My father was a physicist, but he could caulk a boat and almost forty years ago our friend, John Drake, needed his boat caulked. John is a geologist, but can also do survey work and drawings and my father needed these for our Chapter 91 license at our shop. They struck up a neighborly deal to trade caulking for drawings, but although John was capable of doing the work and drawings, he was not a licensed Professional Engineer. The drawings needed an engineer’s stamp. Fortunately, John had a friend who was a licensed PE. After giving John’s drawings a quick once over, he saw that John knew what he was doing and affixed his name and stamp to them without a worry in the world. I think a bottle of Scotch might have factored into the deal.
When I was hired to build the schooner Thomas E. Lannon there was no adequate plan. When I brought my concerns about this to Tom Ellis he told me, “Build me anything you want”. It was a weird way to start a design career, but luckily I had help. My father was always encouraging and Tom had hired long time Essex resident and selectman, Dave Folsom, to help get the plans through the Coast Guard inspection process. Dave had attended the Coast Guard Academy and later studied naval architecture. After a long career in the Coast Guard, he knew what he was doingmaking vessels safe. Luckily for me Dave also knew what I was doing, which was trying to keep the Gloucester’s schooner heritage and traditional Essex Shipbuilding techniques alive. Dave was never worried about getting credit for his work, but looking back I would say that without him the Thomas E. Lannon would have never been built and none of the good she has done for our area would have ever happened.
When I built the Fame over the winter of 2002-2003, Dave was again instrumental in that boat's success, taking my design and navigating it through the Coast Guard review process. After Dave passed away in 2004, I hired David Wyman to help with design work on a few projects including the preliminary design for a great lakes schooner, the design for the schooner Isabella, the preliminary design for the gundalow Piscataqua, and design work on the Ernestina-Morrissey. David also volunteered to help with the Ardelle. His early enthusiasm gave the project momentum when it needed it most and his well-timed advice made her a better boat. For the past six or seven years, I have been working with Tom Farrell who did the design work for the Ernestina-Morrissey among many other projects. While I have moved on from that project, I am glad he is still with it.
While at this point I know pretty well what I am doing, for me, working with Professional Engineers has never been just about the stamp. Two heads are better than one and I appreciate the input the PE's have given me as well as their help with the regulators. Still, I can certainly understand why legendary multihull designer Dick Newark was a bit miffed when a young state official explained to him that he was not allowed to work on boat design in the state of Maine without a degree and PE license. Dick was a pioneer with multihull designs and, as I understand it, the Coast Guard adopted his formulas as the basis of some of their regulations on multihulls. If this is true, he literally wrote the rules. I question who would be qualified to license him and what academic credential did he really need to do the work? Anyone without a degree or license capable of designing a boat should be grateful that Dick did not choose to solve his problem with a bottle of whiskey as my father and John did. Instead, Dick, along with Phil Bolger and a lot of other outraged marine professionals, lobbied the politicians to change laws in the state of Maine and remove the requirements for degrees and licensure to practice boat design.
Despite Maine’s failed attempt to force licensure on our industry, the Coast Guard has never required it of those submitting plans for passenger boats. The truth is that there are simple ways to prove whether or not a boat is designed and built to be safe, regardless of who designs it. But still there are those (particularly in the academic community) who would like to force academia and licensure upon every industry if for no other reason but to justify their own existence. It seems to me that the only way to avoid this in our industry is to have people without PE licenses continue to design and build safe boats. While I deeply appreciate all the help and advice my PE friends have given me over the years, I have decided (for now) to try to navigate as much of the regulatory river for the Beal as I can on my own.
I realize that this will be difficult and I am not too proud to ask my Professional Engineer friends for help if I get to a point where it just makes sense to do that. (Likely stability…) For now however, I am pleased to announce that I got a letter from the Coast Guard Marine Safety Center stating that they reviewed my plans and approved the hull structure. While I had no idea what to do at first and made mistakes with the process (not with the structure) the folks in the Coast Guard were excellent to work with and, like the PE's I worked with in the past, I greatly appreciate their direction and assurance that the Beal will be a safe boat. I will likely tell more about the story of the process of the review at a later date but for now I will include some drawings I did of what will be the Beal’s rehabilitated lower structure and mast step.