I just started playing with EQEmu in the last week or so, but I'd be interested in doing whatever I can to help get boats working. You guys are doing a great job!
I skimmed thru the two threads you linked, and it looks like the biggest issue right now is how to handle the zoning. I'm guessing that the way EQLive handles boats and zoning is a very delicate synchronization, with the boat popping in one zone about the time it depops from another... and then the boat that just depopped is now on a respawn timer. Of course, for this approach to work, the zones have to be static, so this approach won't work really well for most EQEmu servers where we'd like the zones to stay down until a player needs them. That approach is also very fragile and too prone to the boats getting out of sync... which helps prove my theory that this is the approach EQLive uses
My first thoughts are that the boats should be treated separately from other NPC's. Scorpius2k might be thinking along the same lines as me, as he (she?) suggested that changes to world.exe and zone.exe might be necessary. I was kind of thinking that world.exe should employ a boat subsystem where it will keep the zones informed of what boats are passing thru. And even tho the boats in EQLive are circling their routes 24/7, to ease the burden on our servers we can have the boats be suspended at their home docks until something triggers the route to start. That "something" being a player walking onto the boat, for example, or if the quest system will allow it, something the player says to an NPC can trigger the route to start.