Free Yacht Chapter 12: Kiteboat!




Introduction: Free Yacht Chapter 12: Kiteboat!

About: Tim Anderson is the author of the "Heirloom Technology" column in Make Magazine. He is co-founder of, manufacturers of "3D Printer" output devices. His detailed drawings of traditional Pacific...
Solara is dismasted, so let's power it with gigantic kites!
There's no mast and rigging in the way, so it's a perfect opportunity.
This ible is a composite image of what a kiteboating excursion on the Free Yacht is like, the photos are from various outings.

Max Stephenson video. Many thanks to him, Lisa Weitekamp and others for great photos!

continues the Free Yacht saga
Here's the table of contents of the whole thing:
Chapter 1: How to Get a Free Yacht
Chapter 2: Maiden Voyage of the Free Yacht
Chapter 3: Fix Broken Stix and other Trix
Chapter 4: Outboard Motor Mutilates Foot
Chapter 5: It's sinking and it's on Fire.
Chapter 6: How To Give Away a Free Yacht
Chapter 7: Get an Even Better One and Fabulize it.
Chapter 8: Celebrate Freedom
Chapter 9: Technicolor Dreamboat
Chapter 10: Privateer Knot
Chapter 11: Dismasted!
Chapter 12: Kiteboat!
Chapter 13: Mast Raising!

Step 1: Stand-up Hot Tub Cover Boarding

While we set up whatever new inventions we're going to play with and wait for the proper moment to leave the dock, people try out the hottest new sport around,
stand-up paddling on hot tub covers. Eric and Pete have a kungfu naval battle but manage to stay dry. Victor and Jo prefer the aboriginal kneeling style.
Dan attempts to outrun Eric's pirate raid. It's a race between Dan's modern "janitoring" standup style and Eric's retro Tom Blake laydown style.

Step 2: Last Minute Is Fast Minute

While the hot tub set tones their core, it's time to radically alter the boat's architecture.
Victor trims the end of the new stub mast while Max provides clamping force.
I drill holes through the mast step for a giant spectra rope that the kite will pull on. Max took photos of the underside of the deck so I know exactly where to drill. The holes come out just between some major obstacles underneath the deck.

Step 3: Engine Trouble!

We motor away from the dock, but after we get out in the channel the engine coughs and dies!
We've run out of diesel. Who forgot to check it? Everyone!
Unfortunately when you run a diesel dry you get air in the lines and the injector pump doesn't work anymore. You have to bleed the lines. And it seems we've got a leak in the system also, which is why the fuel tank was empty in the first place. Fortunately skipper Jo knows just what to do. She opens up the engine's ribcage and starts operating! She was raised by a couple of old diesel engines just like this one.
I tell her I'm really embarrassed that we'd run out of fuel. She gives me a blank look then a smile and says "oh everyone does it. I was doing a delivery once and..."

Step 4: Spare Motor

On that occasion our spare motor didn't run because it was too gunked up.
Be aware that gasoline starts degrading as soon as you mix the two-stroke oil with it and can be pretty bad in a few months. Replace your mixed gas and don't leave it in the motor or your carb will get clogged up with gunk.
Here on a different outing I'm steering the rudder with my foot and the outboard with my leg.

We don't usually need any motor at all except to to get in and out of the dead air in the marina.
But we carry a spare outboard motor in one of the outrigger hatches in case the wind dies and the diesel conks out while we're out on the water. We've had to use the outboard twice.

This one is a British Seagull Model 100 made sometime between 1959 and 1967.
It's about 5hp and has the big "barge pusher" propeller. It looks like the sort of motor a dinosaur would use. This little motor and big propeller combination pushes the boat okay as long as there isn't too much of a headwind. Don't get one of these motors please. Get a four stroke or an oil-injected two stroke at least. This motor is a filthy oil-leaking oil-burning machine. We only carry it as insurance. Our diesel runs on biodiesel and is very clean.

"belt and suspenders" an old electronics guru used to say. I've found that two dead motors are a lot more useful than just one.

Step 5: Surfing on Hottub Covers

Jo gets the engine running and we motor out of the harbor.
Ross and Justin surf behind us on hot tub covers. It feels very super-hero-esque.
Eric ripping it up. Christy's going to have a baby any time now, so it's good Eric has a distraction like this to take his mind off it.

Step 6: Kite Launch

Every time we go out we try a different kite rig. This one works very smoothly. This is Pete's 50 sq. meter Nasawing.

Step 7: Just Sailing Along

So smoothly that suddenly there's not much to do. The kite steers itself, it's really quiet, there's plenty of room on deck. Relaxation, conversation, admiration of scenery and kites ensues.

Step 8: More Wind, Less Kite

If the wind picks up a lot, we switch to a smaller kite. Here's Pete's 16 sq. meter Nasawing.
Pete, Pumpkin, Victor, and the kite give us a dose of "Blue Steel".

Step 9: Kitesurfing Boat Launch

We sail around in the bay til we find an area of water and wind that seem particularly nice.
We cast anchor. It's time to go kitesurfing off our own private floating island.
I pull out an antique foil kite and bridle-fly it til it's inflated.
For those kite historians among us, it's a 5 meter f-one with stock 3 line rig, the luff-resistant bungee mod bridle, and cutoff air intake sock valves.

Step 10: Sorting the Gear

Pete handles the kite while I sort out my other gear.
Eric's standing by to make fun of me if anything goes wrong.

Step 11: And Over the Side

Over the side I go and swim away from the boat, unwinding the lines from my kitebar as I go.
The boat is straight downwind of the anchor, pointing into the wind. I swim to the side and a little upwind.
When the lines are straight and I'm ready, I give the "thumbs up" signal and Pete releases the kite.
A smooth launch, the kite is overhead. I put on my board and go kitesurfing away.

Yes indeed, it has come to pass that kitesurfing rools.
Sometimes referred to as "kite suffering", in the proper conditions it's a lot of fun.

Step 12: Launching Eric

Now it's Eric's turn. Pete handles the kite while Eric swims out. Another flawless launch.

Step 13: Back to the Boat

We have a great kiting session around the boat. Eventually the wind dies off and I can't get upwind to the boat again. I'm wishing I'd brought my cellphone in its waterproof bag. I could have told them to throw the dinghy in the water. It would have drifted down to me and I could have rowed back in it. Instead I dunk the kite, roll it up, and start swimming back. I look up and the boat is a lot closer. Did I really swim that fast? They're coming to get me. I hand my gear to people at the rail and climb aboard. Eric's kite is much bigger and he has no trouble staying upwind. He flies his kite low, we catch it and he swims in, winding his lines up as he comes.

Step 14: Mizzen and Self-Steering

The kite is self-tending and boat is holding a course without human intervention.
The mizzen sail is handy to tune the boat for neutral helm.
It's basically a big tail fin for the boat.

Step 15: Commando Orbital Launch

Eric's got responsibilities to attend to on earth, so without slowing the boat we activate a re-entry pod.
I steady it with my feet between the hulls while Eric climbs on. Victor hands him his bag and he ejects.
We jibe around and head for deep space while he glides into port.

Old windsurfers are free in places where windsurfing is popular. They make great sit-on-top kayaks. The wider ones can be used as stand up paddleboards.

Step 16: Sunset

Noted alt-rock band "Pensive yet Astute" get their inspiration from sunsets and the sound of wind and waves.

Step 17: LEDs!

As the sun's blood darkens, we turn on Dan's massive LED array to light the waters and our way.
We cruise back to the dock, lavish the boat with two minutes of connecting to shore power, stowing the kites, etc. Then we don our civilian attire and head back to our cover jobs.

The Free Yacht Saga continues at Chapter 13: Mast Raising!

Here's the table of contents of the whole saga:
Chapter 1: How to Get a Free Yacht
Chapter 2: Maiden Voyage of the Free Yacht
Chapter 3: Fix Broken Stix and other Trix
Chapter 4: Outboard Motor Mutilates Foot
Chapter 5: It's sinking and it's on Fire.
Chapter 6: How To Give Away a Free Yacht
Chapter 7: Get an Even Better One and Fabulize it.
Chapter 8: Celebrate Freedom
Chapter 9: Technicolor Dreamboat
Chapter 10: Privateer Knot
Chapter 11: Dismasted!
Chapter 12: Kiteboat!
Chapter 13: Mast Raising



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    24 Discussions

    Try this:*/

    Neat idea but you have reinventing the wheel. already manufacture and distribute kite solutions for yachts and motor boats since 2002.  They have a global distributor network and have solved all the problems of launch and recovery. 

    4 replies

    HedgeUK--<< have reinventing the wheel>>--Tim and these guys have been at this for at least that long, possibly even before--not to mention a thousand other related things. I wouldn't be surprised to find that Tim and Saul have probably worked with them at some stage!

    Clearly you have not read the patent or know Dave Culp and Dean Jordan who hold the patent and were employed by Oracle to make this concept work.

    If they had been involved I would have met them as I am the European agent for Dave and Dean - but I do know some of the North Sails guys did some work on cloth specs and layouts.

    More importantly Tim and Saul have not done any huge ocean crossings (Ishall add just one piece of publicity) as KiteShip has nor do they hold any Guiness World records for the largest kite made for a yacht nor have they managed to tow a commercial barge without a rig - being the largest object to be moved by kite power another Guiness Record across San Francisco bay covered by CNN.

    Yes Tim and Saul are playing with a NASA parawing which has lots of lines and does not measure under the ISAF rules as a sail for a boat.

    However, the KiteShip Outleader meets al the ISAF measurement criteria as a legal sail and only has three lines total - something the NASA wing cannot do. It is also used by single handed sailors namely the Mini Transat class.

    More importantly with ongoing developments we recently made a 110 sq m kite which only weighs in at 6.5 lbs with a no need for reinforceing and could pull 4.5 ton with no risk to damaging the sail. When they do catch up I will watch as the negotiate all the hurdles to meet all the ISAF criteria. But rather read up some the KIteShip achievements at before making judgements that you clearly don't know all the facts about.

    Maybe, but I did notice now, while trying to find info, that attempts to reach the website results in a 404 Page Not Found error. Hmmm. Has their address changed or have they gone out of business?

    Thanks for the flame. You're right--I'm not aware of lot of the details of which you seem to have an encyclopedic grasp of--I can't see anywhere in my note where I made any "judgements" -- I was simply making an observation, commenting on a few folks having some fun and making some speculations...nothing more.

    Fantastic work guys im a fan of your website.

    I love it! i hope can test it next summer!

    This is a lot less complicated than I thought it would be.

    I think that kite boat is a very good way BUT we have accelerometers and gyroscope so the kite should be controlled from a computer on the boat and servo should be implemented on the sail. In fact i consider a flatable wing using hydrogen(H) as a gas to rigidify and one unique cable (embeded with coper wire to send and receive data and the energy for the servo to control the attitude and the position of the sail) since we can fly micro helicopter with this technique and considering thar the instability of a kite is smaller it should not be Very difficult to implement. Only one cable will be a great simplification .

    But what if ya gotta go upwind. I can't see it point better then 180^ gybing angle (won't be able to tack)

    1 reply

    You fly the kite to one side and point the boat upwind. It works fine. The particular combination of boat and kite seen here doesn't point very high. This kite is equivalent to a hmm. Gennaker. A flattish spinnaker. And the kite is a bit small for the weight of the boat. With flatter kites, regular surf kites for example, a lightweight boat goes upwind like the dickens. Try a kitesurf kite with a dismasted catamaran for example:

    How do you get a kite down? In surfing, too. How do you get the kite to stop pulling and land in the water? Also see: how did you get the boat back to shore? Did you switch from wind power to fuel?

    1 reply

    FWIW:   Regarding thalass's comment about swapping the diesel for electric, there is at least one company that manufactures electric propulsion systems for multihull sailboats.  The motors are "motor-generators".  When the boat is under sail, the propellors turn {from the flow of water past them} which spins the motor-generators.  That produces electricity which recharges onboard batteries for when the motor-generators are used as motors {to spin the props and propel the sailboat}.  

    {IIRC, the reason these systems are for multihulls is that monohull sailboats don't develop enough speed to spin their props to generate enough juice to recharge batteries.}

    I **think** one company that makes these systems is in Maryland, USA.  However, I'm not sure - you'll have to do a GOOGLE search on it.  

    There is fuel extender that you add to the gasoline.  Find some the red stuff and it will allow you to have gasoline in the Seagull longer.  It goes by one brand name Stabil. Sorry, no shameless add just wanted you to know for the future.

    Awesome, I really like these ibles. I never knew those tho tub covers were so buoyant !

    Awesome, guys! I'd be tempted to replace the diesel with an electric motor, and replace the mast with a wind turbine or two. plenty of room for batteries, and even room for solar panels without sacrificing party space. That kite looks cool, too. Question, though: How do you sail upwind?

    1 reply

    thanks! sailing upwind is the same as with a sail, you steer the hull at one angle and the kite at another