"…the street finds its own uses for things."
September 22, 2011 at 9:11 pm #1641
The subject line is a quote from William Gibson’s novel ‘Burning Chrome”, which I think suits this topic well.
A few months ago I got into a great brainstorming session with some other liveaboard-at-anchor/squatter folks in Vancouver – the topic of discussion was:
“If you found yourself homeless on the streets of Vancouver, could you build a floating platform using only what you could find discarded in alleyways, and move onto it?“
Vancouver has a great waterway in the middle of the city, called ‘False Creek’ – sheltered waters, good anchorage, and a hundred-year history of squatter settlements on boats and floating structures. In the last twenty years the city has gentrified the area and cracked down on the squatting, but there are still a few – myself included, until very recently – who call the waters of False Creek home. Technically, if you built a platform on the Creek, the Vancouver Police would crack down on you within a week – but just for the sake of argument, what if they didn’t?
Our conversation turned up a few great ideas and a few dead ends – our best idea, I think, was to use small, empty plastic soda bottles in conjunction with plastic milk crates, sewn together with scrap wire to make a strong, stable platform on which to pitch a tent or build a shelter. We decided that a two-crates-thick layer would be enough floatation to keep a tent out of the water, and if the crates were turned so that the open ends were facing one another two crates could be sewn together strongly to make a highly buoyant chunk of “seasteading lego”.
A start could be made with as few as 128 milk crates, with the ‘lego’ chunks built slowly and stockpiled until a minimum 8×8 platform could be built; 8×8 was chosen as the minimum size that we’d consider “stable”, though you’d need at least 16×16 to pitch a tent and be able to sleep in our opinion. A tool (like a fid or a very large [ie three feet long] needle) would need to be constructed to sew the lego chunks in place, but once floating, more pieces could be sewn to the raft while deployed.
Lots of other tricks came up – one person knew of a dumpster where they could secure a large, constantly-renewing quantity of thick, dark, plastic bags. Lining the inside of the crates with these bags would give better UV resistance to the soda bottles inside the crates and probably make for an extra year or two between required inspection/maintenance. Lining the crates would also allow the use of other floating recycled materials, like loose styrofoam, synthetic cork, bubble wrap, etc – care would have to be taken to ensure that the lining was strong enough to not release small materials into the water via the holes in the crates.
We also decided that, much as you’ve discussed here, a colony of smaller platforms would likely be better than a single very large platform – several ideas came up regarding ways to lash platforms together, with no really good ideas about what ‘alley junk’ could be used to create cleats. One idea was to create a set of lego pieces with a board or backing plate in the bottom (which would, after filling the lego bit with buoyant material, become the top of the piece), with a pair of holes drilled into the board and a loop of wire sewn through to create a strong loop on the top of the crate that could be used as an anchor point.
Speaking of anchors, there was much discussion there as well. All the liveaboards were of the same opinions regarding anchors; strong, heavy bladed wedges (ie delta, rocna, cqr, bruce) pulled sideways with a long length of heavy chain attached to a rode was without question the preference. In a pinch, we decided that a reasonable anchoring point could be created with thick cable and a few cinderblocks, with more cinderblocks added to the anchor by threading them onto the cable and dropping them into the water one by one as they were acquired. Other suggestions included large chunks of heavy metal, like engine blocks, but nobody could come up with a good way to get something that large and heavy out onto the water with only the resources at hand.
One big question was how to get back and forth from the platform. In warmer waters swimming would be possible, or if unable to swim maybe using something like an inflatable mattress – but Vancouver winters, while mild, are still not the sort of temperatures in which swimming would be advisable. Furthermore, not having a source of fresh water to rinse off with, living in a situation where you’re regularly soaked with salt water and allowed to dry (if you ever do – salt is hydrotropic, clothing soaked in salt water takes forever to dry. rinsing with fresh water cuts down the drying time by 2/3rds!) is a quick way to build monster skin problems, lesions and the like, which can develop into much worse… Some kind of dinghy would need to be available, and after trying for long to come up with a ghetto dinghy we finally agreed that in desperate times we’d have to “borrow” one from a marina.
We were very much open to other ideas, though we ruled out metal barrels very early in the game – the downsides were just too great: steel rusts, and once a barrel has a single leak the buoyancy of the entire barrel is compromised. Plastic barrels were considered but nobody in the group could think of a place to source a reasonable quantity of plastic barrels. Milk crates were seen as the best urban resource, with large plastic fishing-industry containers (ie. ice, fish) being a second in areas with a fishing industry.
Lastly, a big question that arose was UV resistance – plastic crates have a tendancy to become brittle over years of direct sunlight, and once compromised the crates become junk.
Thoughts? How would you build a platform and move aboard, if you had NO money to do so?
Cheers, - Drew.
-- "Analogies are dangerous, Amanda, because life is like a sandcastle..." Technomad blog: http://disengage.caSeptember 22, 2011 at 9:37 pm #15614
I would first say paint would be your answer… then I think you are trying to do this with no money. Paint costs, especially marine grade paint. If you can find discarded paint this might do but you could not be assured of always having access to it.
So my second, and final, answer is fabric or coverings of some sort. Lash this tightly over the exposed areas… sides and whatever “top deck” that is not covered by the tenting.
Also remember that anything shaded… like the underside… or if you have awnings that provide shade… will be protected from UVs.
Finally, remember that UV does not penetrate water far, so most of the underwater part(s) will be protected by the waters natural reflective properties. Of course this brings up the issues of salt waters very abrasive and corrosive nature… but that is not the question here…
JTG423September 23, 2011 at 1:07 am #15617
I vote aluminum foil and duct tape for uv protection and or cheap paintSeptember 23, 2011 at 2:55 am #15618
A source of “plastic barrels” is various businesses that use water-coolers bottles,
I know my sailing club has a bunch of empty ones on the front porch.
I myself was planning on using them to make a floating island,
probably sealing the caps back on with epoxy, tieing them together with ropes, wires or nets.
Was thinking of using it as a political platform, maybe a drydock, or something related.
on a side note of street finding uses for things, I replaced my rode with chain, and quick-links with locks, so they’d be harder to steal.
calm aware desire choice love express intuit moveSeptember 23, 2011 at 3:24 am #15621
See, the thing about tarps/fabric/aluminum foil/duct tape is that they work really well for a few weeks, then fall apart – the marine environment is really hard on materials, which is why I think we’d need to focus on scrap or surplus materials that are designed to be used roughly. Living on the ocean is a real lesson in just how quickly nature will destroy things; the best advice I got as a newbie liveaboard a few years ago was “build it to last or build it again next year, and the year after that, and the year after that…“
Do you guys have milk crates like we do up in Canada? Here’s an example of what I mean – the photo on the right has three styles, we only really have the square kind which in the photo is green.
I do not believe that painting such a box would be an optimal answer, due to the difficulty in finding discarded/surplus/cheap paint that would a.) stick to polyethylene, b.) block UV damage, and c.) stand up in a marine environment.
Regarding larger plastic bottles like those used for water coolers – we initially looked into those as well, but while there were positive aspects (ie. large amount of air stored = good buoyancy), they were outweighed by the negative aspects (ie. a small hole compromises a large amount of buoyancy, bottles are harder to find and in Canada at least we often have a $5-$10 deposit paid per bottle, so people are very unlikely to allow the bottles to be taken freely). Smaller pop/juice bottles are extremely easy to find, are often made from much sturdier plastic than they really ought to be, and by using a lot of them in every lego bit, we build fault-tolerancy into the system.
One idea regarding UV protection would be to add a thin layer of scrap wood over the top – it would have to be sacrificial, as plywood would only last a year or two before delaminating if it weren’t sealed up solid with a mixture of epoxy thinned with a solvent to penetrate the wood, but this might be a place that discarded/recycled paint could help with. Many construction sites use plywood to form concrete, and a lot of those used sheets are just thrown away – the downside is that those sheets are very thick and quite heavy and often have concrete stuck to them still.
Outside of the box a bit, what about a teepee-like tented structure from poles and tarps? That would add some UV protection, the angled walls would deflect wind and could be laced to the platform for strength, and would remove the need for a regular tent…
Cheers, - Drew. -- "Analogies are dangerous, Amanda, because life is like a sandcastle..." Technomad blog: http://disengage.caSeptember 23, 2011 at 1:55 pm #15627
I would build a decking of 4 pallets (they would be heavy) with plywood. Painted if possible. If the pallets stay out of the water they will last for a long time. Add extra milk crates to help support the extra weight.have the plwood hang over the edge a bit to help shade the bottles below. As for getting back and forth I would create a pvc raft.old pipe with the end pluged. or several more milk crates side by side with a couple pallet slates on top of them, with a paddle ChuckerSeptember 23, 2011 at 10:55 pm #15635September 24, 2011 at 12:41 am #15639
NICE! Real-world testing! Thanks Chucker!
Ok – so how about we take two crates and lace them together open end to open end to create one double-tall, opening-less, self-contained crate filled with bottles? With your numbers we can conservatively estimate about 50lbs of buoyancy per double-crate building block if using plastic bottles, which should give us the wiggle room to call a crate filled with anything floaty (bubblewrap, styrofoam, etc) 50lbs of buoyancy as well. That estimate should also give us the space to account for the weight of the crates themselves (which should have a nearly-neutral buoyancy anyway), any extra plastic lining, and the wire or plastic strapping used to lace the boxes together.
That would mean that a 16×16 platform of these double-tall blocks would have a combined buoyancy of 6400lbs – nearly three metric tonnes! - at a net cost of almost nothing but an individual’s time finding the scrap materials, transporting them and assembling the floats.
I think we might be onto something here.
Cheers, - Drew. -- "Analogies are dangerous, Amanda, because life is like a sandcastle..." Technomad blog: http://disengage.caSeptember 24, 2011 at 12:50 am #15640Chucker wrote:
As for getting back and forth I would create a pvc raft.old pipe with the end pluged. or several more milk crates side by side with a couple pallet slates on top of them, with a paddle
I wonder about this a bit – it would definitely work, but I would question how dry it would stay, and staying dry in the winter ultimately means staying alive.
I met an old french guy in an anchorage once (crazy old fellow with a huge scraggly white beard and a toothless grin, really friendly) whose dinghy I never would have figured would even float – it looked like a half of a pistachio shell, only deeper. It was made of really rough fiberglass with ragged edges, seemingly made by just layering scrap fiberglass roving over a mold of some kind. It was barely big enough for him to kneel in, and he paddled it with an old canoe paddle, changing sides with every stroke.
I wonder if something similar could be fashioned from a 50-gallon plastic barrel, cut more or less in half lengthwise, maybe adding a weighted keel of some type to make it stable? If you could prevent it from rolling over, it would definitely keep a single person and a few bags of groceries dry for a couple-hundred-meter paddle out to a floating shelter…
Cheers, - Drew. -- "Analogies are dangerous, Amanda, because life is like a sandcastle..." Technomad blog: http://disengage.caSeptember 24, 2011 at 1:43 am #15641
I stayed away from large barrel because of the “find on the street theme”. A 4 barrel (55 gallons) catamaran might keep you dry. 1 on left, 1 on right, 2 in the middle with a few connecting boards. Might keep a men (women) from gettng wet.September 24, 2011 at 2:28 am #15642
On the absolute *ghetto* tip, what about a plastic or metal barrel with a full third of the side cut out (leaving a two-thirds-round barrel), with nothing more than a bunch of rocks thrown in to provide ballast and keep it floating relatively upright? Could paddle it just fine with a repurposed election sign with the placard cut to roughly paddle-shaped…
I knew a guy in False Creek who got to and from his sailboat home using a $9 Wal-Mart inflatable kiddie boat for well over a year. Mind you, he had to replace it every month…September 29, 2011 at 7:02 pm #15697
Hey, in relation to this discussion, I made a spreadsheet of the various floating objects and their related properties.
Plastic barrels, are the most expensive option, followed by 750ml, and 2lt bottles.
The cheapest and simplest option is to use styrofoam insulative materials.
Seems that styrofoam insulation may be the one of the easiest ways to go, as it only requires 2.2 to displace a metric ton, and each only costs $12, so you could float a ton for just $27.Ya, to make them live longer, can wrap them in heavy duty construction bags for UV protection, $1.80 and some plastic ropes to hold them together and use for interconnecting $2-$4. So can float a ton for under $40.
Two of these styrofoam-logs can be used as the pontoons for 1 or 2 person catamaran. Though it would also require a frame to house the pontoons.
Also what I find most-interesting is considering that these are relatively “temporary” but they can be used to make dry-docks, to build more permanent ferrocement structures. for instance 3 large styro-logs should technically be enough to be drydock for the phi boat size 2, whose hull weighs a ton.
If we build on the water, then it’s easier to launch, simply disasemble the styrofoam logs, and the boat should slide into the water.
Another benefit is that styrofoam is pretty much oblivious to punctures, and most impacts.
here’s a pic I drew of a basic floating raft idea.
calm aware desire choice love express intuit moveSeptember 30, 2011 at 2:42 am #15701
r we still on the subject of “seasteading” or did i not get the memo that we’re scaling back to “lake-rafting”?
“Leadership and do-ership are not the same thing”September 30, 2011 at 10:05 am #15702
I had figured it was sea-squatting.September 30, 2011 at 3:12 pm #15705shredder7753 wrote:
r we still on the subject of “seasteading” or did i not get the memo that we’re scaling back to “lake-rafting”?
“Leadership and do-ership are not the same thing”
Okay, well I mentioned rafts due to the nature of the thread, but mostly the design was for floating-dry-docks, which I expanded on in the floating drydock thread:
also have pictures there of catamaran floating drydocks.
So not only could we make drydocks, but they could also be catamarans, potentially can be used to move our seasteads more quickly from place to place.
Considering how the immobile Bergstead would require something to move it, it should be a greatly appreciated innovation.
Also of course our projects have to get built somewhere, and as Ellmer was saying, have a land-based placed even in Columbia is expensive and a hassel, so we might as well learn to build on the water, one way is to make floating drydocks.Mad wrote:
I had figured it was sea-squatting.
steading and squatting are different stages along the same continuum.
Only difference is that a squatter is sitting on their heels, and a steader stands at their place.
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