Thursday, January 12, 2017

Reassessing Floating Empire: Late Night Musings

As we gear up for the new boat design, I spent a bit of last night thinking about the successes and failures of our current shantyboat The Floating Empire.  Starting from the water up:

Newly Minted

The barrels we used for flotation, were, on the whole, a great choice (save for their hydrodynamics).  It took nearly three years for any kind of growth to adhere to the polyethylene, and even now, there isn't a whole lot.  If I had it to do over again, I would orient the barrels so one of the bungs was on the bottom and leave it open so that the air could be topped off in cold weather, rather like we do with our open bottomed floatation additions.  I'd have given them a coat of bottom paint to keep ALL the growth off and probably tossed a piece of copper scrap inside the barrel to stop anything from using it as a residence.
this really works

The pipe and beam system we used to support the barrels has worked beautifully.  They reamain stable, solid, and in place.  The biggest drawback was in not having enough of them.  If I rebuilt the Empire today, I would use a double row on either side, which would give me enough surplus flotation for any foreseeable revisions to the structure or any likely buying frenzy of cast iron cookware.
The deck going in

When we built the thing, a lot of folks told us that the thin, stressed skin plywood floor wouldn't last.  Going on four years later (with the exception of a part on the bow that was damaged in the move) the floor remains as it was:  springy, kind of uneven, but still quite solid.  The biggest drawback has been the lack of insulation beneath the floor, which has made heating more of a challenge than it should have been.
Kingposts and Curtain walls

The kingpost based structure has worked solidly and well.  The biggest limitation was using the kingposts for the frame of the forward doorway, which meant that nothing over 19 inches could get in the boat (we bought some GREAT chairs for the galley. . . .they're up on the patio at the marina now.  No way to get them in).  I've already done a bit on the failure of the material we used for the curtain walls here, but the membrane replacement has worked beautifully.
The Membrane going into place
While I'm on the subject of the Membrane, it's one of the great success stories of this vessel.  Through four years now of storms, rain, snow, hail, beating sun, confused seagulls, and high winds, it has shown no sign of failing, not really any signs of wear.  Once we put the same material in place over the walls, all of our leakage problems vanished on the port and starboard sides.  I frankly had my doubts when we built the thing, but it was a cheap way to seal in the structure without adding a lot of weight.  Now it seems the only logical choice for the new vessel.

I mention these features of The Floating Empire because many of them will NOT be reappearing on the new boat, but I did want you to know that it was NOT because they didn't work. Its just our intended purpose for the new boat, which is wide ranging travel in only moderately protected waters, makes them inappropriate for Tesla's Revenge.  The barrel structure, though wonderful for a floating home or in very protected waters, simply has too much water resistance for us and too little freeboard; the king posts, while excellent in supporting the second level of the structure, are pretty superfluous in the single story of the new boat.  The membrane, though:  to seal in the new walls and roofline, why would we choose anything else?

Stay tuned


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