On 8 May 2007 at 14:45, the solar-powered catamaran Sun 21 is scheduled to pull into the North Cove Marina, Battery Park City, New York, ending its transatlantic journey. The boat left from Basel, Switzerland in October of last year to travel down the river Rhine to the North Sea. After visiting several ports of call along the European coast, Sun 21 cast off for open seas from Seville Spain on 4 December 2006. With stops planned to stock supplies and carry the message of alternative energy at several islands during the crossing, the Sun 21 charted a route along the sunny latitudes favorable to a solar voyage. Already on 11 December, the crew faced the first big storm, with winds up to force 7 on the Beaufort scale. The ship took refuge in Casablanca, as would sailors of any small vessel. But the important lesson learned was that the ship could weather a strong blow and bring its crew to safety. The arrival of the Sun 21 in the port of Martinique on 2 February 2007 (pictured above) marked its entry into the book of world records as the first motorized vehicle to cross the Atlantic without using any carbon-based fuel. The ship's battery bank is designed to allow operations up to 20 hours at full power without solar charging. The voyage demonstrated that the battery bank remains nearly fully charged even on days with cloud cover. In ideal conditions, Sun 21 could put up to 107 nautical miles per day behind her, similar to a small sailing vessel. As an advantage over wind-powered vessels, Sun 21 covered 83 nautical miles in a completely calm day.
The Sun 21 will take its place in the record books alongside Japanese sailor Ken-ichi Horie, who made a solo trip across the Pacific in 1996 in a submarine-shaped solar boat, made from recovered aluminum cans. Hopefully these pioneers will lead the way to a new paradigm of water transportation, much as the flyers who braved crossings in primitive airplanes opened the future of intercontinental jets. If you are in the area, join the reception at North Cove Marina, Battery Park City, New York at 2:45 p.m. on 8 May 2007.
Via Transatlantic 21