Monday, November 29, 2010


My 30 foot Nonsuch has a free standing mast and therefore no rigging like the metal stays you would see on most sailboats. I was on a charter vacation in the BVI back in the 1980's  with a Captain who was a nautical engineer and had delivered a number of Nonsuch boats. I remember him saying that the Nonsuch had simplicity of design and he liked that no stays were used for rigging it. That kind of appealed to me too from a maintenance point of view. I think of that conversation differently now after I read about this tragic incident that also reminded me of a Captain Courageous moment except that Kiplings story was fiction and this was all too real:

"I grabbed on, we both pulled. We couldn't get him free of the wires in the rigging that were left from the mast and he was pinned by the wires. "I believe the mast either hit him or damaged him in some way [because] he was almost moaning and begging us to please help him." He said he and Ms Thorn "tried and tried" to free her father — the need became more urgent once they learnt Mr Thorn couldn't breathe properly. Capt White said Ms Thorn told him to get a knife from the kitchen to cut the safety line. Their hope was that her father could climb out of the ropes. "I thought about it for a while. I thought if I cut this line I am going to lose him, but his face was [underwater] and the sea was washing over him. I said 'I am going to cut him loose because he is suffering too much. I have to let him have his peace'. "I cut it and it was a terrible thing I had to do. [Ms Thorn] kept shouting 'Daddy, daddy don't leave me' — and it was too much you know."

While I am glad that the Nonsuch has no wire stays that could entangle a person in a rollover. But, this incident seems to make the case for using modern Dyneema synthetic lines on conventional stayed sailboat rigging as an added safety feature.

At least you might be able to cut it away easier in a similar situation and not have to cut the safety tether as occurred in the above incident.

Saturday, November 27, 2010


I was finally able to get some regenerated power under sail from BINAKA's electric propulsion system this past season. That is where the electric motor that propels BIANKA is also used to as a generator under sail to recharge the battery bank. I still need to tweak a a few things which I think will improve preformance. But, it does work. Those who still have a diesel engine on board can achieve the same effect using a towed prop and generator. 

A good  tutorial on the setup and real world experience is found here on the boat Whoosh.

Thursday, November 25, 2010


I am very thankful this Thanksgiving as I look back on the sailing season. Earlier in the year I got several months work rebuilding a High Definition TV studio that ended in May right before a planned sailboat charter in the Bahamas. The trip to got my sailing juices flowing again. After returning from the Bahamas the revenue from that job also allowed me to sail BIANKA all summer into the fall without feeling the need to seek out employment in this troubled economy. As a freelancer there is no such thing as unemployment benefits. So one needs to keep their wants, needs and budget in check. But, the upside of being a "freelancer" is the emphasis on the word "free". As in freedom. Which is what I had during the sailing season. Most importantly freedom from schedules except those I imposed. I am also thankful for the things I learned. As I  found out schedules (even when of ones choice) can be dangerous things. Like my insistence on joining the Reid Stowe flotilla in June. But, I did learn from that experience that sometimes it is better to sit still rather than push things because of a self imposed schedule. I followed that advice while waiting for and riding out Hurricane Earl in East Hampton in September. I also learned that changing plans is a good thing too. Like when I made change of course and headed to Hamburg Cove up the Connecticut River. A truly nice spot on this earth to experience as a sailor which I visted the first time with BIANKA this year.  I am thankful I finally got there. So there was a lot to be thankful for as I look back and a lot to be hopeful for as I look forward to next season.

Saturday, November 20, 2010


I was at a Chinese restaurant here in Washington D.C. last night enjoying a cup tea after a delicious Peking Duck dinner. I open up the fortune cookie provided by the waitress which reads:
I'd be a little more concerned if BIANKA was not already stored for the winter on land. But, word up to all the mariners out there!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

1200 MILES

Well, the third season since BIANKA became the world's first Nonsuch with electric propulsion has come to an end. The travels BIANKA has taken this past season total almost three hundred and fifty nautical miles. Bringing the total miles since the conversion to 1200.  This was the season I thought less and less about the electric propulsion system on board and concentrated more on sailing. I became very confident I could rely on the electric propulsion system. I've also discovered it's usefulness when sailing to be able to help deal with the currents that sometimes keep one from rounding a buoy or other hazards. When I had a diesel engine there was always a reluctance to turn it on for the short time needed to deal with such issues because of the noise and the fact that such short term use is not healthy for diesel engines. With an electric propulsion systems that is not a concern but, even better is how quiet it's operation is when motoring . This makes for a much more enjoyable motoring experience than with the diesel and a better enjoyable boating experience over all. 

Sunday, November 14, 2010


As the sailing season ends here on the Isle of Long. It's time to look back at what worked and what did not. First up in the thumbs down column is this SPT ice maker:

These counter top sized units are available under several brand names. I bought this last year thinking this would be good for a cruising sailboat like BIANKA that had a Honda 2000i generator that could provide the 120 volts to run it. Here is what originally sold me on the idea from the product info:

1) It could make up to 25 lbs of ice per day
2) It makes it's first ice in about 12 minutes after turning it on.

Sounds good but, the reality is much different. First of all I try to minimize use of the Honda generator as much as possible. It is mostly used for charging the 48 and 12 volt battery banks. Even though I can run this ice maker at the same time usually the amount of ice produced is not that great with my usual generator run times. On the second point yes it does produce it's first ice cubes in about ten minutes or less. They are not that thick at first and melt quite rapidly. It takes a number of cycles before the ice cubes are really "boat drink" useful. I don't like to run the generator that long if I don't need too. But, if you are usually tied to a dock with grid power it might be practical but, for a cruising sailboat like mine that spends most of it's time at anchor or a mooring it is not that useful. That's why it no longer is on board BIANKA. A much more practical and efficient way to make ice on board is using my ENGEL refrigerator/freezer which I describe here.  I'll be using the ENGEL from now on for ice making on board because it works for my cruising needs while the counter top ice maker does not. 

Wednesday, November 10, 2010


Back in September I was still cruising around the Isle of Long and missed the sad news about the passing of Chuck Husick.  Husick was an engineer, corporate executive, writer, teacher, advisor. But, most importantly in my mind a sailor.
Most people know Husick from his articles and advice column in publications like Ocean Navigator, Boat U.S. etc...But, my memories of him were from an Ocean Navigator  Diesel Maintenance course I took a number of years ago at Hansen Marine Engineering in Marblehead Massachusetts.  My diesel was still running good then and Chuck was an excellent teacher explaining the theory and maintenance of diesel engines.
      In the class Husick gave out his phone number in case we had any questions. A few months later I did. One evening I called it thinking I'd get his voice mail where I could leave a message. To my surprise Husick actually answered the phone. Saying that he was usually not in the office at that hour but, had come by to pick up something. We had a little chat and he gave me some advice on what to do. I was impressed that someone as busy as he was would take the time to explain and help someone calling out of the blue. 
Hussick also introduced me to something in that class that would become important these days now that I've converted my boat from diesel to electric propulsion. Toward the end of the seminar Husick showed us the then brand new technology from Honda which was the Honda 1000 gas generator. We all marveled at the quietness and light weight of the unit. Little did I know that few years later a Honda 2000 generator based on that technology would be powering my electric boat along at around three knots. I had recently been thinking I should send Husick a note about how well my Thoosa 9000 electric propulsion system has worked out on my Nonsuch sailboat. Unfortunately, it's too late for that. But, I know he would have been very curious about it.   

Sunday, November 07, 2010


There certainly is the potential for danger when you head out on the waters of the seas but, you can find it far inland too! In May of 2009 I found myself on the Zambezi River in Botswana just just a few miles up river from Victoria Falls. This sign says it all:

Thursday, November 04, 2010


 When I first was thinking about converting BIANKA to electric propulsion about four years ago. I called my boat's insurance company just to make sure I would be installing things to their requirements. The first response I got back then was an incredulous "You are going to do what?" After a conference call or two where I explained what I was going to do I was finally given the go ahead and the rest is history. BIANKA became the world's first Nonsuch with electric propulsion. Things have improved markedly since those days. More information and places on the Internet are now available for people interested in the concept of using electric propulsion. One of the latest sites is ELECTRIC SEAS a non profit organization helping to promote the use of electric propulsion. If you have or are interested in electric propulsion on the water you might want to check it out.