An older man who has been watching the entire time approaches me and tells me that he’s sorry that I lost control of my boat and that he’s sure it’ll wash up on the beach somewhere. I assure him that the boat is on autopilot, going exactly where it’s supposed to be going. “And where is that?” he asks. “Hawaii.” The look on his face is priceless.
Indeed, the idea of this tiny, homemade boat surviving 2,400 miles of open ocean to reach Hawaii seems foolishly unrealistic, and I know that more than anybody else. With help from friends, I built the eight-foot-long, autonomous, foam-and-fiberglass, solar-powered SeaCharger in my garage – not to make money or to win a contest, but simply as a challenge. And a challenge it was. What started out as a year-long project turned into 30 months of mistakes, compromises, and start-overs. So for the next couple of hours, I spend my time worrying and fretting, glued to the screen of my phone, waiting for each telemetry report sent by SeaCharger’s satellite modem. When it becomes obvious that the boat is still on track and doing well, I get in my truck and drive home.