I recently reread a book that I go back to from time to time and always enjoy called ‘A Tribute to the Source’ it is naturally about Robert Frost and is a collection of his poetry interspersed with short biographical essay’s. The book has of course nothing to do with boats or boat building but as this weekend I have been perusing a few of the books that I find myself going through and studying boats that worked well in the past and how they fit the purpose for which they where designed and how those goals where met.
You may wonder why in this age of computers, 3d modelling and performance prediction programs why I would do this. In my office in addition to the computers, printers and plotters there is the library you would expect containing volumes on yacht design, interior design, aero-hydrodynamics, boat building in wood (using traditional and modern methods), steel and aluminium, as well as various building standards. So why go seemingly backwards?
The answer is simple these boats did their jobs well, are the product of years study, and day to day use by those who owned and often built them. Did you ever ask yourself why so many canoe builders turn out a Peterborough or similar model canoe, the materials may change but the hull shape works, it does what you want a canoe to do and it does it well. Last week I talked with a gentleman at the show we were attending and he commented on how his canvas cedar boat was a bear to get to the water due to its weight, but once it was on the water the story changed, there was nothing else he would rather paddle. Why? Because once in the water the boat could do what it was designed to do and do well, be paddled. I have a Peterborough drawn in my computer but have no intention of marketing it, it serves as a baseline a known quantity that works to which I can compare other hulls , a way to build on and compare with something that I know works well.
This does not mean that I have no use for new methods and technology some of my favourite boats are those that walk the cutting edge, like the monster multihulls, the IMOCA monohulls boats sailed for records and profit by men and women whose skill and courage you can only admire. I have followed these boats for years and as they have evolved you can clearly see how each generation of boat stands on the shoulders of those that came before, how the experience gained has informed the designs of today.
As I go back to my books and consider not which I would copy but which of the designs I am studying can be adapted to modern building methods and in particular which of the old school easily driven hull shapes would lend itself to electric power. Just which hull shape will give a smooth quiet ride with little power while serving as an aesthetic feast for the eyes while it glides across a lake on a sunny summer afternoon?
I give thanks today for those who have come before and have shared with us their passion, and its product. Today in particular my thank you is to Pete Culler, John Gardner and to those who inspired you.