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Boat Building and Design

The Aerohydrodynamics of Sailing

by C. A. Marchaj

Where to get it: The Aerohydrodynamics of Sailing

Not in the public domain.
Buy it at Aerohydrodynamics of Sailing

Review: The Aerohydrodynamics of Sailing

This book is the cannonical tome on the subject. It explains elementary fluid dynamics as they apply to sailing boat (and displacement power boat) design. It's a big book by one of the elder statesmen of the field.

Also see Gutelle's book, ``The Design of Sailing Yachts''. I have a mixed review and comparison of these two books; just follow this link: Read more about ``Aero-Hydrodynamics'' and ``Design''.

The Design of Sailing Yachts

by Pierre Gutelle

Where to find it:

Not in the public domain.
Buy it used at Design of Sailing Yachts


This is the poor man's Aerohydrodynamics of Sailing. It's the poor man's version because it costs (used; it's out of print) about 1/3 what Marchaj's cannonical tome costs, and because it covers less material in less detail. That's unavoidable, since it has 208 pages, compared to 768 for Marchaj's 3rd edition.

There's more to recommend this book than just light weight and low cost: it is also a bit less demanding of the reader than Marchaj's book.

Read more about ``Aero-Hydrodynamics'' and ``Design''.

Messing About In Boats


Where to find it: Messing About In Boats

Not in the public domain, but you can find a few articles on their web site.
Subscribe at Messing About in Boats
Or, since Amazon is awfully high for this one, you can print out a form and subscribe directly from the publisher. You'll save enough to make up for the bother.

Review: Messing About In Boats

When Small Boat Journal (SBJ) went commercial and then went under, we were left without a really good magazine to cover small boats. Messing About in Boats pretty well fills the gap. Bolger writes for them, along with some other good authors. The articles are practical, and interesting, and about Messing About in Boats. That's in contrast to the yachting press, whose glossy articles are about selling glossy products.

Why do I say ``it's almost SBJ''? Probably just nostalgia. If you still miss SBJ, I recommend this. If you love boats, and you never heard of SBJ, subscribe, and find out what you missed.

Devlin's Boatbuilding: How to Build Any Boat the Stitch-and-Glue Way

by Samual Devlin

Where to find it: Devlin's Boatbuilding

Not in the public domain.
Buy it at Devlin's Boatbuilding

Review: Devlin's Boatbuilding

This boat is an excellent introduction to stitch-and-glue construction, by an excellent designer and boatbuilder, who is also a pretty good writer. Devlin is a Pacific Northwest boatbuilder who was one of the early promoters of stitch-and-glue. He's been designing and building boats for years now; I'm not sure how long, but I'm pretty sure that I read some of his writings in the old Small Boat Journal. Devlin's designs aren't copies of classics, but they fit right in with the old-timers. He designs and builds small yachts and workboats

The book contains an introduction to the stitch-and-glue process, with a very clear description of how it works. It gives scantling rules (i.e, how thick to make your plywood, and how wide to make your glue joints), and has a fair amount of information which would help in designing your own stitch-and-glue boat. Still, this is aimed at boatbuilders, rather than boat designers. Devlin covers selecting the plywood, epoxy and fiberglass you will use, and setting up the workshop, lofting and building techniques. In addition to the chapters on construction, there is a chapter on repair. Yes, stitch-and-glue is repairable, and the boats built this way seem to be surprisingly tough.

The book is well illustrated with pictures of various Devlin designs, in various stages of completion. Unfortunately, he doesn't include any of the designs in the book: you will have to buy or draw up plans to build a boat. Overall, depite the lack of plans, this book is worth having. If you're interested in building a plywood boat, I think that you'd do well to get this book, whether you buy your plans from Devlin or elsewhere. Devlin's clear explanations will help to convince you that you can do this well. If you want to design stitch-and-glue boats, I think that you'll need more than this to guide you, but this is a great start, and worth the read.

100 Small Boat Rigs

by Phillip C. Bolger

Where to find it: 100 Small Boat Rigs

Not in the public domain, so no freebies.
No longer in print. Buy used from
The later edition is available from Instant Boats.

Review: 100 Small Boat Rigs

If you are interested in sailing, you need this book. Bolger is one of the most experienced and unconventional naval architects today, and he's very familiar with the history of sailing craft. He has experimented with old-fashioned rigs and with new-fangled rigs, and in this book, he tells us where they're appropriate and how to make them work. It may well be that your purpose is not best served by today's ``standard rig''. If so, you can find something better for you in here.

Read More: the full review.

Boats with an Open Mind: Seventy-Five Unconventional Designs and Concepts

by Philip C. Bolger

Where to find it: Boats with an Open Mind

Not in the public domain, so no freebies.
Buy from

Review: Boats with an Open Mind

Bolger is an experienced, exceptionally talented, and very unconventional naval architect. What really makes him special is that he loves to design boats which are practical and affordable. This book has the details on 75 of his most interesting and affordable designs, from a small, unsinkable dinghy to relatively affordable 39-foot live-aboard sharpie. It includes tables of offsets for several of the boats, so you could build them just from the information in the book.

More coming soon.

Yacht Designing and Planning: For Yachtsmen, Students, and Amateurs

by Howard I. Chapelle

Where to find it: Yacht Designing and Planning

Not in the public domain.
Buy it used at Yacht Designing and Planning

Review: Yacht Designing and Planning

This is aimed at yachtsmen who want to learn about boat design, either so they can talk intelligently to their naval architect, or so they can actually design a boat. The emphasis, then, is on the preliminary stages of design. The book has some good drawings, and some good information, and is quite accessible. It has a more dated feel than Skene's text, and less technical detail. Still, it should be on your bookshelf if you're seriously interested in boat design, if only for culture.

Read more about it.

Skene's Elements of Yacht Design 8th edition

by Norman L. Skene, Francis S. Kinney
(Sixth edition by Norman L. Skene, Maynard Bray)

Where to find it:

Not in the public domain.
Buy it used at Elements of Yacht Design, 8th edition (Recommended)
Buy the reprint at Elements of Yacht Design, 6th edition


This book (the eighth edition) is still the best text on how to design a boat. It explains how to draw the lines, how to do the calculations, and even some information on the art of choosing a hull shape. This is a must-have for anyone who wants to design small boats. The original book was last published in 1938, two years after Chapelle's book. The one I recommend is the eighth edition, by Skene and Kinney. This was published in the late '80s, and is quite up-to-date. Unfortunately, this edition is out of print, while the 6th edition is available as a paperback reprint for cheap. Unless you are more interested in history than design, you want to shell out big bucks for the used 8th edition.

Read more about it.

The Chinese Sailing Rig: Designing and Building Your Own

by Derek Van Loan, Don Haggerty

Where to find it:

Not in the public domain.
Buy it used at The Chinese Sailing Rig


I originally bought this because Practical Junk Rig (PJR) by Hasler (reviewed below) was out of print, and its price was out of sight. Now this is out of print, too, and in short supply. Still, it's a valuable book, worth getting in its own right. This book tells how to rerig your boat with a differently shaped sail than PJR describes, and the different design goals and shape seem to lead to different results. The emphasis in this book is very practical and hands-on, and the shorter, wider sail it advocates may give better windward performance than PJR's tall, narrow, flat sail. If you're seriously interested in the Chinese rig, I recommend this book, as well as PJR.

More to come.

Practical Junk Rig: Design, Aerodynamics & Handling

by H. G. Hasler

Where to find it:

Not in the public domain.
NEW! Buy it at Practical Junk Rig
Buy it from Practical Junk Rig


NEW! Practical Junk Rig has finally been reprinted. That's unadulterated good news. Unfortunately, there seem to be two reprints.

I haven't seen either of them yet, so don't yet know whether there's any reason to prefer one to the other. To see which is going to be cheaper, take a look here. In mid-February 2005, $75 translates to almost 40GBP, so (given free shipping in the U.S. and expensive shipping from Britain), it's probably cheaper to order from that top link.

There has been a great deal of research done into fully battened balanced lug sails since the first edition, including information on improving upwind performance, cambered sails, hinged battens, spoon luffs, and more. Rumor has it that the new edition (both of them?) hasn't been significantly updated, and doesn't incorporate much of the new information.

This book is still the cannonical tome on the practical design and use of modern junk rigs on modern, western hulls. It was writen by Colonel Hasler to explain how to rerig modern boats so that they could be handled entirely from below-decks, with no need to expose the crew to the weather. He sailed his little folkboat Jester with this rig in many trans-Atlantic races, and succeded in his goal of making a safe, easily-handled rig. Somewhat later, the Hills sailed Badger for 20 years with a Hasler-style rig, and praised it highly. This book gives the theory and the practical knowlege you need to understand the junk rig and design your own. Unfortunately, it's out of print, probably permanently, so you will have to either pay a frightening price for an original copy, or go the library and copier route. This book belongs on the shelf of any serious designer, and the shelf of anyone who's serious about junks.

More to come.

Steel Boatbuilding

by Thomas E. Colvin

Where to find it:

Not in the public domain.
Buy it at Steel Boatbuilding


Finally, a classic boatbuilding book which is neither outdated nor out of print! This book is probably your best starting point for learning about steel construction. Steel may not be right for the boat you want, but it has many strong points besides its strength, like workability, repairability, fatigue resistance, suitability for point-loading, and on and on. If you think you know about steel boats, or if you think you don't, read this book, and find out the facts. The current, paperback edition combines two volumes. Part one covers building the hull, beginning with the steel plates. Part two covers fitting out and rigging. There is a great deal of practical knowlege in each part, and enough practical engineering to let you design the masts and rig yourself. Mr. Colvin is an old boat builder, and an old seaman, and an old boat designer who designs nice, new boats. The information is well presented, accessible, and easy to read. This is one how-to book which won't put you to sleep.

More to come.

Voyaging Under Power

by Robert Beebe, James Leishman

Where to find it: Voyaging Under Power

Not in the public domain.
Buy it at Voyaging Under Power

Review: Voyaging Under Power

Beebe is the designer of Passagemaker, a modest sized motor yacht (about 50 feet) made to cross oceans. When he designed it, it was a novel idea. When he wrote his book, ocean voyaging under power was still novel enough to warrent some explanation.

Voyaging Under Power has an explanation of why and how one can cross oceans under power in a small boat. It also has lines drawings for several of Mr. Beebe's designs, and for designs by several other architects. All of the designs shown are suitable (in the author's opinion) to cross oceans. There is a chapter on calculations, detailing the speed-power tradeoff. It also covers what Beebe calls the A/B ratio, the ratio of the area Above the waterline to the area Below the waterline. This useful measure seems to be unique to Beebe. This chapter isn't aimed at designers, but at the designers' customers.

This is a good book for culture, and for someone who's looking for a design. The drawings give the flavor of the work of several very capable architects, and will give a would-be boat owner a good feel for which designers he should look deeper at. Because of this breadth of coverage, it might be a better starting place, than Mr. Buehler's book, below. You should definitely read The Troller Yacht Book, also, as a counterpoint to this.

The Troller Yacht Book: A Powerboater's Guide to Crossing Oceans

by George Buehler

Where to get it:

Not in the public domain.
Buy it at The Troller Yacht Book


This book is about troller yachts, as opposed to trawler yachts. The difference is significant. A troller is a small boat, designed to cruise slowly under power, often miles off shore for days on end. It requires long range, modest cargo capacity,and most of all, economical operation. A trawler is a large boat with a huge engine and a broad hull, designed to tow a huge net through the water and hold the heavy catch it brings up. A troller is well suited to conversion to a modest, economical yacht. The ``trawler'' yachts are fat, heavy displacement boats with huge engines, but that's where the resemblance ot the original ends: the yachts generally have too much exposed glass area to be safe in heavy weather.

The Troller Yacht Book introduces yachts which are like the trollers of the Pacific Northwest: relatively lean vessels which can spend days on the open ocean, and travel many miles on relatively little fuel. Their narrower hulls and lower profiles make them both more seaworthy and more economical than the so-called trawler yachts. Mr. Beebe's book, above, advocates less extreme trawler yachts, which are intermediate between these troller hulls and the modern, heavy, fat ``trawlers''.

George Buehler's Troller Yacht Book is worth having for anyone who's interested in displacement (as opposed to planing) motorboats. He show-cases a number of his designs, from fairly short up to 80+ feet.

Upcoming reviews in boat building and design.

Seaworthiness, the Forgotten Factor

by C. A. Marchaj

Where to get it: Seaworthiness, the Forgotten Factor

Not in the public domain.
Buy it at Seaworthiness, the Forgotten Factor

Review: Seaworthiness, the Forgotten Factor

Coming soon.

Skiffs and Schooners

by R. D Culler

Where to find it: Skiffs and Schooners

Not in the public domain.
Out of print, so buy it used on Skiffs and Schooners

Review: Skiffs and Schooners

Coming soon.

Self-Steering for Sailing Craft

by John S. Letcher

Where to find it:

Not in the public domain.
Buy it used at Self-Steering for Sailing Craft


More to come.


Where to find it:

Not in the public domain.
Buy it at


More to come.

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