Sustainable Living at Sea

Discussion in 'Boat Design' started by Jamie Kennedy, Mar 25, 2016.

  1. Jamie Kennedy
    Joined: Jun 2015
    Posts: 541
    Likes: 10, Points: 0, Legacy Rep: 117
    Location: Saint John New Brunswick

    Jamie Kennedy Senior Member

    Including the initial cost or environmental footprint of the vessel itself, what are some good design concepts and ideas for a singlehanded, or family sized vessel for remaining a sea for long periods of time as autonomously as possible, and at minimal ongoing costs and environmental upkeep?

    Re-using existing boats is a fair option. Contessa 26 as an example. If a hull was to be built from scratch, what is the most sustainable material? Same idea of spars, standing rigging, running rigging, and sails. If a sail or spar needs to be replaced, and you might be in a remote location, what are some better options? Are smaller rigs, or divided rigs like a schooner rig, preferable? Is it possible to be independent of boatyards? Would it be better to have one keel or two, or no keel at all?

    Regarding energy systems. If electricity can be generated, is the most sustainable solution wind, solar, or a combination? What are the most sustainable batteries? What should electricity be used for? Lighting? Electronics? Desalination? Hot water? Cooling or Refrigeration? Ventilation and Air conditioning? Auxilliary power in calm seas or light winds? What are the minimal requirement?

    Could you brew and distill your own alcohol, for medicinal purposes of course?

    Are there opportunities for food production, if only for certain vitamins and minerals? Are there opportunities to recycle and human or food waste? What parts of the ocean are available at different times of the year for harvesting fish or birds or vegetation?

    What are the most sustainable strategies for anti-fouling?
    Is any of that stuff edible? ;-)

    How much mobility is required, to avoid storms, to migrate from one season to the next, to avoid pirates, or changing politics, to obtain non-emergency medical treatment, to have more flexibility in terms of where to go to when you need to go somewhere for something or other, or simply for a change of scenery?

    How much space is needed? The smallest birds often travel the farthest.

    Who wants to be stuck in a bio-dome when you can go sailing?
    Why should Arctic Terns and Albatrosses have all the fun?
    Crazy little buggers.

  2. gonzo
    Joined: Aug 2002
    Posts: 16,238
    Likes: 1,370, Points: 123, Legacy Rep: 2031
    Location: Milwaukee, WI

    gonzo Senior Member

    Delete hot water, refrigeration and air conditioning if you are thinking of a low carbon footprint. Your best bet is to get on a boat and go out sailing for a considerable amount of time and see if you still like it. Stay at sea for a couple of weeks, don't need any destination, just sail in circles far enough offshore to lose sight of land.
  3. Jamie Kennedy
    Joined: Jun 2015
    Posts: 541
    Likes: 10, Points: 0, Legacy Rep: 117
    Location: Saint John New Brunswick

    Jamie Kennedy Senior Member

    Makes sense to delete hot water, other than for tea. Same with refrigeration and air conditioning. Not needed. In the tropics, maybe a little forced ventilation on windless days. I like what Roger Taylor does up North. He just exposes the back of his icebox to a non-insulated section of the hull. I agree, that the best way to investigate sustainable living in one form or another, is to live it. Folks like Roger Taylor and Webb Chiles, and countless others, are great inspiration. I think Roger limits himself to 100 days or so. Webb Chiles seems to go for longer trips, but takes a lot of time in between. Both do their fair share of writing and photography or videography, but are not too dependant on it. Both do a great job of keeping their costs down. Fun stuff to think about, but I think the best place to think about it is out while doing it, even if just for a weekend, or a week or two. Hope to do so soon. Cheers Gonzo.
  4. GTO
    Joined: Jul 2007
    Posts: 143
    Likes: 9, Points: 18, Legacy Rep: 101
    Location: Alabama

    GTO Senior Member

    If someone wants to live a long life at sea, in a sustainable fashion, I think researching any time period predating the 1800s time frame would be worth while.
    Reading of crews pulling boats into lagoons/natural harbors and virtually rebuilding their boats from local resources is very interesting.
    My opinion is that modern people really don't understand the extent of the lifestyle change necessary for a real self-sustaining way of life.
    My grandparent's families had animals for food and clothing, crops for money making and clothing, crops for making it through winter without starving - just hundreds of little things we don't even think of now.
    Tools are very important to be able to repair or rebuild things onboard too.
    Seems like this topic would be worth a book or two.
  5. Jamie Kennedy
    Joined: Jun 2015
    Posts: 541
    Likes: 10, Points: 0, Legacy Rep: 117
    Location: Saint John New Brunswick

    Jamie Kennedy Senior Member

    Very good points GTO. That also adds to interest and aesthetic I think, which I believe is an important component of sustainability. Life needs to be interesting, and beautiful, especially if it needs to be a struggle.
  6. rwatson
    Joined: Aug 2007
    Posts: 5,901
    Likes: 313, Points: 83, Legacy Rep: 1749
    Location: Tasmania,Australia

    rwatson Senior Member

    The other books to read about it would include "The Kon Tiki Expedition", and 3 or 4 "survival at sea" stories about people who had to spend a long time at sea.
  7. Rurudyne
    Joined: Mar 2014
    Posts: 1,170
    Likes: 40, Points: 48, Legacy Rep: 155
    Location: North Texas

    Rurudyne Senior Member

    There's a very interesting portable workbench, for holding pieces, called by some a "Milkman's Workbench" that would be well suited as a starting point for something to being carried on a boat.
    Joined: Oct 2002
    Posts: 4,519
    Likes: 111, Points: 63, Legacy Rep: 1009
    Location: Conn in summers , Ortona FL in winter , with big d

    FAST FRED Senior Member

    For cooking the old style pump up Primus can not be beet.

    5 gal of kero or mineral spirits will last a couple 3 meals a day for about a year.

    Less if your oven is not efficient.

    A solar panel and wet cell batt will handle some LED lighting.

    A solar water heater (3gal black plastic bag) will warm shower water and cut down on water needs.

    Many folks have tried sprouting seeds for fresh greens.

    "How much mobility is required, to avoid storms, "

    At sea you WILL be caught out , far better to have a robust vessel and ride it out than dream of running away.

    Most folks chose mild climates so air cond and gensets or furnaces and big fuel sources are not needed.

    Stay in 70F to 80F water and only a great sun awning is required.

    Good luck,
  9. Jamie Kennedy
    Joined: Jun 2015
    Posts: 541
    Likes: 10, Points: 0, Legacy Rep: 117
    Location: Saint John New Brunswick

    Jamie Kennedy Senior Member

    Great practical info. Thanks.
  10. makobuilders
    Joined: Feb 2009
    Posts: 131
    Likes: 4, Points: 18, Legacy Rep: 10
    Location: Atlanta, USA

    makobuilders Member

    Interesting post. But why does being environmentally conscious have to mean staying out at sea? The sea is boring. It's just a thing that has to be crossed to reach the next interesting piece of land.

    Here are some thoughts on low carbon footprint (embodied energy), but this does not mean it is cheaper:
    • Build a boat from a recyclable material (steel or alum) or wood from sustainable forests;
    • Clad the hull from WL down in cupro-nickel plating if you wish to eliminate antifouling;
    • A PV panel has high carbon footprint, but over the long run the free power provided will make up for it and is more "conscientious" than lighting with kerosene;
    • Herbs and spices are easy to grow in small pots;
    • Water capture from the rain utilizing the entire deck;
    • If a sailboat then how about engineless?
    • Manual anchor windlass of course;
    • If a powerboat then efficient and slow;
    • There's no reason to live like an animal - install a solar water panel on your coachroof plumbed to a storage tank. Tiny 12v water pump will keep circulation going.

  11. Chuck Losness
    Joined: Apr 2008
    Posts: 332
    Likes: 43, Points: 28, Legacy Rep: 135
    Location: Central CA

    Chuck Losness Senior Member

    In order to get good answers you need to be more specific about your intentions. It is a different horses for different courses issue. What might be best for northern climates won't work for the tropics. Reading about what the British navy did 200 years ago won't work either. They basically took whatever they wanted and had huge crews to do the work and fight off the natives. The world has changed. Pick where you want to be to do this and then figure out what will work there for the number of people on board. The fewer the people the easier it is to live the low end of the lifestyle. Not many ladies want this lifestyle. That is why most singlehanders are men. There are no easy answers. Just compromises to make. Everything is trade off.
    Good luck
Forum posts represent the experience, opinion, and view of individual users. Boat Design Net does not necessarily endorse nor share the view of each individual post.
When making potentially dangerous or financial decisions, always employ and consult appropriate professionals. Your circumstances or experience may be different.