Here's a look at some of our more off-beat boating projects. We built these boats for a lot of different reasons, but none of them have plans available. For a time we were considering going ahead with plans for the Solexplor and the Hydroflier, but now it looks like that will not be happening. These photos will have to serve to inspire other crazed creators like ourselves to build something wierd just for the hell of it!
Click on any of the photographs below to see a larger image.
The Valkyrie was an experiment we started on the First of January, 1987, and which took Peter and Mike Stevenson about two years to complete. We had been doing only projects which were for eventual release. We wanted to try some stuff that didn't have to be explained. And we had the "Big Cat Bug" (lots of people seem to get this, but it's not always terminal; we survived!). And we had the speed sailing bug as well. This poor boat ended up being the recipient of all of our zany ideas. A surprising number of them worked.
The Valkyrie was 36' long and 18' wide. Sixteen 48 watt Kyocera solar panels charged two banks of 6V. batteries through Trace C-30A Charge Controllers. There were two electric motors which could swing up out of the water to reduce drag and wear. The hull bottoms were single skin biaxial knit, while all the rest was foam cored triaxial (some carbon in the front crossbar).
We used single skin in the hulls so that they could flex and slide over coral without damage (unlike thin skins on a core). There was sufficient flotation to support the boat in case of swamping. We wanted to be able to beach the boat easily, so it had kick-up rudders and jackknife centerboards (mounted on the inboard sides of the hulls so there were no centerboard trunks to get in the way inside). Everything had to be able to bang over a reef if necessary, and swing up out of harm's way (the motors as well).
The rig was a bipod of 36' aluminum tubes which could be raised or lowered in 15 minutes (we had a lot of practice by the end of the project). There were four sails: two jibs on Harken roller-fouling (which worked nicely), a staysail on a central catwalk between the cabin and the front crossbar, and a loose-foot, fully-battened main flying on a luff-wire from the cabin.
Ullman Sails had a hard time figuring out how to run full battens without a mast to push against, but they figured it out. The main really pulled well without a mast in front to screw up the airflow. The Valkyrie could outpoint any boat it came up against.
We used Harken gear exclusively because we like the way it feels. We thought we might get Harken interested promotionally, so we dropped off some info and shots with their local rep. I guess we interested them: they ended up incorporating a bunch of our ideas in their own boat, Procyon.
The whole boat could be taken apart and put in a standard 40' shipping container. We did this, and had it shipped to Kauai in 1989. It languished there for awhile, survived the hurricane in the early '90's, and was eventually bought by a family in Nawiliwili (where it stayed).
Altogether, it was an interesting project, but we don't regret selling it.
This boat started out as a way to make a zero-emissions personal watercraft; i.e., electric. We wanted a low-drag hydrofoil, but knew from our experience with our Sportfoil that a hydrofoil is no fun when it's down in the water. Since most harbors have a lot of 5-knot zones, the boat should be able to fly at just under 5 knots. An electric-powered hydrofoil had better be efficient and be able to be fun under low power. This meant being able to stunt around in it like an airplane (which is what a hydrofoil feels like). We gave the Hydroflier true 3-axis controls, with an airplane cockpit feel. Control of the craft is with stick-and-rudder-pedals, just like a plane.
Since we knew that the very light wing-loading Sportfoil was barely able to make it on 4 hp., and we were going to have more drag with the control surfaces needed for the 3-axis stuntability, and we had to stick with a low power drive, we knew we needed something new.
So we came up with an assited-lift hydrofoil. By having a bouyant underwater section lifting part of the load, the wings don't have to work as hard. We did this by putting a torpedo-like keel with a controlable bouyancy chamber that we could fill or blow like a submarine. Variable bouyancy in the submerged section allowed for differing pilot weights and in-flight trim corrections. An added benefit of being able to house the batteries in the torpedo section, where they wouldn't weigh down the foils as much, would be good for the electric version.
We decided to go with internal combustion at first, to get the kinks worked out. We used a 5 hp. Honda 4-stroke outboard, which was really very clean running anyway.
All of this came together, and the Hydroflier was a lot of fun. It would go about 10 or 12 knots (remember: 5hp.), and was really manouverable. It could get up on its foils in less than two boat-lengths, which is fast. It was quite fun and could stay foil-borne at 4 knots. The controls did take some getting used to, but people got where they could fly pretty well after about fifteen minutes of instruction, and the learning-curve was just steep enough to keep it fun.
We tried to get some companies interested in it, but their response after seeing the videotape was: "Why is it so slow?". This pissed us off because we were trying to make it slow. It's easy to make a fast hydrofoil, but we made one that could go slowly as well. They didn't want to get involved. Interstingly, we recently heard that some personal watercraft company in SoCal is working on an assited-lift hydrofoil. These "coincidences" no longer surprise us.
When this page first went up, we had shelved the Hydroflier project for lack of support. We have recently considered reviving the project, but it looks like the Hydroflier will have to wait to be developed further.
This is a styling model of a possible successor to the Hydroflier.
This is a shot of the Hydroflier 1/3 scale concept-test model during tests. This R/C model could do figure-eights in a 20' X 40' pool with room to spare. It had the same three-axis controls that the full-scale version did (to be a proof-of-concept, it would have to).
For more information on hydrofoils in general, click here to go to the International Hydrofoil Society site.
The Solexplor started out as a tender to our big catamaran. We wanted a tender, and we were in a solar electric catamaran kind of mood, so that's what we made.
The first attempt (The Katamarak; no pics here) was not bad, but a little small. We liked the kayak-style seating of the Katamarak we'd come up with. It was a lot of fun when we were cruising up rivers on Kauai. We found that wildlife still couldn't figure out what you were doing when you crept up on them in an electric boat. We had first noticed this in our Kayak project. The Katamarak had twin 3/4 hp. electric motors and steerable forward and reverse thrust. This was great, as you could maneuver like crazy.
So we built version two: The Pegaso. It was sleeker, and had more efficient hulls. Too efficient; they had trouble turning. But it was faster. Somebody obviously liked this design, as it showed up in a solar-electric-boat from back east. Fancy that. They didn't do a very good job of copying ours though!
Here's the Pegaso making a fairly tight turn on the Kalihiwai stream.
The third version: The Solexplor. This was the best one. It had hulls more like the Katamarak, but slightly bigger. It had twin 1 hp. motors. It was great. But not produceable, which was the main idea here.
So, on to the fourth and final version: also called the Solexplor, because it didn't really look very different. It did have some improvements though. Like a steering wheel instead of handlebars, and it was all moldable fiberglass parts. The Solexplor started out with four 48 watt Kyocera panels and a Trace charge controller, two 1 hp. motors, and four Sonnenschein gel-cells. We found that after a lot of testing, we always seemed to have more juice in the batteries than we expected. That was a nice surprise, so we pulled two panels and made up a fishing deck. This worked out really, really well. It had a swivel seat, which was handy, but we liked the extra space of the deck. We aren't big fishers, but all the people we had test it who were said it worked great. The combination of super-quiet motors, terrific control, an unexpected shape for the fish to see, and a quiet hull form (the catamaran doesn't slap) all combined to just suck up fish. It sort of seemed like fish congregated under our boat to avoid the other normal boats!
The Solexplor could go over 32 miles at 4.5 knots on batteries alone. We actually tested it, no bull. We got tired at 32 miles and stopped; the boat was still going fine, but definitely slower. It topped out at 6.2 knots, but that was a function of the propellors, which were optimised for slower speeds. At 6.2 kts. they ran out of thrust, but the motors still had a lot power. With the two panels, the Solexplor could be used for a weekend of normal fishing and be fully charged and ready to go by Wednesday without touching a thing! If you didn't want to wait, you could plug it in.
It was a hell of a lot of fun, and we took it all over Southern California. We scrubbed the project and got out of zero-emmisions vehicles for a bunch of reasons, but people have been asking about the old Solexplors a lot so we have re-examined the project. It still has much to offer, and will make a good project for people to play with someday. It will be a few years before we will be able to start on the project again though. Since having moved to the Monterey Peninsula, I wish we had a working Solexplor now to explore the Elkhorn Slough. Unfortunately, they were all decommisioned long before we moved...
We used to think that one of these days we would like to get around to building an ekranoplan similar to this one, but now we're not so sure. Our interests have switched to other areas, but who knows where they'll lead us in the future? If given the opportunity right now, I think I'd lean toward some version of a Curtiss Flying Canoe.
One of the precursors to this boat above was a smaller version with a BMW motorcycle engine for power. We liked the size of the earlier one better, but Flarecraft has done a nice job with this newer one.
These photos show what happens when you find an old squirrel-cage blower by the side of the road, and you have an old Mini-Cat laying around. Trained professionals on a closed course; don't try this at home and keep your hands and arms inside the vehicle at all times!
This photo shows the second blower (which we had to buy!...jeez, it never ends).
The first one exploded and threw all of its rusty old blades in our pool (vinyl pool at that).
Perhaps that was why they were throwing it out in the first place; I suppose the fact that we hooked up a motor that was around 2.5 times too powerful for the blower didn't help...
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