Monday, January 09, 2017

WHAT LIES BENEATH: PowerRay Underwater Drone

Those of us who spend time anchoring in murkier waters than most places in the Caribbean often have this question nagging us: How well is the anchor really set? Yeah,  you do a back down test but, it is still an unknown. If you are in places like the Exumas where the water clarity and temperature make it easy to check on the anchor it is not an issue. But, in places like the Northeast U.S. where visibility may be ten feet if you are lucky and the water temperature is in the low 60's it can be a problem. That's where this new underwater drone might come in handy. It's called the PowerRay and is primarily marketed toward fishermen who want a little more info on what is exactly underneath their boats. But, I see using it as a way to easily check on the anchor without guessing in less than clear or inviting waters. Since it's a tethered Drone there is less chance it will be lost to Neptune too. There is no price on it yet but, if it's reasonable it could be cheap insurance to have a restful nights sleep when the winds start to pipe up. It could also be very handy to see what ones anchor is fouled on if it does not come easily when trying to lift it. Another use would be to locate an item that went over the side that needs to be found.

Wednesday, January 04, 2017


Sometimes when cruising one wants to get to some stores for some parts or provisions. Your choices are usually walking, taking a Taxi, bus etc... I just came across this 35 pound fold able electric scooter called the URB-E with a twenty mile range. Smaller than a bicycle it folds and should be easy to store on board. Might be just the thing to throw into the dingy for a quick trip to pick up something on land or just exploring around town.

Sunday, November 20, 2016


Went back to the boatyard to finish up winterizing the boat and taking off a few of the remaining provisions I left on board. Along with storing a few items. Starting with the outside hatches:
cabin doors

I will store them out of the weather for the winter. I might add another coat of Cetol over the winter if I get ambitious. Though more likely it will be next spring before I get around to it. I also removed the mainsheet line that was connected to the boom no reason to leave it out in the cold winter weather. I'll bring it home along with all the other lines and wash them:
Also note above that I have tapped up the hatches. Since I don't plan on accessing them for awhile adding a little bit of weather proofing. It can't hurt keeping more water from entering the bilge.

I also took the cockpit table off the the steering pedestal:

Like the hatch doors this is done to try and preserve the varnish finish. Like the cabin doors I may bring this home and add another coat before launch next spring:

That pretty much covers the winterizing items I needed to do in the cockpit. I then went to the galley lockers and took the remaining canned items I have left on board:
I'll use them for cooking at home over the winter and I don't have to worry about cans splitting open over the winter. So that wrapped up another day of winterizing. As I took a walk around deck I could not help but. notice that a few of the shrink wrapped boats reminded me of snow drifts:

A reminder that winter is just around the corner in about a month.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016


I've been a little slow lately in putting stuff on this blog. Part of it was because BIANKA did not really do much this summer because of the controller and battery issues. Which kept the boat tied to the mooring. But, I still have a many things on the TODO list and some sailing adventures planed over the winter.  I plan to add more videos to the future postings and on occasion a Video Log or Vlog. So stay tuned.

Friday, November 04, 2016


It was an unusually warm Autumn day.  So I thought it was about time to finishing up getting BIANKA ready for the winter. I stopped at the nearby beach parking lot with my coffee to see what was happening on Long Island Sound. I wasn't the only one getting things ready for winter.
The Harbor Master was out with his crew pulling the last remaining swim buoys from out in front of the bathing beach. I watch them finish then headed for the boatyard. The mooring fields were getting pretty empty. A few boats remained at the dock but, they will be gone in few weeks and the moorings pulled for the winter. I will still still have a pretty nice water view from BIANKA's cockpit over the winter:

Since I switched from having a diesel engine to Electric Propulsion winterizing BIANKA has been a quick procedure. Only requiring that I winterize the fresh water systems on board. Not having to change the oil and run several gallons of antifreeze through a diesel engine leaves a lot of time for staring at the harbor scene and not spending time down below hanging over the greasy diesel engine. I finished up the winterizing and headed to the car. I looked back to see BIANKA nice and snug in her winter location between the other boats in the yard waiting patiently for Spring:

Sunday, October 23, 2016


It's been several weeks since I pulled BIANKA out of the water.  It was a little earlier than I usually do. But, this was a very unusual season. Things started out well with not much to do to get BIANKA launched. Being retired there was not a real rush on my part. Then about a week before I had planned to splash the boat I discovered one of the batteries on the 48 volt propulsion bank was bad. That set off a bunch of situations that resulted in BIANKA not being able to leave the harbor on her own power and my wallet a few thousand dollars lighter. I had BIANKA splashed.  I was about to leave the dock when I discovered a problem with the controller. Since it was now mid summer and there would be  several weeks were I would be away from the boat. I decided to forget sailing and just use BIANKA as if I had pulled in from a cruise to spend a month or two enjoying the scene. I would work on the controller issue over the winter or early next spring. It was a short but enjoyable season. I still did the things that make owning a boat so enjoyable. Swimming by just jumping over the side and enjoying a nice drink while watching the sunset. Having my morning coffee in the cockpit while watching the sunrise is also a great way to start the day. Now its time to winterize the boat, store the dingy and settle in for the winter. Maybe work on a few projects and make plans for next year.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016


In early September I was facing a serious dilemma. Hurricane Hermaine was heading up the coast. This meant I would have to try and prep BIANKA in advance of the storm. But, I also had booked passage on a Cruise ship leaving New York and heading to Bermuda during the same week the storm was expected to hit. Due to a number of SNAFU's and personal travel plans I had decided to give up on sailing this season and just hung out of BIANKA at the mooring. This decision was fortuitous because I did not have a need to put the sail on the boat. This made storm preparation a little easier since I did not have to remove and store BIANKA's 540 square feet of sail to reduce windage.

I did have to do a few other things to give me some piece of mind in case the Hurricane hit the area. One thing I needed to do is remove the 33 pound Bruce anchor off the bow roller.
 The flukes of which can cut easily cut through the mooring line like a knife and set the boat adrift. It's not a difficult job but, it is awkward handling the anchor while leaning over the bowsprite. An extra line helps make sure you won't accidentally drop the anchor while handling it. I was also glad I had previously coated the shackle pin threads with Tef Gel . This made for a quick and easy removal of the shackle holding the anchor to the chain. I wish the neighboring boats would do the same but, I have not seen anyone else come out and start to prep their boats.

Once the anchor was removed and the mooring pennant lines set in the bow rollers. I used several large Ty Wraps through holes in the rollers:

These will prevent the mooring lines from popping off the  rollers and start chaffing as the bow pitches up and down in a storm. This could possibly set the boat adrift.

I also made up some spare mooring lines I planned to add to the existing mooring line as extra insurance. I got the last two 3/8" thimbles at the local West Marine and sliced them into some Tenex line I had on board:

I used a hot knife to cut out the bad section of the line before installing the thimble:

 The hot knife really helps to make quick neat cuts in some of these new high tech lines.

I also used some Parachute cord to secure the BIANKA"S Solar Bimini. The bimini had survived the 95 MPH winds of super storm Sandy but a little more security never hurts when expecting a blow:

My plans to add two additional lines to the mooring did not work out since the attachment point on the mooring ring did not allow room for two shackles so I was only able to add one line:

This was better than nothing. Though it would have been better to find this out before a storm approaches. I may see if the boatyard can increase the size of the mooring ring next year so I can fit two additional storm shackles instead of just one.

A LESSON LEARNED: Hermaine did not hit the area full strength which I was glad to learn of while on the cruise ship. There were some strong gusts but, nothing near Hurricane strength. However, after I returned and was rowing out to the boat for the first time since returning from the cruise. I saw that my spare storm mooring line was dangling in the water. I thought at first it had broken even though it was rated at over 5,000 pounds. When I inspected it this is what I found:

Apparently, I had secured the shackle pin to the thimble with a Ty Wrap to but, I had forgotten to do the same to the shackle that attached to the mooring ring. As a result of the pitching up and down the pin loosened up and eventually fell out make my spare storm mooring line useless. When this happened is anyone's guess. But, it is a lesson learned to make an inspection list before leaving the boat when prepping for a storm.

Sunday, September 04, 2016


It was a delightful week on board until Hurricane Hermine threatened to show up. Which meant I need to start thinking about prepping the boat should it arrive. Adding to the tension was the fact that I would be away for the time the storm was supposed to hit. So should something happen to the boat it would be several days before I could get back to check on it. This was a similar situation to several years ago when Hurricane Irene hit the area. But, back then it was because I was working 250 miles away from the boat. This time I am retired but, will be 600 miles away and on another boat. Though the one good thing about my decision to scrub the sailing season is I never put on the sail so I did not have to take it off on prepping for the storm. Still being so far away from the boat and not being able get back to check on her post storm is somewhat disturbing. But, one can only do what one can the rest is up to the nature of the storm.

Thursday, September 01, 2016


So it has finally come down to this. Because of the battery problem which delayed launch. Followed by the surprise of the failed EP Controller. These issues had pushed the idea of sailing even further out in the season. Yes, I could just replace the controller but, Dave at Annapolis Hybrid Marine said they no longer use that controller because several others had  surprise failures too. They are using a new controller but it requires a bigger enclosure box. He had one in stock and I could have swapped it out pretty quickly. But, I had other considerations to take into account. Namely a girlfriends beach vacation and a cruise to Bermuda for my grand nieces wedding reception that would take me away from the boat for additional weeks. I'd not be able to start to fix  things  until mid September. Since I'd probably be pulling the boat in mid October anyway it would not leave much time for sailing even if the weather cooperated. So I decided to scrap this sailing season and use BIANKA as my floating harbor home. I don't have to put the large sail up and I have plenty of projects to keep me busy. Plus I could jump over the side for a refreshing swim anytime. Actually, It's not a bad place to be. Perhaps Poseidon is right.

Sunday, August 21, 2016


I called David at Annapolis Hybrid Marine the U.S. distributors for the Thoosa 9000 systems.  Since the Key switch did not seem to be the issue I began thinking of other things that might easily resolve the problem. One was to disconnect the B+ of the battery to hopefully reset the controller. David said that was not necessary. I then mentioned that the power contactor relay might be bad. David ask if I had a multimeter on board. Of course I did. He suggested I remove the cover to the controller box and he could guide me on making some voltage measurements. This of course means emptying out the starboard locker and squeezing my way to large frame down below in the summer heat to access the controller box. I had not had to do this in eight years of electric propulsion operation because the system was so reliable. But, now it had to be done. I then asked a question that saved me some aggravation. In preparation of my journey down below I asked how many screws hold the cover of the controller box and are they Phillips? David replied no they are Torx (star) type screws. I did not have any Tork screwdrivers on board so I would need to buy them. But, at least I had not found this out after contorting my body down below after emptying out the locker. So it was a row back to land to get a Torx screw driver set to continue trouble shooting.

At the store I had several choices of Tork tools. The first one I picked up was a compact set that folding into the handle. It looked like it would do the trick. Though something told me that maybe I had better have a backup.

So I also bought another Torx set that had a screwdriver type handle with interchangeable bits. 
 Good thing I did this because I found that with the compact folding set it was difficult to access and turn the screws at the rear of the case. Where as the set with the screw driver handle was much more secure and made it easy to turn the screw. But, even then I found the controller box was just a little too close to the battery charger case to use the handle.  I was however able to use just the Torx  bit and a pair of small vice grips to turn the screw enough to remove it.

With the controller case finally removed I gave David another call and armed with a digital multimeter I was able to start trouble shooting.  There is not much to a Thoosa 9000 system. There is of course the battery bank, motor, key switch and a box holding the controller and a few other components.
But, even inside the controller box there are many components that one finds with a diesel engine system. There is a relay, fuses, connectors. The one main different component is the motor controller. In my case it is a Navitas 400 unit. Under Davids guidance I carefully connected the multimeter ground to the B- battery connection in the box. I then checked the voltage at the power relay connections. Which was the component I thought was the next culprit after elimination the key switch. I measured 55 volts which was full battery voltage on both terminals.  David explained that it looked like the the relay was good because 55 volts on both terminals means the coil of the relay is not open. What happens on turn on is after the Controller does it's self check it grounds one side of the relay which then allows full battery power to the controller. This was not happening. So it was time to look at the controller. There were two status/fault lights on one side of the controller neither one was on. David then instructed me to probe two pins on the multipin connector  to the controller module.  There was 55 volts across those pins. This meant the controller module was getting power. So the diagnosis is the controller is bad. David mention this had happened to other units and as a result they were no longer using the Navitas controllers because of these mysterious sudden failures. Stil I had gotten eight trouble free years out of this one and could easily replace it but, I was thinking it might be best to upgrade to the new controller David mentioned. Trouble is the new controller is larger and won't fit in to the current box. He said I also needed to check if the new slightly larger box dimensions would fit in the current space. I'm pretty sure they would but, I want to make sure and while I'm at it I want to mount it so I will be able to have enough roof to use the Torx screwdriver handle to remove the cover in the future.

 So a quick ten minutes of probing and the problem was quickly diagnosed. Compared to the hours I and some diesel mechanics I had hired in the past spent scratching our heads working on the diesel it was a breeze. Unfortunately, it is getting late in the season and I would be away for several weeks. So I had a few things to think about before I decide to move ahead with a new controller box which I'll share in an upcoming post.