Building a New Sternwheeler

Discussion in 'Boat Design' started by Sternwheel Rat, Nov 5, 2007.

  1. Sternwheel Rat
    Joined: Oct 2007
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    Location: Black Warrior River, Alabama,USA

    Sternwheel Rat Slow Boater

    Well here goes. I'm designing a new Sternwheeler for my own private use. Some things I'm set on, many other small ideas I have questions about. That's where all you fine folks come in, I need your experience and expertise. First, I'll lay out what I have so far, with many questions about different aspects of of the boat. After that, if I need to direct specific questions to other forum pages I will.

    The hull will measure 120ft. X 30ft. X 5ft. Steel, 1/4 inch, with 1/2 inch in bow and corners. Full displacement barge design, with raked bow. Two 40ft. Spuds. Bow and Stern thrusters.
    Propulsion will be Two, 12ft. X 12ft Sternwheels with independant drives.
    Power will be Hybrid. Electric motor final drive. Roof mounted solar panels, LARGE battery banks, Diesel Gensets, maybe even a wind generator.
    In hold, below deck, Fuel and Water tanks in bow, Battery banks port and starboard.
    First deck, Main Salon, 1 full bathroom, Kitchen, Supply, and Engine Room
    Second deck, 4 staterooms, Captains Suite, 3 full bathrooms, and exterior walkways.
    Texas deck, lounge and bar, half bath, exterior seating areas fore and aft.
    Wheel house, 4ft. above Texas deck.

    All lighting will be L.E.D. Stove and Heating with L.P. gas. Everything as green as possible.

    Now for the questions;
    1. Electric motor final drive. 3 phase A.C., Single phase A.C., or D.C.? I want to be able to run on Battery only, for limited times.
    2. Diesel gensets, two at least, 12kw each. I'm leaning toward Kubota. What about Hit-and-Miss engine with a large flywheel?
    3. Steering. I'm thinking direct hydraulic, steering wheel mounted to reversable pump, slave cylinder on rudders. Thoughts?
    4. Thrusters. A.C. or D.C.? Keep in mind limited use and easy availability of D.C.

    I have a lot of little things to work out, but this should get the ball rolling. All suggestions, questions, comments, and ideas welcome. I'm eager to see what ya'll think, so bring it on!
     
  2. DanishBagger
    Joined: Feb 2006
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    Location: Denmark

    DanishBagger Never Again

    Perhaps a wee stupid comment, but you write this:

    But at the same time you tell us, it will be for your
    .

    I can't help but wonder why you need all of that, all for yourself.

    Also, I think it's rather big for "own private use".

    Not trying to be too negative, but a 120 ft by 30 ft vessel for "private use" with multiple diesel generators to have it all running will never be "green" in my mind - no matter if it's not quite as polluting as the next same-size boat down the docks.

    But hey, what d I know, my boat is shorter than your to-be vessel will be wide.

    How will you dock that behemoth?
     
  3. Sternwheel Rat
    Joined: Oct 2007
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    Location: Black Warrior River, Alabama,USA

    Sternwheel Rat Slow Boater

    Maybe I should clarify a few things. It will be for "non-comercial' use. I have a large family, and many friends, {the bigger my boats get, the more friends I seem to have!} Sewage will be treated with a "green" system.
    The Gensets are for back up, and will likely run on used cooking oil.
    My goal is to have PV provide ALL hotel power and drive system on sunny, Sunday afternoons! Even if the generators were running while underway, the carbon footprint would be about the same as a 24ft Cruiser.
    Sternwheelers are notoriously economical to operate to begin with. I'm shooting for zero emissions, without giving up creature comforts!
    As for docking this behemoth, wellll.....My current boat is a 1946 sternwheel towboat, 60ft. LOA, I push a 51ft. deck barge, no bow thruster, no stern thruster, 110ft. long. Now I admit, it ain't much fun docking, but I do it several times a week without damage. I even take her out by myself from time to time,{when the wind's right} and bring her in, and tie her up.
    Please don't think I'm bragging, I don't mean to sound that way. It's just that some boys have bigger toys!
     
  4. DanishBagger
    Joined: Feb 2006
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    Location: Denmark

    DanishBagger Never Again

    No, no, I don't consider anything you said as bragging – simpy because I don't see anything you said as anything to brag about.

    Your last sentence sums it up nicely: It's a toy. I do seem to remember reading somewhere that sternwheelers indeed are pretty economical.
    However, that "greenness" is in comparison to similar-sized vessels. As an example, let's say someone builts a "green" supertanker (half as toxic bottom paint, half as much fuel usage as the others etc. Everything is halfed). If that ship is used as a day sailor, I wouldn't call it "green" anymore, since that supertanker will still pollute much more than other day sailors. It's a matter of context to me.

    let's see, you claim that you will have a carbon foot print of a 24footer?

    – 2x12kw gensets for hotel usage.

    – Hybrid drive - you need something to generate that. I am assuming that means combustion, although you state it will be able to run off of solar cells on "sunny afternoons".

    Even if you - by some loophole - tehcnically can be called "zero emission" by way of burning cooking oil, it will still combust, and it will still produce co2.

    How on earth would you fit that into a 24 footer? Can you link me to an average 24 footer that has about the same power consumption that you need for your "creature comforts"?

    What gets me about this, isn't that you want to build a big boat - be my guest – that's all fine and dandy by me. No, the issue I have with it, is you calling such a huge boat for "private use" for "green" and "no co2 footprint" (btw, there are other things than co2 when it comes to pollution: Bottom paint, construction etc etc.).

    One thing, though: Im utterly impressed about your docking skills!
     
  5. Sternwheel Rat
    Joined: Oct 2007
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    Location: Black Warrior River, Alabama,USA

    Sternwheel Rat Slow Boater

    O.K., I'm missing something here. I never said I was building the ultimate "Green" boat. My GOAL is to be more eco-friendly, and economical. Not in comparison to similar sized vessels, but in comparison to the average small Cabin-Cruiser, burning gasoline through one or more big V8's, plus a gas generator. The 2X12kw gensets will be the only combustion produced, and they are for BACK-UP, with PV providing ALL hotel power, and hopefully propulsion as well, that's what I'm trying to work out here.
    Why can't a large boat be for private use? I don't understand that statement.
    And ANY improvement leaning toward "greener", is "better", no? I live in the real world, and I consume, and I use, and I polute. Not first hand, but just the fact that I live indoors, drive a car, eat food, and have a job, means that I polute! I'm trying to IMPROVE my footprint on earth, without moving to a cave, or another country.
    My family and I have always walked as softly on our Mother as possible, it is a major tenent of My Faith. But that has also been tempered with reality. One man can not stop or reverse the effects of hundreds of years of neglect and abuse, but if all men did small things, then maybe our grandchildren will have a better home!
     
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  6. Squidly-Diddly
    Joined: Sep 2007
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    Location: SF bay

    Squidly-Diddly Senior Member

    What is/are...... "Two 40ft. Spuds." ..... ???

    Two decks?
     
  7. charmc
    Joined: Jan 2007
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    Location: FL, USA

    charmc Senior Member

    Hi, Rat,

    Interesting project. I think we'd enjoy seeing photos of your sternwheeler towboat, as well as any sketches of the new boat. By spuds, do you mean the vertical beams you can drop into the mud in lieu of anchoring or mooring to trees? Just curious. And I agree with Bagger; you've got some good ship handling skills, manuvering a barge with a sternwheeler.

    As to your plans, my first thought is about power. I wonder if there might be a need for a reserve when fighting current and/or wind that might require a larger diesel genset for main propulsion. Given the current low efficiencies of PV cells, I'm questioning if that is a feasible propulsion source. I'd like to see your calculations. I'm not arguing, just raising a point I think is worth reviewing carefully. River currents, as you must know, can be nasty at times of high water flow and in the vicinity of dams and spillways.

    Getting as much power as possible from renewable sources and planning to minimize combustion byproducts are two worthy and attainable goals, but there will need to be ample propulsion power.

    To address your question about type of motors: the answer seems to be a bit more complicated now than in years past, but that's might be good. I think DC motors were once the only real choice. Generating AC power is considered more efficient, but converting the AC to DC allowed drive motors with infinitely variable speed. Today, however, there are efficient AC VFDs (Variable Frequency Drives) that give a lot of the versatility of DC motors. Probably best to contact manufacturers and compare specs vs price. The decision will be an individual one for you.

    Sounds like a fun project; the challenge of getting enough power while being as "green" as possible will make the result even more rewarding. Good luck!
     
  8. Sternwheel Rat
    Joined: Oct 2007
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    Location: Black Warrior River, Alabama,USA

    Sternwheel Rat Slow Boater

    Thanks Charlie. Squidly, Yes, Spud's are vertical I-Beams or steel Pipe, mounted thru hull in a well. Lowered and raised by cable or hydraulic, they stick in the mud and very effectively anchor the boat, and allow it rise or fall without coming free, or being pulled up the Hill. I have them now on the barge, and I love 'em. In the new boat they will be hidden, the fore in one of the fake smoke-stacks, the aft in the flag pole above the Texas deck.
    As for Power. The final drives will be electric, but the final set up is my question. I think I need about 25 Horsepower on each wheel,{2} but A.C. or D.C.? I hope a 12k genset could power two 25hp motors by itself, am I wrong? The initial load will be high, but will lessen as she builds speed. While I'm on speed, this boat will cruise around 8 m.p.h., with a top end around 12 m.p.h. This is not a ski boat, and the faster you go, the faster you get in trouble. Everything on a sternwheeler happens real slow.
    I'm building in a lot of redundancy, it will cruise on one wheel if need be, and two gensets if things get hairy. Along with the thrusters, I think it will be O.K.
    So tell me about electric motors. I don't want to hear it from a salesman, I want to know what ya'll have seen work, or not. I have a lot of D.C. power experience, from the Telephone industry, so the battery banks are not a problem. But I don't know a lot about motors. The Rectifiers and Inverters I understand, but power usage with D.C., A.C., A.C. VFD, is where my question lies.
    I should also mention that weight is not a big concern, it's a big boat.

    I'm trying to get some pics of my boat from the old computer into this one so I can post 'em. Most of the pics I have are from the pilot house, and don't show the boat.
     
  9. charmc
    Joined: Jan 2007
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    Location: FL, USA

    charmc Senior Member

    HP = KW/.746. So you'll need a 35-40 KW genset to power 2-25 HP motors.

    In my experience (pumping systems for large scale water filtration), 3 phase AC power with solid state VFD has proven both reliable and versatile. Hydraulic drive is another alternative; proven reliability and full torque at low speeds.

    Although I am convinced you'll need combustion power, there are many ways to reduce net evironmental impact. Both diesel and methane (natural gas) can be made from renewable sources. Since you'll be operating within a limited geographical area, it might be possible to contract with a supplier of such fuels.

    BTW, does your present vessel look anything like this?
     

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  10. Sternwheel Rat
    Joined: Oct 2007
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    Location: Black Warrior River, Alabama,USA

    Sternwheel Rat Slow Boater

    Charlie, That's a great shot of the Wild Goose! If I'm not mistaken, I saw the remains of the hull floating in Guntersville, Alabama, on the Tenessee River about 5 years ago, burned to the waterline, I hope someone rebuilt her.
    To answer the question, yes, my boat is quite similar. A little shorter, and taller. Ravenswood Ferry is the name.
    I haven't done calculations for H.P. But if a 100 or 150Hp diesel engine would do the job,{from experience} I figured 50Hp electric would be about the same, No? Isn't Hp figured different for electric?
    Hydraulic drive is not the way I wanted to go, although it's been sugested to me many times. I've never used it on any of my boats, but I've worked around it on Commercial Towboats. Very messy, and always leaking. I'm looking at re-powering the Ravenswood this winter, and I may go with hydraulic then. I'm thinking the guts out of a Bobcat Loader. That will give me a better idea of the system.
    Here's a good question; Can I run the hydraulic pump with an electric motor for extended times? Run the motor from the battery bank, {oh yeah, I'm thinking around 4000 A.H. bank} and charge the string from P.V., genset, or shore power. If this would work, I can go that way.
    I AM NOT A MECHANIC!! Just thought I'd get that out of the way. I have to hire mechanics to do anything more than basic maintenance. Not that I can't, I just really hate having grease on my hands! Anything I build will have a low maintenance diesel, that's why I was leaning towards Kubota, I have a certified mechanic friend just up the road, and parts are everywhere.
    Thanks for the feedback!
     
  11. bgeddes
    Joined: May 2007
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    Location: NE PA

    bgeddes Junior Member

    I'm very familiar with industrial electricity and electrical components in general. While I think your project is commendable, I foresee you running into a few problems.

    Solars cells are unbelievably expensive. To produce a continuous 50hp your going to need one heck of a lot of them. You're talking 37500 watts.

    Wind power might be a viable answer. You'd need a MONSTER set of batteries, plan your locomotion carefully, and anchor in the wind. The potential for 24 hr charging is important IMO.

    I know of 100s of hydraulic pumps that run 24 hours a day powered by electricity. You'll need a good cooling system to keep the fluid at a reasonable temp.

    As far as motor selection goes, in my opinion, the issue has to do with the motor control technology. Big commercial AC variable frequency drives are quite efficient and relatively cheap. All of them I am familiar with require an AC input. All of them I am familiar with rectify this AC into a high voltage DC bus, then convert it back to the variable frequency AC. If you could develop a high voltage (240v at least) battery bank and tie into the DC side of the drive, you would have the best of both worlds. You would have to find a drive repair place (not a sales guy) to see how feasible this might be.

    Here's another idea. As far as batteries go, if it were me, I would look at the cells that power electric forklifts. They are high capacity cells. Built to take a beating and are mass produced which should help with the pricing.

    Please keep us posted on the progress.

    Bill
     
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  12. Sternwheel Rat
    Joined: Oct 2007
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    Location: Black Warrior River, Alabama,USA

    Sternwheel Rat Slow Boater

    I was able to recover a few old pics of my boat. The first one is at Tall Stacks in the mid 1980's, before I bought Her. {Mine's the one on the port side}

    Bill, thanks for the input. I realize the cost of PV is high, but coming down rapidly. And I'll have a large roof.
    Wind is not an option for primary, un-reliable here in Alabama. Besides that, I try to avoid wind, Riverboats have large houses, and shallow draft, with a flat bottom! {read-large sailboat with no keel-three sheets to the wind-AND a flat bottom!}
    I will have a MONSTER battery string. I'll use 2 volt, 1000 amp. cells- 96 cells, 200 lbs. each, 19,200 lbs. 4000 amp hours, at -48 volts. I'm very familiar with, and have a few Inverters and Rectifiers for -48 volt D.C. {That's what your telephone runs on-ALL of 'em} But I can configure what ever I need.

    Hydraulic may be the way to go. Cooling is an issue. I have an external cooling system on the Ravenswood for the motor, closed loop, 1in. copper pipe, starboard side of hull, zig-zag 2ft.X4ft. It works great, but I have bent it a few times. I would prefer no external hull cooling. I had planned to cool the gensets with normal radiators, mounted near fresh air, with electric fans.
    I saw a real neat system on 100ft. or so sternwheeler at Tall Stacks several years ago. He put 1in. copper pipes running inside the hull, flat against the bottom, running fore and aft. About 120 foot run kept the 300 Cummins cool!
    Can I do that with the hydraulic fluid? Can I use a radiator?
    Maybe that's the way to go?
    Keep it coming!
     

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    Last edited: Nov 6, 2007
  13. wagarrison
    Joined: Mar 2011
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    Location: Klamath falls, oregon

    wagarrison New Member

    Hi Sternwheel Rat,
    I know this is an old thread to you, but I just read it today. I don't know how your boat is progressing but I have a friend who has a 60hp AC electric motor that could do everything you could possibly ask of it and then some. The problem would be having a bank big enough and a recharge system to keep up the charge. Let me know if you are interested. As for me, I am looking to get a 40ft houseboat to cruise the "Loop." It will probably be a couple of years before I get my boat, but after what I've been reading about the sternwheel setup, I think I will incorporate it into my plans.
     
  14. Boston

    Boston Previous Member

    If you have calculated the estimated weight of the new boat it would be helpful

    B
     

  15. wagarrison
    Joined: Mar 2011
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    Location: Klamath falls, oregon

    wagarrison New Member

    motor not for me

    I think you may have misunderstood me. The 60 hp motor would possibly work for your boat. This motor is too big for my purposes. Your boat is huge compared to my little 40'er. I should only need a 25 -30hp motor. If you need such a motor with the electrical panel that goes with it let me know. I am not a salesman or motor rep, just a guy who has something you might be able to use.
     
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