Originally Posted by NCC320
Just curious. In all this discussion about steel vs. fiberglass, I don't recall you having posted a bit about your background. Sometime ago, Bob told us about his background and how he came to be a boat designer.
How did Brent Swain become a designer and builder of boats? What was your background before you got into this line of work? When did you elect to go with/or when did you develop the origami technique? When did you design your first boat, how many have you designed, and when was the last boat designed (you indicate that you are more or less retired and spend most of your time cruising, so I suspect you don't actively design boats anymore, but still are involved from time to time with aiding those who elect to build one of your designs.)? Are all of your designs the origami style? Just include anything that you think the forum might like to know. I know it's none of my business, but those of us on the forum might be interested to know these things.
And a couple of comments not particularly related to the questions above. It appears to me that you are not active in boat design currently (being retired/cruising) while Bob is still quite active in the business. A couple of times, you mentioned $150/hr. and high prices that designers (Bob?) charge. Just an idle comment, but I suspect Bob gets more than that since he is at the top of the design world. And why shouldn't he get a high fee? He offers a service and his clients appear happy to pay that fee in return for what they get. Looks like a win-win situation to me.
When I graduated, I began working in steel shops, first as a labourer then as a specilalist, on the brake presss , section rolls, plate rolls, and other machinery. This gave me good, hands on experince on what works on steel and what doesnt, and how steel behaves when worked. During that time I bought a 36 ft ferro cement hul and finished her. She had a short keel with rudder attached. With my zero experinence, I thought she would be a much better boat, with the rudder 6 feet further aft. But considering my zero experience at the time, I defered to the expertise of her "world reknown designer "a huge mistake, as time and miles would prove conclusively. I spent all my spare time reading everything I could find on Yacht design. Skenes Elements of Yacht Design, became one of my best sources, altho I learned later, he didnt understand cruising priorities, like directional stability, and solid functional gear , or the amount of gear a cruiser will carry out of necessity.( something many current desingers have no idea of ) Herreshoff's book "The Common Sense of Yacht Design" was another good source, and extremely practical. Then, after a winter cruising BC, I set sail, at the ripe old age of 23, singlehanded , for New Zealand.
I arived in New Zealand with $5 and 5 lbs of rice. Luckily there was a labour shortage there ( bus scab wages)
I hired on as a labourer at a steel fabricating shop, and at much lower wages I found myself advising thenm on simple solutions to problems which were baffling them which I would quickly come up with simpe solutions to. It clearly showed me the uselessness of the qualifications they had. I decided then and there not to underestimate what I could do.
At that time Ganly's Snowbird was featured in Sea Spray magazine, a 30 footer made of 3/16th plate. One thing which had limited my interest insteel was the myth that it had to be 1/8th inch plate . My fero hul was far heavier than 3/16ht plate ,and except for her lack of directional stability and her rudder being in the wrong place, she sailed fine.
After cruising up thru the western Pacific, I lost that ferro boat in Fiji, when she broke loose from a mooring. Had she been steel, she would have suffered zero damage in the same conditions.
So I left all th egear off her at a shipping agenbty and flew home to build the steel boat I had been designing. I took my drawings to Stan Huntingford ,a highly respoected local designer. The first thing he suggested was a plywood deck ,a huge mistake , to improve stabilty.Then he suggested multi chines, which reduce stability.. Then he told me that a 4 inch bulwark would hold a 4 inch layer of water over the entire deck ,when the boat was heeled 25 degrees going to windward. With such a highly respected designer spouting such harbrained logic, I thought I couldn't do any worse alone ,than he could. A local writer and circumnavigator, who had dealings with him, confirmed my thoughts. The only other options, Colvins were similarly hairbrained interiors ,like a collection of closets and crawl spaces, with a huge amount of boat wasted on cockpit, and a huge amount of bits and pieces making a horrendously more complex and labour intensive construction than needed, or even relevant ,based on my years of steel working expereince, and only ten gauge plating with all it's problems. So I designed my own boat, sucessfuly .
Sailed that 29 footer around BC for a winter, then non stop to the Marqueas, then on to Tahiti , Moorea, Huahine, Raiatea, Tahaa, Bora Bora, then north to Hilo and home to Bamfield BC. Then on the inside for the summer, before putting her first engine in her.
The following fall a friend asked me to design him a 26 footer. That was my first origami boat. Almost all the steel work was done in 29 days; hull, decks cabin cockpit , keels skeg ,rudder ,lifelines, hatches, cleats , mooring bitts, chainplates, mast step, bow roller, etc etc . She sailed extremely well , outsailing some local trimarans, and balanced extremely well .Later that summer another friend asked me to design him a 36 footer, as there were few designs around here in steel which looked any god or sailed al that well, and none taking ful advantage of the material. That guy didn't follow thru on the building so I built the first 36 for another friend the following summer . Started her in mid June, 1981, and she was launched and sailing, with the owner living aboard, by November.
After that things got real busy, and I trained others how to build them, so I wouldn't have to do them all. At that time, Waterline Yachts was selling a 33 ft bare hull and deck ,zero detailing, for $25,000, while I was able to get my 36 footers together for around $8,000. The price gap remains about the same. I modified my 31 , filling out the bow and fining down the stern for better directional stability, and added a couple of feet on the stern and squatted her down in the stern a bit. The improvement in directional stability was huge enabling her to balance and self steer with 15 knots of wind on the quarter.
After writing several articles for Pacific Yachting , the editor suggested I design a 40 footer as that would be far more popular . I did and have sole a handful of plans for it while selling hundreds of plans for the 36. Seems those seeking 36 footers included a lot more "Doers."
I made several trips to Mexico and the South Pacific since then, but have always been glad to get home again, and at the moment there is no place else on the planet I would rather be than here. I hear friends who have gone to Arizona to keep warm are freezing their asses off, while here it has been warm and sunny lately. Turned rainy and warm today with that pineapple express bringing warm air up from Hawaii , while the cold arctic air continues to flow down the east side of the rockies, all the way to Texas.