Wednesday, August 29, 2012

IBEX 2012 in Louisville, Kentucky

Louisville, Kentucky, is the home of the Kentucky Derby. Even as a kid growing up in South Africa I had heard about the Kentucky Derby. I had also heard about Kentucky Blue Grass but didn't really know what it was until I tried it for seeding a part of my lawn in Hout Bay that persistently refused to grow with local grass types. Until then it might have been a distant cousin of California Grass for all I knew.

Now Kentucky has another attraction to boast. IBEX, the International Boatbuilders' Exhibition & Conference, was relocated to the Kentucky Exposition Center in Louisville from the previous venue in Miami Beach, Florida, about 3 years ago. The new location is much more central and convenient to visitors from the whole Eastern half of USA and is not far from the Great Lakes.

I have been a speaker at IBEX on occasions in the past, when it was in Miami Beach. This year I will be involved in 3 sessions and hope that some followers of my blog may be able to attend one or more sessions.

Session 507 on Wednesday October 3rd is titled "Wood Kits" and will be shared with John C Harris of Chesapeake Light Craft.

Session 807 on Thursday October 4th is titled "Metal Sailboat Kits" and will be shared with Brian Russell of Odyssey Yachts.

Session 907 on Thursday October 4th is titled "Innovative Wooden Structures" and will be shared with Joe Parker of Pro-Set Epoxies.

I will also be presenting one of my new designs at the Pechakucha, so I will have a busy schedule.

Louisville is not entirely landlocked, as the uneducated like me tend to expect. In fact, it is situated on the banks of the Ohio River, which sees large volumes of commercial traffic up and down river on large barges moved around by pusher tugs. The Ohio River is the largest tributary of the Mississippi River, which takes its waters into the Gulf of Mexico at New Orleans.

IBEX is a great place to learn about all manner of subjects to do with boats and boating, whether you are a professional in the boating industry, an amateur builder or a consumer. Come join us on the blue grass of Kentucky near to the waters of the Ohio.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Bob van Niekerk, the Passing of a Great Designer

Today I received the sad news of the passing of my friend, colleague and mentor, Bob van Niekerk. He will be sadly missed.

Bob was a very accomplished designer and builder, with a history in various industries that included sports cars, powerboats and surfboards. I remember, as a young teenager, watching the Dart and Flamingo cars of GSM (Glass Sport Motors) racing at Killarney, the local Cape Town race track. I have always thought that the Flamingo was one of the prettiest cars ever built and would still love to own one. Bob and his colleagues were a great inspiration to so many people.

Bob was almost unbeatable in offshore powerboat racing. His big offshore racing cats held the top spots for decades and many are still racing and still winning.

He also did a large amount of work with the South African armamants company Armscor. His work with them was designing catamaran patrol boats for harbour and coastal defense. His big coastal patrol boat was too pretty, in my opinion, to serve a military role.

Bob was a contemporary and friend of my parents, living not far from us, waterside, at Zeekoevlei in Cape Town. At that time I was a young child, a long way from choosing my own direction in life and Bob was already an accomplished designer. It was many years later that the two of us were to team up for the design of the 72ft "Sea Princess" ferry and party boat that operates from the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront in Cape Town.

"Sea Princess" on Table Bay

Dehlia, Michelle and I offer our sincere condolences to Laurette and family. RIP Bob, you will be remembered for a long, long time.

Dudley Dix

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

We've Gone Mobile

We have a strong on-line presence and most of our business comes via our website. However, I built the bulk of that website in the mid 1990s, when the South African market had collapsed along with apartheid and was no longer able to sustain boat designers on local orders. I had learned to hand code html as a last ditch way of bringing food to the table for my family.

In the 80s I was building a nice international market, then politics got in the way with sanctions and I lost that international market very quickly. The same politics artificially inflated the demand for long distance sailboats in South Africa and that supported a few other designers, aside from myself, for a few years. When Nelson Mandela walked out of prison and the world didn't explode in horror, the demand for boats evaporated, many boats came onto the market and suddenly we were no longer able to sell our services.

Income went from fairly comfortable to almost zilch and I did not have the resources to wait for things to maybe change at some time in the future. I saw the newly spreading Internet as the only way that I was likely to rebuild my international market, to rescue my family from the jaws of starvation.

After a foray into website building software available at the time I soon realised that to make this work efficiently I would have to learn how to hand code. I did that with books and lots of trial and error. I also soon found out what worked for me in terms of the amount and type of information that I had to make available to visitors. I learned all about sizing graphics for efficient download and efficient coding for the same purpose.

In those days of universal dial-up Internet the dividends were great because my website was so much faster-loading than my competitors. We developed markets in faraway places because people could see what I wanted to show instead of waiting interminably for graphics that sometimes caused the download system to crash. Having only had dial-up myself, I knew that I had customers in Europe who wanted me to look at their projects on-line and I sometimes couldn't see more than 25% down a page loaded with photos before the download crashed. I swore to not be guilty of that error in my own website, so everything revolved around presenting info efficiently rather than trying to entertain visitors with fancy effects that waste download bandwidth.

Those days are long gone and we now live in USA with high speed fibre optic Internet access and very fast downloads. However, I have not forgotten the lessons learned about efficient downloads. I still have a considerable market in places that don't have high speed Internet. I keep my graphics small and my coding efficient for those people. My website has on occasion been criticised by some as "an eyesore" or other nasty descriptions but I let it wash over me. The criticism is undoubtedly from people who do not understand the demographic at which it is targeted.

Now, unexpectedly, we have gone full circle and efficient downloads are once again an advantage. I am relieved that I did not resize the photos on my site, which would have entailed many hundreds of hours of work.

The closing of this circle is due to the fact that more people are now using smart phones for their Internet access than their laptop or desktop computers. The importance for us vendors with websites is that download speeds with telephones and wireless services is considerably slower than it is with cable or fibre optics. Also, the size of a smart phone screen makes the use of smaller images quite practical. Smaller images give faster downloads, so the ever more impatient Internet traveller does not leave my website in disgust because it has not started to download within 5 seconds. Our attention span and demand for instant gratification is such that we want the information to appear in front of us almost at the same time as we click the link.

So, to finally get round to the purpose of this post, I have set up a mobile version of my website, optimised for efficient download onto the small screen using wireless downloads. The direct link is and will take you into the new mobile home page. From there you can choose links to browse our images in photo albums, view our YouTube videos, browse design pages or even place an order. If you prefer, you can also access our entire main website as you might have done before.

As always, we appreciate our customers and the support that you have given us over the past 30+ years, of which more than half have been since I built my first tentative website in the early hours of the morning and waited in terror for the visitors to arrive, to rescue us from our predicament. I say a big thanks to all of you, who now number in the thousands, for your support in the past and I assure you of our best intentions to keep you coming back in the future, with interesting design concepts to build.

Visit our main website at
Visit our mobile website at

Friday, August 10, 2012

DDYD Calendar 2013

The time is fast approaching to prepare our 2nd annual calendar. Once again, it will feature photos of boats of our design. I have received a few suitable photos during the past few months but still have a long way to go to fill the 12 pages plus cover.

Cover of our 2012 calendar.

So, if you have one of our boats and have some really nice photos of your boat in a great setting, or some nice action photos, please send them along to me by email for consideration. We will not be paying for use of the photos but your boat will be featured in a calendar that you will be able to buy for yourself or for gifts, to show off your pride and joy. Captions on the photos will include info on the boat and owner.

Interesting build photos will also be considered. If you have a photo of your project that has something very aesthetic or appealing about it, that might also make it into the calendar.

This is a build photo from our 2012 calendar. It
shows Brian Russel's aluminium Dix 43 Pilot
project, in a beautiful and very aesthetic photo.

Photos must be clear and of high resolution to be suitable. Preferably in colour but sometimes a good black and white photo looks even better than colour.

Please scour your hard drive, cameras and memory cards to find the best images that you can offer. I look forward to selecting the best for the 2013 calendar. Browse our 2012 calendar on the publisher's website. The 2013 version will probably have a similar format.

Regards to all and happy sailing.

Dudley Dix

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Plywood Boat Kits

Most of our plywood boats are well suited to being built from kits and many boats have been built this way to our designs for years. Kits are available from suppliers in countries worldwide. See further down this post for a list of countries and the companies to contact.

We have recently changed our strategy for cutting kits in USA, for reasons that are beyond the scope of this blog. This has involved a change of company to cut the kits, resulting in a change in the way that they are sold.

The company that we have selected to cut our kits in future for USA is Chesapeake Light Craft, also known as CLC. This company has been cutting plywood kits for many years and is well experienced at cutting, packaging and shipping plywood kits, boatbuilding materials and accessories. They have shipped in excess of 20,000 kits to date, which must rank them among the top plywood kit companies worldwide.

Hunter Gall working on his DS15, built from a
plywood kit. This boat is not yet on our website.

CLC market their own kits and don't want to confuse the issue by marketing our kits among theirs. This means that we must market them ourselves and CLC will concentrate on the cutting and shipping. So, from here on, Dudley Dix Yacht Design will be the ones to speak to if you are in USA and want to ask questions about a kit for one of our plywood designs. We will answer your questions, sell plans and take your kit order and payment and provide all backup during construction to our normal level, as shown in our backup policy. We will pass on your order details to Chesapeake Light Craft and they will cut the kit, package and ship to your location. If you have any problems with damage in shipping or other issues, send them to us and we will arrange the remedy with CLC.

Please note that CLC will not sell you a kit for our designs, they will only cut on orders from us. Your order for one of our kits must be placed with us, not CLC.

Chesapeake Light Craft cut their kits from Joubert okoume marine plywood, so you are assured of a high quality kit as a good base from which to start building your new boat project. Starting with a kit will save you the time-consuming step of drawing out your components and cutting them from the plywood sheets. The time saving will vary between designs but you can expect it to be in the range of 10-20% of total building time, depending on the complexity of the boat.

At the moment we only have a few smaller designs shown for supply from CLC but this will increase to the full range as time permits or enquiries dictate. Also, CLC intends to expand their services to include epoxies, glass and solid timbers to those who want them and hope to also offer hardware kits.

Another view of Hunter Gall and his DS15. This
is a small sportboat that is based on our
Didi Mini Mk3 radius chine plywood design.

You can choose to buy a kit from any of the following suppliers, wherever you are in the world. None of them has sole rights to any country but it is likely that the supplier closest to you will be able to supply to you at the lowest price. Be sure to ask what is included in the kit that is being quoted because this may vary between suppliers.

Australia - Cape Boatworks
France - Pidgikit
Germany - Metz Boats
Italy - Nautikit
Norway - MBoats International
Russia - Chava & Boat Kits Russia
South Africa - CKD Boats
Turkey - Ertug
UK - Exocetus Yacht Kits & Jordan Boats
USA - Dudley Dix Yacht Design

Go to the Dudley Dix Yacht Design website to see the full range of our designs for all materials.