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History of sailing
Time to start
Looking for a designer
Choosing the material
Shed or no shed?
Concrete pads
Placing the order
Tracking the container
Overhead gantry
Assembling the jig
Bottom plates
Welding the frames
Installing Keel
Interior finishing
Tools & equipment
Contact me Email

Looking for a designer

Boat design

At the beginning, I had indeed had thoughts to do it myself. I even programmed a simple program in VisualBasic that drew splines by given points, read some books on the subject and evaluated some primitive boat building software. Thanks one of my more experienced friends, who convinced me not to do it myself unless I want to change my occupation and become a serious boat builder.

I can see now that designing a house, which I did, is not as difficult as designing a sailboat. Any mistake could be costly and difficult to fix. Life is short for doing everything yourself.

Essential boat parameters


The bigger, the faster; of course, for displacement boats. But how big: 30, 40, 50 feet? I should be able to handle the boat alone. I sailed boats 16, 21, 24, 27, 32, 34 feet long but not singlehanded. Those boats were not equipped for singlehanded sailing. Also, it was only shoreline cruising, not lengthy voyages that require space for stuff like food, liquids, offshore equipment, spares, tools, etc. I also should be able to afford the construction of a boat of the particular size.

Given the chosen construction material - steel, it doesn't make sense to build smaller than 36 feet, because it will be too heavy for its size. Also, small boats in general, are less seaworthy and more vulnerable to knockdowns and rollovers, and they will likely have hard time beating away from a lee shore in a serious blow.

On the other hand, a boat larger than 45 feet, will be difficult to handle because of heavy gear and comparatively poor maneuverability. Its deep draft will increase the chances of accidental grounding.


The main purpose of the boat will be offshore cruising. For this matter, it should have moderate displacement to take enough load on board without sacrificing buoyancy and speed. It will allow her to sail windward reasonably well and have comfortable motion in rough sea.

Hull shape

Hull shape has to do with the strength and stability. Radius elements such as chine are much stronger than flat ones. Moderate beam and sufficient ballast will reduce healing upwind and make capsizing less likely. Too wide beam will have a negative impact on inverted self-righting ability.

Directional stability can be achieved by either long keel in lieu of maneuverability or a combination of shorter fin keel with a skeg.

The fore and aft hull symmetry is also important for vessel's course-keeping ability. The less her forward is identical to her aft, the more unbalanced she will be at different healing angles.

Wetted surface area is another parameter that will affect the drag and therefore, boat's performance.


The cutter rig seems to have many advantages for general purpose cruising. One mast and three sails provide more versatility in different weather and easy handling. Cutter is known by its great ability to tack upwind due to high aspect ratio sails and good performance in light wind due to the rig's height. In heavy weather, jib can be removed and a boat can sail under staysail and reefed main or even storm staysail and trysail.

Building from a kit

As a computer fellow, I had spent hours browsing Internet websites for sailboat plans. I couldn't say that there were many available. One website that attracted my attention by offering precut kits, was Bruce Roberts Yacht Design.

When I was a kid, I always liked kits. Assembling anything from a chaotic set of parts into a meaningful and recognizable shape of something had always thrilled me.

Remember that my dream was to sail around the world, of course, and not spend a lifetime building a boat. That's why the boat kit seemed like a way to make my dream come true.

There were a number of kits available from Bruce Roberts. I decided to ask for a professinal advice on a type and a size of a boat suitable for sailing around the world, possibly alone. Bruce had his North American representative, naval engineer, Hal Whiteacre. I sent him an email explaining my plans. Hal suggested three models: Spray 340, 370 and Voyager 388.

Instead of ordering study plans for these boats, I decided to order the cutting files on a CD for Voyager 388 because I had already made my mind in its favour just by looking at the sailboat details available on the web site. For me, Spray with its traditional long keel and shallow draft seemed to be more suitable for near shore cruising rather than crossing an ocean.

Voyager 388 looked much better: right size - 35 feet on the waterline, which gives 8 knot hull speed. Slightly larger than moderate, 13 feet beam, displacement of 13.4 tons with 3.7 tons of the ballast provide 137 degree of stability. 6 feet deep and relatively long fin keel with a skeg rudder ensures directional stability. Steel 6 mm bottom, 5 mm radius chine and 4 mm boards, deck and superstructure guarantee hull strenght.

Sail areas are: main - 357 sq. ft., jib - 508 sq. ft., staysail 198 sq. ft.

Cutting files

Cutting files are basically AutoCAD drawings that can be read by a CNC cutting machine. I assumed that getting the cutting files from a designer and cutting a kit in a local metal shop would have saved me some money. Well, not in Edmonton and not even in entire North America. See more about this in Placing the order.