Wednesday, November 19, 2014


I installed electric propulsion in BIANKA for several reasons. One was because my diesel engine died. Two because I spent a good amount trying to get it running again. I began looking at alternatives to having a diesel. Diesel works well where it is worked hard. On a sailboat where most people use the engine to primarily get into or out of the harbor is not the best way to use it. Installed on a trawler is a much better match. So diesels tend to rust out before they wear out or fail at some point when you least expect it. Hopefully in some location  where you can get help and parts.  Another thing about electric propulsion is the ability of it to regen i.e. recharge the battery bank when the boat reaches a certain speed under sail. I thought for the first few years  that my system was not capable of regen but, then one day I discovered that it did. Hybrid Marine has a nice video of how regen works.  The boat in question is a hybrid design and still has a diesel engine. Which would mean the engine might be used even less than in a normal engine setup. But, you still have all the maintenance issues involved with having a diesel installed. But, for those not quite ready to make the leap to a pure electric propulsion system it is an option. Anyway this video is a good primer on the regen aspects of electric propulsion. Hat tip Elektra Yachts:

Saturday, November 15, 2014


Now that sailing season is over for a few months I have time to to take stock and post about some of the items that were repaired, replaced or purchased this past season. For example the Porta Boat dingy has been holding up pretty good for some thirteen years now. Much better than some inflatables where seven years seems to be the upper limits of usability. Not that the Porta Boat did not require some repair over the years. This year the Oar Locks seemed to be at the end of their life as wear and tear and rust combined to push for their replacement:

Thirteen years was a good run considering the salty marine environment they lived in most of the time. Though when I went to replace them I decided to try a little beefier pair. Namely a pair of Seasense Clamp On Heavy Duty Oar Locks:

Definitely a little heftier than the originals. My only concern was whether the pins would fit the Porta Boat's oar lock sockets. I kind of bought them on a whim. Happily, they fit perfectly into the sockets. They are a little loose around the oars but, will not slip out beyond the Oars handles.
 Another nice thing it looks like some parts that might wear like the bolts on the swivel can be replaced quite easily. Though I doubt I'll have to do that for a real long time.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014


Someone on a sailing forum recently asked me how things were with my electric propulsion system after seven years of use. I said it is kind of boring. But, boring in a good way. For example I recently pulled BIANKA for the season. All I really need to do was empty the water tanks and winterize the water system. Something I am able to do with one gallon of antifreeze. I certainly don't miss lugging a half dozen or more   gallons of antifreeze down to the docks just to winterize the engine. But, first of course I would change the oil which was somewhat of a messy job not matter how careful I tried to do it. Bending over the engine and contorting the body to reach the oil filter was sure to cause a back ache at some point. Squeezing my body down below the cockpit hatch to access the raw water filter for cleaning and to hook up the hose to the raw water pump to flush the engine with antifreeze would often cause a pulled muscle in the confined space too. My clothes wet with water and antifreeze in the cool November air is something I don't miss either. Really the only thing I can think of that I may want to do is install an additional on/off switch to the battery bank and another switch that would provide battery power to the 1500 watt inverter and 48 volt to 12 volt converter. Even this is not an urgent thing. After these projects there is nothing I can think of that really needs to done.  Like I said with the reliability and lack of maintenance required on an electric propulsion system things become pretty boring.

Thursday, November 06, 2014


Though it was a shortened season for me having worked all of July hundreds of miles from the boat. It still was an enjoyable one. I was also pleased at how little I needed to fire up the Honda Generator this season. Despite having added some new energy using items on board. Adding an 100 watts of Renogy Solar panels helped with the house bank and also the 48 volt Marine Air-X wind turbine also did it's share of adding energy to the propulsion bank. Which I also tapped into using a 48 volt Inverter and powered a  bread maker with it. The nice thing about having an electric boat is the number of ways one can capture and store energy easily for use at a later time. Something that is not easily done with fuel consuming conventional on board internal combustion engines. I'm always keeping an eye out for new ways to add more energy into the mix.   Boats even when at anchor or at a dock are still often at motion. Some research at Georgia Tech offers some interesting ideas on maybe harvesting some of that energy from this motion. Something to keep an eye on.

Sunday, November 02, 2014



When to pull the boat for the season can be a  dilemma. Two years ago the boat was still in the water when Hurricane Sandy hit. It allowed me to move aboard after the storm passed and have a normal lifestyle including power, hot water and Internet while back at the house it took several weeks for things to get back to normal. Still, I think one should take the cues from nature here in the Northeast. When the first Nor'easter starts coming up the coast it's time. One did last week and another arrived this weekend but, happily BIANKA had been pulled earlier in the week. The mast was unstepped and so my concerns for the boat are somewhat minimal for these storms and the winter.  Another sign that it is time to pull the boat that I use is when the sun starts setting before 6 o'clock in the evening. The nights get colder and longer making any cruising days that much shorter. But, storing the boat on land for does not mean I just walk away until spring. There is still plenty to do on board over the winter. projects I did not get to over the summer. Then there are a number of blog posts I never published because I was enjoying being on the boat and Internet access was painfully slow in the harbor. So there is plenty to catch up on and do over the winter even if the boat is not on the water.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Remembering Sandy

It was two years ago the superstorm Sandy hit the area.  I went down to the boatyard in the morning before the storm hit but, the winds had already whipped up Long Island Sound into very rough conditions:

In addition water was already flooding over the only access road in or out to the boatyard. So I was only able to catch a quick glimpse of BIANKA still at her original location before I had to hightail it out of the area or be stuck for as the storm hit. I choose to head back and just barely beat the flood waters:

After the storm passed I found BIANKA a thousand feet from where I had left her the day before. Luckily undamaged and still floating. Which was good since I moved back on board since there I had power thanks to the solar and wind turbine and also the Honda 2000 generator. I also had Internet access via the cell phone. While back on land many did without these due to power lines being down for weeks.  The storm also taught me some important lessons.  .

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Nor' easter Season Again

Two days ago I had a delightful sail back to BIANKA'S homeport at the end of a fall cruise to the Oyster Bay Oyster Festival. Today I am tied to a dock as a Nor' easter starts to form just to the south of the Long Island. I actually prefer to ride this weather out on a mooring. But, I am expecting some packages to arrive on shore and wanted to be there to receive them. I have doubled up on the lines and they have stretched enough to make stepping on the dock a little iffy. Another concern is the cleats on the aging dock. Winds are expect to increase even more this afternoon with gusts to 30 knots. Welcome to Nor' Easter season.

Monday, October 13, 2014

OH WELL!: Not all ideas work out.

Having Electric Propulsion can be boring. Once installed there is not a lot of maintenance or repair. But, it is easy to modify. So one day I thought about how when using the propulsion system  in hybrid mode on a windless day I am only using 900 watts of power from the Honda 2000i generator. That is because this is the max that the ZIVAN NG-1 charger can provide to the 48 volt battery bank. So I thought if I bought an additional 600 watt power supply and connected it in parallel with the Zivan I might be able to get another 12 amps when electro sailing. So yesterday I installed the wiring to make this happen and did some tests to see if my idea would work. Let's just say it did not. The Zivan performed as usual but, the new 600 watt power supply did not add any amps for charging like I thought. Oh well. I have not totally given up on the concept. I'll try another test and see if I can make it happen but, the first attempt was not encouraging. But, at least nothing smoked either. I'll post about the next attempt in the future.

Thursday, October 09, 2014


I was glad to be on board to once again see the full moon rise over the harbor. It was the Harvest Moon and probably the last one I see before I put the boat on land for the winter. Watching that Harvest Moon I began thinking that BIANKA has been back on the mooring for over two weeks. In that time I have not had to fire up the Honda 2000 eu generator to charge the two battery banks on board. Which is a good thing because as efficient as the Honda is it is still fuelish to use it. Instead BIANKA has be harvesting all the energy it needs from the solar panels and 48 volt Marine Air X wind turbine. So there has been no need to fire up the generator. No doubt the addition of the new 100 watt Renogy solar panel has added enough power to make up for the additional refrigeration I added this year.

Monday, October 06, 2014

OCTOBER CHANGES: Wind and windage

October is a month of change here in the harbor on the Isle of Long. Boats start disappearing from dock slips and morrings. Sails come off of boats and on some boats the masts also come down. At least they don't fall down but, are laid on deck so the boat can be moved and stored in some inland location. Yep, lot's of changes happening around BIANKA.  The taking down of the mast on a sailboat before it's pulled can change things quite a bit especially if the boat is put back on it's mooring to await hauling out for the winter. I observed this the other day as two nearby boats had a close encounter with the change of tide. One of the boats had it's mast laid on it's deck the day before which changed the amount of windage upon it. This gave the currents flowing underneath the boat more sway in how the boat lay at the mooring. Meanwhile, the boat on the next mooring still had it's mast and was affected more by the wind. The result is when I looked up at one point the end of the mast of the demasted boat was poking into the cockpit enclosure of the fully rigged boat:

Luckily, it appeared to be just high enough to make it over the lifelines and did not appear to be hung up on anything. I kept watching hoping I did not have to make an intervention. Which would have been difficult in the conditions since I only had a dingy with oars and the wind was picking up. In a few minutes the boats had separated:

But, only for a few minutes. Soon the currents and winds resumed their battle and the boats were once again in close proximity to each other. But, not in any danger of getting hung up as before:

Eventually, things got back to normal and the collision danger passed. The next day I woke up from a nap hand found that the boat with the stepped mast had been removed from the mooring eliminating any further chance of the two boats bumping into one another. Just something to consider this time of year when the wind and windage of the boats can change and mysterious damage happens.