Friday, April 18, 2014

Gabriel García Márquez and the Story of a Shipwrecked Sailor.

The death of Nobel Prize winning author Gabriel García Márquez at the age of 87 has reminded me of one of my favorite books of the sea. The Story of a Shipwrecked Sailor written in 1955 as a series of newspaper articles by  Márquez about a twenty year old Colombian Navy Sailor named Luis Alejandro Velasco. He and seven other sailors were washed overboard along with some cargo on their severely overloaded ship. The search for the sailors was called off after four days. Velasco was lucky enough to find a raft and was the only one who survived having washed up on shore after ten days at sea.  Márquez spent twenty six hour days interviewing Velasco about his ordeal. Taking copious notes and asking trick questions to expose any contradictions in the sailors account. It was so detailed that it still makes an impression on me today and I think about it every time I hear about a rescue at sea. I recommend it.

Monday, April 14, 2014

RETHINKING PROPANE USE ON BOARD: Dismantling the Hillerange Stove Part Two


 A week after spraying some PB Blaster on the screws and flanges. I was back on board hoping it had done a good job penetrating the dissimilar screw and manifold flanges.  It worked pretty well on the twenty seven year old stove. I was able to remove all the burners easily: with no problem even though the flanges were pretty rusted:

But other items like the Gas manifold pipe and the oven gas valve each had one of the stainless steel screws that would not budge. Here a photo of the items I wanted to remove from the stove top as I would no longer be using them:

After removing the burners I started on removing the Gas Manifold. Because one of the screws on one flange did not budge I used a Dremel Tool with a reinforced cutting disk to cut through the flange:

Before continuing I also disconnected the hose that connects up to the manifold using a 17 mm wrench at the back of the stove:

 Even with those steps it still required a little extra "persuasion" to fully remove the manifold:

The last item I needed to remove was the Gas Valve which also had one screw that was bonded to the unit. But, I was able to pry it up easy enough and remove the valve.

I was amazed at the amount of crumbs located underneath the valve. But, I guess after over a quarter century of cooking things will accumulate:

 A quick vacuum took care of most of it. With the burners and manifold finally removed from the stove:

I was able to do a quick check to see if the  Coleman PowerPack 1-Burner Stove I planned to use from now for cooking would fit on top of the now partially dismantled stove:

Success! I was also able to close the sliding counter over it. So now all I need to do is a good cleanup of the remaining grime and then move onto the oven area of the stove to see what I can remove there.


Friday, April 11, 2014

RETHINKING PROPANE USE ON BOARD: Dismantling the Stove Part One

When I discovered some nasty corrosion on the twenty seven year old Seaward Hillerange Model 3122 stove I starting looking into repairing it.

 As the cost of the parts to refurbish the stove rose and since it was already over  two decades old.  I began to seriously rethink the use of propane on board. I did an experiment last season using a Coleman single burner unit and one pound propane canisters for all my cooking on board. This worked out well so I abandoned the idea of refurbishing the Hillerange stove altogether.  But, since it is already installed and nicely gimballed I thought I could still use parts of it as a base for my new cooking system.

So now that the winter has finally ended one of my first tasks on board is to start removing some of the corroded components of the stove. After over two decades of cooking and having the cast iron piping and stainless steel metal and screws in contact with one another created some dissimilar metal issues. It looked like it might be tough to remove them.  It seemed to me the prudent thing to do would be to spray the attachment screws and flanges with a generous spray of  PB Blaster   .

 I let this soak for a while and then just to help thinks along took a small wire brush and brushed the screws and flanges areas with it to scrap away whatever rust I could:

This was followed by another soaking of some more PB Blaster onto the scrubbed areas. I'll let these areas soak in for a few days and then come back and try and remove the burners and gas valves. Hopefully, the blaster will have done it's job by then.

Monday, April 07, 2014

CHOICES: Batteries

I was looking around for some specs for battery terminal torque specs and came upon this chart at the MK Battery site:

I'm about to start my seventh season with the four 8A4D AGM batteries that make up my 48 volt electric propulsion bank. Somehow I instinctively used them in a way that should provide over a thousand life cycle charges.  I typically revert to Hybrid mode using the Honda 2000i generator once the battery bank has dropped to 70 to 80% from 100% full charge.  Turns out that looks like a good point to have a good charge life cycle for the bank.  So far so god. I still think I made the right decision in going with AGM batteries over the Lithium Ion batteries that were still fairly new back in 2008 when I did the conversion. The cost and availability were factors I considered. Today I think I would still go with the AGM's as they seem to be holding up well. I'll do some more in depth battery testing in a few weeks to see how well.    The following video is and example of my modus operandi using electric propulsion and when I operate in hybrid mode on an unusually windless day heading down the Hudson River:

Friday, April 04, 2014


"Never get off the boat!" are the words spoken by the patrol boats cook in the movie  Apocalypse Now. Always good advice.  The following video shows why. It was taken during the recent Clipper Race and shows how difficult it can be to get a person back on board even with a number of crew available to help. Imagine how difficult it would be with one or two people on board:

Monday, March 31, 2014


Came across this scene on the Willamette River in Portland Oregon. This is what happens when you can't decide if you want a sailboat or powerboat and a hard sided or inflatable dingy:

Thursday, March 27, 2014


I really need to get a new pair of oar locks for my 8 foot Porta Boat dingy. After 13 years of use they are just about rusted out. Though if the truth be known I am using my Electric Paddle outboard more and more these days for quick trips from the mooring to the docks. Still, the prudent mariner knows it is always good to have a pair of oars on board the dingy even if you are using some type of motor most of the time. You never know when you might need them.  I just wish instead of just buying them I had the skills and the shop to make them like they do at the Mystic Seaport for the Charles W. Morgan refit:

Monday, March 24, 2014


Well another 50 degree F plus day came along between cold snaps. So I wandered down to the boatyard to check on the boat. I stopped by the office for a gam and Russel was busy sending out bills to drop the moorings. A bittersweet sign that the new sailing season is coming. But, of course so does the bill for the mooring. When I got on board I checked the bilge:

Still dry as a bone and good to see. I let my Dual Pro 4 charger top off the four 8A4D AGM batteries that make up the 48 volt propulsion bank of BIANKA. Though they were pretty much full already. I then turned my attention to a quick little issue regarding the new Electric Paddle outboard I bought. A few weeks ago I got a letter in the mail from the folks who make the Electric Paddle about a possible issue of corrosion on one of the connector terminals because of a missing seal on the connector. A follow up letter provided two brand new seals to be installed in case they were not on my outboards connector:

It turns out they weren't on my outboard's connector but, no harm was done as the connectors were completely clean and corrosion free. Even though the battery and outboard had been exposed to several rainstorms over the season.

After I put one of the seals on the connector I decided to just do a little preventative maintenance as long as I was here. I took one of the Connector Cleaning Brushes  I carry onboard and put some Corrosion Block on it:

Even though the connectors were still very clean and showed no signs of corrosion. Using the Corrosion Block can't hurt so I cleaned inside the plugs and pins of the connectors:

Mission accomplished!  Nice to see that the folks who make the Electric Paddle here in the United States also follow up on the products once they are shipped.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014


We had one day of "mild" temperatures in the fifty degree fahrenheit range. I decide to spend some time in the garage on the never ending struggle to get and keep things organized. I made some progress and discovered some useful things related to the boat. The first were two useful tools for fiberglassing that I had used for a project on my previous boat a 24 foot Bristol. They were a Saturation Roller and a  Corner Epoxy Roller.

The saturation roller needed to be cleaned up a little as it showed  the messy results of my first feeble attempts at fiberglassing back in the 1980's. A few minutes removing the stuck on Epoxy with a screw driver had it good as new again:

Both tools are now reunited where they belong in the bin that holds the Epoxy resins and other tools for fiberglassing. They will be useful if I ever get around to building that dingy I've been thinking about. The other discovery was hidden in an old coffee can on a shelf for decades. It's a small metal vise that looks like it might come in pretty handy on board:

It's old but, still has useful days ahead on board for various projects. Sometimes all it takes is a little cleanup and organizing brings these useful discoveries to light.

Monday, March 17, 2014


More bad weather and cold temperatures are making trips to the boat kind of unappealing. So I've been looking for projects that are boat related that I can do at home. For example I picked up my RCA Small Wonder EZ2120B digital video camera which is now superseded by this model.
It is one of several cameras I use on board to make videos or take photos. I like the RCA camera because it is so easy to operate, has a large 2 inch LCD screen, has 1/4" camera mount so it can also be used on a tripod  and is easier to change modes like video resolution than some of my other cameras. It also has a big red button to start recording. I keep it handy on board to capture events which spring up and I don't have time to find and setup my GoPro or other cameras. For example I used it to capture the fireworks at last years Oyster Bay Oyster festival:

I did not even have it set for HD mode but, it still made a nice video. Since it only cost  about fifty bucks I would not feel as bad if it ever went over the side accidently unlike some of the more expensive cameras I also use. Unfortunately, since I usually keep it on the cabin table to have it nearby I must have laid a something heavy on it when closing the boat up for the winter haulout. I went to use the camera and found the LCD screen was screen cracked and unusable. I hated to just throw it out since it was still recording fine. So one damp and dreary winter's day I decided to take it apart and see if I could repair it:

After finding the several screws holding the main board to the case and an additional one holding the LCD screen to the main board I was able to remove the LCD screen and get a part number off of it:

As luck would have it somebody was selling a used LCD screen for the camera on EBAY for five dollars including shipping. Which had me doing the happy dance. After it arrived I carefully installed it into the camera and put the case back together and it works perfectly. So I am very happy that I'll once again be able to use the camera on board for videos and that there is one less piece of electronics that is not going to be heading to a landfill somewhere.