Student Spotlight: Brent J. Morrison ’11

Perseverance to Protect a Tradition

When Brent Morrison ’11 proposed his thesis last spring, he faced a roadblock.  He wanted to study the small commercial fishing vessels built in his native Pacific Northwest in the 1970s and ’80s, but very few drawings remained.  He hoped to find an idle boat to measure over summer break, but his chances were slim: The entire fleet traditionally spends June through September in Alaska. 

Unfortunately for the skipper and crew – but fortunately for Brent – one boat was delayed with engine trouble.  Gathering up his friends, his family, the crew of the boat, and a few concrete blocks for good measure, Brent conducted an inclining experiment on the delayed vessel.

There was no time to haul the boat and take measurements, but, as luck would have it, the captain happened to know that the mold for the boat was being kept behind the shop of a local fisherman-turned-boatbuilder.  With the fisherman’s permission, Brent called in Janicki Industries, a high-tech engineering company with projects as diverse as the Boeing Dreamliner, the radical BMW Oracle trimaran, and 100-foot-long composite molds for wind turbine blades.  Janicki used a laser interferometer tracker to measure 1,025 points on the mold, and they donated nearly half the cost of the work.

Brent then employed Rhinoceros software to model a hull from the measured points.  He is using the hull model to simulate two different lengthening configurations for the vessel: at amidships and at the transom.  Northwest purse seiners are commonly extended – usually at the transom – but presently there exists no quantitative information about the resulting changes in vessel characteristics.  Brent’s thesis will quantify the impact of lengthening upon stability, capacity, buoyancy, powering, seakeeping, maneuvering, and structural integrity.  He hopes that his research might help owners make more informed decisions about adding length to their fishing boats.