A shadow has been cast over the storied Solar Odyssey Adventure aboard the sun-powered Ra.
The Ra, a completely solar-powered vessel, embarked July 22 from Clearwater on an epic voyage 6,000 miles long called the Solar Odyssey. It docked overnight at Gasparilla Marina July 27-28.
The four-person crew was working to be the first solar-powered vessel to boat around America's Great Loop connecting the Lake Okeechobee Waterway, Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway, Hudson River, Erie Canal, The Great Lakes, the rivers of Illinois, Mississippi, Ohio, and Tennessee, and finally ending back in Clearwater via the Gulf Coast Intracoastal Waterway.
The crew undertaking the Ra’s Solar Odyssey adventure, including gray-bearded Skipper Jim Greer, far right, and former Executive Producer Philip Hodgetts, far left, stopped at the Gasparilla Marina the day before the project hit a snag. Hodgetts has left the project over “creative differences.”
With no generators, the Ra's fuel use is zero, so the adventure is spotlighting a clean energy boating option.
"I can't imagine doing the Loop in less than 1,000 gallons," said Skipper Jim Greer. "I've heard people spending $8,000 to $10,000 on fuel doing the Loop."
A day after docking at Gasparilla Marina, however, the $100,000 project was splintered by "creative differences" between Greer and Executive Producer Philip Hodgetts, whose company withdrew all financial support.
"The boat doesn't have the range Mr. Greer believes it has or sufficient space for people to sleep comfortably," Hodgetts said. "Plus the boat was always traveling, which made it very difficult for us to do our job."
Hodgetts also said it was difficult converting solar power for computer use.
Greer said the troubled voyage will forge on with the aid of its other backers.
"It's not a setback. He had some other interests, creative differences, so he went his way," Greer said of his friend of a dozen years. "He just didn't want anything to do with being on the boat. He's not a boating person."
Hodgetts a speaker at the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences and technologist, was to play host for the video, too.
"I certainly would have wished it could have worked out differently," Hodgetts said. "Just be aware Mr. Greer doesn't always speak the ultimate truth."
The voyage troubles began with getting a late start out of the gate, which led to missing a planned July 4 appearance in New York.
One stop after his departure from Gasparilla Marina, Greer said he will dock the Ra at Legacy Harbor Marina in Fort Myers for a month so everybody on his frazzled crew can go home for a week or two.
"It's worked out to be so hot on the boat with no air conditioning and that made for a lot of unease among the crew," Greer said.
Greer said footage already shot would be used for a TV show next year. He had been doing production on the boat but now will likely resume the trip in September using a crew of camera people and send the high-definition film to an air-conditioned studio for postproduction.
He was highly complimentary of treatment received by his crew from Christine Connolly and the employees of the Gasparilla Marina & Waterside Grill.
Greer and production specialist Greg Kimple, an accomplished visual effects expert, have had supervisory roles on such movies as "Independence Day," "Close Encounters," "Back to the Future 2," "Titantic," "Amageddon" and "Star Trek 2."