Thursday, September 29, 2011


It seems every year I discover something new that my electric propulsion system can do. Last year there was the joy of sailing along  double reefed at 7 knots SOG while my solar and wind generator were at the same time pumping energy back into the battery banks. Earlier this season I had another epiphany while electro sailing on a pretty windless day.  I thought I should probably always electro sail when I sail the boat. Since the prop is going to be turning no matter what unless I install some type of shaft lock but, that would also increase drag and slow the boat down.  So I might as well electro sail by turning the prop just enough to negate the prop drag. My boat would move faster through the water and I could also point up more since the motor was helping to push the boat slightly when the wind dies. Adopting this routine has led to another surprise. Something that I have not been able to see until now and that is to see my electric propulsion system actually regen. Regen is the concept of spinning and electric motor by it's shaft so that it becomes and generator and "regenerates" power back into the motor's  power source. In the case of BIANKA the 48 volt electric propulsion battery bank. For example on a sailboat with electric propulsion in regen mode you are recharging the batteries while you are enjoying a nice sail. I had just about given up on this on board BIANKA since a lot of factors can influence the ability of a sailboat to actually regen. Things like the keel shape that might cast a "shadow" around the prop so that it never sees enough water flowing past the blades to turn the prop enough for regen to occur. Then there is the prop its self. It might not be big enough or have the right pitch to rotate enough for regen. Changing the prop and/or some of it's specs might help but, that will cost $$$. Since I was already very happy with my electric propulsion system as is I did not feel an urgent need to try and experiment with a new prop. I had the same three bladed prop that had propelled BIANKA when she had a Westerbeke diesel installed. But, a few weeks ago I was electro sailing BIANKA and took a look at the amp meter and was pleased to see that there was a positive indication on the amp meter. Which meant that the boat was moving fast enough so that it was spinning the motor backward enough and had actually achieved regen!  It was only about about a quarter  to a little over one amp but, that was enough to make me very happy. When the motor is in regen mode unlike a sophisticated battery charger there is no regulation. So you  have the potential of over charging the battery bank if too much current flows back into the battery bank.  You don't want too many amps flowing into an already charged battery bank. But, an amp or two over a few hours of sailing may be enough to bring the battery bank back to the same level as when you left the dock. In essence you would have the same amount of fuel when you come back as when you left. That's the beauty of regen. Here is some video of my electric propulsion system operating in the regen mode:

On another sail I also got some indication that regen may be occurring earlier than the speed of 6 knots. But, until I can get some type of current meter installed that I can view in the cockpit without opening a hatch and bending down to get the readings I'll have to wait to do more precise observations. But, at least I can now say that regen works and it is just another added benefit of having electric propulsion on board.

Saturday, September 24, 2011


I usually take at least one cruise to New York every year this year was no exception. I was looking forward to it. But, it proved to be less of a pleasure cruise than years past. The effects of Hurricane Irene were still being felt as I headed west on Long Island Sound.I needed to keep an eye out for debris washed into Long Island Sound and the Hudson River which could really ruin my day if it hit the prop. I was looking forward to a nice leisurely drift down the East River like I did last year. But, the wind was blowing 15 to 20 knots on the nose and as I tried to travel between north and South Brother Islands I found things were a little dicey. Hmmm, wind against current could it be the wind had actually been strong enough to stop or reverse the favoring current I was expecting to use for a nice leisurely trip. If that was the case it might be a long slow trip down the East River. I decided to run around North Brother Island and found the current still in my favor but, it was a bouncy rough ride through the tidal straight. But, eventually I was able to get through and headed toward the nights anchorage by the Statue of Liberty which always makes this sailor think about having the liberty and freedom to enjoy sailing these waters

The next morning I headed up the Hudson River and observed the New York skyline. the view is always impressive from the water. It is always changing too.

On this trip the Freedom Tower which is being built on the destroyed World Trade Center site is starting to take center stage among the buildings in lower Manhattan:

I expect by my next cruise here it will be finished or at least the outside will be. Eventually it will reach 1776 feet and will once be a point for sailors to take sightings off of.  Sailing further up the river I came upon one of the city's new fire boats:

A pretty serious looking boat if I ever saw one.

A little further up the river there was the Intrepid Air and Space Museum. 

Though I found the image of the Concorde on display amongst the trees a little disturbing and had me wondering what were they thinking:

Maybe it looks OK from land but, from the water it looked like the plane crashed.

I continued the delightful sail up the Hudson. Finally BIANKA docked at the 79th Street Boat Basin it's destination for the next several days:

It can be a rock and rolling place to stay made even less appealing due to the effects of Hurricane Irene.  The waters where still a dark brown with silt. So much so I could not even see the top of the rudder of BIANKA just a few inches below the surface. Debris were still scattered around the harbor flowing with the currents. A lot of them entering the the marina:

Nasty stuff  and a lot of things that can go bump in the night. Including this coffee table sized piece of wood that drifted by BIANKA one afternoon:

It's about three foot across. That would leave a scar if your boat hit it. 

Even though I lived aboard BIANKA for six years back in the late nineties. One thing I did notice on this trip to New York was how noisy the city is. I had my Honda 2000 eu generator running on the forward deck as I motored down the East River. I can usually hear it purring away but, soon after I passed through the Hell Gate bridge I noticed I could no longer hear it. The sounds of the city masked it's noise completely. After spending a few days in quiet anchorages the noise of the city was rather disturbing at first. But, you do get use to it. Still, I don't think I'd be happy living with that noise everyday at this point in my life.

After some social engagements with friends in the city it was time to head BIANKA back toward the Isle of Long. But, there was a little problem when heading up the East River. Because the United Nations General Assembly was in session the U.S. Coast Guard had blocked off the west channel completely. I had come down the East River in previous years and they had allowed me to pass as long as I traveled on the extreme east side of the west channel. This time I was met by an armed Coast Guard inflatable and told the west channel was completly closed to traffic. I had never traveled down the east channel on the other side of the Roosevelt Island because a lift bridge was too low when closed for BIANKA's mast.  While I was discussing this situation with the armed Coast Guard crew I noticed a sailboat heading down the east channel. So I thought I guess it will be OK and the bridge will open on demand because if it did not there would be a whole bunch of hurt on board.

Happily, the bridge operator was very cooperative the the bridge opened  with about twenty foot of clearance. Well that was the first time I had ever traveled on that side of Roosevelt Island. Soon I passed under the Hell Gate bridge and soon was passing north Brother Island with it's still standing but, slowly crumbling hospital buildings:

Soon I turned BIANKA to the east and headed toward Long Island Sound ending the 2011 cruise to New York.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011


Here on the waters of the Northeast U.S. radio checks are required to be done on VHF channel 9. This was done to keep channel 16 clear for hailing and distress calls only. The trouble is a lot of people do not usually listen to channel 9 and even fewer respond to calls for radio checks. This is especially true if one is trying to get a radio check in times of low boater activity like early mornings. Attempting to do a radio check on channel 16 will usually get a reprimand from the U.S. Coast Guard that radio checks are to be done on channel 9. What's a sailor to do? You want to do a radio check but, if no one answers it kind of defeats the purpose. That situation has now changed for the better thanks to technology. Boaters can now get a radio check 24 hours a day thanks to companies like Sea Tow that have set automatic radio check sites in various harbors. To see how it works watch the video below.  You can find what channel to do an automatic radio check in your area by clicking here. 

Sunday, September 18, 2011


As I mentioned I had to leave BIANKA back in late August just before Hurricane Irene hit. I returned two weeks later.  I spent a day removing all the preparations I had put in place for the storm and also reinstalled the anchor it it's proper place in the bow. All this in order to head out on a late summer cruise to New York.  I left early one morning escorted out the harbor by some of the local lobster boats heading out to check their traps. I sailed all day toward Oyster Bay. I arrived in late afternoon. It was a gorgeous summer evening. But, something felt different as I sailed into the entrance to Cold Spring Harbor.  There were no boats around. It  first struck me as odd that none were sailing on such a nice evening. Then I remembered it's after Labor Day. The "unofficial end of summer". That is if your listen to the mainstream media. I felt sad for those who take their word for it and put away their sailing shoes for the season. But, I  rejoiced as I saw one sailboat suddenly appear to enjoy the sunset scene with me. The solo skipper sailed by the anchored BIANKA and we waved to each other. I called out to him "summers not over yet eh"  I took this photo as he sailed by and headed toward  the sunset:

It's just too bad so many others are not enjoying scenes like this. Just because some electronic talking head has told them summer is over. I checked my calender and it just ain't so.

Thursday, September 15, 2011


What was unnerving for me as Hurricane Irene approached was the fact because of a work commitment I would be 250 miles away when the storm hit. Not only that, I would not be getting back to the boat for a least two weeks afterward. Happily, I got word fairly soon after the storm had past that BIANKA had survived. That was a relief knowing the boat was OK and my hurricane prep had worked. I tried a few things before I left the boat. Some ideas worked and some ideas need improvement. This is a picture of how I left things at BIANKA's bow before I left the boat:

You can see the anchor has been removed. Two lines the primary and backup are attached to the mooring and are free.  Not easily  seen is the anchor chain on the right roller that drops straight down below the surface of the water and is attached to the mooring chain at a different link than the lines above.  I've already expressed my how I like to have cable ties on board for all sorts of handy reasons. Here I am using them to hold some split tubing in position as some anti chafe protection. Also note I am using the cable ties through the holes in the bow rollers. The plan being to prevent the mooring lines from jumping off the rollers during the storm. I'm using cable ties in the belief they would not chafe the lines like a metal screw would. The cable ties worked as planned or at least the mooring lines never jumped out of the bow rollers. Some of my other ideas not so good.

Returning back to BIANKA after two weeks I found this scene:

Things got pretty twisted forward of the bow rollers. What I don't know is when this all happened. Was during the hurricane or was it during the two weeks of the boat spinning around the mooring before I returned. Both the chain and my anti sail drogue line got twisted up in the mooring lines too.  I did not notice any serious chafe on the mooring lines but, next time I hope to come up with a better plan and hopefully I won't be so far away should another hurricane approach.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

SEPTEMBER 11, 2001

BIANKA was docked at Chelsea Piers just up the river from the World Trade Center on the morning of September 11th 2001. I was not supposed to be there that morning. I had planned to start a two to three week cruise out toward Marthas Vineyard and Nantucket  the day before. But, I had trouble getting access to the Internet to take care of some business.   The weather report also called for severe thunderstorms on Monday afternoon ahead of a cold front that would be coming through. So I decided to postpone my departure to the next day Tuesday September 11th. Between the storms and Internet issue I thought well what's the hurry.

On the morning of September 11th there was a ...

Thursday, September 08, 2011


An anonymous reader of the BIANKA LOG BLOG posted a link to a rescue of a wayward sailboat in a mooring field in Winthrop Massachusetts during Hurricane Irene. Unlike the previous SCENES FROM IRENE this one has a happy ending. Thanks to  a lot of luck as the boat seems to have missed hitting many other boats as it traveled through the mooring field:
WARNING: Thar be salty language in the video:


Saturday, September 03, 2011


Who needs to go to the movies?  Say Goodbye to Hollywood there is enough action right here as Hurricane Irene came up the east coast. Makes you appreciate the importance of chafe prevention and prepping the boat for even minimal Hurricanes/tropical storms. Let's start off with one of the early casualties of Irene. A couple who tried to "outrun" the Hurricane and got into a whole bunch of hurt off of Norfolk Virginia. Photos of the beached boat were posted on the Internet and their plight made it into a lot of papers from the local newspapers up to the Washington Post and CBS TV. Here is some video of what it was like before the boat hit the beach:

Meanwhile in Moorehead City. This boat had it's sails taken off but, still is was no match for Irene's fury:

  Some boats designed to sail fast will do so even with the sails furled. Until they hit the beach that is:

Hope these make you appreciate what your boat might go through in such storms I know it did for me.

Thursday, September 01, 2011


It was a relief that BIANKA made it through Hurricane Irene at the mooring. I had been on board during Hurricane Earl last year when it went to the east of the boat and felt more comfortable then because of the back up plans I had in place. When Irene hit much closer and to the west leaving  BIANKA on the side with the stronger winds I was less sure of the outcome. Plus I was in a location that was much more crowded with other boats this time. But, now at least I know my plans seemed to work out for Category 1 storms like Irene.

Some post storm thoughts:

Besides the electronics I took off the boat, I also took a many of the electronics from my project box that had yet to be installed. I almost overlooked that aspect of hurricane prep. But, when I started to add up the costs of the unopened packages of the devices the number was in the hundreds of dollars. Not an insignificant amount.

I also took off my Honda 2000i generator and the five gallons of gas I had on board. The generator of course is an expensive item to be replaced. At 47 pounds it is lightweight enough to be easily taken off the boat. You can't say that for an installed diesel genset. But, I was also thinking if one is anchored in an exotic local and one went to ashore to ride out the storm rather than stay on board. Having a lightweight electric generator and a couple of gallons of gas would make one a very welcome guest in many households on shore.

Finally, while I was on board I thought about my electric propulsion system. If I had more time and if the storm was going to be stronger than projections I could have removed most of my electric propulsion system. The major  components like the controller box and battery charger have  removable connectors and the boxes are held on with a few bolts and nuts I could have easily removed them. Like wise the motor could have been removed and carried off the boat in a boat bag.

Which is how I bought it on board in the first place. You can't do that with a diesel. While I might have lost the boat in some circumstances. I would still have the basic components of my electric propulsion system intact and ready to be installed in a replacement boat. Though I am glad things never came to that.