Solar Powered Canoe CalypSol Almost Ready for Launching

I have been watching fellow Bernotas Middle School Dad Ray Christe’s and his Algonquin friend Larry Kozak’s progress as the boat went from conception to completion.

Lakewood's Ray Christe and Algonquin's Larry Kozak show off the model of CalypSol with Crystal Lake in the background.

The first “home” for the boast was in Oakwood Hills resident Charley Birks’ garage.

Germaine Tobias, Charley Birks and Ray Christe pose with the canoe in Oakwood Hills before move to Lakewood. Tobias helped with the plastering of the hull.

I went over to Oakwood Hills to meet Marc Müller, who was driving a solar-powered car across the country.  Unfortunately, the vehicle was being repaired, but I had a delightful conversation with the young man, who had been active in Swiss politics.

The ribs have been completed in this photo from last fall.

At that time, just the ribs of the boat had been completed.

The CalypSol was bundled in a tarp as the severe July storm battered Lakewood.

The CalypSol escaped damage from July’s storm, even though trees fell in Christe’s yard.

Larry Kozak and Ray Christe stand behind their almost completed watercraft.

Now comes the following press release from the CalypSol Group:

The Constructors of the CalypSol celebrate a milestone!

On September 20, the CalypSol Group celebrated a milestone with the construction of their high tech solar power 22FT trimaran; the final stage of the assembly of the main components.

CalypSol from the front.

The craft is due to leave mid-May 2012 for a long journey down the Illinois and Mississippi Rivers, taking two adventuring mariners from Chicago to New Orleans.

CalypSol's electric motor can be seen from the back. The flag of Ray Christe's homeland, Switzerland, can't be seen, but it is beneath the American Flag.

They will be using the same waterway used by Joliet and Marquette in their birch bark canoes over 330 years ago. CalypSol will be the first solar power boat sailing the path, still referred today as the “French Corridor”.

The construction of the boat required more than 1000 hours of combined design engineering and fabrication. The selection of the material and components was carefully reviewed with professional boat builders.

One of two batteries had been installed when I took this photo.

For safety purpose, the boat has several back-up systems.


This device of Ray Christe calculates the angle the solar panels should be tilted.

Two sets of solar panels charge independently two batteries which alternatively run the electric outboard motor. The high efficient light weight photovoltaic solar modules were manufactured in Italy but distributed in the States by HighFlex Solar in California. The solar panels are articulated for best sun incidence, thus increasing the efficiency of the battery charge. A special sundial designed by Ray Christe, the lead canoer, provides with the best angle to position the solar panels.

The core of the main hull was fused by Melges Performance Sailboat in Zenda, WI.

The batteries and outboard electric motor are manufactured by Torqeedo in Germany. Their North American headquarters are in Crystal Lake, IL.

The design of the electric motor and propeller shaft allows the boat to move forward, backward and make turns on a sharp angle.

A solar-powered convection fan maintains continuous air flow in the batteries compartment.

There are dual bilge pumps for redundancy.

Instrumentation includes Depth Finder, GPS, Netbook, Energy Monitoring and Cellular Phones.

During their voyage, the mariners will camp overnight on the river islands or banks with an occasion night in a motel.

The boat is equipped with a cooler to store beverages and food purchased along the way from cities and towns. The duration of the voyage is expected to last two months, which allows time to go sight-seeing, meet with local townspeople, routine boat maintenance, and so forth.

You can learn more the Odyssey of the CalypSol Group, founded by Ray Christe of Crystal Lake and Larry Kozak of Algonquin, on their Website:, or call 815-455-6797

“We’ve been looking forward to this adventure for quite a long time. We’re excited and just about ready to go,” said Kozak. “Next May can’t get here fast enough to begin our adventure of a lifetime.”


Solar Powered Canoe CalypSol Almost Ready for Launching — 8 Comments

  1. Bonjour, félicitations ! c’est un bel ouvrage, je vous envoie les meilleures salutations de la Suisse Gérard, l’ami de Bernadette Voisard,

  2. Great job Larry and Ray! This is amazing. That maiden voyage will be a fun one!!

  3. Congratulations! that is wonderful can’t wait to hear more as your adventure progresses.

  4. How much does it weigh? Looks great, although, I would have picked more comfortable seats.

  5. Congratulations Uncle Larry! So proud of you!! 🙂 I am sure the trip will be fun just as building the boat was!!

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