David and Alex Borton completed a 1,400-mile voyage to Alaska under 100 percent solar power, the very first recorded voyage of its kind. Their 27-foot Solar Sal boat, named Wayward Sun, has 1700 watts of Solbian solar panels on her roof, and six Torqeedo lithium batteries aboard, providing power to the electric drive. Wayward Sun was constructed by Devlin Boat Builders in Olympia, Washington. Together, they have shown that electric boats are more than just a passing fancy.
The Bortons left Bellingham, Washington on May 25th, 2021, making the Transit-Through British Columbia waters during Covid border restrictions imposed by Canada; not a problem since there was no need to stop to refuel!! They arrived in Ketchikan, Alaska on June 13th, and arrived in Juneau on July 8th after a trip through Glacier Bay National Park.
Wayward Sun can travel 4.5 knots at 1,000 Watts. David and Alex chose not to use shore power at any of their stops, demonstrating that solar alone can power the boat even on days consisting of clouds and rain. Yes, the vessel goes faster on sunny days and slower on cloudy days, but range is not an issue. On a typical Southeast Alaska day, where the sun is successful in fighting its way through the clouds one-third of the day, 400 Watts are delivered from the solar panels to the boat to run the 4000-Watt Torqeedo motor. Running on sunshine at 400 Watts moves the boat at 3 knots in calm water with no wind. David kept records on hourly speed as well as sky and sea conditions. He notes that “the battery storage versus voltage depends on whether we are charging the battery or discharging.” When traveling through Grenville Channel, they cruised at 3.5 knots on less than 2 kilowatts. Other times they cruised 5-6+ knots with favorable current.
David and his son Alex met many people in Alaska and answered questions from curious onlookers and fellow boaters. Thorne Bay was on David’s list of destinations, where he was a logger 58 years ago at this once isolated logging camp. They also spent time in Juneau; and as David puts it, “Glacier Bay was icing on top of the Glacier,” with a lunch stop at Margerie. Like most pleasure boaters, there were times they had to be hunkered down due to wind and unfavorable sea conditions during their journey up the Inside Passage, including taking shelter at Wood Spit in Holkham Bay, and Taku Harbor south of Juneau. At times, they had to throttle up to 25 percent power to maintain steerage in 15-knot winds.
An incredible accomplishment and first of its kind, congratulations are in order for David and Alex Borton and crew. They have demonstrated, along with Sam Devlin and Solar Sal Boats, that electric vessels may very well be a wave of the future. To learn more about Solar Sal Boats, go to solarsal.solar.
Photos by David and Alex Borton