BOAT TOUR: The Irishman & His Electric Escape Pod

We’ve made a few friends here in the Vava’u Boatyard.  And, by a few, I really mean three.  Because that’s how many of us are living & working here on our sailboats.  There’s Cyril the Frenchman, Canadian Tom, Irish Johnny, and The Americans (that’s us).

Johnny is the character we want you to meet today.  He’s a friendly Irishman with an interesting story about working in The Kingdom of Tonga and converting a 1974 West Sail to electric propulsion.  It’s a tale about renewable energy projects on remote islands and a mission to build back better.

Plus, we thought we should give you a break from our boat projects and show you what else is going on around here.  Johnny gives us the full tour…even the library.

Most importantly, it’s a fantastic example of someone that proves you don’t need much to get out sailing NOW.  Even a Wet Snail with a Barn Door will get you out on the water and living the dream.


A big thanks to Johnny for letting all of us in his tiny boat. AND, our editor (Jason) thanks you for not living up to the Irish or sailor cursing standard.  You are a businessman and a gentleman.  Sláinte!


jason and nikki wynn with escape pod electric sailboat


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Hello there! I honestly don’t know what to say, so I am going to tell you a bunch of random facts instead. I'm a fish eating vegetarian who hates spiders and loves snakes. I almost never took vacations growing up. I wanted to be Pippi Longstocking (still do). I misspell about every other word I write and still struggle with grammar. I love splurging on a good high tea (which is really hard to find these days). And whatever you do, don’t tell me I can’t do something, because then I'll HAVE to do it!

Comments (29)

  • DD

    Any news about Johnny the Irishman post eruption? Watching this in 2022.

  • Dan

    Hey Nikki,

    Maybe I missed it, but what was the title of the book Johnny shows you that you said you listened to as an audiobook during your pacific passage? Thanks!

  • Rich

    Elco has been around for more than 100 years. They built about 300 PT boats during WW2, including PT109. The yard was in Bayonne, NJ, and there still is an Elco Marina that may be on the original site of the yard. There is a crane in a county park here with a placard explaining it was once used at the Elco yard to splash the newly built PT boats for test runs before being loaded on cargo ships for deployment. I looked all this up one day after we found the crane while walking with my 5 year old grandson who asked a lot of questions about. Months later when he sees the crane he shouts out “Hey, there’s our crane!”
    Johnny is one of those guys whose acquaintance is one of the greatest things about cruising. He looks like a serious bad ass if you get on his wrong side, who gives the impression of being a middleweight boxer.
    A drop-in replacement for one of our Volvo D2-40s would be around $10,000. I looked at the Elco site and tech specs. It would be hard to get good range out of it, seems like it would take lots of batteries, especially when the same batteries are powering refrigeration and sailing instrumentation.
    You guys have about 1500 W of solar? We have space for about 1100 W on a 42 ft cat with a hardtop similar to yours. I was looking at Sunpower flexible panels and Victron controllers. I started with Solbian walkable panels, then “downgraded” to Solara walkables, and concluded we could afford neither, so had to give up the walkable feature. The tariffs didn’t help.

  • Eric

    Greatttt video!!! T-ank you. 😜

  • Kelly Crothers

    Hey Guys, loved this video! It was a bit longer in time then you usually post, which is nice.
    Can you ask Irishman Johnny if he’s single? Yes, I am interested! Thank you!
    Very cute haircut Nicki! I have resorted to cutting and highlighting my own coif since Covid started. I like to use environmentally friendly and natural hair colour which is a huge money saver for us women.
    Well, looking forward to the next video Nicki and Jason!
    Be safe and healthy.

  • Alan Solomon

    Johnny seems like a real nice guy. Starting from scratch on a few different fronts Johnny has multiple projects which provides a fun way to live a purposeful life.
    Waking up every morning with a plan to accomplish a daily list from the day before especially if you are handy which Johnny seems to be is a valuable asset. I am happy for Johnny and inspired by him like you two inspire me.
    And he manages multiple large solar and network projects. I work in that industry too in Southern California. This planet of ours needs more solar wind and geothermal power rather then the familiar, almost outdated options we now use. Congratulations Johnny and Best of Luck to ya..
    I don’t say it enough but thanks for this video.

  • YDion

    Quote: “Even a Wet Snail with a Barn Door …” Unquote.
    Real sailing expression?
    Really funny !
    Thanks – really enjoy this video (as usual). Thanks for sharing.

  • Anita

    Fabulous video! You answered my question from a few weeks ago about how else is living there. What happens if a cyclone hits and you are living on the hard? Do you evacuate before hand? Will be watching the Tonga weather now.

  • April

    Very interesting, informative video as always. Love the info on your new cooking station Nikki. We are setting up the galley on our trawler and your set up looks perfect. Thank you as always for making our Sundays special with each new video. Taking us to far away places even while you were stranded in Fiji as we all endure and do our part to get through this pandemic together. ❤️

  • Deborah Kerr

    Sla’inte – cheers to your handsome Irish friend!! He has a really cool life on that boat!! Thanks for sharing your smiles 🙂

  • Michael

    All lead acid batteries are not created equal. You save about 25% of weight or so with a Firefly carbon foam battery, still have the nice ballast effect for “tippy” boats, have the ability to totally discharge and recharge, while still saving a heap of money. As a sealed AGM, they can be placed anywhere.

    And, no, Jason; it isn’t an “engine”. It is a motor. 😉

  • Dan S Brown

    That was a fun video. I saw what Nikki did with her hair and was struck with the idea that she should offer her hair dressing skills to sailors met along the way. 🙂

  • Shirley

    The shorter hair looks awesome on you, Nikki. 🙂 Johnny is a real hoot! My husband and I often wondered how an all-electric boat would work, so thank you for the introduction to Johnny and his soon-to-be electric Escape Pod! We thoroughly enjoyed all the info.

  • Jeffrey Stenberg

    Jonnie seams like a great guy, what a lifestyle. I would so love to live like that, work and all. Might not have all the skills but I can learn, part of the fun. Nice haircut, who need a beauty salon.( OK, spa day) Super interesting video, love the old school, new school. Making it work. Stay safe with the weather coming, its just water.

  • Ember

    Nice guy. I didn’t notice any bleeping! Hey, I like your new cooking setup! Good Job! Are you guys gonna sit on the hard through cyclone season? At least you have stairs instead of a ladder to get on and off the boat.

  • Marc b.

    I’m impressed with your video. Your interview is well done and prepared. And It’s nice to visit other folk’s perspective and life on their boats. Please do more of these types of interviews on your channel.

  • MaryH

    Nikki, your new haircut is adorable! What a great idea turning to electric. Deep pockets for that as well as battery and solar power. Portland pudgy is on our list.

  • Nickii Sonnenberg

    Great video, as always. Could you post some of the books on sailing that you recommend?

  • mary

    That was a fun video!

    So much work it would be overwhelming! He is really doing some great upgrades!

    Loved his smile as much as I love you guys smile! A positive attitude goes such a long way!

  • Colleen

    My Sunday morning routine is a homemade latte and your video! Always a great start to the day!

  • Marjorie Nehlsen

    This was a great and interesting video. I didn’t hear any bleeps. Really enjoyed the tour of Johnny’s boat. Nice to have a drink and pizza at the end of the day. Another awesome job and by the way, great haircut. Your hair looks very nice

  • Michael Larkin

    Great video as always, but I must say it was an added pleasure to see Jonnie a fellow Irishman, great to hear of all he is doing. made the right choice to live in Malta. thanks to all involved.
    Michael, Dublin, Ireland.

  • jim ege

    Great Video Great Interview. Very familiar with the West Sail here in the Midwest USA. I had one right next to me in Pentwater, Michigan on the Great Lakes.
    Lots of work to re-fit. Kudos to the Irishman.

  • Keith Vauquelin

    Awesome fun! I am ready. One less day, every day. One vehicle already gifted. Be safe – good intel on the illustrated books.

  • Louis Miller

    Okay visit time is over now back to work 😇

    • Roger Brekas

      We like your cute haircut.

  • About Creativity

    Thank you.


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