Offshore Sea Colonies
By: mac Sperry
Synopsis: A proposal to colonize the sea by peoples who seek to live apart from existing land societies. The idea deals with methods of obtaining inexpensive, already existent "infrastructure" by using used barges outfitted to serve as a "mother ship" and used sailboats to serve as live aboard "satellite" vessels. A patented "wave destroyer" device is explained in detail, it's purpose being, to make smooth the surface of the sea for extended habitation. Finally, there is a short history of offshore colonization ideas and how this particular idea differs and solves the problems that prevented their fruition.
Text: Those that have the desire to live with others of the same ilk as a group, yet apart from any nation/state, could do so by starting a sea colony. These colonies might be composed of people with like religious, political or philosophical beliefs. They might be time sharing vacation retreats, or colonies of thinkers and artisans. They may also be people just trying to "escape" other conditions they deem oppressive.
The colony I propose here would be an untethered "fleet" consisting of mother ship and smaller vessels, all made unsinkable. This fleet would move with the weather to escape storm seasons and generally live continuously in a paradise like environment.
The mother ship would provide facilities not conveniently accessible to a smaller vessel. It might have small shops where goods and services are sold, a gym with running track & sauna, equipment for the processing of waste, the making of water and the reception/transmission of satellite Internet and TV/radio signals.
Besides the moving from one location to the other, the most important service the mother ship would provide would be equipment for the "destruction of waves". In 1943 an inventor named Phillip Brasher was awarded U S Patent # 2,325,937 for his invention of a device that would simply and inexpensively "destroy" even the largest of waves. It consisted of piping that would be placed underwater between the waves and the mother ship. The piping would have holes along it through which compressed air would be released. The purpose of the underwater releasing of air becomes apparent when it is considered that only a small amount of air is required to upset the hydraulic dynamics of a wave. The process slows the movement of the lower part of a wave enough to cause it to come crashing down on itself.
Since wave destruction is essential to a successful sea colony, an explanation of the process may be in order here. It functions in a manner similar to what happens when a wave comes crashing down as it meets a beach. The waters below the wave slow their forward progression due to the friction encountered where the sandy bottom and the lower part of the wave interface. The top part of the wave continues to move forward faster than the bottom part until the bottom simply is no longer in position to support the top, and the top comes crashing down. This leaves a wide, long, flat expanse of sea surface free of waves except for the minor residual turbulence of the diminished wave. This process was actually used to save a concrete pier near El Segundo California in the 1940's. Another patent was later filed by the same inventor that used the same process to "clear" whole stretches of sea surface for the takeoff/landing of sea planes.
The author of the present idea has further refined the process through the replacement of underwater air bubbles with underwater airbags that would collapse and expand with the changing hydraulic pressure of passing waves. These bags could be kept in place through various means that might involve, among other things, anchoring and ballasting.
The rest of the fleet would consist of smaller wind driven "satellite" sailing vessels (sailboats). They would serve as living quarters and transportation. The satellite would tie to an umbilical line coming from the mother ship. This line might have multiple purposes such as being the conduit for water, electricity, telephone, Internet and cable delivery. When it's time to go, simply cast off the lines that fasten the satellite vessel to the umbilical and sail away. It is this "freedom" of mobility that is a cornerstone of this idea. If the community isn't right for them, or for any number of reasons a person may easily "pull up stakes" and leave.
The mother ship would not have to be a "ship". In fact, the most stable, rugged and "roomy" craft might be an ordinary steel barge. Oilfield vessels housing crews numbering in the many hundreds and used for pipe laying, oil rig placement and construction are usually barges. They make a very stable "platform" and are quite sea friendly. Best of all they often sell used at incredibly low prices. The author once worked as a "roving" electronic-technician for an offshore construction company whose fleet consisted of over a hundred barges. Many were more like "floating cities" than barges, some five decks deep with nicely furnished crew quarters, multiple galleys & dining areas, amusement rooms,small stores for personal items(cigarettes, toothpaste etc.), movie theaters, chapels, and even small hospitals. The upper decks were usually loaded with equipment but even so were often humongous compared with the decks of relatively narrow beam (width) ships. Some had deck areas larger than four football fields, although smaller barges could be used initially then lashed together with others as the colony grew.
Sea colony proposals are not new. In the 1950s a British boat designer/ocean voyager & cultural guru named James Wharram proposed offshore colonies. In the 1960s R. Buckminster Fuller, among other things a Naval Architect, did the same. He designed and tested for the city of Baltimore, Maryland his Triton Floating City. A HUD project, the total costs came in at less than 10% of the cost of the usual "high rise" (expensive urban land the other 90%). It was never built probably due to political considerations. In the late 1980s the Atlantis Project, which proposed to build an anchored "floating country" 50 miles East of the Panama Canal fizzled out, apparently the victim of enormous infrastructure costs. Presently the Venus Project proposes grand offshore cities, the Achilles heel of which may turn out to be that the infrastructure doesn't exist and must still be built.
While the idea of offshore communities is not new, what is new with the present proposal is that much of the "infrastructure" already exists in the used barge & sailboat markets. Using existing, less expensive equipment is a logical first step to the sea, in that it more closely meets the needs of those who would most likely be the first "pioneers" of the oceans. Remember, the beautiful high rise buildings and infrastructure to be found along the west coast of the United States weren't already there waiting for the pioneers to come occupy them. They only came long after the covered wagons arrived and people built shanties, then cabins, then houses, then business buildings, then... We must crawl before we walk, and this is an idea that could easily accomplish exactly that/mac
Copyright 2/8/2001--M J Sperry