“Hornblower Shows Off Hybrid Ferry to Bay Area Travel Writers”
By Ed Walsh
Hornblower Cruises and Events showed off one of its hybrid ferries during a meeting of the Bay Area Travel Writers (BATW) Saturday.
The BATW meeting was held aboard one Hornblower’s Alcatraz Cruises’ ferries bound for the island. A few BATW members returned to the mainland after the meeting but most got off and toured Alcatraz.
BATW members got a first-hand experience riding one of the most energy efficient vessels in the world.
Hornblower Cruises & Events is the parent company of Alcatraz Cruises. Hornblower boasts the marine industry’s only hybrid passenger ferry fleet in North America. The first hybrid ferry was introduced to San Francisco Bay in 2009 by Alcatraz Cruises, which has the concession in contract with the National Park Service.
Over the past five years, the remaining two primary vessels in the Alcatraz Cruises fleet have been hybridized, making Alcatraz Cruises the only passenger vessel company in North America with a fleet of hybrid vessels.
Hornblower’s hybrid fleet is not limited to the Bay Area. Nearly two years ago, Hornblower christened another state-of-the-art hybrid vessel in New York Harbor, the Hornblower Hybrid. The Hornblower hybrids harness the sun and wind, grid electricity as well as an on-board battery bank. Hornblower also gets power from hydrogen fuel cells, already installed on the Hornblower Hybrid, once that technology is approved by the US Coast Guard.
“The Hornblower Hybrid fleet is an example of our company’s goal of becoming the greenest concessioner in the National Park Service. With this Hornblower Hybrid fleet, we are now being recognized as a model of environmental innovation in the cities of San Francisco and New York,” said Terry MacRae, CEO of Alcatraz Cruises and Hornblower Cruises & Events.
Go green to Alcatraz
The Alcatraz Cruises hybrids use power generated by ten‐foot‐tall wind turbines and photovoltaic solar arrays covering the awning on the top decks. That power is converted and stored in battery banks that power the ferry’s electronics and lighting. The excess power is stored in the main propulsion battery banks.
Hornblower boasts cleaner fuel‐efficient engines that reduce the amount of diesel fuel used, minimize emissions and significantly reduce the company’s overall carbon footprint. The fleet’s engineering allows the captain to monitor the energy needs of the vessel and select the most efficient power sources.
BATW got a good example of that efficiency during its meeting on Saturday. While the boat was stopped in the bay during the meeting, the vessel became quiet as the engines were shut off and the motors ran off energy stored in the battery tanks.
There is no such thing as discount tickets to Alcatraz Island, the cheapest place to purchase tickets is directly from Alcatraz Cruises. Remember that if you plan on going during the busier summer months, try to book three months in advance. You cannot book more than three months in advance, so give yourself a reminder to book as soon as that three-month window opens up.
Best time to go to Alcatraz
Alcatraz is open year round. The least-crowded time to go is during the winter months. The best weather months are April and May and September and October. Remember that the summers are often cool and foggy on Alcatraz. Some parts of the island are closed to visitors from February to October during the bird-nesting season.