In 2002 I was asked to design a GRP rowing boat to be used by young children. Not only did the final design have to match the size and strength of the youngsters who would use the boat, but safety aspects had to be given a very high priority.
The design was developed using the superb Maxsurf three-dimensional surface modelling system with much use being made of 3D rendered images (top left) and video animations to show the clients how the boat would look. Then with the design approved, plugs and moulds were constructed by professional boat builder Will Squibb of Bembridge during the spring of 2003 and a complete prototype boat was moulded, fitted out and available for testing from mid April 2003.
The prototype was put through an extensive programme of tests based on current naval architecture practices and the stability tests that are now used for larger boats under the ISO 12217 Standard. This is used by manufacturers to demonstrate that their products comply with the requirements of the Recreational Craft Regulations, 1996. Then the boat was tested in service conditions by young children. The boat proved easy to handle and fun to use, being ideally suited to their size and strength.
Young children are really very tiny and can become frightened very easily if the boat is difficult to handle or if something unexpected should happen - like the oar coming out of the rowlocks*. So, in developing this design the available references and ergonomic data for children were studied thoroughly and applied very carefully. In addition, product safety was given the highest possible attention in the design and construction. The following safety features are included:
1. Strong monocoque GRP construction
2. Sealed watertight mouldings
3. Well-rounded edges
4. Bright colour scheme - easily seen on the water
5. Encapsulated foam buoyancy
6. Captive oars and rowlocks *
7. Long length of floating painter - boat can be used when tethered
8. Non-slip sole
9. Footrests for rowers
10. Substantial protective gunwale fenders
11. Sticker containing safety advice, maximum loading, age range of children
12. Owners Manual
Starfish dinghies are built in the UK to a high standard by Reid Marine and supplied in a range of nine attractive colours.