Using Software in Boat Design

Software is optional. You can design and build a boat without touching a keyboard. But I like it. Using some software gives me an idea of what the boat will look like and assurance that it will fit in the back of my SUV.  That, and any software you need is free.

That said, I am a software and web developer by trade. And lifestyle. Coding computer games, rendering 3D art and building Virtual Reality simulations are my rainy day hobbies (samples here). If you are the type of person, consider this post as a demo of how IT compliments and enhances wooden boat building.  If you are not a tech person, I highly recommend dabbling into it.  Code Academy is a great place to start learning code.  For 3D anything I enjoy Blender.  What can’t Blender do?  Nothing comes to mind.  It’s a game making platform, an architecture tool, an animation tool, etc., etc.

Speaking of Blender, I used it to model my 2015 boat.


Real life (below) is less dramatic. The guy in the CG picture, made in Makehuman, clearly eats less junk food than the real Nate does.


Still, this a fair comparison.  The basic shape and scale of the boat matches. I did try that castle structure decoration for the stern in real life.  It made the boat top-heavy and acted like an unwanted sail. It also hindered oar movement. The anachronistic dragon head was the compromise.

Pre-visualization gives a feel for how the boat could look.  It’s no longer abstract, so you can move ahead with the specific goal of a working boat.  It inspires you to work through the tough parts.  An exciting new area of GC pre-vis is Virtual Reality.  With Google Cardboard and inexpensive game engines like Unity3D, you can experience your boat before getting in the water.

Here is the behind-the-scenes look at that non-VR CG image:


This file is available for download at my github site:

Along with pre-visualization, 3D graphics gave me piece of mind that my 2016 boat would fit in my SUV.  This is what it looked like:


With this information, I set the design and shape to be the largest possible that could still fit in my vehicle.  Here are the broad steps.  I won’t go into detail, because it takes a long time to learn Blender and Sketchup.  Plenty of tutorials exist.

  1. Go to Sketchup.
  2. Set up an account.  It’s free.
  3. Go to Trimble 3D warehouse.
  4. Set up an account.  It’s free.
  5. Look up your vehicle or a similar one.  Chances are, it’s in there.
  6. Download it.  It will appear in Sketchup.
  7. Modify – you may need to make it smaller.
  8. Export as .dae or .obj
  9. Download Blender.  It’s free.
  10. Import your vehicle.
  11. Play around in Blender and model your boat.

The design worked, and I might use this technique again.

One other use for computer graphics is making blueprints.  I prefer pencil for this, since my boats do not follow exact specs.  If you prefer exact measures, nothing beats CG, and even the free tools have far more features than you’ll need.

In summary, software aids boat building.  If you already enjoy 3D modelling, jump in and try it.  If you are unfamiliar with coding or modelling, take time to learn it first.  I find the hobby enjoyable and lucrative.  If not, you can still build a fine boat.

Have fun,



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