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Elements of Boat Design

Learn the principles and process—then practice on your own design.

Tuition: $850

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If you have ever wished you could design your own sailboat, powerboat, rowboat, or canoe, then here’s a course for you. Boat builder and designer Paul Gartside will take you step-by-step through the principles of boat design, and efficiently lead you from an initial idea to a workable set of plans with reasonable confidence in the outcome. If you come with your own concept to work through, so much the better; otherwise Paul will help students without a specific plan come up with some interesting ideas to work on.

This is a paper-and-pencil course, working at the drawing board with the traditional tools of curves and battens. While most designers use computers these days, Paul still draws all plans by hand and from a teaching point of view feels this is the best approach. Theory will take place with blackboard sessions and will be applicable regardless of your experience and current practice.

WoodenBoat School boat design photo

Students need not have any previous experience with boat design or mathematics; just a keen interest in boats will do. Although there will be some simple calculations, the main focus will be on understanding the concepts and principles that play a part in boat design and in developing an eye for aesthetics. In spite of modern technology, designing boats is still as much an art as it is a science. The eye and judgment of the designer are still the most important ingredients in any design.

On Monday, you will discuss your initial ideas with Paul and learn how to begin a drawing on your own, using some basic drafting skills. Paul will spend the remainder of the week mixing theory and practical sessions with as much practical drawing time as possible. You’ll work toward a deepened understanding of how a hull interacts with wind and water, and of the compromises that must be made in every design in order for the finished boat to be best suited to its purpose. With only five days to work together, no one is going to come away with a complete set of plans under their arm, but depending on the group, it should be possible to get some projects pretty well fleshed out and the steps to completion clearly defined. If we can leave each student with enough basic knowledge to design a good-looking boat that performs well, and a burning desire to go ahead and start on another, then we will consider this course a success.

Paul Gartside was excellent! Quietly inspiring and a real professional. As a university professor, it was a pleasure to watch someone who knows how to read his students. A challenging but fun week.”
B.N., Conway, South Carolina
Paul Gartside has a wonderful delivery of a complex subject matter. Having an excellent approach to teaching, he spent lots of one-on-one time with each student. An excellent course!”
S.H., Laguna Beach, California