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New age - New feel

by John Curnow, Global Editor, Powerboat.World 11 Oct 2022 10:00 PDT
Life on board the new Sovereign Starter © Sovereign Ships

There was a line in song quite a while back that went, "You know the garden's full of furniture, the house is full of plants!" Would have been easy to run with that as an opening, but this was not the first thought I had when I saw Sovereign Ships' information pack. Although obvious, the real thoughts going through my head revolved around where's all this going, and just whom is it aimed at?

Now apart from strength, Hercules was also known for adventuring. This would come into play when I spoke with founder and concept designer, Ben Woodason. The reason is that he was a USAF C-130 pilot, and that lovable and venerable aircraft is best known by its other name, Hercules.

Yes. The adventuring, and living in a different way as the world gets busier, pricier and more crammed, was very much the focal point of my thinking. No, as it turns out, this is also the very reason for the concept being created in the first place.

So whenever there's something avant-garde or different, there's always plenty of scepticism floating around. Accordingly, when are you building and which one are you building first?

Woodason stated, "I've decided to start with the simplest and most traditional looking vessel in our line-up, so the first build will be the Sovereign Starter. I've got the blueprints squared away for that. I'm working with DLBA Naval Architects, to get it up to code, to certify it as a CE Class A vessel, and I partnered with Breaux Boats in Louisiana to do the actual first prototype.

"Breaux Brothers is ready to build as soon as the start of next year, and it will take four to six months to complete, so hopefully by the middle of 2023 we'll be afloat. We have just started the fundraising side now, and we are working to get seed money from silent partners. We are definitely in the priming the pump phase, but it's going and it's happening. We're going to get there!"

In terms of interest from prospective buyers, the website was released in March of 2022, and they used Instagram as their primary channel, which has been successful, for they have 1000 followers. Once the money is squared away they will get back to marketing the product once more.

So coming back to the project at hand, how does a pilot end up with such an affinity for the sea? "After I left the Air Force, I was kind of thinking of what to do next and, you know, I noticed a trend in decreasing personal freedom going on across the world. So I was thinking of a way to reverse that trend. And the best idea that I could come up with was enable a lifestyle that would let you live on the ocean full time. You could go out to international waters and then move around to whatever country you wanted to go to."

"That's where the whole idea came from. Additionally, I'd grown up loving the idea of space, and watched lots of space shows. So I was thinking that if I were going do something, I would want to make it fun. As space is not really available right now, I thought I'd just try to make a spacecraft that would float instead."

Being green

Of course, as we said at the beginning, 'the house is full of furniture', so was that born out of longevity at sea, or a reflection upon Ben's culinary standing?

"It was the part of the whole off-grid system. If you want to maximise freedom, you also have to maximise independence. I first started off with hydroponic gardens because they get a higher yield per volume. However, as I spent more and more time working on and designing the systems, I just felt like the hydroponic systems were too industrial, and I wanted something more comfortable and a better environment to be around. "

"So I switched over to a dirt-based garden using the square foot gardening method, which is still a very high yield. The yield provides enough to sustain two people for every 64 square feet. The starter will have about double that. So it'll, it'll be able to sustain four people, but that would be cramped. I think a couple is just about right."

There is a raised garden bed that surrounds the entire ship, and then storage underneath them. "You need a lot of storage if you plan to go on any big trips like that. So we killed two birds with one stone."

You know it is about now that you would think the vessel might be made of reclaimed fibres or something, but its actually aluminium, which is fully recyclable of course, and easier than first having to build a plug, then mould, then the craft itself. As they get further down the road they will reassess just what is the best production method, but it is certainly a good starting point.

Of course there's all that window space to account for, and expensive glass is also very heavy and not the best mix with waves, either. Polycarbonate will be used as it is also easier to form with that singular radius going all the way around, and you can drill holes in it for mounting.

Obviously solar and wind are the main generators of power on board, but are there enough panels on the Starter to cope with the draw? "We have 6.6kW on board, and that will give us enough to run at a steady 2.7 knots day and night. So yes it is one of the slower vessels, but that's why I wanted to make it more like a tank, so it can take a hit."

To be clear, the Starter's top speed is 6.4 knots, and it has a range of 34nm. The 2.7 knots is the continuous use speed - i.e. day and night after a sunny day. Now you won't be running away from any storms at that speed, but I dare say that a lot of it is about the destination with a vessel like this, as opposed to the journey that's part of it. Windage and tide are also major considerations, so you may be doing a lot of running with it, as opposed to away from them.

I do think the destination and the living on board is going to be much more of the whole equation, and 6.6 kilowatts will give you a lot of house battery time when you're anchored. Remember too, that you have everything you'll need on board, and that means you're kind of already at your destination...

Future catamaran models will be faster paced due to wave piercing hulls, and kite sails will also assist with progress, but remember you are really trying to be away from it all, so just how quickly do you want to go?

Of Guinea Pigs, travel, and progression...

Ben is going to be the skipper of the first hull, and plans to take it out for at least a few months, heading around the Gulf, down the coast of Florida, and then up the other side to the boat shows. Naturally, Hurricane Ian serves as a reminder of just how prudent you have to be with your plans, and secure your craft early.

In terms of the expansive Sovereign Ships product range, the idea was to show how you could mould your intended lifestyle to a particular hull form. The Sphinx has the smallest interior, but the whole thing is about a new demographic hitting the seas, who do not want to conform to ways of yesteryear. Work from home has certainly assisted with a lot of that plan, as too those who yearn to get out into nature.

Naturally, a younger demographic also means a reasonable price point, so the models range for USD 350k to USD 650k, and Woodason is clear that it has to be comparable to a house, so that if you want to take off, then price will not be a barrier to commencing your new life.

Rainwater collection, composting the kitchen, and black tank for when you're dockside are all included. Grab your favourite seeds, your bags, electronics and you're good to go. The interesting thing to ponder is just how do you conceptualise the market for these craft? Woodason responds, "If you think of it as colonising the ocean, I'd say the potential market is the size of the country."

Well it does all depend on your outlook. So if you're talking about a younger demographic, they're traditionally not the kind of people that you'll find at boat shows. Obviously things like Instagram are very much suited to alternative lifestyles, which is really the category that you're talking about here. Many of this sector may not have had any exposure to boats. So reaching them is definitely not the easiest thing to do.

Woodason commented, "Certainly we will have our work cut out for us. However, I think these ships are well suited for that kind of an alternative marketing strategy because they're so photogenic, and they also go along with the green living and electrification of transport that's already popular. So we're kind of riding the coattails of those things as well."

For people possibly looking to do longer range stuff, then, certainly additional speed will help. Just to ensure that passages can be achieved inside normal timeframes, so to speak. As with all tech, things will keep getting better and better with time, and that's bound to help the cause as well.

"I had the idea in 2015, and I've been putting out a design every so often, and doing a lot of research, but I didn't start working on it full time until February of 2021," commented Woodason. In nine months time, there might well be the fruits of those labours, and the beginning of Waterworld may just have happened...

OK. Today you will find that the website has an abundance of material from right across the globe, and if you cannot find something, just try the search button right up the top of the landing page, above our logo. If you cannot find what you want or wish to want to add to that, then please make contact with us via email.

Finally. Please look after yourselves,

John Curnow
Global Editor, Powerboat.World

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