The DIY solar powered vessel SeaCharger has finally made it to New Zealand, but not in the way it was planned.
In its attempt to be the first unmanned solar powered vessel to cross the Pacific, SeaCharger was launched from California in June 2016.
After travelling 12,000km, the world record attempting vessel lost use of its rudder in November and began to drift.
SeaCharger developer Damon McMillan of Silicon Valley wrote on SeaCharger’s blog his mother and Kiwi GP Neil Hutchison started searching for a vessel able to collect the damaged craft.
“For my part, I was willing to let it drift, mainly because I thought the chances of finding someone to pick it up were so slim,” McMillan wrote.
“But, as mothers do, my mom kept trying, making cold calls to shipping companies and navies asking for help.”
She eventually struck gold with James Dawson at Sofrana Unilines who helped coordinate a pick up near Norfolk Island.
The 143 metre cargo ship Sofrana Tourville was en route from the Solomon Islands to New Zealand when it stopped to retrieve SeaCharger.
After locating SeaCharger with its GPS coordinate transmissions, the ship stopped in front of the 2.5m craft, and let the current drift it alongside.
The ship’s pilot ladder was lowered, and a crew member descended with a safety harness to retrieve the damaged boat.
“I asked the Captain if they had to volunteer the youngest guy but he said no they were all queuing up to do it,” McMillan wrote.
“They took it on as a real challenge of navigation and seamanship and problem-solving skills and really seemed to have enjoyed the whole process.”
Bogged down by marine life and with a missing rudder and propeller blades, McMillan says it’s “no wonder it wasn’t making any progress”.
The motor, however, was still operational.
From here, SeaCharger was brought to Tauranga, and then on to Auckland where it will spend the next six months at the Maritime Museum.
The DIY craft and photos of its rescue will be on display at the Maritime Museum until SeaCharger returns home to California in six months.
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