Landluber's Guide to Seasteading Feasibility

(Theodore M. Amenta) #1

Is “Seastead” Casa del Mar? Is “Seastead” La Cuesta Encantada? In 1919, William Randolph Hearst, did not question the financial feasibility of his castle? Hearst built a self-indulgent, work of art and architecture, a 165-rooms, with 127 acres of gardens on 250,000 acres of personal property. Citizens in Polynesia fear that a “Seastead” may be a self-indulgent “Enchanted Hill.” Is it?

I have tried to ask Randy Hencken and Joe Quirk about financial feasibility. They did not answer. I find nothing in 10-years of Seasteading materials describing financial feasibility. Their recent quotes in the press describe a $30 million concept for 30 people. This is not financially feasible. I agree Hearst could build a Seasted.

The present approach of Seasteading Institute to development is “strategic incementalism.” I interpret this as we cannot finance a whole Seastead? It is too infeasible. So build ---- “ small, and loose less money. I observe:

“Big seasteads have little seasteads, on their backs to bite ‘em.
Little seasteads have tiny seasteads, and so ad infintum.”

In my next post I will demonstrate in simple terms why the Seastead concept presented thus far is not financially feasible. I encourage Randy and Joe to push back and refute me. I will subsequently present how this feasibility can be solved.


Many of us have tried. When a big donation came in, it was suggested to invest in a place where people could build their own projects. Everything from a wet-dock to real estate. Funds went to operations, travel and promotions, instead.

Many of us have posted well-researched and documented processes, applications and so forth. One member tries to lure potential ideas to his own websites, promising access to investors, and then demands funds to ‘introduce’ ideas to ‘investors’ that were supposed to already be able to read the entirety of the ideas. It took email from Randy and Joe to close my account on that site. He chronically spams this forum with his advertising and links to his forums, despite the stated purpose and request of TSI to not do so, and they do not bar him from membership.

My own approach, for the time being, is to establish a homestead/supply-base and then build a small, modular and portable semi-submersible platform to float out. Currently attempting to finance the land to start that process. Unfortunately, the land I have found is not connected to any waterway. It may well take the rest of my life to build and float such a project.

(Theodore M. Amenta) #3

Permit me to smile at you: I have tried my “best effort” to help move the Seasteading Institute mission ahead for three months ---- nearly full time effort — with no success and less dialogue exchange. I know what I am about to say can be misinterpreted. I gift you anything I am able to give to you to advance you cause. I have more than 50-years at this stuff full time — or possibly time and one half — all over the world – this is not ego speaking just age! :slight_smile: Ted

(.) #4

The Hearst castle is nice. I have seen it a few times. It is inspirational.
There was a small construction crew, but they worked continuously.
Hearst accumulated lots of mismatched European stuff, and he copied
cheaply with concrete, and the result is great. I like the Hearst castle.
Hearst called it the Little Farm. He had a bigger one in Mexico, if I remember
the tour information correctly.

I think, citizens of Polynesia do not have to fear anything. The seastead can just
float away in case they do not like it.

I guess, Randy Hencken and Joe Quirk are more into politics, and not into technology.
They are working on whatever they do best. So far so good.

“I agree Hearst could build a seastead.” - Me too, I agree that Hearst could.

Financial feasibility: I do not have $1 million.

The big seastead smaller seastead line probably ends with a sail boat. So far so good.
Practical experience shows that I can live on a sail boat.

I donno what else to write; so

Sincerely yours;

(Theodore M. Amenta) #5

I am experienced in pre-development feasibility for remote often waterfront development. I have done sufficient due diligence to be able to document a feasible seastead at a cost of $65 million and value of $85 million. I have shared the work with Randy and Joe but had very little response. I am not confident SI is pressing ahead with serous professionals. I may post some of my work. Am not decided. Ted

(.) #6

Thank you for posting. If you decide not to post your work, I understand.

(Larry G) #7

Be aware that there are builder’s standards for ocean accommodations for various industries, notably oil rigs. Those are a good place to start for minimum livability.

(Theodore M. Amenta) #8

Thank you. I am receiving naval architecture input concerning platform structure in which I have no competence. My focus is on quality of human habitat, market and financial feasibility. This includes a “sense of place,” walking distances, density (250 residents) and scale (5 platforms bounding a small marina). I will post images shortly. Teed

(Bob LLewellyn) #9

This is an interesting thread. I just did a rough on a floating apartment complex using a barge for sale on the internet and came to a cost of about $500 a month for 10 years. This was for a 1500 sqft condo apartments but they could also be rented out as a business income. That example was given here. What could someone without qualifications, skills, or expendable finances offer this project?

Silicon Valley has their way of doing things that is always big ticket. That doesn’t mean that we can’t do something that is within the financial range of most Americans. Marinea doesn’t have all the glamor of the South Seas but it has all that counts and within my budget.

You can buy a used 45 foot cabin cruzer for around 25,000 and up depending upon its age . Membership in our little community development is $100 and that will buy you your citizenship when the project matures into its own country. That seems pretty affordable to me.

Now if you were only referring the the South Sea project then forgive this interruption, but if you are asking for the feasibility of Seasteads in general then I would have to argue that the cost is less to live at sea than to live on dirt.

(Larry G) #10

Indeed, one can buy a live-aboard sailboat for considerably less than the median price of a home in the USA. You sacrifice a lot of space and amenities, and you accept additional risk to live aboard. To say nothing of increased/changed maintenance costs. Moorage fees can vary considerably, but definitely offer a lot more flexibility then property taxes. Fuel costs can be considerable, but one must take into account the energy costs of a home as well- if one trades the latter for the former rather than simply adding a new expense on top, it becomes rather comparable.

You can buy (used) commercial vessels for well under a million US dollars. If one has a viable business plan that involves it, one can probably even find commercial financing. This is not really out of line with start-up costs for lots of different business types.

What are the stats on the luxury hotel barge? Size, # of accomomdations, included systems, gross tonnage, cost, etc.?

(Larry G) #11

(Theodore M. Amenta) #12

I am interested in your notion. It is completely alien to mine. I have also priced barges to build residential — “on top.” I find new barges at a cost of $100 / +/- SF of surface area. Accept for this dialogue that is equal to a “land value” — this is dense urban real estate — five levels at least. You have fully reversed my approach. You are occupying the “land.” Hmmm! I am presently using the displacement of the barge to support the housing. You are occupying the displacement with the housing. Have you dome any architecture of your thought? I am an architect and I am willing to “test” your ideas should you be receptive to this —“pro bono.” ---- I am intrigued with your approach. I am seek gin to create a much larger project so the exercise will be good input to my own work. PS: I do not know how to post images on this site ---- humbling but true. Any thoughts. ted

(Larry G) #13

Depends on the barge. Consider that barges are built to haul dense freight. Displacement is used for buoyancy, but living space and displacement can and do co-exist inside the vessel (whether barge, sailboat or motoryacht). Density of living space, furnishings, and systems are a tiny fraction of the density of bulk freight. Many barges have systems and often enough accommodations inside the hull. When adding accommodations above the deck, the same principle applies- multiple stories of accommodations can be added at a tiny fraction of the normal mass of bulk cargo. Wind loading on the side would probably more more of an issue to account for than overall buoyancy. Although I personally like the idea of ensuring positive buoyancy rather than pure displacement- perhaps sacrifice some interior cubic to EPS foam.

The biggest issue most people have with barges as ocean accommodations:

-not efficient for moving at high speed
-broader beam means more extremes of movement on each end of a wave
-relatively low to the water, may overwash in weather

(Bob LLewellyn) #14

-not efficient for moving at high speed
Sucks at any speed but zero. However, barges used for business or residence are mostly anchored down and left there.

-broader beam means more extremes of movement on each end of a wave
Flat bottoms give a better over all comfort when at rest. You don’t get the wave action as much as the wave is distributed better but there is more side to side motion. You get used to it.

-relatively low to the water, may overwash in weather.
Barges have lock-downs on every cover. Every air intake portal or hatch would have a cover with lock-downs. The entrance to each unit would be through the top or main deck. A special hatch with the ability to open from inside or out like a submarine hatch would cover the entrance . Then if the barge does get over-washed, it doesn’t matter. It’s like going through a storm, kind of exciting but little danger.

Another thing is that the barge will be divided by steel walls separating each unit from the other units. This way if one unit starts taking on water, the other units will remain dry. Automated pumps to be installed in the lowest part of each unit to discharge any water before it gets to the living space just like boats have.

It is really safer to live at sea then it is to live on land. There are no tornadoes, forest fires, insect born illnesses - no insects. No earth quakes, mud slides, floods or droughts. When hurricanes hit land, they pick up trees and buildings and throw them at you, but at sea, it picks up water and throws it at you. Now that water stings like hell but it doesn’t kill you. And clean up after a major storm is really easy, you just open all the hatches and let the fresh air in, the sun will take care of the rest.

I’ve worked the barges when I was a lot younger, both full and empty, it was really boring. We moved faster empty which caused more movement but at rest, stability was about the same as I recall.

(Larry G) #15

Sure- I’m actually in favor of barges for areas like Cay Sal bank. Especially spud barges. I’m just listing the common complaints.

Any kind of floating domicile larger than a small sailboat should have water tight internal bulkheads and everything should have bilge pumps.

When talking about risk, there are multiple dimensions. One is probability. Another is impact. On the open ocean you drastically reduce the probability of flying debris hitting your vessel. Flying debris does varying amounts of damage to houses and hurts people quite often.

But houses don’t sink or overturn as often as boats do, and the impact of sinking is generally catastrophic.

I couldn’t tell much about the hotel barge you plan to buy, from the small pics on the Marinea website. Any further stats to give? Is there any documented ownership stake in the asset for contributors?

(Larry G) #16

Use the “reply” button. Once you have an open reply window to type in, look in the very center of the menu icons available to you. Just to the right of “< / >” you will see the upload icon. This will allow you to select a picture that is stored somewhere on your computer for upload. For tool tips on the menu icons, if you don’t know what they do, put your cursor over the icon and let it hover there until the text shows up to describe the icon.

This is why I recommend reading the barge accommodations standard from one of the Classification Societies that deal with long term living spaces on ocean platforms to determine what has been already discovered about livability. It includes things like maximum comfortable velocity for rocking in waves, minimum overhead space, maximum vertical incline, parasitic space like hallways and passageway. It has been thought out fairly empirically already.

(Larry G) #17

I think this point from another thread is relevant here.

(Theodore M. Amenta) #18

Permit me to offer several thoughts. These economics are close. Should a person living today in the US today lease an apartment and move to the Seastead for 330 days all federal income taxes are avoided. For an income of $54,000 this is approximately 25% or $12,000 in tax savings — or $1,000 / month. This can be applied to rent or to purchase a sail boat. Each person occupies approximately 500 square feet. This is $24/SF — thus nearly “free rent.” Who might these people be? Young tech aware free lance copy writers for example, who average $54,000 / years based on US standards. In addition one might expect a “start-up” or incubator investor to be the anchor tenant of the office space. Why? The office space in San Francisco is possibly $75 / SF — and office rent on the Seastead will be $25/SF. The difference is $50/SF. The capitalized value of $50 might be $700 / SF. Each worker occupies 150SF — Thus the investor (owner, capital source) saves $100,000 in capital per staff member ---- !!! Ted

(.) #19

What determines the way of a sailboat: the set of the sails. Yes, but only, if there is wind.
Taxes not payed is also good, but only if there is earning.
Zero taxes paid of nothing earned does not sail far.

(Theodore M. Amenta) #20

As we all witness — work is detaching from place. Once man went to work-on-the-farm. Then in the mine, then in the factory. Today work is moving to where the people are located. In the 1970’s insurance claim adjustments were done by thousands of clerical people in Hartford. This work was then shipped via plane to Ireland overnight to be processed at lower wage rates and returned; then in the 1980’s and 1990’s via the internet to Ireland, the India (English speaking.) Today there are “digital nomads” who freelance graphics, and copy writing over the internet and travel around the world. I started international consulting in the 1970’s because I had US education and work experience in high technology architecture and urban design ---- most of the world did not. Today US educated with 10-years US experience have returned home to the middled east, Asia etc. to practice. I send digital drawing files and they return them. Several-year experienced tech employees in the Bay area earn an average of $100,000 / year and 10-year experience $150,000 / year — more to Polynesia for 11-months and save. The task is to locate the employer. Ted