Friday, December 31, 2010


"Should auld acquaintance be forgot,and never brought to mind?" So asked Robert Burns. Perhaps, but, NOAA has a great video looking back at the past years Hurricane season. It's kind of neat to see what the weather was like visually from June through November:

I was particularly interested in the September 2nd through September 4th time frame when Hurricane EARL was heading up the coast. As that was when I was getting Bianka ready for the approaching storm. Here is a screen shot of  of where BIANKA was on September 2, 2010:

Then here is another shot the next day which has Capt. Mike and BIANKA somewhere in that white swirling mess of a cloud:

Riding out Earl and the ill fated attempt to join the Reid Stowe welcoming flotilla where two the "exciting" points of the season. Though somewhat in a negative direction. Still, it turned out ok. The rest of the year was just excellent. I hope 2011 turns out to be just as good or even better. With the new year to look forward to let me say:


Thursday, December 30, 2010


Those of us who own a boat know that just repairing, modifying and maintaining it can certainly add to the economy. Here is the money quote on how much:

"Information from the Recreational Marine Research Center at Michigan State University indicates that in 2008 nearly 700,000 jobs in America were directly and indirectly related to recreational boating. Sales related to boating exceeded $81 billion and the total impact on labor income exceeded $26 billion." 

Sunday, December 26, 2010


Space on a 30 foot sailboat has it's limitations. Because of this a sailor needs to really limit items that are carried on board. That also goes for things like books. So from time to time I'll post about what books I find valuable enough to keep taking up space on board BIANKA. My first selection is THE SAILMAKERS APPRENTICE by Emiliano Marino. While I do not plan on fabricating new sails for BIANKA I find the book to be a most useful and interesting reference book full of all kinds of very useful information. From repairing sails to the tools and procedures needed to make ones own sail. It's in this book. It also comes in handy for use as a quick reference source to answer ones curiosity about the identity of various sailboat rigs. For example say you are enjoying a cold beer one afternoon at anchor on the eastern end of the Isle of Long and you spot a sailboat that looks like this in the distance:

You say to yourself: Now what kind of rig is that? A quick perusal of the SAILMAKER'S APPRENTICE and you will find a number of pages and descriptions of various types of sailboat rigs:

Pretty soon you have the answer: Why that's a Leg-o'-Mutton Ketch!

So if you are looking for a book that covers just about anything regarding the sails on your boat from repairing them to making your own I recommend THE SAILMAKER'S APPRENTICE by Emiliano Marino as one book to have on your boat.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Another gift for sailors this SEAson.

SolLight LightShip Solar-Powered Light (Clear)Another gift that I think that sailors will find useful is the SolLight LightShip Solar-Powered Light. I've had two on board for several years and they are still working fine. They solar charge during the day and turn on at dusk and turn off at dawn. I would not say you can read by the light they provide but, they do work well in the head to illuminate the area just enough without startling you awake in the middle of the night. They also provide enough light in the main cabin so you won't be stumbling around in the dark.  Best of all they won't drain the house batteries when they are operating.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Gifts for Sailors this holiday SEAson.

It's that time of year were neighborhoods on the Isle of Long begin to look like the Vegas strip. Luckily, these light displays are mostly inland and therefore won't confuse a sailor trying to enter a harbor. But, it also means that Christmas is near at hand. Even if you are in a generous mood the AIS/GPS/RADAR/VHF radio/CD player/coffee maker device is probably not a good idea to buy as a gift.  Not all sailors will think that is really useful (or they may already have one). But, something in the way of a "stocking stuffer" may be more useful and appreciated. So here are a few of Capt. Mike's gift giving ideas for the Holidays:

1) Survival Whistle like the ACR WW-3  This simple, cheap device could save a life. In fact if you are feeling very generous you might want to buy several so that every life jacket on board has one attached. 
WW-3 Survival Whistle

2) The Smith and Wesson 44 Mag Tool knife. I was first tipped off to this baby by a post by Bob at  BOAT BITS. While I still do prefer my Gerber MP400. But, I recently found myself working in a location where I needed a multi tool and had left my Gerber several hundred miles away. So I ordered one. The blades and tools do not lock like the Gerber but, it does have some things to recommend it. Instead of one knife blade it has two. One is a straight edge and the other serrated which is good for a sailor who needs to cut through lines with minimal hassle. It also has a smaller Phillips head screw driver than the Gerber which can be very useful. There is also a saw blade which cut through butcher block impressively in my test. Along with scissors, file and the needle nose pliers it is good to have on board even as a backup. For less than ten dollars why not put one in the ditch bag too! In short it makes a great useful gift for a sailor even if it is a spare.

Smith & Wesson G7118 Smith & Wesson 44 Mag Tool

3)A copy of the  NAVIGATION RULES As a Licensed Captain I'm required to have a copy of the Navigation Rules on board. Even if the sailor in your life is not a licensed Captain it's good to have a copy on board. They can check to make sure they or other boats are meeting the requirements in terms of signals, lights etc... Plus it could be fun and very educational to identify the various tug and barge combinations you might see on the waters. If they are new to boating may even make them a better boater.
Navigation Rules

Friday, December 03, 2010


The third season since I pulled out the old diesel engine and replaced it with an electric motor has ended. I've been reflecting on this. I think this was the season I became completely comfortable with the decision to go electric.
My first season with electric propulsion back in 2008 was full of fussing and watching every aspect of the propulsion system to make sure there it was always charged and ready and operating properly.  I would run the Honda 2000i generator more than necessary just to make sure the power would be available even when I was not really using any electric propulsion at all. For example when I was making my first 12 mile transit down the East River via Hell Gate  since converting to electric propulsion. I kept the Honda generator running on deck because I did not know how much I would be using the electric propulsion. In previous trips with my diesel I ALWAYS had to have it running for the entire trip. Just to make sure power was available and their were no starting problems.  I found out that with electric propulsion there really is no need to have the generator fired up at all. I let natures currents carry the boat along and just need a little thrust from time to time to straighten out the boat. It has become a quiet and pleasurable journey.

My second season was marred by the failure of the Xantrex XBM battery monitor display.

 Which meant I was flying blind in terms of being able to see how much current and amp hours I was drawing from the battery bank when under electric propulsion. It is akin to running a diesel engine with  with a broken fuel gauge. You just never know when you would run out for sure. So again I was very cautious when using electric propulsion.

This third season was very different. The XBM battery monitor display was repaired and working plus I installed a backup meter inside the cabin. This season I rarely fired up the generator while underway. Instead waiting until I anchored to charge up the bank after the days travel. I also did not hesitate to add a little electric propulsion and motor/sail quietly along when the current conspired to do it's best to make sure I would not be able to round a point of land or buoy.  I only used about seven gallons of gasoline the whole season. Since I traveled about 350 miles I made about 50 miles to the gallon. Though the actual amount is probably greater because at least a gallon of that consumption was for the noisy Honda BP-2 four stroke outboard I used on occasion to power the dingy.  I was amazed at how much gas the little 2 horsepower outboard consumed when compared the Honda 2000 generator. Another revelation I had this season is when this outboard finally dies I'll probably replace it with an electric outboard too!  Of course BIANKA is first and foremost a sailboat and there was help from the wind turbine and solar panels on board when charging the battery bank too.  All of which also helped to decrease the amount of time I need to run the generator. I even found uses for the excess energy from the 48 volt solar and wind turbine after the 48 volt battery bank was fully charged. I am looking forward to next season even more now that I am completely comfortable with how reliable, quiet and useful my electric propulsion system is. In short I am so glad I made the decision to go electric with every year that goes by.