Monday, November 30, 2009


I've mentioned one of the nice things about converting BIANKA to electric propulsion is those recurring pleasant reminders of cost savings of going electric. This shows up most dramatically at the end of the season when it comes time to winterize the boat. Not having to change oil, filters and buy gallons of antifreeze to winterize the engine certainly something that I do not miss doing nor does my wallet. The only thing I really need to do is winterize the fresh water system and as I pointed out in this post on winterizing BIANKA I only need to use a small amount of propylene glycol antifreeze to do that. Though if you still have a diesel to winterize you might want to take a look at Maine Sails sage advice on that issue. I'm only dealing with the on board water system here.

While I have not had a problem with winterizing using this method I did have an online discussions with some other sailors about checking to make sure that the after winterizing that the antifreeze was not diluted to the point of being ineffective at the temperatures in my location. Not a bad idea I thought. Some use chemically treated slips of paper that change color to match the level of protection the antifreeze solution is providing. Others use the floating ball gauges and others use an optical hand refractometer.

So I began researching the testing methods. The antifreeze test strips were reasonably cheap around ten bucks for 50 strips. But, then I read they were only reliable for about two years. This might make sense for a boatyard that winterizes a lot of boats but, not for me. They could also give erroneous readings if contaminated. The next device was the floating ball antifreeze testers. Reasonable in price perhaps only ballpark in accuracy.

The third option was the hand refractometer. The most accurate in my opinion but, also the most expensive. In my initial research I saw prices of $120 to $220. Way to expensive to make sense for my wallet.
 But, found other antifreeze refractometers for around fifty bucks. Now that's more like it. Even better it has scales for propylene glycol, ethylene glycol and one for checking the charge on flooded lead acid batteries. That's a win, win, win situation in my book so I bought it.

The above photo shows the unit I bought. It comes with two eyedroppers. The one shown here has the blue tape around it to remind me that I only use it to sample distilled water. The little black cap covers the alignment screw should one need to realign the gauge. It also includes the screwdriver in the case. The photo below shows the plastic cover in the open position.

To use this device you open the cover and put a a drop or two of the solution you are testing onto the blueish glass and close the plastic cover to spread the solution onto the glass. You then hold the refractometer up to a lighted area and take a reading by looking into the eyepiece. Here is what you see when you look into the refractometer with no liquid on the glass.
You have a completely blue field. You can see the three different scales for the propylene glycol antifreeze, battery fluid and ethylene glycol antifreeze. When you open the unit up and drop a few drops of distilled water onto the reading glass this is similar to what you will see when you do a reading:

Notice how it is clear at around 32 degrees F scale. This is how you check the alignment of the device. Note: The photo shows a slightly lower freezing point which may be due to some slight contamination from an earlier test. Cleaning the glass or adjust the alignment screw would correct his offset. But you get the idea. Next the cover was opened the glass cleaned and dried and a drop or two of propylene glycol antifreeze taken from BIANKA's winterized water system was analyzed as shown below:

This shows a freezing point of about 15 degrees Fahrenheit on the propelyne gycol scale. Only 3 degrees "warmer" than the pure antifreeze used to winterize the system. The bursting point for pvc piping according to the manufacturer of the antifreeze should be about - 7 degrees Fahrenheit. Which is "comfortably" below the normal lowest winter temperatures in my area. As they say your mileage may vary or location temperatures may be different. But, using a refractometer to test the antifreeze used to winterize the on board water system will give you peace of mind as you wait for spring to return. Just remember:

"How sad would be November if we had no knowledge of the spring!"- Edwin Way Teale

Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, November 24, 2009


While I often sail just listening to the sounds of the natural world around me. I am always looking for music that will sound good when sailing for those times when I want to have some tunes in the background. This song performed by Genki Sudo with music written by Heigo Tani is one of those tunes. I can imagine listening to it on board while making five or six knots under sail. It's not a song about sailing but, I really like the music and it's an interesting music video too! Maybe you'll like it also!

Sunday, November 22, 2009


"I have discovered photography. Now I can kill myself. I have nothing else to learn." - Pablo Picasso

Not so fast Pablo! I find having a small digital camera on board to be very useful. Not only for the usual personal photos, blogging or capturing those strange moments on the water that some will never believe without some kind of proof. But, I also found a camera useful for repairs and maintenance which I'll get into on a future post. While these new digital cameras are great pieces of technology they can also fail. Since I just recently found my Canon Powershot camera (after much searching) on board where it was hiding from me. I thought I would post about two of the repairs I have made to the said camera which others my find helpful in case the camera goes on the fritz somewhere in your journeys.

One day during the conversion to electric power. I was squeezing through one of the cockpit hatches and heard something crack. The SD600 that I had in my shirt pocket now had a cracked LCD screen and was useless. Not wanting to just throw it away I did a search on the Internet and found a site that explains how to replace the LCD screen on the SD600 and other Canon cameras. Of course you could also send it back to Canon and they will fix it for $. But, if you are handy, careful and have a set of small precision screwdrivers you can replace it yourself for about 40 bucks. You can see the steps with excellent photos by clicking here. NOTE: That there are two types of screens available make sure which one you have before ordering the part from Canon. It is explained on the site how to identify which screen your camera has. The second problem I had was:

A few month's after replacing the screen I dropped the camera rather hard. All of a sudden it would no longer turn on. I thought that's it. I was trying to decide whether to send it back to Canon for repair ($100) or get a new camera. In the end I bought another camera. But, in my spare time I decided to take another look and see if I could not fix the turn on problem. I did. The problem was on the inside of the Memory Card Slot/Battery Cover.

There is a little plastic protrusion that contacts a tiny little switch that tells the circuitry in the camera that the battery door is closed.

Apparently part of the plastic tip broke off and so it was not contacting the switch and letting the camera turn on.

All of these parts are delicate. So how do I fix this? I needed some thing to put a little pressure on the switch but, not too much or I would end up breaking the switch too. I found just what I needed by using a medium sized rubber band. I cut a small piece of the rubber band and laid it across the switch. When I closed the battery door the camera came to life. The rubber band allows the remaining tip on the battery door to provide enough pressure to close the switch.
I hope the above information helps when you have a digital camera failure if not remember this:

"There will be times when you will be in the field without a camera. And, you will see the most glorious sunset or the most beautiful scene that you have ever witnessed. Don't be bitter because you can't record it. Sit down, drink it in, and enjoy it for what it is!" ~DeGriff

Friday, November 20, 2009


Most of the photos on this blog were taken with a Canon SD600 digital camera. I've had it for several years. I usually carry it around in a shirt pocket where ever I go. You never know when it will come in handy. A few weeks ago I lost it. I went to look for it at home and could not find it. Then I remembered I had changed into my boat work clothes and thought I must have left it in the shirt pocket on board. When I got back on board I searched all around but, could not find it. I kept searching several times I looked on board and around the house. Could not find it anywhere. It's not that the camera was so expensive. Indeed newer digital cameras have new more advanced features and more mega pixels. It was that I had a lot of photos on the memory card that I wanted to use here in blog posts. Well, today when I went back on board to start winterizing the water system I finally found it. But, not before looking all over the boat once again. It was actually in a location I had looked at several times but, because it's silver case blended in with the heavy duty crimper it was lying under I never noticed it. It is amazing how something can get lost so easily within the limited confines of a boat. Now that it is found I can once again start posting about some of the projects and repairs that I have been doing on BIANKA.

"To find what is in front of one's nose needs a constant struggle"
-George Orwell

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Cold and deep too!

This year I managed to swim off of BIANKA until about the third week in October. I thought that was pretty good. Until I came across this video of Christina Sun aka Bowsprite who along with Tugster have New York Harbor pretty much covered in their respective blogs. Tugster has been on my blogroll for awhile now. I've been meaning to add Christina's Bowsprite site. It's not only her photos, sketches and chronicles of New York Harbor but, when she does things like this:

that remind me what love for the water is really all about. Anyone who can go for a swim in Gloucester Harbor in the middle of November is a force to be reckoned with and an inspiration to me to maybe keep swimming off of BIANKA a little later next year.

Monday, November 16, 2009

The big small world of Reid Stowe and BIANKA

Back in the late 1990's when BIANKA was docked at the Chelsea Piers and I was pretty much living on board. Reid Stowe and his schooner ANNE was docked a few piers up river. I had on occasion walked by there and had seen Stowe working on his boat but, never actually had a gam with him. At the time I think he was getting prepared to head out into the Atlantic and chart a course that would trace a giant turtle on the waters of the Atlantic. After he returned from that trip he came up with a more ambitious project which was to spend a thousand days at sea. A journey which he is currently embarked on now being some 936 days into that sail. He is actually going to be spending more than one thousand days at sea in order to avoid the winter storms of the Atlantic before returning back to New York harbor.

I've been checking into his website/blog 1000 DAYS AT SEA every couple of weeks. I and many others have been vicariously taking the journey with him through his blog. He is part sailor, part artist and very spiritual as he single hands the 70-foot and 60-ton gaff-rigged schooner ANNE around the ocean. Now that the sailing season is over for me I wish I could be out there with him as he alternates between his art and boat chores. Lately, it seems his computer is acting up and may fail at some point depriving the rest of the world of his colorful, descriptive posts. He is certainly in tune with his environment and the ocean he sails. But, personally I have concerns that he might never be able to set foot on land again after making this journey. But, reading his posts and the things he has seen and experienced I'm sure that would be fine with Stowe but, I and others would sure miss not being able to have a little chat with him should we be anchored or docked nearby the Anne someday.

Monday, November 02, 2009


Thanks to the downturn in the economy and a very reduced work schedule I was able to devote time to a goal of mine. The results of which arrived in the mail the other day. I can now officially be called Captain Mike.