Thomas Gillmer was born in 1911 in Warren, Ohio and became interested in ships at an early age. After graduating from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1935 he served on light cruisers in the Pacific and Mediterranean. He became an instructor in naval construction, damage control, and marine engineering at the Naval Academy during World War II and eventually became chairman of the naval engineering department.
In 1967 he retired from active teaching at the Academy and began to devote full time to the design of yachts and ship replicas. Some of his most noted yacht designs include Blue Moon in 1946 followed by the Southern Cross. In the early 1960s, he produced the design of what was to be of the first fiberglass yacht to circumnavigate the earth: the 30 foot Allied Seawind. The 32 foot Seawind II was his extension of the original design based on thousands of successful oceangoing Seawind miles. His design of the Privateer 26 revealed his love for traditional lines, clipper bows, extended sprits, and counter transoms. But this time it was for a small pleasure craft that these ideas were brought forth. Production began in 1966 and within a few years, following the same design principles as the extended Seawind II, the Privateer 35 took shape.
In 1976-77 he designed the Pride of Baltimore I and, in 1979, the pungy schooner Lady Maryland. In 1986 the Pride of Baltimore I was struck and sunk by a violent squall off the coast of Puerto Rico. Yet again, Thomas Gillmer extended and modified his original design for additional seaworthiness and produced the Pride of Baltimore II. Most recently, the overhaul of the USS Constitution by the navy is being conducted based on Gillmer's prepared studies of the vessel.
Just how many pleasure craft had their lines penned by Thomas Gillmer has not been accounted for. Vessels such as the double-ender Aires 32 are nearly overlooked. Indeed it is unusual, yet fortunate, that a prestigious naval architect would devote time and interest to small sailing craft such as the Privateer 26.
Thomas Gillmer is also noted for many books and papers on the subject on ship design and construction. His 1952 book, Fundamentals of Naval Construction and Ship Stability, is still in use in the naval architecture program at the U.S. Navel Academy. Other notable books include:
The Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum houses a collection of manuscripts consisting of six papers:
Signposts Towards the Origin of Ship Design
- prepared for the 5th Naval History Symposium, Annapolis, 1 October 1981
Evolving Ship Design Technology As Revealed in Wrecks of Post Medieval Ships
- prepared for the 3rd International Symposium of Boat and Ship Archeology, Stockholm, 1982
Authentic Replica Ships: Theory and Practice
- prepared for the International Symposium on Ship Construction in Antiquity, Delphi, Greece, August 1987
The Importance of Skeleton First Ship Construction to the Development of Rational Ship Design
- prepared for the International Symposium on Ship and Boat Archeology, Amsterdam 1988
The Second Pride of Baltimore, Her Design and Construction
- prepared for the 9th Sailing Yacht Symposium, Annapolis 1989
USS Constitution: An Assessment for Her Future
- prepared for the Naval History Symposium, Annapolis 1993.
Allied Seawind II Boat Owners Association
Southern Cross Boat Owners Association
Pride of Baltimore web site