Designing a plastic bottle island/floating platform

Discussion in 'Boat Design' started by JamesG, Nov 6, 2009.

  1. JamesG
    Joined: Aug 2009
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    Location: Virginia

    JamesG Junior Member

    I'm interested in building a floating island/floating platform out of plastic bottles and would like to get ideas on how to make it sea worthy. A plastic bottle island is just what it sounds like. The flotation comes from many plastic bottles and there is some basic platform on top of the bottles. On top of the platform is usually dirt and plants and... you guessed it, even a small house! This should be a fun project. The basic goal is to design a sea worthy plastic bottle island.

    Click HERE to see other plastic bottle islands.

    The point of building this island is purely for fun. :)

    I'd like to figure out a way to make it seaworthy, so it can actually go on the ocean.

    :idea: Challenge #1-
    Use only free and discarded materials if possible. (plastic bottles, old fishing/cargo nets, old lumbar/drift wood, and cheap or free means of propulsion (old car diesel engines, sails, wind powered propellers (yes they exist), wave power, etc.) The more practical the better.

    :idea: Challenge #2-
    Design it to be sea worthy. I think it should either be flexible overall or rigid and semi-submersible.

    :idea: Challenge #3-
    Figure out HOW/IF it needs to be registered. I've looked into this, but its a tuff thing to figure out! I guess that would be a topic for another post, but I would sure like to hear any opinions on this. It might be best for registration purposes for the island to be un-powered and have a separate vessel pull/push it. The powered vessel would be registered. The un-powered island hopefully wouldn't require registration.

    Remember, this project is based on fun, so let's get creative! :)
     
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  2. PAR
    Joined: Nov 2003
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    PAR Yacht Designer/Builder

    Floating yes, sea worthy is out, so that leaves item one and three. Item one is fairly easy and likely could be donated without having to go through a bunch of leg work. A land fill may actually pay you to remove the darn things. This brings you to 3, the one that will cause you to go bald. You'll have to have some sort of registration, self propelled or not.

    California is pissy enough to want a few studies done on the long term immersion of "said bottles" to see if out gassing might make seals fart more often or something. In any case, the usual course of action when a government is faced with this type of thing, is to tie you up in legal battles for as long as possible, in an effort to dissuade you, frankly, just out money you, until you're bankrupt or loose interest. No, it's not right, but it is "business" and an effective tool for what they will feel is a "weirdo trying something funny". Try Mexico, where the air's warm, the beer cheap and the regulations are lax . . .
     
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  3. Submarine Tom

    Submarine Tom Previous Member

    Fun project. I'm thinking invert the bottles and contain them in bundles of

    similar size and shape. I would agree that seaworthy is probably out but

    tied or appropriately anchoured should be okay. Over time, the flexing will

    cause fatigue but if you frame it adaquately you should get good life out of

    it. It's not a bad time to do this as the price of used plastic fell with the

    recession/depression. You'll want to keep the bottles out of the light to

    avoid UV degradation, this will be important. Your bundle containment

    may serve this purpose. One of your larger risks will be your floatation

    shifting resulting in a substantial lost of floatation which could be

    catastrophic. This project sounds easy but I believe it to be more

    challenging than it appears. Now if you could find a wack of plastic 45

    gallon drums you'd be on your way. There is a good book from your neck

    of the woods about building floathomes. I don't recall the name but it must

    go back to the 70's, it's a paperback about 8 1/2 X 11, probably 100 pages

    or so. It has drawings of similar set-ups that would give you an idea of

    what will be required.

    Good luck, post pictures.

    Tom
     
  4. lewisboats
    Joined: Oct 2002
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    lewisboats Obsessed Member

    My suggestion would be quart milk bottles...they are square and can be corralled in nice square-ish shapes while minimizing the non-airspace in each bundle. I would net them in bundles. Put the clean empty bottles in the fridge or freezer and once the air is the same temp cap them tightly. This will keep them from collapsing until the temp gets below the temp that the air was originally trapped at. They will expand a bit as temps go up though. Make sure they are clean and washed out with bleach or something that kills bacteria, along with hot water. Now this stuff will last damn near forever...but you need to have a framework that will also last a long time...sealed PVC comes to mind. Cages of 1" PVC built to hold your mesh bagged bottles would work. The platform above could probably be of wood...or maybe that decking that is hollow plastic (recycled too). The cages would only have to be strong enough to contain the bottles but the framework for the deck would need to be beefy to support dirt, trees grass etc.
     
  5. JamesG
    Joined: Aug 2009
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    JamesG Junior Member

    Do you think I would have more social acceptability if i made it more of an environmental project? I could make this a non-profit that does cleanups, builds an island that is sustainable, and raises awareness of the North Pacific Garbage patch.

    (the North Pacific Garbage Patch is an area of trash twice the size of Texas that's floating in the middle of the pacific ocean. It's location is half way between San Francisco and Hawaii. The trash comes from the surrounding countries and collects in that one place due to the swirling currents. Its mainly plastic and people are trying to figure out how to clean it up.)

    Any ideas on keeping 'the man' from making this project a legal nightmare would be appreciated.
     
  6. Kay9
    Joined: Oct 2006
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    Kay9 1600T Master

    I think your vessel is going to be in violation of MARPOL:

    " MARPOL strictly prohibits the disposal of ANY plastics, products containing plastics, or their derivatives, on ANY body of water in the world. This means there can no longer be dumping of plastics at sea, regardless of the distance you are off the coast.
    In addition MARPOL further restricts the dumping of trash, garbage and foodstuffs within certain limits of the United States coastline."
     
  7. Kay9
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    Kay9 1600T Master

    Your going to be really hard pressed to explain to the USCG Boarding officer how you vessel isnt just a floating MARPOL violation.

    The fine is 5 years and $5K

    K9
     
  8. JamesG
    Joined: Aug 2009
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    Location: Virginia

    JamesG Junior Member

    Do you think I would have more social acceptability if i made it more of an environmental project? I could make this a non-profit that does cleanups, builds an island that is sustainable, and raises awareness of the North Pacific Garbage patch.

    (the North Pacific Garbage Patch is an area of trash twice the size of Texas that's floating in the middle of the pacific ocean. It's location is half way between San Francisco and Hawaii. The trash comes from the surrounding countries and collects in that one place due to the swirling currents. Its mainly plastic and people are trying to figure out how to clean it up.)


    Tom,
    I think you're right that flexing overtime will cause fatigue, so what if the island was designed to flex? I was thinking of taking nets and tying them together so that they are long tubes of nets. The tubes could be filled with plastic bottles, then wrapped around itself. You would basically be sewing a big spiral RUG. If the island floats it should be able to take any forces up to the strength of the ropes. The waves can be rough, but I would imaging that the rug will remain unbroken because there is no bow crashing and fatigue that rigid ships encounter.

    I don't know what would happen if the island encounters white caps. Its seems like the leading edge could fold over onto itself since white caps are beyond vertical. I guess there would need to be some level of springiness so that the island could withstand white caps.

    Good point about the UV. I'll definitely have to keep the bottles covered at all times.

    I'm curious about flotation shifting. That is definitely something to keep in mind when designing it.


    Lewisboats,

    That's such a cool idea about putting the bottles in a freezer and then capping them! I was wondering if the buoyancy would decrease when the bottles are under water due to collapsing. For a while i was thinking of putting special fittings on each one to fill them with compressed air but you're idea is way better.
     
  9. gonzo
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    gonzo Senior Member

    Just go to the North Pacific. There is a ready made plastic island for the taking. Lasso as many as you want and call it your own country.
     
  10. JamesG
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    JamesG Junior Member

    I guess there's a big difference between "dumping" and building a vessel with plastic bottles as it's hull. I would hope the USCG would be reasonable. I guess it all boils down the officer.

    It might be smart to get it registered as a vessel if the MARPOL violation is a big concern. I was originally thinking about pulling the island with a boat in order to get around having to register the island (and avoid other BS), but maybe that's not a good idea afterall.

    It would be nice just to build it in Mexico, but I want to do this in California.

    Maybe there is some kind of special use permit i can get. I could also just say to the coast guard that this is trash that i cleaned up/
     
  11. Kay9
    Joined: Oct 2006
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    Kay9 1600T Master

    If it gose into to any US waters its going to have to at least be state registered.

    I think your about to learn why the other "islands" were built in foriegn countries with "lax" maritime enforcement.

    Im not saying you cant make this happen, but I really think you should prepair yourself for a multi-year multi-jurisdiction registration nightmare.

    K9
     
  12. peter radclyffe
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    peter radclyffe Senior Member

    yeah you can be the captain of the offshore tax free garbage patch continent, take a flamethrower & weld it altogether, & its yours
     
  13. Tiny Turnip
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    Tiny Turnip Senior Member

    there was a floating island knocking around Sausalito oh, some 20 - 25 years back. Not plastic bottles, quite a grand affair, and quite a tourist attraction. Might give you an angle on the legislation if you can find it...
     
  14. Submarine Tom

    Submarine Tom Previous Member

    The ticket would be to contain the "naturally" occuring floating plastic

    island. Then you'd be a hero!

    Like I said, good luck, post pictures!

    Tom
     

  15. PAR
    Joined: Nov 2003
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    Location: Eustis, FL

    PAR Yacht Designer/Builder

    Trained octopus, lots of them and call it a marine life re-education project. You could probably qualify for several government grants and loans to help defer the cost of octopus training. The DOD might get involved, if you can prove the trained multi-armed, would be submariners could wrap their suction cup laden legs around a torpedo.

    Maybe a different tack, you could suggest it's a marine life protection shield and bleed of some funds from similar DOD Star Wars projects. Yep, you're intentionally inexpensive (this gets the politicians on board) Marine Life Shield (MLS) can benefit all kinds of poor suffering marine organisms (An Equal Opportunity Program). Once the MLS is installed the deadly UV rays (a result of the acid rain induced ozone depletion) that have devastated the area will be blocked sufficiently to permit a healthy rebound of the life below. It doesn't cost much so the Republicans can like it, the tree huggers and marine life worriers will climb in bed with you. Hell, you'll be the happiest turd in the toilet.
     
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