The Solar Sailor

Back in 2007, there was talk that Hornblower Yachts of San Francisco was working on Coast Guard approval to purchase a boat called the “Solar Sailor.”  This boat would carry tourists across the bay to tour Alcatraz. This unique form of transportation originated in Australia. The type of boats San Francisco is considering could hold about 400 to 500 passengers and are mainly powered by solar energy. There are massive solar wings on the boat to generate electricity. These wings also act as the sails of the boat, catching wind to move them along without accessing fuel power. This method decreases fuel needs by 50 percent and gives off zero emissions when docked. As a back-up fuel source, there are diesel generators which would burn low sulfur diesel fuel. The vessels are also equipped with controls to limit air pollution. Over all, emissions are expected to be cut by 70 percent to 90 percent, according to conventional marine diesel standards; and fuel costs could be reduced by 40 percent to 60 percent.

Solar SailorThe company “Solar Sailor” does not take part in actually manufacturing the boat itself, but rather they just build the sail. These solar sails can come in all shapes and sizes and depending on the size of the boat can have up to eight sails or as little as one sail. The talk is that the initial San Francisco boat would have one sail that would be approximately 15 meters high. One of the boats that is in operations in Sydney, Australia has eight shorter sails which can be operated in unison or operated each individually.

What does all of this mean to you? I know that all of the statistics and numbers might be a bunch of jibber jabber, but all in all, this vessel seems to be a wonderful answer to reducing emissions and fuel costs. Not to mention, I read about it and thought it was a cool and unique type of boat. Something I hadn’t heard of before and also something that would probably attract more tourists to certain sites, just because they would want to ride on something they had never seen before.

The one thing I have not been able to track is if the boats have actually been operating in the San Francisco Bay area. The first vessel was expected to arrive some time in 2009, and the second was to follow with the next five years. I do know that these Solar Sailors have been in operation in Sydney, Australia; Newcastle, Australia; and Hong Kong. These vessels have been successfully shipping passengers to and from tourist attractions for several years in these areas.

At one point there was talk of New York City implementing the boats to transport tourists to Staten Island to see the Statue of Liberty. I don’t believe that this plan has come to fruition as of yet. I believe that Solar Sailor’s are on to something big here and if some of this technology could be implemented into larger cruise lines, this could be a great addition to keeping our environment clean.

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