By Len Bose
7:19 PM EDT, May 2, 2013
This last week, I was able to catch up with Billy Dutton of Riding Currents, a group dedicated to promoting renewable energy, raising awareness about plastics in the ocean and recognizing the advancement of renewable energy and its application to watercraft.
To achieve this goal, Billy and Mark Ward founded the group Riding Currents, then selected the Duffy 22 electric boat as their vessel. SunPower provided the power with solar panels and Trojan batteries (T-145s) were used to store that energy. The three companies worked together to properly install their equipment for maximum efficiency.
To gain the attention of the public, Billy and Mark thought it would be fun to take a type of surfing safari from Santa Barbara to Ensenada, Mexico in their custom Duffy 22, only using the power generated by the solar panels. During their 300-mile trip down the California coast, the crew would take water samples, collect floating plastics and look for some tasty waves to surf.
Last October, when the team started its journey, fall was in the air and sea conditions in the Channel Islands were at small craft warnings. During Billy and Mark's run from Santa Barbara to Ventura, the wind and waves were behind them; it was reported that while entering Ventura Harbor, the Duffy 22, with its small sail area of enclosure windows, propelled down a wave at 14 knots of boat speed. Can you imagine the look on Billy and Mark's faces as they dropped into that wave? You have to give it to Duffy boats for building a solid boat and steering system to meet these sea conditions. The Riding Currents team completed its cruise in two weeks' time and achieved its goals, arriving in Ensenada safely.
With summer quickly approaching, the Riding Currents team took advantage of our harbor's busy April boating schedule and decided to take the boat around Catalina — this time nonstop, again promoting renewable energy and its application to watercraft.
On April 19, the team was again greeted with challenging sea conditions, but nothing it had not seen six months earlier. This time, Billy's crew was Brady Hollingsworth, and the team was escorted by Duffy electric boat owner Marshall Duffield aboard his pristine Bertram 55 "Following Sea." Again, this week, I am reminded of the "Gilligan's Island" theme playing over in my head. As the team approached Catalina, the weather started getting rough as the winds approached 25 knots. Billy explained, "Duffy took the Following Sea around the back side of Catalina to give us a weather report as we ducked into Avalon. About 50 minutes [later], the report came back that everything was still a go, but it was not going to be as easy as they wanted."
As the team rounded the east end of Catalina, the sun had set, and in the darkness, the winds grew in strength with gusts reaching 35 knots at times. With the escort boat only about 25 yards abeam, the team made it up the back side of the island and to the west end by sunrise, where it was greeted by a fog bank. Just as the team started to get concerned about the extra power that was needed to make it through the rough sea conditions, the fog lifted and the sun poked out through the marine layer. By 6:30 p.m. Saturday, the team was tying the boat back up at Newport Harbor.
Again, this journey brought more awareness to boat builders and the public of renewable and clean energy applications to watercraft. The SunPower'd Duffy circumnavigated Catalina with only the sun to recharge its batteries.
For photos of this trip and my review of the Ensenada race, go to my blog site at lenboseyachts.blogspot.com.
LEN BOSE is an experienced boater, yacht broker and boating columnist.