|Lines and Chines|
3: Dave Martin
By Tim Clark — February 2001
Lucky? I was beginning to think that while Martin acknowledged the singularity of his experiences, modesty kept him from realizing that it was his own extraordinary resolve to learn and to succeed that had made those environments so valuable. Can you teach that at a university?
Somebody once said, "I find that the harder I work, the more luck I have." In 1970 Martin was hard at work in the area of design he is best known for: planing hulls that allow a boat to go faster with less power. As usual, he carried his quest well beyond the drawing table. One freezing day on Clam Creek, a river near Atlantic City, he was comparing the performance of a scaled-down 38-foot Pacemaker, for which he had established performance data, against an experimental stepped hull. The Pacemaker hit a floating chunk of river ice, and the collision bumped a ballast brick aft in the hull and the model took off. Martin stopped everything, examined the model, recognized the chance weight reconfiguration (as well as a noteworthy distortion in hull shape that had occurred as it had cured), and suddenly realized that--accident or not--he'd made a tremendous advance. Over the next 30 years he would combine this new understanding of weight distribution with many other design insights to draw a long line of speedy planing hulls that have made him famous in the industry.
While his success has had a lot to do with determination and broad knowledge, Martin also benefits from his sheer skill and a strong sense of integrity. There are, for example, certain developments in the pleasureboat industry that he simply won't tolerate.
"I don't like anybody jerkin' around with my plans," he told me. "There's a profession called industrial styling. They'll come in with something drawn to a bastard scale so it looks better than the work of a naval architect, because they don't give a damn whether it works or not. It's fakery. I believe a set of plans should be honest. If one of my clients wants a stylist, I won't be involved." Martin has spent a lot of his life in the right place at the right time. He seems to know where not to be as well.
After 45 years in practice, Martin has also acquired a wealth of experience. A paper by him reprising his career will appear early this year in Marine Technology, the journal of the Society of Naval Architects and Marine Engineers. Hopefully some of those young designers whose welfare Martin has so much in mind will get a look at it and realize they have a lot to gain if they "pay attention to the old guys."
This article originally appeared in the May 2003 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.