Monday, January 18, 2010

Real Green

I've been reading about the Potosi, a five-masted square-rigged ship built in 1895 with a steel hull. The best Internet link I can find is here. Yes, the weather is still dreadful here so I'm not going out.

This ship weighed 4000 tons. Proper British tons, not those French tonnes we have to use now. It could carry 6000 tons of cargo so when at sea it was ten thousand tons of stuff and all the sail meant it could do 14 knots and surprise a steamer or two that tried to cut across its bows.

It sailed from Germany to America, round the bottom of Africa and on to India and back to Europe twice a year.

Guess how much fuel it used?

None at all. It had no engine. It was entirely powered by sail.

Now, I'm not going to say that all those container ships and oil ships must do the same even though six of them produce more pollution than all the cars in the world, but consider...

The container and oil ships are huge. Far longer and wider than Potosi. They could have a few masts and sails and just think - when the wind's in the right direction they'd need no fuel. They could travel for free. When the wind is going the wrong way they could use their engines but imagine - free transport for a lot of the trip.

Go on, ship owners. You know you want to think about it at least.

Stuff the carbon trading. There is a way to transport your goods for free and in the current world climate you'll get massive kudos for doing it.

It'll make the ships more interesting too.

5 comments:

tom sheepandgoats said...

Romulus, that is so...um....practical, that one is amazed it hasn't been thought of before. It sure seems feasible to me, but I suspect it's strictly a dollars and cents (sorry, pounds and pennies) matter that it hasn't been adopted.

It's a nuisance to build ships that way, and the extra cost from oil-only can easily be passed on the the customer.

Speaking of sailing ships, are you fond of the Hornblower novels? They're among my favorites.

heyjude said...

THINK OF THE POSSIBILITIES!!!
Why not sails on cars, busses . . .

they could be mounted such that they could be rolled up or down as needed

then instead of car-pool lanes we could have 'wind-assist' ONLY lanes - no one allowed on major highways without them, etc...

and lets mount them on trains too!

we can start a movement and call it the Rom Plan! or maybe the Rom Prop!

Romulus Crowe said...

Tom, I suspect it's down to manpower. Sail needs more hands on deck than an engine and people are too weak to go out in the rain these days.

I've taken a few walks in the snow here and it's amazing how few are willing to go outsie at the moment.

Heyjude- I've wondered about fitting a sail to my car. Even if it only worked one way on a trip, it would save half the petrol.

I'm just not sure about the legality of it.

Southern Writer said...

Look at that ship! She is so beautiful. I'd go to work on one. No problem, as long as I can take my cats.

Romulus Crowe said...

SW- ships of the time had cats for one good reason... rats.

The work wouldn't be easy. Climbing to furl the mainmast topgallant sounds romantic, but it would often be done in a storm because the high sails could pull the ship over. That's the sail at the very top of the middle mast. Well above the ratlines (ropeladders).

Climbing a mountain is easier. At least the mountain isn't trying to throw you off!

Cats though, no problem. If only they could be trained in rigging.

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