• 21st December 2009 - By greg

    Power power everywhere and not a drop to drink.

    This has been said about the salty sea water, but it’s also true to some extent about power in general. There is power in the waves, power in the wind and power in the sun. But turning all that power into usable, stored electricity to run my equipment and electronics isn’t all that easy for me.

    I have been concerned about my electrical power requirements and I’m not sure that I will be able to collect enough solar power to run all my equipment and electronics due to the very small surface area of the top decks on WiTHiN to hold my flexible solar panels.

    To supplement what I can collect from the sun, I purchased an AmpAir 100 wind generator a while ago, but when it arrived, I realized that at a hefty 30 lbs, it would be far too heavy to mount a few feet above the top deck. So I searched high and low for something smaller and I found the Rutland 504 from the UK – a nifty little unit that only weighs 10 lbs. It’s not as efficient at producing power at low wind speeds as the AmpAir 100, but for it’s light weight, I think it will work for me. Another advantage is that I can remove it if the wind is really blowing.


    I welded a short aluminum mast with braces for the Rutland and we mounted it on the top deck aft of the main hatch.


    Shown below is a graph showing watts of power produced by the Rutland for varying wind speeds:

    I am hoping that wind in combination with my solar power is enough, but I won’t really know for sure until I get out onto the ocean for sea trials this April. I have all kinds of data on average wind values and sun energy levels for my departure month of July, but I won’t really know exactly how that will convert to usable, storable power until I actually test it on the water. I’ve had WiTHiN out in the low winter sun here in Calgary and the panels barely produce any power at all. However, there is a huge difference between the angle of the sun at this time of year way up north here in Canada, and mid-summer when we get over 16 hours of daylight per day.
    As shown in the spreadsheet right HERE, I am making a conservatively pessimistic estimate of collecting an average of only 168 watts of power a day from both solar and wind. I have also shown as estimate of what the equipment loads are, and three scenarios for use:

    1. a full-on / power party / use it all with reckless abandon mode = 386 watts
    2. conservative / realistic mode = 153 watts
    3. bare-bones / suffer / safety first mode = 28.8 watts


    I have not yet measured actual loads yet on most of these items, but that will be easy once we have installed the watts meters. Brad Wealey from pedalpoweredgenerator.com recommended that I add a “watts-up” meter, so I got 3 of them. I’m going to put one of the meters on the wind turbine, one on the solar panels and one for the equipment load. This way I can monitor exactly what is going on with my supply, what is stored in the battery, and what I am consuming.



    Ken has been hard at work installing and wiring the remaining electronics (VHF radio, wind generator, AIS receiver, Watt’s Up meters, satellite phone antenna) and as well, he has completed assembly of the spare drive leg. The spare drive leg is an exact replica of my main drive leg – complete with pedals and a prop. If my main drive leg fails for whatever reason, it is a simple matter of just pulling the DL out of it’s bay and dropping in the spare unit. Then I can disassemble the busted drive and use the spare parts I am taking to repair or overhaul it.


    There is only one issue I have yet to resolve – maybe you have an idea for me? When a key broke on the shaft of the drive leg during our first lake test on the Glenmore reservoir (and again on Vancouver Island, but this time a roll pin in the gear box), we had a very difficult time centering the prop in order to remove the leg. The drive leg fits into a tapered hole in a raised torque tube that runs down the center of the cockpit on the floor. The top of the torque tube is above the water level, so the drive leg can be removed without flooding the boat. The hole in the hull at the bottom of the tapered hole is just large enough to fit the lower gear box and prop – only about 2″ wide by about 5″ long. The only way to get the drive leg up through this hole is to make sure the prop is completely VERTICAL. Normally, this is done by aligning a pedal crank up to a mark etched on the gear box. But, when the drive leg is broken and the pedals don’t turn the prop like they are supposed to (ie: the prop is freely spinning), there is no way to align the prop vertically to fit through the hole. We got the drive leg out when it broke on the reservoir by wearing my immersion suit and going for a chilly swim. I was able to swim under the boat and center the prop while Jordan pulled the drive leg out.

    When I’m on the ocean, I won’t have someone to help me pull the leg out, and I might not want to just jump into the water to center the prop. The only way I can think of doing this is to have some kind of wire or pole or something that I can push through a port light and maneuver under the hull to move and hold the prop in a vertical position.

    The other challenge is that this centering method needs to be quick and easy. If the drive leg broke at an inconvenient time on sea trials near the coast (like it did on Vancouver Island when it broke right in front of a giant ferry), I need to be able to remove it quickly and insert the spare. The spare will be easily accessible and ready to go, but getting the busted drive out of it’s hole while aligning that prop is the tricky part.

    Any ideas?


    Training is going well. I got up to 16 hours last week with a double long ride of 6 hours on Saturday and 4 hours on Sunday. I’m doing most of my training on the indoor trainer downstairs that I built rather than actually inside WiTHiN because we are busy working on her. Ken and I expect to be finished on January 8th. After that, the plan is to start putting in some really long days inside the boat for both training and also testing everything.


    During these long training days, I want to simulate living on board as closely as possible. I’ll will make my water using the electric and manual desalinators by drawing salt water from a tub. I also plan on using my electronics as often as I can – like writing a blog post and transmitting it using the sat phone, using the Viliv S5 computer, the GPS, and all of the back-up electronics. I am also going to boil water using my JetBoil and make all of my dehydrated meals. I’m even going to sleep in the cabin over night. I want to make sure that everything works as planned, and there isn’t anything that I want changed, modified, moved, fixed, replaced, adjusted, removed or added before Ken departs on a humanitarian trip he has planned to Mexico on January 20th.


    I am planning at least TWO sets of sea trials. The first will be at the beginning of February where my buddy Bryon Howard and I will attempt to navigate the right coast of Vancouver Island (east coast). I think getting out on the west coast during winter months is too dangerous, so a complete circumnavigation is no longer possible. Bryon used to by a kayak guide in Johnston Straight and knows the east coast very well. Our goal is to start either at the south end, or north end – depending on weather and wind forecasts – and do a non-stop, 24-7 effort with both of us rotating between the sleeping cabin and the cockpit.

    I think this ‘right side of VI’ trials will be a great opportunity to test the boat, it’s drive, equipment and ourselves – basically to accomplish what Jordan and I failed to do in October due to the drive leg failure. (That blog post is here).

    The second sea trials will be with Clive and his yacht on the LEFT coast of VI – out in the Pacific ocean off the west coast near Tofino during the first week of April. The objective here would be to do a few overnight sea trials – get some experience in wind, waves and swell. Also to gain a bit of experience and work out a process for deploying the sea anchor, drogue, go over safety and emergency drills, etc, etc. I al also very anxious to measure the effect of wind on WiTHiN. I’ve had her in moderate wind so far and have not really noticed much of an effect – she seems to slip through a head wind pretty well. I have no idea how she will handle 50 knot winds, and I would really like to find out.

    I’ll still have May and June to fit in another trip or two before I depart on July 1st from Tofino.

    Check the calendar at the adventuresofgreg.com web site for exact dates:

  • 29 Comments to “Solar & wind power, training, sea trials and general progress”

    • Jeff Hoyt on December 21, 2009


      Maybe you could post a close-up picture of just the drive leg against a white background with measurements added showing the prop tip and prop hub distances to the bottom of the hull and the height of the torque tube plug so we can get a better idea of what to come up with. I think you will need to be able to run a stiff wire or batten through the torque tube well, rather than out a viewing port, around and down under the hull. But I don’t have a clear idea of the spaces involved when the torque tube is pulled up slightly enough to allow enough space to feed a wire down through the torque tube well to the prop.

      Is the prop made of a metal that a magnet could be used to pull a prop blade vertically?

    • Dave on December 21, 2009

      Does the wind generator affect your overturning stability at all? What sort of stability margin do you have?

    • Frank on December 21, 2009

      I have two comments:
      1. Unlike a solar panel, the wind turbine will affect your speed. You are essentially putting up an obstacle to catch the wind. That means you will have to overcome the force of the wind on the obstacle or it will blow you back (unless of course you are going downwind in which case it will help you). I.e. some of the power that is generated by the turbine will be yours to deliver unless you have a tailwind.
      2. The prop. I think it would make sense to change the design a bit to make it so the prop can move in and out and in one position it locks vertically. Eg. you could make it so something pushes the prop out before it can spin freely. I.e. when close the shaft, it would be caught in a ring with two cutouts that hold it vertical. When you want to move, you push it away from the ring (i.e. like you push it in gear), and then it can spin. Like a gearshift with a lock.

    • DD on December 22, 2009

      The wind turbine changes the fluid dynamics, sometimes the wind and current will favor you, other times both may not. I guess a foot powered generator hooked to the solar battery doesn’t work as well?

      Adding a co-pilot changes the stability and buoyancy, perhaps remove some weight (food, water?) while paired aboard.

    • greg on December 22, 2009

      Here are some photos of the drive leg and torque tube hole:




      There is no room between the tapered plug and the tapered hole to fit anything and the large stainless flange on top would prevent me from sliding a wire down that space anyhow. The prop is aluminum now, but will be stainless steel – so no magnet. As far as I can imagine, the only way to move the prop without the pedals would be from around and under.

      We could possibly drill a hole through the chockfast plug and slide a wire down that. There might be an idea there – like a very small hole. Still – not sure how I would grab that prop and move it into place.

      Wind: I know about the drag. That’s why we made it removable.

      Stability: it might effect it a bit – maybe in a good way because of the longer movement arm.

    • Amber on December 22, 2009

      Too bad you can’t harness some of the watts you are generating while pedaling!!

    • Rick Willoughby on December 22, 2009

      The wind turbine is a back-up to solar. If there is a head wind it is actually more efficient to use the turbine than generating under human power. This takes some thinking through but it is demonstrated by boats that can “sail” directly to windward using a wind turbine. An example of this can be seen here:
      Not particularly impressive but still shows there is a net benefit. At the minimum windspeed for the turbine to work, and above, the advantage to using the turbine is significant over doing it with human power. The best is solar as this has no drag implications but there may not be enough energy collected from the sun.

      Rick W

    • Bryan Allen on December 22, 2009

      For assessing the position of the prop, a perhaps high-tech solution (I know you like high tech!): an adaptation of the sort of gizmo used by doctors doing colonoscopies & sigmoidoscopies – some sort of tiny CCD camera or (preferably) fiber-optic device, with accompanying light source. Would need a small hole drilled through the composite portion of the drive leg plug. You’d probably have to have a non-optical plug in place for most of the time, as I imagine the optical end in the water would get fouled quickly.

      Regarding the wind generator: yikes, that thing is not very productive! 20-watt output at 20 knots? 20 knots is a LOT of wind! Ugly impeller, not a very aero efficient design, high drag.

      The old low-tech generators that rub on the tire of a bike put out about 3 watts – sure seems like some sort of auxiliary pedal-powered gen-setup would be a more-likely source of power than that wind gen. IF a pedal-generator could somehow be put in line in a parasitic mode, producing say 5 watts, that might help the power equation more than the wind gen. However, anything electrical like either is going to be WAY hard to keep from dying a salty death from corrosion; multiple sources of power is a good strategy. Lithium AA cells are your friend.

    • David Webb on December 22, 2009

      Hi Greg, the most logical solution to the propeller alignment issue would seem to be machining a slot through the drive leg plug that would take a thin carbon fiber batten that would slide down past the hub of the propeller and push the lower blade into the vertical. The upper part of the batten would lock the blades in a vertcal position and allow it to be removed. This small slot (probably no larger than 50×5 mm) could have a rubber plug to make it waterproof in normal use.
      I hope this helps.
      All the best with the project.

    • Henk on December 22, 2009

      Hi Greg,
      When braking the shaft, the prop still turns. If you make a small ridge next to the tapered hole, the prop will turn against the ridge and is vertical to remove it. Sounds simple. Hope it will work.

    • Mike McGeough on December 22, 2009


      A shoehorn should work. If you lift the driveshaft high enough to push a thin flat piece if plastic/carbon fiber (say 5″ wide x 2′ longish) down one side of the drive shaft sleave, then as the shaft is lifted any portion of the prop that is not vertical will be pushed into alignement. The “shoehorn” would have the extend below the hull by more than the radius of the prop. The only issue would be that the opening would have to be wide enough to fit the prop and the “shoehorn”


    • greg on December 23, 2009

      Many of you came up with the same idea – to insert a long metal strip down the gap between the tapered hole and the tapered plug to push the prop straight. I cut a slot in the stainless steel flange at the top of the drive leg and make a 24″ long 1/16″ thick stainless strip. It worked!!! I’ll blog some photos soon


    • Jarl on December 23, 2009

      Looking good! Lot’s of tech gadgets . How heavvy will she be fully loaded for departure?

      Found this link about a guy who crossed from California to Hawaii in the late 80’s, using a pretty standard tandem kayak:

      Hope you won”t need to live on toothpaste and pure mind power in the end like him! 🙂

    • Frank on December 23, 2009

      Jarl, that is a great story you dug up!! I can’t imagine what it would be like, all alone in a standard kayak with no backup and no high tech gadgets to speak off.

    • Keith on December 23, 2009

      Sounds like you have a solution for the prop alignment issue, but here’s another possible solution to explore. Simply have the prop blade be slightly heavier on one end. I realize this isn’t ideal for pedaling dynamics, but I’d guess you could come up with a difference that’d be ok for pedaling and still give enough righting moment for removing the unit. Best of luck!

    • Dan on December 24, 2009

      If the limitation on the solar panels is the space available on the top deck of WiTHIN perhaps one could float some solar panels either beside or behind WiTHIN during rest periods as a way of topping up the storage batteries.

    • Dan on December 24, 2009

      Another thought…there are some watches on the market that are powered by the movement of the wearer. An array of these ‘movement’ generators on your boat might be another way of generating some power with minimal increases in drag.

    • Henry on December 24, 2009

      I share the concerns of others re drag from the wind generator. The drag will affect two issues: progress and stability. Sometimes one sometimes both! If you are expecting a tail wind all the way then fine!

    • greg on December 24, 2009

      Again – the wind turbine is easily removable and can be stowed in the bow locker.

    • Henry on December 24, 2009

      Apologies if already installed of suggested, but re prop, whatever you use to get it vertical, you’ll need a small round porthole in the bottom of the boat to see it through – or possibly wo, one to shine a torch through at night and one to see through. Often seen in racing sailing boats to check prop for weed, folding correctly etc

    • Paul Pancella on January 5, 2010

      Can’t help myself, as I struggle to teach this every semester. Power is energy per time, the rate of energy flow (or production, or consumption, or conversion). Watts measure power. In your spreadsheet and text above, you have integrated power over time. The last column of your spreadsheet should be in “Watt-hours”. Power multiplied by time (Watts times hours) gives energy, and the Watt-hour is a legitimate unit for measuring energy. You meant to say above that your average daily _energy_ harvest is expected to be 168 Watt-hours (Whr), etc. Saying “Watts per day” makes no sense.

    • ShamimSam on January 7, 2010

      CleanEdison was Fantastic! I was so impressed by his knowledge, every question the guys threw at him – he knew the answer, plus he really got the class involved allowing us to learn from others and to network.

    • Stewart on January 15, 2010

      Hi Greg
      The best thing to do is not have the gear slip on the shaft in the first place. Several ways to do this is to use a collet that tightens the gear to the shaft. They call then taper lock. The other way is to silver solder or weld it to the shaft and put the bearings on from the other end of the shaft with spacers between the bearings and use Locktite to glue the bearings onto the shaft. cheers Stewart

    • Hadrien on February 19, 2010

      Hi Greg,
      I’m a (very) small wind turbine manufacturer from Germany. I have made a really little wind turbine which weight less than 2Kg (+500g for the controller). The output power is rated at 200W. Actually it deliver 10% more than an Ampair 100.
      Diameter of the turbine is 78cm.
      Unfortunately my turbines are not yet in production (we are in pre-series validation) and I will need some more month to get them finished.
      If in some month you would like to have a real wind turbine on your boat 🙂 please contact me.
      For information and to clarify with datas what the other say about resistance with wind. My turbine create at full throttle (320W under 50Km/h wind) about 5Kg of axial force.
      We have a special device included in the turbine’s MPPT controller which can minimize this effort by slowing down the rotor (and the performances) from 0 to 70% depending on the consumer will.
      I wish you a lot of success in your adventure!

    • Alex Beevers on March 17, 2010

      I applaud your commitment to giving out great information. Easy to read, engaging and spot on! Well done. Keep the good work going. Wishing you the best in all your endeavors.

    • pv panels on March 28, 2010

      Heya, Simply wanted to show you that the site is not loading correctly on my i phone. Are you aware if there is some setting I have to use to make it show correctly? Every thing is out of line.

    • Kelly Wilson on April 22, 2010

      Hey Greg
      I was watching Daily Planet today here in Lakefield Ontario and they showed the adventure you are working on. All the power to you so to speak. You mentiuoned your power production problems. I met a guy at a business meeting that is producing a fluorescent reflective material It reflects light like most reflective material but the really cool thing is it draws in the suns energy all day and glows all night long. They are using it on truck loading docks drive through windows signs etc. Why can’t you use it for your nightime running lights, cabin lights and reduce a little of your load. Anagal CO 1-888-326-2425 anagal@belnet.ca

    • Eric on April 23, 2010

      I have no skill or qualifications to give advice… But, here are some random thoughts.
      Include a seatbelt to be worn at all times including during sleep. You will roll sooner or later. You don’t need to break any bones at sea.
      When you pedal to the top of an ocean swell your craft will probably accelerate to high speed and shoot down the face of the wave and the slender bow will most likely dig into the face of the next wave creating a temporary submarine. The only photos of ocean rowing boats I have seen show a boat that is stout at the bow and stern not needle thin. Empty the bow storage area as soon as possible to provide more flotation in the bow if possible.

      Steering, have a rope around a drum at the top of your rudder post and have that rope come into the passenger compartment and along the side across the cabin and down the other side back to the rudder. Set the course buy pulling on the rope from any where in the boat. Clip it to a cleat to maintain the course for prolonged period.
      How about a single out rigger for stability instead of a heavey keel and ballast? Out rigger floatation prevents boat from leaning into it and weight when it is lifted by the wind prevents it from leaning the other way. (It worked for the Polynesians I believe). Flat bottom boat still needs keel to prevent just drifting with the wind. A light shallow keel that runs a longer distance along the length of the bottom resist the weather cock effect better than a very deep keel that is short from front to back.
      Human power, concider the addition of hand power. Using both hand pedals or push/ pull levers as well as foot power may move your boat along and reduce the wear and tear on legs only.
      But as I say I have no skill or qualification to give advice just some thoughts. Good luck in your ventures

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