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.”