I wanted to put down some key ideas as we start thinking about building a boat large enough to live on. I think after we finish the 2 person version with the red plastic floats we will next focus on the design for one large enough to live on. This will be an all aluminum design. This may be large enough after 2 or 3 are connected together or large enough as one unit. Not yet sure what the size will be.
1) The design will be solar-electric. This makes operating costs low. No need to buy fuel. It makes repairs few and easy. Electric motors and solar panels are very reliable. It makes it reasonable to have high levels of redundancy to where the boat is still safe even if something breaks. It makes computer control easy. It will be slow and quiet. Unlike sail you will not need lots of knowledge and skill to operate with reasonable safety. We could have a small generator to be used in case of too many cloudy days in a row but would not have any gasoline engines directly connected to propellers.
2) If you are going slow and don't have a sail to help stabilize the boat then stability is an issue. We think the Quadmaran design is a good way to address the stability issue for a slow moving boat. This also means that the boat will be particularly stable while at a mooring. Most boats really spend most of their time parked.
3) We want unusually high levels of redundancy, which we think solar/electric makes easier. We will probably use 4 sets of motor/propeller and have a spare onboard. The boat should be able to operate well enough with at least one working motor/propeller on each side. The solar and battery will be separated into 4 units so that damage to one would at most take out one motor. Individual solar panels could also be replaced, though they don't seem to fail often.
4) We want to be able to connect several boats together as a train. This will make it possible to create a larger space by simply connecting some boats together. It will make it possible for a few families to travel together with only one person on watch. It will make working together on a project with other people possible. It will make buying/selling/trading while in the ocean easier. You could have a community of people traveling together. There could be a doctor, a hydroponics boat, some canned goods store, etc. Also note that several boats connected together can make for even more redundancy and fault tolerance. If a watermaker broke on one boat you could run a hose from another, etc.
5) This boat will be fine for moorings and anchorages but not so good for marinas. It will take up lots of space which is costly in a marina. In the Caribbean moorings and anchorages are common but in very populated cities around the US coast marinas seem to be the norm. It is ok if we are limited to markets like the Caribbean.
6) We feel that current sail and powerboats, on average, appeal much more to men than women. We think this is partly because existing sail and powerboats have some thrill, challenge, adventure, and camping characteristics that appeal more to men than women. We would like this boat to appeal more to women than the average boat. We want the boat to feel safe, secure, calm, and like a home. We want the usual comforts found in any middle class American home. Things like hot water, dish washer, washing machine, dryer, full size sink, full sized kitchen, no hot pots sliding off the stove, toilette that operates with a simple flush lever, king sized bed, plenty of closet space, plenty of water, etc. At least the master-bedroom should have air-conditioning. It should not be "roughing it" like camping. The chances of getting hurt by ropes or metal object on this boat should be very low. Regular boats draw blood far too often.
7) We would like to have plenty of space but easily operated by a family with no need to hire a crew. Today it is too often that people get a boat smaller than they would really like so that they can operate it themselves. This boat should be large enough and still easy to operate.
8) In order to get lots of solar we probably want solar panels that extend off to the sides. These can have a support bar like Caribbean shutters so that if high winds are a danger these solar panels can be lowered. To do this we would want to be able to reach all of the support bars. This could be done through windows or a walkway around the outside of the boat.
9) The cost of a boat is roughly proportional to the weight but homes are valued by the square-footage. We want this boat to have lots of square-footage for the weight compared to other boats. We think this Quadmaran design can excel in this metric. If we can offer more space than other boats in our price range it should give us at least a niche where we have the advantage.
10) This boat will be slower than most other boats. The propellers will be very large to get the best thrust out of the smaller Hp engines we can power with solar. The hope is that it feels like a comfortable home when in a harbor and also while moving on the ocean so that passages are pleasant and not something that must be tolerated.
11) When possible the design will keep heavy things near the corners of the boat. This will give the boat more rotational inertia and help minimize tipping. In particular the batteries will be distributed around the corners with 1/4 of the weight near each corner.
12) We would like this to be priced low enough that a large number of people could just sell their house and use the money to buy this boat. Probably have several models starting at the smaller end and later making larger versions. We don't need too many different versions since you will always have the option of adding on other units to give you more space. So the size steps may be large.
13) All 4 floats should be filled with foam and enough nooks and crannies in the living area that there is no way this boat could sink. I think if there was enough foam above the ceiling in the living area the boat could even have a chance to recover if it were tipped. I think the boat should be very hard to tip. There is no sail for the wind to push on. A wave from the side can not make the side go up nearly as fast as in a catamaran and cruising catamarans, even with sails, hardly every tip.
14) Using a dishing machine the two halves of a float can be made quickly.
15) There are several reasons why a tube shaped body seems interesting. It would be aerodynamic for the volume. Sort of like an airplane body. It would not catch more wind from the side if it started to tip (assuming any folding solar panels were folded down). If a wave hit the bottom it could be strong enough and it would not pound like some catamarans. If it is corrugated it will hold the round shape well and attaching metal running the length of it can reinforce the tube for stresses going along the length. The tube could act like a giant beam for the forces of connecting boats together. It could also handle twisting forces if the front two floats were trying to roll the boat left and the back two floats were trying to roll the boat right. Also, it seems simple to fabricate. Fewer different part types. Easier to eventually get a robot to weld.
16) Older retired couples are a good potential market. If they are retired and their kids are grown they really can sell their house and buy a boat. However, they probably don't have much income so buying fuel for a powerboat is not easy and getting older it can be hard to handle a sailboat. Something new like the Quadmaran could serve them better. Many older couples would like a safe boat, with a gentle ride, that they could manage on their own, and did not require fuel. So I think there is a sizable market niche with money.
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