Crossing The Atlantic In A 42 Inch Boat

In the world of sailing, there are many records to compete over. Speed records, endurance records, size records. The fastest crossing, the longest solo journey, the largest yacht.

But not all records concern superlatives, for example in the size stakes, there are also records for the smallest vessels. The Atlantic crossing has been completed by a succession of ever smaller boats over the years, and the current record from 1993 is held by the 5’4″ (1.626m) boat Father’s Day.

Records are made to be broken, and there is now a challenger to the crown in the form of the impossibly tiny 42″ (1.067m) Undaunted, the creation of [Matt Kent], who intends to sail the boat from the Canary Islands to the USA in around 4 months.

The boat’s design is definitely unusual, with a square aluminium hull of equal beam and length, and a very deep keel that has an emergency drinking water tank as its ballast. The sail is a square rig — imagine picture-book images of Viking ships for a minute — and it has two rudders. We are not nautical engineers here at Hackaday, but reading the descriptions of the boat we understand it to have more in common with a buoy in the way it handles than it does with a sleek racing yacht.

Unfortunately the first sailing attempt suffered a setback due to a design flaw in the way the vessel’s emergency flotation is attached. This was revealed by its interaction with some unusual waves. But [Matt] will be back for another try, and with luck we’ll see him on our TV screens sometime next year as he emerges into the Florida sunshine from his cramped quarters. Meanwhile his unusual boat and its construction makes for a fascinating read that we’re sure you’ll appreciate.

We don’t often cover boat building here at Hackaday. But if unusual ocean crossings are of interest, here’s an autonomous one we looked at back in 2010.

[via Yachting World]

42 thoughts on “Crossing The Atlantic In A 42 Inch Boat

  1. Pretty interesting. That is by far the most bizarre boat I’ve ever laid eyes upon. Now I have to figure out how to make an even more bizarre boat.

    >But not all records concern superlatives, for example in the size stakes, there are also records for the smallest vessels.
    “Smallest” is superlative: being small to the greatest degree.

  2. Steven Callahan did it in a life raft over 76 days in the 80’s. With a predicted transit time of 120 days it sounds like this purpose built ‘boat’ is even less streamlined than Callahan’s limping inflatable raft.

    If you haven’t, go read his book ‘Adrift: 76 days Lost At Sea’

    1. That was a great read :) I must have read it three times and looking at it now, I was ready to go as a kid with notes in the margins and passages underlined! I later read Slocum’s book which tickled my imagination about encountering native tribes and being able to replace every plank and nail in a boat. Still a renter so my boat ownership days are a long way off but it is such a test of knowing one’s self, the sea, the weather, and general knowledge of math to plot courses and measure properly. Seeing this guy’s project, it combines fun, adventure, and a lot of planning. Best wishes to him on his voyage and I may have to cruise down to meet him at his arrival to FL.

    1. It wouldn’t be as effective, but the metal shell filled with fresh water is still going to be the heaviest part of the boat, the part he sits in would mostly be filled with air. So I think it would still be a somewhat effective ballast.

  3. It’s cool to see “boats” and “sailing” in HaD, though this thing has more in common with a buoy than a true vessel, as pointed out.

    Real sailboats are things of beauty and elegance (usually), and boats are truly great platforms for hacking and DIY. Few inexpensive sailboats stay factory-stock for long; their owners almost always make alterations and enhancements for comfort, control or performance. And of course there’s all manner of computer and electronic hacking being done for charting applications, GPS, AIS, autopilot, to name just a few.

  4. I do know a little about boat design and I have to say that is one of the worst shapes I could imagine. It will be _s_l_o_w_.

    I wonder how how he accesses the emergency water supply without turning his ballast into a float?

    1. Yes the whole business ofethe mast and sail being perched at the front, outside the hull make it look unstable, maybe that helps you to not drink the emergency water.
      I’m guessing that the water is in individual chambers and you suck the water out via a tube, once that chamber is empty you fill it with sea water and make a point of remembering such details.

  5. It needs to be addressed as part of the design process for something like this but nobody ever really talks about it. How do you handle both food and water intake and outputs? It looks like you are basically sailing a portable toilet. Also, how padded is it inside? What if it capsizes? Can you close the top with a gasket of some kind and seal it from the elements?

    1. I hope I’m missing something, but yeah, there is no information about the food and water storage. Was he really planning on eating MREs the whole trip? A fishing reel would have just been in the way…

      1. Click through to the site and look at the specs plus the galleries. The boat’s very deep, deeper than it is long so he’s storing tinned food at the bottom of it. He’s got two desalination pumps and some solar power to drive them, the emergency water is just that. As for waste disposal, I think it’s going over the side if you catch my drift.

        Doesn’t look to be padded but probably could be, and yes it has a lid sort of thing with a small window.

        It’s still an absolutely tiny living space and the dude’s probably going to go crazy but good luck!

        1. The very bottom still seems to be not really able to be accessed. It looks more like he is going to basically sit on cans of food, going lower and lower down as they are presumably thrown overboard?


          How water proof is the lid? It looks like the lid could be blown off in a storm and part of the reason why the trip was aborted was due to issues with the lid? Does it have sump pumps? How much water can this take on before it sinks? Can he even access the lower part of the craft if it is covered in cans? The very bottom most area seems to be effectively impossible to access once he is inside it but it appears to be able to take on water?

        2. On further review, it looks like he is using interlocking EVA “exercise mat” foam as padding. At least for the walls and presumably some more on the floor area as well. That stuff is water proof and floats.

        3. Right, if he wins “shortest boat” in that, they’re gonna start competing in the “shallowest boat” category. Is it even a boat if it’s deeper than it is long? Traversing the Atlantic with a little wind and sheer bloody-mindedness.

  6. I was slightly alarmed by the fact that the waves were the wrong sort, more alarming was the rudder assembly being held on with G clamps and looking more like an after thought.

  7. y’all missed the autonomous boat that sailed from Calfornia to Hawaii called the “Seacharger” back in 2016. After that they tried Hawaii to New Zealand, but I believe it didn’t quite make New Zealand..
    Link for your viewing pleasure..

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