Yacht Design School
MacNaughton Yacht Designs, 35 Clark Street, Eastport, Maine 04631
207-853-0071  friends@macnaughtongroup.com

"One of the great privileges of running YDS is that we get to meet so many of the great yacht designers of the future." -Tom MacNaughton

Generally the Yacht or Small Craft Designer is a Naval Architect specializing in vessels under 200 feet (or 60 meters) in length. No amount of education defines a competent Naval Architect.  No degree or test measures his or her worth.  A person with wide experience and the ability to look up a formula in a book can be competent to design conventional vessels within a type they thoroughly understand without any formal training at all.  However, a person can memorize any number of facts, attain any degree, and pass any test without attaining competence as a designer if they haven't been taught good judgment in applying their knowledge. Our school aims primarily at the development of judgment in the use of theory and skill in design development rather than stopping at teaching the theory alone.  We also work hard on increasing the general level of competence of the field through careful gathering and testing of the most up-to-date knowledge as well as a program of original research intended to expand our knowledge.

The opportunities for employment for designers are excellent.  One can hang out one's own shingle, or work as a draftsman for another independent, possibly leading to recognition as a full designer with that firm.  Top boat yards and boat builders all either have, or should have, a competent design and drafting department. Since there are so few practicing yacht designers, it is easy to stand out and become known to the public.

Becoming a Designer

Traditionally one became a designer by the apprentice system. Often people started quite young working in the boat shop sweeping up, or in the office emptying waste baskets and sharpening pens. Progress in knowledge and responsibilities was at a natural pace, and by late teens or early twenties a quick mind could be established as a designer and look forward to a long working life. Strict enforcement of child labor laws has made this informal learning process almost unattainable.  Today many yacht builders, large ship naval architects, practicing yacht designers, and people looking for second careers in a field that they love also take our curriculum to expand their knowledge and achieve their professional goals.  Students not already employed in the field who want work will virtually always have at least an entry level draftsman's job by the time they reach Lesson 10 of our main curriculum.  We feel this is a great tribute to the dedication of our students and hopefully to what they learn while working on their studies with us.

Nevertheless, here are the elements of experience it is desirable to acquire in addition to formal design training: Experience with boats on the water is foremost. Ideally you should always own and use a boat to keep your thinking fresh. Second in importance is experience with repairs and maintenance in the most competent yard you can find. Experience with new construction, in as many materials as possible, is next in importance. While CAD has now replaced manual drafting, it is still useful to understand the techniques of manual drafting and lofting thoroughly and have experience with freehand drawing.  Further, any type of marine construction, materials science, or structural analysis training will be of great help, as a basis for understanding the more specialized information in our curriculum.  Recently advances in structural modeling have given us wonderful tools for designing advanced composite laminates and through the Scan&Solve(tm) finite element analysis plug-in for Rhino we now are able to do some of our stress analysis cross checks within inexpensive CAD systems which previously were cost prohibitive on computers and time prohibitive to do by hand.

Today there are several routes to becoming a yacht designer through formal training. Basically these divide into distance learning courses and residential class room courses. Our school is one of two teaching distance learning students.  Until recently we ran a significant residential program as well, but very low demand, since CAD has allowed such rapid "drawings" sharing, has reduced this to those students who especially values the personal contact.  We have a large number of distance learning students all over the world. Primarily we would describe ourselves as a "distance learning" institution.  Unfortunately recently we have seen several programs at schools of "industrial design" both in the United States and abroad, which purport to have "yacht design" programs.  Sadly these schools seem to be teaching "styling" and "interior decorating", but not the essential naval architectural principals, methods, and calculations that are vital to a true professional.  We would be the last to say that we are your only good route to a career in yacht and small craft naval architecture.  If you are most comfortable with our approach, we are the school for you.  But do watch out for schools which don't really teach the entire package of skills you will need.

YDS's Philosophy & Approach to Testing and Grading

Designing is one long open book test. Tests are graded only for your information. "A" is professional quality. "B" is suitable for a draftsman working for another designer or on early lessons shows sufficient understanding of concepts. "C" is not acceptable. However, students do not graduate with an "average". This is not "pass or fail" either. It is "pass or redo". In other words you don't "flunk" and you do proceed at your own pace. Remember it is not necessarily the quickest student who is the best designer.  To take the course you must be reasonably proficient in English.  All other educational limitations, including limited math training, we will assist you in overcoming without additional charge.

We make a determined attempt to teach not just a series of techniques but a coherent approach intended to promote not just competence but excellence in yacht design. We firmly believe that excellence, and indeed genius, is to a large extent a matter of training and experience. We attempt to provide as much of both as possible.

To complete the course requires about the same amount of work as the courses for one's major at a four year college or university.  However, you proceed at your own pace. There are no "contracts" to sign, no time limits, and no financial penalties for not keeping to a schedule.  Most students should expect to take four years but of course the determined student may well be able to reduce this time, just as they often can at a university.  Conversely if health problems, family emergencies, etc delay your progress there are no penalties or extra charges for those taking longer times.  Pricing is given below. The "lesson" or course titles are as follows, but over the years the number and names of lessons have evolved and this can be expected to continue:

Most students today take our Computer Assisted Design Course, or "CAD course", before starting the Main Curriculum, though it is not a prerequisite.  This teaches how to use the Rhinoceros(r), or "Rhino", CAD software used by most yacht and small craft design firms today to handle problems in marine design work.  This course is taken by students at other schools as well as those planning on taking our Main Curriculum.  You will find PayPal lesson ordering buttons and Shopping Cart viewing buttons on the site.  Purchasing the "CAD Course" or YDS Lesson One automatically enrolls you in the school.  The special educational bundles and pricing allow designers today to establish  offices with extraordinary design capabilities unheard of a few years ago for less than the cost of a minimally equipped manual drafting office.

The Main Curriculum at present consists of the following lessons.  This is a humbler word than courses, but that is what they amount to:

1. Introduction to Yacht Design
2a. Preliminary Design - Type, Size, Profile, & Accommodations
2b. Preliminary Design - Ratios, Coefficients, Feasibility, & Midsection Development
3a. Understanding Round Bottom Lines Drawings and Lofting
3b. Understanding Chine Lines Drawings, Lofting & Surface Expansion
4a. Theory & Practice of Developing Excellence in Hull Lines - Longitudinal Fairing
4b. Theory & Practice of Developing Excellence in Hull Lines - Section Shape Considerations, Fairing, and Hull Resistance Reduction
4c. Theory & Practice of Developing Excellence in Hull Lines - Appendage Development and Fairing & Final Considerations in Developing Lines
5. Model Making as a Design Aid
6a. Floatation
6b. Stability
7. Artistry and Proportion in Design
8. Plank on Frame Wood Construction
9. Sheathed Strip and Cold Molded Construction
10. Steel and Aluminum Construction
11. Fiberglass Construction
12/13 Basic Principles of Material and Structural Analysis, Testing, & Scantlings Rule Development
14. Rig Design
15. Resistance & Powering
16. Accommodations Design Principles
17. Systems, Equipment Specifications, and Sources
19. Business Management Part 1:  The Small Design Office & Basic Investment Principles
20. Business Management Part 2:  Larger, More Complex Firms and Advanced Business Techniques

CAD software is available on the main school page.  Books may be purchased through the publishing section of our web site in the Yacht and Small Craft Naval Architecture section. You may also purchase them independently, if there are appropriate sources in your area.  If you cannot find those which are out of print we can usually find them for you, but it sometimes takes a bit of time.

To save you money given rising costs and shipping charges, we now normally send all lessons as email attachments which you can print yourself or read on screen.  A second screen attached to your computer is very useful for reading material and keeping track of information while doing your design work on the main screen. The twenty-four lessons cost $375 each with two exceptions. The first lesson, due to its introductory nature, costs $188. The last lesson costs $563 due to the large amount of time necessary to correct the tests and the additional materials provided along with the diploma upon graduation. Payments can be made with credit cards or a PayPal account via our PayPal based shopping cart system.   You can also contact us about paying by check, money order, Visa/MC, Discover, or American Express. You may enroll online by placing your initial order, or by telephone, or through the mail.  By special arrangement we can still send printed lessons.  These are $400 each, plus shipping if outside the United States.  Given the delays on overseas orders due to shipping times and time in customs plus the very high shipping costs, we do not recommend printed lessons for overseas students.

Thus the total tuition for emailed main curriculum lessons, not counting computer programs, and books comes to $9,000. The cost of the books, the optional CAD Course, and CAD software adds to this. You can find some information on that in the frequently asked questions.  However, at the end of the course you should have an impressive library of technical works and all the design tools of a complete design office. You will probably also have enough complete, or nearly complete, designs to form a good stock plans portfolio to launch you in the profession.

The pace is individual and the lesson fees are the sole "tuition" costs.  There are no monthly "support fees".  Since the cost is strictly pay as you go and satisfaction guaranteed, you need not sign any contracts, you can stop and resume work, if you need to, without penalty. If you decide the course is not for you, any lesson in our curricula for which we have not corrected the tests at least once, or provided extensive assistance on, can be returned for a refund. There are only two "minuses" to this pay as you go system. We reserve the right to raise lesson fees over time and these increases will apply to those in the middle of the curriculum as well as new students.  Also if you purchase a large number of lessons and want to return them all we may have to do it on a payment plan basis depending upon the money available at the time.  We do not raise rates more than we can help. The total cost of the course has only risen $7,725 since we started about 26 years ago.  We intend the course to be run as efficiently as possible and wish to always keep the costs as low as they possibly can be.  Comparison with other options will show that we are doing well for our students at keeping costs down.  It should be understood though, that other schools which charge substantially more are not overcharging.  It is merely that they have a very different business model.  Remember that we do not advertise the school, other than the information on our web site.  All promotion other than the site is by our students, alumni, and the design firms which are gracious enough to refer prospective students to us.  Another way we keep costs down is that we do not rent impressive office space.  We run this school in the modern way with all our staff and instructors working from their own offices, which they maintain anyway for their own design work, and which are normally in their homes or on their boats.  Almost all our expenses we would have anyway without the school because we are all practicing design professionals.  All this means that the school is kept very personal and very inexpensive. 

We had always assumed that the school would remain small.  However the school has grown to be a major institution, and indeed now is by far the largest school of yacht and small craft naval architecture.  To maintain the personal quality and individual attention that we feel is so necessary to producing not just competent but truly excellent yacht and small craft naval architects, our major development thrust these days is finding and training to our teaching standards enough practicing designers so that everyone continues to have unlimited personal attention from really top people fully trained in our methods.  See our staff biographies for those working with us at present. Normally we are able to handle corrections quite promptly.  We aim to return corrected lessons within two weeks.

Work study programs have been available, and may be available for students once they've taken a significant number of lessons. Advanced students often earn money doing drafting for us.  Generally our students get at least entry level jobs in the field long long before completing the curriculum.

When we have residential students there are no formal lectures for them but a practicing yacht designer is constantly available to help them on an individual basis.  We are told by our residential students that they feel the primary advantage that they get is the constant inspiration of being around a working design office.  These days our central office handles the business end, some lesson correction, and the founder's design business.  Other offices are in the individual instructor's houses or in some cases on their boats. 

The Degree

Upon satisfactory completion of all lessons you will receive a nice dignified diploma. This attests to your standing as a Naval Architect with a specialty in yacht and small craft design. Many people ask us if this is "accepted" as demonstrating that you are a qualified naval architect. Our students are well received by firms because they are primarily looking for competence in producing designs under the direction of the firm. In this sense our recognition of your standing is commercially acceptable. We only know of  two jurisdictions where you need licensing to call yourself a naval architect.  We know of none in which you need a license to call yourself a yacht designer or small craft designer.  Some people will wish to call themselves engineers and advertise that they practice marine engineering as well as naval architecture.  In that case you will normally need to have a license from your particular jurisdiction to use those terms.  Generally naval architects really only need to know hydrostatics, structural analysis, and other ordinary technical calculations and there is little economic advantage in having all the knowledge of  an engineer or an engineering license per se.  

A Special Note for Residential Students

We do not have dormitories, at present, though some thought has been given to acquiring one.  Local bed and breakfasts and folks renting houses and apartments have done pretty well for our students. Students vary in age and family responsibilities. Since we live in a low cost area finding good residential opportunities is normally not difficult.

Legal Notices

The State of Maine has had extremely complicated requirements and significant costs which it imposes on "trade" schools.  Recently these have eased and we are working on formal recognition by the State.  The sole hold up was that we are required to have a surety bond.  We do now have such a bond and expect to license the school shortly.  Until we can get this formal recognition we promote this course as an "avocational" course and note that it should be considered that we are charging for the publications and any support from instructors and all lesson correction is provided free of charge. This doesn’t make any difference in the instruction. It does allow us to operate and provide you with this service until such time as it becomes possible to gain their recognition as a vocational course, which will have advantages to students in obtaining loans, state and federal aid, etc.   It is important to understand that this state licensing does not in any way rule on the academic quality of the school.  If it were a guarantee of educational quality it would have more value to more of our students.  What it does do for students is to make reasonably sure that the school has consistent financial policies and is not some sort of scam.

The Learning and Skills Council in Britain does recognize our school and will, under certain circumstances, help British citizens with the money necessary to attend.  Again it is very important to emphasize, as other schools often fail to do, that this does not in any way mean that the Council has examined or approved the academic content of this school.

Generally you should understand that there are a great number of licensing, registration, and accreditation programs of various sorts world wide.  We are happy to apply for any which benefit specific students and will not significantly raise the cost to the student body as a whole.  However you should be aware that most of these are completely meaningless for the purposes of most students in that they do not examine the school's academic standards.  The most important standard you can go by remains the acceptance of our school by firms in the industry.

We should also note that the words "school" and "degree" are used herein in the common English sense and may not conform to the legal usage of these terms in any given jurisdiction.  Where these words would be inappropriate in the context we use them they should be considered to be whatever other words mean what we mean when we use them in common English.  We apologize for all this "legal stuff" but it is best to be completely clear on all this.