Let loose for a second time just after midnight on the Fourth of July, the solar-powered boat Scout lit out from Sakonnet Point toward Spain.
For a day or more, the unmanned boat hit every programmed satellite waypoint with perfection, following a south-southeasterly heading out past Martha’s Vineyard at a speed of up to 3 m.p.h.
But then things went haywire.
The tracking website, through which her Tiverton builders (and Scout’s fans) follow the boat’s every move, showed the boat making odd moves as it entered the open ocean. First Scout veered off in the general direction of New Jersey. Then it was east and even north followed by a few loop de loops. Lately Scout is somewhat northbound as though seeking shelter in Martha’s Vineyard or Nantucket.
Asked about this, Dylan Rodriguez, one of the team that designed and built Scout replied Monday, “Yes, Scout was making excellent progress until an unknown issue sent it into continuous 20 meter radius circles. We’re looking at options to retrieve it, suspecting mechanical or electrical rudder failure, or something wrapped around it somehow — (the rescue mission) might make for a pleasant Nantucket vacation!”
Scout made it further this time than her first attempt, cut short when clouds and fog blocked the boat’s ability to recharge batteries and Scout was at peril of running aground on Noman’s Land off Gay Head.
This time, Scout had travelled some 102 miles by Tuesday morning. But the boat had only made about 42 miles worth of progress toward Spain, with 3,381 miles to go. That means Scout has a ways to go before beating an Irish team’s 60 mile record with this sort of vessel.
Scout has a deep bulbed keel, prompting concerns that the boat might snag seaweed or some other flotsam. To counter that, the boat is designed to stop and back up periodically in hopes of shedding any debris.