Thinking Tech

Young Spotz and solar-equipped rowboat halfway across the Atlantic

Young Spotz and solar-equipped rowboat halfway across the Atlantic

Posting in Design

Katie Spotz opted to run her myriad electronics with solar power in her courageous if not slightly insane 2,500-mile row across the Atlantic. She's blogging and Twittering the whole way.

So you want to row across the Atlantic, but heavy batteries and a generator given their weight and complexity are out of the question. So how do you power the myriad electronics you will need?

credit: Rowforwater.com

Solar, of course, and that's just how 22-year-old Katie Spotz equipped her ocean-going rowboat to power a satellite phone to call home; a VHF short range radio to communicate with other ships; a reverse osmosis water maker to desalinate drinking water; a music player (iPod, I presume - she blogged Jan. 17 about what's she's listening to at sea); laptop computer to among other things, blog and Tweet en route; camera/camcorder; and battery and battery monitor.

Solar is a bit of a risky strategy should the sun decide to stay in for much of the anticipated three month 2,500 mile journey from Dakar, Senegal to Cayenne in the French Guiana. But she's reported no problems so far in her blog and Tweeted as recently as an hour ago about an audio interview via her satellite phone for KOLO8 TV Reno).

With 1,000 miles left to go and only "minor problems" so far,  Katie on Tuesday described the challenge:

"The mental component is far more difficult than the physical...just trying to give it another day...day after day, rowing 8-10 hours a day...alone," she said, adding that during the interview, she was in 3-5 foot seas under cloudy skies.

A Tweet from sea: "Katie's looking pretty good after six weeks at sea, don't you think?" credit: Katie Spotz on Twitter

Her navigational electronics include GPS; nav lights; "Sea Me Active Acho Radar; and Automatic Identification System reciever "to electronically identify and located ship data including: identification, position, course, and speed."

Many of the suppliers for the electronics and other gear would appear to be among her 31 sponsors for the journey, which is to raise money for safe drinking water. Clearly an  uncommonly determined individual, Katie has raised $48,000 of her $50,000 target and is just over halfway through her remarkable journey.

She posts every 2-3 days at her blog at Rowforwater.com which among other things, describes the journey, challenges birds and marine life. You can also donate and be sure to check out the short history of rowing across the Atlantic, which was first done by two Norweigan clam diggers in 1896. She will be the youngest to accomplish this feat if she successfully concludes the journey which is supposed to be in about a month.

Her 19-foot boat is only one of three in the world and was designed by acclaimed dinghy designer Phil Morrison and made by Rhode Island builder Aquidneck Custom Composite Fabrication Inc. As an aside, I stumbled across this story in the Energy Harvesting Journal, which looks at technologies to "scavenge" and store power.

Godspeed, Katie and we'll pray for sun.

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John Dodge

Contributing Editor

Contributing Editor John Dodge has written for the Wall Street Journal, Boston Globe, PC Week (now eWeek), EDN, Design News, Electronic Business, Bio-IT World, Health-IT World, Lowell Sun, Haverhill Gazette and Newburyport Daily News. He is based in Massachusetts. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure