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Doug Zurn, Zurn Yacht Design: What Makes a Boat Pretty, Part 3

Doug Zurn, Zurn Yacht Design. Photograph by Onne van der Wal

Doug Zurn, Zurn Yacht Design. Photograph by Onne van der Wal

When we talk about pretty boats, the name Doug Zurn has to enter the conversation. If you love classic Down East-style boats, then you’re familiar with the work of Zurn, the founder of Massachusetts-based Zurn Yacht Design, and the man behind yachts from MJM Yachts, CH Marine, Marlow Explorer, and many others.

While pretty is not a formula, there are definitely some factors that need to fit into the equation. Here’s what Doug Zurn of Zurn Yacht Design had to say about the way the lines come together:

It’s all about proportions.

You can have the broad strokes in proportion, but when you start to turn the boat into reality and you add things like radars and accessories that everyone wants those are functions of a design that need to be incorporated into the design—if there’s any one thing that’s out of place it’s going to attract your attention and then the boat as a whole is lost.

Boats need to have some sex appeal to them, in the way that their surfaces connect. It has to has to congeal there; it has to come together; it has to have a shape to it that isn’t just boxed in, and square-sided.

The sheerline has to have a little bit of spring to it in the right place and it has to curve and shift the profile and the beam of the boat.

Talking about cabin house angles and how they interact with each other. The hull is its own entity and the cabin house is its own entity. It certainly has a lot more function that needs to come into play because you have to deal with the ergonomics of people. But the first thing that has to happen is you have to draw a structure that is aesthetically pleasing and its angles: angle of windshield, angle of the side of the cabin house, angle of the front of the cabin trunk, angle of the aft end of the house. Those angles need to work in every perspective view with each other and not against each other.

We have the advantage today of working in 3-D and having the ability to spin models in every direction and look at different perspectives because you know sometimes you’re looking at a boat off in the distance and sometimes you’re just walking down the dock next to a boat. We can manipulate the screen to mimic that so that you can truly see how it’s all working and blending together and that’s a really useful tool. It’s obvious some people don’t take advantage of that tool or they don’t care, but we do.

We were out last night: Peter Needham came up from Coecles Harbor with the brand-new Shelter Island Runabout to show her to some people in Marblehead. We were sitting on their dock in front of their house and the wife asks What are some of the problems with this boat? and Peter said the biggest complaint he gets is the paparazzi—the people that come up and ask questions, What kind of boat is that? and that night we were coming through the harbor and there was a center console driving behind us taking pictures of us. It was kind of funny but people are drawn to beautiful lines.

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