SEATTLE, Wash. — With a successful grass-roots fundraising effort now underway, Bar Harbor native Dan Tracy’s vision for creating wind-powered cargo ships is coming to fruition.
Tracy’s startup company, Pacific Sky Power Sustainable Shipping, seeks to match modern construction technologies with the most sustainable, time-tested energy resource on the high seas – the wind. The final product, Tracy said, will allow shippers to move cargo across the oceans in as timely a manner as with traditional commercial methods, but at an impressive, 90-percent reduction in fuel.
“The wind is already there. We did it before. And now we have the ability to maximize the potential for using it as propulsion,” Tracy said Monday from his home in Seattle. “There are new technologies, there’s new material out there, and there are new ways to harness it.”
Pacific Sky plans to use a retractable catamaran design for its new, innovative ocean freighters. These ships will be able to expand masts, unfurl sails, and widen out when out on the ocean, while retaining narrow, low profiles for port. This will be done using telescoping masts and folding cross members.
A current Kickstarter campaign to raise $1,000 for the project quickly met its goal, and has now been expanded to raise $10,000. The money raised so far will be used to complete the Cat 30 prototype; an additional $9,000 will go towards construction of a larger, fully-operational prototype, Tracy said.
Funding pledges will be accepted until Oct. 16. Varying levels of support offer Pacific Sky products in return, including their small, educational wind turbines, turbine generators and kite-surfing adventures in either Seattle or Bar Harbor.
The Cat 30 is a 30-inch-long model of a 300-foot ship capable of carrying 210 20-foot shipping containers. The Cat 60 is to be double that size, with all actions operable through radio control, allowing Tracy and his team to conduct realistic ocean trials.
Tracy has always been fascinated with the wind, he said. The Mount Desert Island High School alum grew up in Bar Harbor sailing in the summer and ice boating in the winter on frozen-over Eagle Lake and Long Pond.
After leaving the island in 1996, he moved to Hawaii to follow his first passion, windsurfing. He became more and more intrigued there with harnessing the wind to power ships. In 2007, he launched his first startup to do so. The effort was not successful, but Tracy said that it taught him a lot and provided much excellent field work.
Tracy’s parents, Joe and Lucy Tracy, are creative, artistic people. Joe Tracy is the force behind a line of fine, heirloom furniture, while Lucy is an artist and craftsperson. Growing up around his dad’s woodshop sparked a lifelong desire to invent that continues to motivate him to this day, Tracy said.
Current shipping practices make use of heavy, unregulated fuel, he said. Burning that fuel pollutes the atmosphere at an enormous rate. Because the industry is so unlikely to be changed by government regulation, he feels that it is the responsibility of forward-thinking inventors and engineers to try to produce change from within.
“The use of these heavy fuels has been adding up, and its putting a huge amount of emissions into the atmosphere,” Tracy said. “I just feel a big need for this around the world.”