I have had the dream of a self sufficient farm/residence for some years. Most of the ideas for this type of life unfortunately fall into two categories for me. The pioneer category or the futuristic category.
While I recognize that the early pioneers to remote places had some good very low tech ways of living, I have long since lost the desire to be cutting, thrashing and milling my own grain. My thoughts on many of the high tech ideas for self sufficient living run into similar problems. Too pricey, complicated and inefficient to warrant the investment. As a helicopter pilot I have made it a rule to never fly the “A” model of anything and the same goes for new equipment purchases. Another problem we face in incorporating new technologies into our lives is that the technology becomes cheaper and sometimes vastly improved after short periods of time. Buying high and getting stuck with an item of little or no resale value, never feels good when you have built a home around it.
But the times are changing and quickly. Solar, battery design and hydrogen fuels are making rapid advancements. Low cost very efficient buildings are being made with almost 100 % recycled and discarded materials. The world wide knowledge base and experience is growing quickly. Self sustainable living as a concept has been around for 50 years or more but its practicality, now hastened by our very real energy concerns is getting very close.
Still I am reluctant to put all my eggs in the high tech basket. There are various examples of self sufficient residences and farms around the world. In many cases you can visit and stay in these places and in some cases you can, for a nominal fee, work, (slave) as an intern in the construction of one of these structures.
The payback being, as Paula pointed out to me, that this little slave labor pyramid scheme will have new interns flocking to help with our very own building. Another case where location is everything I expect.
Would you rather intern at a site in Hawaii over say Minnesota or North Dakota? Maybe the knowledge gleaned overrides the setting or lack thereof.
All this gets me to my latest idea and I may be rushing some of the technology, but here it is. A sailboat is a curious combination of ancient low tech and high tech. Perhaps the opportunity to try some of these advancements in alternative energies could be best utilized in the sailboat. The wind is there, the solar panels are getting pretty light and efficient, almost everything you need can run on d/c electrical and the others can be accommodated with the latest light weight inverters. Wind generators and water turbines supplement power requirements. Every sailboat has at least one engine for motor sailing. How far are we away from a small hydrogen making machine? I’ve seen one already. Hydrogen is made from water. Lots of that around a sailboat. Fresh water? There are very small and yet effective desalinators on the market and in many sailboats already. The battery technology is getting better and lighter. Even batteries as a weighty item are not a concern for a sailboat that needs ballast and/or a weighted keel in some designs. That’s a good battery location to my way of thinking. Who needs lead?
So water, power, fuel and back up energy sources all handled. Sewage? The traditional method or something more high tech? Your choice. That leaves food. You are on a boat. Seafood. Man can’t live on fish alone but a cold storage of modest size should keep enough snapper and lobster or what have you to barter with.
We wouldn’t be stopping in the kind of places that discourages the barter system so trading for staples and necessities should be no problemo. Fruits, veggies, beer. Anchor out and take the electric powered dinghy to shore using one or two of those high tech batteries and you cut down on slippage fees.
Your left with the cost of maintenance and that is the big unknown. A winter spent living at a Marina reminded me of something my Father schooled me on many years ago. Preventive maintenance not only keeps your equipment in good condition it alerts you to the problems that you would never have seen coming if you had not got into things to look.
After 33 years in helicopters I’m glad that most of my employers have followed the same principle for the helicopters they maintain.
So, now whats the best type of sailboat to get? What design has the most flexibility to accommodate additional equipment. I’m thinking, multi hull. Could you get insurance on a boat with uncertified marine equipment on board. Same problem but in reverse. Use the approved new slightly futuristic technology or pioneer the latest unproven equipment. Interesting.