Rig production is going on!

As promised in our last post we managed to the sail this week!

As sailcloth we got a strong PE sheet (also known as polytarp). That’s exactly the sort of stuff the people in Micronesia using for there sails.

Exceptionally we bought it new but spend only 40 bucks.

Nice place for lofting! Thanks to STS, our sailing club, for their gym!
Laying out everything to get the shape.
Cutting the cloth
Sewing. We used a very cheap DIY sewing machine, nothing special for sails. It worked well but but professional machines would give a better result.
More cutting . . .
More sewing . . .
Finished !

We hope to setup the sail for test purpose during the next days. Read more in our next weekly update!

Rig production started

Maybe an odd way to start building a boat, but the very first part of proasis will be the rig (naval term for mast, sail and all other parts belonging to them). Why? That’s a bit of a story:

Originally, proasis was supposed to get a free standing carbon mast (free standing means no shrouds to hold it up) with a soft wing sail on it (see a video of something similar here).

1:5 model of the originally planned wingsail

Aside of the not very sustainable carbon part we never got happy with the design:

  • Much additional work for the mast construction
  • High expenses for the materials
  • Even more work for sewing the sail (it needs sewed in shape!)
  • High bending moments in the leeward hull around the mast bearing
  • Unsustainable design, many new and non degradable parts involved

We thought about many workarounds and fancy designs but eventually came back to the (Marshallese) oceanic lateen sail!

Marshallese canoes with oceanic lateen sail

Proofed for centuries on the pacific, the biggest ocean of our planet. For us the best sail possible:

  • Decent performance (we measured the performance of marshallese canoes!)
  • Simple and cheap to build (spars and flat cloth only)
  • Low center of effort
  • Low stress in the sailcloth

For the spars we were lucky to get tons of old windsurfing mast for free by our sailing club:

Old windsurfing mast, ready for recycling!

The windsurf mast were simply transferred into mast and booms and laid out to test the geometry for shunting:

Geometry of our sail

Next week we will get some cloth and sew the sail. Stay tuned!

Windward hull mockup

Now, after the 1:5 model proa proofed our general concept by amazing sail performance it’s time for something in real size!

To get an impression of what the living conditions on proasis will be we made a full size mockup of the accommodation compartment in the windward hull. In manufacturing and design, a mockup is a scale or full-size model of a design or device, used for teaching, demonstration, design evaluation, promotion, and other purposes. It is probably best known from the automotive industry for show cars, but is an important part of yacht design too.

Our mockup taught us a lot about usability, ergonomics and structural design of the cabin.

As you can see, its a quick and dirty construction from scrap wood and paper boxes. All of that was recycled by us and therefor for free!

Preparing ribs and bulkheads . . .
. . . and finished with paper sheets on! We made only one bow due a lack of material . . .
For comparison: this is how the windward hull looks like from above in a simple CAD model . . .
. . . and this is real life!
Having lunch in the surprisingly spacey insight of proasis! Four adults could sit there comfortably and sheltered for meals, two sleep in the cozy bunks in each bow over night.
The design office got transferred into the mockup for a couple of days: after spending a lot of time inside there we are confident to build a suitable accommodation!
Simulation of the galley/stove area

Scale model (1:5) under construction

The 1:25 scale model turned out to be very promising. As intended, it gave us a better feeling for the shape and led to some changes (extension of the beams to leeward i. eg.).

Next step: a 1:5 full functional model!

Originally planned to be radio controlled, we realized that the shunting process would be very difficult to build and stepped back from that idea. The 1:5 model (1,8m long btw) is now manually controlled and secured by a kite line.

Water bottles for proper scaled weight trim
Beams are lashed on for controlled flexibility

The model will be used to experiment with two different types of rigs and various rudder/leeboard configurations: aside of a traditional oceanic lateen sail (also known as crab claw sail) a newly developed softwing gaff sail with unstayed mast will be tested. The platform is prepared to sail a double rudder configuration (oversized rudders are used for steering and leeway prevention) and leeboard/rudder configuration (leeboard to prevent leeway, small rudder for steering).

Softwing gaff sail
Traditional oceanic lateen (crab claw) sail with double rudder configuration.
Leeboard configuration. The ducktape is not the final solution, the leeboard is supposed to swing back and forth for lateral trim.
Huge SUP board as capsize prevention
Ready for a sail!

Stay tuned, we will post some sailing videos soon!

Scale model (1:25) ready!

CAD software is a great tool to model complex 3-dimensional structures like boats. But as fast as a new model is created on the screen, so easy it is to loose the proper feeling for its shape and dimensions.

Real scale models help to get an impression how all the crazy things on the screen would look like in reality. We made a 1:25 3D-printed scale model of Proasis. Fortunately, 1:25 is more or less the scale factor of Playmobile, so we can use Playmobile manikins as size comparison.

Two different types of rigs will be tested: A softwing gaff sail with unstayed mast and a traditional oceanic lateen (also known as crab claw).

First sketches of Proasis

The design of our unique proa “Proasis” was born in a very special place: the Enewetok Atoll!

Never heard about that place? Well, honestly Bikini, Enewetoks neighbor atoll, is wider known (the swimsuit is actually named after it). Enewetok and Bikini, both located in the Marshall Islands, were used as nuclear test side by the US military in 1940’s and 1950’s.

Baker test, Bikini 1946

In total, 67 nuclear bombs were tested in Bikini, 44 more in Enewetok. The native population of those islands was ruthless relocated. Most of them left home forever.

The Runit dome. Nuclear debris was dumped in a crater and covered with concrete.
On the edge of a tomb: nuke crater (filled with water) to the left and the waste dome in the background. Photo by Tohitika Sanchez.

Further information regarding the Marshallese nuclear legacy can be found here.

Enewetok is such a special place, it can only be reached by a 900 nm boat ride – once or twice a year – on irregular base. Unless you are lucky and catch the ride of your lifetime on a traditional polynesian catamaran replica!

On anchor in the Enewetok lagoon. Photo by H. Richter-Alten.

After a bumpy sail of 6 days crossing almost the entire Marshall islands, first sketches and 3D-models were born out of a mixture of salt, sun, wind and nuclear radiation:

What is the Proasis Project?

A house by the sea

Imagine you live in a house close by the beach. The noise of the breaking swell, seagulls in the air and the salty taste of the ocean breeze will accompany you every day. Sounds great? Off course it does, at least one reason why 80% of the human population lives close by the ocean side. But the dream of a place by the sea is turning into a nightmare: a rising sea level is eating up the shorelines, causing soil salination and squeezing out the freshwater lenses of islands or low lying coasts.

Waves are flooding Ejit Island (Majuro Atoll, Marshall Islands). The island is surrounded by the endless Pacific Ocean and only 2 m above sea level. If the water decides to wipe your home there is no way to hide. Photo by Alson Kelen out of his backyard.

I didn’t thought too much about all of this until I got a job at “Waan Aelon in Majel – Canoes of the Marshall Islands” about green shipping in Majuro, Marshall Islands. The Marshall Islands are a small island nation in the central Pacific between Hawai’i and Papua New Guinea. The country consists of low lying coral atolls only with the highest elevation a few meters above sea level. Short after arriving in Majuro, the capital of Marshall Island, I found the most beautiful islands I could have dreamed of, settled by wonderful gold-hearted people. But at the same time the Marshall Islands are a cumulation of almost every problem humanity caused worldwide so far: cultural damage by colonization and Americanization, drug abuse, high radiation level by nuclear weapons, overpopulation, urbanization, plastic trash, deforestation, overfishing, coral bleach, (water) pollution and the most dangerous to a low island: sea-level rise (by climate change). Most of these problems are not caused by the Marshallese people, but they are suffering. The scientist’s predictions don’t sound very promising: a couple of decades, or half a century until the islands will be uninhabitable due to the rising sea level! The population will be forced to leave their ancestors homeland – a cultural genocide.

So all hope is lost?

Not yet. The small NGO “Waan Aelon in Majel” (WAM) copy the upcoming challenges since 30 years by preserving native culture (especially boat building and sailing), offers a perspective for young people to make a living and creating awareness for the climate crisis.

View on the jetty of Waan Aelõñ Kein. Due to erosion the beach already disappeared and was replaced by a mix of concrete and coral stone. Photo by Esther Kokmeijer

As a child of the East-Frisian island Norderney I know the oppressive feeling of being surrounded by roaring waters during the storm season in winter since I can remember. But still, it was the work of and for WAM which was an eye-opener for me. Norderney and her 6 sister islands consist of fine white sand only and elevate a couple of meters above the north sea. Without any protection around they are as vulnerable for erosion as a sandcastle.

Back in Germany the daily routine and all projects I previously had been involved felt pointless compared to the real challenges of our future. Step by step the idea of combining what I’m good at (building boats and sailing) and the desire to be a part of the solution shaped out of the fog. Christian came back to Germany a couple of months later (he worked for WAM in Majuro, too) and was immediately hooked by the idea: Proasis was born.

Our fight

Every island and every shore in the world shares the same ocean with each other and is already affected by the rising sea level. Its a fight for the island I call home, for the land of our Marshallese friends and for the far majority of the human population. We can only fight (and maybe still win) it together!

The Proasis project will carry the spirit of WAM from the Pacific Ocean to new, somewhat colder waters around northern Europe. To create awareness and demonstrate an alternative way we will design, construct and sail Proasis, a pacific based proa (outrigger sailboat, see “What is a proa“). Proasis will be powered fossil-free, simple and low cost. By using mainly recycled or degradable materials she will be eco-friendly with a small footprint.

Our goal is to be visible on the water as an eye-opener for as many people as possible, in the same way, WAM has been an eye-opener to us.

Why Proas.is?

Inspired by the traditional boat building skills of the Marshall Island and the work ofthe NGO Waan Aelõñ in Majel (Canoes of the Marshall Islands) we will design, construct and sail a pacific proa, a very special and unique double hulled sailing boat. Proas.is or Proasis is a mix of the word Proa (the name of the pacific outrigger sailboat) and oasis. It will be our oasis when we cross the great water deserts of our planet.

The domain .is doesn’t sound familiar? It is the national domain of Ísland (Iceland). We chose this domain, because the server farms are powered mostly by geothermal energy (therefore carbon neutral) and for the side effect of the name combination.