Fossil fuel free Antarctica voyage

Antarctica Torqeedo

A crew has completed a three-month, 4,000-mile voyage to Antarctica in a resorted 28ft steel hull sailboat using only sail and a Torqeedo all-electric auxiliary propulsion system, which was recharged by solar and wind energy underway.

Manuel Pardi, who recently returned to his home port of Buenos Aires after the three-month voyage in his sailboat Pequod, had no fossil-fueled engine or generator on board.

From the outset, Pardi wanted a boat that would be ecologically friendly and self-sustaining. “I wanted to get to the most pristine place on the planet without polluting,” he says. “My goal was to go to Antarctica generating zero carbon emissions.”

This was Pequod’s second trip to Antarctica. The first was undertaken in 1987 by the sailboat’s original builder and owner Hernán Álvarez Forn. When Pardi started to plan his own voyage, he discovered Pequod abandoned and in a bad state of decay. He befriended Forn and together the two of them, with Francisco Gigena, a traditional boatbuilder, worked to rebuild Pequod and make her seaworthy again.

They removed the old diesel engine and replaced it with a Torqeedo Cruise 4.0 pod drive with a folding propeller and a Torqeedo Power 48-5000 lithium-ion battery. For charging at sea, they installed solar panels, a 350W wind generator and a hydrogeneration system to create electric energy from water flowing beneath the boat. 

Naval-Electric SAS of Buenos Aires was responsible for installing, integrating and commissioning the complete electric system, which also included a battery monitor, charger, inverter, DC/DC converter and solar charge controllers, all managed by a mobile app.

“The voyage provided convincing proof of the feasibility of an all-electric ocean-going sailboat with renewable recharging,” said Nicolás Fóthy, CEO of Naval-Electric SAS. “Pequod did not even carry an auxiliary fuel generator. That’s why this expedition is a milestone in sailing this latitude.”

“The Torqeedo system and the solar and wind generators performed flawlessly under challenging conditions of cold temperatures, high winds and heavy seas,” Pardi says. “We mostly were under sail, but we ran the Torqeedo drive during periods of calm and for manoeuvring in and out of narrow channels. It was a fabulous feeling to be gliding smoothly through the pristine waters of Deception Island with no noise, no exhaust fumes and no fuel sheen on the surface.”

Pardi and his two crewmen got underway on the first day of 2021 and arrived at Deception Island on the coast of the southern continent on 17 February, after a harrowing sail across Drake’s Passage with 10 to 15ft swells.

“The strong northwestern winds and mountains of water around us all made Pequod look like an ice cube in a cocktail,” he says.

Pardi and his crew enjoyed a few restful days on the beautiful and spectacular volcanic island before departing for the return voyage.

Images courtesy of João Paulo Barbosa.

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