Monday, January 31, 2011


Last year a European friend of ours said she thought of my girlfriend and I when she was snorkeling in the Maldives especially when she saw the turtle. Snorkeling with turtles is one of my girlfriends  passions. That comment was all my girlfriend had to hear and so she began to plan a trip for us to the Maldives.  The Maldives is a country  made up of 26 atolls which contain some 1200 islands located south of India and west of Sri Lanka in the Indian Ocean.

There's lots of water and very little land most of it uninhabited. A Capt. Mike kind of place. The reality is I'd probably never get around to take BIANKA there in this lifetime. So it seems like a water vacation on a chartered boat might be the best way to see this area of the earth. When my girlfriend first started planning this trip it seemed our choices of where to stay were limited. We could stay at one of the myriad resorts that have sprung up on some of the islands.

 Another alternative is to book a cabin on one of the "Safari" boats that come in various sizes and itineraries some cater to divers others are more like small private yachts.  

Each of these choices did not appeal to us either because of the expense or the idea of being stuck on a boat full of people who may be more interested in partying all night long than waking up to watch the sun rise. That was a risk we'd rather not take. Those seemed to be the only two choices available. Until I found a 44 foot catamaran that could be chartered per person rather than by the boat which made it more affordable.  That sounded perfect for us. So with some trepidation we booked the boat from the owner. After getting some references we wire transferred a 50% deposit. Not being able to use a credit card made it a little bit of a leap of faith. But, it all went well. 
     With the boat booked the problem of getting to the Maldives became our focus. We could fly to Europe and transfer to a flight to Male (pronounced "mal lee") the capital of the Maldives. The other alternative was to fly to Male through the mid east.  The idea of taking a chance of flying through Europe in January sounded risky because it would not take much bad winter weather to shut things down as happened there recently. So we decided to try Qatar Airlines. They flew to Male via Doha, Qatar. This sounded like a better option than taking a chance transferring through Europe. I must say that our flight on Qatar was one of the most enjoyable airline experiences I've ever had. We flew business class as Capt. Mike's 6' 2" frame does not seem as comfortable in coach as it did in his younger days.    Especially since the flight from Washington D.C. to Doha is a 14 plus hour trip and the airplanes seem to have shrunk in size since my younger days. Though I suspect I have probably have gotten bigger. The service on board the flight was great but, what made the trip a real pleasure was the seat on this Boeing 777 converted to a flat bed with enough room for even Captain Mike to stretch out and sleep comfortably.  After boarding the plane at Dulles Airport outside Washington D.C. it was time for a cocktail, some wine with dinner and a melatonin before converting to seat to a flat bed for some sleep. I put on the noise cancelling headphones and put the soothing Albinoni: Oboe Concerti on a loop in the planes entertainment system and did not wake up until the plane was flying over Paris. We landed in Doha around sundown and were escorted through customs and immigration by Qatar Airlines representatives. What a pleasure that was too. If you are traveling through Doha on Qatar Airlines I recommend using their Al Maha service even if it is not included in your ticket price. After a 14 hour flight you'll thank Capt. Mike that you did. They escorted us all through immigration and customs to a car that took us to the Oryx Rotana hotel nearby the airport. We grabbed a quick dinner went to bed and awoke early the next morning to catch a flight to the Maldives. So come along as Capt. Mike takes you on a boating  journey through the Maldives starting with the next post.

Friday, January 28, 2011


I've been traveling recently and it seems I missed two snow storms here on the Isle of Long. I just came back and unfortuntely did not miss yesterday's storm too. I've got around 18 inches of snow on top of the previous storms. Looks like Capt. Mike will be spending some time shoveling the driveway and walks. Does not look like I'll be heading to the boatyard anytime soon either. That's ok I've got enough projects and items on my todo list to keep me busy at home anyway. One of the things on the list was to drain the fuel out of the Honda 2000i generator that charges and sometimes powers the electric propulsion system on BIANKA. While flinging snow into big piles I had a Eureka moment. Since I need to drain the fuel tank why not run the Honda until the fuel runs out and use it to help put some heat into the house via the Holmes heater.   Why not indeed:
I sometimes use this Holmes electric heater in the photo above when working in the garage on chilly days. The photo below gives you a little idea of the depth of the snow:

Because I was away during the previous two storms some of the snow from those previous storms became a compacted layer of ice. Meaning it's a lot more work to remove it from the walks. But, happily the Honda 2000i has downward facing louvers and a powerful fan that directs the waste heat downward.  I put this to good use by using this waste heat to help melt the icy bottom layer compacted snow and ice on the walks. This photo shows about ten minutes worth of heat output:

Meanwhile back inside the house the 1100 watt Holmes heater was adding some BTU's into the house:
Ahhhh love the warmth!  Even though I had less than half a tank of fuel in the Honda generator. It ran for over three hours adding heat to the house and helping to melt the ice and snow on the walks using it's waste heat.  Oh yeah, and since I used up all the old fuel in the tank it was one more thing to scratch of the boat todo list. That done it seems like a good time to come inside and listen to WINTER by the Rolling Stones while drinking some nice hot cocoa or maybe a whole bunch of Goats Head Soup.

Thursday, January 27, 2011


The photo above shows Capt. Mike in a pinch me moment enjoying a cold MOSI beer poolside on the Zambezi River in Botswana. Just a mile or two up river from Victoria Falls.  Now each  post you read here takes Capt. Mike a little time to put together. Some of them can take a lot of time depending on how much text needs to written, photos gathered and edited etc... So if you would like to show some appreciation for the effort and have enjoyed, been amused  or  informed by a post here on THE BIANKA LOG BLOG over the years. I can think of no better way to show your thanks than to buy me a beer.   You can do this electronically via the Internet by purchasing something through one of the AMAZON links on any of the posts here on the blog. Maybe you know someone who could use an AMAZON GIFT CARD. That works too. You do not have to buy what the various posts might link to just use one of the the links here on the blog get to the site and then make your purchase no matter what it is. I will get a small referral fee for the sale at no cost to you. If enough people purchase items via an AMAZON link from these pages I will soon have enough for a beer or two, a book for my Kindle or perhaps a tool for the boat. Rest assured I will raise the bottle, tip my cap and toast to all the BIANKA LOG BLOG readers who made a purchase and allowed Captain Mike to have a cold one from time to time.  While I will probably not be relaxing behind the crocodile fence poolside on the Zambezi River  it will be appreciated by Capt. Mike just the same.

Sunday, January 23, 2011


   You should have some way of making an attention getting sound on board your boat. Just shouting will "Hey You" probably won't be acceptable.  I carry at least two sound signaling devices on board the first is a simple whistle which is used mostly for emergency type situations where I need to get another boaters attention.  It does not have to be fancy or expensive. It just has to get someones attention. I keep it on a lanyard near the helm ready and available at a moments notice. I also have one attached to my life jacket in case I fall overboard. The nice thing about a whistle is you can keep it in your mouth and have both hands free to do what ever needs to be done to continue to control the boat, render assistance or tread water and still continue to sound whatever signal you need to.  The other sound signal device I have on board is a Taylor Rechargeable Air Horn

Sure you can buy Air Horns with screw on replacement air canisters and you can keep buying replacement canisters. But, for me I like having an air horn that does not depend on me remembering to go to the marine store to make sure I have enough air canisters on board to make a signal for an extended period of time. Such as when one is sailing in fog.  You refill the Taylor unit it by a common air valve on the bottom of the air horn.

Even though the unit comes with a hand pump that attaches to this valve as shown  in the first photo. Pumping it up to full pressure using the hand pump can give one a pretty good work out. What I use instead is a compact 12 volt air compressor instead:

I simply attach it to the air valve of the horn and keep it handy in the cockpit ready to use in conditions like when underway in a fog means I'll be sounding the horn more than usual. As shown in the photo below:

 NOTE: Make sure you do not pump up the Air Horn more than it's rated capacity.

When the air runs out you simply turn on the compressor and refill it. The compressor also has a built in LED light on the side that can be operated separately or in combination with the pump:

To me it makes the most sense to have a unit like this on board. I also like that it I can still use the hand pump as a back up pump to refill it. As a cruising sailor I always like to have a back up.

Thursday, January 20, 2011


How about building a rocket stove? I first came upon the idea of  building a rocket stove a few weeks ago looking at this post on BOAT BITS.  Keep STOVE LAB 2010 in mind next time the propane runs out while cruising miles from nowhere or if you'd like to go ashore and make some hot tea while you are there walking about. On the other hand it might be good to know how to make one if you need it to survive too!
Hmmm maybe a  Aviation Tin Snip set might be useful to on board after all! For a detailed tutorial on how to build a rocket stove take a look here:

Monday, January 17, 2011


I first picked up a copy of MANY CARGOES by W.W. Jacobs while staying overnight at the Tintswalo at Waterfall hotel in Johannesburg South Africa in 2009. I very much enjoyed the few stories I was able to read before I had to return it to the Hotel's bookcase. The book was first published in 1896.  When I got my Kindle I found I was able to download MANY CARGOES (Annotated) for a very nominal fee. So I did. W.W. Jacobs father was a dock worker in the Wapping part of London. So it seems only natural that Jacobs writing would be influenced by the tales of  Captains and crew of the boats that docked there. This book is full of  such characters on the merchant boats that sailed the area over one hundred years ago. The stories should give any sailor a good chuckle or two in reading them. For example there is the tale of a Captain who fancies himself more of a doctor than Captain much to the dismay of the crew:
'He's half crazy on doctoring. We nearly had a mutiny aboard once owing to his wanting to hold a post-mortem on a man what fell from the mast-head Wanted to see what the poor feller died of.'" "I call it unwholesome,' ses the second mate very savage. 'He offered me a pill at breakfast the size of a small marble; quite put me off my feed, it did.'
In another tale called IN MID ATLANTIC a Captain has a premonition: 
"We was about ten days out, an' still slipping along in this spanking way, when all of a sudden things changed. I,was at the wheel with the second mate one night, when the skipper, whose name was Brown, came up from below in a uneasy sort o' fashion, and stood looking at us for some time without speaking. Then at last he sort o' makes up his mind, and ses he—"'Mr. McMillan, I've just had a most remarkable experience, an' I don't know what to do about it.'
'"Yes, sir?' ses Mr. McMillan.
"' Three times I 've been woke up this night by something shouting in my ear, "Steer nor'-nor'-west!"' ses the cap'n very solemnly, '" Steer nor'-nor'-west!" that's all it says. The first time I thought it was somebody got into my cabin skylarking, and I laid for 'em with a stick, but 1 've heard it three times, an' there's nothing there.'
"' It's a supernatural warning,' ses the second mate, who had a great uncle once who had the second sight, and was the most unpopular man of his family, because he always knew what to expect, and laid his plans according.
"' That's what I think,' ses the cap'n. 'There's some poor shipwrecked fellow creatures in distress.'
Well, the Captain does eventually steer the boat nor'-nor'-west against the heated objections of the First Mate. The ship does come upon a sailor in "distress" but, not because of the reason you may think. You'll have to read the story to find out why. The books title MANY CARGOES certainly describes the twenty one short stories that were full of Captains, crew and landlubbers who find themselves in humorous situations on board various boats and ships.  Even though the book was published over one hundred years ago the stories still hold up today. Though Jacobs writing is very humorous in this collection he may be more famous for some of his more macabre stories like the Monkey's Paw. Still, I can recommend Many Cargoes as a book that would bring a lot of chuckles while reading it for most sailors.

Saturday, January 15, 2011


For the past several years I have been using the top of a five gallon bucket to cover the opening of the mast partner opening after I have unstepped the mast.

Unfortuntely, the cover I usually used which resided on the bucket I used a quick rinse after a swim got blown away this season during Hurricane Earl. What to do? I'm a "use what you got and you won't need what you've not" kind of fellow. So I took some used heat shrink I had on board and placed it over the mast partner hole. Then I took one of the straps that hold mast seal cover and placed  it over the heat shrink material and tightened around the mast partner collar.

Seems to work pretty well and has stood up to 60 MPH winds in a recent blizzard. Problem solved and through the use of recylcled material to boot. Another win win situation.

Friday, January 07, 2011

It's a boat, it's a mini van, it's ELECTRIC!...

Well, here's one way to get away from paying docking and mooring fees. I wonder how long before you find one of these "parked" on the deck one of the mega yachts. Who needs a dingy!

TAIPEI, Taiwan — Three amphibious vehicles powered exclusively by green energy are expected to test the waters in January and provide more travel fun for visitors to the 2010 Taipei International Flora Expo, the manufacturer said yesterday.

Completely funded, developed and made in Taiwan, the Thru Bus is the first amphibious electric vehicle in the world to use nickel zinc batteries, said Bob Wong, chairman of CMC Magnetics Corp. -China Post

Wednesday, January 05, 2011


Kindle 3G Wireless Reading Device, Free 3G + Wi-Fi, 3G Works Globally, Graphite, 6" Display with New E Ink Pearl Technology

My wonderful girlfriend gave me a KINDLE as a Christmas present. Although I guess this was partly done to also prevent me from downloading any more books on to the one she already owned. She really has no interest in being able to access a nautical dictionary on it. I've already mentioned how space on many sailboats is a precious resource and having to decide just which books to keep on board is sometimes a painful decision. Electronic book readers like the Kindle can help solve that dilemma. E-readers like the KINDLE can hold a thousands books (Amazon says up to 3,500). My girlfriend also has an Apple IPAD that she sometimes reads on too. But, in our experience the KINDLE seems better suited for reading on a boat. For one thing it is easier to read in sun than the back lit I Pad. The Kindle does not get washed out easily by strong sunlight making it perfect for afternoon reading in the cockpit or the beach. The KINDLE is also much lighter than the IPAD and less awkward to hold in bed. The battery charge on the KINDLE also lasts much longer than on an I PAD.  So if you are trying to decide between and I PAD or KINDLE for reading on board. I give the edge to the KINDLE.

Monday, January 03, 2011


New Years Eve and the playing of Auld Lang Syne got me thinking of  Robert Burns.  Jesse Ferguson aka the Bard of Cornwall does a nice rendition of a Robert Burns poem that sounds like it would make for nice listening after dinner while kicking back in the cockpit to watch the stars at some nice little anchorage :