might be useful today. By gunny you US types use some BIG sails at times!

Wood knowledge
Everything boatbuilders and woodworkers in general could possible need to know about wood, provided by the US Government.

Stability essay
How stable does a motorised fishing vessel need to be for safety? Here's a useful-looking that explains a lot about the subject. If you've read The Perfect Storm, you'll definitely want to read this. 

The Rules
Every design book (and many books that are not meant to be) include boat design 'rules'. Often they conflict, and I know that many good boats exist that break one rule or other. Still, the members of the boat design mailing list did think that a page of 'The Rules' might be fun, and useful. Please submit any rules you have found and think might be useful to others to me at We're looking for principles likely to be useful in boat design rather than humour here, though I may well enjoy a laugh in private.

Craig's foils essay
Have you seen this? It's an essay by Craig O'Donnell about foils. 

More stuff about foils
Here's still more stuff about foils, if you like that kind of thing. 

Love them or hate them, most of us could gain something from a better understanding of motors.

Galvanic corrosion essay
Sleeping well? This essay about the important topic of galvanic corrosion might disturb you at night.

Hulldrag simulator
Say goodbye to slow boats! This hull drag optimiser/calculator for round-hulled craft claims to offer a virtual tow-tank.

Speed calculator
Most of us secretly dream that our boat is somehow just a little quicker than most, at least with a certain kind of wind. It's part of being just a little bit in love with our craft. But shatter your illusions nevertheless with this speed calculator. There are links here to some quite interesting reading too, though it isn't all about design.

Electric outboards
Here's some material about batteries and electric outboards.

Kirby on shallow draft
Some time ago, Bruce Kirby wrote a fascinating article entitled 'In defense of shallow draft'. It is available over the Web and bears repeated re-reading.

'Sailing' is an 1889 guide to the beginning sailor. From the designer's point of view, it includes a fair amount of interesting material, with a worthwhile exposition of the rigs of the day. Arthur Ransome has some of the characters in his famous children's books study the book from time to time, and so the AR Society has been kind enough to put it up.

High-tech rig design notes
Some serious-looking notes about rig design .

Some notes on NACA foils (foils with optimum shape) and some shareware software to help you design them can be found at Harold Ginsberg's foils page.

More on foils
Another useful-looking discussion of foil design.

Still more on foils
If you like to think about this sort of thing, click here for more difficult foils stuff...

Making foils
For a great new article about making foils, follow this link. Also, for an article on foil design by the same author, try this.

Foam sandwich
An article about foam sandwich construction.

Canoe design
John Winters of Redwing Design discusses canoe design .

Sailing canoes
Some more interesting stuff about sailing canoes and sail design, this time put together by Dan Miller and Craig O'Donnel.

Craig O'Donnell's amazing pages
Craig O'D deserves a very special mention for his splendid set of instructions and designs formaking cleats at cleats, his frequently asked questions notes on foils, his page of design ideas for canoe sails at canoes, and for some stuff about using bamboo in sailing at other materials and bamboo. There's are also two internet books dating back from the late 19th century: Practical Canoeing by Tiphys, which includes useful material about design criteria for canoes, and a classic late 19th C survey of Mast & Sail in Europe and Asia by H Warington Smythe, and with rather a lot of nice illustrations. Also see Craig's instructions for building a small Bolger Pirogue- if you build this, don't forget to mail the $25 as requested to Philip Bolger and Friends at Gloucester, Massachusetts, USA. (I know, it's not free, but I felt I had to include this because it looks so much fun!) There's a load of other stuff too, including junk rigs, a Bolger honour roll, and instructions for making a bamboo raft. Don't miss this site.

Beuhler's views
George Buehler's been busy designing cruising boats since the early Seventies, and he's given a lot of thought to matters such as how best to provide water on board, what's the best fuel to cook on and why you should build in wood. Interesting discussion material on all these topics can be found here. This site is largely given over to the Pilgrim cruising motorboat, but the stuff I'm talking about can be found in the 'Systems' section.

Holtrop's opinions and designs
A series of opinionated essays on design from John Holtrop, including a discussion of his own method of creating smoothly-curved hulls from plywood strips. He has also conducted a remarkable fuzzy logic exercise aimed at identifying the ideal cruising sailing yacht.

What makes a good dinghy cruiser?
People who regularly sail open dinghies across open seas for fun must learn something valuable about their boats from their experiences. The Dinghy Cruising Association do just that, and have clear views about what makes a practical cruising dinghy.The site is run by an old friend of mine, so I may be biased, but I think it's a great read and I love the links.

Kayak design bulletin board
A bulletin board dedicated to kayak design can be found here together with several links.

If you ever find yourself puzzled about any aspect of yacht nomenclature, you might like to turn to this glossary of yacht design terms

Clinker ply technique
The people behind Seaside Small Craft have developed a ply clinker construction technique that produces beautiful lapstrake craft without moulds; they use coupled cable ties to sew their boats together. Do take a look at the beautiful craft Seaside's Bill Young is putting together while you are there.

Steam bending
Gregg Germain gave me permission to host this excellent FAQ on steam bending. If you want to have a go - the best of British luck to you.

Inspiration, if you need it
Not much in the way of designs here that you can use, but do get some cheap boating inspiration from this man - Fritz is a champion among design-it-yourself boat builders. And he's clearly having huge fun with it, so good for him.

Detailed design drawings, engineering data (including breaking strains of cordage, wire and chain ), and a very useful table of material densities including a huge range of ply types and thicknesses.  

Hydrodynamics essays etc
These guys are thinking very hard about small boat hydrodynamics. If it's your bag, enjoy it!

Sample plans
Some very nice sample plans from Jordan - they might provide some useful inspiration with respect to rigging and other things.

Boat and landboat theory
Here's a lot of whacky boat and landboat theory. Just the thing for people who like to hurt their heads with difficult things.

Pointus are a new kind of craft on me, so I was interested to see these drawings. Right-click the drawings and save to a handy folder for viewing if you want to see more detail.

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