Alumni Spotlight: John P. Wise '09

The Reward of Boat Design 

Many people go to Webb with the aspiration of designing boats.  Now, at less than a year since graduation, I have been lucky enough to have that chance.

I work for Metal Shark Boats.  We design and build aluminum commercial, military, and governmental patrol and work boats.  When the company Vice President, Matt Unger, told me we were going to build a 40’ “go-fast” boat, I told him I wanted to design it, and I made a wager with President Chris Allard that I could get it done fast.  Days later I was given a hull shape, a conceptual drawing of the boat, and an LCG range — and was told to run with it.

The design spiral is no joke —  hours and hours of circles.  The fuel tank needed to be centered over the length of the boat, but the console had to be located in front of the fuel tank.  For aesthetics, however, the console could not be placed too far forward.  One reevaluation of the structural criteria and a deeper fuel tank later, the circle began all over again.  At daily design review meetings I was constantly reminded, “Our boat has to perform, and it must look good doing it.”

It is pretty exciting watching the plate get cut for a design you have made.  Seeing it come together in the shop is even more rewarding: I was on the floor to witness the hull coming together, the console and tee-top liftings, and, most exciting, the hanging of four 300hp Mercury Verados across the stern.

It is hard to describe the satisfaction that comes from designing and building boats.  Boat design is a unique balancing act, a load of objective decisions, with as many or more subjective decisions tossed in the mix.  As I sat at the helm of my boat during sea trials, I was overwhelmed with joy and pride, but also relief that I had pulled off the balancing act.  My boat had performed well… and looked pretty good doing it.