Joyce Gibbons is an autonomous sailboat, designed to cross the North Atlantic Ocean. She is named for Joyce Gibbons of Atascadero, California, who died in 2015 and was one of the most curious, intelligent, and independent-minded people I have known. My name is Jeff Gibbons (I am Joyce's son), and in these pages I hope to record and share some of the history of the design of Joyce Gibbons, the sailboat.

The genesis of this effort came several years ago when my long-time friend Sean Spratt discovered the Microtransat Challenge. It fired our imaginations immediately, and we spent many enjoyable hours discussing possible designs and strategies, following the progress of the teams, and wondering which team would win. As the years went by and no team won, we began to think about participating ourselves -- especially since we have a lot of experience in several of the major fields necessary (we have both done ocean cruising in sailboats, and both know quite a bit about sailing, navigation, computers, electronics, robotics, real-time programming, etc.).

Most of the solutions to the problems which a transat boat will encounter seemed solvable to us, and we agreed on what most of the solutions should be -- except in one case: the size of the boat. Sean believed a larger boat (as large as the microtransat rules allowed, which was about 4 meters Length Over All (LOA) at the time we started) had a better chance of success, while I believed that a smaller boat could have just as good a chance. It's a little curious that we came to such opposite conclusions, since we have both seen very heavy weather and waves at sea, but those are our opinions. Sean's example for his "larger is safer" opinion is a huge ocean liner, which he says is safer than a small sailing yacht in heavy weather at sea, and my example for my "smaller is safer" opinion is a corked-up wine bottle, which I say is even more seaworthy than his ocean liner!

That difference of opinion is one reason we are building 2 boats: one small and one large. Another reason is that, once we got serious about taking on this challenge, we realized it would be good to have a small boat to test ideas on, even if we concentrated our efforts on a larger boat -- and that if I built a small boat for our tests, we might as well send her out into the Atlantic too, and let her take her chances! And since the smaller boat is faster and easier to build and test, it is likely that we will launch her first -- and we'll be able to apply anything we learn from her MicroTransat attempt to the larger boat, whenever we are ready for that attempt.

So we decided to build 2 boats: one seriously large contender which we now call Zephyr and a smaller boat, which we call the Joyce Gibbons (or just the "Joyce"). Zephyr is about 12 feet long (a little less than 4 meters), and Joyce is about 3 feet long (a little less than a meter). We are working together on both boats, trading design ideas, but Sean is doing most of the work on Zephyr, and I am doing most of the work on little Joyce. Some of the components (such as the electronics, which I am doing) will be the same between the two boats, so I only have to create one design. And, as part of our effort to determine who is actually right, we have made a bet: if Joyce does as well as Zephyr (she sails at least as close to her finish point as Zephyr does), then Sean owes me a dollar -- otherwise I owe him a dollar.

So that's a short introduction, and tells the story of how the Joyce Gibbons came to be. Over the next few months, I'll try to add some details to these webpages about her design and construction.