Set in a dystopian future, levels of technology similar to today's levels exist with some advances, but the knowledge of how to create and utilize much of it has been lost. Those giant mechanical birds (air planes) are much too difficult to use and coordinate so most trans-atlantic/pacific trade has taken to the high seas.

Enter Ernest, dashing pirate captain of a galleon with a very eclectic collection of technology from the 1800 to the near future (you get to decide what!). Ernest has managed to get his hands on some of the technology outlined in my other question that can capture, store and release wind (still working on how this works). In addition to a bunch of the hand held containers (about 2 per seaman), he has a couple very large ones (~15 ft diameter, can capture ~15 minutes of strong wind) mounted on the ship behind the main sail on a swivel so they can be pointed at different things. He also has an assortment different sized containers of various sizes in between.

I am wondering what sort of shenanigans and jerry-rigged contraptions our ingenious anti-hero and his crew can come up with. There is the obvious "use the big ones to blow the sails" type things, but I'm looking for something a little more creative. Good answers could be warfare applications (somehow supercharging a cannon maybe?) or ways to make everyday life on a pirate ship easier (easily drying your hair?). It could also be a direct application of the wind-bottling technology or a combination of it with some other tech on the ship. Since the design of the wind bottle is not set in stone yet, feel free to play with the design a little if it leads to some really cool applications.

Note: Ernest has no fear and will likely be attempting to raid all types of ships from an old Spainsh galleon to a repurposed aircraft carrier or cruise ship -- pretty much anything that floats and may have something valuable.

  • $\begingroup$ If we go with modern technology like phones do we assume there is no phone network? $\endgroup$ Mar 25, 2016 at 22:01
  • $\begingroup$ @Bellerephon Coverage would likely be spotty at best. The towers are still there, but the demand for good receptions has gone down due to a lack of manufacturing of microchips, etc and the supply of phones steadily decreasing. Most of the towers have been repurposed for other things at this point. $\endgroup$
    – Pants
    Mar 28, 2016 at 13:23

3 Answers 3


You would not point it at the sail, but rather it would take the place of the sail. Figuring this out could allow him to make them useful when others could not.

A shenanigan I can recommend is to have a mode for launching a toroidal vortex pulse instead of a steady stream. This can do things at a distance (today, for real!) that a steady stream would not, at a fraction of the power.

A possible intended use for such a machine might be for propelling a ground-effect hovercraft.

Don't forget that even ancient peoples had use for compressed air and forced air. You could use it anywhere a bellows apparatus is normally used, such as in a metalworking forge, or working down a mine.

Also consider how you can abuse it! I'm supposing it works like the propeller and battery I outlined elsewhere; even if using unknown and mysterious means, it actually stores energy and can transduce that both ways with the momentum of the fluid in the pipe.

Will it pump water too? If it can be charged with moving water it will gain much more energy, even if it can't discharge water very well.

You can feed the intake with a hose to some combustible gas rather than using plain air. Combine that with the vortex mode and it will stay together for a long distance, delivering a volume of gas to the opponent's ignition point of some open flame they have, like where they would be lighting cannon fuses perhaps?

  • $\begingroup$ +1 for the toroidal votrex. This seems like it would be a simple modification of the opening. Also I had not thought of filling it with something like a "methane wind". Great ideas! $\endgroup$
    – Pants
    Mar 28, 2016 at 16:01
  • $\begingroup$ Besides the aperture over the exit opening, it needs a sudden impulse. The oatmeal box version works by pulling back the rubber back and letting go so it snaps back. Going to go make one now? $\endgroup$
    – JDługosz
    Mar 28, 2016 at 16:19
  • $\begingroup$ True. I would need a way to accomplish that. Regardless, I'm reminded of childhood friends farting into an airzooka and launching it across the room at an unsuspecting victim. $\endgroup$
    – Pants
    Mar 28, 2016 at 18:29

well if your bottle is mounted on the ship and you blow at the sails, they will cancel each other out, as the sails get the wind blowing forward, the canister will be pushing backward with the same force on the deck (or the poor soul holding it). So unless you have some magic that the wind doesn't 'push back' using it against the sails to go faster would be pointless.

However pointing it out the back of the ship would give a little boost. It could be very useful for speeding up a turn, if mounted on the back of the ship, turning it one way or the other could significantly speed up a turn, thus messing up an enemies plans. "There going to broadside us sir!", "Spin to face them head on!"

If sitting at rest, it could be used for small maneuvers, maybe to trick an opponent to thinking your are a sitting duck, and then 'sprint' out of the way at the last minute.

It could also be used against another sailing ship, if pulled up alongside, point it up at their sails, it would push the ship over, maybe throwing some of their crew and fighters off into the sea before it rights itself again.

  • $\begingroup$ I hadn't considered the whole "equal and opposite" thing for this (maybe this will be resolved when I figure out how to implement?), but it did remind me of this mythbusters result, which means its possible, but not terribly useful. $\endgroup$
    – Pants
    Mar 25, 2016 at 15:33
  • $\begingroup$ Even though the actual blowing is cancelled out, you can create a high pressure region which pushes the boat along. $\endgroup$ Mar 25, 2016 at 20:41
  • $\begingroup$ @PyRulez as my post pointed out, pointing it back behind the ship will still 'push' the ship, Kind of like a rocket engine $\endgroup$
    – bowlturner
    Mar 25, 2016 at 20:42
  • $\begingroup$ In that situation, would it make more sense to be able to lower the container beneath the water and open it to shoot forward rapidly? This would potentially add some surprise factor that wouldn't be present if it were clearly visible from a ways off? $\endgroup$
    – Pants
    Mar 25, 2016 at 21:25
  • $\begingroup$ @Pants Assuming it works underwater then yes. $\endgroup$ Mar 25, 2016 at 21:29

As @bowlturner has dealt with various propulsion ideas I will look at other things you could do.

With small wind machines


Use the wind power thing to breath while you are underwater. You could also use it as a self propulsion method to escape sharks/other humans that are under the water or use it to get to the surface at speed. Although this risks the bends.


A pirate could leap to an opposing ship up to say 10 metres away while the enemies would not be able to board the pirates ship. They could also leap from the mast to get an unexpected advantage and use the wind to slow their fall.


A skilled enough pirate could use a quick blast of wind to shove an arrow, grappling hook or boarding soldier of course. Three or four pirates could knock a cannon ball off course.


Still using small winds a pirate could improve the aim of a bullet or cannon ball by giving it a quick blast as it sets off.

Fire starting

If you need to start a fire somewhere where there is very little air just blast wind onto the flames to get them going.

Emergency weapon

If a soldier runs at you with a sword shove the wind into his chest, it might give you a second to get away. Or use the wind to throw a stone/wood as the soldier. Or use it to blind him using leaves and dust.


Use the wind to fan smoke up like an emergency flare. When help comes leap out and kill them all.

With large wind machine

Many of the above can be done on a larger scale using the larger machine but there is an issue that using the machine will push the ship off course.

Depending on strength - torture

Tie someone to two stakes about a metre to a metre and a half apart then turn the machine on them at full power. After 15 minutes the strain on their arms will have become almost unbearable.


While heavier than air flight is out you could launch a glider using the wind to scout around. You could also launch a human without a glider as a punishment.


Use the large machine to propel yourself under so you don't have to swim those first few meters allowing you to get that bit deeper.

  • $\begingroup$ How would giving a projectile a quick blast improve aim? Would you just hold it near the muzzle or would you incorporate it into the design? $\endgroup$
    – Pants
    Mar 28, 2016 at 13:32
  • $\begingroup$ Diving use: would not be scuba if it makes wind rather than releasing stored air; that is, it changes the motion of air around it like a fan. But it could serve as a pump for snorkels. $\endgroup$
    – JDługosz
    Mar 28, 2016 at 14:02
  • $\begingroup$ @JDługosz I was assuming it contained moving air somehow. $\endgroup$ Mar 28, 2016 at 17:21
  • $\begingroup$ @Pants If you had a channel of straight, fast moving air around the barrel (maybe four of the smaller ones equally spaced around the circumference of a cannon) then the projectile would have to travel in a straight line reducing or negating the effect of crosswinds. $\endgroup$ Mar 28, 2016 at 17:23

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