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The biggest solar boat ever built is currently on land in la Ciotat, France. It turned out to be the kind of day that doesn’t happen often during the PlanetSolar adventures.
The shipyard where MS Tûranor PlanetSolar has been parked for a month is one of the best equipped and most experienced in the Mediterranean for yachts, but Tûranor is a prototype and the haul-out method, supporting the boat by her central hull, has only been tried once during a maintenance phase in Singapore during the fall of 2011.
Concentration can be read on the lines of every face at 7:30 am when the MS Tûranor PlanetSolar crew and the technical team from Monaco Marine meet aboard for one last rundown of the upcoming events. Gérard d’Aboville, one of our first patrons and sponsors, made a special trip from Paris the day before to be aboard and command the operation. Cyril and Thomas are also present and are the representatives from the summer promotional tour. Fanch Henry completes the team; he will insure the coordination of the refit and maintenance work hereafter.
The sky is grey but the weather forecast is mild; it is imperative that the winds that frequently blow on the coast of the French Riviera during this time of year stay calm as the 15.80m large boat is navigated and carefully placed in the shipyard’s submergible lift, which offers exactly 16.30 m of room (leaving 25 cm on each side). It is also indispensable that the cradle upon which Tûranor will rest is precisely placed in the center of the platform in order for the demi-hulls of the ship not to touch the edges as she is lifted.
Once the cradle is set in place and checked, the operation begins at 9:30am and unfolds without a hitch. The maneuvers take place slowly. Centimeter by centimeter, Tûranor makes a half turn to face the lifting platform and begins her approach. A few meters away from making entry one can’t help but wonder if there is enough room for our boat and her magnificent headdress composed of 537m2 of solar panels.
Millimeter by millimeter, the boat advances positioning herself perfectly above the supports. As the platform begins to rise out of the water and the boat comes to rest on her supports the spacing is checked. The side-steps aft of the boat render the vessel larger than the platform and must stay outside the supports in order for the operation to be finished, but the position of the supports oblige the boat to be moved forward more than anticipated. The space between the side-steps and the cement wall is no wider than 2 cm but that is enough to begin the lift.
In a few minutes, the elevator that can lift 2000 ton ships raises Tûranor above the water’s surface and the demi-hulls containing 8.5 tons of Lithium Ion batteries unveil their total volume. The only remaining task is to move the platform to the site reserved for Tûranor at the Monaco Marine parking lot. The operation is a success and finishes at 1:30pm.
There are many reasons for this haul-out. A new layer of antifouling needs to be reapplied to limit the amount of algae and barnacles that grow on the demi-hulls which will increase performance. Also, the boat will be inspected, which must be done twice every five years, by the class organization Germanischer Lloyd.
It will also be the occasion to complete a few modifications to the propulsion system, in particular replacing the surface propellers by a classic system and installing more powerful electric motors to the bow thrusters.
Coincidentally, for the second haul-out, as soon as the operation was complete, a torrential downpour beat down on the shipyard for an hour. Thomas commented that the situation was identical to the haul-out in Singapore. Maybe Mother Nature is upset to see her solar boat high and dry…
We will update you soon on our exciting maintenance phase!