I received my Bachelor’s degree in naval architecture from the University of Michigan in 1971. My first job was with Exxon International Company in their tanker design division, spending two years in New York City and three years in New Malden, Surrey, England. In the spring of 1977, my wife, novelist Arliss Ryan, and I left Exxon and England for an extended cruise aboard our 27’ sailboat, Duprass, a Bianca 27.
Enroute back to the United States, we sailed Duprass along the western coast of Europe, into the Mediterranean, across the Atlantic, through the Caribbean and Panama Canal, and up the coast of Central America and Mexico to California, covering 11,000 miles in one year. Once there, I established my yacht design and engineering practice, Sponberg Yachts.
After a year in California, I was offered the new Technical Editor position at Cruising World magazine in Newport, RI. We moved back east, but the job was short-lived. In March, 1980, I became a staff engineer at Tillotson-Pearson Inc. (TPI), builders of Freedom Yachts, J-Boats, Alden Yachts, and industrial composite products. Within a few months, I became Chief Engineer, where, among other things, I carried out the continuing development of the carbon fiber masts used on Freedom Yachts, organizing research and improving engineering.
We also started a family and have two children, a daughter Kira, a web designer, graphic artist, and webmaster of this website, and a son Dane, a photographer. In November, 1981, I left TPI to resurrect Sponberg Yacht Design as a full-service naval architecture and marine engineering practice, incorporating in 1984. SYDI provided original custom and production yacht and commercial craft designs to individuals and corporations for both power and sail vessels in all materials. Services extended from initial architectural concept to owner’s seatrials, encompassing all facets of naval architecture and marine engineering. My particular expertise was the design of sailboats with free-standing rigs. I also offered comprehensive services for boat repair design and engineering as well as forensic engineering. Also in 1984, we sold Duprass to a welcoming and experienced new owner.
From 1985 to 1988, in addition to my yacht design practice, I taught Small Craft Design at Roger Williams University in Bristol, RI. I wrote the six courses which included Introduction to Small Craft Design, Basic Naval Architecture, Construction in Steel and Aluminum, Construction in Composites and Wood, Aero-Hydrodynamics, and Design of Powering Systems. Students completing the program graduated with a Small Craft Design minor in addition to their Bachelor’s engineering degree.
In 2003, seeking a warmer climate, my wife and I moved to St. Augustine, FL, where I continued with my yacht design practice.
One of the best ways to promote one’s consulting business is to write about what you know, and my articles on yacht design and engineering have appeared in Yachting, Sail, Cruising World, Professional Boatbuilder, Ocean Navigator, Racer’s Edge, American Sailor, The Boatbuilder’s International Directory, Soundings – Trade Only, and Sailing Scene. I have written technical papers for the Society of Naval Architects and Marine Engineers which have appeared at the Chesapeake Sailing Yacht Symposium and in Marine Technology. In 1987-88 and again in 1991-92, I was the Papers Chairman for the New England Sailing Yacht Symposium. From 1997-2002, I served on the Boat Design Program Advisory Board of the Landing School in Kennebunkport, ME. I have also been a regular contributor and lecturer at the International Boatbuilders Exhibition (IBEX) from 1993 to 2013.
I maintained membership in The Society of Naval Architects and Marine Engineers and became a licensed Professional Engineer in naval architecture. I was also a member of the Royal Institution of Naval Architects and a licensed Chartered Engineer in the United Kingdom. In 1992, my wife and I both became licensed private pilots, and we were part owners of a Cessna 172 for a number of years. We are no longer current.
At the end of 2015, I retired and shut down Sponberg Yacht Design Inc. The year before, Arliss and I had purchased my very first custom design back from the original owners, Corroboree, a wood-epoxy 35’ free-standing rigged sloop that was built in New Zealand in 1986-87. We spent all of 2015 and 2016 restoring and upgrading her for a world cruise.
And that is where we are now, seeing the world from the deck of Corroboree. We intend to take her back to New Zealand and then complete a circumnavigation. We do not have a time-frame to complete this task, but if you would like to follow along, Arliss is keeping a blog on her website called “The Old Woman and the Sea.” While I am no longer practicing naval architecture, I can respond to phone calls and emails about matters of boat design, construction, repairs, and any part of my past work and writings. I have arranged for all new design and engineering work for boats and free-standing rigs to be handled by trusted colleagues. If you drop me an email, I’ll respond as soon as I can.
For links to other consultants that can help you, please go to the Links page for assistance.
Eric W. Sponberg
Naval Architect, retired