Ephemerisle Contest

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Rafting Problem

A design such that multiple Single Family Seasteads can safely be connected together in the open ocean would be new and unique to seasteading. Joining together in the open ocean is a hard thing regular boats are not designed to do. It is a problem we would like to see solved.

Big Model Contest

Models of about 1:5 scale could be good for a sort of "Ephemerisle" contest. If we could do this in decent weather outside the bay then a full scale seastead should do well on a reasonable migration route. If the models handle 6 foot waves that is simulating 30 feet in full scale.

At 1:5 scale the mass should be 1/125th as much. So if you want to be able to carry 125,000 lbs in the full scale then the model should be able to carry 1,000 lbs. Maybe half that is a more reasonable size, say 500 lbs. So at least 2 people on each seastead model.

Details And Judging

The contest could be to bring 3 nearly identical seastead models that can each carry 500 lbs and float independently with stability better than a 60 foot long 30 foot wide catamaran and then join together. Might say they have to stay together for 2 hours or something. Could also say that 1 pickup truck must be able to carry 1 model. Maybe first do qualifications inside the bay and if anyone looked good there we would then go outside the bay for the real test. We could start at a harbor between Sasilito and the golden gate so it was not far to pull the models to get outside.


The 3 seasteads would each have 2 people on them and long ropes between them at the start. One of the 3 seasteads will have a sea anchor. Then the people on the seasteads have to pull them together and tie things up on their own. Another advantage of this size is that things are small enough this should not be too hard.

The design has to be such that it looks like you could keep connecting more seasteads, not just a solution for 3.

If a team has to fix up their seastead or rafting ropes/mechanism then the clock is reset. They must go 2 hours without anything breaking or anything needing to fixed in any way. If there is not 2 hours left before the end of time limit (which should be early enough to tow the models back to the harbor before sunset) then they have to try again next year.

If there were multiple contestants the same year that satisfied this then the most stable one gets the prize.

Accelerations can be measured with a $200 "G Data Logger" on both the catamaran and a seastead over at the same time (say 15 minute period) to check that it meets the required stability criteria.

Spectators and Judges

We can charter a catamaran for stability comparison and to carry the judges and spectators. The spectators would pay for tickets to cover the cost. Might even need more than 1 catamaran if we get a good turnout. Can also encourage people to bring their own boats.

The models will be small enough that a regular boat could pull them. No need for propulsion, watermakers, solar panels, or anything else for this contest. Just want to demonstrate stability and joining together. Probably fine to even have 1 boat pull 3 models. Maybe the spectator catamarans can even do this as well.

Possible in 3 to 8 years

I think something like the WaterWalker could be made to do this. So I think such a prize could be won. It might be a totally different design, just saying I think it is doable. And at 500 lbs payload the models could be built with parts that could fit into a pickup (maybe with one of those racks that let you put long boards over the cab).

Contestant Qualification

At some point at least a month ahead of time we need to know if there are any real contestants for that year. Would not want to spend money chartering a judge/spectator boat, or collecting money from spectators, if there was not going to be any entries. So some representative should visit the registered contestants and see if they really had finished models. Then the tentative date could be confirmed or canceled.

Limit of Seastead Fitting in Truck

If people have to be able to fit their 1:5 seastead model on a pickup, then they can't just use some 200 foot barge and call that a model of a 1000 foot platform. This limits the cost of the model, and so the cost of the full scale seastead that it represents. It also makes a more level playing field. We don't want some people making something really massive which competes with other more reasonable scale models. An elegant design will be stable without being really massive. A pickup truck is a size such that people can make the models at home and then bring them to the launch location. To be very specific we should also limit the weight to 1,500 lbs. Also say that if the seastead is loaded on a F-150 pickup it must be legal to drive on CA roads without any special permits.

An alternative it to specify a certain size U-haul truck as the limit. Since these can be rented for reasonable money this can still be fair to everyone. Without a rack I feel a pickup might be too small and I don't know where I could get a pickup with a rack.

Watching people put their models together could make for a bit of a "junkyard wars" type entertainment.

It will also keep the scale such that a group can self fund a project and build something interesting, like some Burning Man projects.

The overhang summary of the relevant California vehicle code says:

  • If overhang is over 4 feet you need a red flag during the day and lights at night
  • the load upon a vehicle, trailer or semitrailer shall not extend to the rear beyond the last point of support for a greater distance than that equal to two-thirds of the length of the wheelbase.
  • the load upon any vehicle, or on the front vehicle of a combination of vehicles, shall not extend more than three feet beyond the foremost part of the front tires of the vehicle or the front bumper of the vehicle, if it is equipped with a front bumper.

The Ford F-150 wheelbase is 126 inches. The length is 211 inches. Lets assume we have a rack the same length as the pickup. We can have 36 inches in the front,, 211 inches over the truck, and 84 inches (2/3 of 126) overhanging the back (with a red flag). So the total length is 331 inches or 27.6 feet. So 27.6 feet is about as long as any single piece of the seastead can be.

Yearly Contest when Waves Expected

It is easier for judges and spectators if this happens at a known time every year. We would want that time of year to have a good chance of 4 to 8 foot waves outside the SF Bay. The contest would have transportation/assembly/launch done on a Saturday and then early Sunday models would be pulled out of the harbor.

If waves were less than 3 feet or over 10 feet we might have to delay a week.

Level 1 and Level 2 Prize Amounts

Could have a "level 1" prize for a single seastead model that fit in a truck and was more stable than a 60 foot catamaran. So people could get some money if they just made the stability requirement. The rafting 3 together prize could be a "level 2" prize.

I think that $15,000 for level 1 and $30,000 for level 2 is probably enough to motivate people to enter this contest.

Might have a 1:25 scale model contest first to encourage people to check out their ideas. Maybe a $1,000 prize.

Could just have a $1,000 for the best seastead model at Ephemerisle each year.

Follow On Prizes

After the first stability/rafting prize is won we can do follow on prizes that involve more. Some possible ideas are:

  • self propelled using some method that could last for 60 days
  • staying in the ocean for 1 week in the same location while rafted
  • following a pace boat at 2 MPH all the way to Hawaii
  • making seastead models as stable as a 120 foot catamaran
  • increase the weight requirement to that of models 1/3 or 1/2 the size of a full seastead

I doubt the first prize would be won the first year, and we could probably keep making more advanced prizes for years till we had full seasteading designs.

Publicity / Sonsorship

This event should be interesting and fun to watch. We should be able to get Discovery Channel or others interested. They could probably be talked into sponsoring the event in exchange for exclusive coverage rights.

Individual groups could get sponsorship on their own. Might have different teams from people who worked at different companies.


People are often willing to donate to prizes because they are so efficient at getting things done. We could probably raise money for prizes. Also, clearly TSI has money too.

Legal Issues

I expect TSI needs to get wavers from everyone who will be on a seastead model. Probably people should only be on them after they are in position, not while towing. For sure everyone should have a lifejacket. But somebody should check with the coast guard about rules for experimental floating structures. Maybe people on seasteads have to wear wetsuits (as well as life jackets) in case they fall in. Maybe we could get a coast guard boat to assist at the event for a reasonable fee. Also need to find out rules for using a harbor close to open ocean. People are allowed to do much more dangerous things than this but there are often many rules that need to be understood and followed.

If legal issues permit I am sure that some spectators would love to spend some time on different seasteads. Probably this can be worked out.

Naming the prize

Some possible names:

  • Seastead Ephemerisle Prize
  • Seastead Rafting Prize

Would like a name where we could have follow on prizes that had slightly different names but were clearly related. Probably starting the names with "Seastead" can handle that.

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