Sustainable Design Challenge

Discussion in 'Sailboats' started by MRC Design, Sep 28, 2004.

  1. lukeschuette
    Joined: Jun 2011
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    lukeschuette New Member

    Sustainable Materials

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  2. whitepointer23

    whitepointer23 Previous Member

    as someone mentioned on another thread, why not include renovating old existing boats. surely this is very friendly to the planet. there are millions of old vessels around the globe that are waiting for a second life. i think fibreglass is not as bad as people think. a good glass hull can last for decades. there is a big movement in eco friendly housing which makes use of existing buildings which are being refurbished into eco friendly accomodation instead of demolishing and building with new materials. i would rather rebuild an old glass boat any day than have some busted arse wooden contraption held together by plant fibers and luck.
  3. timothy22
    Joined: Feb 2008
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    timothy22 Junior Member

    On the pepper in bottom paint issue- I used to work in a boatyard in South Florida. Several owners and captains specified cayenne pepper in their bottom paint. They had to haul, scrub and paint as often as everyone else.
    Last edited: Jul 1, 2011
  4. sharpii2
    Joined: May 2004
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    Location: Michigan, USA

    sharpii2 Senior Member


    That's a weasel word if I ever heard one.

    Especially when it comes to boats.

    The most sustainable construction would be a reed boat such as RA built by Thor Heyerdhal in the 1970's. It was a bunch of papyrus reeds bundled together with a sail tacked on. It was a use once, throw away boat. The reeds soaked up water and there was no way to dry them. Ra did sail across the Atlantic.

    Another boat I remember was a catamaran built out of a wooden structure covered with tarred paper. It too crossed an ocean, IIRC.

    I see two environmental approaches to boat design and construction:

    1.) make it cheap and disposable out of material that will easily be absorbed by the environment, or

    2.) make it strong and durable, so it will only have to be built once a century or more.

    Both approaches seem to me to be just as kind to the environment, with the second being kind to the owner as well.

    Who wants to spend hundreds if not thousands of hours building something that will come apart in a year or two. Especially if one has to use some toxic substances to build it no matter what.

    The Bristol Cutter may end up a better deal than it appears. Its heavy wooden, lay up, or steel construction will never wear out, if properly maintained. Heavy construction does not 'work' as much, and it arguably suffers less shock loads than lighter structure and displacement. There are some Bristol Cutters out there that are over 100 years old. They may have lasted long enough for the hardwood lumber they were made of to grow back.

    Even wood is not sustainable, if it is used faster than it can replace itself.
    This leaves you with a Devil's dilemma. Use toxic materials to make the wood structure last longer, or risk denuding the forests constantly replacing it as it rots away.

    A glass fiber boat, some of which have been around for almost half a century, is made up of arguably toxic, non replaceable materials, but does not rot and needs no toxic fungicides to keep it going. Just bottom paint and a good coat of wax two or three times a season, as long as it is stiff enough to not flex excessively in a seaway.

    A metal boat can be just a durable or even more so. If it is made out of 'grey iron', it corrodes very little and could last over a century. There are some of those that have already passed their hundredth birthday.

    Even mild steel, if properly constructed and looked after could last almost forever. So can aluminum. So can ferrocement.

    I don't see pretending to go back to the stone age as being necessarily environmentally friendly.

    Finding a balance between our needs and wants and those of the rest creatures on this planet will not be done with bumper sticker slogans and simple answers. Some industrial processes, such as making durable metals, plastics, and lumber products may be kinder to the environment than the alternative.

    Take chip board, for example. Made of wood chips that would otherwise be used as fuel or landfill, now is made into to floors and roofs that would have consumed average or high quality lumber.

    What we really need now is awareness that there are limits to how much we can expect to extract from nature.

    Perhaps fixing up an old boat, no matter what material its made of, is better than building a new one.

  5. CaptBill
    Joined: Jan 2010
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    CaptBill CaptBill

    Need to go back with old school hemp but with modern processing and develop a hemp based fiberglass, epoxies, and paints. Hemp fibre is strong, light, and rot resistant (it literally repels bugs/organisms like a citronella candle) Also titanium powder/filler is plentiful and surprisingly cheap.

    Spray on titanium/hemp composite hull anyone?
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