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Sea Train

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This topic contains 10 replies, has 6 voices, and was last updated by Profile photo of Dervogel707 Dervogel707 4 years, 4 months ago.

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  • #1531
    Profile photo of GenSeneca

    Perhaps this should go in the “Crazy Ideas” section but I’m actually posting this as more of a question….

    I came across this polyethylene hulled, foam filled, dinghy:

    It’s only $400 US, measures 7 ft 1 in X 3.5 ft, weighs just 55 lbs and can handle up to 325 lbs of cargo.

    The first thing I thought about when I saw this was converting it to a floating greenhouse by attaching a clear or translucent superstructure of corrugated plexiglass to the top to keep the interior dry even if temporarily submerged under a wave.

    That much I’m pretty confident can be done…

    What I’m unsure about is the ability to tow things with a sailboat… I’m sure towing capacity depends on many factors, such as the size of the sail boat, but I was curious if you guys knew of any mathematical formulas, or other ways, to calulate towing capacity. If I had a boat that could tow 1000 lbs, could I make a “sea train” of these dinghys and trail 3 of them behind me? Is it even possible to tow a chain of dinghys or do they get tangled and create a mess?

    I’m currenly looking for a sailboat to start my one man (plus dog) stead and the ability to “drag” around more square footage is very appealing, so I’m trying to look at all the options I have available. If there are other options that a landlubber like myself is too green to know about, please inform me!

    Any thoughts or information would be greatly appreciated!

    Profile photo of OCEANOPOLIS

    While cruising (under sail or power), the dinghy is secured on the foredeck or astern on dinghy davits. The reason for that is because in heavy sea it will flip upside down and/or will fill with water, and if its a hardshell will sink. If its an inflatable, even though it won’t sink, the weight of the water in it will create drag and slow you down. There are ways to calculate towing capacity in relation to the size of your engine. I doubt that the greenhouse-in-a dink idea will work. Towing 3 of these dinks filled with soil and a plexiglass top will be a bitch in any seas and it will cost you a lot in extra fueI. Plus, you will need to carry a lot of extra water and how are you gonna water the plants under way? Also, what are you going to plant? 5 tomato plants? To complicated. I’d stick to canned and dry food. IMnot soHO :)

    Profile photo of GenSeneca

    There are ways to calculate towing capacity in relation to the size of your engine. – Oceanopolis

    I’d be using sail power, not an engine, does that make towing more difficult/impossible?

    how are you gonna water the plants under way? – Oceanopolis

    The thought was to drag them to an offshore location then draw them in next to the boat where I could tend to them while we drift.

    what are you going to plant? 5 tomato plants? – Oceanopolis

    That would be 5 more tomato plants than I’d otherwise have available…

    To complicated. I’d stick to canned and dry food. – Oceanopolis

    I’d like to be as self-sufficient as possible. Do you have any suggestions as to how I could maximize production of my own food with the space I have available on the boat? For example, in the main cabin area there are two berths (benches) on either wall with a table in the middle. Would it be possible to utilize one, or both, as a growing area for potted plants? I’m not sure yet, but I think the bench is hollow under the seat cushion, which would make it a good spot to locate the pots. That would leave about 4-5 feet of space above the pots for the plants to grow.

    Profile photo of OCEANOPOLIS

    Towing under sail will be a hard one,….The main reason for that is your sailboat’s hull speed. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hull_speed. When it comes to sailboats (monohulls) their maximum speed is usually their hull speed, determined by their LWL (length of the waterline-see formula). So, the bigger the boat in terms of LOA (length over all) the higher the hull speed since the higher the LWL. Therefore, your towing capacity under sail is directly proportional to the size of your boat,… and the size of your wallet. :) The bigger the boat, the more expensive it is. Also, keep in mind that a sailboat’s hull speed is irrespective of the size of the engine or how strong the wind blows. For example, a sailboat with a 30′ LWL (around 33′ LOA) will have a maximum speed of around 7.34 knts (plus or minus 20% depending on your keel configuration), no matter under power or sail, no matter if you will put a 200 HP or your regular 30 HP outboard on the transom, and no matter if the wind is blowing 10 knts or 70 knts. http://www.sailingusa.info/cal__hull_speed.htm Such sailboat, towing 3 of those greenhouses-in-a-dink, will not make more then 3 knts, max speed. On my 26′ sailboat with a hull speed of 6.83 knts, I was loosing 1 knot of speed everytime I was towing my 6′ inflatable dinghy behind me. And that was an inflatable (3 times lighter then a hardshell for the same length) and empty. You will be sailing very slow, my friend, unless you can buy an 80 footer.

    If you are stationary (drifting) it might work,…

    Growing plants in the cabin,…I don’t know about that. In a 30 ft sailboat you’ll have about 200sq.ft of living space. You have to live there, store gear, food,…It is tight if you are not used to it, specially coming from a “normal” size, let’s say1 bedroom apartament,…How much food can you grow, how fast, and how much self-sufficiency you gonna get for the space your using? If tomatoes (lets say;) maybe 20 per plant in 3 month? Thet ain’t much @ all….You would need @ least an 80 footer to grow inside.

    If you have a 30′ sailboat and want some self-sufficiency, use the “extra” space on the boat smartly and just take few people out sailing and snorkling to the reef, couple of time a week. That will put @ least $200 in your pocket per week. In general, I view self-sufficiency on a seastead (specially a small, start up one) as the ability to make money in order to buy food, fuel, etc, and not as the ability to grow your own food. On a big seastead, it’s a different story. Some aquaponics will do nice, even though they won’t cover to much of the food demand,…The best crop on a seastead will be pot, IMHO.

    Profile photo of GenSeneca

    Towing under sail will be a hard one. – Ocean

    Excellent information and thank you very much for the links… I’ll look through them when I get home from work tonight.

    If you have a 30′ sailboat and want some self-sufficiency, use the “extra” space on the boat smartly and just take few people out sailing and snorkling to the reef, couple of time a week. That will put @ least $200 in your pocket per week. – Ocean

    You’ve been very helpful, thanks again.

    Profile photo of

    I would reccommend picking up a copy of The Urban Homestead. Its more of an introductory book into the idea of small-space self sufficiency, and there are a number of practices within that would not be easy to directly translate onto a sail-boat, but it is packed full of great ideas, and will help you start thingking in the right direction and lead you to other deeper sources. The one particular idea relevent here that I think would work great in this particular sense would be the self-watering container (SWC). Using some Plexy glass and some good epoxy, you could design and build a long, narrow SWC that you could mold against a wall or walls, and would allow you to grow some basic plants extremely hassel free

    I’d personnally say a lettuce family plant would be great, since you can grow them rather compactly at first (baby-lettuce) and the flavor is HUGELY better than store iceberg lettuce, and as the crop grows and they need more space for each plant, you can fill the spaces with baby carrots and green onions and other such “compact” crops. Also, you can find varieties of beans and tomatos that behave quite well in enclosed spaces and wont try to climb your walls or take over the whole gardening space you give yourself.

    LOTS of great books on the subject of self-sufficiency. You know, we could even, amongst ourselves, begin compiling sources for basic skills and techniques that would be great for anyone living aboard a boat, from basic wood-work repairs, to tiny gardening, to non-toxic cleaners, and beyond. Even if we just use it amongs ourselves, it would be a great resource.

    Profile photo of i_is_j_smith

    Perhaps rather than drag your greenhouse, you could attach an outrigger to your boat and use that as garden space?


    You could even put one on each side. The added stability will make up for the extra drag, and if built big enough and with a clear top it should give you plenty of growing area.

    Just a thought…

    Profile photo of GenSeneca

    …you can fill the spaces with baby carrots and green onions and other such “compact” crops. – Emmet

    Good plan… I learned about dwarf fruit and nut trees while doing research for my SS concept and I’d need to look into them again. I’d really like to find a fruit or nut tree that I can keep pruned back to a diameter of roughly 3′ and have a max height of 5-6′.

    You know, we could even, amongst ourselves, begin compiling sources for basic skills and techniques that would be great for anyone living aboard a boat, from basic wood-work repairs, to tiny gardening, to non-toxic cleaners, and beyond. – Emmet

    That would be a great resource… and it would cut back on all the silly questions I have. Please do create such a thread.

    Perhaps rather than drag your greenhouse, you could attach an outrigger to your boat and use that as garden space? – Smith

    I haven’t decide whether I’m going to buy a single hull or a trimaran. I’m leaning toward single hull because the cabins are more spacious. I’ll have to do a little research to see if it would be practical to turn a single hull into a trimaran with greenhouse pods on the side… I’m guessing not, it would probably cost as much as the boat itself but I’ll crunch the numbers to get specifics.

    Profile photo of GenSeneca

    I came across this Q&A article where the author of Fresh Food From Small Spaces: The Square-Inch Gardener’s Guide to Year-Round Growing, Fermenting, and Sprouting, discusses some of the things he talks about in his book.

    Here is some of what he had to say:

    You can grow nutritious sprouts on a counter top, salad greens on a windowsill, dwarf fruit trees on a patio, tomatoes on a balcony, and much more. Most vegetables, and even fruit trees and berry bushes, can thrive when grown in containers. Indoors, try mushrooms, sprouts, and fermented cultures such as yogurt, kefir, kombucha, sauerkraut, and kimchi.

    For a survivalist crop, nothing beats potatoes… Spuds pack more calories per square foot of soil than any other crop. They can grow in most climates and in most soils (even poor soils). You can store them for months at a time… They are quite prolific and hard to kill, so be creative… Do not use a high nitrogen fertilizer, as this will make the plant grow too vigorously at the expense of the roots and tubers (the edible part). Look for an organic fertilizer with an “N-P-K” number where the “N” is no higher than the “P” or “K”. Most fertilizers for acid plants (azaleas, rhododendrons, etc.) and bulb fertilizers (if the nitrogen is not too high) will work very well for potatoes. Fish emulsion + kelp extract is a nice combination too.

    Most first-time gardeners want to grow tomatoes. This is another good choice for a first-time crop. Like their spud relatives, tomatoes are amazingly productive in the home garden… With just 2-3 plants, you may well have enough tomatoes for the whole family and even some left over for drying, canning, giving away, or selling. Where light is limited or in cool summer areas, try the smaller-fruited tomatoes such as cherry, plum, and even Roma tomatoes.

    I took it upon myself to edit the text as an abridged version of his relevant comments. Potatoes do go well with fish! Fish emulsion + Kelp extract is good potatoe fertalizer? I think we might be able to find those ingredients somewhere near a seastead.

    Also think we have a winner for a fruit tree… From,

    Five Incredible Edible Plants to Grow Indoors

    Sure to impress your family and friends, you can grow your own bananas.

    The Musa banana plant is small enough to be grown indoors, it produces fruit then dies, but leaves you will have new plants growing for the future. Banana plants do not like direct sunlight but require several hours of indirect light. They can be set outside in the summer, again provided they are protected from the sunlight.

    I’m glad the following article answered the title question with actual numbers…

    What Are the Fastest Growing Indoor Food Plants?

    Salad Greens

    Maturing in only 21 to 30 days, salad greens are the fastest-growing vegetable you can find. Choose a mix of arugula, bibb, oak leaf, chicory, or red leaf. Because lettuces thrive in cool weather, they do well indoors and require less light than other vegetables. Plant the seeds or seedlings in loose, rich soil and add small amounts of fertilizers every two weeks. As you cut leaves, the plants will continue to produce and you can have fresh salads just steps away from the kitchen.


    Like salad greens, spinach is a cool-weather crop that prefers some shade and cool temperatures. It matures in 40 to 60 days, but you can begin harvesting small leaves and thinning plants in about 30 days. Plant spinach plants 6 inches apart in rich, but well-draining soil, and water regularly. To harvest spinach, cut individual outer leaves with scissors. The plant will continue to produce leaves from the center.


    Frequently cited as one of the fastest growing vegetables, maturing in 25 to 60 days, radishes are a popular choice. However, Marian Morash, noted grower and author of “The Victory Garden Cookbook,” says that they are not foolproof. She advises that radishes need six hours of sun daily in order to produce radish bulbs instead of just leafy tops. Give radishes fertilizer every two weeks and plenty of water in a well-draining soil. Morash stores the greens and the roots separately and adds the radish leaves to soups and stews, in addition to using the radishes themselves.


    Like radishes, beans are also cited as one of the best vegetable crops for home gardeners. Bush beans mature in 50 to 60 days and are a better choice for indoor gardening than pole beans, since they take up less space. Beans do need plenty of sun and good air circulation, so be sure to leave adequate space between plants. Plant beans in sandy, rich soil and water regularly. Give the beans a dose of fertilizer every two weeks.

    While I can’t say I’m a fan of radishes, they certainly deserve their place in line for their fast growth and ability to be grown indoors. I didn’t realize that spinach grew so fast, big fan of spinach, good alternative source of calcium too. Salad greens certainly do grow fast but require ranch dressing before I consider them edible.

    I’ll post more info as I find it…

    Profile photo of wesley_Bruce

    I’ve been playing with something like this since before the institute was formed. See appliedimpossibilies.blogspot.com/2010/03/green-dragon-boats.html

    Put the farms on lits of little boats so you can have a smaller sea stead for people to live on. These boat are wave powered and robotic. In the face of a storm they scater. When the storms over they wander home under GPS guidence. Moor two or three together to form a stable platform when its time to sow ans harvest. Some could be used to store stuff: food, fuel, the spare furnature, as well.

    They can also be used as tugs to pull buoys and flouting stuff around. Such as all of these floating ponds, leisure wharves, algae bladders, and in the distance, spherical fish farms and an up-welling pump. They all could be robotic in various ways. Note the dragon boat on the right. Everything’s at Second Life look up Wesley Farspire. That’s my avatar there.

    For everyone’s information I was involved with the original Oceania Project in a small way. I’m also in several space organisations. And I have a Degree in sustainable Development, sustainable agriculture and renewable energy,water and sewerage.

    Profile photo of Dervogel707

    Well, I like most of these boat garden type ideas. We will definetly need them to grow our own food. I plan have a little fertilizer shop when move to seastead, so hopefully that will help.

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