Folkboat racing in Second Life

Second Life International Folkboat Fleet races at Skagway
Second Life International Folkboat Fleet (SLIFF) races start from the SLIFF HQ in Skagway, Blake Passage most Sundays

While I enjoy sailing in Second Life, having my own Loonetta 31, I’ve admittedly never really taken a close look at sail racing. So, when MarkTwain White recently invited me to observe the weekly Folkboat races which take place around the islands of Blake Passage on most Sundays, I was curious to learn more.

First up, a little bit of background. Folkboats – also called Nordic Folkboats – are a class of sloop-rigged sailing boats some 7.68 metres (25 feet) in length. They came about as a result of a 1942 competition organised by the Scandinavian Yacht Racing Union for a low-cost, easy to sail boat. While there was no outright winner, the competition organisers took the best features of several of the submissions and commissioned Tord Sundén to design a boat incorporating the ideas whilst meeting the goals of the competition. In the 70 years since the design first took to the water, the Folkboat has  gained global popularity as both a racing boat and cruising yacht.

The SLIFF Headquarters, where information on races can be obtained
The SLIFF Headquarters in-world

In Second Life, the Folkboat has been beautifully reproduced by Analyse Dean in the form of the Bandit IF, which is available through her in-world store and via the Marketplace. Sine its introduction, the Bandit IF has become extremely popular in Second Life, and in recognition of this, the free-to-join SL Folkboat Fleet (SLIFF) group has been created to keep owners advised of Folkboat events and activities, and the Second Life International Flokboat Fleet headquarters has been established in-world at Skagway in Blake Passage, where the Alaskan setting of the regions is in keeping with the Nordic origins of the boat.

It is from the SLIFF HQ at Skagway that the weekly races are run. These are open to anyone owning the Bandit IF, and information on the races is posted through the SLIFF sub-forum available on Virtual World Sailing, together with information on other activities and on the boats themselves. The first race starts at around 07:00 SLT on race days, but participants are asked to turn up about 15 minutes ahead of this, so a count of racers can be taken and heats arranged. A nearby boathouse roof offers a spectator’s stand, providing a good view over the start / finish line.

Folkboats head out to position themselves for the start of a race
Folkboats head out to position themselves for the start of a race

There are a number of race courses used during events, and map of these are available at the SLIFF headquarters. A typical race session will see heats take place around one of the courses, with the winners going forward to a final race against one another, possibly around a different course.

Each race lasts around 20 minutes, and starts with contestants putting to water as the clock counts up towards zero, and the start of the race proper. During this time, the boats can be seen manoeuvring for position in order to get across the start line as quickly as possible as zero is reached, and the clock starts counting the race elapsed time. This actually requires some skill, and a couple of people in the races I watched handicapped themselves somewhat by sailing a considerable distance from the start line before looping back, the clock already running and their competitors well ahead of them.

Another heat gets underway ...
And the race gets underway.

Following a race can be difficult given the distances involved and the capabilities of your computer. I did attempt to follow the boats for part of the course using flycam mode and my Space Navigator, but the best way to enjoy things is to watch the boats head out over the start line and sail away into the distance, then wait to see which is the first to reappear around the islands and race for the line.

As the Bandit IF can be actively crewed by 2 people, the races can made for a fun shared activity, and the races I witnessed had several couples taking part. Conversation around the spectator areas is lively as well, with those awaiting their heat adding to the general chatter and greeting visitors.

Crossing the line
Crossing the line

In addition to hosting the races, the SLIFF also hosts sailing classes for those new to the Folkboat or who have one but don’t feel confident enough in their skills with it to enter a race. Details of classes are again posted through the SLIFF sub-forum at Virtual World Sailing.

In the meantime, if you are a Bandit  IF owner, and haven’t tried your hand at the races, why not hop over the SLIFF HQ one Sunday and take a peek at activities for yourself?

Related Links

My thanks to MarkTwain White for the invitation to witness the races, and to Mark and Nber Medici for their input to this article.

Bring your Little Bee to life in Second Life

Neural's "Honey Bee" finish for the Little Bee is beautifully reflective of the boat's spirit
Neural’s “Honey Bee” finish for the Little Bee is beautifully reflective of the boat’s spirit

As regular visitors to this blog know, I’m quite the fan of Ape Piaggio’s boats (and also her autogyro!). I’ve owned her Kv23H FoilStream since the start of the year, and more recently was involved in helping with the development and promotion of her tender-style speedboat, the AD25H Little Bee, as well as owning a copy.

Both boats come with painting systems, and a friend of mine, Neural Blankes, has been producing a range of paint kits for both of them, which I think are well worth taking a look at if you have either boat are looking for a really eye-catching finish for it.

Neural's "sunset" finish for the Little Bee - one of (at the time of writing) 35 paint kits she has produced for the boat
Neural’s “sunset” finish for the Little Bee – one of (at the time of writing) 35 paint kits she has produced for the boat

As a fan of the Little Bee, Neural has focused on that boat to produce (at the time of writing) 35 paint kits, some of which are beautifully complex in design and execution, and all of which offer very unique loks for the boat, both in terms of hull finish and cockpit colours.

Prices for the kits vary, but this reflects the level of work Neural has invested in creating the different looks. I admit to being quite partial to the Honey Bee finish, which beautifully encapsulates the spirit of the boat – and I know Ape herself has been motoring around on the water with a Bee in that finish 🙂 .

Neural's FI (Foilborne Industries) custom finish for the Little Bee
Neural’s FI (Foilborne Industries) custom finish for the Little Bee

Neural is also responsible for a number of special custom finishes for individual Little Bees for close friends, and the results are impressive – I can say this with hand on heart, as Neural came to my assistance and helped me in my efforts to produce a specific look for my Bee when it wound up somewhat comprised due to my lack of talent in graphics manipulation.

While not as extensive as those for the Little Bee, Neural’s range of kits for the FoilStream can also be found on her MP store, and offer an equal level of quality and distinctive looks.

So, if you are looking for a design that is eye-catching and just that little bit special for either your Little Bee or your FoilStream, I have no hesitation in recommending Neural’s work.

Note: the Red Ensign visible in some of the images above is the flag I use on my Little Bee, and not a part of Neural’s kits. Bee owners can fly the flag of their choice.

Related Links

A Little Bee that’s a real honey in Second Life

The Foilborne AD25H
The FoilBorne AD25H “Little Bee” by Ape Piaggio

Regulars to this blog will know I’ve been closely following the development of Ape Piaggio’s latest project – the AD25H “Little Bee” – (see here and here). Well, I’m happy to say that the Little Bee is now ready for launch – and what a honey it is! This is a package overfull of surprises, and something every motorboat lover in SL is going to want.

The AD25H is a boat which has from the start been a winner in my eyes. Built on the lines of a classic tender speedboat, it evokes an immediate feeling of summertime on the Italian Riviera, cruising along a sun-drenched coast or speeding by golden beaches, the music of Dean Martin, Tony Bennett, Connie Francis, Morgana King or The Chairman himself – take your pick – playing on the boat’s radio.

My Little Bee moored against my Foilborne Kv23H to compare relative sizes
My Little Bee moored against my Foilborne Kv23H to compare relative sizes

Marketed under Ape’s FoilBorne Industries brand, the Little Bee builds on the stunning work put into her Kv23H FoilStream (which I reviewed in January 2015), and while a lot smaller, the Little Bee actually packs a lot more into it.  With passengers aboard, it can be a gentle, caring ride with Ape’s Anti-Crash Security System (ACSS) doing much to assist with region crossings. But should you feel a need for speed when out on your own ,this boat can deliver – up to and including converting to a hydrofoil for that extra kick of driving fun.

One of the many things about Ape’s designs I love is the sheer attention to detail. With the Little Bee, this starts with the packaging, which is delightful in its presentation, and a promise of goodies to come.

Like a kid at Christmas: kneeling behind my newly-arrived AD25H, admiring the packaging
Like a kid at Christmas: kneeling behind my newly arrived AD25H, admiring the packaging

On unpacking, the box delivers a number of items to inventory: the boat, a HUD for the boat, a trailer and “TugBee” – a little VW Beetle  specifically designed for towing the Little Bee on its trailer. A paint system brings up the rear, while the boat itself hides a stand it is automatically mounted upon if rezzed away from Linden water.

This is a friendly boat. Get in as the driver, and it will welcome you aboard in both text and via an audio message (unless turned off).

The controls are the usual,  UP / DOWN or W & S for the throttle, LEFT / RIGHT or A & D for turning, with PAGE DOWN and PAGE UP operating the hydrofoils (only at low speeds / when stopped). Touching the boat as owner accesses the full menu, passengers the seating menu.  I’m not going to run through all the options – suffice it so say, everything you need is there to operate the boat, and owners of the Kv23H will see the Little Bee has matches it in options – and offers more besides.  The expected options such as multiple camera options, auto-mooring, engine / race options, and so on, are all here together with the AD25H’s wakeboard and parasail deployment options and a few surprises.

The boat includes a HUD for those who prefer not to see hover text floating over their vehicles, with essential controls for deploying / retarding the foils, rezzing the wakeboard / parasail, etc.
The boat includes a HUD for those who prefer not to see hover text floating over their vehicles, with essential controls for deploying / retarding the foils, rezzing the wakeboard / parasail, etc.

Talking of the parasail and wakboard, both of the latter can be rezzed from the boat’s Accessories menu. Note that you will have to be on water that allows object entry, and should leave a degree of space behind the boat (don’t rez them when moored with a pier right behind you, for example). Once rezzed, riders simply sit on the wakeboard / parasail (and will receive a wearable handle for the former), and away you go. You  can even rez multiple wakeboards and also have the parasail rezzed and used with the wakeboard(s).

Those riding either the wakeboard or the parasail have a degree of control on their motions. The former can be turned left or right via the usual A/S / arrow key options, with stunts accessed via the PAGE DOWN and the UP / DOWN keys. The parasail’s rider can adjust their height with the UP / DOWN keys. When driving the boat with the wakeboard / parasail in use, I’d recommend keeping your speed down to no more than about 50% of throttle to avoid region crossing complications.

When deploying the foils and  / or using the wakeboard / parasail, you’ll get to see two additional features on the Little Bee: the Event Cam and the CineCApe system. These allow for some dramatic shots of the boat in action, with CineCApe notably allowing the wakeboard and parasail riders to adjust their camera position using PAGE UP to gain some impressive views of their ride. I’ve used clips from both in the accompanying video.

Wakeboarding on the AD25H
Wakeboarding on the AD25H “Little Bee” – you can rez multiple boards for friends – and even take someone parasailing at the same time!

The car and trailer offer a sophisticated system for taking the Little Bee overland. The “TugBee” VW Beetle is nicely designed and comes with a range of features: opening doors, working lights and brake lights. The usual WASD / arrow keys are used for driving, and the Page keys for stepping up / down through the gears.

Hitching the trailer to the car is a matter of rezzing both, preferably in the same orientation and close to one another, then clicking the car for its menu and selecting Attach. To get the boat on the trailer, carefully reverse the car down a suitable slip or gentle bank so the trailer is about up to its axle in the water. Drive the boat up close to the trailer, click on it and select Trailer from the menu. The trailer’s hand brake should unwind and the boat haul itself out of the water and safely onto the trailer. Raise the hand brake by touching the trailer and you’re ready to drive away.

Continue reading “A Little Bee that’s a real honey in Second Life”

Playing with a Little Bee

Testing the Foilborne AD25H "Little Bee"
Testing the Foilborne AD25H Little Bee

Back in January 2015, I wrote about my impulse buy of the Kv23H FoilStream power boat, designed and built by Ape Piaggio under her Foilborne Industries brand. At the time, I wasn’t sure how well it would grow on me – although I can now say it is one of my firm favourites.

That review lead to Ape and I making contact in-world, and we’ve discussed boats and vehicles extensively since then (I’ve also had a lot of fun with her tried-out her autogyro). So when she invited me to help beta test her upcoming new release, I leapt at the chance. Ape has been working on the design for at least five months, and it will still be a while before it reaches production status. However, she’s given me permission to preview it here, and I’ll be reviewing it in full once it is available on the market.

The AD25H “Little Bee” is actually a release I’ve been looking forward to for some time – and trying the beta version has only increased my desire to grab one once it is officially released. A tender style speedboat a good deal smaller that the mighty FoilStream, it is no less packed with features.

Fancy taking friends parasailing? The Little Bee will let you!
Fancy taking friends parasailing? The Little Bee will let you!

And when I say packed, I mean packed. Single and couple poses; working instruments; mouselook driving, deployment mooring fenders; canvas weather cover – even a coffee percolator should you need warming-up on a cold morning’s outing! All these and more are included in the boat’s features. You’ll even be able to take friends parasailing or wake boarding on the finished model (no wake boarding on the beta I’ve been testing).

If that’s not enough, Ape has also include her “auto-mooring” system, multiple camera options, a voice messaging system, her fuelling system (complete with a neat animation), ACSS system to assist with region crossings, a racing mode, repainting capability – and more. And for those, like me, like the hydrofoil aspect of the FoilSteam, Little Bee includes its own deployable hydrofoils and an optional camera positioning control which allows you to see them being deployed / retracted.

The Little Bee has working cockpit instrument and is a superb drive in mouselook mode
The Little Bee has working cockpit instrument and is a superb drive in mouselook mode

There’s no time frame on availability (other than “coming soon” 🙂 ), nor is there a price-point. However, testing so far has revealed the Little Bee to be very stable and agile, and it handles region crossings with as much ease as can be expected with one or two passengers – and even with one of them dangling behind the boat in the parasail!

If this is enough to whet your appetite and you’d like to try a basic pre-release version of the boat (options like the hydrofoils, parasail, etc are not enabled on it), you can do so via the Little Bee’s pre-release demo area.

As noted, I’ll be reviewing the boat in full once it is available on the market. In the meantime I’ll leave you with a short video (best played at 720p, if you can) I put together when testing the beta version.

Of impulse purchases and power boats

The Kv23H FoilStream at home
The Kv23H FoilStream at home. The white canvas is covering the bow seating area

As regular readers know, I’m pretty into sailing and cruising in SL. However, while I have a couple of very nice E-Tech boats, they are somewhat big and tend towards the primmy. So I’ve recently been spending time hopping around SL and trawling the Marketplace for something smaller, lighter and mesh built I could buy.

This actually proved harder than I’d imagined. Not because there is a shortage of smallish cruisers and nice little tenders to be had; quite the reverse. There are some lovely boats to be found; I just have this obsession with a red & white colour scheme, and those I saw either didn’t quite fit, or required DIY retexturing well beyond my comfort level. So I ended up making an impulse purchase simply because the colours were close enough: Kv23H FoilStream by Ape Piaggio.

The Kv23H showing the forward seating area uncovered
The Kv23H showing the forward seating area uncovered

Not, I hasten to add, that this should be taken to mean this is a “bad” build; far from it. Ape has worked hard to produce a superb racing boat / cruiser, capable of carrying up to five people, and sought out plenty of assistance in bringing it together – such as from Analyse Dean of Bandit fame. The result is a craft that is 31 LI, 100% mesh, packed with features, and – when needs be – bloody fast.

Seating areas can be found in the cockpit, and forward in the bow area, with a small cabin area in between. The pose system allows movement between the various areas (including the sunbathing pad over the working engine cover), without the need to stand, and is available to driver and passengers. Driving-wise, the UP / DOWN keys operate the throttle in 10% increments, LEFT / RIGHT allow you to steer. If you want some really high-speed boating, PAGE DOWN will deploy the boat’s cunningly-hidden hydrofoils (you must be at 30% throttle or lower for them to deploy). Once deployed, running the throttles up to anything over 70% will lift the boat up onto the foils and you’ll literally fly across regions; this is one bloody fast boat. So much so that after lifting, I’d strongly recommend dropping the throttle down to 50% for a smoother ride.

Up on the foils at 60% throttle
Up on the foils at 60% throttle

When you drop back to 30% or below, the boat will settle back into the water, and PAGE UP stows the foils once more. Handling-wise, the boat is really responsive at speed, but can be a handful at 10%-20% throttle. To assist with this, Ape has added a “parkmode” option in the menu, click it and keep your speed to 30% throttle or less and it smooths-out handling. There’s also a race mode, accessed through the menu, which makes the boat compatible with popular race systems and which enables damage, while the ACSS system really does help the driver with region crossings.

Two really handy capabilities with this boat are the “park camera” and the auto-mooring function. The former places the camera above the boat, looking down on it and – with practice – allows for a lot of close-in manoeuvring both forwards and backwards. Set the boat’s home mooring position, and the latter will automatically park the boat on your return, once you’re within 10 metres of the mooring point.

Roaming Second Norway
Roaming Second Norway

To list all the features would turn this article into a litany, so suffice it to say that you also additional options that can be deployed, a pose system for moving about the boat without standing up, a working engine cover, two working media systems – there’s even two painting systems (texture maps supplied), one of which you can use to produce your own commercial paint kits for the boat.

There are, to be fair, some niggles, none of which are serious, but do cause grumbles. Mouselook driving requires seat adjustment, for example, so you can actually see where you’re going. However, adjustments can’t be saved, so have to be made again after standing.  I found the camera to be oddly sensitive when carrying passengers at low speeds in regions with surrounding objects, being prone to slewing into the engine compartment even when crossing parcel boundaries (i.e. moving away from my home mooring). Conversely, travelling at speed on open water with passengers across multiple region boundaries has yet to give me any problems at all. A final very small issue is with the boat’s hull texture map: the left side hull texture and the transom texture are such that if you wish to add a name to them, you’ll have to reverse it to read from right to left; if you don’t the name will be backwards when the textures are applied to the hull.

The dashboard contains working dials and a nice map function that will mark your position within a region (the yellow square) - providing you're not zipping along at an insane speed!
The dashboard contains working dials and a nice map function that will mark your position within a region (the yellow square) – providing you’re not zipping along at an insane speed! However, you’ll likely have to raise the driver’s seated position if you want to ML drive, or sit and then adopt a standing pose via the menu

But, these are minor grumbles in the scheme of things. Overall, there is no mistaking the fact this boat is well made, comes very well equipped and represents excellent value for money. Any hesitation you might sense in this article is simply because this kind of muscle boat isn’t really “me”, so I’m having a hard time persuading myself I’ll actually use it, and may yet end up resuming my hunt for something more “my” style. Either that, or I’ll await Ape’s next project, her AD25H “Little Bee” speedboat, which is looking rather good!

However, if you want to see if the Kv23H is your kind of boat, you can take a demo version out for a spin from Ape’s test location in-world and can purchase it there or from the Marketplace.

Loonetta: small, but beautifully formed

The Loonetta 31
The Loonetta 31

I entered the world of casual SL sailing via the Premium Gift sailboat. I know, I know, there are better offerings around! Well, those of you who have been nudging me to “upgrade” to something more will likely be likely be pleased to read that I have 🙂 .

September saw me hopping around looking at various boats and options, as I wasn’t sure what I wanted. I did know I didn’t want a racing yacht or racing sail boat; not that I have anything against racing, I just wanted something that offered comfort and a degree of style to sailing around SL. Two boats went fairly immediately to the top of my list, the MLCC Oceanic, and the MLCC Loonetta 31, both of which are created by Motor Loon, who has a well-deserved good reputation for his custom bikes and other vehicles (he’s also a regular at SL User Group meetings, which are where I first met him).

The Oceanic is the older of the two designs, and is a sleek sailing cruiser, a little over 25 metres in length which features a very comfortable& furnished cabin – seriously, you have to see the boat for yourself to appreciate the level of detail. The Loonetta 31 is the more recent of the two builds and 100% mesh. Around 9.5 metres in length, it might be thought of as the Oceanic’s chubby little sister.

Both come packed with features and capabilities, making them each very excellent value – I’m not going to spill the beans on everything included, as part of the pleasure with these boats is in the discovery. Suffice it to say check hatches and steps carefully 🙂 . Initially, I was swayed towards getting the Oceanic, but in the end opted for the Loonetta 31. This was for two reasons; firstly, Motor’s excellent video tutorial on customising it via a very smart scripted system and set of texture maps convinced me this would be something even I could manage, and secondly – and more directly – the Oceanic is a tad on the long side when manoeuvring alongside at the jetty in front of my house, and is too long to fit the dock alongside the house whereas the Loonetta 31 sits easily alongside either one.

Loonetta 31: closer look
Loonetta 31: closer look at the default finish

Which is not to say I’ve taken second best – far from it; the Loonetta 31 is an incredible little vessel, featuring a fully fitted cabin, like the Oceanic, and  has plenty of room for friends to enjoy a trip out with you. As I siad, the customising system is quite awesome, and it is packed with some really nice touches.

The boat is delivered unboxed and ready to go – simply move the folder from your Received Items to your inventory, then drag the boat into the water. The default colour is a white finish, but there are six more pre-set finishes you can pick from simply by clicking on the boat (not the wheel or the seats – you’ll end-up sitting! Top of the cabin is the best) then selecting SETUP from the displayed menu, and using the DESIGN + and DESIGN - buttons to page through the different finishes, which will render on the boat as they are selected.

The Loonetta's Cabin
The Loonetta’s Cabin – where you can use the radio to listen to an SL Coastguard weather report for Blake Sea

However, that’s not the end of the customisation options – you can select just about any part of the boat and change its colour / hue using the RGB buttons, you can change the degree of shine applied to various parts of the boat, both via the COLOR/SHINE button, and by following Motor’s very excellent video linked-to above, you can learn how to download the texture maps for the boat and use them to create your own texture finishes – which is pretty much what I did.

The menu is also used to control other options as well – lower / raise the anchor or sails, set the spinnaker, adjust the camera position, deploy / hide the fenders for docking, sound the bell or horn, set the boat to a moored status, adjust each of the 40 poses individually, and more. For those who prefer, text commands can also be used with the boat.

My customised Loonetta 31, "Exotix 2"
My customised Loonetta 31, “Exotix 2”

Customising the Loonetta 31 took me a couple of hours – a fair part of which was me trying to do a half-decent job with a graphics programme; I’m pretty sure that anyone with any reasonable graphics abilities could have done the same as I’ve achieved in half the time or less. Essentially, I used the hull map to create a red hull with a white stripe set on it, did the same with the stern plate, and re-coloured the cabin roof in a matching white. I also added a couple of graphics to the main sail and spinnaker, and created a custom name. I have to say I’m quite pleased with the results.

A point to make here is that the Loonetta 31 and Oceanic are both No Modify, so if you’re going to be engaging in some extensive customisation and are concerned about upload costs, you might want to re-sync your Aditi beta grid inventory with a password change, wait 24 hours, and then work on your boat there; once you’re satisfied with the results, you can then upload your modified textures to the main grid and apply them to the boat.

Sailing-wise, these boats are a real treat; Motor has spent a lot of time optimising them for sailing and region crossings. While it is still early days for me, a trip around the United Sailing Sims presented no problems with multiple region crossings under sail or motor. A nice touch is the smoothness of motion when turning; the boat turns gently and easily in a continuous motion, rather than the more step-by-step turns some vehicles exhibit (love the animation uses when turning the boat as well!). And if you don’t wish to leave the boat moored, you can pull out a stand from its contents and rest it safely on land.

Under sail
My customised Loonetta 31, “Exotix 2”, under sail

To say I’m pleased with the Loonetta 31 would be an understatement. It may not be the sleekest boat available (I can’t help but call it chubby!) nor the fastest, but it has won my affections. Motor has done a magnificent job with it, and despite my clunky flapping around with GIMP, I really enjoyed putting together a personalised look for it, one which keeps to my preferences for red-and-white :).

For anyone interested in seriously trying-out sailing in SL, I have no hesitation in recommending the Loonetta 31 or its big sister.

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