Q & A
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We had a VHF radio which allowed us to communicate with other ships which were in range (and any aircraft flying low). Mostly that meant, in sight, although a few times we did communicate with ships which were "hull down," in other words, they were just below the horizon from our viewpoint, but their antennas were probably high enough to catch our radio waves. We also had a somewhat-functioning, used radar unit, which gave us an added sense of security in fog. We had a radar detector which would signal us when someone else's radar was hitting us, and this was often our first awareness that a ship was in the vicinity. We would then attempt radio communication, which was almost always successful. We also had a simple, hand held GPS onboard, which supplemented our sextant navigation, and that was quite fortunate since we had so many cloudy days and nights.
A raft, by definition, floats because the materials with which it has been made are all floatable materials. In the case of all the Neutrino rafts, we used mainly recycled wood, logs, styrofoam and polyurethane foam. Other floatables we have used include empty plastic jugs and bottles, cork, and basically anything that floats. back to question list ask a question
The Son of Town Hall is self-righting because all the weight is in the bottom one quarter of the entire raft, including very heavy logs. The top part of the raft is very light, and so it automatically comes back upright if it is tipped. back to question list ask a question
I think for each person on board that was probably something different. For me, Capt. Betsy, the hardest part was when my husband, Poppa Neutrino, had a heart attack on board and I thought for a few moments we might have to go on without him. But luckily he recovered, and with reduced duties and rest, made it the rest of the way just fine. Poppa thought he might die at sea, but I think even worse than that, for him, was the nearly three weeks that we sailed around in circles trying to get off the Grand Banks, making almost no headway toward Europe. For Rodger, there were a lot of his own inner fears that he had to face, especially his feeling that he would not be able to muster up the strength and courage to see the trip through. He did, though, and is a much stronger person now as a result. Ed couldn't believe how slow we were going and thought we might never get there.
Really, the many years of preparation before the actual crossing, and the will to go on struggling with the design all the times that it didn't work in trials, thinking that we would never get it to work right: this prolonged struggle beforehand was much harder to endure than anything we encountered on the crossing itself. back to question list ask a question
Yes, we were in Newport, beached with our raft the "Town Hall," in 1990. We will be forever grateful to everyone involved in the successful effort to extricate us from that grounding. We returned to Newport with the Son of Town Hall, in 1995, on our way to Provincetown, a shakedown cruise preliminary to the eventual ocean crossing. That time we managed to avoid going aground. We have always enjoyed our stays in Newport, whether accidental or intentional. Thanks for writing in. back to question list ask a question
We are always grateful for offers of help, and can use all kinds of assistance, from donations of materials, to volunteer labor on the raft building efforts, to donations of equipment and funds, crews to sail the vessels, as well as land based support efforts.
Son of Town Hall is still in France. Efforts to move it to a museum location in Holland have not been successful. At this time we are attempting to find it a permanent home in a museum close to where it is presently moored. More info: Write to: firstname.lastname@example.org
The Buoyant Neutrinos intend to travel throughout the world on the Absolute Absolution, an 50' catamaran raft
Lots of people think we are, but actually what you see is the result of many long years of thought, trial and error, and effort, and every crazy-looking element has a reason and a purpose. We have been repeatedly inspected by coast guards in several countries and always passed. back to question list ask a question
Isnít there a "raft" of regulations regarding seaworthiness and safety? Did you comply with those regulations or find a way around them?
We have always met or exceeded the safety equipment requirements of the Coast Guard, both here and in Canada. As far as seaworthiness, our design and construction were extensively investigated by an inspection team from the New York City Coast Guard Marine Safety office before we left New York in 1995, and we were given a very favorable report, after an entire dayís research on board our vessel, including viewing video footage of the construction and launching of the vessel.
No, we were entirely self-sufficient. We did, however, have communication with passing freighters, who frequently passed messages back to the US shore for us, and on several occasions, supplied us with additional fresh food, and fuel.
Where were your kids when you sailedWhere were your kids when you sailed?
All of our children were on land when we crossed the Atlantic, although they had all grown up on, and helped build the rafts. By the time of the crossing, most of them were grown and on their own, and the others were staying with relatives.
There were actually two rafts tied up by Pier 25 in Lower Manhattan, the Town Hall, and the Child of Amazon, To find out what happened, click here.
Do you guys have to pay rent for that spot? [the anchorage by Pier 25]
If these rafts were tied up at the pier they would in fact have to pay rent to whoever has control of the pier. However, anchoring rights are protected under Federal Maritime Laws, which have jurisdiction over all navigable waters which connect to the sea, and state that you have the right to anchor anywhere that is not an obstruction to navigation. back to question list ask a question
We have two raft projects currently underway in various stages:
a sailing catamaran raft, the Absolute Absolution (see BuoyantNeutrinos)
and the Island Rooster, Poppa Neutrino's latest project. You can follow the links to find out about each one.
This question is in reference to the Son of Town Hall, the raft that crossed the North Atlantic in the summer of 1998. First, the Son of Town Hall is unsinkable, because its hull is filled with logs and foam Ė water moves in and out of the hull, and it floats because of the materials with which it is constructed, rather than depending upon being watertight like a boat would. Second, this raft is also self-righting, which means if it is knocked down or turned over in the waves, it comes back right side up, by itself. We tested this several times under extreme conditions, before we put out to sea. And third, the Son of Town Hall is self-steering in storm conditions, and keeps itself perfectly aligned in the waves, so that it never turns sideways to the waves. (Called broaching, this would put it in big danger of being rolled over.) We spent 3 years testing the raft along the Atlantic coast between New York and Maine, and redesigning it over and over until all of the above features were incorporated, before we set out across the Atlantic. Vilma B, the Orphanage Raft, will incorporate all of these design features as well.
Having shot footage of the whole project from the beginning, and all the way across the Atlantic, we have made a video of the crossing ourselves. Click here to order.
We have also been seen on TV in many countries throughout the world, as a part of the National Geographic Explorers show. Two segments have been broadcast, one about the Atlantic Crossing and one about the Mississippi River trip.
Another film is in the making. Click here to see a preview.
The raft is self steering under most points of sail and also in storms, meaning that with sails and rudder set, it does not require a person sitting at the helm to continually steer. Under sail, as with many cruising sailboats, it is possible to balance the sails against the rudder so that the raft holds a steady course, as long as the wind holds fairly steady. The job of the watch then is reduced to only keeping an eye out for ships, and keeping a check on the compass to see that the heading has stayed steady. In a storm, we sail the raft downwind only, that is, with the wind coming directly from behind. The reason for this is that the waves generally come from the same direction as the wind, and by sailing directly downwind, you avoid the dangerous possibility of "broaching," or turning broadside to a wave, which could lead to the raft being rolled over. So how do we keep the raft sailing downwind? We have a huge retractable daggerboard, which is like a centerboard in a sailboat, all the way at the back, just ahead of the rudder. When we drop this down below the flat bottom of the raft, it automatically makes the raft turn downwind. In addition, we have a very small, very strong sail at the bow (front) of the raft, which assists by catching the wind if it comes at all from either side, and turning the bow so that it is again straight downwind.
All of our rafts conform to the standards of international regulations about discharge of all kinds. The regulations are very specific; for example, no plastic material of any kind can be discharged overboard at any time from any vessel. Toilet facilities are regulated according to distance from shore, and accordingly the rafts are equipped both with holding tanks for shoreside pump out, and also for overboard discharge where permitted on the high seas. back to question list ask a question
2. Is there a real boat inside (or underneath)? (click on this photo to view it bigger)
What you see is what it is. It's actually a raft, not a boat, meaning that water goes freely in and out of the hull, because it is floating on wood and foam, and is not water-tight like a boat. Click here to see the plans and construction details of the Son of Town Hall back to question list ask a question
To demonstrate what can be done with creativity and effort, with little or no money, and using whatever is available around you. To bring the possibility of living and travelling on the water into the consciousness of those who have forgotten it. And to prove the prototype to be safe, so that we can build more rafts of the same design, for floating orphanages for all the scrap children of the world.
We have full, stand-up headroom. Each crew member has his or her own private cabin, 6' X 8', and the dogs have their own space as well. There is a galley (kitchen); head (toilet); lots of storage compartments for food, water, tools, etc. There is a fence - enclosed section in the center of the raft, where we (and the dogs) can get out into the open safely, with no danger of falling overboard. It is actually much roomier inside than it looks from the outside, and very comfortable. back to question list ask a question
Yes, we had several full gales of Force 8 and 9, with waves up to 20'. The raft is self-steering, and in these conditions, we had only to set the tiller, and keep a watch for ships - the raft took care of herself and gave us a beautiful ride.
The dogs were amazingly adaptable. The two rotweilers, Sigfried and Thor, had lived on board since they were small puppies, and were quite used to it; they seem to understand and accept when we are out of sight of land that they just have to wait. Willie was having his first sea-going adventure, which stretched into over 2 months, but he, too, seemed quite content. They all played together and got lots of fresh air in the open (fenced) section in the center of the vessel. back to question list ask a question
We ate a very basic diet consisting mainly of brown rice, pasta, and canned vegetables. This was supplemented by some of the longer lasting fresh vegetables such as carrots, potatoes, and cabbage, but even these didn't last 2 months. We were resupplied with some fresh fruit and vegetables, and bread, by fishing boats on the Grand Banks just off of Newfoundland, and by passing freighters on the high seas (3 different times). We did try fishing a few times but were very unsuccessful.
We had on board 120 gallons of drinking water in sealed, one gallon containers. In addition, we had two 50 gallon drums filled with water, which we used for the dogs and for some amount of washing water. Mostly, though, we used salt water for washing. We had enough food on board to last us 3 months. Although we did run out of fresh fruits and vegetables, we started sprouting seeds which gave us a daily dose of Vitamin C. We had plenty of canned and dry food, and water left when we landed. back to question list ask a question
The following explanation is quoted from The Gurdjieff Work, by Kathleen Riordan Speeth:
"There are three traditional religious approaches [to self-development]:
"1. The way of the fakir;
"2. The way of the monk;
"3. The way of the yogi.
"The fakir develops mastery of the physical body, by enduring tortuous physical postures or exercises.The way of the monk is the way of devotion, religious sacrifice and faith. The way of the yogi is the path of knowledge. "
Each of these paths develops only one part of the person, and "new efforts and new studies will have to follow if unity is to be attained.
"The fakir, the monk and the yogi must renounce the world, abstain from family life and devote their full energies to personal development. At the beginning of each of these ways, at the initiation of work, one must turn one's back on the world and die to the past.
"There is another way, the fourth way, for those who want to remain 'in the world but not of it.' Unlike traditional religious ways, the fourth way has no permanent instuitutions. It appears and disappears according to the time, the place and the people. Work is done on all [parts of the person] at once and thus when and if the end result is attained, it is already attained in all [parts] simultaneously. Because it makes use of one's own life situation without requiring outward changes it is a possible path for all types of people."
The raft that you see in the photos, which came down the Mississippi is actually only a working platform. The Vilma B will be entirely different by the time she is ready to go to sea. She is being designed and constructed along the same principles as the Son of Town Hall, the raft which successfully crossed the North Atlantic in 1998. For more on its seaworthiness, read How in the World Can a Raft Like that Be At All Seaworthy?; How do you make a Raft Self-steering?; What Makes it Self-righting?; and Did you have any big storms?
The Vilma B will be an Orphanage Raft, for street orphans from third world countries such as Brazil, African countries, and India. The children will be those who are living in and surviving on the streets, with literally no one looking out for them or taking responsibility for them. We will get to know them and their situation thoroughly before they ever come to the raft. We are not looking to pick up runaways or anyone who has responsible adults in their picture. A child must meet three standards to be invited aboard:
After we have spent some time with a child and see that they are truly alone and orphaned, and that they can meet these three qualifications, they will be invited to the raft and offered the opportunity to come aboard. Once onboard, if they choose to stay, they will be given a floating, travelling home, and an education.
First let me emphasize that the children we are talking about are children who are living between the cracks of any laws or systems within their country of origin. If this were not the case, if there were any laws or systems covering them, they would not be living in the streets in the first place. So there are no responsible parties in their countries of origin. As we travel around the world, we may enter ports in countries which do have systems to deal with such children. If we are challenged in such a place, and this country intends to take full responsibility for the children, then let them do it. The children will certainly be better off than they had been before. If such a system takes the children off our hands, we will go and pick up more of the remaining unfortunate children from their countries of origin.
As for the legalities of the vessel, we will be within all the safety laws and requirements, just as we have been for all our other rafts. see Isn't there a Raft of Regulations...?
The Vilma B is being designed to house up to 20 children and 20 adult crew, including teachers, counselors and staff. Each child will have his or her own room, which will be their private space in which to heal. No one may enter that room without the inhabitant's permission. This is their own individual sanctuary, where they are totally safe. There will also be all kinds of classrooms, workshops, sports and recreation areas.
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Special Thanks to Wiel