Counting Down the Days


Just back from another four-day test sail on Gjoa, all within the beautiful and beautifully protected Kachemak Bay.

On Thursday last we made the few, short tacks to Halibut Cove to escape what has become non-stop bustle in Homer Boat Harbor. The crack of welders, the bang of chipping hammers and rattle guns, big-boat generators in chorus; and what’s not being worked on is on the move–water taxis, day fishermen, gill netters, seiners, even the large crab vessels, like Time Bandit–in numbers to warrant a traffic light at the harbor entrance.

Next to this, Halibut Cove’s hardly used public dock is a library of quiet, and here I spent a day installing the boat’s solar panels.

How to power Gjoa has been a problem without easy solution. She has an engine, of course, and even a gas generator, but I’ve wanted something that could provide more continuous power while on passage.

My first choice was a tow generator, the kind made by Ampair (Aquair-100), Aquagen, or Hamilton Ferris.


  • Simple: attach to rail and battery, through propeller over the side, and done. No regulator tech required.
  • Productive: twenty-four hour power as long as your boat is at speed.
  • Calibrated: unlike the Watt and Sea-type, these tow generators produce maximum amps at speeds most likely achievable for small yachts, 4 – 6 knots.
  • Quiet.
  • Inexpensive: $700 (Hamilton Ferris) to $1400 (Aquair-100). Compare Watt and Sea at $3000 to $5000.


  • The only one that matters–these units are simply not to be had! Apparently this “old” technology has become so unpopular that the supplier companies are recently out of business (Aquair) or have pulled the product (Hamilton Ferris).

Needing something now and something I understand, I’ve opted to add 300 watts of 12v solar. This addition comes in the form of two 100 watt Renology glass and aluminum frame panels hung off the rail either side of the cockpit, a 100 watt off-brand, flexible panel attached amidships to the dinghy, and a Morningstar ProStar 30-amp charge controller (exactly the rig, though with more power, that I had on Murre).

This is not a perfect solution for a voyaging yacht as solar is not at its best in a seaway, and it is not a solution at all for the Figure 8’s Southern Ocean, but compared to anything else it is inexpensive and will get me home.

(What to do for the Figure 8 is an open question. Most likely it will be a combination of technologies, one of which will be a wind generator to replace the satellite compass atop the aft arch, a job I wanted to avoid doing here as it necessitates rewiring the autopilot.)

The trip out had three other goals: raise the main without a hitch, literally; fly the genoa poles without losing them or self overboard, and commission/test the monitor wind vane.

I had thought that in moving from a ketch to a sloop I would be acquiring a less complicated rig. Not necessarily so, I learn. On a good day I can have more line tossing about on Gjoa than I know what to do with (see photo below).

And even the simplest, most usual tasks are challenging when the boat’s size and configuration are unfamiliar. The first time I raised the main I got it fouled in the lazy jacks; the second time, fouled in the running backstays; on the third try a double wrap around the halyard winch’s tailing claw meant double the effort and nearly gave me a heart attack before I sussed the problem.

Main sorted, it was time to attack the poles, devices that hold the twin headsails out wing and wing, and which Tony Gooch, highly experienced previous owner, states are a super solution for the Southern Ocean.

Rigging these three and four times took us to Bear Cove at the upper reaches of Kachemak Bay, a lovely anchorage, except that wherever I moved to found the wind barreling down from the snowy mountains within the hour and putting us on shore. This too was good practice.

Next day the Monitor came to life for the sail back to Homer.

Now the To Do list is less than a page long.

Can we bug out of here before the next cruise ship arrives?



This is the public dock at Halibut Cove. Note: no one else there…and this is Labor Day weekend. Got plenty of quite time and a place to lay out the solar panels for drilling and wiring.


Panels installed–relief. Halibut Covers are a private people. A large sign at the head of the dock invites visitors to resist exploring the private trails and private roads that make up the private village. Only half of those who pass me wave, and the only person to say hello this trip was the woman who lives in the cabin on stilts at the top of this photo. This woman apparently has no road to her home, for each morning she rows to the dock to go into town, where ever that is.


Not beautiful yet, but secure. And if I’m not mistaken, the poles, though wonky looking, are at roughly the angle that Tony flew them.



What the cockpit looks like just after the poles go up and just before I begin coiling down!


Sunset at Bear Cove. I’ve just knocked off work for the day. Dinner is nearly ready and I’m looking forward to enjoying the evening, when I realize … it’s 11pm! The sun will be back in six hours.


If the forecast calls for SE winds, why are they now starting to fill in from the NW? Within the hour they are 20 knots from the wrong direction, and I have to move the boat over near the red barn.



Back to busy Homer. A cruise ship is in. The town’s entire fleet of school buses has turned out to trundle people to their sights. Wind is 25 knots SE. I’m planning for a flying landing!


Back to rafting up with Bluebird. Time Bandit is aft with the cruise ship in the outer harbor. Note Bandit’s American Flag is straight out. My flying landing went off swimmingly.



4 Comments on “Counting Down the Days

  1. RR–
    I went by the Blue Pelican Marine and spoke with Tom about finding you a tow generator. He will keep his eyes out and will call me if something comes up. If one comes in the shop, you will be the first on the list.

    • Hey, thanks for that, Gerd. I stopped by there last I was in San Francisco, but that was over a month ago now. I appreciate you’re keeping an eye out.

  2. Seems like if the Tow generator company went out of business, perhaps their technology didn’t work that well in the long run. Just a thought. Maybe sharks tended to eat it. Who knows?

    • Yes, that could be!

      My pursuit of this tech comes at the recommendation of two long distance cruisers; both sail small, simple boats. One is my friend Adam whose truck I’m borrowing while here in Homer, and the other, a friend of his. Both have miles and miles on their gen units and really love them. If it works as they say, then this could be a very worthy Figure 8 power source.

      I do wonder how such a thing would behave in very large seas though.

      Re propellor being eaten, which does seem an obvious design flaw, the author of one article I read attempted to chase that down. He interviewed a number of tow gen enthusiasts (mostly in the UK where this tech **used to be** popular), and not one had had their gen prop eaten. So, may be it’s an “urban myth.” ??

      My guess is that in our high tech age, a tow gen has simply been outmoded by “better,” sleeker tech (solar/wind, even the Watt and Sea) that take little minding once in place.

      No idea…

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