Addict (drugaddict) wrote,

the price of a Catfisher at $400,000, which would be similar to a new steel fishing boat of the same

Sailboats are propelled by the lift created when wind passes over the curved surface of their sails, but they would simply scuttle sideways were it not for the counteracting lift generated by their two underwater foils, the keel and the rudder. Like a modern racing yacht, the Baylis has foil shapes as efficient as that of any airplane wing.

Stealth Boat for Hire. Good Lift. Low Drag. Excellent Mileage.

SAN FRANCISCO, Oct. 16 — The great white sharks hanging out around the Farallon Islands 25 miles west of the Golden Gate have been greeted by an unusual visitor in recent days: the Derek M. Baylis, a 65-foot vessel designed not just for research but to demonstrate how quieter and more fuel-efficient boats can be built.

The Baylis is a hybrid that can operate under sail, diesel or a combination of the two, using a fraction of the fuel required for a comparable-size boat of conventional design. The craft is the creation of Tom Wylie, a local yacht designer, and Dave Wahle, his partner in sailboat manufacturing, who began work four years ago assuming that marine researchers would welcome such an environmentally friendly vessel.

That was certainly the case with Barbara A. Block, a Stanford professor of marine sciences. She chartered the Baylis this month for a research project that was placing remote telemetry tags on the great whites. The devices record navigational information, body temperature, depth and ambient temperature data.

“We appreciate the design and efficiency of the Baylis and the capacity to get out to the Farallones by sail,” Dr. Block said. “Our project is designed to impact the refuge and the sanctuary waters around the Farallones as little as possible, and there is no better way than to do this by sail.”

Like the Toyota Prius, which derives its fuel savings in part from its hybrid gas and electric power system and from an aerodynamic shape and narrow, high-pressure tires, the Baylis gains its efficiency from a smooth hull shape as well as the addition of sail.

“This is a very straightforward invention where my friends and I have repositioned off-the-shelf items so that even without the sail, we get a 20-to-1 improvement in fuel economy,” Mr. Wylie said. “I’m really trying to use finesse, not force, working with Mother Nature, not against her, and the outcome is actually free boat speed.”

In yacht-racing circles, Mr. Wylie is known for designing slippery hull shapes and innovative rigs, both of which are featured on the Baylis. Speed in a sailboat is a product of lift versus drag, and naval architects seek to increase the former while minimizing the latter, within the often conflicting requirements of the boat’s intended use.

The Baylis is a modern variation of the classic catboats — the simple single-sailed boats used a century or more ago for fishing and transportation in the coastal waters around New England, New York and New Jersey.

Technically, the Baylis is a cat-ketch, as it has two masts, with the larger main mast forward of the smaller mizzen. There is a single sail on each mast with wishbone booms — much like the systems used in windsurfing — which makes the rig virtually self-tending. The carbon fiber masts are also self-supporting, with no steel shrouds or stays, to reduce drag and weight aloft.

Sailboats are propelled by the lift created when wind passes over the curved surface of their sails, but they would simply scuttle sideways were it not for the counteracting lift generated by their two underwater foils, the keel and the rudder. Like a modern racing yacht, the Baylis has foil shapes as efficient as that of any airplane wing.

Optimizing the hull shape for minimum drag is where things become complicated, and where Mr. Wylie resorts to technical terms like prismatic coefficient and deadrise. Basically, he tries to reduce volume in the bow and stern, concentrating mass in the middle of the boat.

He also designs hulls with an uncommonly deeper and rounder shape below the waterline. Curved shapes are inherently stiffer than straight ones, so the hulls can be built lighter for a given strength. A curved shape also has less wet surface than a flat one, and boats with a curved underbody tend to have more gentle motion than those with a steeper, flatter shape.

“I try to put a slight curve even in the flattest line, and I get a lot of benefits from that,” Mr. Wylie said. “It’s very difficult, because when you start doing three-dimensional curves, improving one parameter inevitably pushes another out of shape.”

When not chartered by marine biologists, the Baylis makes excursions twice daily for paying customers under the Monterey Bay Aquarium Science Under Sail program. A glance behind the boat when it is under sail shows the benefit of a smooth, easily-driven hull, which simply uses less power to glide through the waves: sailing at 10 knots in 10 knots of breeze, the Baylis barely leaves a wake.

Even under diesel power, the Baylis uses about one-twentieth as much fuel as the aquarium’s other research vessel, the Zephyr, or two gallons an hour at a cruising speed of 10 knots, Mr. Wylie said. The Baylis’s svelte shape means it can be driven by a single 100-horsepower diesel that consumes far less fuel than the Zephyr’s two 1,000-horsepower motors.

Seeing the Baylis berthed at Fisherman’s Wharf gave Hedley Prince, the harbormaster, an idea. He had seen firsthand the decline of the local fishing fleet due to restricted catches, foreign competition and surging fuel prices. Mr. Prince could do little about Russian trawlers or the salmon population, but the Baylis showed a potential solution to the high cost of fuel: a hybrid fishing boat.

At Mr. Prince’s request, Mr. Wylie drew the 38-foot Catfisher, essentially a shorter, single-masted version of the Baylis. The Catfisher would be powered by a 50-horsepower diesel, or at somewhat greater initial cost, by a diesel and electric generator augmented by solar panels.

“I told Tom I’d had this idea of trying to do for fishing boats what the Toyota Prius did for the automobile — just use every trick in the book to try to make it more efficient,” Mr. Prince said. He noted that while the wholesale price for salmon has barely changed in 20 years, marine diesel has gone to more than $3 a gallon from 45 cents over the same period of time, seriously eroding fishermen’s profits.

Mr. Wylie estimated the price of a Catfisher at $400,000, which would be similar to a new steel fishing boat of the same length. But the depressed state of the fishing industry means that relatively few new boats of any kind are being built, and used boat prices are relative bargains. With those facts working against it, the Catfisher remains a design in search of a customer.

Indeed, the Baylis might have remained a bare hull if not for Randy Repass, founder and chairman of West Marine, a chain of boating supply stores, who stepped forward with the more than $1 million needed to complete the Baylis. Mr. Repass also supports Sealife Conservation, the nonprofit organization that operates the Baylis, and commissioned a sister ship, the Convergence, which he and his family are currently sailing in the South Pacific.

Some industry experts question whether there is a market for a boat as unusual as the Catfisher, even with the fuel savings it promises.

“Fishermen tend not to be leading edge,” said Michael Crowley, boats and gear editor for the magazine National Fisherman. “They take what they know works because they can’t afford to pay for mistakes.”

The simplest way to improve fuel economy is to replace aging motors with new diesels, which also weigh less and produce fewer emissions. (The California Technology, Trade and Commerce Agency, which promotes job growth and economic development, is offering low-interest loans of $10,000 to $25,000 for improving the efficiency of commercial fishing boats.)

Another pragmatic step is to alter a boat’s hull shape. One of the most common ways is by adding a bulb to the bow, which eases the boat’s motion in choppy seas and also improves fuel economy by reducing the bow wake relative to the blunt shapes of most commercial boats.

“We’ve seen efficiency gains of 5 to 15 percent,” said Eric Blumhagen, a naval architect with Jensen Maritime Consultants in Seattle. “Relative to the capital cost, it pays off fairly quickly, especially with diesel at $3 a gallon.”

Adding solar power to a fishing boat is problematic because the panels take up space that would otherwise go to gear. That is not a problem, however, for the Solar Sailor, a 100-passenger charter vessel and ferry in Sydney, Australia, that is topped with eight solar “wings.” The wings move automatically, tracking the sun for optimal solar collection and the wind for optimal sail power. In extreme wind situations, the wings fold down.

The Solar Sailor has been operating in Sydney Harbor for five years, and its manufacturer recently won a bid to build a similar vessel for the run to Alcatraz Island in San Francisco Bay.

“For Alcatraz, our boat will cost $1.5 million more than a conventional ferry, and the payback period will be four years,” said Robert Dane, founder and chief executive of Solar Sailor Holdings.

“Over 15 years, you’ll be $5 million ahead, assuming oil stays at $3 gallon, and it’s already gone to $3.20,” Mr. Dane said. “When you have short ferry runs with frequent stopping, the hybrid really comes into its own and the fuel savings is just unbelievable.”

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