Friday, February 25, 2011

Crossing the Ocean . . . in Slow Motion

SlowBoat Flashback: Jan Berger's
in the kitchen in Florence, Alabama
Jan sez: Plenty of room to scrub pots!
We're visiting Cap's parents. A friend asked, "Does it feel strange to be in a house?" He spread his arms wide. "Do you feel like you you finally have room to move?"

Well, yes and no.  It's nice for the crew to get out of bed without scrambling over the Cap's recumbent form.  It's nice to hang coats in more than four inches of closet space. It's nice to take a shower in a space larger than a phone booth.

Other than that, well, humans are remarkably adaptable. When we're on the boat, mostly everything just seems  . . . normal.

Checking the news this week I learned about a solar boat that's been setting records. While we've been traveling around the Great Loop, the S.S. Turanor Planet Solar been traveling around the WORLD, the first solar boat to attempt this circumnavigation.

We left in June, they left in September, and this week, as we reached Charleston (4,300 miles into our trip) they crossed into the Humboldt Current and set a record: "Greatest Distance Ever Traveled by a Solar-Powered Vehicle" (9,904 miles).  The previous vehicle to hold this record was a solar-powered car.

The Turanor Planet Solar holds another record: World's Largest Solar-Powered Boat." It's nearly 100 feet long, a sleek catamaran that seems to be a dead ringer for the Starship Enterprise.  Check out the 5,800 square feet of solar panels on its wide, flat roof. They crank out 93.5 kW.

 Planet Solar can travel a little faster than Dragonfly (top speed 8 knots). She has a crew of 6 and cost 17 million.  Our voyage is more modest on all counts.

But we don't feel bad that someone else is making this grand solar voyage. Quite the opposite. The number of solar-boat projects we've discovered as we've made our trip seems like a hopeful sign.

Early in our trip we got an email with the subject line:  "You beat me to it."  It was another guy who aimed to travel the Great Loop in a solar boat, though on a different vessel, with a different propulsion system.

He's still going to make the trip.  Progress doesn't happen because a single person has a genius idea. Progress happens because lots of different people try to solve the same problem. The more brainpower, the better. Eventually the best solution percolates up.

Next stops for Turanor Planet Solar: Bora Bora, Tonga, Australia, China and the United Arab Emirates.

Our next stops: Georgetown and Myrtle Beach, Cape Fear, Pamlico Sound, Ablemarle Sound.  We're a little easier to visit than a boat in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. If you're in the neighborhood, come get the boat tour.

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