Sunday, 8 April 2012


 Essential Reading for Sailors (1)

How to Design a Boat


No, not planning to design my own boat – the way things are going I’ll be purchasing second hand at the bottom end of the market with a view to achieving my ‘ Simple Sailing, Low Cost Cruising’ ambition by investing plenty of physical effort in her, rather than money ( of which I do not have much!). But that initial investment of money is crucial – the boat has to be the right one and she has to be in a condition that gives me, and my lack of skill, a half decent sporting chance of success. So, while I’m casting around thinking about my future vessel, I’m investing a lot of time in reading about boat design and behaviour.

Now this book ‘How to Design a Boat’ by John Teal, is the most straightforward guide to designing a boat ever published. It takes you through the whole process in a clear and logical way, explaining the math en route and using lots of examples to illustrate the theory. The book deals with preliminary sketches and calculations, preliminary design, working drawings, resistance, sail plans, stability, hull balance and constructional considerations. There is a special chapter on motor boat design because, although much of the design process is the same for motor or power vessels, there are some special considerations which have to be given to high speed craft. The author’s aim was to enable the reader to feel confident enough to design a boat which would perform perfectly well, not a world beater but a good boat nonetheless. In this book he has certainly achieved his goal.

Is she too far gone?
As I said, I’m not about to design and build my own boat but for me as a boat buyer, it is still a very good work of reference. A few simple calculations based on the contents of this book and published dimensions of a given boat should enable me to gain a good idea of what to expect of her.

Mine is the third edition of the book, reissued in 2006 as part of a ‘How To’ series. Unfortunately, not enough care went into proof reading. The inside cover mentions ‘painting varnishing and antifouling’ three topics not covered within this volume – although they are the topics of a different volume in the series. Also, on page 3 there is a misprint in the very first mathematical calculation – a waterline length of 7ft rather than 17ft. This could be highly confusing and unsettling for a reader who is less than comfortable with maths but don’t let this put you off. I would still recommend it as an valuable work of reference for anyone interested in boats.


Title                             How To Design a Boat
Author                         John Teal
Publisher                     Adlard Coles Nautical
Price                            £10.99
ISBN                           0-7136-7572-1

I guess you’ll find the book via bookshops, chandleries or from the publisher’s website www.adlardcoles.com. Mine came from Amazon (secondhand). Order it at the bottom of this page. When this project is finished I’ll probably put it back for sale via Amazon and recoup some of the outlay!

Seaward