In collaboration with the Harbor Springs Historical Museum, the Aaron Friedman Marine Hydrodynamic Laboratory (MHL) spent this year working on a project on the historical vessel AHA. Thought to be the first all-steel metal pleasurecraft, the Aha was built in 1891 by lumber baron and inventor Ephraim Shay and operated on Little Traverse Bay until the 1930s. Shay, who constantly tried to turn his curiosity into reality, created the oddly shaped hull design with a shallow bottom that resembles either a whale’s body or egg shape, depending on who you ask.
To begin the project Lab Director Kevin Maki, Engineering Technician Jim Smith, and some of the MHL Interns took a day trip to Harbor Springs for some on-site measurements.
The student-led project then examined the design, stability, and maneuverability of this truly innovative vessel and tried to determine how the Aha might have performed on the waters of Little Traverse Bay based on testing done in the MHL towing tank. Conclusions suggest that the vessel likely had a similar drag coefficient to that of a dolphin and that the unique design was streamlined but not necessarily well suited for rougher waters beyond the bay due to its heavy nose.
This project offers our students a window into the past while preserving important Michigan and maritime history. These real-world experiences allow the Department to mentor and train students to help them be more capable and adaptable engineers. One of the ways we are able to offer these experiences is through student-led research projects at the MHL.