By Dale King and Julia Hebert
Boating enthusiasts’ love affair with personal watercraft is an ongoing phenomenon. Wave worshipers relied on wind and oars to move the earliest vessels, with steam, diesel and gasoline-fueled motor-driven private ships arriving later. Wind still propels colorful sailing rigs across hull-dotted harbors today while motorized craft of every ilk crowd marinas so boating buffs can make the best use of pleasure schooners. But a new propulsion method is working its way into this picture. Old Sol, the sun, the high-energy orb that tans our skin and brightens our long, afternoons of wake-making on lakes and oceans, also fuels a new class of yachts.
Solar and Silent
Just five years into the current century, longtime seafaring fanciers Michael and Heike Kohler, both world travelers who hailed from Austria, decided to make some waves in the boating industry. They felt that folks who favor these specially designed and equipped craft could ply the waters of lakes, lagoons and oceans without enduring the constant roar of engines, uncertainties of occasionally insufficient winds and the guesswork of filling fuel tanks for lengthy journeys. Working together, and after exhaustive testing of prototypes, they finalized their goal of creating practical, sustainable, sun-energized vessels.
How to Charter a Solare
Buying a solar yacht, though, is something of a sobering task, one made even more difficult because the Kohlers’ creations are not sold in the United States. But there’s a solution. Kent Aguero and Captain Matthew Blodgent, an ocean-going pair with extensive understanding of sports and entertainment, and leasing, respectively, decided to churn up the rental yacht trade. They created The Charter Agency, a watershed operation recently unveiled in Miami, to meet the expectations of boaters looking to try out these new-to-the-market sun-driven craft. “There are hundreds of solar boats and thousands of electric boats all over the world, but Solare is the first luxury solar vessel catering to people in the United States,” Aguero said.“ The Charter Agency takes fun in the sun to a whole new level with this modern, high-tech, low-noise, fume-free and environmentally friendly method of traveling the bounding main.”
Those ecologically sustainable characteristics were traits the Kohlers’ hoped to incorporate into their solar-powered water craft. “They had a dream that one day, a boat could sail noiselessly without wind and even against the wind ― day and night.” That road started to open up in 2005 when the Kohlers’ began working on an experimental catamaran. They put the vessel ― called Solarwave 46 ― through aquatic paces for another five years ― and 15,000 miles ― before they were satisfied the purely solar-powered yacht was worthy of rocking the boat world.“ This is a vessel that takes the noiseless and eco-friendly perks of a sailing vessel and combines it with the accommodations and familiarity of a typical motor yacht, all while maintaining extraordinarily levels of comfort and luxury.” Added Auger, “This is a tried and true vessel, having crossed the Atlantic Ocean earlier this year. Traveling from Spain to Barbados and then West Palm Beach, eventually coming to its home in Miami Beach ― the first-ever ― production electric vessel to do so.”
To be a true home on the water, the sun-motorized yacht is rigged with “induction cook-tops, stove, microwave, grill, freezers and fridges, air conditioning, washing machine and desalinization water maker. Even the dinghy motor and the electric motorbike are solar-charged. No fuel, no gas, but plenty of luxury. Noiseless and emissions free.”
The luxurious bedrooms on board all have striking water views, as do the dining facilities and relaxation space at the stern where you can put your feet up and unwind. “The functionality and sea capability of this yacht have been fully scrutinized, and it passed with flying colors,” said Aguero ― from stem to stern and up to the top where the gleaming solar panels face upward toward their energy source.The solar electric craft supports environmental sustainability, and, as a result, the Kohlers’ company has a shelf full of awards ― from the Global Warming Foundation honor to the i-Novo Award.
For those in the market to purchase a solar-powered yacht, Aguero said the base price of the 55-footer is $1.58 million, the 64-footer starts at $2.75 million and the 75-footer begins at $4.2 million. However, if a Sunday afternoon electric-cruise suits your fancy, you can charter one for four, six or eight hours or for multi-day term charters. The Miami seashore is the only place in in the USA where solar yachts can be rented. A TCA representative can provide additional information for a “dream powered by the sun.”