Friday, October 14, 2005

Kiteship & Heavy Metal

Check out some of the photos on the homepage of Kiteship, Inc. According to the corporate-speak on the site the company is, "...a group of forward-thinking sailors, designers and visionaries...exploiting the fundamental advantages of traction kites for decades."

Scuttlebutt readers will recognize this topic from today's David Culp piece that declaims "...for the first time in three decades, major industry is looking at - seriously contemplating - putting
sail power onto the world's cargo ships."

I want to know what happens when a freighter broaches. Seriously...who goes forward in a blow to douse the chute? And what if there's a wind shift? A squall? Are these guys for real?


Lonnie Bruner said...

Going sailing on the Chesapeake on Sunday. Supposed to be 18-20 knot winds.

Woo hoo!

Anonymous said...

Awesome! Have fun...

Anonymous said...

The kite thing is real. There was an article about it in the Economist magazine back in mid-September. They were saying it's been discussed since the 1970s. They'd likely only put it up when they were running with the wind. Would save a ton on gas.

wingssail said...

Your questions are completely valid. I've experienced sudden windshifts, particularly while sailing near the equator, but also in near subtropical depressions, of 180 degrees, in scant minutes, with little warning. Having that kite wrapped around the radar mast won't be fun.

I've also wondered about the case when the wind drops suddenly, or for some other reason, and kite winds up in the drink. That will be a show stopper, pulling it back on board in one piece, to say nothing of getting it off the prop if it is run over.

Finally, there has to be an upward limit afterwhich it has to be taken in; another big job.

My guess is that a few dramas of this sort and the whole proposition will begin to look a little more doubtful, after all, these ships run with a pretty small crews right now. Would a six or eight man crew be able to deal with these things in a pinch?

Dave Culp said...

Wingsail, you've put some great thought into this. You've hit on most of the "showstopper" issues which have kept ship-pullers off the water since they were first seriously proposed 30 years ago. At KiteShip we have been working on precisely these engineering challenges, since 1978. We have specific solutions for each, and as money and interest have increased, we are putting them on the water, one after another. We currently are the only ones in the world capable of deep water launches, control and recovery of kites to 4,500 sq ft (a world record); we are just implementing non-crashable kites and we can't wait to take some big stuff out in really dirty weather to test survivability (we've had out kites out in 40-45 kts, but we need to see some really dirty stuff to feel really confident). Thanks for your interest.