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May 3, 2010

How Ephemerisle 2010 Will Bring Us Closer to Seasteading

As you probably know, the long-term goal for Ephemerisle is to be an incremental path towards seasteading, by cutting down the challenges along every dimension, and then advancing year by year. Here are some of the dimensions, and how we are making progress this year:

Multiple Islands. The growth I am most excited about is that we will have about 6 different islands (perhaps more), each with different rules and culture. Some may forbid alcohol and corporate logos, others may ban children and make grownups down a shot of firewater on the way in. With our facilitation, occupants will self-organize before the event into these diverse communities. If you think Libertopia or Hippieville are “great to visit, but you wouldn’t want to live there”, well, you can live in one and visit another! If your island turns out to be not such a great place, we’re on the water, so you can always unhitch your vessel or platform and secede. In other words, dynamic geography will be a real feature of the event!

Mooring. Last year, we failed to anchor in the middle of the channel – plus local law enforcement didn’t like it. This year, we will be in much deeper water (~30 ft vs. ~3-6 ft) and we will anchor successfully far away from the shore. Current plans even call for two different types of mooring – pillars for our barge (known as “spuds”) and anchoring for the other platforms – so we’ll get experience with both. (See past discussion on Ephemerisle/Seasteading anchoring parallels).

Duration. The festival will be 72 hours instead of 48 hours. I’d say that duration is actually the most important way in which we’re cutting the problem down – it’s the main thing that makes Ephemerisle much easier than seasteading. So this will likely be the last axis to expand – it should be relatively easy to build up to a week, but after that will be difficult.

Size. We expect over 300 people, compared to last year’s 125. As with any event, scaling poses significant organizational challenges.

Marine Real Estate. We’ll have a construction barge (which is one design possibility for the first seastead – see also Flotel 92) with a crane in addition to homebuilt platforms.

Wind & Waves. The Delta’s sea breeze is much stronger in the summer, and can gust up to 30mph. This means larger waves than we had last year, even with such short fetches. While the waves are still miniscule compared to the ocean, we’re moving in the right direction.

Political autonomy is one of the most important aspects of Ephemerisle, but to make the first step we have to leave the sheltered inland waters and go just offshore, where we’ll only be in Coast Guard jurisdiction and not any local (county) authorities. And to make the big step, we have to make it 12nm out, to leave territorial waters. While we have no change in political autonomy this year, the main barrier is engineering, and as you can see, many of the above points of progress are advancing our engineering.

That’s a preview of our progress for 2010. We are, of course, already thinking ahead to 2011 as well, and after this year’s event we expect to be well set up to move the event to the San Francisco Bay in 2011. There we will face even more wind and larger waves, and in addition to meeting those new environmental challenges with more rugged engineering, our such close proximity to a major population center and the room to stretch out should allow us to scale the event dramatically (I’m hoping for 1000+, counting daytrippers, but I tend to be an optimist 🙂 ). In addition, lower insurance and barge costs should drastically reduce our need to subsidize the event, and bring it much closer to break-even. If we can find the right foreign partners, we may even be able to do a second Ephemerisle in 2011, perhaps in the Mediterranean, Baltic, or Caribbean.

See you on the water!