Top innovations in boat design/equipment?

Discussion in 'Boat Design' started by meblom, Oct 17, 2011.

  1. meblom
    Joined: Sep 2011
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    meblom Junior Member

    Electronics (via the microprocessor) have literally changed everything about cruising, and navigation in general. While this might be a touch of hyperbole, it likely won't be long until a delivery captain running the snow bird route can plug a thumb drive into his delivery du jour, and have the boat essentially run itself from Saginaw, down the river, through the Tenn-Tom, and into the Gulf.

    The obvious caveat is the need for human control, and the need to navigate the multiple locks along the way, but once the complete river/lake systems are charted (most of them already are), it wouldn't be a stretch to say that you could make that run as effortlessly as you can cross from the Panhandle to Tampa Bay...
  2. philSweet
    Joined: May 2008
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    philSweet Senior Member

    What has changed in the last 500 years? Most of the fish are gone and the cost of energy has varied, but the oceans and seas are pretty much the same. What has pressured change? There is the perception that navigation has changed in a fundamental way, but for most of us we learn our area an use our senses most of the time. Freshwater makers probably deserve mention. Refrigeration equipment. Communications. Weather forecasting. Plastic tubs, baskets and buckets are neat. If you sent me back 50 years, I'd manage ok since I learned on stuff that is now fifty years old. If you sent me back 100 years I'd still do ok. I'd miss the Zip Loc bags the most.

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  3. High Tacker
    Joined: Oct 2011
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    High Tacker Junior Member

    High Tacker

    The single greatest development in sailing, and motorsailing, in two centuries has happened in the past few decades

    All the things mentioned so far in this thread are very significant, but as far as sailing is concerned, I have to agree with what Michael Pierzga said, above in this thread, about roller furling, and I will add that roller furling/reliable roller reefing constitute THE single greatest fundamental development in sailing in the past couple of centuries.

    This thread started off about powerboating, but I don't think I'm stretching it too far to include motorsailers, which are powered by motors AND sails.

    At any rate, the three examples I give at the bottom of this are all motor sailers, as much motor as sail and vice versa. ALL their sails furl, and those flat-cut furling sails lend themselves to motorsailing far better than did their built-in camber forebears. And the sails, because they are so effective, and easy and safe to handle, get used for motorsailing just as much as, if not more than for just plain sailing.

    Other than having a sail or two or three, and some kind of a mast or two to hold them up, and some kind of a keel/hydrofoil or whatever in the water to keep from getting blown sideways, and a motor for when there's no wind and for maneuvering, the other ONE single thing that most sailboats, and motorsailers, now have in common is at least one furling sail. Whether a boat is an old wooden one or the most modern, whether it has a motor or not, or any electronics, it is very unusual if it does NOT have a furling sail. And most substantial off-shore cruising sailboats have at least two furling sails, as well as a big motor, or two.

    A great many cruisers, especially middle-aged couples out for a holiday cruise, now very seldom use their mainsails. If they HAVE to go to windward, they motor, or motorsail with just a jib or staysail. Or they wait at anchor for a fair wind and then sail with the big furling jib.

    You can take the attitude that the furling sail has made people lazy. Or, you can realize that it has made sailing much more relaxing and fun, and as Michael Pierzga put it, "accessible" to a great many people.

    And it's not just another labor-saving mod convenience. Let's not forget safety. You can add or reduce sail without having to round up into the wind and without leaving the safety of the cockpit. You can do it manually or just by pressing a button.

    I have an elderly neighbor who lives aboard and still cruises, long distances, in his big steel ketch. Recently he was gazing dreamily at my rig with all furling sails, 4 of them, including a boomless, furling mainsail, and he said, "You know, I think I'll break down and get myself a furling mainsail. I haven't used my mainsail in about 10 years. What the hell! maybe a furling mizzen, too!"

    Greenpeace's new 840 ton Rainbow Warrior III, just launched this July, with two 50-meter A-frame masts, has all furling sails, 5 of them. See photos below and some sailing scenes about 1 min. into this video:

    And see her motoring, under diesel/electric power, with all sails furled, in this one:

    The SMG 50 catamaran NumberOne has an A-frame mast, a furling genoa, a furling staysail and a boomless furling mainsail, and came in first of 100 substantial boats racing in the Adriatic in 2009, beating a number of other big cats and proving her upwind ability by tacking better than big, fast monohulls. See photos below and more details and video at:

    The Malcolm Tennant designed 63-ft. catamaran motorsailer, Catbird Suite, has A-frame mast and 4 furling sails (a genoa on each bow, a staysail, and a boomless main). See photos below and more detail at

    (The photos are in my next post.)
    Last edited: Oct 23, 2011
  4. High Tacker
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    High Tacker Junior Member

    High Tacker

    Photos to accompany the preceding post:

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  5. tom28571
    Joined: Dec 2001
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    tom28571 Senior Member

    If you look at the ownership and maintenance of a boat (sail or power) today versus 60 years ago, the one thing that revolutionized them and filled the marinas is fiberglass. In sailboats, beyond FG, the one thing that stands out is synthetic sails. In the design of powerboats, it is probably the deep V and lighter weight hulls and engines. Much of the other things mentioned other than reefing gear are mostly for the fringes and don't affect the average boat. Most advances are in manufacturing and don't do much for the performance of the boat. In wooden boats it is probably epoxy and composite construction which mirrors fiberglass for commercial production.
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