Sunday, March 22, 2015


Back in the mid 1990's I was on a 88 foot double masted schooner called the Ocean Star sailing out of Key West. I was there as part of a seminar at sea training course learning about nautical things like celestial navigation, radar plotting, etc... We anchored in the Dry Tortugas and then headed south where the plan was to sail close enough to Cuba to be able to see the mountain peaks such as they were while working using our sun sights for navigation checks. The first night out while sailing nicely along at eight knots we started to notice glowing objects in the water all around the boat as we sailed. They were of various sizes though most were the size and shape like a football. None of those on board including the Captain and crew had ever seen such glowing objects before. Many of us were familiar with the bio luminescence phenomena we had seen in harbors and beaches. But, these objects were much bigger.
We surmised that perhaps we were sailing through an immense shoal of squid. Their oblong bodies  being the source of the illumination we were seeing. But, we were not sure. The mystery of exactly what we saw that night has always intrigued me from time to time over the years.

Then this winter I started reading The Long Way by Bernard Moitessier. I discovered the answer to the mystery I and the others had seen on the schooner over twenty years ago. My AHA moment came when I read this passages in Moitessier's book:

"Here and there, large flashes the size of a soccer ball appear in the sea, shining like giant glow warms. I have often seen them in the trades, and kept them in sight for sometimes thirty seconds before they went out. At first, I took them for the eyes of strange animals risen from the depths. I had even harpooned them, from the deck of my second Marie-Thérèse, both disappointed and relieved not to haul up a giant squid gnashing its beak at the end of my harpoon."

It seems he too had also surmised that they could be groups of  large squid emitting the glow. But,  he explained a little later on what they really were:

"The globes of fire that I saw in the waves earlier can be seen more than a hundred yards away now that the fog has lifted. They are plankton colonies, not the eyes of monster squids; I read the explanation somewhere. But I will probably never know why they shine so brightly, only to suddenly go out for no apparent reason. I would like Joshua to surf into one: at that speed, it would make fabulous fireworks in the staysail."

So the mystery that haunted my memory for all those years is solved thanks to Mr. Moitessier.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015


Took a little road trip to spend a little time near the ocean:

Saturday, March 14, 2015


Last season I bought an Angle Clamp that I planned to use to repair some joinery on board. The winter did not allow for any work on board. Though a blizzard blew enough snow through the cockpit hatches to fill the bilge with ice:

When the temperature finally reached the mid 50 degree range I was hoping that some of this ice would have melted a bit so I could start to remove it. Unfortunately, it was still a pretty solid block of ice, I took out the heat gun and tried to start melting  some of it. It did start to melt but, holding the heat gun for any length of time was tiring. So I looked around to see if I could use something that would hold the heat gun while I used a wet dry vac to start removing the melted water. The Angle Clamp looked promising:

I clamped the handle of the Heat Gun in the clamp and laid the clamp across the bilge opening. It worked somewhat but the heat gun drooped and was not directed onto the top of the ice. Since the heat gun can cause damage to wood and fiberglass if the heat is directly applied to them I needed to make sure  I could direct the heat to the areas where the ice was prevalent.  Looking around I saw one of the fiberglass fishing wire poles I use to occasionally fish electrical wires on board. I placed it across the bilge opening and under the handle of the heat gun. It allowed me to perfectly direct the heat onto the top of the ice while removed the melting water:

It worked great. I managed to remove about twelve gallons of the melted ice water over the course of a few hours. ONE NOTE OF CAUTION: I would not leave the heat gun on while unattended and also make sure keep it away from any combustible parts of the boats structure. 

Thursday, March 12, 2015


Another day with temperatures in the upper fifty degree Fahrenheit range. So I again went down to the boatyard to work on the boat. But, what a difference in the harbor from my Monday visit. Below a photo comparison of the view from the cockpit from Monday on the left to Wednesday on the right:

Things are definitely moving in the right direction.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015


With a temperature finally reaching the the mid 50 degree Fahrenheit range yesterday it was time again to get down to the boatyard. Unlike the last visit Long Island Sound was pretty clear except for a few patches of ice:

But, the harbor is still frozen over:

The good news I was able to pretty much get the last bits of the ice still remaining on the deck off of the boat:

Spring finally seems to be on the way and that means more time on the boat. Which is always a good thing.

Friday, February 20, 2015


And it sure been a cold, cold winter
And the wind ain't been blowin' from the south
It's sure been a cold, cold winter
And a lotta love is all burned out

It sure been a hard, hard winter
My feet been draggin' 'cross the ground
And I hope it's gonna be a long hot summer
And a lotta love will be burnin' bright
Winter - Rolling Stones

Yep, that Rolling Stone song has captured this winter feeling for me. The bright spot of hope came in the mail when my mooring permit application came in for the upcoming season. Unfortunately, this required another trip to the boatyard to get some information off of the boat. I picked the warmest day when the high temperature was to be only 29 degrees F to slip slide my way to the boat. There was no wind this time which made it feel better than the visit last week. But, unlike last week I found the harbor had completely frozen over which does not happen too often:

Even the floating docks are frozen in place

The Harbor Master is not going anywhere these days:

The same for the Commercial Fishermen as the fleet is also frozen in place:

Hard to believe that spring is only a month away when I look out from the snow filled cockpit of the boat at the ice covered habor. But, I got the info I needed and put the mooring permit in the mail because the sailing season will arrive at some point. At least I hope so.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015


My electric propulsion system will be starting it's eigth year on board BIANKA in a few months. So I feel it's time to give a tip of the hat to Alessandro Volta's 270th birthday. One of the men who help make it possible.

"Alessandro Giuseppe Antonio Anastasio Volta (February 18, 1745 – March 5, 1827) was an Italian physicist[2][3] credited with the invention of the first electrical battery, the Voltaic pile which he invented in 1799 and the results of which he reported in 1800 in a two part letter to the President of the Royal Society.[4][5] With this invention Volta proved that electricity could be generated chemically and debased the prevalent theory that electricity was generated solely by living beings. Volta's invention sparked a great amount of scientific excitement and led others to conduct similar experiments which eventually led to the development of the field of electrochemistry."- WIKIPEDIA

Wednesday, February 11, 2015


I finally got down to the boatyard yesterday to check on the boat. I had been in the Caribbean most of January. Most of it cruising on a 43 foot Catamaran in the U.S. and Spanish Virgin Islands. The idea was to miss most of the harshest part of winter. Then come back at the end of January. February would be a short month and then spring begins in March. The plan did not quite work out. I got back the day before a blizzard dumped two feet of snow here on the Isle of Long.  Much of that snow is still on the ground along with snow from smaller storms and frigid temperatures. Yesterday looked like it would be the last day where the temperature would be over 30 degrees Fahrenheit for over a week. So I bundled up and headed to the boatyard. It was a slippery walk on icy drifts to get to the boat  but, I luckily I did not slip and fall.

So far so good.

There was a little less snow under and around the boat.

But, the cockpit still had the remains of the Blizzard from two weeks ago. The deck was very icy and I had to be very careful I did not slip on the frozen surface as I stepped into the cockpit. Entering the cabin things looked as I left it over a month ago. But when I checked the bilge:

I found it half way filled and frozen solid into one big block of ice. Probably as a result of blowing snow during the blizzard finding it's way under the cockpit lockers and melting into the bilge. Where recent Arctic temperature blasts refroze it:

I also found the bilge pump fuse had blown. Replacing it would not help at this point since the bilge pump is also frozen into the ice. Not much to do except pour a half gallon of antifreeze on top of the ice:

When the temperature moderates the ice will melt and hopefully the antifreeze will prevent it from refreezing. More Arctic blasts are expected in the next week though. So it will be awhile before it melts. I just hope I don't have to wait until Spring for it to melt.

Monday, February 02, 2015


 It's looking like another cold cold winter here at Rancho de Captain Mike. I write this staring at slushy cold winter landscape in the middle of a winter storm watch. Earlier this week a Blizzard hit the area dropping about two feet of snow. I had spent most of January in the Caribbean hoping to miss the worst of the winter. Looks like I was a few weeks too short. After digging out from the blizzard I still had icy patches on the walks. Then I remembered I still had some items on the winterizing check list from the boat. As usual I had taken the Honda 2000 generator off the boat for the winter. One of the nice things about being able to use the Honda 2000 for my on board electric propulsion system is it's portability. I take it home just in case I may need it if the power goes out over the winter. I also get it ready for the next boating season. I had not yet drained the gas entirely from it's gas tank when the blizzard hit. So in order to kill two birds with one stone I fired up the generator and used it to help melt the icy part of the walkway with it's downward facing heat exhaust:

As you can see it does a good job melting the ice. I just move it along the path ever few minutes until it had used up all the fuel that was left in the fuel tank.  As an added bonus I also hooked a radiant Dish Heater in the garage and used it to help warm me up during breaks  as I continued to dig out from the storm. After seven years the Honda 2000 generator continues to be a useful and  versatile workhorse both on and off the boat.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015


One of the staples I carry on board when cruising is various forms of pasta. I enjoy an occasional meal of pasta usually with my own homemade sauce. Problem with cooking pasta on board is the instructions say to start out with a big pot of boiling water. Something like four or five quarts. Water on board is precious commodity especially if you don't have a water maker. So is the fuel needed to boil the water. I came across this video which allows one to make pasta using only a little bit of water and fuel compared to doing according to the instructions on the box. Looks like a great technique to use on the boat: