Solar-powered boat crosses Atlantic

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The Swiss catamaran Sun21 reached port in Miami last week after its 117-day, entirely solar-powered voyage across the Atlantic. Instead of a sail, the 46 foot Sun21 boasts a 48-panel solar array, providing enough engine power to keep the boat moving at roughly 10 km/h, day or night. Considering that very few vessels rely solely on wind power anymore, and that without its solar panels the Sun21 would've needed about 8,200 liters of diesel fuel to make the crossing, solar-powering boats could make a larger impact than you might think. Also, it sounds like a pretty smooth way to travel, according to one of the crew members: "There's hardly any vibration, the solar panels provide us with shade and, unlike a sailing boat, we make good headway even when there's no wind."

In other Atlantic alterna-crossing news, British madmen Edward Baylis and Stuart Turnbull rowed their way across the Atlantic a few months ago -- in Winter. Leaving December 20 and facing "house-sized waves" and starvation rations, they packed lightly in hopes of breaking the world record and getting across in just 40 days. But they didn't bring enough food -- they were consuming only 1,100 calories and spending at least 7,000 per day -- and may not have made it across at all if they hadn't run into some altruistic Dutchmen somewhere between the Canary Islands and Antigua. As a result, they overshot their mark by more than 23 days; it took them 67 to cross. I say a solar-powered crossing beats the stuffing out of a pec-and-bicep-powered crossing.

April 2, 2007 - 10:00am
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