The relentless rain and cloud cover that dogged New England through June finally gave way to favorable skies during the first week of July, allowing Turanor PlanetSolar to sail from Boston on July 4 and continue its research expedition in the Gulf Stream.
The 114-foot catamaran, the largest solar vessel in the world, is powered exclusively by the sun. That has proven to be a problem this year, with poor weather conditions delaying the boat’s departure from the Mediterranean this spring and altering its itinerary for the summer. A stopover in Iceland has been dropped; the crew’s deepwater research project will now focus on the ocean eddies between Boston and St. John’s, Newfoundland, with an additional port of call added in Halifax, Nova Scotia.
“Although the days are still long around Iceland in mid-August, the low angle of the sun relative to the boat’s photovoltaic panels would compromise the optimal acquisition of solar radiation,” said Gerard d’Aboville, PlanetSolar’s captain. “These sunlight conditions and the bleak weather forecasts for the rest of the summer prevented us from being able to guarantee a precise arrival date, which poses a number of logistical problems with regard to the scientific team members’ rotation.”
The three scientists on board began taking air and water measurements along the Gulf Stream in Florida in early June. PlanetSolar, which set the world speed record for a solar-powered trans-Atlantic crossing (26 days) in 2010, is scheduled to complete its deepwater expedition later this summer in Bergen, Norway.