Wednesday, September 29, 2010


While City Island was my destination it is also a place where people leave from and never return. Just a two minute walk from the boatyard is a guarded and locked ferry dock at the end of Fordham Street.

This is the ferry that runs to Hart Island and which is the Potters Field for the city of New York. The ferry is operated by the New York City Corrections department. Because the people doing the burials are prisoner volunteers of nearby Rikers Island.

Hart Island is only about 1800 feet away from City Island. But, for several youngsters it was a journey too far on a January night in 2003: 

A weekend search of the icy waters and small islands off City Island in the Bronx turned up no trace of four teenage boys who vanished Friday night after leaving a party and apparently shoving off into Long Island Sound in a fiberglass rowboat. Officials said last night that if they had gone into the water, there was little hope that they had survived.

"The most obvious destination for what many thought was a nocturnal adventure -- Hart Island, with its storied potter's field graveyard and abandoned missile silos, less than a mile off City Island -- yielded no signs that the teenagers had been there. Dozens of other islands between Westchester and Nassau Counties were scoured. Scuba divers searched shoreline waters, but turned up nothing.

On Friday night, he said, they attended another party, and were last seen about 9:30 p.m., carrying oars and Mr. Wertenbaker's acoustic guitar toward the docks and marinas on the island's eastern shore.

The guitar was found on Saturday by Mr. Wertenbaker's family in a cemetery by the docks, and police search dogs traced the teenagers' scent to Barron's Marina nearby, where an eight-foot fiberglass rowboat was missing." -New York Times
The next morning I wandered over to the same Pelham Cemetery where the guitar washed up. It was just a stones throw from the mooring Bianka was on. It is a very interesting place. The dead at Pelham have "million dollar" waterfront views:
That's BIANKA at the mooring with the white hull and blue sail cover on the left. Hart Island is in the background. Most of the tombstones at Pelhem Cemetery are facing the water:

Well, wouldn't you want that view too?  Another interesting thing about the Pelham Cemetery for me as a sailor was how many of the grave markers showed the deceased's love for sailing on the waters that surround City Island:

When you see the word "pilot" like on the grave stone of Alexander Banta below. Think about a "Hell Gate Pilot" guiding ships down the East River and not those in planes circling overhead making a final approach to Laguardia Airport.

There is no doubt how this fellow made his living:

 I spent over an hour wandering around the Pelham Cemetery. It's a fascinating place for those who love the sailing and the sea because for many of those buried there loved it too! It's a reminder for those of us still living to appreciated it while we can and everyday that we can.

Monday, September 27, 2010


I once traveled to City Island back in the 1980's when I had my first boat a Bristol 24. I arrived late in the day and left the next day. So I did not get to see much back then. A little evening walk some dinner and back to the boat. I thought it was time to return with BIANKA this time and spend a little more time in this unique part of the City of New York at the end western end of Long Island Sound.

City Island is a place that welcomes and seems made for sailors. Like other waterfront towns it has a rich history. City Island more so than most as a lot of nautical history. The Hell Gate Pilots were based on the island. Here is there office (now gone) where they would watch for ships coming up Long Island Sound heading for New York. Here is the Pilot Station back then:

Here's how it looks today:

The Hell Gate Pilots were merged in with the Sandy Hook Pilots a number of years ago and the piloting is now done by a few of the Sandy Hook Pilots who are also certified for Hells Gate.

Some classic Americas Cup yachts were built on the island over the years. Along with a bunch of other legendary yachts as well. In places like the Nevins shipyard.

It was at the Nevins Shipyard on City Island that a young Olin Stephens first met yacht broker Drake Sparkman and teamed up to form Sparkman & Stephens design firm. The shipyards are pretty much gone from City Island  but, there are still quite a number of yacht clubs and boatyards that will make a sailor feel welcome. 

I arrived on a Friday afternoon and picked up a mooring at Barron Marine. Barron's is not a Yacht Club or Marina it is a boatyard . Here is a photo of their eighty year old workboat:

This wooden workhorse is still working the waters around City Island. Barrons is my kind of boatyard.
There is no swimming pool, clubhouse or bar. But, it is a convenient location to get all that one needs for the boat whether it's provisions, supplies, laundry or a good meal. All can be had within walking distance of the location.  After securing BIANKA and taking a hot shower I wandered around admiring the small sensible houses of the hard working middle class residents of the island. The island population is only about 4,500 people. Which makes it feel more like a small town than a part of New York City. In a few minutes I was on the main drag of the island City Island Ave.
There are all kinds on small local restaurants along the street and no national chains that I could see in my travels. I really like that about City Island.

I stopped for lunch at a local Irish bar called The Snug on a recommendation from someone at the boatyard for some fish and chips and pint on Guinness. A good way to start my tour of the island. After the meal I headed over to the Post Office a mere three blocks away. I came across this typical old clapboard building which gives City Island it's small town charm.

It was filled with all things nautical. So much so it was hard to move around in it. Much of it used and prices that are negotiable. As I walked in there was a negotiation going on for an old miners oil head lamp. Yep it's that kind of place filled with that kind of stuff and shelves overflowing with nautical artifacts. It's a place only a sailor could love. The town is proud of it's nautical heritage and it shows even in the small park nearby:

As the sun started to go down it was time to head back to the waterfront and head back to BIANKA. Tomorrow will be another day for more exploring.

Thursday, September 23, 2010


Moving along under sail at 7 knots SOG and the solar and wind generator making fuel for the electric propulsion system at the same time. You know Capt. Mike is happy at the helm.

Monday, September 20, 2010


A few months ago I received an auspicious gift from Bob of the BOAT BITS blog. It was a BEBI LED BEKA LIGHT.

I've been using it for the past few months on board and am finding it very handy. The unit I have has a round PVC housing with 12 bright LEDs facing out and 6 warm LED's facing downward. It is marketed as a combination anchor and cockpit light. I use it in the cockpit this way in the evening. But, I find it useful for many other applications. For example I use it in the cabin too. I wedge the lights cable in by the florescent light fixture attached to the cabin top and plug it into the a 12 volt outlet. The 12 bright LED's light the cabin indirectly by bouncing off of the cabin top and the six warm down facing LED's illuminate the table very nicely with a warm glow. 

 I could also see it being useful  as a temporarily replacement for a burned out stern light or with the proper colored red & green gels as an emergency running light .
The lights are made by people from the village of Nakobo at Fawn Harbor, Vanua Levu. The second largest island of FIJI using a solar powered "factory". And you are encouraged to come and sail to the location if you want. However, they do arrive very quickly by mail to your home if you don't have the time to sail there too. If you've been thinking about converting your boat to LED technology it is a great way to start without emptying your wallet. In short it is just pretty useful light to have on board. I plan to buy a few more myself.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010


When I bought my electric propulsion system for BIANKA back in 2008 I ordered with it a Sevcon 48 volt to 12 volt DC converter.
I never got around to installing it because there was no pressing need.  I have a separate 12 volt house bank on board that provides all the boats 12 volt needs. I forgot about the Sevcon converter.
When I turned my ENGEL cooler into a freezer there was addition drain on the 12 volt battery bank as should be expected.

But, the batteries and solar panels were able to keep up pretty good. But, when I also started to use my laptop too which draws about the same current as the ENGEL in freezer mode (about 2.7 amps) I began to get concerned about draining the batteries. I could run the Honda generator to charge things up. But, I try to minimize it's use as much as possible.
While riding out the gusts of Hurricane Earl I had an energy Epiphany. As the wind gusts from Earl were flowing passed the boat. I noticed that my 48 volt Marine Air-X wind generator was stopped. This was because my 48 volt battery bank for my electric propulsion system was already fully charged and had been for days. I thought what a shame all that wind energy flowing past the boat and I can not use it. Then I remembered the Sevcon converter I had bought.  Ah Ha! I can hook it up and use it to power the laptop from the 48 volt bank and let the regular house bank just handle the freezer and other 12 volt needs.  I took a little while to find Sevcon unit buried in a seldom used locker.

Originally, it was designed to plug into the ASMO Marine controller box via two Anderson Powerpole connectors. But, I was already using those jacks for the solar and wind inputs to the 48 volt battery bank.

What to do?  I really did not want to disconnect the solar and wind generator from the 48 volt bank every time I want to use the converter.  Then in another "Ah Ha" moment I remembered my 48 volt Morningstar Solar controller had a 48 volt tap available. So I took two Anderson Power pole connectors and attached them to the 48 volt output connectors of the Morningstar unit and plugged the Sevcon unit into those connectors.

Now I can run my laptop using the 48 volt solar panels and  wind generator for  energy without worrying about drawing down the 12 volt house bank.  Having more options is one of the added side benefits of electric propulsion that I am appreciating and using more and more as time goes on.

Friday, September 10, 2010


While I was preparing for Hurricane Earl checking the lockers for "needful things" I might use in preparation for the storm. I came across something than was on board when I bought BIANKA. It was a surplus military "sea anchor" made in 1957 according to the markings stenciled on it. It was only about 3 feet around and I wondered what one of the previous owners had used it for.  It did not look like it would hold up as a sea anchor or drogue in a rough sea.  But, it looked like it would be useful as I prepared  the boat for the arrival of Hurricane Earl. It was. In my research I came upon the concept of an anti sail drogue.  BIANKA with it's cat boat design can fishtail or "sail" at anchor pretty far while at a windy anchorage. Anything I could do to minimize this would be helpful especially in storm conditions. So I turned this surplus military sea anchor into anti sail drogue. Here is what it looked like completed on deck:

 This is how I rigged it. First I took some 1 inch webbing ran it through a five pound dive weight and stitched a loop on each end so I could attach a line to it. I then ran the line up though the drogue and attached it to the drogues parachute cord attachment point.

I then ran this line through the bow roller and cleated to the deck. The anti sail drogue should be about three or four feet below the surface. So I marked that on the line with red electrical tape and a red tie wrap as shown below:

And here's a view of it deployed off the bow::

The markings are good to have in case you have to lift it and redeploy it without trying to guess in storm conditions if it is at the right depth. Finally here is the antisail drogue in action off the bow:
I must say it worked pretty good. It did not stop all the fishtailing but, it certainly minimized it. I think an added benefit could be if the anchor started dragging the drogue would fill and slow down the drag perhaps enough to allow the anchor to reset. But, I hope to never have to find out if that hunch works. Now that I've made the anti sail drogue I have it ready to deploy if BIANKA needs to ride out another storm or even just in a windy anchorage to stop or minimize any fishtailing that happens.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010


Well yesterday started great despite the 3:30 wake up call to get underway. This was to make sure BIANKA and I would be riding the flood current through Plum Gut which began around 5 AM. All was good and we zipped through as planned. But, then things went bad for awhile. I was doing this passage because NOAA weather had said the winds would be southwest for the next two days. Great,  I thought I could hug the coast to Mattituck and on to Port Jefferson.  Maybe make Port Jeff in one day. Well, it was not to be. When I got in the Sound instead of the southwest winds NOAA had been saying the winds were blowing out of the west northwest around 20 knots. Nasty with wind against current flooding into the sound. I quickly decided that heading to Connecticut was my best option. So I headed north to Saybrook Point and the Connecticut River. Where I had a delightful 6 mile sail up the river to a place I had been wanting to go for years. Hamburg Cove. It was as picturesque and sheltered as I imagined it would be.

Being the day after labor day most of the summer crowds were already gone. The Osprey were still here a sure sign summer is still with us. But, along the banks there were other signs that fall was on it's way. Just a little tinge of yellow in some of the trees along the shore fortold of it's coming.
Though it's one of those places I would avoid in the summertime as some sailors I know describe it. Packed full of boats and boats packed full of people there to "party". But, now this time of year it's just a delightful place to spend a day or two until things clam down in the sound. I took the dingy up the creek to the small town of Hamburg.

There were a few marinas and a small general store there. The marinas seem to be full of craftsman who specialize in providing the old classic wooden boats that line it's docks with the proper loving care

and restoring those in need of that too.

So I can't be too angry at the forecasters of NOAA for blowing the forecast because in the end I got to see a truly beautiful spot on this earth with my boat.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Dawn is a feeling

6:25 AM heading to Orient Point. Doing 5 - 6 knots. Nice way to start the day.
Sent from on board BIANKA

Monday, September 06, 2010


I keep my options open
My possibilites pure
Is this a cool world or what!
Karla Devito

 As I continue on the Birthday/Best summer of my life cruise. I thought I'd share the ongoing experiment I've been conducting on board. I've already posted about the Captain Mike "What works" award given to to the Engel refrigerator /freezer thats aboard. For this cruise I decided to change it's operation from just using it as a refrigerator to converting it to freezer operation. I am using a Coleman 48 quart cooler as the refrigerator for the perishables. Below is a photo of them in the cabin:

So far it seems to be working rather well. Though the Engel does draw down the battery bank overnight a half hour run of the Honda in the morning and evening brings things back up quickly. My two solar 75 watt solar panels also keeps things topped up all day. Each morning and evening I take two of the one one liter water bottles from the freezer and put them into the cooler swapping them with the bottles already there. So far this seems to be working well in keeping things cool. When I started the cruise I also had frozen several quarts of milk at home and put them in the freezer as well and moved them one at a time into the cooler to defrost. This helps keep the cooler cool and allows for and extend supply of milk on board.

As you can see above there is still room for more storage in the freezer. You will also see several portions of my homemade Pasta Bolognese in the freezer ready to be defrost in the same way. Mmmmmm, I'm getting hungry. Cool world indeed!

Sunday, September 05, 2010

I should have known better.

During Hurricane Earl I noticed I saw that the maximum gust on my Taylor Weather station read 75 knots. Now I don't really believe this happened. But, I wanted to see what other boats in the harbor had seen. I tried contacting them on the VHF but, seems nobody had theirs on. I usually keep mine on when I'm on board. You can get some useful local information or even entertainment by listening. But, since I could not contact anyone I decided to take my morning swim and head over to the two story seventy foot motor yacht anchored next to BIANKA and ask what they had seen during the storm. I had been in the cockpit keeping an eye on this behemoth motor yacht during Earl. Because  if it dragged it would be coming close to my boat. I could see the glow at the helm area from all the electronics screens it had on board. Surly they had an accurate take on the wind speeds during Earl. As I swam closer the Captain was putting out the cushions on the rear deck. In our gam I asked him what kind of winds he had seen during Earl. "Don't know I have no wind indicator on board." was his reply. Well, so much for that at least I got a good swim out of it. I was fooled by all the fancy electronics and antennas , satellite dishes located on the motor yachts radar arch. Silly me I should have known they would not have had a wind speed indicator on board.

Saturday, September 04, 2010


Goodbye Earl by the Dixie Chicks is a rather annoying yet disturbing pop song that probably should only be listened to once. Likewise Hurricane Earl was an annoying yet disturbing weather system that should also only be experienced once if you are lucky. BIANKA and I were. Though I think my being pro-active in preparations for the storm did help too. Unlike the Dixie Chicks song which seems to condone murder as a solution to ones problems. I choose fight Earl enlisting the services of Bruce the 33 lb Bruce anchor who along with 100 feet of chain held Earl off very well all day and into the night. Even so I had the two Danforth Bros lying on each side of the deck waiting to join the fray if Bruce was not able to handle Earl by himself.

I was also pleased with the performance of the new and improved solar dodger as it made sitting in the cockpit a little more comfortable  on anchor watch at the height of the storm and did not threaten to fly away in the stronger gusts of wind. The fender in front of the hatch also kept driving rain from flooding down the main hatch when entering and leaving the cockpit. It was also handy to have in that location in case another boat started dragging too close to BIANKA and I could use it to fend off another boat. I am glad to say it was not needed for this function.

I was up until 1 AM before I felt comfortable enough to go to sleep. Throughout it all I did not ever think things were getting dangerous or that something would fail. My plan A worked though I did have a plan B and C and if all hell broke loose plan D. Still, I'm very happy this sun shiny morning to be able to say goodbye Earl.