Category Archives: Observations of a Boat Nut

Swift Skiff SUP

This turned out to be one of the most satisfying little projects!  With a contract to design a couple of touring and fishing stand-up paddle boards for a customer in Florida, Mother’s Day right around the corner, and my wife away for a couple of weeks, I took this opportunity to build the first prototype before sending the kits to the customer.  

All of the plywood parts were cut on a CNC router and fit perfectly together.  

Every step of the way seemed to only take an hour or so before moving onto the next step.  This was perfect for working in the evenings before dinner or after the kids were in bed.  The interior structure and the plywood skins went together quickly and soon we had a board.  

I got the kids involved with as much as possible.  They really enjoyed picking out the decorative fabric and helping to create the turtle artwork.  

With just a few days before Mother’s Day, the paint and prep work finally began.  It was hard to convince our 5 year old that we couldn’t just paint the whole thing pink!

In the end, it was a nice surprise and she really loved it. 

We were quite happy with the performance of the board.  It is stable, paddles fast, and cuts through small chop.  I was also pleased that it only weighed 32.5 lbs. with all of that decoration, a mere 1/2 lb. lighter than calculated. 

We have two models available; a 12′ version and a 13′ version.  The shapes are the same but the 13 footer has much more capacity for carrying gear like a cooler, fish box, rods, etc. 

For more info, please see the Swift Skiff SUP page. 

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METS 2012- Amsterdam

The Marine Equipment Trade Show is one of the largest shows of it’s kind with almost 1300 exhibitors displaying their leisure marine equipment.  For anyone in the design, construction, or refitting of today’s boats, this show is the one to attend to keep informed of advances in technology, new equipment, and make contacts in the industry. 

One of the highlights of METS is the yearly DAME awards.  Products are submitted in multiple categories and are judged on design, styling, quality of construction, and the overall impact on the marine industry.  The overall winner of this years DAME awards was the Deep Blue 80 hp electric outboard from Torqueedo

Torqueedo has been known for a few years for their innovative electric outboards.  Until now, these outboards were quite small and were mostly used for dinghies, small inflatables, and for lightweight displacement craft like small sailboats.  Their whole product range is very impressive.  Using lithium-ion batteries and gps technology, the outboards are quite efficient and your range can easily be monitored to ensure a safe trip.  The new 80 hp outboard is a huge leap in technology.  It now allows larger planing boats to benefit from an all electric outboard.  Although they have not officially released the specifications on this system, you can see a video of the motor in use on their website. 

One of the highlights of METS for me is to see all of the beautifully designed hardware that can’t normally be found by North American suppliers.  The floors of the show are broken into sections by nationality and walking through the Italian pavilion at the show proves to be a study of functional art!  One of my favorites over the past few years is Seasmart.  Their whole range of cleats are amazing. 

Photos Courtesy of

As you can see from the pictures of one of their cleats from their stainless line, the cleat goes from almost flush to raised.  The best feature is that the housing is completely sealed and no water drain lines are needed under deck.  I also like the fact that all the cleats can be custom engraved with the brands logo or boat name.   Besides their cleats and fairleads, they make many other well designed pieces of hardware. 

The other aspect of the show that really impressed me this year was the overall advancement in equipment meeting the NMEA 2000 protocol.  In simple terms, NMEA 2000 is a recognized computer language that enables equipment from different manufacturers to communicate to each other using a standard network cable.  At first, this networking was pretty simple stuff.  For example, it meant that a chartplotter from one brand could display the weather information output by a masthead wind sensor from another brand.  As the NMEA protocols have advanced, the engine manufacturers started outputting engine information like oil pressure, rpm, heat, etc., so that the engine could be easier monitored at the helm and by other equipment.   

In the past few years, the technology has taken another big jump.  In a smart move by the electronics manufacturers, they have started incorporating Ipads, Iphones, Droid devices into the use of their systems.  For example, Raymarine has created an app that can be downloaded onto your device that allows you to not only display your chartplotter information but also to remotely control it, wirelessly. 

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There are many great benefits of a system like this.  The most common scenario that I imagine is that the skipper is navigating by a chartplotter while the tactician or navigator is making changes to the desired course while sitting down below or elsewhere on the boat with the handheld device.  Besides those advantages, this setup would also work well in getting other crew members involved in the operation of the boat instead of twiddling their thumbs. 

Another scenario that I particularly like is that this setup will allow you to do all of your trip planning while at home on your couch.  Just imagine setting your waypoints, landmarks, etc. in the comfort of your home and then after getting to the boat, you “sync” the system, uploading all of that information to your dedicated chartplotter.  Really great stuff that, in the end, makes life easier for the end user while making boating more enjoyable.  Something the industry desperately needs to continue. 

In a future post, I will discuss the new generation of distributed power systems.  Since the first talk by Nigel Calder on this technology in 2005 at IBEX, I have been intrigued by the benefits of switching, monitoring, and customizing the electrical loads of a vessel through one of these systems.  I will discuss  how the systems work, show what the NMEA 2000 protocol means to these systems, and give an example of a simple system that is being considered for an upcoming design.   



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Sunset Channel 24 – Open Water Model Testing


One of the great advantages of a hull designed with developable surfaces, like the aluminum Sunset Channel 24, is that the hull plating is easily scaled down, printed, transferred to lightweight model aircraft plywood, to create an accurate scale model.  

Although powerful computer programs with large databases of information make estimating performance, resistance, and horsepower requirements very quick and accurate, a scale model is useful to evaluate seakeeping, maneuvering, and to gauge how wet the full-scale design will be.  In this instance, we wanted to observe how quickly the Sunset Channel transitioned onto a plane and performed at different speed landmarks, including how wet of a ride she will be in rough water.

To build the model, a few female molds were setup just as her full-scale construction specifies.  

After the hull is finished, the model is carefully ballasted to float on its waterline and to correctly position the center of gravity.   

With the finicky Fall weather upon us, we had to take what mother nature gave us.  So, our first trials were held in somewhat windy and wavy conditions.  Of course, even a relatively small wavelet on the testing course scales up to a large wave compared to the model.  These conditions did allow us to view her seakeeping and wetness.  

In the following animation of still shots from the trials, the model encounters a sequence of three waves while operating at the lower end of her cruising speed.  The animation begins as the model is coming down the back of the first wave and plunges into the second, much larger wave.  After a quick recovery, the model slices through the third wave and settles back into normal operating trim.  Throughout the sequence, the model stays dry with very little spray above her sheer.  

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America’s Cup World Series- Plymouth, UK

After watching the first event of the America’s Cup World Series in Cascais, Portugal on the internet and Youtube, we were truly intrigued.  Literally sitting on the edges of our seats, we were blown away at the excitement this new racing class and format had to offer.  We immediately started making plans to attend the final weekend of the next event in Plymouth, UK.  Continue reading

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La Semaine Du Golfe Du Morbihan

Every two years, sixteen cities, towns, and small villages along the coast of one of the most beautiful bays in the world, the Gulf of Morbihan, hosts one of the greatest classic boat festivals. Always scheduled around Ascension Day and the coinciding banking holidays, this year’s festival took place from May 31 – June 4.

Split into eight categories, over four thousand sailors on almost a thousand boats sail from one of the 16 participating ports every morning to rendezvous at the mouth of the gulf. At the appointed time, the endless line of boats begin a parade back into the gulf and then continue to their next night’s destination port.

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