When did you become a boat designer and what was your first real design?
After graduating with a degree in naval Architecture & Shipbuilding in 1974, I was offered a place to do the final year on John Moon’s Yacht Design & Planning Course at Southampton which would fully convert me from the big ship design I had been immersed in at Newcastle. But I was also interviewed by George and James McGruer at their yard on the Gareloch. They offered me a job in the McGruer design office. I took it, instead of going to Southampton and so started a 9 year period which also included a walk down the loch road to join D. M. Russell Marine (formerly Jas. A. Silver) for a period as their Technical Manager.
So the first yacht I worked on with the design team was the ¾ tonner called Nippie Sweetie – at McGruers I worked on the design of several craft and did a lot of design work for refits.
Which designer(s) had the greatest influence on you?
So many! I used to race on Crackerjack which was a beautiful varnished Dragon on the Clyde and always admired Johan Anker’s lines but the jaunty little yawl Blue Moon designed by Thomas Gilmer does it for me too.
Working in the McGruers design office gave me the chance to examine the drawings for several of James McGruer’s designs especially the 8m cruiser/racers.
Thames 17 and Woodlark
Morning Tide 14
How many boat designs have you drawn in total?
Over 400 and probably closer to 500.
Which of your designs is your best seller, and which is your personal favorite?
It depends on type – canoe-wise it would be the 13’9” Christine or the Prospector, for dinghies it would be both the Stornoway and Northumbrian Coble and then I sell a lot of the Morning Tide 14’ pocket cruiser and with steam launches it’s the Edwardian 26 and it’s many variants.
Do you have a design philosophy – certain themes or principles you adhere to?
Mainly, I start thinking about a design from the home construction point of view – making it as easy as possible for the home boatbuilder to achieve success and wrapping this up in an attractive and hydrodynamically efficient package.
My main purpose is to keep individual boat design affordable and boatbuilding enjoyable.
What key tips would you give to builders of your designs?
You can dream about the big boat, but keep your actual building to within easy financial and time-scale limits – don’t underestimate the time taken to build and try not to let it cause a divorce!
What do you have on the drawing board now?
I always have around 4 or 5 designs – so a 16’ rowing/sailing skiff for a charity, a 23’ barge-yacht; a 30’ electric launch and a mark 2 version of one my early dinghy designs.