Cherry Yacht of the Gods: Floating an Idea for an Improved Naval Megavessel

So I live with this person who likes to watch Titanic, as well as the Wolfgang Peterson remake of Poseidon, over and over and over again. And over again. And so I too have watched over and over again as Mlle. Titanic the debutante munches thoughtfully on an icecube and decides to emcee a rousing round of King of the Mountain for her 2,223 guests. And I’ve watched over and over again as a rogue wave rolls Lady Poseidon over on her back as if to see what happens. Answer: She gets screwed.

I’m pretty sure this movie-watching regimen is the source of the following fevered vision of an improved form of naval vessel. (That, and a certain macho competitiveness that springs up in me each time I hear the Titanic’s inventors brag about their world-class hearse.) Now, please understand that when I call my invention “an improved form of naval vessel,” I’m using a very idiosyncratic sense of the term “improved.” One’s definition of improvement is based on one’s idea of the purpose(s) of the objects to be improved. So let’s narrow it down: the purpose of the ship I’m about to describe is not to look sleek, get places fast, win wars, fetch fish for profit, offer amazing views of tropical ports, or facilitate frequent pit stops in said ports.

The purpose of this ship is to last, and to enable the indefinite autonomous seaborne survival of whatever’s on board, in style. I call it the Cherry Yacht of the Gods, or CYG for short. If you want to get cute, you can call it the Swan-Cyg’s short for “swan” in Greek, at least as used by modern astronomers. The Swan, or the Northern Cross-the constellation Cygnus is known by either term. Both names rock for a giant ship. But cutesy name games aside, I should probably warn you, the Swan’s not everyone’s idea of a good-looking ship. For one thing, it’s a spherical ship. Yes, spherical. Here it is in cross-section.

Note that because it’s spherical with radial symmetry around the vertical axis, this could be a front cross-section or side cross-section-same difference. It’s a double-hulled vessel, with the interstice between outer and inner hull shown above as a light green. Note the profusion of orange spheres filling the interstice-those are massive ball bearings 8 meters wide, whose presence allows the ship’s inner and outer hulls to roll independently of each other. Each bearing houses gimbals which, much like a motion-powered wristwatch, allow the ship to make use of any acceleration imparted to the bearings by wave and tidal forces around the ship. The energy of these accelerations can be stored inside the bearings for later use or transferred immediately to the ship’s interior. The bearings also provide, in collisions, an easily repaired “crumple zone” in between the two hulls, for added resistance to a full breach.

This first picture, of the ship in cross-section, offers us a view of other key details. Starting on the outside, note that the ship’s standard displacement is of exactly half the ship’s volume, with the sea rising precisely to the ship’s equator. Moving on, we can see from this view eight of the ship’s engines, which are mounted like pontoons at eighteen equally spaced intervals along three axes (ten are not visible from this cross-sectional view). Each of the eight engines depicted (dark blue) is seen head-on; the diameter of each is 15 meters. The engines are mounted on the outer hull on eighteen cylindrical arms (purple).

The area within the ship’s inner hull-the interior-divides into multiple levels. At bottom, a heavy ballast chamber (lavender) allows the inner hull to remain plumb, and its levels to remain horizontal, despite any outside disturbance. Just above this rests a large region (dark green) reserved for the storage and cyclic processing of fluids within the ship’s closed environment-hydraulics, waste management, water treatment, and liquid fuel storage all happen here. Just above this region, we see several levels of unspecified use (light grey). These could be used for housing, recreation, research, cargo, and even arcological and agricultural areas. Above these, a bright red region marks an optimal location for the ship’s command center, high enough above the waterline to make some form of traditional external view a safe prospect in most circumstances-and the viewing structures protruding from the command center’s portion of the inner hull could be made instantly retractable, and the outer hull’s corresponding viewing structures instantly sealable, should the need arise. Regardless, the ship would derive most of its information about its surroundings from electronic equipment much like that used on modern subs and large aircraft, equipment located just above the ship’s bridge (yellow).

The image above depicts the outer hull’s behavior when confronted by a massive wave-the outer hull rolls with the wave, tilting in this case a full 45 degrees, while the ship’s inner hull and interior remain upright.

Above, a sidelong view of the ship’s exterior reveals more of the ship’s eighteen engines, and offers a better sense of their regular distribution along the ship’s exterior. Note that some engines are seen head-on, while the one at center is seen in full profile. Each engine can be rotated 360 degrees around the axis of its mounting arm. Because the engines can only provide propulsion when fully submerged, only the bottom five (dark blue) are involved in propulsion in normal circumstances. The eight engines along the equator would in this situation rotate to form a ring of stabilizing pontoons; these and the five topmost engines could evacuate all water, seal up, and fill with either air or a more buoyant gas (light grey), in order to help the outer hull maintain an orientation level with the surface of the sea, and to keep the outer hull from spinning in place in response to the lower engine’s propulsive efforts.

I can also imagine configurations in which the ship’s interstice and engines take on more water in order to submerge the ship partially or wholly, allowing visual stealth as well as the propulsive use of all or nearly all the ship’s engines at once. Note that the ship is so designed that the outer hull can, through the use of its engines, orient itself in any direction. This allows for any part of the outer hull to be positioned atop the ship and worked on by the ship’s crew without outside help-a vast improvement over traditional hulls, the repair of which is in many cases unthinkable, and in many more extremely difficult.

The positioning of the engines also allows for the lower engines to be “borrowed” to deploy and haul in fishing nets or small submersibles, as well as to launch torpedos and other ordinance. Meanwhile, the engines at the waterline can be used for loading, boarding, and deploying small surface vessels. And of course, the possible uses of the topmost engines are many-they could be weaponized and serve as defensive posts, or loaded with meteorological instruments, or serve as runways for very small aircraft, or they could serve as ventilation shafts during calm seas.

The reason the topmost engines could only serve as ventilation shafts during calm seas, is that any procedure connecting an engine and its arm to the ship’s interior would serve to lock the ship’s two hulls together. However, due to the necessity of giving crew members access to each engine, a connection procedure has been incorporated into the ship’s essential design-a smaller cylinder (yellow) inside each engine’s arm (purple) can telescope into the ship’s interstice (green), pushing aside ball bearings (orange) as needed, while a larger sliding cylinder (turquoise) located at a corresponding point in the ship’s interior (light grey) activates powerful magnets to align itself with the telescoped arm before sliding out and completing the coupling. For these magnets to be able to rotate the two massive hulls into alignment, all eighteen engine arms and corresponding sliding cylinders must couple at the same time.

Note that the engine’s arm’s inner cylinder (yellow) is spacious enough to allow engine personnel to reside for long periods with their engine; note accordingly that the engine’s hardware region (dark blue), surrounding the propulsive cavity (pink), allows enough room both for engine components and crawlspaces for personnel. The propulsive cavities are sealable at both ends, allowing for the storage of buoyant gases. The propulsive cavity does not harbor a traditional propeller consisting of blades along a central shaft; this design makes each engine’s function depend on one massive and impossible-to-replace component, and such a design does not allow the propulsive cavity to be repurposed as described two paragraphs above. Instead, when in propulsive mode, each engine’s central cavity fills with retractable turbine blades mounted along spinning rings running along the circumference of the propulsive cavity. The drive mechanisms for these rings are located, of course, along the interior of the engine’s hardware region (dark blue). Note that with such an arrangement of propulsive cavity and spacious engine arm, very large items can be moved from the ship’s interior, through the arm, through the engine, and out of the ship, or vice versa. In fact, each engine is so constructed that it can be rotated to an abovewater position on the outer hull, then disassembled as necessary and brought into the ship’s interior for extensive repairs and modifications. The ship’s massive interstitial bearings (orange), meanwhile, can also be docked to a sliding cylinder (turquoise) and either gone into by workers or disassembled to be worked on in the ship’s interior.

Notes for further improvements and research:

1) While the gimbals in the ship’s bearings could generate some power, a ship of such massive size as CYG would seem to be affected little by the wave energies surrounded it in all but the most tempestuous conditions. Perhaps this system would serve more of a purpose on a smaller version of CYG, while the massive version I’ve envisioned could benefit in fair weather from the upper-engine-based deployment of solar and wind energy-capturing elements.

2) I’m unfamiliar with the hydrodynamic efficiency of a sphere moving half-submerged in water. One would imagine that the ship’s lower hemisphere is only slightly more obtuse a shape than the rounded prow of many tanker ships and barges. Meanwhile, the number of engines should be more than sufficient to give adequate speed to a vessel that, by design, has little need to rush anywhere. However, it’s easy to imagine CYG rolling backwards if engine forces are not balanced during attempts at forward movement.

3) It’s hard to imagine CYG achieving energy independence with known technologies. Even the prospect of lighting the almost completely closed interior suggests massive energy consumption. Perhaps more transparency and/or solar absorbent material can be incorporated into the hulls without a loss of structural integrity.

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