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A Collection of Our Articles on

Yacht Design & Boat Building

All Articles Copyright 1990 - 2015 Michael Kasten

Among the articles linked below are several that first appeared in other publications such as Cruising World, Soundings, Good Old Boat, Boatbuilder, Pilothouse Online, Professional Boatbuilder, Metal Boat Quarterly, and among the publications of the Society of Naval Architects and Marine Engineers. These various articles may help shed some light on a few of the myriad inevitable questions we typically encounter that have to do with boats and boat design.

Links to General Categories:

Design | Building | Composite | Wood | Metal
Power | Sail | Cost | Downloads | Editorials

On Yacht Design

The Yacht Design Process - How is a new boat design created?

The boat design process is made up of a series of incremental steps. This is a summary of how a new yacht design is imagined, sketched, planned, calculated and drawn.

Our CAD Design Stream - What are the benefits of using CAD?

Here's an outline of the process we use to generate a hull model and then make use of it for concept, layout, detailing, and to create NC Cutting files, plus a description of the software we use.

Why Use NURBS Modeling...? New..! What the heck is NURBS Surface Modeling...?

An article about why we use SURFACE modeling to design boats, rather than SOLID modeling.

Nomadic Watercraft New..! - What are they...?

A distinguishing characteristic of my boat design work over the last two decades has been a focus on what I call Nomadic Watercraft. By that, I mean truly pelagic blue water boats that provide a comfortable habitat on the water. This article is a brief summary of my design philosophy.

Our Stock Boat Designs - What is a stock boat design?

This article answers that question and outlines what to expect when purchasing a 'stock' yacht design.

Designing Boat Structure  - Working with the ABS Rule...

This article is a general overview of how we approach the design of boat structure, using aluminum structure as an example. As such, it provides an outline of our work-flow and describes a few of the variables and options that can be considered.

Essential Design Data - What essential data should be readily available for a modern boat design?

Being concerned about your vessel's survivability in ultimate conditions makes ultimate sense! In view of the cost of the vessel, and the cost of the entire expedition that any ocean voyaging represents, the cost of thorough design analysis does not amount to a significant percentage of the cost of ownership. It does however amount to a high percentage of one's peace of mind on the briny deep...

Shaping the Ship  - What is that un-definable quality we call "boat sense?"

The indeterminate nature of naval architecture requires that the design process be done in a number of iterations. This can be thought of as taking the ordinary engineer's linear task-line and bending it into a spiral. - Cyrus Hamlin

Slocum's SPRAY -  Was the SPRAY a good boat...?  In most answers to this questions, strong opinions abound.  What gives...?

There is no doubt that the SPRAY accomplished great things... But why and how?  Was there something magical inherent in the design...?  If so, what can we learn from it...?  Those are excellent questions.  In this article I've offered a few answers.

Chronicle of a Refit - What can be done to improve a pre-existing vessel...?

This is a beginning-to-end summary of a total re-fit, outlining our re-design of the 110' Tall Ship, Royal Albatross (previously the 'Windy II'). Our design work transformed the original rude and industrial 'sows ear' into a reasonably convincing 'silk purse' for charters in and around Singapore...

So, You Want to Learn Yacht Design...? - What's the routine?

I receive various questions from prospective yacht design students who want to know if it is a good career for them. This brief note is in way of advance response to that commonly posed question...

Testimonials - What do our clients have to say...?

A few selected comments from our yacht design clients.

On Boat Building

Nomadic Land Craft  -  An article about building a land based structure...  Why is such an article included here...? 

While building a boat we require shelter - not only for the boat but also for ourselves.  We should therefore consider what types of structures might satisfy both requirements. Check this out...

Computerized Boat Building - Computer aided boat design... What's the benefit? Computer cutting... Does it save building costs? Is it accurate?

Computer modeling is by far the most efficient means of defining hull form, offering a designer access to powerful analysis tools for assessing stability and performance, as well as a highly accurate means of creating the structural parts and pieces of a boat via computer controlled cutting. For more information about the benefits and cost savings offered by up-to-date computer aided boat design and computer aided boat building check out this article.

NC Parts Cutting Example - What is NC...? It simply means "Numerically Controlled"... Here's a chronicle of one NC boat cutting project.

The aluminum tug-yacht Boojum made excellent use of NC cutting. Here are several images taken during the course of Boojum's construction, along with a brief description of the various steps along the way.

NC Prototyping & NC Lofting - Creating a prototype and a few other possible uses for the computer model.

When considering a new vessel, what's the best way to get a preview of the shape? The computer is an enormously useful tool for creating a vessel prototype in order to visualize the shape in a "virtual" 3D environment. What about lofting and fairing? One can then use the computer generated model as a fairing and lofting tool.

Metal Boat Weld-up Sequence  - A summary of the best strategies for preventing distortion while welding up a metal boat.

Terrier Vessel Specification - A simple specification for a small (32') power vessel. PLEASE NOTE: Larger vessels will have a much more detailed specification which may reach well over 80  to 100 pages..!

The Vessel Specification is the central document from which any boat gets built. The Vessel Spec is intended to be a guide to construction as well as a valuable estimating tool for a builder to calculate the cost of building the boat.

Lightning Protection Strategies  - An outline of the issues surrounding lightning strike prevention on vessels of various materials.

According to published reports, in the US, out of the annual average of about 100 deaths due to lightning, 13 are aboard boats. If lightning is a hazard where the boat will be used, a plan should be developed to deal with the possibility of a strike. In the Pacific Northwest, lightning is relatively rare. In Florida, strikes are measured in numbers annually per square mile, with some areas having more than fifty!

On Fiberglass Boats

Composites for Boats  - How do fiberglass and other composites compare to aluminum and steel...?

What about fiberglass? Here is a brief overview of what we consider to be important with regard to strength, cost and finish.

Integral Tanks for Boats  - What are the benefits of tanks that are integral to the vessel's structure..? Can they be used on Fiberglass / Composite vessels...?

Except for our plank-on-frame wooden vessel designs, all of our metal and fiberglass yacht designs include integral tanks. The benefits are many, including an excellent return on investment in terms of access to the hull for maintenance and inspection. This article was originally prepared for Professional Boatbuilder magazine, and was subsequently modified for use in the Metal Boat Quarterly, now offered here...

On Wooden Boats

Evolution of a Traditional Sailing Type  - Are large wooden craft a thing of the past? Are they still being built anywhere in the world?

This article is an introduction to the large wooden sailing and cargo craft of Indonesia, locally called Pinisi. Indonesia is a nation as large in its extent and population as is the US, however it consists of some 18,000 islands separated by quite a lot of water! These wooden cargo vessels are effectively the "semi trucks" of Indonesia. These are not small craft...!

It is a stunning sight these days to see several dozen large wooden vessels ranging in size between 20 and 55 meters being built right on the beach.   Upon beholding such a spectacle, snobby Wooden Boat Magazine aficionados would simply wilt out of sheer embarrassment...!   Now that would be a sight worth seeing...

Indonesian Pinisi Sailing Types vs. KLM (Motor Sailors) - What's the difference? Can they Sail? Are they seaworthy? What is their range under power?

These notes have to do with the more 'modern' Indonesian KLM types (Kapal Layar Mesin) vs. the older traditional Sailing Pinisi types. Additional notes are provided regarding vessel size, displacement, and hull materials. And... if sailing performance is important, the hull type and the hull materials have much to do with what is possible.

An Indonesian Cargo Pinisi or KLM as a Yacht...?  - Can a new or used Indonesian Cargo vessel be transformed into a yacht...?

Although it is not uncommon, we have several reservations about this concept. The rationale for our position is based on having studied these vessels carefully, both under construction and on the water.

Building An Indonesian Pinisi / KLM - How to do it Right? What are the essential ingredients for a successful project? Can these cargo vessel types actually be transformed into Yachts...? Into charter vessels?

Yes they can...! In order to successfully create a yacht or luxury charter vessel out of the traditionally built Pinisi or KLM types, it is first a matter of adequate planning, and then of follow-through during construction. This is a good introduction to the process we recommend.

In Search of the Ultimate Indonesian Charter Pinisi  - A few Indonesian Pinisi Charter Yachts stand head and shoulders above the crowd. What makes them so successful...?

There are a few high quality vessels in the charter fleet, and they have been quite successful. In terms of their safety, longevity, comfort and aesthetics, they are able to inspire confidence, and can therefore appeal to the discerning world-traveling charter guest. Just how is this accomplished...? Here is a snapshot of our approach to this question.

Indonesian Boatbuilding Photo Gallery - A travelogue of sorts...

This is a collection of images taken during the last several years which show our involvement with the traditional Indonesian craft, including a number of wooden boats being built and on the water. Several good photos of the local builders and their culture as well... Check it out...!

Metal Parts for Non-Metal Boats - What is so important about the metal parts on our boats...?

Much of this article may well be plain common sense to the majority of boat builders and to many boat owners, however even a casual stroll through just about any boat yard or marina will quickly reveal the need for considerably more awareness of metals and how they should be used aboard...! Applies to boats of all materials!

On Metal Boats

Notes on Metal Boats New..! - A brief outline of the rationale for building a metal boat.

A few thoughts on steel vs aluminum construction, the basic differences between the two metals, and the rationale for choosing one vs another...

Metal Boats for Blue Water - Why choose metal for a boat's structure?

Any discussion of metal boats inevitably encounters the question of whether a boat should be aluminum or steel. Not often realized is that there are other metals that may be effectively used. "Metal Boats for Blue Water" is intended to provide an overview of the possibilities, and to discuss why one might choose metal for a boat's structure.

Steel Yachts - Some people claim that steel is too heavy for use as a yacht building material. Is there any truth in that claim...?

Given the weight of steel as a structural material, isn't it too heavy for small yachts...? What is a practical size limit...? In the mind of the public, there seems to be quite a bit of misleading information. What's the deal...? Check out a few thoughts on the possible advantages of steel.

Aluminum for Boats - Is there good reason to consider aluminum over other hull materials?

This article first appeared in the September 1997 issue of Cruising World magazine. It includes several good images showing different hull forms suited to metal construction, the relative advantages of each, and what factors one should have in mind when considering the use of aluminum as a hull construction material.

Aluminum vs. Steel - A comparison of their relative strengths, and the advantages of each...

The choice of hull materials is the most fundamental of choices when considering a new vessel design, or even when considering the purchase of an existing boat. If you intend to make use of metal as a hull material this article will be of some value in that choice. It will shed some light on the various ways to compare steel versus aluminum for a boat's structure.

Corrosion Prevention - A simple summary of the critical elements of what one can do to prevent corrosion in metal boats (or any boats that have metal below the water!).....

The strategies outlined here are aimed at the boat building process, at which time one has the very best opportunity to create a hassle free, low lifetime maintenance situation for any metal vessel. Vigilance and good workmanship are vital...!

Integral Tanks for Boats  - What are the benefits of tanks that are integral to the vessel's structure..?

Except for our plank-on-frame wooden vessel designs, all of our metal and fiberglass yacht designs feature integral tanks. The benefits are many, including an excellent return on investment in terms of access to the hull for maintenance and inspection. This article was originally prepared for Professional Boatbuilder magazine, and was subsequently modified for use in the Metal Boat Quarterly, now offered here...

Metal Boat Building Methods - When planning to build a metal boat, what's the best approach...?

Should you erect the frames first and then apply the plating, or vice versa, should you first pre-cut the plating, weld it all up, and then install the frames afterward....? Or are there yet other approaches...? These are the questions we've addressed here, primarily to define terms, and then to outline the alternatives and their relative benefits.

Metal Boat Framing - Should there be internal framing on a metal boat...? Silly question you might think, but there are those who favor frameless construction..! What is the real story...? Check it out.

Metal Boat Weld-up Sequence  - A summary of the best strategies for preventing distortion while welding up a metal boat.

On Power Boats

Roll Attenuation Strategies - Roll reduction for power vessels and motor sailors.

This article was originally prepared as a response to a post to the Trawler World mailing list on the subject of Twin Keels and Roll reduction. It includes a brief description of the research done by Lord Riverdale and includes a summary of the research of others on the benefits of various roll reduction strategies for power vessels and Motor Sailors.

Is A Motor Sailor The Ideal Combination? - This article appears twice, as it applies equally to both power and sailing vessels...

For long range passage making, does the motor sailor have merit? What is the optimum hull form for a motor sailor? What's the best rig choice? Can a motor sailor be fast and efficient? What exactly is a motor sailor anyway? This article attempts to answer these questions with an eye toward the requirements of ocean voyaging.

Motor Yacht Layout Considerations - What's the best layout arrangement for a motor vessel...? For a motor sailor...?

Should the galley and / or saloon be located on deck, or should they be located below...? Here are a few brief notes on the whys and wherefores and the benefits of each type of layout.

Ideal Passagemaker Hull Form - Can you judge hull form just by looking?

Most of the elements of good boat design are readily apparent when looking at a boat. Among them, one can usually fairly easily judge whether a power vessel is designed to be a true passagemaker, a good coastal cruiser, or possibly a fast boat for short hops in protected water.

Designing For Ultimate Conditions - One question that seems to always arise among power boaters is: "Run off or head into heavy weather?"

The usual "head into it" philosophy among power boaters needs to be heavily qualified by including relevant data about the boats in question, about the weather conditions, the route, and so forth. In particular, several boat design attributes are relevant...

Beam vs. Ballast for Seakeeping - An overview of a few common misconceptions regarding Beam vs. Ballast for seakeeping.

Does increased beam provide greater comfort in terms of roll motions? Does increased ballast provide greater safety? These are perennial questions which require more than a cursory analysis...

Choosing an Engine.. - Should a new design be created first, and then search for the right engine to match, or should the engine be the first choice...?

Rather than trying to find an engine that will be suitable for a given design, our approach when creating a new design is to find the engine first, then create a design that will optimize its abilities.

Controllable Pitch Propellers - Are they only for special applications?

Although this article is brief and to the point, it considers several of the issues that arise when asking the question, "What, if any, are the advantages of using a CP propeller on a 'trawler-yacht' or sailing vessel...?" Links to more information are provided as well.

Cool New Gimmicks... - A Cautionary Tale..! Or alternately you could call it... "Pet Peeves" among popularly pandered features.

Here are a few thoughts on what should and what should not be considered desirable features of any new motor vessel. In general this article addresses the new power vessel vogue: Passagemakers, and the various gimmicks being offered on them, but it applies equally to sailing vessels.

Boojum's Twin Keels - What were the design parameters driving this specific arrangement of twin keels?

A brief description of the various considerations associated with the use of Twin Keels to solve a specific set of design requirements on a small trawler yacht, including roll reduction.

Trailerable Trawlers - An article containing a few bits and pieces of interest to trailering...

Why trailerable...? To save moorage costs; to avoid haul out fees; to quickly transit from one cruising spot to another; to check out large inland lakes; etc... The reasons are numerous.

On Sail Boats

What's the Ideal Sailing Rig...? - Cat, Sloop; Cutter; Ketch; Schooner... these are the basic configurations. How shall we choose among them?

The type of rig is often a pre-ordained choice once one has determined vessel size, the preferred layout, and the maximum size of sail one can handle. Is there a reason to prefer one rig type over another? How does one choose an appropriate aspect ratio? For one perspective on the choices involved, please have a look at the above web page.

Is A Motor Sailor The Ideal Combination? - This article appears twice, as it applies equally to both power and sailing vessels...

For long range passage making, does the motor sailor have merit? What is the optimum hull form for a motor sailor? What's the best rig choice? Can a motor sailor be fast and efficient? What exactly is a motor sailor anyway? This article attempts to answer these questions with an eye toward the requirements of ocean voyaging.

The Junk Rig - A brief outline of the possible advantages of the Chinese Junk, or Chinese Lug rig.

The junk rig shares many of the virtues of the gaff rig. The "Junk" rig or "Chinese Lug" rig is easy to handle, very easy to reef, easy and inexpensive to build, easy to rig, has no complex hardware, requires no winches, is easy to maintain, involves very low rigging stresses, provides a low center of effort so requires less beam or depth of keel, and at least in my view, looks great...!

On Cost

Yacht Design Costs - The inevitable question... what does a stock or custom yacht design cost...?

An extremely common question... I've posted this article in order to first review the cost of stock boat designs, then to explain a few of the various fee approaches designers may use for creating a new custom yacht design.

What Will The Boat Cost..?  - The perennial question... and how to definitively answer it...!!

A few examples to illustrate what is possible, what essential information is required, and how at last to find the correct answer to the most common question I am asked about any given boat design

Estimating Boat Building Costs - What does it cost to build a new vessel? Are there advantages to having a boat built overseas?

This article looks at the economics of boat building, including the possible advantages of building a boat in an alternate venue. This article provides an actual example, and includes a method for estimating approximate construction costs for creating a new custom built yacht, then compares those costs to those of production boats.

Affordable Boat Building - What is the best strategy toward making a new vessel affordable...?

What is a practical approach? What are the factors that save the most? This article reviews the basics of affordable boat building.

QUAD Container Home New..!- a concept for independence, and for making the BOAT affordable..!

How can we best fashion a life ashore that allows us to indulge in our ultimate pursuit of boating...? Check this out...!

Magazine Editorials

Between 1995 and 2000 I edited and published the Metal Boat Quarterly (MBQ), a publication of the Metal Boat Society. The focus of the MBQ under my editorship was to promote metal structure for boats, to foster a better understanding of metal boat design, to promote quality metal boat building, safe boating, and an educated boating public. In addition to the following Editorials, please see the complete MBQ Index, which has links to a number of prior articles.

A few of the prior MBQ Editorials are available here:

What Tradition Has to Offer - Spring 1995 #2
Naval Architecture of Voyaging - Summer 1995 #3
Why We Like Boats - Fall 1995 #4
The Cabin Boat Primer - Spring 1996 #6
First Round the World Race - Summer 1996 #7
Metal Boat Framing? You Bet!  - Fall 1996 #8
One Day, A Little Round Toad Walked In...  - Winter 1997 #9
New Materials - Classic Design, a Question...  - Spring 1997 #10
Quantity vs. Quality - Summer 1997 #11
Historic Role of Boat Design in Boatbuilding  - Spring 1999 #18
Boatbuilding Tools: Are We Still In The Dark Ages?  - Summer 1999 #19
Cool New Gimmicks... - Winter 2000 #21


Below are two PDF booklets. This material was first offered as part of a course I taught on Marine Metals and Corrosion Prevention at the Northwest School of Wooden Boatbuilding, Port Townsend, Washington. During the time that I served as editor of the Metal Boat Quarterly I prepared these two booklets as special issues based on that course material.

IMPORTANT:  Before you read either of the booklets below and possibly venture into the design of your own onboard electrical system, please thoroughly study the materials at the Electroshock Drowning web site..!!

Marine Metals Reference - MBQ Summer 1997 Special Issue by Michael Kasten

The Marine Metals & The Appropriate Uses of Metals on Boats
Welding Methods & Materials
Marine Metals Book List
Preventing Galvanic Corrosion
Marine Metals Physical Properties Tables & Galvanic Series Tables

Corrosion, Zincs & Bonding - MBQ Summer 1998 Special Issue by Michael Kasten

An Overview of Corrosion Prevention on Boats
Lightning Protection; Radio Grounding; Shock Prevention; Stray Currents
The Case Against Bonding vs. The Case In Favor Of Bonding
Wiring For Corrosion Protection; Bringing Aboard Shore Power
ABYC Rules; Special Considerations for Metal Boats
Further Reading; Welding Power Connections; The Galvanic Series

Links to Metal Boat Society web pages that have been hosted by Kasten Marine Design since 1998 are as follows:

Metal Boat Society | Metal Boat Quarterly | MBQ Index

On those pages you'll also find links to the new Metal Boat Society web page.

Kasten Marine Design, Inc. Professional Memberships

Royal Institution of Naval Architects Society of Naval Architects and Marine Engineers Society of Boat & Yacht Designers Metal Boat Society Logo American Boat & Yacht Council Logo
Royal Institution
of Naval Architects
Society of Naval Architects
and Marine Engineers
Society of Boat
and Yacht Designers
Metal Boat
American Boat
and Yacht Council