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An eco-vessel tougher than the rest

SSAB Tunnpl : 29 November, 2002  (New Product)
Searcher, the word itself is the essence of passionate involvement and endless exploration. It also says a lot about Alve Henricson and Rolf Modigh, who have extended the frontiers for sailboats and smaller working vessels. Extra high strength steel and a carefully thought-out design enhance the boats' level of safety and widen their area of use. The research vessel Searcher is a pioneering design by the two men.
It has also inspired a series of family sailboats in extra high strength steel, where a 43-foot model is attracting particular interest.

Alve Henricson is the skipper of the research vessel Searcher. He's a visionary who has created a vessel which is a floating research station for scientists in difficult-to-access archipelagoes and island habitats. Places where the extent to which atmospheric and aquatic changes have affected the foundations of life can be easily observed. Rolf Modigh, who produced the initial design for Searcher, has other driving forces too. He owns the firm Långedrag Marin jointly with his wife Lena. They began building sailboats in steel since they are devoted yachtspeople. This resulted in requests from other sailing enthusiasts for similar vessels, and soon the business was up and running.

When Alve Henricson met Rolf Modigh for the first time, Långedrag Marin was already an established designer of steel boats, but extra high strength steel had never before been their material of choice.

Searcher is a new type of research vessel. It is specially constructed for minor expeditions which research into unique, difficult-to-access island environments around the world. It is adapted exclusively for research purposes, and is operated on non-profit basis through the help of sponsors. By building Searcher in extra high strength steel, with high tensile strength, the designers have given her a hull strength and seagoing qualities which are comparable to those of much larger vessels. 'Extra high strength steel is one of the best materials available for oceangoing sailboat hulls,' asserts Mr Modigh.

The Långedrag method
Searcher's hull has been constructed using the 'Långedrag method', which produces a very well rounded steel hull with a superb finish. The hull consists of laser-cut extra high strength steel plates with a minimum tensile strength of 700 N/mm2. The plates are precision-measured and are shaped and welded together in a fixture which supports the hull during construction.

By using extra high strength steel instead of conventional vessel steel, Modigh and Henricson have succeeded in reducing plate thickness by between two and three millimetres in Searcher's hull and superstructure. This has resulted in a weight reduction of around four tonnes.

The bottom plate is six millimetres thick, the sides five millimetres, and the bulkheads, deck, superstructure and cockpit four millimetres. It was decided not to change the material thickness of the keel, however, although it is also made of the same high strength steel.

'We wanted an extremely high safety level in the event of running aground or hitting a coral reef,' explains Rolf Modigh. 'Searcher and other ocean-going sailboats sail in waters where there are lots of hazardous protrusions which can damage the hull, so steel is the only alternative. Glass fibre tears like paper when colliding with a coral reef.'

Long periods at anchor
The lower weight means that the boat can carry more fuel and equipment, which are needed so that Searcher can lie at anchor for long periods without interruption. The researchers can therefore collect material and carry out analyses, undisturbed, at the research zones.

Searcher opens up new opportunities for researchers the world over since it is one of the world's smallest ocean-going research vessels. The design in extra high strength steel is a decisive factor enabling the vessel's construction.

'Without it we would not have been able to build this type of craft, which sails smoothly and is both strong and safe,' asserts Mr Modigh. 'We are honoured and inspired to be nominated for the Swedish Steel Prize. Alve Henricson, who is on expedition to the Henderson Islands in the Pacific at present, is delighted.'

More extra high strength boats on the way
As a result of the work on Searcher, Långedrag Marin AB has developed new designs for sailboats and working vessels with extra high strength steel hulls. One of the most interesting models is a 43-foot sailboat which can be found at various sea locations around the world. One of the Långedrag 43-footers is presently sailing in waters off Spitzbergen, and the owner has strengthened the vessel with a polar bear guard. It is protective grid which is fitted over hatches.

Other Långedrag vessels sail in more southerly waters. Mr Modigh now hopes that more boat builders will become interested in the family sailing model. Meanwhile, the use of high strength steel continues to inspire the innovative boat designer.

'Our next project is a motorboat which is also a 43-footer model,' reveals Mr Modigh. 'It's going to be exciting to see what kind of reception it gets from potential buyers.'
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