Sunday March 18th, 2001

Location

At sea, approaching the Beagle Canal in Southern Chile

Wind

SW 25 to 30 knots

Sea

Moderate

Air temp

6.5 deg C

Sea temp

4 deg C

Barometer

1025 mbs

Conditions

Overcast

Visibility

Poor


Vessel of the future

Over the past months, we have been developing our ideas of what would make the “ideal research/exploration vessel”, but at the same time be a practical model for commercial shipping for the future.

Ron Holland has offered to come up with a new blakexpeditions concept vessel, in line with his and our combined experiences and our needs. We will present his drawings once we have had a chance to spend time with him and refine our ideas.

Whilst Seamaster is perfect for our present needs, when one looks at the issues that need resolving – to do with water quality, carbon emissions, waste products, alternative environmentally friendly fuels, safer construction techniques – to name but a few, we thought that an outline of what we consider to be a step in the right direction would be of interest.

There was no point developing a design theme that is not practical. That would result in a ship that cannot carry heavy loads or keep to a schedule, so could never be used commercially.

How does Seamaster stack up?

Seamaster is much the same as other waste-conscious vessels operating on the waters of the world today. She is equipped with sewage treatment systems, holding tanks for all household and human wastes, and waste oil storage facilities. She also has sails to compliment the twin diesel engines when on long distance passages.

She has twin diesel generators for the electrical supply to charge the huge battery banks and provide sufficient power for making water, running the electronics, communications, cooking, lighting and some heating.

All engines were fully overhauled 9 months ago, with many parts rebuilt – but they still smoke on start-up. We have the remnants of the old antifouling paint still on the bottom to retard marine growth. This won’t be replaced in the immediate future as nothing much has grown on the bottom during our time in Antarctica, and the fresh water of the Amazon will kill off any sea water fouling that develops between now and then.

So, we are not perfect by any means, but we do our best to limit the problems. And we are working with an existing vessel with existing systems and limited space for major improvements.

[We are seriously considering replacing one of the generators with an appropriately-sized fuel cell – running on hydrogen. This is now a practical alternative, only really limited by the availability of liquid or gaseous hydrogen in the remote areas that we might visit.]

Seamaster is as environmentally friendly as it is possible to be for an existing craft.

The concept vessel

Our new “concept” vessel will set standards that everyone should strive to meet.

It will be as “emission impossible” as we can make it – but at the same time be totally practical, rugged, seaworthy and able to cross any ocean at good speed.

It will need to be built using ‘today’s technology” that could apply to any new ship of any size.

So, what will it be like?

Compulsory:

* Environmentally friendly “emission impossible” (with some minor compromises in early days)
* Practical
* Seen as a realistic example of what can be achieved commercially
* Built using readily available technology
* Able to “go anywhere” in most weather conditions

To achieve the above:

* Steel hull with alloy superstructure
* Double bottom for impact integrity
* Large enough to be seen to be a working vessel and not a “yacht”. 100 metres plus length overall.
* Dual fuel drive - (diesel)/hydrogen-electric incorporating multiple electrical generators (utilising dual fuel hydrogen motors) and electric drive systems. When running on diesel, exhaust gases to be fully scrubbed to reduce emissions to as close to zero as possible.
* Full powered - capable of cruising long distance at 14 knots and 20 knots at full power
* 20,000 mile range @14 knots
* Solar cell technology involvement on a large scale
* Hydrogen production and storage facilities utilising solar power, waste-heat and seawater
* Hydrogen fuel cells to run ancillary equipment including lighting
* All lighting to be high efficiency
* Sound attenuated vessel - “very quiet drive”
* Electronic antifouling system
* “Emission impossible” waste treatment system
* Waste-heat utilisation
* Desalination and evaporation water-making systems utilising waste-heat, fuel cell or solar cell technology
* Water purification
* Use of seawater for as many services as possible, throughout ship
* Heat pumps for heating and cooling climate control
* 2 X 20 metre RIBs (Rigid Bottom Inflatable Boats) with full exploration equipment and 2000 mile range - also incorporating twin dual fuel (diesel)/hydro-electric drives and utilising all of mother-ship attributes
* 2 X all-terrain land vehicles - dual fuel/hydrogen powered
* Latest in electronic navigation, sonar, and echo sounding. A showcase for the ultimate “safe” vessel.
* Accommodation and facilities for young person involvement - maximum of (10) at any one time. Full time blakexpeditions lecturer/teacher and involving scientific staff
* Internet/web site staff for daily updates/schools programme/general PR communications
* Science laboratory and staff and all necessary equipment/link with specific universities
* Onboard television production and transmission capabilities - a floating live television station
* Vessel an “expo” ship for dockside functions/PR events/media/corporate involvement and utilisation

A worthwhile goal

The above list is a start – it is by no means finite. But to produce a practical vessel that could have a huge potential impact on the way we all view the environment seems to be a very worthwhile goal.

Such a practical, environmentally friendly craft, that would have applications on a much bigger commercial scale, is long overdue.

To be able to use our new “concept” vessel as an “expo” ship, visiting many ports in the world, being open for tours by people of all ages – particularly school children and decision makers – would generate an involvement with the environment in a very practical sense that is presently missing.

None of the above is science fiction

We have already spent time in Munich with BMW observing their development of liquid hydrogen as a “no-emission” practical alternative fuel for their motorcars and suitable for many applications, such as the marine environment we are exploring.

It is refreshing to see that they and other motor vehicle manufacturers are taking emissions very seriously and investing billions of dollars into better solutions. Now all we need is for governments to act as responsibly and tackle the changes to the infrastructure that will be required in the long term.


Back to right now

We are presently sailing in a very fresh wind, with whitecaps everywhere. This follows a night of near gale force conditions and rough seas. Seamaster was jumping around like a small dinghy at times, but making good speed even though our sails were well reefed.

The islands north of Cape Horn are off to port as we head towards the eastern entrance to the Beagle Channel, with Puerto Williams planned as our first stop back in South America.

We left here two and a half months ago.

Since then we have had a most extraordinary and rewarding time “down south”.

But we are pleased to be back.

Best wishes,

Peter.