|Not Just a Sketch on a Napkin|
3: The Nuts and Bolts of the Thing
By Tim Clark — May 2002
Once the client makes his choice and the contracts are signed, the designer and his staff begin the detailed design work--"the nuts and bolts of the thing," says Fexas--which can comprise as many as 40 drawings specifying every significant structure on the boat. Both he and Gerr do this on a fast-track basis, scrambling to complete the drawings necessary to get the builder started on the hull and superstructure, then racing to stay ahead of construction. "There are a lot more of them then there are of us," jokes Gerr, who works with two partners.
You may think that from here onward the designers stay handcuffed to their drafting tables. On the contrary, they are still actively looking out for the interests of their clients. Fexas often works within a system whereby stage payments made to the yard during the build are tied to specific construction milestones, such as when the engines are landed on the engine beds. His contract states that he must travel to the yard five or six times to inspect and approve the yard's work up to each "construction event" in order for the payments to be released. While Gerr doesn't always work within so strict a structure, he still typically makes several trips to the yard at critical stages of the building process to ensure that construction is proceeding properly. In addition, every designer fields countless phone calls clarifying issues for both the builder and the client and working out conflicts to everyone's approval. Gerr describes his role as that of a liaison between sometimes-conflicting interests, with his ultimate responsibility being the satisfaction of his client.
Sea trials are often the occasion for this final fulfillment. "I go up especially to supervise a maneuvering trial, which includes recording data for fuel consumption and speed, and to oversee an inclining experiment to confirm stability characteristics against our initial numbers," says Gerr. He also says that even the finest yards can sometimes become a little rushed toward the completion of a yacht, and it's good to have a fresh set of eyes make sure "every edge has been sanded smooth."
It's not only the client who's pleased on the day the boat is finished. Gerr says that, in keeping with similar statistics for building architects, for example, only about one out of eight boats a designer draws is ever actually built. So when a well-made boat hits the water, the designer's elation can rival the owner's. Our Spectator told me, "There's no other thrill like starting with a sketch on a napkin, then developing some real drawings, then seeing the boat come to life." Now that doesn't sound cranky at all.
Tom Fexas Yacht Design Phone: (561) 287-6558. Fax: (561) 287-6810. www.tomfexas.com.
Gerr Marine Phone: (212) 864-7030. Fax: (212) 932-0872.
This article originally appeared in the January 2003 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.