(This section could also be titled "Ships".)
"Why not just buy a boat"
This is answered in the FAQ.
Counterargument in favor of ships
First, seasteads need to work with ships in order to transport goods and people to and from them. Seasteads probably would not be able to operate for very long without the support of ships (unless people really liked a diet heavy on sashimi). Seaplanes are faster than ships, but much shorter range and not as cost efficient for transportation of bulky or heavy items like food or machinery.
Second, it may be possible with novel ships designs to meet more of the desired criteria for seasteads such as lessened wave coupling, large solar area, broad and open living areas, lower cost, etc. The greater mobility of a ship over a seastead can be an advantage for travel, trade, fleeing from attack or approaching storms, change of scenery, meeting new cultures, etc.
For example, the proposed HARTH design was removed from the Seasteading book draft, presumably because their claims for a drag reduction technology seem unlikely. But the general shape of their ships, sort of like a large catamaran, lends itself to large solar area and broad living spaces. HARTH ships are different from catamarans in that their hulls are shaped to interact minimally with waves and to stay mostly submerged. Waves would see a very narrow and shallow cross section due to the high aspect ratio and shallow draft of the submerged flotation hulls. If the floats are more then 300 meters long then typical long period ocean waves won't affect the ship very much in head or following seas. HARTH technology is largely unproven except for a 27 foot model, and the claimed drag reduction technology may not have appeared on an actual vessel yet. The model video, possibly shot in Puget Sound, may look positive.
If a HARTH type ship did not have drag reduction, then it would lose the claimed speed advantage but it would still be relatively fast due to using high aspect ratio (i.e., narrow) displacement hulls. Even without high speeds due to drag reduction such a ship could be an advantage over exiting designs in areas we care about such as reduced wave interaction, large usable area, etc.
Finally, simply being on the ocean is a major step into freedom, whether it's on a ship or seastead. Ships may also make a logical testing venue to try out some of the possible business models for seasteads even before any seasteads are built. SurgiCruise is an example of a business that takes advantage of the lower regulatory costs of using ships in near-offshore waters.
Even without any new ship designs, exiting large ships could be used to live on the ocean and/or to support seasteads.
Argument in favor of boats
While Seasteading aims to start in coastal waters and incrementally move to the open ocean, doing so will ultimately cost very many billions of dollars, which is arguably one of the reasons it hasn't happened yet. Even starting in coastal waters may cost many millions of dollars, particularly if new technologies are used. In contrast, tens of thousands of people are already living on the ocean in a soft form of Seasteading by cruising, particularly on sailboats.
Cruisers stay weeks to months in various harbors around the world before moving on to the next one. Stops can be at totally undeveloped anchorages or into ports to pick up supplies such as food. While most cruising is probably done with monohull sailboats, modern catamarans are increasingly popular. One example may be something like the new Seawind 1370, which is like a modern, small 2 to 4 bedroom apartment with great views and modern conveniences such as a complete kitchen, clothes washing machine and dryer, watermaker for practically unlimited fresh water, etc. Fish caught on board can be a significant source of nutrition.
With Lithium ion batteries, solar panels, and increasingly electric drive, a modern sailing catamaran can be self-sufficient for propulsion, water, power. With satellite Internet, such as the forthcoming high-performance, low-latency and low cost Starlink, it should be possible for knowledge workers and digital nomads to live and work anywhere on Earth, including anchored in uninhabited tropical paradises.
Successful cruisers are often handy enough to do most of their own maintenance, since outsourcing it can become prohibitively expensive for most people. Maintaining a boat is a lot of work, but not much harder than a house plus simple old car. You don't need to scrub barnacles off your house though.
Like Seasteads, boats can move at will. Unlike Seasteads, boats can be in near constant motion, never staying in one area for more than a few months or weeks, if desired. Not being tied to a particular physical location is a form of freedom and safety, and having a nice apartment that can move to a nearly inexhaustible selection of beautiful locations may be better than some alternatives on land.
The main preventing this option from being feasible for more people is more affordable boats. Most boats are laboriously built by hand, the only major labor savings being costly molds, but even boats made from molds are mostly laid by hand, resulting in a large labor component in costs. Better automation or new building techniques could help. That said, it's possible to get a decent used catamaran for under 100,000 USD, though most are higher.
Another issue is a lack of self-defense since many nations won't allow firearms in their territorial waters at all, or unless they are surrendered or locked in a sealed vault. Some countries such as Mexico imprison otherwise innocent people for a single round of ammunition. Not having access to a means of effective self-defense against crime and piracy is like not having access to a fire extinguisher in the face of a fire.
A partial list of some existing surface ship types
- Displacement hull - pushes water aside like a plow
- Semi-planing hull - characteristics of both a displacement and planing hull, transitioning to planing with increasing speed
- Planing hull - rises out of the water as speed increases, nearly totally in some extreme cases such as racing boats
- Hydrofoil - uses underwater foils (like wings) to lift the hull usually completely out of the water, but only at speed
- Hovercraft - uses fans and curtains to create a cushion of air between the hull and water
- Catamaran / Trimaran - has multiple, parallel hulls supporting a cabin above and out of the water
- SWATH - submerged twin hulls with active buoyancy control and reduced waterplane area, both to reduce wave interaction
- Surface effect ship - has sidewalls like a hovercraft but traps air under the hull when moving by having an open front
- Government buy-back programs exist that lower the "value" of a vessel because it is no longer allowed to be used in a commercial fishing enterprise. These vessels are usually displacement hulls, which give a greater internal volume per surface area than some others- this leads to greater drag, lower speed, but more cargo capacity. this might also be of use to the Sea Steader in that the sea being a harsh and onforigiving element, a great deal of protection from your environment is necessary. Some
- Ship types in wikipedia
- Boat Design Software
- Wind Power
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