Friday, July 26, 2013

AJ's Rainy Day Dreams, and an unintended plug for a boat designer

Rain initiates a deep psychological drive in me to get on a boat.  I don't know what it is, perhaps simple fear of everything flooding, or maybe it was my favorite experiences in open dinghies, getting caught in a bit of a squall and bailing with one hand as I ripped up and down the lake.

I want gray skies and driving rain...  cold, driving rain.  North.  The kind of sailing where I have a puffy jacket under my foulies and over my knit wool sweater and scarf.  However, I've heard of sailors being wet for days and even weeks at sea, and that seems less my cup of tea.  I envision myself feeling like a lone astronaut in a strong metal capsule hull, protected from the elements as they howl around me, and going on "space walks" outside as needed.  Think Bernard Moitessoir in Joshua instead of Robin Knox Johnston in Suhaili.

So rainy day dreaming leads me across this designer, Michael Kasten, who worked aboard some of the world's current fleet of traditional tall sailing ships, now has his naval architecture degree, and is free lance designing "nomadic" sailing craft along traditional hull and rig shapes, though converted to simple curved-plate-chine hull construction in welded aluminum (or steel) for the "home" builder.
Basically, craft that are designed to be nearly self-sufficient with an eye towards affordable yet everlasting build, with ultra cheap cost-of-ownership.  I love his excessively philosophic breakdown of his version of "nomadic watercraft."

Aluminum needs no paint.  It just oxidizes gray and stays that way, so the boat lasts nearly forever in its battleship gray condition.  Aluminum also cuts with common power tools and wood blades.  And because the boat ends up all unpainted metal, there is no reason to buy hardware, nor drill for through-bolting and introducing leaks.  If you need a new cleat, you just weld a few aluminum pipes in the shape of a cleat onto the deck.  Done.  Need a bowsprit?  Two welded aluminum pipes, no finish.  Pulpit?  You get the idea.

If you like a bit of steam punk, a bit of Bauhaus and shabby-chic style, and I do, and you appreciate low maintenance, and I do, then an everlasting coat of never-finish-nor-re-finish gray oxide that never needs a bolt to caulk is IN.

Then he uses a traditional gaff schooner rig, with sails that are loose-footed, and just laced up the luff around the mast.  Deadeyes and lanyards are set at the ends of rope standing rigging, instead of stainless machined turnbuckles and wire.  The whole rig is set on standard diameters of aluminum pipe for masts, yards, and booms so that the rigging tabs can just be welded on, again instead of buying marine hardware.  Seems complex with all the ropes to manage, but very few are adjusted regularly, and the jib is club-footed so it can be self tending.  It wouldn't honestly be a hard boat to sail alone.  It is rigging for "simplicity", or more accurately for self-sustainability.  Like high-tech versions of the great tea clippers schooners of the mid 1800's.

The boats can perform like (somewhat) modern watercraft on passages, but are strong as tanks, and look like the big ships with their schooner rigs and full-length flat decks.  No cockpit!  Just sail from the deck.  The flat decks also give full-hull interior living on the 40+ footers.

These are truly small ships that are modernized for fast passage-making and living aboard indefinitely.  Built with hardware-store components, skills, and materials, for the comfort of knowing you can repair or refit the boat in just about any remote part of the world.  Strong enough that you likely won't have to.  I like this guy.

Here is my favorite design:

...Sometime, in our little backyard in Thailand, using cheap Chinese aluminum paid for by the sale of our boat to a wealthy Frenchman who had to have it and stuffed my face full of euros, Sarah and I will weld up one of these schooners, sew the simple sails, outfit it with the cheap, local, East Asian hardwoods, haul it to the ocean, and sail it far away to rarely explored waters.  I wanna see some penguins...  and then some polar bears.

But my mind also wanders from the traditional aesthetic path in the "engineer" direction.  I try to use the Buckminster Fuller "Dynamaxion" approach and erase from my mind all concepts of what a sailboat should look like, and I try to describe how I would want to live a life at sea moved by wind, and how I would design a vehicle that would accomplish those goals...
Unfortunately the answer is almost always a multihull...  I can't justify thousands of pounds of lead underneath pulling down when thousands of pounds of buoyancy pushing up from the side just makes so much more sense.
But that doesn't mean it can't be totally awesome.  As we all know, the riveted aluminum post-apocalypse trimaran/dive support platform from Kevin Costner's Waterworld (...just mute it and fast forward) is probably the coolest thing since the invention of the grain-grinding windmill.

Why, if you are having a unique custom yacht made for yourself, would you not have it designed far outside the realm of traditional just so you can show off how unique it is?  It would take a special designer to realize something other than a standard mono, cat, or tri, but this is similar to what I would end up with...
Aquaspace.  Designed by Jacques Rougerie (of Seaorbiter fame) and built in the 1980s as a legitimate scientific marine mammal observation vessel...  apparently to my not-yet-specified specifications.

You know you want it.  It looks like it would be a ship-to-shore surface transport for the mighty Nautilus.
Looking at the hull shape, I'm guessing this displaces a similar amount as a cruising monohull of comparable length.  Perhaps then it is a hair faster, or could be made to be.  All welded aluminum structure.  Bi-mast so there are no lateral stays.  A twin staysail rig (no "main"sail at all).  Full underwater viewing/sleeping structure with a spiral staircase that ascends into the a fighter-jet-like covered control cockpit (pilot house?) in the bow, so you can play Captain Nemo all voyage long...

Now I just want to send myself to naval architecture school, and who knows what may roll out of our future little place in Thailand.

1 comment:

  1. Oh man! I will take one of each, thanks. Those are killer boats.


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