Whale boat aims for carbon-neutral Atlantic crossing

Former paratrooper Tom McClean's attempt to cross the Atlantic in a whale boat will have an environmental twist.

Crossing the Atlantic alone is no mean feat, and few people know that quite as well as Tom McClean.

The former paratrooper, SAS soldier, adventurer and motivational speaker has completed five solo transits but his latest attempt will have a green twist.

Tom, 73, has been building Moby the whale boat on the shores of Loch Nevis for the past 20 years and now he has revealed that he plans to make turn this incredible vessel into a carbon-neutral passagemaker.

“After my fifth single-handed Atlantic crossing, I started to think about environmental issues,” he told MBY.

“I’m looking for new electric sources, hydrogen fuel cells, are a possibility, it would be nice to do it on a completely electric boat.”

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If all this sounds a little fantastical, then it’s worth remembering just how remarkable Tom is. Raised in a Dublin orphanage, he went on to join the SAS and serve in Indonesia during the 1960s.

However, it was in 1969 that Tom really made a name for himself by becoming the first man to row solo across the Atlantic.

He has since gone on to set and break records for sailing across the Atlantic, his most recent coming in 1990 when he made the passage in a 37ft bottle-shaped boat, sponsored by Typhoo Tea.

Moby is arguably an even more ambitious project – Tom has built this 65ft whale boat out of steel with the help of Forres-based firm William Reid Engineering.

Moby Prince of Whales

The clinker construction with double-welded overlapping plates should make for great rigidity and its 62-tonne bulk will help to keep Moby’s displacement hull planted, even in rough mid-Atlantic swells.

Despite having a complete vessel, which has already completed successful sea trials powered by rugged Gardner 6LW diesel engines, Tom is in no hurry to set off.

“It’s going to take at least a year to refit engines and refit the air conditioning, so the crossing is going to be 2017 at the earliest,” he said.

“I plan to cruise at eight knots with a crew of 12 on board working round the clock in eight-hour shifts.”

The layout includes a bow-end helm station, open deck area amidships, bunk bed accommodation for ten as well as the captain’s quarters.

Moby whale boat layout

Tom is currently seeking sponsors and supporters from charities and the marine industry, with the hoping of securing an electric engine supplier.

And despite his Spartan achievements, Tom is not averse to the idea of a few creature comforts on board.

“I plan to fit a complete bathroom suite, including a cast iron bath with gold taps, like you might find on a superyacht. Maybe I should rename it Super Moby!”

Future ambitions include cruising Greenland in his homemade vessel, but regardless of how far these projects progress, his status as a legendary modern explorer is already assured.

Update: In June 2021, Tom gave an interview to the BBC in which he confirmed that he is still hoping to complete an Atlantic crossing in his whale boat at the ripe old age of 78.

To read more about Tom McClean’s whale boat project and his motivational speaking business, visit: www.motivationspeaker.co.uk


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