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Mar 30 09 10:51 PM

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Hello Jay and other forum members. Though not able currently to live aboard, I do anticipate doing so in the future. I was a bit alarmed the other day when, whilst researching traditional sailmaking for my weblog 70.8%, I linked to a website advertising same in the "Ash Breeze", newsletter of the Traditional Small Craft Association, only to find that the guy had gone out of business because he could no longer source egyptian cotton sailcloth, and being a purist, he refused to make sails built on petrochemicals. So I began to research. Cotton. Sailcloth.It is almost impossible to source. Most traditional sailmakers cater to the Tall Ship trade to stay in business, and it seems very few are able to use natural fibers. This got me thinking about not just sails, but boatbuilding in general, and especially small sailing craft, especially homebuilt, and lo, even though most of what I know about or am intersted in are wood built, there's a lot of epoxy and polyurethane and dacron etc. involved. Lots of oil. Forget about combustion engines, I'm just talking about the basic ingredients for making a small waterborne home or transport. The sustainability of wood as a boatbulding material is deeply questionable, with a 100 year growth period needed for many of the hardwoods suitable.
If seasteading is a co-mingling of sustainability and self reliance, it seems to me that anyone interested in this lifestyle, currently practicing or contemplating it, had better start to answer some of these questions. I have only begun thinking about this, but would like to generate some discussion in this area. Excuse me if I've rambled, but I'm basically just thinking aloud here. If the ideal of seasteading is to sever ties with mammon, how do we build our boats and how do we preserve them from the harsh enviroment they are exsposed to responsibly and effectively? 

thomas armstrong

thomas armstrong

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#3 [url]

May 8 09 8:50 PM



Practical boat building, with an emphasis on practical, and yet another emphasis on practical-- must be a part of island sustainability. We'll succeed on all that, and good prototypes exist,  including the one in my front yard, but at some point in the next year or two once we've got our gardens planted we'll need to turn the sights to different projects, and I expect boats will be very high on the list.

Commerical fishing is a prime example of the future of sustainable business practice. While there's been a lot of lip about sustainable fisheries, the key fact of the oil age is that any pinhead who could borrow the money for a fish killing boat with big diesil engines and ingest enough crack to survive the rigours would and could make good money destroying fisheries most every where on the West Coast. Most of that is gone now. It will be gone everywhere soon. Here in Hawaii, the situation is very different with open access regs and the like, but nonetheless the high value pelagic fish like ahi are also very fuel intensive catches. I see a situation in the very near future where the typical 2 guys in the Whaler with twin 150s burning 2-3 gallons an hour, in a boat that requires a 30000 dollar truck/trailer rig to launch--for two or 3 fish a day--compete with two tough kids in a canoe that launch by hand a boat they car-topped and spent no fuel at sea. The kids with the canoe will make a good living, and the other guys will starve. 

There will be really good money in sustainable practice, IF, and only if, it's really sustainable. Skill will reward you greatly.

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#4 [url]

May 8 09 9:32 PM

Getting it.

You know, this is a very good meme, really.

In the future, if you live sustainably, you will prosper. The more sustainably you live, the more you prosper.

In the future, is you live unsustainably, you will die. The less sustainably you live, the sooner that will occur.

Eternity is long -- especially towards the end. . .

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#5 [url]

May 9 09 8:58 AM

so...the boatbuilding will commence for us as soon as we move onto acreage...simultaneously planting the farmstead...we do recognize the importance of having an oceangoing vessel, but for eliminating freight gouging and air travel rather than fishing.
the point is well taken that human powered small craft would be most sustainable for fishing for both predator and prey.  
our oceancraft will not use internal combustion as primary powerplant, but when they are employed, they'll run ch4.


the old "build it and they will come" figures in our endeavor.....fair cooperative work attracts fair cooperative people!  but reality is that most won't throw in on collaborative efforts until the initial work is done...makes it slow to get started, but makes the direction of the endeavor remain true to it's mission.

any machinists about?

everything grows if you let it

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#7 [url]

May 9 09 3:22 PM

busted!  no one design picked out...
as befitting our notion of what a school is for, scientific process of experimental inquiry...
we're armed with network of resources toward building various hulls for modular trimaran based motorsailer.
and outrigger canoes and paddles!
and the oc's with sails! 

everything grows if you let it

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#8 [url]

May 9 09 3:43 PM

Ah, the the fun part is the dreaming part! The building part is the hard part!

Are you familiar with the Delftship FREE marine autocad program? It's pretty good especially for modeling plane developed shapes. I find that thing pretty addictive! If I can get a few bucks ahead I really want to build about a 50 or 60 foot steel proa for bashing around in the Pacific. About the same overall length as the last boat, not even 10 percent of the displacement. LOL

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#9 [url]

May 9 09 4:04 PM

au contraire mon frere...the building part is the easy part; clear goals achieved, move on to another.
whereas, the 'dreaming part', is one of not doing anything....and as my grandfather, who, back in the 40's on oahu built many radio controlled aicraft and had to stop when they were all vandalized used to say of his experience ..."doing nothing is the hardest job there is, you never know when you're finished!"

we have engineering and math education and experience and prefer to use that over computer programs so as to preserve the skill along with trad navigation.
but...someone may in the future run our numbers through and find good improvements; we're not against you kids' newfangled gadgets...just want to preserve the ability to rely on hand calculated design and construction.   welding metal hulls and such is about as high tech as it goes around here for now.


everything grows if you let it

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#10 [url]

May 9 09 6:09 PM

Sure, but lugging tons of trimming ballast and concrete down a rickety dock can get pretty old! Or grinding off hundreds of square feet of bottom paint, or running needle guns. . .of course it's all part of the process but in the moment one can wish it wasn't. LOL.

Do you own copies of HO 208? I has come to be hard to find and when I teach nav it's what I use. If you don't, I'll run off copies if you'd like them. Tidy tricks for lunar distances too.

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#13 [url]

May 10 09 9:34 AM

Other than "We, the navigators" I'm not familiar with anything too useful except as general concept. I think the mistake we're prone to make when examining techniques like that is to take then far too literally.  But Lewis makes a pretty good point in the book about the likelyhood of making landfall in a variety of situations, and surprisingly it seems it's a lot harder to get lost at sea than one thinks. As unlikely as it seems, the experience of many in many cultures seems to bear that out. While there's a place for instrumentation, instruments can also create really bad habits. A case example is telltales on sailboats, which I've always taught people to do without. Once can get a real habit of sailing by stareing at a piece of yarn and that's no good. The other issue is that they don't work too hot at night.

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#14 [url]

Feb 23 11 6:28 AM

Has anyone here followed the developments of the SV Quest, the American boat on which the 4 crew were killed?

I think it relevant that there is this resurgence of piracy, and this seems organized on the terms of an "industry" with significant financial backing.

It makes one wonder what the world is coming to, I sometimes feel we are now worse off than Cook visiting unknown islands.

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#15 [url]

May 19 11 4:51 AM

A Phil Bolger AS-29 came into our marina the other day.  VERY interesting boat.

This one was a full time live aboard and they had made some custom changes like some REALLY big windows in the hull. 

It was a homebuilt by the previous owner.  Cat ketch rig with the masts in tabernacles so that they can be lowered by a single person.  Just over 1 foot of draft with lee boards.

This boat was made of 1/2 ply.  But the new owner over coated the hull with 1 or 2 inches of foam and another layer of 1/2 ply. 

They are working on doing the Great Loop.

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#16 [url]

May 19 11 4:17 PM

Wish them luck. LOL.

Really, for the price of the plywood they could have purchased a totally workable and fine vessel, one that can actually sail. In fact, they could probably sell the engine out of the Bolger for enough money to buy a real boat, and then convert the Bolger into a proper container box for planting carrots, something it will do far better than sail.

Anyone detect my total lack of respect for Bolger boats? If it isn't clear yet, let me know and I can crank it up a notch.

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#17 [url]

May 19 11 8:21 PM


Well, OK Jay.  I agree some of his designs are ugly and pointless, and I imagine taking a few of them out to sea would piss off Poseidon  big time.  The sea hates an ugly boat!
But Bolger (rest his soul) designed some decent boats before he got caught up in the "instant boat" craze.  Some of his more traditional sharpie style boats (I don't mean the boxes like the ASS-29 (an ugly P.O.S. if I ever saw one) and earlier designs were nice; the Fantail Launch, Black Skimmer, to name two.  The first boat I ever built was a 16 ft sailing design of his.  It sailed and rowed pretty well, but was not the sort of thing to take on the ocean, as I soon realized.  It was a good trailerable lake boat and did not cost me much to build.
 According to Wooden Boat editors, of his over 500 designs about half were the "instant boat" stuff, which apparently brought in more dollars than the more traditional designs.  Still, he does not rank with the greatest of boat designers by any measure (Herreshoff, Alden, Atkin, Rhodes, Alberg, etc.,) nor even perhaps the 2nd tier designers such as Joel White or Iain Oughtred.
But not every musician is Bach or Mozart; the world is full of Salieris, and we all must get by as we may.  So RIP Bolger -- I know I've turned out some pretty marginal remodel projects myself when I had to make a buck and the customer wanted "cheap!"  

But you make a good point: with so many great used boats out there why build something new at all?  I can't answer that rationally, as you well know, having been bitten by that bug and having myself spent an inordinate amount of time and money building something from scratch when I could have easily bought a nicer boat for less money and far less investment in time.  So now I own a nice Alberg 37.  Do I regret having built the inferior Buehler design?  Not at all  -- but then I have never tried to convince anyone that I am entirely rational...

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#18 [url]

May 19 11 9:20 PM

I think the point is, sustainably,  that it doesn't take any more cost or materials to build a gorgeous functional boat over an ugly pointless boat-- it simply takes skill, which it took me years to develop, and I'm a little askance of those who exploit a certain level of ability, perhaps Buehler? to entice guys to build boats that never really sail, or pay, or whatever rather than hang in there and either gain a little more skill or coin for something worthy of your time on the water. It's a waste of time and materials to build a crappy boat and those days are over. Alberg and others designed boats that would be a asset for a 100 years or better, and planned for that. Others didn't, and made that their stock and trade. That works in some worlds, but less now, and it's simply a matter of the practical facts. And, all in all, the hull is the easy part! and the cheap part! so build or buy a good one, and if that challenges you, don't get started at all!

So, I guess, if you're a budding boat builder, you're like a musician, who frankly is only going to get to learn to play one damn song ever. so make sure that song is written by Bach.

I'm probably just now at the skill level, rigging aside, that I could build from the ground up a "proper yacht" without shortcuts, though I'm not certain yet I would, or whatever, or certain that that's any good against "workmanlike" finish.  Balance, all in all.

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#19 [url]

May 20 11 4:31 AM

Well, OK.  But on-the-other-hand, these guys got their heads wrapped around the idea of sustainability pretty well.

Perhaps not doing it as elegantly as some, making mistakes along the way.

But isn't that how we all learn, at least a little bit?  By doing and making mistakes?

For everyone doing with errors, there are at least a thousand watching the telle.

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#20 [url]

May 20 11 7:02 PM

Oceans eat large windows, unless sheer chance is on their side, they are doomed.

Yeah, well, Bolger boats add a certain spice to harbor life.  Kinda crispy and peppery, but spice nonetheless.  

I put ugly boats into the same category as ugly houses, if they are ugly, I don't wanna have anything to do with them.  Last one I did was built on Oahu and I didn't even use my title block or put my name anywhere on the drawings.  I used the title block of the architect who stamped the plans so now they think he does ugly buildings.  The homeowner was adamant about what they wanted, too, down to the placement of each individual concrete block.  Not a single suggest to make it a little less ugly was listened to.  Ugh!  Hope it doesn't annoy the neighbors too much.

Sustainable things should have a certain harmony about them.  They don't necessarily need to be beautiful, but they shouldn't be ugly if they can help it.  Function over form, but form should be shapely.

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