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Around the island: Local man’s 10-day, solar-powered sail

Around the island: Local man’s 10-day, solar-powered sail, by Laurie Nigro Jul 14, 2013

This fourth of July, Gary Minnick celebrated his independence from fossil fuel. While many were watching fireworks, Minnick was culminating his circumnavigation of Long Island on a solar-powered boat.

Minnick, a Flanders resident, is the owner of GO SOLAR, a Riverhead-based solar energy systems designer and installer. He founded the company in 1979. He also serves on the Board of Directors of Solar Pioneer International.

The Novella, a converted salvaged racing sailboat, is 30 feet long with an 11-foot beam (width). The boat has solar photovoltaic propulsion power of 2820 solar watts and non propulsion power of 272 watts. It also sports two electric outboard German torpedo motors. Minnick made his maiden solar boat voyage around Long Island in 2003. That boat was only designed to sleep one, so Minnick went solo. It took him 11 days to complete that journey.

For the 10-year anniversary, Minnick, his friend and colleague Ted Strickroth – known by many as Tepee Ted of the Traveling Wilderness Museum – and Minnick’s pet cat, sailed the Novella along the same course. Leaving from, and returning to, the Ponquogue bridge in Hampton Bays, he made stops each night at different marinas.

“We received complimentary dockage every step of the way,” Minnick said, “Even with the Fourth of July holiday.”

The crew sailed for six days out of 10. Minnick said that a lack of sun and a prior commitment kept the boat in Mattituck for four days.

“We didn’t want to get stuck in an unsafe situation,” Minnick said.

The boat traveled about 60 miles a day and made several stops along the way, including at the Sagamore Yacht Club in Oyster Bay, where they took 16 children for an educational ride. That was the goal of the trip.

“We talked to people about solar energy,” Minnick said, “That’s what Solar Pioneer is all about.”

According to the groups’ website, “It is the mission of Solar Pioneer International, Inc. to increase awareness of the various applications of solar energy in today’s world through education and public demonstration.”

Minnick and his crew arrived back at the Ponquogue marina to a Fourth of July party. “I was tired,” Minnick said, “It was a long ride in the ocean.”

But Minnick isn’t done yet. Next up for the Novella and Solar Pioneer International are trips to Sag Harbor, Block Island and the Maritime Festival in Greenport the 20-22 of September.“We will be using it a lot locally,” Minnick said, “showing it off, talking to people about solar power.”

The ultimate goal is to get Riverhead to make a tour boat on the all solar power boat. Minnick thinks it should be based on donations and hold about 20 passengers. Docked right at the riverfront, passengers could enjoy 45 minute rides aboard a very quiet vessel, listening to music and learning about solar power.

“There’s a lot to learn,” said Minnick.

He’s quick to point out that he doesn’t get paid for this —sort of.

“I am paid, but not in dollars,” Minnick said. “Just in fun.”


Man Sets Out To Circumnavigate Long Island In Solar-Powered Boat

BELLPORT, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — How do you make a sail boat sail without sails?

One Long Island man has solved that riddle, using the sun to power his boat.

As CBS 2’s Jennifer McLogan reported Tuesday, Gary Minnick’s 29-foot hand-crafted hybrid started out as a sail boat.

After 500 hours of work to modify the “Novella,” the whisper-quiet vessel emerged as the first solar-powered boat expected to circumvent Long Island. Minnick said it cost him $15,000 to build the boat.

“No gasoline, no fuel of any kind. The solar is actually driving the whole boat,” Minnick told McLogan.

The Flanders man has a week’s worth of food and his cat on board the boat for his ambitious research trip. The flat canopy of solar panels generate 28,000 watts of electricity to quietly power an electric outboard motor, equivalent to a nine horsepower gasoline engine.

“Six and half knots the boat goes, which is roughly 7.3 mph,” Minnick told McLogan.

The boat moves with a whirring sound like a blender.

Minnick’s trip to promote solar power will take him west from the Shinnecock Inlet through the Rockways and into the Atlantic Ocean. Then he’ll reach New York Harbor, the East River into Hell Gate and back to the North Fork.

Throughout the journey, Minnick must constantly consider the amount of sunlight hitting the solar cells, with the goal of keeping the batteries as charged as possible in case of a long stretch of cloudy weather.

He said the solar-powered boat produces no emissions of carbon dioxide or other gases that could contaminate the environment.

“It is a dream come true for me because I’m 66 now, so this is kind of like a swan song,” Minnick told McLogan.

The solar energy advocate called the trip around Long Island the ultimate fantasy.


Hybrid boat's trip to promote solar power

Updated June 24, 2013 10:04 PM By BILL BLEYER

People strolling along the waterfront in downtown Riverhead do double-takes when Gary Minnick steers Novella past them on the Peconic River.

It's not surprising that the whisper-quiet, 29-foot-long craft draws a lot of attention. While it started out as a sailboat, the mast and boom are gone, replaced by a flat canopy covered with solar panels.

The hybrid, launched two weeks ago, is about to get a big shakedown: Minnick is leaving today from Shinnecock Inlet on what he expects to be a four-day circumnavigation of Long Island to promote solar power.

Novella is the fourth solar-powered boat built by the 66-year-old Flanders resident, a longtime installer of solar power systems and a highly enthusiastic proponent and educator for solar power.

The latest boat, named after his mother, was created from the hull of a J-29 sloop. It is the biggest, fastest and most seaworthy of his four boats.

Novella cost about $15,000 in materials and took 500 man-hours to assemble.

Its solar panels on the canopy generate 2,820 watts of electricity solar panels to power a German-made Torqeedo electric outboard motor that is equivalent to a 9-horsepower gasoline engine. A second outboard is on the transom as a spare. Each can push the boat at a top speed of about 7 mph. The boat accelerates surprisingly fast, and at top speed the motor makes a whirring sound like that of an upscale blender.

There are also panels in a V-shaped array on the foredeck that generate 250 watts to power the electronics on board.

Unlike earlier boats that Minnick paid for out of his own pocket, $3,000 of the cost this time was borne by a new nonprofit he started three years ago: Solar Pioneer International ( A blog showing Minnick's progress around the Island will be posted on the site.

Minnick has been planning for a new boat for several years, but needed to find the right boat that was properly aerodynamic. He found his hull in July on Shelter Island; it was damaged by falling off its storage cradle during Tropical Storm Irene. Minnick repaired the damage, using solar panels to power heaters to dry out water that had accumulated inside the walls of the hull.

He removed the mast and cut 1,100 pounds of lead off the keel to bring the draft down to 3 feet from 51/2 feet so it could navigate the Peconic River and East End bays.

On his trip around the Island, Minnick will travel west on Great South Bay, through Rockaway Inlet into the Atlantic and to New York Harbor and up the East River to Hell Gate.After the trip, Minnick will be back on the Peconic where "I'll tie up at the Riverhead dock and talk about solar."

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