"The boat design
process is one of the most the most creative things I
know. It's what drives my spirit and my day to day
endeavors. It's a rare day that I'm not thinking
about something new and different." -- Sam Devlin
The goal of our new boat
design process is to take your unique set of
requirements and tailor them into the best possible
I like a rather freeform
approach to Custom Designing. Usually the process starts
with a face-to-face meeting, or a phone conversation,
where I can make some notes on what you might like in
this new design. Often at this stage, if it's
appropriate, I might suggest one of our numerous stock
designs, but if those designs aren't hitting the mark,
then something new is in order! It's important for me to
get a feel for what you like in similar boats, your
boating lifestyle (both realistic and imagined) and your
dreams for what your boating future and who you might be
sharing it with.
At this point, it's a fairly
easy task for me to estimate what the cost of working up
preliminary drawings for the new design. With that
agreement in hand, then it's time for the real work to
Preliminary Designs are really
the "Art" part of the design process with an attempt to
capture the look, feel and if possible, the essence of
the new design. Usually preliminaries start life as
simple non-scaled sketches of my interpretation for the
boat, but I would have to say that these days, my
sketches tend to be fairly close to scale and my real
objective is to lay down the "feel of the boat". When
I'm happy with the sketches, then it's time to go to the
old trusty drawing board and flush out the design so
that you as the customer can also get the feel of her.
I have always enjoyed drafting
and drawing with ink and pencil but in these days of
computers, I must confess that quite often my work might
all be done on the computer screen. Whichever way
is selected, the end result of an preliminary design is
always an attempt to show you, in small scale, what my
interpretation for the design is. The preliminary also
allows us a chance to work together, to check working
styles and most importantly, for you to see if my
interpretation of what you were thinking of, might work.
The Hull Lines and
Once the Preliminary Design is
flushed out and both of us agree it is a workable
solution to your needs and desires, then it's time to
flush out the rest of the building plans, with that
process being in three distinct sections.
The first section is the hull lines and offsets. Work is
done in the computer for this section to design the hull
itself, check the hydrostatics (the displacement or
weight, prismatic coefficient, hull loading and other
data) and make sure that all of the new design fits what
the original intent was. Where the Preliminary is the
"Art" part of the process, the hull lines and offsets is
really the engineering part of the process and using
computers helps considerably with the task.
Bulkheads, and Construction "3" Views
With the lines and offsets
drawings finished, the next step is to lay out the
essence of the "Stitch and Glue" boat, that is the panel
projections and bulkheads. All "Stitch and Glue" boats
are basically a build from the exterior inward type of
process and so the expanding of the hull skins into
their exact shapes or layed flat shapes is a very
important part of the design process. The hull skins
will ultimately rest on the longitudinal (lengthwise)
and athwartships (sideways) bulkheads and so the layout
and shapes of those parts is also very important.
With the panel projections and bulkheads finished, now
is the time to draw the construction "3" views of the
boat. Those are the top view, side or profile view and
the end view of the boat showing the parts of the boat
as cutaways. This is a long and complicated drawing but
forms the framework that all the rest of the plans rest
Once the Construction "3" View
Drawings are finished, next comes the "Detail" Drawings
of the design, with sections (cuts thru the boat drawn
as if you sliced a loaf of bread and did a detailed
drawing of the individual slices) drawn for as many
parts as necessary for interpretation from either the
home builder or the Shipwright.
These views help call out the scantlings (or the
thickness and shapes) of all the parts of the boat and
help with making up the materials lists for the
construction plans. A lot of these drawings are in full
scale (lifesize) and might involve many sheets of
drawings. Wrapping up of the materials list happens at
this time and it's often at this point that the early
set of full construction drawings is shipped out to the
builder for starting with the project.
The final drawings for your
new design are the engineering drawings. These might
include the engine installation, rudder details,
steering details, electrical schematics, plumbing
schematics, etc. They really finish out the design to
whatever level of detail might be necessary for the
builder. If we are building the boat at Devlin Designing
Boatbuilders, then we might not need quite the detail
that for instance a home-builder in Maine might need. I
try very hard to fit the plans to the experience level
and the complexity level that was outlined in the
Preliminary Design. The goal is to provide enough
information to properly build the boat but not
necessarily hand holding clear through the process. It's
as simple as tailoring the plans to fit the builder.
That's the process and we usually split the fees for the
Design up into the 5 stages so that we accomplish a
simple goal -- that is to have us work hard for you and
be compensated fairly and timely for the hard work.
Is a Sam Devlin designed boat right for you?
The Joy of Custom Boatbuilding
March 25, 2010
By Ralph Lovelace
Those of us that have spent much of our career involved in sales and marketing are always interested in what makes the customer tick. What causes them to dream about a boat and ultimately move ahead and have one built? In this regard, and with Samís approval, I began to survey various owners who have used Sam and his crew to bring their dreams into reality.
Both Sam and I are hopeful that this exercise will shed new light on the motivations behind a build and why the customer contacts the yard to discuss his dream. We also hope that the process will help us fulfill the customerís expectations during the build and create even more enjoyment once the vessel hits the water.
Henry Wendt commissioned Sam to build a Sockeye 45, a beautiful tug trawler. When I asked Henry about his motivation, he said he had a philosophical need for a vessel to combine utility of purpose with artistic flair. He went on to say that he felt the Sam was one of only a few designers capable of such creativity.
Henry has owned a number of boats and still owns smaller power and sailing craft. In this build, he wanted a safe and seaworthy craft that was easy to operate; one that he and his wife could take up the Inland Passage to Alaska.
I also asked Henry about the building process. He stated that the whole effort was most enjoyable and trouble free. And as a last remark, he said to be sure and say: "hello to Sam and the boys." Finally, in my opinion, Henryís choice of name says it all: "WIDGEON" -- a seabird of exquisite design and breathtaking beauty.
John Carlson is a custom builder of homes in the Pacific Northwest. For years his family had enjoyed a 1962 Hereshoff "Rosanante." After 30 years of ownership, John said the maintenance became such an issue that they were spending more time repairing the vessel than sailing it. Johnís wife suggested that maybe it was time for something newer and perhaps a little faster.
John then set about designing his dreamboat. He noted that he drew his inspiration from some of the Atkinsí designs and that he was fond of the raised foredeck of the Lake Washington Dreamboats. John showed his design to Sam and over time, a 20 foot express cruiser emerged from Samís drawing table. John also mentioned that he was drawn to Samís building methods, ease of construction and limited exterior maintenance. Samís stature in the industry came into play as part of his motivation. "Heís somewhat of an icon in the wooden boat world", John said with admiration.
John notes that he is pleased with his new boat and the building process. "She cruises about 20 miles an hour whereas Rosanante maxed out about five." Would he do it again? John said that from time to time he surfs the net and notices very good looking used Devlin Surf Scoters for less money. But, he says, there is something very special about admiring Scout, his express cruiser, and knowing that it is his custom design. Johnís boat evokes the beauty of past wooden classics, is easy to maintain, and turns heads wherever she travels.
Cyndie Phelps is the new proud and happy owner of Storm Petrel, a 34-foot lobster boat. She began her fascination and love affair with the water at an early age. She began with rowboats and canoes at summer camp. In her teens, she raced a Lighting sailboat against a neighbor boy. "He was a better sailor than I was, she recalled, but we always had fun."
"My dream was to once again return to the water, but on my own terms, not someone elseís. I loved the old wooden boats of my past, but at the same time I wanted something that was safe and dependable. We shopped around some but the more we got to know Sam, the more he seemed like the perfect choice. There is a "workboat persona" about Sam. To me his designs are clean and simple but also exude a wonderful artistic flair. I felt that Sam and his crew would build a boat that safe, easy to use and beautiful to look at."
Cyndie enjoyed the building process immensely. "It was important to me to be involved as much as possible", and she rarely let a week go by without visiting the shop and watching the boat become a reality. One especially enjoyable experience was working with Sam on the exact placement of the forward pilothouse windows. After some collaboration, they decided on a lower placement than originally planned. The end result is beautiful to look at from any angle.
When asked if she was happy with the process and her new boat, she said that she was delighted. "Each time I drove south towards the shop, I found myself happier and my spirit much lighter. There is something wonderful about working with a group of individuals that exhibit an aura of pride and excitement towards the project before them." She noted that it was hard to describe the energy and delight involved in taking a blank sheet, articulating her hopes and dreams, and then ending up with a beautiful vessel. "Storm Petrel truly represents much of my passions and feelings about the water."
"I was involved in a wonderful collaborative effort. I worked with men that were happy in their effort and proud of their accomplishment. That happiness made all the difference in the world; and the end result is a boat that exudes that frame of mind and is ready for all sorts of new adventures."
And so it goes: three different people all with a special passion for the beautiful waters of the Pacific Northwest. Each one with a desire to express those feelings through a custom boat. Widgeon, Scout, and Storm Petrel are ready to explore our Puget Sound and Canadian Gulf Islands. All are "workboat" tough, safe, and easy to operate. And yet they all exhibit an elegant, artistic flair that turns heads wherever they roam.
Ralph Lovelace/ Biography
Now in his mid-sixties, Ralph Lovelace continues to enjoy change and new adventures. Graduating from college in the late 1960ís, Ralph found himself drafted into the Army and part of the Vietnam War. He served as an infantry communications officer. Released in 1970, Ralph started his working career as an office manager for a hardwood sawmill and ended it as a marketing manager for the Department of Corrections.
Retiring in 2000, Ralph decided to sell used cars for a good friend and pursue his other passion of "messing about in boats." Ten years later, he continues to mess around with boats and drives a school bus for the Griffin School District in rural Thurston County.