How I Got Started
I’ll try to be brief in summarizing the past 50 years, or so, leading up to
what I am doing today.
Growing up near the shore of Lake Michigan, my fascination with the maritime world
stemmed from watching the Great Lakes ore
carriers pass by. Those long, slender ships, commonly called "ore
boats", moved iron ore from far away ports such as Two
and Escanaba, down to steel mills at the lower end of the Lake.
This bulk carrier trade still exists today. As a kid watching from shore, I was
also exposed to tugs and barges, fishing boats, ice breakers, yachts, and, the
cross-lake car-ferries. Perhaps the strongest impression was left by the
car-ferries, on which I had the good fortune to make a few crossings on family
vacation trips to northern Michigan.
Armed with crayons, pencils, and paper, I started to draw pictures of the
various craft that I saw out on the Great Lakes.
At first, my career goal was to operate a tugboat. But later, as a teenager (and
having become good at math and science) I knew what I really wanted to be: a naval
Following high school, I enrolled in the Department of Naval Architecture
& Marine Engineering at the University
of Michigan and set out
to learn the science of ship design. I was fortunate to receive an
academic scholarship from the Society of Naval Architects & Marine
Engineers ( SNAME ).
I owe SNAME a debt of gratitude because, coming from a
family of modest means, 4˝ years of college at Michigan would have been otherwise
As a naval arch student, I was forced to study computer programming,
a subject that I initially regarded as strictly for "nerds". But it didn't take long for me to realize
that the computer is a great tool to use in the design of ships, boats, and
barges. And we naval arch students were "in" on this great tool at an
early stage. By creating programs to handle typical hydrostatics problems
(trim, stability, loading) and economic analysis (vessel construction cost
estimation, life cycle costs, fleet optimization), I eventually realized that
computer-assisted engineering was not only useful, but also fun. This was before the advent of “canned”
computer software for naval architects.
I still prefer to use many of the programs that I created on my
Though the academic emphasis was on big, steel ships, I took all of the
"small craft" design courses that were offered at Michigan. In particular I sought to learn
about aluminum and fiberglass as boatbuilding materials. During the summers, I
worked in shipyards. Upon graduation I
went to work for Chevron Shipping’s Engineering, Construction and Maintenance
group at San Francisco. I soon discovered that the real design work
(the translation of functional requirements into plans and specifications for
new oil tankers) was being carried out at shipyards (for the most part, in Japan and Europe.) Still in my twenties, and disappointed by
the apparent lack of creative design opportunities, I left the corporate world
and "hung out a shingle" in Oakland,
California, embarking on a career
as a self-employed naval
architect. As a "generalist", I endeavored to pick-up almost any kind
of design, analytical, and troubleshooting tasks that were available in the
private sector. The great diversity of craft in the maritime world continues to
enthuse and inspire me even today. I
have never become focused on a single specialty (or niche market). I continue
to work in a fairly wide spectrum of design disciplines and with a variety of
different craft types.
Nearly all of my assignments involved modifications to existing vessels,
both large and small, including tankers, bulk carriers, passenger vessels,
fishing boats, oceanographic vessels, tugs, and barges. Usually these were
projects to enable an old ship to do a new job, or to do the same job better,
or to fix some problem. I found time to
engage in a personal boatbuilding project: a fiberglass, outboard-powered
runabout, built in the backyard on a custom male mold. It was a good
"hands-on" learning project. I
also took several courses in welding (arc, MIG, CO2), drafting
(computer and manual), and ocean transportation, all for the purpose of
improving my design skills.
Motivated by the Loma Prieta earthquake which
shook the Bay area (1989), I closed up shop in Oakland and went to work for the engineering firm of Art
Anderson Associates in Bremerton,
Washington. As a senior naval
architect with the Anderson
firm during the next thirteen years (1990-2003), I carried out a number of
designs "from scratch", including:
- Concept design of a
high-endurance research vessel for NOAA
- A cable-ferry for Clackamas County, Oregon. With an unorthodox, electric
propulsion system, this little ferry works fifteen hours per day, carrying
cars, buses, and trucks, across the Willamette
River at Canby, Oregon.
- Conceptual design of a
310’x76’x20’ocean barge for Hawaiian inter-island movement of containers,
automobiles, and break-bulk cargo.
In 2003, desiring to remain focused on non-military craft, but still a
"generalist" at heart, I "hung out a shingle" for the
second time. I remain here in Bremerton. As always, work includes a mix of design for
new construction as well as analysis and reconfiguration of existing craft to
achieve improvements in economy or function.
Recent clients include:
Uncruise Adventures (Seattle, Washington)
North River Boats (Roseburg, Oregon)
Oregon State University (Newport, Oregon)
Mercy Ships (Garden Valley, Texas)
Billeter Marine (Coos Bay, Oregon)
NOAA Fisheries (Hammond, Oregon)
In my spare time I enjoy kayaking the local waters, bicycling, and discovering and traveling on as many of the ferries throughout North America as possible.
It is the goal of Alan Winkley Naval Architecture, LLC to develop a
long-term professional working relationship with a modest number of stable,
reputable builders, commercial vessel operating companies, and individual boat
owners. If you are interested in professional design and engineering assistance,
either for new construction or for improvement to an existing vessel, your
inquiry will be welcomed.