An electric boat that sails nonstop thanks to solar energy: this is the dream that David and Alex Borton have been pursuing for the past 17 years. A dream come true.
Since 2004, father and son have worked hard to make their vision come true, building various models of electric boats powered only by photovoltaics, patented under the Solar Sal brand.
An epic feat
This summer the two accomplished an epic feat: the first trip aboard a solar-electric powered boat. The crossing took them from Bellingham, Washington to Juneau, Alaska.
The carbon-neutral adventure kicked off on Tuesday, May 25, when father and son set sail aboard their 27-foot (8-meter) long wooden Wayward Sun boat and arrived in Ketchikan, Alaska, on May 13, then cruised up the coast at a more leisurely pace to Glacier Bay and Juneau, finishing the voyage on 8 July.
The electric boat is powered by 100% solar energy with no combustion engine on board. “People always ask us if we have petrol or diesel if needed,” said Alex Borton, “but our ‘reserve’ is the sun, and it rises every day. If the batteries get too low, we just have to wait for the sunrise”.
Mounted discreetly underwater, the Wayward Sun’s electric pod is lightweight and powerful.
Torqeedo Cruise 4.0
Wayward Sun boat, built by Devlin Boat in Olympia (WA) is powered by a Torqeedo Cruise 4.0 electric pod with six Torqeedo Power 24-3500 lithium batteries. There’s a separate 12-volt system for lights, electronics, and other direct current (DC) powered systems, and a DC/AC converter for occasional “emergencies,” like making waffles. The batteries are charged by a series of 1700 Watt solar panels positioned on the roof of the boat.
“Even on a completely overcast day, like in this time of year, we can travel at 2-3 knots during daylight hours without draining our batteries,” Borton said. “In direct sunlight, we sail at 5 knots or more all day without using the batteries. For most of the trip we were accompanied by rain and overcast skies. Some days we were forced to sail slowly. Other days we traveled at a slow pace and charged our batteries while sailing”. “Most electric boats on the market today are limited by battery capacity, which means they are forced to moor somewhere when they need to recharge,” Borton explained. “Until recently, solar panels and batteries depended on shore power, so they were only functional for partial charging. But today, thanks to advances in solar panels and Torqeedo’s efficient electric motors and high-capacity batteries, it is possible to have a solar-powered boat with satisfactory speed and housing size, capable of cruising without ever charging ashore. If we had more time, we’d go another 1000 miles!”.
Father and son sailed from Bellingham to Ketchikan via the Inside Passage natural canal, anchoring at night for the lack of permits needed to go ashore in British Columbia due to Covid restrictions. “It wasn’t a problem for us,” Borton said. “We had plenty of food and a cozy sleeping space below deck. And of course, our solar-powered boat didn’t need refueling.”
Advances in solar-electric propulsion technology
“This is a major endorsement of the advances solar-electric propulsion technology has made in the marine industry and we enjoyed following the Bortons’ daily adventures on their blog,” said Mary Jo Reinhart, Director of OEM and Sales, Torqeedo , Inc.You can see the stories, photos and videos of Wayward Sun’s epic voyage at www.solarsaljourney.squarespace.com and learn more about Solar Sal boats at www.solarsal.solar