First of all, let me remind all that I used to work full-time on boats. I drove them as captain, crewed them as deck crew. Passenger, cargo, cargo-passenger -- did it all.
But I didn't get to see an awful lot of real sea. There is plenty of work right here in good ol' Puget Sound. I seldom worked more than a few miles from shore.
I have long dreamed of the tramp's life, a self-contained existance on a boat, mostly, putting about infinitely. Too much Melville, London, and Conrad. Way too much Hayden
. The problem, of course, is that to enjoy life, one must pay for the boat. Boats are expensive, little more than Large Holes in the Water Into Which You Throw Money. One definition for "boat:" acronym for "b
housand." And that's the situation for yesterday's boater. Factor in one of the biggest cost of boating (outside of moorage and repair), fuel, and today's prices make just bumping around a game for the wealthy.
Oh, and if you think fuel is expensive, price sails. Damn. . . .
No worries. I have a bit of experience with electric vehicles. It's not brain surgery to swap out a smokin' engine and fit a diminuative motor. Most boats use gensets for power very poorly, running almost full out to keep the television glowing. Very wasteful. It's far more efficient to run the genset only occassionally to charge batteries (the larger the bank the better -- think ballast) and to convert that direct current source to alternating as needed with an inverter. Boaters often suppliment the genset power with solar panels and small wind turbines. Depending upon useage, the gensets can go days without running. Connect the battery pack to a motor through a controller, and away you go!
The last type of boat I drove professionally
In fact, one can get quite a bit of mileage out of low-speed electrics. At the University of Washington, the Department of Intercollegic Athletics hired me for a few years to shuttle
folks visiting Husky and Seahawks games from the anchorage in Union Bay (yes, that's where the jeans maker got it's name) to Husky Stadium. Most recently they have used Duffy
electric boats for the shuttling. In a bay with a strictly enforced 7 knot speed limit (8 mph, for you lubbers), speed is not a priority. We operated those shuttles for 10 hours straight sometimes.
Hey, it beat working.
Bugdet cutbacks have ended that particular boating gig for me, sadly. There are others on the horizon.
Ah, but let's get back to the tramp's dream. I lately read two articles in rapid succession.
In the first, scientists develop portable generator that turns trash into electricity
. It's a nifty gadget that converts old food, wrappers and (of special interest here) plastic waste into electricity, providing". . . approximately 90 percent more energy than it consumed" to perform the task. Essentially, it eats the stuff you can't, making power.
Such a gizmo has limited use (given the purchase cost) in a Seattle home with weekly trash and plastic recycling pick-up, and really cheap electric power. It might, however, serve well on a largish boat with electric drive. . . provided one could find a good source of plastic floating trash. It is in abundance here in the Sound, sadly. But with shores and rocks and winds and other boats, one would have a less than peaceful drift collecting it. I've done this, but that's a story for another post.
No, what you would need would be a large, open ocean with relatively moderate weather about a gazillion miles from freakin' anybody, all stockpiled with lots o' flotsam.
Folks, let me introduce you to the North Pacific subtropical gyre
, a whirling cesspool of plastic inorganics clogging the middle of the Pacific. Winds and currents circling the Ring of Fire carry our bobbing waste to a vast dead zone filled with trash:
I did a quick calculation, estimating the debris at half a pound for every hundred square meters of sea surface. Multiplied by the circular area defined by our roughly thousand-mile course through the gyre, the weight of the debris was about 3 million tons, comparable to a year’s deposition at Puente Hills, Los Angeles’s largest landfill.3 million tons of trash
. Or, with the converter device, millions of tons of power
The ocean could use less of this plastic trash;
and I could use the power.Phase One
: Buy a large, beat-up but seaworthy boat, maybe even a power barge for deck space and stability. Equip with electric drives, a couple of good gensets, lots of bulletproof batteries.Phase Two
: Get one of those plastic-to-power converter devices. Make up some story about testing the thing in a marine environment, or working tirelessly to rid the oceans of trash. There must be some grant money out there for either cock-and-bull story.Phase Three
: Take time off work. Stock up on lots of food. Drift in the gyre, dipping nets, hooks and pikepoles to power your seclusion. Do lots of fishing, grilling it on an electric outdoor grill.
Forget what people look like, if only for a while.