There is an idea, or better a bit of a myth, that all Naval Architects do is spend their days designing
It is simply not true, and an honest argument can be made about "Just how
many times do we have to re-invent the wheel anyway?" I often ponder this question when sailing my
Folkboat "Banyandah" from the 1940's (pictured here). She's a great looking boat and sails really well,
despite her not so recent design heritage.
My own time has not been spent designing a lot of boats. Yes, there are quite a few out there, and inevitably a
bunch more that never were built for one reason or another.
They include planing motor yachts to 75 ft, very tough and fast little aluminium catamarans for a variety of
purposes, a little freighter, commercial fishing vessels, and some very fast racing sailing dinghies, but
really nowhere near the output of a lot of other designers.
Instead it has been a lot more general a career, sort like a "Country Vet" kind of Naval Architect, if that is
not an impossible image. A lot of my work has been the kind of statutory stability calculations required
of commercial vessels by governments who would like to be assured that a passenger has a reasonable chance of
completing a journey without the boat rolling over, or a fishing vessel not laying down to wash its windows on
too regular a basis.
There has been a lot of competitive sailing. A bunch of ocean racing, dinghies including sailing front end on
the 18 footers in Sydney Harbour, 5o5s, Flying Dutchmen, Tornados etc etc. Also, I have worked off and on over
the years as a delivery skipper, or at least did until GPS put us older Sydney-Hobart raced trained celestial
navigator types out of business. My best brag is that I did once drive a 68 Bertram (the 58 motor yacht with a
10 cockpit extension)
to Australia from Miami. I think that that may be a first, in that I may
be the first person to cross the Pacific in a production plastic motor boat. It is a dubious sort of
"first", but it's mine, so there.
I have spent a lot of time in shipyards. I started as a shipwright apprentice in my teens with the Royal
Australian Navy and served at sea and in SE Asia in the early 70s and studied Naval Architecture while at Navy
Office in Canberra. In Canada I worked in yacht yards and heavy steel shipyards, and I have spent a time in the
Western arctic (the Canadian Riviera) as shipyard representative through the warranty period of a major
ice-breaker. In the pleasure boat field, I have been associated for years with Canoe Cove Manufacturing in
Sidney BC, a yard with a long and justified reputation for genuinely well built and beautifully outfitted and
engineered motor yachts. I am also one of those who had a lot to do with the production of fibreglass boats in
Taiwan during the 80s, and I have worked with several boat builders in Asia.
It is not a career that has brought me wealth or fame over the going on forty-five years since I started my
apprenticeship, and going on fifty-five since I started sailing, but Oh Boy has it ever been a lot of fun.
(Contact John Carlton
PS: if you want to see a beautiful vessel racing through treacherous seas, take a look at the bigger picture of
the Cutty Sark