Dead at 69 After an Aortic Aneurysm

First the announcement of his death, then a brief autobiography, then Buehler's design philosophy from

It saddens me to announce the sudden death of George Buehler. George died February 28, 2018 at age 69 of complications following an aortic aneurysm and emergency surgery.

George would be honored that in lieu of flowers, donations be made to WAIF at Whidbey Animals' Improvement Foundation is a non-profit organization, which was formed in 1990 in an effort to help Whidbey Island's homeless companion animals.

Another important organization is Old Dog Haven at (Old Dog Haven: Helping old dogs in their golden years). His business George Buehler Yacht Designs at this time will be closed.

Any future information of his memorial service or future business details will be provided at a later date. George is survived by his wife Gail Buehler.


I was born in 1948 in Oregon. It was a good time to be born because I'm just old enough to have experienced all the fine 'old timey' stuff like wood boatbuilding and pre-corporate ownership of the majority of the what used to be little 'gypo' businesses like logging, boat building, saw mills, hardware stores, and the like. 

Back when, I actually was able to buy a salmon troll license and commercial fish with hand gear! I was absolutely no threat to the fish, but such activities aren't allowed today. Yes, all bow to corporate interests.... And I am young enough to avoid getting killed in WW2 or Korea. My age group had Viet Nam of course, but I missed that one. I was lucky enough to experience a time when every coastal town had boatyards.

I was always boat crazy, even as a little bugger, so after getting out of high school I went back to Maine and had a wonderful time (in retrospect) working as a floor sweeper and wood butcher in various custom boat building yards. I helped build a replica of the schooner America, in fact. 110-foot double planked, teak decked, and launched and sailing in six months. Those Down Easters are 'finest kind', as they say back there...

I got interested in design, and, since 1978 or so, have been doing it pretty much full time. Like most of the 'old school' which I guess I have been in the game long enough to call myself that, I'm self taught. I used to carve models and hand draft my stuff, but back in 1988 or so I got involved with computers because I saw the power of editing they gave; no longer would I turn out something because I couldn't face redrawing it again.

With computers, each design is exactly what I want because it's so simple to make all the tiny changes that the hand drawers (and there's many, even 'big name' guys, still doing it that way) wished they had the energy to make. Currently, I use AutoShip's 'GEN4' for hull design, and then send the hull lines into AutoCad for the actual drafting.

All measurements are accurate to 1 mm, and lofting, because of my traditional background I suppose I still suggest, really isn't necessary. A new world, you know? And that's another thing I'm happy about being born when I was, I saw and know the old time traditional drafting ways; I can even draw in ink although I haven't in years. But I'll never get rid of my pens and spline weights; I like looking at them. 

My wife Gail, and I, live on Whidbey Island, near Seattle, Washington, US of A. We have a fine little house on a couple acres where I collect old boats, stray dogs, and interesting machines. I neither spell nor speak German at all so if you do, please pardon the spelling, but the Krauts have a word to describe Gail and my place here--"Gemulich." It translates pretty much to "comfortable." That sums it up.

A diesel duck underway

A diesel duck underway


Years ago, like many enthusiastic people heavily involved in a subject, I was a zealot about design. I had VERY specific opinions, and would turn up my nose at things that did not meet my very narrow definition about 'proper'. No more. 

As you have before and will again read me say, I finally understood that the whole point of boats, is, FUN!.That means that whatever you want to do is OK! The problem appears when people start thinking that there is one type of boat that will do all things. There isn't, you see.

For instance, look at a typical modern production sailboat. They're very comfortable inside, are fast and lively to sail, and many people even take them ocean cruising. But while they are fine vacation boats, if you go off-shore you'll likely be miserable. The motion is too lively, the rig isn't all that efficient for off-wind (the majority of cruising), the whole boat and rig is usually a bit fragile and systems failures are common. They weren't really meant for short handed (a couple) long trim cruising.

That doesn't mean there's anything wrong with them at all. Just use them for what they were meant to be used for; vacation cruising. The same is true of the typical trawler yacht. Many are wonderful vacation homes, but if you want to do open water cruising most aren't suitable. They're so high and fat that they'll beat you to death in a seaway, be difficult to dock in any wind, and have systems aboard that require skilled technicians to keep operational.

If I could handle the bugs and humidity of the Caribbean I might consider a multi-hull. I like the shoal draft, I like the big deck, I like the speed they can go in calm water. But because they have to be light weight to work, they need to be carefully engineered and built which makes them very expensive for what you get. Because they're so light weight, they don't have the displacement to carry all the stuff I like around me, and, they simply aren't robust enough to hit a log at night. And they're more stable upside down than tight side up, which would worry me if I wanted to make a passage. So I wouldn't own one, although I can't help but get a kick out of James Wharam's big plywood cats!

In a perfect world I could afford to have several totally different boats, left at various ports around the world. But, that's not possible for me. If you also must compromise down to one larger boat, then you must decide just what the majority of your use will be, and then, pick a design meant to do that use. Of course like everything else about boats there's exceptions to what I just said, and the biggest, is fantasy.

The boat is for fun, remember! There used to be an old boy who floated around Seattle's Lake Union in a 14' sailing ship; 3 masts, square sails, long sprit with a bunch of jibs; the whole bit. I'm sure many of the folks in modern performance sailboats, as they sailed circles around him, thought he was ridiculous. I also think he gave 'diddly squat' what they thought. He liked it and it suited what he wanted to do with a boat.

On the opposite end, I once knew a guy who lived and breathed ocean voyaging. He dressed the part, he talked the part. He owned a sailboat that was so shippy and rugged and well outfitted that it reeked of salt and tar and Times Gone By. But, the guy was terrified of being off shore and the boat only day sailed. That's OK too, because the boat was his fantasy. So while I accept, admire, can design and can even get enthusiastic about practically any kind of boat, in my design business I have orientated myself along certain guide lines.

That doesn't mean I can't do something different. It just means I have specific interests about boats, and ideas about how to achieve these ideas. My design practice seems to have orientated around cruising boats, power and sail, with an emphasis towards simplicity, reliability, and affordability. But please, before I get into this, if you want a 192-foot mega' yacht, I'd love to talk with you because I have some ideas..... I think it's a shame that practically all the Big Yachts; the 100 footers and up, all look almost identical.

Anyway. The reason I got involved in design was because I couldn't find plans for a cruising sailboat that was within my ability to both build and afford to build. So, I timidly designed my own, built it, and cruised it around a few years. It worked so well that I designed and built another, a 36-foot cutter that I lived on four years. Well, a few guys saw it and liked it but wanted bigger and smaller versions, and I found myself designing full time.

Be it music, painting, OR yacht design, the tendency for a new person is to study the 'old masters' and copy them. Why not? They're great! When I was involved with music I used to listen and listen to Julian Adderly's solos with Miles Davis and do my best to play them. And Chet Baker? His stuff is incredible! But in yacht design, I somehow avoided that.

After all, Herreshoff's Ticonderoga, Atkin's Ingrid, and so on are perfect; why draw another one? It appeared to me the 'niche' I could pursue was one taking the looks and feel and hopefully as much of the performance of the type of the type of boats I liked, but interpret things so that is was feasible for a normal person to own one. This means keeping the profile look of the types I like, but changing the hull form to make them simpler, which means less expensive, to build.

I've been called a "minimalist," but I'm not sure I like that because the implication is of something lacking, and I feel very strongly about my designs; I like them. And I still think my approach was correct. Yes, I can easily design any reverse curved sectioned, hollow garboard, full ended hull, requiring the very highest skills to build. If that's what you want, I'd enjoy working with you.

But I've actually found it more challenging and interesting to base most of my designs on the concept of simplicity, because that makes them feasible, because of their 'build ability" by small shops or in many even cases home builders, for most people to actually be able to have one. This subject is discussed in far more detail in my books; BUEHLER'S BACKYARD BOATBUILDING (International Marine Publishing), and, The TROLLER YACHT Book (NORTON Publishing). These books are discussed elsewhere in this site  and are available from any good bookstore, or of course they can be ordered through me.

Briefly, they both explain how it isn't size that makes a boat expensive, it's complexity; complexity of hull shape determines how much time and materials are required to assemble it. Complexity of outfitting determines how much money you'll pour into it, and of course, how much time and money you'll have in maintaining it.

I'll always love sailboats and will always offer sailing designs, but in recent years I've become very interested in cruising under power. If you accept the old sailors standard (and dream) of a steady 4 knots over 24 hours, then cruising at 7 knots with a diesel running at a fast idle, burning around a gallon an hour, seems incredible. And by the way, a 100-mile-a-day run is considered a good average, regardless of what the magazines say. If you hear somebody claim he made a passage and averaged more than 100 miles a day, ask him how much time he spent under power!

I started thinking about fuel efficient cruising power boats soon after I ordered sails for a 50' schooner I was building. The 3K the imported sails cost would have bought enough fuel to power the boat almost 23,000 miles...... That means a cruising powerboat can actually be less expensive to have built than a sailboat; no elaborate rig. And you can run it for years before the operational costs start making the costs balance. In practice, if you look at the amount of time you run the average sailboat under power, it's possible the costs will NEVER balance out! But for more on that, read my 'The TROLLER YACHT Book'!