Friday, February 5, 2016

The Floating Empire is Dead; Long Live the Floating Empire!

Or: The Once and Future Shantyboat.
The Floating Empire in Winter.

As we near the end of January, 2016, we are coming up on two years since we began construction on The Floating Empire. The experiment in simple, tiny home construction and living that would be applicable to both and third world challenges in this century. We began the blog of the construction on the 28th of March of that year. The first entry reads, in part:

So Here Be The Concept....

In a world with rising water levels, rising inequity between rich and poor, and aging populations with most of their assets wiped out by property bubble swindles and corrupt bankers, what does one do?

Many new ideas, some pretty successful, have offered themselves.   The Tiny House movement has taken off gangbusters, moving more and more people to shift to sustainable lives within their own control.  The Maker movement, funded largely by crowdfunding, innovates faster than anything we've seen.  New networks for mutual assistance are springing up everywhere.  So here, dear reader, is the Grindlebone Arts/ Center for Bypassed Technologies contribution to the mix.

The Concept is of a floating home, powered renewably, utilizing 19th and 18 century technologies bypassed by cheap energy, and constructed largely of recycled/repurposed materials.  It must be large enough to be a comfortable residence for a couple and will serve as a demonstration project and classroom.  While there is other information on the forum at on specific systems, this blog will detail the construction, launching, and initial operation of the vessel.”

Lightly built of some ofttimes untested construction techniques, the vessel was always intended to be a two year project. Over that time, we have amassed and tremendous amount of knowledge about the vessel, how to live aboard her, easier ways to build things better, and the general applicability of the initial concept. If you're wondering, it has, from our perspective, been a raving success. For less than a $5000/US investment, the experiment has yielded an entirely pleasant and affordable lifestyle, and one that makes minimal demands on the Earth and it's surroundings in energy, space, materials, and expense. In short, it worked, and worked far, far better than any of us thought it could.

Okay, so now what?

We've discussed a whole series of options for the spring. Do we scrap Floating Empire and move on land, (starting, of course, a new set of projects)? Do we turn the vessel over to someone else and build a new version of the boat? Do we just continue with the experiment for another year or two, doing what service on the vessel is needed to keep her afloat? Do we do something entirely different? Do we join the circus?  (actually, many people think we already are a circus) It was a puzzlement. We have learned so much, and, frankly, we've come to love this lifestyle, our life on the water.

So, after must consultation, we've decided to do a major rebuild on Floating Empire, correcting design errors and construction mistakes and, in general, extending the boat's life for another 5 years or so. In the process, we hope to create a final version of the vessel, one easily replicatable, and one simple enough to be built by virtually anyone, anywhere.
Yeah.....there's gonna be a lot of this.....

We are in the throes of working on the redesign, and on what will be needed (once the weather breaks in spring) to make the changes we've deemed necessary in a timely fashion, and on the materials we'll need to make that happen. Some of these will be patches intended to correct things in the current vessel that aren't working. Some will be complete redesign of systems to make things easier, less expensive, and more environmentally friendly.

That's kind of where you guys come in. The initial vessel was built on a ludicrously small amount of money funneled through Grindlebone Arts' Center for Bypassed Technologies and from some of our own resources. For this go-round, we're going to be doing a crowdfund through Indegogo, seeking to raise $3000 for the rebuild, and asking you guys to chip in and help us. Happily, with our connections with the arts world, we have an amazing set of resources for original artwork and literary materials we can offer as premiums, so you guys get to score.

So, thank you for accompanying us on this journey and please stay tuned, the very best is yet to come.

Much more very shortly,


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