Pumpkin Boats, A New Business Opportunity for Naval Architects?

Halloween is quite an important commercial event in the United States (Annual US Halloween sales amount to US$8.4B, about the entire NASA manned space budget), but the maritime community has had a hard time breaking into this industry (The pirate costume licensing fee thing never worked out). Still, that does not mean there are no opportunities.

Possibly the best business opportunity is pumpkin boat building. Pumpkin boat building has been taking place since at least 1996, but the level of technical improvement has been disappointing to say the least. It is obvious that naval architects have not been involved in the development of this type of vessel. It probably makes sense for the Naval Architectural community to have ignored pumpkin boats for the last two decades, but now it appears the moment has come where we should start to look at these vessels as a potential business opportunity since the construction material appears to have matured.

Fashioning proper boats out, say, 500 pound pumpkins is not an easy task and that would only make sense if there is an ample supply of 500 pound pumpkins. The 1000 pound limit was not exceeded until 1996, which would indicate that 500 pound pumpkins were still rare in those days. However, today, with the record over 2000 pounds, sourcing 1000 pound pumpkins must be much easier.

I have not yet made a deep investigation into the design history of pumpkin boats (and will probably forget to do that until October 30, 2017), but am struck that the engineering (as compared to the biological) development of these boats is poor to say the least.

In looking at pumpkin boats, I can see that hydrodynamics has to be the low hanging performance enhancement fruit (Yes, admit it, you all were waiting for that pun).

This is the 2014 record pumpkin with a weight of 2324 pounds. It shows a distortion that had to have been caused by its own weight and indicates that pumpkins can be shaped according to outside forces. That leads one to an obvious Halloween question: Who will be the first grower to use a mould to grow the first 1000 pound pumpkin with a L/B/D of, say, 3/1/.5? And who will be the naval architect to design the mould and further assist these intrepid growers? This is not a trivial task, as naval architects we know that shell weight and structural strength considerations will quickly rear their complex heads, but that is where the naval architects can make the big bucks.

Today we are dealing with experiments, but experimentation is the path to the future.

Forget about home built boats. I am sure the public would rather want homegrown boats. I took out my crystal ball for Halloween, and in the not too distant future I see a Taylor Medal winning pumpkin boat designer.

Happy Halloween!