Have you ever looked at those diagrams that can be seen in two ways; either as a positive or a negative projection? The classic picture is of a curvaceous black vase within a black frame, silhouetted against a white background, but suddenly one is aware of two white shapes either side of the vase resembling faces in profile. With practice, one can manipulate the images within ones mind so as to see either the black vase or the two white faces in profile.
Some boat plans can be like that. At first, no sense or reason can be made of a drawing; then all of a sudden there it is, fully revealed in its positive form. The key to understanding plans is first to skim through them with the purpose of taking an overall view. If the waterline is marked on the lines drawing and there are views of the forward and aft sections with their waterlines shown, one can begin to appreciate the form of the vessel. Is she narrow, beamy, long or short? Does her bow have a chisel-like shape for cutting through the waves and is her transom shallow and wide, or is she deep-bodied with a continuous sweeping line from her bow to her transom-hung rudder?
For the enthusiast, there’s always an excitement on first ‘reading’ plans. Understanding her form is only the beginning; patient study of individual parts and their relationships within the boat is far more time consuming. Then one is faced with understanding the details of construction and the nature of various components, such as the rudder, mast, rigging and sails with their minutiae.
There are many methods of construction using various materials such as wood, plywood, GRP (glass reinforced plastic), sheet metal or concrete; that’s were a designer can be helpful by supplying a compete list of materials along with instructions which set out a sequence for building the boat.
Ideally, plans should be comprehensive, leaving no room for error or doubt in the builder’s mind, especially the amateur. Professionals, through their experience and knowledge can get by with minimal information, but even for them detailed drawings are better.
I’m currently studying Matt Layden’s plans for his micro-sailboat, ‘Paradox’. She’s an exciting little thing and I’m enchanted with her lines, although they are somewhat unorthodox. Within a few days I should be able to start building her.