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Solar powered Ra sails waterway loop

Oct 25, 2013
Ra passes a lock on the Trent-Severn Waterway in southern Ontario.

Ra passes a lock on the Trent-Severn Waterway in southern Ontario.

Jim Greer/Solar Boat Chronicles

Ra, a custom built, 48-foot trimaran named for the Egyptian sun god is exploring America’s Great Loop waterway — a route that follows North America’s East, Florida’s Gulf, major rivers and the Great Lakes. The voyage began on Jan. 11, from New Port Richey, Fla., with a route proceeding counter clockwise up the East Coast.

Skippered by mariner and wildlife filmmaker Jim Greer and his crew, Ra is expected to travel more than 6,600 miles in the solar-powered vessel, exploring the waterway’s ecology and living history. Greer also hopes the trip will merit a place in the Guinness Book of World Records.

The trimaran sleeps six, and its solar panels and batteries are sufficient for a half-day cruising before recharging. If successful, Ra will be the first solar-powered boat to complete the passage.

Ra is powered by two Torqeedo Cruise 4.0 electric outboard motors and has an average speed of 2.5 knots per hour. Flexible solar panels charge two banks of batteries dedicated to the motors. Greer said that the same number of miles in a conventional powerboat would require a fuel investment of more than $10,000. Thanks to Ra’s electric outboards, whose batteries charge solely with sunlight, Greer and his crew expect no fuel outlay for the trip. With a thrust equivalent to a 9.9-hp gas outboard, each Torqeedo Cruise 4.0 R outboard achieves an efficiency of more than 50 percent. Follow the voyage at www.solarboatchronicles.com.

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