Future Sailing: Winged Ferries
by Kimball LivingstonThe people behind a plan to launch winged, wind-assisted ferries on San Francisco Bay have already carried thousands of passengers under sail. That would be Jay Gardner, Pam Simonson, and Hans Korfin of Adventure Cat Sailing Charters. They presented their winged-ferry concept last week to officials at Golden Gate Transit. I figure it’s an idea whose time has come.
With San Francisco Bay’s seasonally-reliable winds, it would be possible for such a ferry to cover certain routes at certain times entirely under wind power. For the sake of maintaining schedules, however, the proposed new ferries will have propulsion, and for the sake of keeping everybody calm, we’ll be calling them “wind-assisted” for a projected forty percent reduction in fuel cost and emissions.
Not to mention, they would become an iconic focal point of San Francisco Bay. “If Auckland is the City of Sails, San Francisco could be the City of Wings,” Gardner said. With wing-powered America’s Cup boats coming to the bay, we’re halfway there already.
There is nothing far-fetched about this. And although it’s not a fact that the mainstream press will recognize, Wind + Wing Technologies has highly credible partners, including the forefront design and engineering firm of Morrelli & Melvin, which has been involved since 2008.
Here is a rendering from the drawing boards of Bobby Kleinschmit at Morrelli & Melvin—
This is a concept for a 149-passenger 90-footer, says Gardner: “It’s low-profile, low windage.” And the concept is intended to be scalable. What I see missing in this concept, though, screamingly missing—and Gardner sees it, so I’m not being original—is access to the bow. Sure, the regular commuters will soon grow indifferent, but this is one icon you can’t pay off without letting the adventurous souls among your passengers get out and breathe fresh air. For many ferry-riding visitors, getting out there, feeling the wind and the waves would wind up being the most vivid memory of a visit to San Francisco, beyond the cable cars and far beyond the wax museum. I’m seeing a ferry that can become a destination-sensation.
Notice, kinda like I believed the America’s Cup would come to San Francisco, I’m believing in winged ferries. Because it ought to happen. This is how I see the bow of that ferry, when a couple of young out of towners drop in . . .
LAYING A GROUNDWORK
“At Morrelli & Melvin, we started in early 2008,” said Bobby Kleinschmit. “First we did a comprehensive feasibility study. We modeled winds over San Francisco Bay ferry routes for a full year to develop a basis for estimating fuel savings. It was interesting because the route from the San Francisco Ferry Building to Sausalito and back is ideal for wind assist—or for being fully wind powered on some of the runs.”
Let’s note, further, that it would be a reach-out, reach-back between Fisherman’s Wharf and Alcatraz for the commercial operators who carry tourists out to “The Rock.” I figure that’s even more ideal for sail, considering the bias toward reach-reach and the bias toward a summertime (seabreeze) timeframe.I will share with you that, about a year ago, when Jay Gardner did a presentation on this subject at a Wednesday Yachting Lunch program of the St. Francis Yacht Club (programs that are open to members of all recognized yacht clubs), there were leaders of commercial ferry companies who came to meet and listen.
The man in the driver’s seat of this project, Jay Gardner, recalls that he first approached Golden Gate Transit in July, 2008, “and right off the bat the meeting started with an admission that if diesel wasn’t $4.75 a gallon they wouldn’t even be talking to me. But we went to them because they’re the most operationally experienced. We knew we’d have to convince the most hard-nosed ferry guys.”
Golden Gate Transit is part of the regional government, a division of the Golden Gate Bridge, Highway and Transportation District. It operates routes between the San Francisco Ferry Building at the foot of Market Street, and the towns of Sausalito and Larkspur. It also runs between Sausalito and Larkspur to AT&T Park for Giants baseball games.
For a region that is a global leader in green technologies, wind-assisted ferries is an idea that deserves to become a cause. The Ferry Building . . .
Now, maybe the concept fails. I doubt that, but we have to agree that we’re talking theory at this point, and the next thing is a proof-of-concept test. Which brings us to Plan A, which also is (“at this point”) only partly funded.
In Honolulu, Hawaii, Harbor Wing Technologies has put years into developing a wing-powered, remotely-operated surveillance vehicle that has attracted the attention of the United States Navy, the world’s largest consumer of fossil fuels. The test vehicle consists of a trimaran body with a computer-controlled wing. For a remotely-operated boat, computer control is the only option (with appropriate redundancy, of course). We’ve written about this before, right here.
The wing on a ferry would be computer controlled as well. No surprise there. (The wing on Oracle’s winning trimaran was managed from deck level via hand-held devices, but the wings on the next-generation America’s Cup catamarans will not be computer-controlled.)
Harbor Wing’s latest test boat, a wing on a Contour 50 platform, will be available for a test program on San Francisco Bay in 2012. The wing rendered below is calculated to develop 2,200 lbs of thrust, Gardner said . . .
Incidentally, Morrelli & Melvin, which has a working relationship with Harbor Wing, Wind + Wing, and the winning America’s Cup team, Oracle Racing, has the lines of a wing-powered cruising cat on its books, just waiting for someone to decide to be the first to launch the real thing. I’d pull the trigger, if I could. (What Peter Johnstone has done with Gunboat Catamarans is remarkable, but there is another level just waiting for Scotty to beam us up.)
If Walter Cronkite was “the most trusted man in America,” then US Rolex Sailor of the Year Stan Honey is the most trusted man in American sailing today, and he has described Harbor Wing technology as “very cool.” Full disclosure: Stan has also been a consultant to Harbor Wing and may still be. So Stan has been on the test boats. He’s seen the deal. He understands.
The principals of windwingtech.com, Gardner, Simonson and Korfin, built their first catamaran for AdventureCat.com 18 years ago, themselves. That consumed a lot of time, but I still see that 55-footer out on San Francisco Bay just about every day (330 days a year is the company’s count), along with the 65-footer that came later. You can buy a $30 ticket for one of the twice-daily 90-minute bay cruises or a $50 ticket for a sunset cruise. Operating out of tourist-heavy Pier 39, the Adventure Cats have taken more people sailing on San Francisco Bay than anybody else, period.
I like that.
But maybe, just maybe, it’s only the beginning.