Sunday, May 30, 2010


I think there are three levels of dangerous surprises on a boat. They are YIKES!, UH-OH and WHAT THE (insert your expletive here).  Of the three the "What the..." is the most serious and surprising because it happens without warning. Like when you are sailing along and the mast falls over the side. Second in seriousness is the "Uh-Oh" when you discover something is a miss but, you still might have time to correct things and prevent disaster. This happens quite often when sailing. For example when you notice that the boat is about to jibe but, you still have time to prevent it and possibly avoid ripping the sail.  The last level of danger is the "Yikes" moment. This is when you catch something before it could do serious damage but, you also realize how close you would have been to a "What the..."  situation had you not found it. I had a serious YIKES moment back when I was installing the electric propulsion system on BIANKA several years ago.  I spent a lot of time below the cockpit when pulling the engine out and installing the electric propulsion system. I noticed a few flakes of rust under the engine and thought they came off the engine. Since I was pulling the engine out I was not concerned. After the engine was out and I had installed the electric propulsion system I still noticed that there were still flakes of rust gathering in the area where the engine was.  Then I looked  up and had my YIKES moment:
What you are looking at above is the rusted Edson steering idler plate assembly. It routes the steering cables from the Edson pedestal to the rudder post so you can steer the boat. A pretty important function. As you can see this plate was living on borrowed time. It is often overlooked on board because one has to squeeze down and look up to see it. Usually when one is down below the concentration is on some engine maintenance issue and not looking up overhead.  It looks like over the years water leaked down on to the metal plate and slowly rusted it. Because it was out of sight it was easily over looked.  This definitely need to be replaced ASAP!  Below is a photo of all the rust that fell off of this plate as I removed it.

Definitely not a pretty picture.  Even worse is what the Edson plate looked like after I removed it as shown below:

As you can see this was bound to fail very soon. Which is what made it a YIKES discovery. I still shudder when I think what might have happened had the idler plate come apart when under sail. Happily Edson has come up with a a new and improved design and is not using steel for this part now a days. I'll show you what did to replaced this rusted piece technology in an upcoming post.

Friday, May 28, 2010


BIANKA is usually on a mooring or at anchor and that's where I like to be. I will occasionally tie up to a dock but, not often. I was reminded the other day another reason to avoid them. I was working on the boat which was still on the hard in the boatyard.  There were a few power boaters gathered on the dock about 100 feet away drinking and having a little afternoon party. Then someone thought it was a good idea to bring out a Karaoke machine. This was bad enough but, then some thought it would be cute to have their children start singing. You have not lived until you've heard a pre teenager sing the Four Seasons hit Sherry three or four times in a row. Luckily,  I had enough work to do down below which I did until someone decide to pull the plug on the Karaoke device.

Sunday, May 23, 2010


I'm not talking about the Moody Blues album of the same name. Arguably one of the better Moody Blues albums after Days of Future Passed which is in BIANKA'S on board CD collection. 

No, I'm talking about battery balance.
 I noticed over the winter that one of the four batteries in the 48 volt battery bank was lagging a little behind in voltage compared to the other batteries when charging. Not by a lot but, enough that my Paktrakr battery monitor was issuing warnings about overcharging of the other batteries and undercharging of the lagging battery. This is a problem when you have multiple batteries in series  in a say  a 48 volt bank like I do for the electric propulsion system. The one undercharged battery can drag down the others. Because my ZIVAN NG-1 charges the bank as a whole it does not know that one of the batteries is lagging behind it just keeps charging until it's voltage and current parameters are met. How to correct this situation?  I've ordered a DUAL PRO PS-4 battery charger.

This charger unlike the ZIVAN NG-1 has four individual battery chargers built in to it. Each  is connected to the individual batteries in the string. So if one of the battery reaches full charge it stops charging that particular battery. Likewise if one battery takes longer to charge it keeps charging that battery and stops charging the others.  This should help to balance the battery bank or at least prevent overcharging of the batteries that are not lagging. Also having the DUAL PRO on board will provide a backup battery charger and backups are a good thing when cruising.

Friday, May 21, 2010


One of the things I do every year  before I launch is wash the hull and apply a product called PROTECTANT 303 to the hull. Some people like to use a wax on the hull and it looks good for awhile and takes a lot of work at least more work than I want to do. Protectant 303 is not a wax and it does not give the same shine. It is as it's name implies it is a protectant. It is designed to protect the hull from the UV rays of the sun. It bonds with the gel goat and really renews the faded blue stripe along the hull. One caveat is that it creates a very slick surface so I never use it on the deck or on horizontal surfaces of the cockpit. You and any passengers will be sliding and slipping all over if you do. This slick coating also allows it to keep dust and dirt from sticking to the hull and so looks cleaner than wax as the season  moves forward.  One thing about it though is it must be applied to a bare hull. Which means if you have previously waxed your hull you need to remove all traces of the wax before you apply the Protectant 303. But, once you do you will save a lot of time. I can apply the stuff to my 30 foot hull in about 45 minutes or less. That works for me I order it by the gallon and that's enough to do my hull for several seasons. I also use it on the hatches and ports and any plastic and vinyl  on board that may be exposed to sunlight for extended periods. 

Wednesday, May 19, 2010


Well, I'm back after ten days in the Bahamas. Six of which were spent on a 46 foot Catamaran stocked with plenty of cold beer, rum and other libations. We had winds 15-20 knots everyday and no rain for the entire stay. Lot's of delightful sails, swimming and snorkeling (see the above photo) and just plain relaxing. After two months of full time work the vacation was a much needed respite. But, now that I have returned rested and tanned it's time to get back to a labor of love which is to get BIANKA ready for upcoming sailing season. Not a lot of major things to do but, always something to do on board. So I'll be posting on some of these projects planned and some of the upcoming cruises over the next few days.
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Friday, May 07, 2010


Now that I've got my Merchant Mariner's credential also known as a "Captain's License" I've been thinking about starting up a charter business. I've talked to enough people to know that one will never get rich in that line of work but, you might hopefully break even with the boat's expenses. Then there is the psychic reward of opening up people to the experience of being on the water under sail. Which often gives me "pinch me" moments as I cruise. Then along comes Captain Julian Harvey who in 1961 murdered not only his wife for the insurance money (I guess no one ever told him the charter business is not really that lucrative) but, also his paying passengers. But, one lucky 11 year old girl named Tere Jo Duperrault survived and spent four days floating on a raft in the ocean. She has now written a book  about her ordeal called  ALONE: Orphaned on the Ocean. It will be interesting to see if this book puts a crimp into the already tight charter boat business. Unfortunately, I'm also about to head off to the Bahamas as passenger on a 45 foot Catamaran charter. After hearing about this tale you know I'll be sleeping with one eye open.

Monday, May 03, 2010


I sometimes think about carrying a bicycle on board when cruising. It certainly would help in getting around to do a little provisioning and exploring. But, there is always the issues of where to store it on a boat. After all that sea spray is never kind to most metal objects stored on deck. But, leave it to Honda (who BTW manufacture the excellent Honda 2000i generator that I carry on board) to come up with a device that even makes a sailor who likes simplicity stand up and take notice.

My only question is how it works after an evening spent at a waterfront bar.

Sunday, May 02, 2010


Back in early March I received a call to help renovate and rebuild a high tech facility in Washington D.C. I jumped at the chance to replenish the coffers and build up my sailing fund. But, not having worked full time in several years I forgot how much time work takes out of ones life. Not to mention how tired one can be at the end of the day. I also really missed the opportunity to take a little afternoon nap. While it certainly was a financial pleasure to have some money coming in. Other parts of life went out the window. Enjoyable things like posting on this blog and working on the boat. Happily, the project is ending this week and unstructured time returns to my life. This will allow for more frequent postings on the BIANKA BLOG and the even more important spring outfitting of the boat. But, first I'm going to be taking something that I have not really felt the need for in years and that is a vacation. Two months of working full time including some weekends and a number of 12+ hour days has me really looking forward to relaxing on a chartered boat in the Bahamas for a week. Swimming, watching sunsets and saying: "Yes, I think I'll have another rum punch."