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Sailing Up Over Atlantic From Maine

(NECN: Amy Sinclair, Portland, Maine) - Remember the Disney movie "Up" in which an old man's house takes to the sky powered by helium balloons?

It turns out that's not just the stuff of fantasy.

An adventurer from North Carolina plans to use the same concept to fly from Maine across the Atlantic to the shores of Europe this summer.  

Only instead of using a house, he'll ride in a dinghy called the Portland Pudgy.

Boat designer David Hulbert of Portland, Maine, designed the Portland Pudgy with versatility in mind.

"It's a tender, a motor boat,  a sailboat and in the extreme,  it's the world's only proactive lifeboat," says Hulbert.

Still, never in his wildest dreams..did Hulbert imagine one of his sturdy little lifeboats would ever fly 20,000 feet feet in the air, until he met cluster balloonist Jonathan Trappe.

"He came bouncing in one day and said i want your whole system. I said great. Then he told me what he had in mind," says Hulbert.

Trappe told Hulbert he planned to use the dinghy as his gondola in what he hopes will be the first successful transatlantic crossing using cluster balloons.

Hulbert says the Pudgy is an ideal travel companion because despite its name, it weighs just 128 pounds and is extremely durable under severe weather conditions.   

Trappe plans to  attach 350,  8-foot balloons to the dinghy. To climb, he'll off-load sand ballast. To lose altitude,  he'll release ballloons one at a time. Steering is not an option.

"He could land in England, Belgium, France or Allgeria," says Hulbert.

Trappe spent part of last summer learning to sail the Pudgy in Casco Bay in case things go awry on the voyage.

In November, he did a test flight with the dinghy at a balloon festival in Mexico.

Trappe plans to launch the aircraft from northern Maine sometime between July and September when favorable weather conditions arise.

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