Human powered cargo boat - what's possible?

Discussion in 'Boat Design' started by Humanpower, Jun 24, 2012.

  1. Humanpower
    Joined: Jun 2012
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    Humanpower Junior Member

    After some back of the envelope calculations of different propulsion techniques, costs, and environmental footprint for a small cargo boat that would run 1000km on a large river, I came to the conclusion that human power is the least costly and cleanest option.

    • -diesel and gasoline are expensive in my situation (US$ 1.6/liter or US$6/gallon downstream in the city; US$2.35/liter or US$8.9/gallon in the interior) and they contribute to climate change
    • -solar is way too expensive
    • -battery-electric with batteries charged from relatively low-cost hydropower is too heavy, too costly, not sustainable, and potentially highly polluting at the end of life of the batteries
    • -gasification of charcoal is the lowest-cost option (10 times less expensive than diesel), but would contribute to deforestation and there is no stable supply in the interior; it is also a bulky fuel
    • -human power (rowing) is the second lowest cost option, but it would contribute only a little to the development of the people doing the actual rowing; the human body uses very little land in terms of crops grown and needed to provide its energy; so human power has a low environmental impact
    So I started drawing some boats - not that I'm a designer, far from it. Two fantasy examples in attachment. Which type of configuration would be the most efficient?

    Some parameters on the purpose to be served by the boat, and the materials out of which it would be made:

    • -the river flows at a speed of 3.5 to 4km/h
    • -in traditional, heavy dugout canoes, 2 rowers standing up are capable of transporting 1 ton down stream at 6.5km/h (100km in 15h), and about 500kg upstream at 3km/h (100km in 32h).
    -making both the boat more efficient and light-weight, and the rowing technique more efficient, these numbers can be improved a bit (not much, I think)

    Some numbers on costs and benefits:
    • -cargo to be transported downstream (cassava, maize) has an average net benefit of around US$200 per ton - but this depends on the season
    • -cargo to be transported upstream (tomato paste, milk powder, sugar, fuel, etc...) has a net benefit of around US$400 per ton
    • -minimum wage is US$ 50/month, but very few people in the interior actually make this; so it would not be difficult to find rowers
    • -a configuration of 18 rowers transporting 9 tons of cargo 1000km downstream, and 4.5 tons 1000km upstream, would give the following benefits:
    Downstream
    • -revenue: 9 tons x US$200 = US$1800
    • -travel time: 1000km / 6.5km/h = 154 hours or 22 days of 7h of rowing; say a full month
    • -costs: 18 salaries x US$50 = US$900
    • -net benefit: US$ 900 - or US$ 100/ton (which is much more than diesel-powered barges make - they make around US$50/t)
    Upstream
    • -revenue: 4.5 tons x US$400 = US$1800
    • -travel time: 1000km / 3km/h = 334 hours or 48 days of 7h of rowing; say a month and a half
    • -costs: 18 salaries x 1.5 x US$50 = US$1350
    • -net benefit: US$ 450 - or US$ 100/ton (which is much more than diesel-powered barges make - they make around US$50/t)
    On a yearly basis, one would make around 5 trips, for a net benefit of US$6750 - which is a huge amount of cash in that country.


    -The boat would be made out of plywood and fiberglass, to keep things as light as possible. It would feature modern, efficient rowing gear, with sliding seats and lightweight oars.

    Currently, a couple of people often transport tonnes over more than 1000km in unstable dugouts, often losing their lives, and just because they consider commercial transport options to be too expensive.

    P.S.: please do not take this thread too serious... I'm aware that exploiting human power can, in certain conditions, be slavery...
     

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  2. Wavewacker
    Joined: Aug 2010
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    Wavewacker Senior Member

    Where does the drummer sit? Would you have a bow babe as well?
     
  3. Humanpower
    Joined: Jun 2012
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    Humanpower Junior Member

    A whip is not an expensive item. The foreman is I.
     
  4. Humanpower
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    Humanpower Junior Member

    Lol, can add all these. Babes enough on the river. They're called Mami watas.
     
  5. Stumble
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    Stumble Senior Member

    Human assuming your numbers re correct, you are expecting to spend roughly $2,250 in salary per trip, at five trips a year that's $11,250 a year in salaries. For a total range traveled of 10,000 miles.

    Ignoring for a moment the purchase price, a small diesel engine should cost about .25 gallons per hour and provide the same amount of power as 20 rowers. So your cost to operate per mile for the rowers is roughly $1/km, as compared to the diesel at roughly .25gallons/hr*$6/gallon=$1.5/hr / 3km/hr= $.33/km

    So based on a small 20hp diesel it would cost roughly a third to use a diesel over human power, and if you added a second over seared you could run day and night and cut the round trip time in half.

    You also ignored the cost of the food for the rowers, and the amount of food you have to carry for 20 rowers for 45 days works out to roughly 1,000lbs. Which eats up an appreciable amount of cargo space.
     
  6. Leo Lazauskas
    Joined: Jan 2002
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    Leo Lazauskas Senior Member

    Fascinating project!

    Michlet should be able to give you a good estimate of the resistance
    of the two proposed vessels.

    My only other thought at the moment concerns the long hours of rowing.
    I appreciate that your system will probably be more efficient than the
    standing up method, but there might be issues to do with back strain
    and injury.

    In competitions, sweep rowing (i.e. one oar each) is not allowed for
    young people in some countries because of the risk to developing bones.
    In Australia and some other countries it is allowed, but coaches are
    aware that the younger rowers must swap sides every few weeks or so.

    Given the history of Belgians in Africa, I suggest leaving the whip
    at home.

    Good luck!
    Leo (not Leopold).
     
  7. Humanpower
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    Humanpower Junior Member

    According to my calculations, human power is less costly, but I might be wrong.

    -Based on personal experience, I assumed a 15hp gasoline outboard, which consumes 0.1 liters / ton-km downstream (or 0.015 gallons / ton-mile). Twice that upstream.
    -In short, the 1000km downstream trip with 9 tons of cargo would consume 900 liters; at a price of US$2.35/liter this would cost US$2215 - more than double the cost of human power.

    I must admit that these numbers are based on 100km trips in inefficient dugouts with loads of maximum 2 tons.

    Diesel might be more efficient, but I don't think more than 20 or 30%. So human power would still be 80 or 70% lower cost.

    You would indeed be able to do more trips, but I'm not sure this will cover the higher expense.

    Rowers can work at night! I've done the trip many times throughout the night. It's not too dangerous, as there is relatively good visibility on the clear waters, and almost no traffic (apart from the occasional dugout or the barge you see once a week).

    In any case, I calculated rowers to work 7 hours a day - they obviously need to rest.

    The rower pays for his own food. He gets a salary, so he can buy food at night when we arrive at the resting place, and in the morning to take along for the day.
     
  8. Humanpower
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    Humanpower Junior Member

    Someone mentioned bringing along babes. I suggest we bring along a professional masseuse.

    No seriously, the ergonomics have to be taken into account. Once a team of rower arrives in the city, they will be replaced by another team, and have a month's rest. Many of these youths seek a way to get from the country-side to the city, and don't want to wait for the occasional barge that passes their village. So I assume we can find enough rowers, willing to dare make the journey. Both downstream and upstream.
     
  9. WestVanHan
    Joined: Aug 2009
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    WestVanHan Not a Senior Member

    So at 1000 km and 4 km current speed it'll take 250 hours ~10 days of floating down and zero rowing cost.

    Or with rowing-from your figures- "Downstream: 1000km / 6.5km/h = 154 hours or 22 days of 7h of rowing; say a full month"

    So you spend ~$900 "Downstream...costs: 18 salaries x US$50 = US$900" and it takes you 3 weeks longer...spending $900 to take 3 times longer makes no sense to me.

    "Upstream:travel time: 1000km / 3km/h = 334 hours or 48 days of 7h of rowing; say a month and a half
    -costs: 18 salaries x 1.5 x US$50 = US$1350"

    So let's say 2.5 month round trip & $2200 salary via rowing vs. floating down in 10 days and maybe double(?) that time in going up which is a month round trip time,and fuel costs....

    Dollarwise it's off but admirable to create work for them though...


    Random ideas:

    -How about rowing/floating down and using diesel going back up?
    -how about half the rowers,and use small engine to assist?
    -use/make bio diesel?
    -make alcohol from all the maize/corn they grow and burn in the engine. Yeast is dirt cheap.
     
    Last edited: Jun 25, 2012
  10. eyschulman
    Joined: Jul 2011
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    eyschulman Senior Member

    Get rid of the rowers add sail and a small diesel and you have something.
     
  11. jehardiman
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    jehardiman Senior Member

    Yep, ditch the rowers. Early US canal systems used mules rather human power. More force, less cost, higher efficiency. Check out the Erie Canal or Chesapeake & Ohio Canal tow paths.
     
  12. Ad Hoc
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    Ad Hoc Naval Architect

    That's what drove the Industrial revolution in England too. Walking along the canals, you can see the side pathways ready made for mules to pull the long barges full of coal/grain etc.

    Also, for today, very "green" too...as the horse manure is excellent fertiliser, so a double benefit :)
     
  13. WestVanHan
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    WestVanHan Not a Senior Member

    Maybe I wasn't so concise in my last post:I used to be a financial trader so this stuff runs in my head at mach speed and I leave stuff out expecting others to see it all.

    By floating down and paying fuel to motor up,guesstimating it costs the same $2200 as salary for rowers: you'll run 5 return trips a year with rowers but by floating down and powering up you'll do 12 return trips a year.

    Hire a couple guys for 8 hour watches,brew up alcohol to run in a long tail and your costs per round trip may end up being salary ($50x2) at $100,some food,and effort in making fuel.

    "On a yearly basis...5 trips for a net benefit of US$6750 ($1350 a trip)- which is a huge amount of cash in that country"

    So @ $1350 profit a trip,doing 12 trips a year would net $16,500 a year...spending $26k ($2200 x 12) on gas.

    Brew alcohol and mix 50% with gas-get the fuel costs down to $13k,maybe net about $29k a year.

    If you run purely off alcohol and keep fuel costs next to nil and run 12 loads,you'd make about $40k a year which must be an absolute fortune.


    Or depending on how far you want to go:"Downstream revenue: 9 tons x US$200 = US$1800"
    So ditch the upstream portion as it takes the time and fuel,hire guys to build semi-disposable barges to float down and sell at the end,fly/ride abus/train back and do 3 runs a month. Or hire guys to float down with you and do 3 floats at a time.

    I guess your corpse would end up floating down the river if you did this though...
     
  14. Angélique
    Joined: Feb 2009
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    Location: Belgium ⇄ The Netherlands

    Angélique aka Angel (only by name)

    This . . . is certainly possible . . . . :eek:

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    click for source


    ‘‘ Trekkers on the Yangtze River put the long ropes over their shoulders pull the boat upstream. It is really a team work, if somebody doesn't care, they would be dragged by the boat. ’’


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    click for source


    ‘‘ Daning River. Misty Gorge also named iron coffin gorge, famous by the rare rocks on river bank and the black suspended coffin on the high cliff. ’’


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    click for source



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    [​IMG] Shennong Stream at the North shore of BaDong County of China.

    ‘‘ Shennong river is located at North shore of BaDong County of China. It is originated from primitive forest and is as long as 60 kilometers. It flows through BaDong County and joins Yangzi River at WuXia entrance. Shennong river is a typical valley stream. Along the river are high-rise cliffs, some places as narrow as 7 meters between the cliffs. The river water is crystal clear with visible colorful pepples on the river bed. The river is shallow about one foot deep but swift. It is ideal for drifting, full of excitement, adventure but a safe trip. Because of the river condition, the boat is made flat with special wood which is light and strong. The boat is shaped like a half pea. Every boat needs 6 or 7 men to maneuver who sometimes row the boat, sometimes carry the boat with ropes on their shoulders. They are barge haulers. In winter, they wear some clothes, but in summer, they may walk in the river and carry the boat without any clothes. It is difficult to walk in the river bed to carry a boat full of merchandize or tourists with clothes on. When the clothes are wet, it may cut their skin. People understand the need for this, so there is no dirty thought about it. It becomes a beauty for the scenery. The scenes along the river are heavenly beautiful. Shennong river boat tour is very famous and is rated as AAAA tour in China. I highly recommend visiting this place in your life time.

    All the pictures are taken from internet to show the beauty of this tour. Credit goes to the internet.

    The song is about the love between a barge hauler and a girl. It is one of the most famous songs in China.
    ’’


    [​IMG] Hubei Three Gorges trackers.

    ‘‘ Old Shennongxi due to impassable roads, logistics thanks to the waterways, trackers all day long soak in the river, wearing clothes work inconvenient, homespun clothes at that time are their own organizations, once wet it is easy to paste in the body, skin mill broken, and therefore a lot of the trackers simply naked tow. ’’ (is a Google translation of the video link)

    This was earlier posted here.

    Cheers,
    Angel
     

  15. Angélique
    Joined: Feb 2009
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    Location: Belgium ⇄ The Netherlands

    Angélique aka Angel (only by name)

    Oh, I guess this is too hard for horses and mules . . . or people were cheaper at that time in China . . . . . :confused:

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    ‘‘ The naked boat pullers

    This article is actually about a special genre of traditional boat pullers.

    When you think that things have changed for the better, there is always a surprise via unexpected email. The email I received showed the authentic traditional naked boat pullers, including a woman. Unbelievable! It is heart-wrenching to view these photos. I don’t know where they came from; but I can safely say that these photos are definitely not from the Shennong Stream! I have to leave out the naked photos as not to violate the terms and conditions of Hubpages and Google Adsense; but believe me, they really carried out their unenviable task naked, including one woman! How people have to endure to earn a decent living!

    This is life; some are lucky, some are not.

    The photos speak for themselves.
    ’’

    Cheers,
    Angel
     
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