Tuesday, June 29, 2010


So I'm about to sit down in the cockpit to a meal of Pintos Gallos washed down with a couple of glasses of Chianti. It's kind of a Euro-Mex ting going on in the galley tonight. As I set the table I hear someone singing and see the silhouette of a lone fisherman on the shore belting out some song as he casts out into the water. I turn off the classical music station I have on to listen. I can't make what song he is singing but, it has a country twang to it. It kind of lifts my spirits to hear this other human being also enjoying himself on this summer evening when he thinks no one else is listening.
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My Maxwell Nilsson VR-700 windlass failed back on June 17th when trying  to raise the anchor in less than ideal conditions. This caused  me to miss being part of the flotilla welcoming Reid Stowe back to New York after his 1000+ days at sea.  It was not really a failure but actually a safeguard to protect the windlass so I would not have to do the major repairs I did previously. There was a  reason I had to break down the windlass to the gearbox level in the previous repair. It seems a previous owner of BIANKA had swapped out the sacrificial brass key in the windlass shaft and replaced it with a steel one. This caused one of the internal roll pins in the gear box to fail which is why I had to make the major repair. After I repaired the gearbox damage I replaced the steel key with the proper brass piece. Which being softer than the stainless steel shaft and bronze chain gypsy promptly failed  and sheared off as shown in the fuzzy photo below.

 This protected the rest of the windlass from further damage and happily I have spare brass keys on board. A few minutes replacing the key and the windlass was back in service. One problem solved.

Monday, June 28, 2010


I took this photo while at anchor near the Throgs Neck Bridge last week. Ironic that one of the last trips this barge of crushed cars will make will be by sea. The TUGSTER will no doubt be able to identify the tug providing the horsepower.
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Saturday, June 26, 2010


These moments we're left with
May you always remember
These moments are shared by few
And those harbor lights
Aw they're coming into view
It's been a lovely cruise 
                                                                   -Jimmy Buffet

After two weeks of cruising in and around New York Harbor BIANKA is secure on the mooring in her homeport on the Isle of Long..
Despite the failed attempt to join the Reid Stowe flotilla and the resulting damage trying. The trip was filled with wonderful moments privately enjoyed and also shared with others. Including meeting a fellow Nonsuch owner in person after sharing emails over the years. Checking out a new marina and finding it to be an excellent location to re provision in future cruises in New York. Having fellow bloggers Tugster and Bowsprite come onboard for some beverages and chat. Then there are those pinch me moments spent alone at anchor watching the moonlight shimmer on the water, watching Osprey catching fish nearby, hearing the squawk of a Night Heron on the shore. Yes indeed! It's been a lovely cruise.

Thursday, June 24, 2010


"For one more day I would like to stay in the lee of Christian Island"-Gordon Lightfoot

Well why not? I have no place to be and currently plenty of time to get there. Though the winds were tempting in the morning. An important factor was that the NOAA weather radio transmitter for the area I was heading to was out of commission. I was receiving weather broadcasts for Boston which was several hundred miles away on their frequency. Not very helpful with severe weather on the way. Besides I was enjoying watching th Osprey catching fish. I'm safe at anchor in the lee of Coopers Bluff. I see no reason to leave.
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Wednesday, June 23, 2010


I am anchored on a beautiful summer night here in Cold Spring Harbor. I'm not far from Theodore Roosevelts home Sagmore Hill. I can see why he loved this area. I almost expect to see his ghost rowing across the moonlit harbor to go camping on the other side. As he use to do. I am also trying to decide whether I will head east in the morning. I can pick up the ebb around 10 and use it to help carry the boat twenty miles east before the thunderstorms and winds arrive in the afternoon or should I stay another day in the lee of Coopers bluff. Decisions, decisions. I think I'll wait until morning to decide. In the meantime I think I'll enjoy this lovely summer night.
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Tuesday, June 22, 2010


It was a wonderful sail for the first day of summer. I had sail up for the entire trip and only occassionaly used some electric propulsion even in the East River. Anchored in Little Bay at the western end of Long Island Sound. Winds were supposed to be out of the east the next day. So it seemed like a good day to make it a day to just hang on the hook. Perhaps drop the boarding ladder and go for a swim. It's summer after all.
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Monday, June 21, 2010


BIANKA and I have been tied up at a dock since the ill fated flotilla odyssey of last Thursday. Part of the reason for staying so long is to avoid making an East River transit during the weekend. Because various government officials over the years took away the natural shore line of the tidal straight and replaced them with vertical bulkheads it can create problems for slow moving sailboats.  Tugs and barges are not really a problem but, when the gold neck chained power boat crowd come zooming through their wake bounces off the bulkheads making sailboats behave like a metronome. So in order to minimize such encounters I prefer to make the East River transit during the week when there are less power boats speeding about. So today BIANKA and I will leave about two hours after low water at the battery to start heading back to the Isle of Long.t

Saturday, June 19, 2010


"It's not an adventure until something goes wrong!"
Yvon Chouinard

So what happened yesterday as I tried to join the flotilla welcoming Reid Stowe back to New York? I should have know something was up when I saw Stowe hoist anchor at 6:15 am. He probably had better weather forecasts than I did. The first thing that happened as I went forward to uncover the sail is I noticed the anchor snubber line had crossed over during the night an been frayed by the anchor chain and was about to let go.
 A few seconds after I took the above photo it did. Things went downhill from there. Bob at BOATBITS says when one is sailing one should never say you are going to a destination but, rather one is going toward a destination. Just like I should have never said I was going to take BIANKA and join the Reid Stowe flotilla. After I got the boat ready I went to lift the anchor. Being alone on board this was problematic because the winds had picked up to 15 to 20 knots. The bow was pitching up and down about two to three feet in the waves. I needed to weigh anchor but, had no one at the helm to help use the motor to ease the strain on the windlass. I was hoping it would hold up long enough to lift the anchor but, it did not. The chain started to reel off the capstan. Now instead of 75 feet of chain I had 100 feet of chain out that I would have to retrieve by hand with the boat facing 15+ knot winds. It took about forty five minutes of slowly pulling in the chain sometimes only a few inches at a time. I guess the good news is I'll be able to do another post about repairing the Maxwell Nilsson VR700 windlass.

BLOG UPDATE:  I went back to look at some of the wind data on June 17th to see why I got into such a bunch of hurt that day. This chart of wind gusts from Robbins Reef shows where I went wrong.

The winds were hitting 36 knots. Not quite Gale conditions but, close enough for me. The story continues... 
I finally got the anchor up and raised sail. I was glad I put in two reefs because the winds soon increased more. I was moving along at times 6.4 knots double reefed with spray hitting me in the face from time to time. At some point one of the hanger lines that holds the sail in the cradle let go. This caused the sail and reefing lines droop just enough to catch the edge on one of the solar panels when I tacked. It broke the frame holding it and threatened to carry solar panel overboard.

It was a scramble to get it temporarily secured while trying to keep the boat in control. Needless to say I was not having a fun day. I called the flotilla organizers to let them know my situation and I that I would try  and catch up to the flotilla but, I never did. I was down by Governors Island when Reid docked at the World Yacht Pier. Happily, the Tugster was on  the Pioneer and got some great shots of the Reid and the other bigger sailboats in the flotilla here and here. So I can see what I missed. As you can see from his photos boats were healed over quite a bit as the winds were blowing pretty good. But, the day turned out to be not all bad for me and BIANKA. After I was near the Staten Island Ferry terminal the winds began to subside and I enjoyed a rather pleasant sail to the Newport Marina where after a few cold beers I was able to enjoy the beautiful Alpenglow on the city of New York as the sun set.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Ship Happens

My windlass broke tryimg to raise the anchor. Had to pull 70+ feet of chain in by hand. Not fun but good exercise. Trying to catch up To flotilla.
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Hurry up or wait

I decided not to rush and raise anchor to follow Stowe. The flotilla is not supposed to start until 10am at the south end of Chapel Hill North Channel. So there is no rush. Like Reid I am solo sailing. I'd rather rest now because when I am at helm I'll be there for awhile especially once the flotilla starts and there will be a lot of boats around. I was also going to dress ship (fly signal flags) but, with it blowing like it is and being by myself it's time for the KISS system. Keep it simple sailor!
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6:15 am Reid is up and so is the wind

When I woke up at 6am. I saw Reid had one sail up. A cold front came through overnight and the winds are blowing. White caps on the bay. Reid is anchored close to the lee shore. His anchor seems to be holding though. I see him scampering around on deck. Wait
Looks like he is underway. Looks like we are starting early. Don't blame him the wind could have pushed him onto shore. Time to finish my coffee raise anchor and join him on the trip back to New York.
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Wednesday, June 16, 2010


It is a still night at anchor. I can see the anchor light of Reid's boat two hundred feet away. I wonder how he is preparing for his return. I'll pull up anchor in the morning and perhaps swing by to say hello to him. I'll try and blog from inside the floatilla tomorrow too.
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Tuesday, June 15, 2010


The main reason I made this cruise to New York was to participate in a flotilla of boats welcoming back Reid Stowe a mariner who has spent over 1000 days at sea. The flotilla is to meet up Tursday June 17th by the Chapel Hil Channel near Sandy Hook. So I decided to head down there today and anchor and wait for the floatilla on Thursday. I arrived near the Sandy Hook Coast Guard station to find only one boat anchored there. It was Reid's boat the Schooner ANNE. As I sailed close by I could still see Reid still had the yellow quarantine flag flying. I guess this ment he still had not cleared customs. I did not see Reid and did not call out to him as I sailed by a few times. After three years at sea I figured he needed the space to get ready for his return to New. York. You can see in the photo the ANNE looks like she has been away for awile. Likewise I anchored a ways off again to give Reid his space before all the hoopla he will receive once he gets back to New YorK.
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I had an absolutely delightful sail today. Several tacks across the harbor combined with a favorable current made the sail just wonderful. The harbor seems to have an awful lot of empty oil barges anchored though. I was wondering if they are standing by ready to take oil that is being collected in the rig disaster.
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Another Gateway

This time it's the Hell Gate Bridge. Visually impressive and less industrial looking than the Triborugh/RFK bridge at the top of the picture.
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Sunday, June 13, 2010


After a forty mile cruise I anchored BIANKA in Little Bay. One of my favorite anchorages. I'm anchored next to the Throgs Neck Brdge. Which marks the gateway to the East River and the end of Long Island Sound. After a lay day at anchor. I head toward New York Citu on the southwest tomorrow.
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Friday, June 11, 2010


You've got to put on your sailin shoes
Put on your sailing shoes

Everyone will start to cheer

When you put on your sailin' shoes

Well the boat is rigged. Sail is on. Just a few more fresh provisions, ice and beer and then I can put on my sailing shoes and leave the shore shoes on the dock.

Thursday, June 10, 2010


Assuming I can get BIANKA's wishbone rigged and sail on board today. I should be heading off to New York Harbor as the first cruise of the season by the weekend. I always enjoy the trip to New York as I always seem to find something curious and interesting somewhere along the journey. Such as the interesting sites I observed during last years sojourn as seen here and here. Though I have a special reason for heading into the Port of New York next week which I will be talking about in a future post as I get underway.  Another reason a sail to New York is so interesting is that the city and it's waterfront is constantly changing for better and for worse. Professional Mariner Capt. Bruce Brucato has some musing on this at his NY TUGMASTER blog. Here is the money quote:
It’s easily acknowledged that the city is so transient that it’s residents tend to overlook its legacy as one of the greatest ports in the world.- Capt. Brucato
Indeed those of us who approach the city by the water see changes that the pedestrians on land often miss. Plus we get to approach the city the way sailors like Hudson, Verrazano and the Native Americans in their canoes did. Using the same tidal forces to make our journey easier. It is a unique perspective and a trip that I never get tired of making. The East River transit is one of my favorites through Hell Gate and into the harbor. Capt Brucato captures that journey from a unique perch in this time lapse shoot:

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Two days before the mast

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Thursday, June 03, 2010


As I mentioned in the previous post I had a "Yikes" moment while lying on my back and finding an old rusted Edson Idler Plate assembly located below the Edson Pedestal.

Edson's replacement is a much improved more robust cast aluminum assembly much thicker than the thin rusted steel plate. Below is a comparison is the two plates.

Below is a side photo showing the difference in the thickness between the two plates

So it looked like at first it might not be that hard of a job. All I would have to do is disconnect the steering cable, drop the old plate, run the steering cables through the new plate and reconnect the cables.  But of course it was NOT that easy or just a matter of ordering a new idler assembly. 

The above shows the problem that appeared. When the steering system was installed at the Hinterhoeller factory they used Nicopress sleeves on both the eye ends of the steering cable. These fittings would not allow the cables to fit through the feed-through holes of the idler plate. Soooo that means one end of the cable would need to be cut and also require that new steering cables be installed too. Well, I guess after twenty plus years new cables might not be such a bad idea anyway.

Capt Mike's tip: When installing a new steering cable it's a good idea to place a little heat shrink over the cable ends to prevent fraying of the cable. As shown below.

On my Edson Pedestal the cables are required to be crossed inside the pedestal. To accomplish this easily I used two of the fiberglass poles in the wire running kit I carry on board to run the wires through the idler plate easily.

Below is one of the steering cables taped to one of the wire fishpoles

So let this be a reminder to check that steering idler assembly on your boat. If it is an older steel plate one and is starting to rust it might be a good time to think about replacing it. Also check the fittings on the steering cables if they are Nicopress swaged you'll need to replace them too.