That’s right. The Portland Pudgy is going to fly across the Atlantic Ocean, suspended by a cluster of colorful helium balloons, and piloted by the intrepid Jonathan Trappe. Jonathan’s enthusiasm is contagious. We’ve noticed that people who come in contact with him seem to lighten up, as it were, and lots of us want to be there as the ground crew when he sets out from Bangor, ME next spring.
It seems like a magical idea, a kid’s dream, but we are very impressed with Trappe’s methodical, thorough preparation. He really knows what he’s doing, and we’re honored that he chose the Portland Pudgy to be the gondola for his historic voyage. He will be living in it (up in the air) for about a week in the shelter of the exposure canopy, and if he has to set down, he has a proactive lifeboat. He needed a craft that could rapidly descend into a storm and survive.
This summer he spent a few weeks here in Maine (see video.), learning to sail the Pudgy, experimenting with living on it for two days, practicing capsizing it, righting it, and climbing aboard from the water. This is what he says about his two-day test of the Portland Pudgy:
The boat performed beautifully. I sailed it out for several hours, then broke down the sail, stowed the mast and boom inside the hull of the lifeboat, and raised the exposure canopy. I slept in the boat, nice and sound. I broke camp the next morning, did some additional sailing in light-and-frustratingly-variable winds that next day, and made camp a second night—still in the gondola, sleeping in it for a second night.
Open ocean sailing of the little boat is invigorating! Many of you are far greater mariners than I. My goal here was to become very familiar with the boat– both as contingency if ditching at sea, and as preparation for being in the gondola for an extended period. This sail covered 29-miles….
After the 53-hour sail, my feeling is that I would only need to be resupplied to remain in the lifeboat indefinitely.
Jonathan Trappe is a licensed pilot and his avocation is cluster ballooning. He has crossed the English Channel, the Alps, and Lake Michigan. He’s worked with National Geographic, lifting a small house 10,000 feet up. (Did you see Up?) Visit his website: www.clusterballoon.com.