Forgot your password?
typodupeerror

Wind Powered Freighters Return 261

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the more-than-just-hot-air dept.
thatoneguyfromphoeni writes "It appears that sails could return to the ocean's freighters soon. Newsweek is reporting on a technology to assist with cross-ocean travel. From the article: 'SkySails' system consists of an enormous towing kite and navigation software that can map the best route between two points for maximum wind efficiency. In development for more than four years, the system costs from roughly $380,000 to $3.2 million, depending on the size of the ship it's pulling. SkySails claims it will save one third of fuel costs.'"
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Wind Powered Freighters Return

Comments Filter:
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 08, 2006 @03:38PM (#15684195)
    Scientists have been puzzling over the best route between 2 points for centuries, but the math has been too difficult.
    • by richdun (672214) on Saturday July 08, 2006 @06:09PM (#15684732)
      Amusing, but in all seriousness, I'd love to see how well this stuff can plot courses through winds. This kind of thing could also be great for space travel - both for plotting through solar winds and gravitational assists (or both at once). If it's that much better at plotting through winds than whatever else we've had up until now, maybe it's also better than whatever orbital navigation plotting we have rigth now.
  • Welcome to the 80's (Score:4, Informative)

    by Warshadow (132109) on Saturday July 08, 2006 @03:41PM (#15684210)
    During the oil crisis in the early 80's they worked on this. I'm fairly sure one company did add sails to a ship or two and did see a reduction in fuel consumption.

    Also Popular Mechanics ran an article on this like 4 months ago. In fact it was on the cover of that issue.
    • I'm sure you'll get modded up. No surprise that high oil prices in the late 70s early 80s had these same kinds of research projects. They probably floundered in the 90s when prices came down and now someone is blowing the dust off the old plans.

      I actually proposed something similar for providing and shipping desalinated water in my blog [jaytv.com] with Now All I Need Is A Giant Baggie..." [jaytv.com]just a week ago.
      • "now someone is blowing the dust off the old plans. "

        Yup, and I think they'll find that materials technology and engineering have come a long way since those plans were first drawn up; sails aren't a new idea on modern ships but the parameters have been changed quite a bit so some tweaking will certainly need to take place. Good plan though- it's about time this idea came up again _^^

        • There is a company (mostly one guy, actually) - http://www.kiteship.com/ [kiteship.com] - that has been experimenting, testing, and building kites for boats of various sizes - including maxi sailboats and AC Boats, and has been testing much larger kites designed for ships. They look a little different from the kites designed for kiteboarding. It is not just materials, either - the shapes and techniques for setting and dousing have been big parts of it, as far as I understand.

          The sky sails people seem to be trying to get
    • by PapayaSF (721268) on Saturday July 08, 2006 @04:00PM (#15684297) Journal
      The early helicopter designer Anton Flettner [wikipedia.org] made an interesting attempt in the '20s to harness wind power for ocean travel. The Flettner rotorship Bruckau [efluids.com] used two tall, rotating cylinders to harness the Magnus Effect. It worked, but unfortunately turned out to be less efficient than normal propulsion [tecsoc.org].
      • I was trying to find a link.

        The advantage is it could go various directions easily, and with no need for a huge keel. But apparently, yeah, it sucked.

        Most interestingly, the ship moved on the same principles that make a curveball curve.
      • by Feyr (449684)
        i know of at least one ship that uses round sails in activity right now. the Alcyone [cousteau.org]. it belongs to the Cousteau foundation, they do oceanographic research
    • by fm6 (162816) on Saturday July 08, 2006 @04:06PM (#15684317) Homepage Journal
      Indeed, in the 80s, lots of companies hopped on the alternative energy bandwagon. Exxon seemed to be operating on the assumption that they'd be out of the oil business soon. They bought into high tech in a big way, including the company I was working for [warthman.com]. One person I met from another Exxon subsidiary talked about new battery technology they were working on. This was supposed to be a new business for all those Exxon gas stations that soon wouldn't have any gas: swapping out depleted batteries in electric cars.

      Then oil prices came back down, those batteries turned out to be harder to design than they thought, and Exxon discovered they weren't very good at managing high tech. Back to business as usual. And here we are again...

    • by Danga (307709) on Saturday July 08, 2006 @04:52PM (#15684478)
      Also Popular Mechanics ran an article on this like 4 months ago. In fact it was on the cover of that issue.

      I was trying to remember where I somewhat recently read about this technology and thank you for reminding me that it was in Popular Mechanics.

      I can't find a link to the Popular Mechanics article (I think it was in the february 2006 issue) but you can read more about this technology here http://alt-e.blogspot.com/2005/02/hybrids-hybrid-b oats-hybrid-ships-and.html [blogspot.com] and the following link has some more information as well as some interesting pictures/diagrams http://www.primidi.com/2005/03/07.html [primidi.com] .

      It is pretty amazing how much more efficient the sails can make a ship, from the last link I mentioned:

      "cargo vessels can increase their speed by a minimum of 10% -- in the example given speed is increased yet by 2.25 bends, equaling 15%. Alternatively by using the SkySails propulsion fuel savings of up to 50% can be implemented."

      It showed that using 1200 litres of fuel per hour a normal ship would cruise at ~15.5 knots and a skysail enhanced ship would cruise at close to 18 knots, not too bad of a speed gain. If the skysail ship wanted to cruise at 15.5 knots instead then fuel consumption would drop from 1200 litres per hour to around 550. That is just awesome and I really hope this goes into wide use where it is feasable to use it.
      • SO that would mean a cost savings of around $400-$500 an hour, or something like 6,000 hours operating with a sail to pay for the system and then begin to profit.

        Seems like if it's sturdy enough to last a good decade or so, the savings would be quite handsome
    • by jban4US (927747)
      you can't find it cause it was a Popular Science article i believe, i read it too.
      a quick search of the popsci website found this:
      http://www.popsci.com/popsci/whatsnew/bc0b041c0516 a010vgnvcm1000004eecbccdrcrd.html?s_prop18=whatsne w [popsci.com]
    • The problem with sails is you can't sail head-on into the wind -- you have to "tack" or zigzag back and forth at an angle on either side of the headwind. On the other hand, if you stuck a few windmills up on deck, you can point straight into the wind no problem. Less labor intensive for the crew, if they don't have to trim the sails (or run them up and down in changing wind conditions).
  • by Frequency Domain (601421) on Saturday July 08, 2006 @03:42PM (#15684213)
    The artist's conception picture in the article shows the bow as the point of attachment for the parasail. I suspect that would make steering much more difficult, compared to hooking the parawing near the center of mass for the ship.
    • Hmmm - I'd say closer to the CP than the CG since then the sail could help trim the ship.
    • You're forgetting that these ships weigh several hundred tons. I don't see how steering them would be any difficult as they resist change in speed because of their momentum.
      • Several hundred tons? That would only be the weight of several shipping containers. Try a few more orders of magnitude! The mass of any steering mechanism on these ships is quite massive and going to require lots of energy to move it.
      • by MathFox (686808) on Saturday July 08, 2006 @04:58PM (#15684498)
        It takes some time to get a supertanker turning... but once they turn it takes significant time to stop the rotation. Rotational inertia can work against you.
        Having the pulling force closer to the center of the ship will decrease the needed rudder force for correction; using the rudder creates friction, so that's best avoided. Another advantage of having the ropes mid-deck makes it possible to lower the kite on deck, much more convenient than fishing it out of the waves after use.
      • Try multiplying that by about 100-1000. The largest freighters displace more than 100,000 tons, and supertankers can displace several times that.
    • There are several points where ships already have places for tugboats to attach ... for retrofitting, using these is the cheapest way to go.

      They will be tacking back and forth behind the parasail.
      • None of these is designed for long term tug at full speed though. Still, this stands a better chance than fitting 2proper" sails. Many sail designs were considered during the previous petrol crisis and none of them got anywhere because fitting a useable sail on a modern ship requires effectively redesigning it. Still, for new ships some of the 1970-es designs like the rotor sail (cannot find the actual English name, that is a bad translation) are likely to be considerably more cost effective.
      • by alshithead (981606) * on Saturday July 08, 2006 @10:28PM (#15685470)
        Most newer freighters and tankers can pretty much dock themselves. The have bow and stern thrusters that make them very maneuverable at low speed. These days tugs are more of a backup system for docking ships. They'll tie on and sit at the ready but the pilot on the ship is doing the docking using the bow and stern thrusters.
    • by nacnud75 (963443) on Saturday July 08, 2006 @06:39PM (#15684842)
      The parasail behaves very differently to a normal triangular sail or even a jenica. You move the parasail constantly through the air in a figure of eight to generate power. Also these ships are likely to follow the trade winds where the wind normally comes from the stern, therefore attaching the sail to the bow won't be a problem as most of the time the ship would be traveling on a broad reach or run.
    • Precisely. If you attach the line to the bow, the only direction you'll be able to go is downwind. Attach it near the center of the hull, like the mast of a sailboat, yaw the hull with the rudder, and you can go a reasonable angle off the wind.

      You'll never be able to go to windward (i.e., more than 90 degrees away from downwind), because even with a steerable kite the force on the line will always have a positive component downwind...but you could very likely go 45 degrees off downwind.

      rj
  • by Tx (96709)
    TFA doesn't seem to say, I'd imagine that thing would have to be absolutely huge if, as they say, it can pull a full-sized ship. I'd like to see some details on deployment as well, I imagine a huge thing like that would be a bit tricky to handle in any kind of useful wind, when trying to get it launched. Great idea though - I've often wondered if wind-assist wouldn't be a useful idea on ships, but I had in mind more traditional masts and sails with a bit of automation, this is a lot simpler, and therefore
    • I don't think it's pulling the ship like a traditional sailboat, rather I think it's more of an assist to save on fuel costs. It makes sense if they can keep the system automated (and light!) enough to not interfere too badly with existing ship systems. Unfortunatly, it looks rather complex in the picture and if it requires an extra crewman or two to operate the concept is dead in the water. Crewmen are expensive and fuel isn't bad enough yet to make people receptive to expensive complex doodads.
      • by Tx (96709)
        TFA says "Ships can use their engines to begin and end voyages and use sail power in lieu of engines for the middle portion. Use both, and you go even faster." So at least whoever wrote the article has the impression the sail can pull the ship without engines, although like you, I have my doubts.
      • Crewmen may be expensive, but how expensive? I have to imagine that fuel costs are huge to move something that big across an ocean -- and they say that the sail can cut the consumption by a third. That might easily pay for a few extra crew.
        • Re:How big? (Score:5, Informative)

          by Cromac (610264) on Saturday July 08, 2006 @04:53PM (#15684483)
          At this site http://www.bath.ac.uk/~ccsshb/12cyl/ [bath.ac.uk] the most powerful ship diesel running at its most efficient speed burns 1,660 gallons of heavy fuel oil per hour. Even using the cheap, nasty fuel these ships burn that's a big expense.

          According to http://www.skysails.info/index.php?id=66&L=1 [skysails.info]

          Increasing efficiency using ship diesel has almost reached its maximum potential and is also extremely expensive. According to the calculation of an expert on ship propulsions, shipping companies would have to invest up to 500,000 Euros in order to reduce a ship's fuel consumption by 1%. Fuel savings of 5% would be a fantastic performance for ship owners, according to Niels Stolberg, managing partner of Bremen-based shipping company Beluga Shipping GmbH.
          To get an increase of 35% (the max claimed by SkySails) would mean a 3.5 million euro investment, that's a lot of crewman salaries even at union wages and less than the Skysails implementation would cost.

          They have some interesting performance calculations on their website too about how much sail produces how much energy. http://www.skysails.info/index.php?id=89&L=1 [skysails.info]

    • "...I imagine a huge thing like that would be a bit tricky to handle in any kind of useful wind, when trying to get it launched..."

      Good point.
      My best guess is to make the sail inflatable, and fill it with helium. That at least gets it up and in the right shape. Orientation is yet another problem.
  • by Assmasher (456699) on Saturday July 08, 2006 @03:43PM (#15684218) Journal
    ...the course of a *different* route than if the ship is entirely under power; ergo, use the sails and you need to chart a different, likely less direct, course for the ship. I wonder what the average increase in distance for a route is?

    Likely this will still have value even if just used when the wind is positioned conveniently. Certain legs of round trips are certainly likely to benefit greatly from sail power.

    Very cool. I'd certainly love to see that out on the ocean.

    • Wind like ocean currents is free. Airliners already try to catch tail winds when they can on the jetstream here in the US, and I guess its common for other countries as well. I believe that tankers already take advantage of currents as well.

      What is interesting is that people used to be grateful to spend long periods (months?) of time to travel across oceans with an acceptable death/sickness rate of what about 30% to do international travel. Now, if an airline is delayed 30 minutes for an international fl
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 08, 2006 @03:50PM (#15684250)
    Actually, this is not just a weird idea, but this is already in use by Beluga [beluga-group.com], an ocean carrier from Bremen/Germany.

    (Funny that the image whose words I have to type in right now says 'seaport' (-: )
  • Wind assist (Score:2, Insightful)

    by WhatDoIKnow (962719)
    Hey, didn't KevinCostner's boat in Water World have one of these?
    • Re:Wind assist (Score:3, Informative)

      by Bagheera (71311)
      While the boat in Water World was quite cool, no it wasn't kite powered. They actually used two former French Forumla 1 (if I remember the class right) racing tris. One with it's original rig largely intact, and rigged so it could be sailed by a concealed crew while Costner jumped around on the multi-crank-tiller-thing at the back. The second, with it's rig replaced with a simulated egg-beater style vertical axis wind turbin that supposedly provided power for the boat's electric motors.

      Those real world t
      • Re:Wind assist (Score:5, Insightful)

        by ray-auch (454705) on Saturday July 08, 2006 @07:48PM (#15685042)
        I'd just have to wonder about the incredible tension the kite's main lead would be under. We're talking HUGE forces here. One of those "if it snaps, someone's gonna die" kind of tensions.


        can't be much different to towing the ship with a tug - which is pretty common.

        forces on anchor cables and mooring lines are also likely to be pretty similar.

        you are right on the "someone's gonna die" level on tension (well known with eg. mooring lines), but it's going to be a manageable risk because it is already managed with ships of this size.
        • I agree that you're right for the most part. But ships this size usually aren't towed at cruising speeds, and when they are towed at all the lines are led forward pretty much level with the deck of the ship. With a kite, your best angle of sail is going to be a reach down to a broad reach (won't be worth much on a run) where the loads will be up in all cases, and fairly lateral at the most efficient points of sail.

          Gotta hand it to them though for actually implementing something like this!
  • by iminplaya (723125) <iminplaya.gmail@com> on Saturday July 08, 2006 @03:54PM (#15684268) Journal
    Sorry, this [bookrags.com] is the best I could find. I'm just not that good with this Google thing. I was looking for a picture, but FTL:
    Rising fuel prices during the 1970s prompted the development of a new technology that used sails shaped like aircraft wings turned on end to take some of the burden off the engines and save fuel. Slightly curved to form a wing shape, these sails were attached to a mast that could pivot and locate the best angle for the sail to catch the wind. Once the computers set the mast at the best angle to the wind, the sail created the same "lifting" force that an airplane's wing generates, except that the force pushed the ship along the water. However, this system did not always prove to be efficient for extremely large vessels. I thought what I saw was that the mast itself was a rigid aerodynamic sail.
    • Rising fuel prices during the 1970s prompted the development of a new technology that used sails shaped like aircraft wings turned on end to take some of the burden off the engines and save fuel.

      I remember a Popular Science article on this from the '70's, but can't find any images from it on Google either. The kite approach is interesting because it is better-suited for retrofit than this mast-based technology, but has the downside of providing less ability to sail against the wind (on the other hand, the

    • Keep in mind that you're going to need a keel/centerboard as well unless the wind is right behind you in order to go straight.

  • by irritating environme (529534) on Saturday July 08, 2006 @03:55PM (#15684277)
    One of the things I was looking forward too as gas/oil prices skyrocketing was a decrease in offshore manufacturing. Economics and exploitation of slave labor may say that it's cheaper to manufacture something and then send it 2,000 miles over ship rather than manufacture locally, that entire equation depends on cheap oil.

    Stuff like this will save oil and carbon outputs, but really just allows the same wasteful economic system. I have mixed emotions.

    Ahh, the military will probably ban them b/c it disrupts their radars.
    • that entire equation depends on cheap oil.

      the equation depends on maintaining schedules and the total cost of shipping and handling---which was profoundly transformed by the modern shipping container.

      we are almost two generations removed now from the labor intensive break-bulk system which was the norm throughout history.

    • by Stoutlimb (143245) on Saturday July 08, 2006 @04:31PM (#15684409)
      Not all cheap labour is slave labour. In fact, "slave labour" as you call it, is vastly in the minority. Most shipping just takes advantages economic differences between countries. (ie cheap to make in one country, expensive to make in another.) "Slave labour" is the boogeyman people drag out to frighten people when they are against international trade for whatever reason.

      While deplorable, it's hardly the standard.
    • by sockonafish (228678) on Saturday July 08, 2006 @05:21PM (#15684574)
      Wasteful? If it's cheaper to make a good elsewhere and then ship it than to make it locally, it's more wasteful to produce that good locally.

      Economics classes should be required to graduate high school.
      • Economics classes should be required to post on /.
      • by ThosLives (686517) on Saturday July 08, 2006 @06:32PM (#15684818) Journal
        Perhaps they should also require Advanced Economics.

        'Waste' doesn't necessarily equate with price or cost. For instance, it is profoundly wasteful that, for instance, in the US we have non-refillable containers for just about every food product we purchase. This is very inexpensive, but is very wasteful - there is no technical reason why a store could not have a sanitary 2-liter filling station where you just take the same bottle over and over to obtain your beverage of choice. This would actually be less expensive in the long run, but it would cost people who make bottles their jobs, etc. etc.

        Again, remember that cost does not necessarily match with waste. In fact, generally less expensive alternatives cost less than their less-wasteful alternatives - at the initial investment stage. However, the long-term costs are always lower with less waste.

        • by Firethorn (177587) on Saturday July 08, 2006 @07:43PM (#15685024) Homepage Journal
          there is no technical reason why a store could not have a sanitary 2-liter filling station where you just take the same bottle over and over to obtain your beverage of choice. This would actually be less expensive in the long run, but it would cost people who make bottles their jobs, etc. etc.

          Actually there is. Well, it's not a technical reason, but a sanitary reason. Heath codes/standards, especially with concerns about people possibly deliberatly tainting stuff, rose to the point that the required cleaning/powerwashing/sterilizing to reuse containters costs more energy than the oil that that utterly cheap containers we use today. There are some places where you can refill filtered water though. It wouldn't be an unworkable idea to refill all your milk/soda/tea/juices at the store, but even if you had everyone bring their own containers, you'd have to worry about rotating, cleaning&sanitizing the various taps.

          Again, remember that cost does not necessarily match with waste. In fact, generally less expensive alternatives cost less than their less-wasteful alternatives - at the initial investment stage. However, the long-term costs are always lower with less waste.
          It can depend, actually. Sometimes the capital costs of a 'less wastefull solution' are such that you'll never make back the investment.
        • Advanced Economics ... This would actually be less expensive in the long run, but it would cost people who make bottles their jobs, etc. etc.


          Did someone mention broken windows?
      • by b0s0z0ku (752509) on Saturday July 08, 2006 @09:16PM (#15685283)
        Wasteful? If it's cheaper to make a good elsewhere and then ship it than to make it locally, it's more wasteful to produce that good locally.

        Actually, US manufacturing could be a hell of a lot cheaper than it is now while maintaining our good standards of living. Sadly, our labor unions don't support increased automation, so we are forced to rely on cheap foreign drudge-labor, often in countries that aren't our friends.

        -b.

    • by dragons_flight (515217) on Saturday July 08, 2006 @05:46PM (#15684663) Homepage
      Oceanic shipping is already incredibly efficient and only accounts for a few percent of the cost of most goods shipped that way. For example, a supertanker only adds 2 cents [wikipedia.org] to the cost of a gallon of gas. It would take a very radical change in the cost of oil to have any significant impact on the economic viability of overseas manufacturing.
    • One of the things I was looking forward too as gas/oil prices skyrocketing was a decrease in offshore manufacturing.

      Trouble is that the manufacturing base of the US has been decimated since the 80s meaning that re-instating manufacturing could be quite difficult. Leave it long enough and even the skill sets start disappearing. I think it's easy to see evidence of this looking around.
  • I'm skeptical (Score:4, Informative)

    by Jeff Molby (906283) on Saturday July 08, 2006 @04:01PM (#15684301)
    Here is a video [skysails.info] from their site. This is obviously a prototype, so they have a LOT of scaling to do. Plus, the only time you see the boat (yes, I said boat, not ship) moving with any significant speed, you can't see the rear, so it's safe to assume that its engine is assisting.
    • That video also shows the kite doing several dives at low altitude. I've experienced this myself with a "flow form" parachute-style kite while trying to do kite aerial photography. One of those dives led to me bashing my camera into the beach [boonedocks.net]. I can imagine it would be a mess to haul one of their huge kites out of the ocean.
  • by Magus2501 (899681)
    I heard from a friend that it takes ~40 gallons of fuel to move one of those big cruise ships. This would be a great idea for recreational ships in terms of fuel savings. Not only that, it would be a great idea in terms of the novelty. People would think it's neat to ride on a cruise ship pulled by a huge kite. Who knows? Maybe someone will find a way to take people up in the kite (for a fee). Maybe not. That would be dangerous.
    • I think that the cruise ship market would be perfect for this invention. As is, there's always a huge going away party on a cruise ship, after leaving port..and watching the sails go up, would just add to the atmosphere of going away to sea (regardless of how effective the sail actually was)
    • There are already cruise ships with sails -- from the real sailing vessels on Windjammer Barefoot Cruises up to 50,000 ton diesel-powered ships with sails that add maybe one knot to the cruise speed. Depends on how real you want the experience to be...

      rj
  • by VikingBerserker (546589) on Saturday July 08, 2006 @04:14PM (#15684344)

    Sailboats tend to need keels if they plan on sailing in any direction other than directly downwind.

    I'm not just mentioning this as another thing to factor into the cost of retrofitting ships; there is also the consideration of the added draft the ship needs in port in order to avoid running aground.

    I see this as a potential problem for using sails, since ports may need to further dredge their channels and inlets in order to allow larger sailing craft to load and unload their cargo. Will they still consider this cost-effective?

    • On the question of keels, wouldn't heeling the rudder over correct for the absence, much a plane's does to correct for crosswinds? Or would that be insufficient if the sail is providing too much force?

      And why does the ship need a deeper draft, especially since they'd still have the engines to use alone getting into and out of port?
      • no, it wouldn't (Score:3, Interesting)

        by YesIAmAScript (886271)
        The rudder is used to change direction.

        The keel is used as resistance. Because it has a large surface area, it resists the ship being pushed off line by the force of the wind. It's like squeezing a seed between your fingers. Your fingers are pushing up and down, but the seed shoots out sideways. This happens because your fingers keep the seed from going up or down.

        This is needed because the wind may be blowing north/south and you need to go east/west. Just turning the sail and the rudder will only change th
      • And why does the ship need a deeper draft, especially since they'd still have the engines to use alone getting into and out of port?

        If the ships would have to be retro fitted with keels then the ships draft would increase.
    • from the sound of it, it's only designed to be used when the ship is heading downwind, I can't imagine a 1000' long tanker trying to tack into the wind.
    • A sailboat needs a keel because the sail exerts direct force on the mast, which is solidly affixed to the ship above it's center of gravity - a kite design removes some of these problems by adding lift into the equation reducing the tipping effect. Of course the 50 bajillion ton mass of a superfireghter also servers to reduce that tipping effect...
    • You use engines to enter and leave port ... add the sails for a boost when you are at sea. No need for dredging.
      • For a big ship, a movable keel is probably not an economical option. If you need the keel for sailing in the open ocean, you can't pretend it's not there when you're using your engines in port.
    • Sailboats tend to need keels if they plan on sailing in any direction other than directly downwind.

      Assuming that there needs to be something extra for directional stability, there are also :

      • centreboards - which drop or hinge from inside the boat which can be retracted
      • lee boards - which hinge from the side of the boat, one on each side. The one on the downwind side is usually lowered, hence the name. The most common example I can think of for these that you might know ( from paintings and such ) is Dut
  • by Gruthar (986278)
    the amount of tension on the parawing cable would scare the crap out of me, especially if I had to deal with that thing in/prior to bad weather.
    • the amount of tension on the parawing cable would scare the crap out of me, especially if I had to deal with that thing in/prior to bad weather.

      So, much like a normal sailboat, you can reef the wing/sail [sailingusa.info] which reduces the surface for the wind to act on. In a serious storm, the tension might still be there, but then again, so would the regular engine. ;)
    • Well I was.. (Score:2, Interesting)

      by arthurpaliden (939626)
      Bad weather don't you mean any weather. Just ask any one who has ever worked on a ship or barge tow how dangerous that is. When that line breaks and snaps back it can go through armour plate.
  • Jet Stream? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by TechGranny (987537)
    Wow, this is really cool. Maybe in a few years nanotech will be far enough along to allow for wires that have amazing tensile strengths and light wieght to pput a sail all the way up into the Jet Stream. It may sound far fetched and probably is, but jeez that could really get a ship zinging along...
    Cool Stuff.
  • This was on the Discovery Channel last year.

    What is it with the editors? Are they watching re-runs now?
  • by wbean (222522) on Saturday July 08, 2006 @04:25PM (#15684382)
    Maybe, but the real reason sailing ships went out of use wasn't the cost of transporting the cargo. Remember that sailing ships didn't need space for engines or fuel; and, by the end of the 19th century they were sailed by very small crews. They were always the cheapest way to get cargo from one point to another. What killed them was the unreliability of their passage times: In order to gurarantee a steady supply of a commodity you had to have big wharehouses at each end. Steamships eliminated the wharehouses so the end-to-end cost was less. Just in time inventory anybody?
    • A sailboat is limited in manuverability and it's easy for any boat with its own power to approach the ship from a direction which it cannot run away from. So they'd would be easy to capture.

      It's unclear that war/privateers and piracy are much of a problem crossing the Pacific right now.
      • by Anonymous Coward
        It's copyright infringement, you fucking RIAA shill.
      • by Firethorn (177587) on Saturday July 08, 2006 @08:04PM (#15685087) Homepage Journal
        It's unclear that war/privateers and piracy are much of a problem crossing the Pacific right now.

        Not in the Pacific, but there's issues in the caribbean, around Africa(Somolia), and certain sections of the middle east.

        What protects the giant cargo ships is that they're so big it'd take a ship of equal size to steal the cargo, and even pirates could get ahold of a ship that size, it'd be rather trivial to track by satellite, and most of the navies of the world consider pirate suppression part of their core duties. If there's nothing else more important going on, even an American Aircraft carrier will divert to chase suspected pirates.

        Most pirates today mostly steal the crew's effects, maybe part of a container, and sometimes take the crew hostage for ransoms.

        You don't hear much about it, but cruise liners, which you'd think would be tempting targets, are also among the fastest, especially when they turn all the engines up. With the smaller boats pirates tend to use, they either lack the speed or the endurance to catch them. Even if they do, it has a huge crew that's also trained(and armed) to keep pirates from getting aboard. That and the moment they spot pirates they'll be calling for help, and remember how I mentioned most navies like catching pirates? Pirates chasing a cruise liner will have every naval asset that has a prayer of intercepting will be applying full power to the engines.
    • by Jeff DeMaagd (2015) on Saturday July 08, 2006 @05:43PM (#15684654) Homepage Journal
      I don't see how this applies, this system is using wind as a supplement, not as its main or only source of propulsion. I really don't know how feasible this is, but it would be interesting to try. It assumes that the wind is blowing faster than the ship would move under its own power, and assumes the ship isn't fighting the wind. Whether the useful wind makes up for the cost of buying and operating some sort of sails is unknown.
    • they are ordinary engined ships, with sails attached. You can still make the runs in the same amount of time, but use the sail when the winds are favorable, and power back the engines, thus saving fuel.

      Fuel costs are enormous expenses in running a ship. 3 million dollars? The fuel savings would pay for it in little time on a large cargo or tanker ship.

      The problem with adding traditional sails to powered ships is they reduce cargo capacity and ease of access to said cargo for load/unload. These sails are
  • by CrazyJim1 (809850) on Saturday July 08, 2006 @04:30PM (#15684400) Journal
    "navigation software that can map the best route between two points for maximum wind efficiency"

    So yeah Jeff, I was the ultimate cause for the latest oil spill, but anyone could have done it. I forgot to put an upper cap on the windspeed, and damned if the ship didn't go cruising straight into that last hurricane.
  • Real hybrid (Score:4, Funny)

    by Subacultcha (921910) on Saturday July 08, 2006 @09:12PM (#15685274)
    I'm going to buy a Prius and put a sail on it. That way I can be even more smug than every hybrid owner on the road.

    "You call THAT a hybrid? Pfff."
  • by Locutus (9039) on Saturday July 08, 2006 @09:42PM (#15685336)
    The Walker Wing Sail system was designed in the 70s when fuel was 'expensive' and the idea was to outfit freighters with the Wing Sails to help reduce fuel costs. Unfortunately, once the fuel 'shortages' of the 70's went away, Mr Walker found it very difficult to sell his systems. He started making his own Trimarans when no boat builders would license his design and build boats using it. But finacially solid orders were too few and only a handful of his boats were made utilizing the Wing Sail design. Some are still afloat today.

    http://www.lusas.com/case/composite/wingsail.html [lusas.com]

    So I think the Walker Wing Sail makes more sense than this para-sail system.

    LoB
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 08, 2006 @09:55PM (#15685371)
    Those of you who have never been out of littoral water (bays, rivers, harbors, canals, lakes, etc) please do a little research before deep-sixing an idea.

    The largest sailing ships (of the Chinese Great Fleet) ever made approached size of WWII aircraft carriers (Enterprise/Lexington/Yorktown size) and measured their mainsails in fractional acreage.

    I've been a professional blue-ocean sailor for several years. Calm seas and no wind are two things you rarely see unless you are in a brown-water (littoral waters) environment. One of the reasons the current shipping lanes are shaped the way they are is due to great-circle fuel efficiency. The older shipping routes followed the areas of regular wind "down where the trade winds blow" and were essentially 'free'. A tradeoff of a 5% longer route for a deduction of 5% in fuel costs is something that any shipping agency would be willing to consider. There is a print-out on our bridge that shows fuel consumption ($$ also) per hour per engine at the 'sweet spots' throttle settings. My captain much prefers to not burn more fuel than he needs to.

  • by not-him-again (553009) on Sunday July 09, 2006 @01:13AM (#15685884)
    These kites are basically like spinnakers, moving the ship to leeward. This technology has been available since paleolithic times, when a dugout canoe could be outfitted with a rag on a couple of sticks. A major advance was made by the Arabs some 2000 years ago, with the invention of the Lateen rig, which is still just two sticks and a rag, but the rag forms a conic section, and pulls the boat towards the wind. Sailing on the prevailing winds certainly is useful, but these kites won't be anywhere near as energy-efficient as the large steel square-rigged freighters that were used to transport coal and other bulk goods around the beginning of the last century. They had a steam engine, but used it to power the winches to tack rig. That's the sort of thing we need; this kite retrofit is just a stopgap.

If you fail to plan, plan to fail.

Working...