by Des Ryan
Just as Swiss/German inspired spectacular-looking Turanor PlanetSolar has completed the world's first ever circumnavigation on a craft powered by solar alone, a new venture now traversing the entire 'Great Loop' of the United States in a very different-looking solar craft, called Ra. Just now, it has had to put into the dock after hitting an underwater crab cage.
Ra with crew members Todd Mahoney and Beth Corwin walk beside the solar panels which are Ra’s only source of power
'We want to show people that, yes, any person can have a boat and make a journey without spending $30,000 in fuel,' skipper Jim Greer said. 'We wanted to stress solar power and do the trip without any fossil fuels and without power cords.'
The Solar Odyssey Expedition consists of a six-man crew, headed by adventurer Skipper Jim Greer, tech gurus Philip Hodgetts and Dr. Gregory Clarke and oceanographer. Then there's movie special effects wizard, Greg Kimble, primary camera person, Beth Corwin and secondary camera person and cook, Todd Mahoney.
Solar Odyssey planned route
It’s been a week since the Ra, a trimaran powered by solar panels, set off on a 6,600-mile adventure, and the collision with the crab cage causing a pin in one of the Ra’s two propellers to shear.
'We’ll be here overnight,' Capt. Jim Greer on Sunday as he stood at the dock on Matlacha, an 'Old Florida' fishing village. 'But we’ll be on to Fort Myers tomorrow.’’
It’s a small and temporary disruption for the Ra and her crew: Greer, primary camera person, Beth Corwin, production specialist and sailor Greg Kimble, and secondary camera person and cook, Todd Mahoney.
The Ra set out July 22 from Clearwater on what Greer is calling the Solar Odyssey. The adventure, as the crew terms it, will take them across Florida via the Caloosahatchee, Lake Okeechobee and St. Lucie River to Fort Pierce, and then on up the east coast of the United States to New York City, where the trip will go on hiatus until next April.
'It’s a 6,600-mile journey,' Greer said. 'We wanted to try to do it in six months, but it will go on a little longer.'
Weather concerns prompted the planned halt in New York because the weather on the Great Lakes can get rough in autumn. 'We’ll pick it up again in April, next year,' he said.
The point of the trip is to show that solar power can be used efficiently to power a craft. The Ra has several arrays of solar cells, one on each pontoon and and other on the top of the boat’s roof.
'We have 110 power, but we generate it ourselves,' said Corwin.
Solar Odyssey boat plan copy
If all goes well, it will be the first time this has ever been done and the crew hopes to make it into the Guinness Book of World Records as the first solar-powered vessel to complete the Great Loop. In order to qualify for a world record, the boat is travelling during the day only on electricity that is exclusively generated by solar power.
No plugging-in allowed on this adventure!
A complete itinerary, daily blog and details of the production can be found on the Solar Odyssey website at http://www.thesolarodyssey.com/