Mark Smaalders Yacht Designs

Designs for seaworthy, affordable cruising boats, sail and power
Specializing in wood and wood/epoxy construction
Why Wood?

  As a prospective builder you have many choices when it comes to materials and methods. I choose to design in wood in part because of aesthetics -- wood is a beautiful material, and most boats that are built from something else are finished out below in wood. But wood is also remarkable from an engineering standpoint, being stiffer and stronger (for equivalent weight) than most materials.

Original Wynfall under construction, 1985

Wood also offers us a chance to build responsibly -- wood that's sourced carefully is the ultimate renewable building material. Wood is the only material that gives you a choice of how to build the same design: using traditional methods (carvel or strip planking) and a minimum of toxic glues and finishes, or modern methods, combining wood and epoxy to produce a dry, low maintenance boat.

Wood/epoxy North Sea 29 under construction in Montana

Wood/epoxy Kahuna under construction in Maine

Wood is also repairable. I can testify to the fact that you can repair a wooden boat just about anywhere, given access to wood and some simple tools, fasteners, glue and coatings (epoxy, or just paint or varnish).

Design imperatives

Three imperatives guide my design work: overall performance (which is distinct from speed), ease of building and repair, and aesthetics.

Performance. I've sailed 30,000 miles offshore over the years, and I design boats to perform well in the conditions (both good and bad) that one encounters out at sea, keeping in mind that performance in a cruising boat involves much more than speed. It includes a boat's motion through the water, how dry and comfortable she keeps her crew, her ability to work to weather when a sea is running, and how well she heaves to.

An Old Captivity (29' Austral design) nearing the end of a passage
from Brisbane to Tasmania in Australia

Katla a 26' Wynfall and veteran of two Atlantic crossings

Ease of building and repair. Good boats require a healthy investment of time, money, and quality materials; the boat you build will be as good as what you put into her. But there are many ways to simplify construction and repair through design that anticipates problems.

Good looks. I also try to design boats that are attractive. Good looking boats give more pleasure, and hold their value in a way that ugly boats don't. 

My cruising boat philosophy: given a chance, your boat should take care of you.

Boats designed for long distance cruising are (or should be) different than those designed for local sailing or racing. I've cruised extensively in remote areas in the South Pacific, where there were no facilities (marine, medical or otherwise), and that experience taught me a lot about the importance of reliability and self reliance when cruising. Don't count on elaborate systems or complex electronics -- start with a good design, backed by solid construction and gear that you can maintain yourself.

My previous boat, Nomad, at anchor in the Banda Islands, Indonesia

About me
I studied yacht design (I'm a graduate of the Yacht Design Institute, a school founded by Ted Brewer), but my real education with boats has been years of sailing, building, repairing, reading, and thinking about them. After helping to build the 26' Wynfall (the first boat built to my design), I lived and sailed in the tropical Pacific for
many years aboard a 35' sloop. While cruising the Pacific I wrote many articles and a book on tropical sailing. Since 2005 I've lived on Orcas Island in Washington, where I've built a house. In recent years I've acquired a USCG 50 ton license, sailed (and raced in some local regattas) aboard an International One Design, taught sailing on a variety of small keel boats, and am currently sailing and restoring Haida, a 40' Sparkman and Stephens sloop, which I plan to use for charters and seamansip courses.