Saturday, December 31, 2011


Well, the New Year is upon us. I enjoyed the previous year on BIANKA and other other boats during the past year. The year did have it's moments both good and bad.

January started out for me with a delightful trip to the Maldives in the Indian Ocean. I would probably never be able to take BIANKA there but, almost two weeks on a Catamaran with a local crew who knew the waters is pretty good experience in my book. I can still taste the fresh Red Snapper among other fish that were caught during the trip:

In March reminders about how danger can come from the sea as the Tsunami in Japan showed us. Even across the ocean we sailors saw what damage even a small Tsunami can do when it made an appearance in Santa Cruz California. Pretty sobering videos.

April found me starting to work on the  diesel fuel tank conversion project. Which at this writing is still not finished. But, the grime I found in the tank made me glad I no longer had to carry diesel fuel on board any more.

Also a quick trip to Chincoteaque Island got me smelling the salt sea air once again after the long winter. It was a good feeling.

May found Capt. Mike in Key West but, only for twenty four hours. The next day thanks to the help of Paradise Connections charters run by fellow sailors Sheila and Bob I boarded a  catamaran for a weeks sail and snorkeling trip up the Keys to Miami. Felt good to be swimming again.

In June THE BIANKA LOG BLOG had it's five year anniversary. I want thank all who stopped here over the years as they journeyed around the Internet.

July found the project box just as full as was at the beginning of the season. Oh well!

In August once again Nature was showing who was boss as the month started with an earthquake in the harbor and along the east coast. It ended with Hurricane Irene causing no shortage of anxiety for me as I had to leave BIANKA for two weeks and hope my efforts to prepare her for the storm were enough. Happily,  BIANKA came though the storm fine but, other boats were not so lucky.

September I had the pleasant surprise that my ASMO MARINE Thoosa 9000 electric propulsion system does in fact regen and help charge the electric propulsion battery bank. A benefit I hope to exploit more next season.

October I attended the Annapolis Sail Boat Show as a guest of the folks at Annapolis Hybrid Marine the distributors of ASMO MARINE products here in the states.  I always find something interesting to see at the show. This year I was very pleased to meet Lin and Larry Pardey in person there.

A few weeks later nature celebrated the twentieth anniversary of the "perfect storm" with another Nor' Easter just to show who's boss.

Happily, I was still sailing in November though the days were short and getting colder. Still there were pinch me moments to enjoy on board. Even picked up some treasure on my walks on the empty beach.

Not much boat work in December with some freelance work coming my way and the holidays taking up a lot of my time. But, the days are getting longer and the sailing season will be coming around again.


Friday, December 30, 2011

SOLAR BIMINI PART FIVE: Useful stuff: Filament Tape

So I've decided on where the rear frame of the Solar Bimini should be located.  I should mention I did this project entirely by myself. I had no extra help in building the Bimini. I did not have to call friends and bribe them with a beer or two. Then wait for them to show up and feel guilty while I pondered my next move in building the Solar Bimini.  But, I did find some things very useful in helping me as I planned and assembled the frame. One of the items I found very useful was  3M Filament Tape

This tape is real STRONG having a tensile strength of some 380 pounds. It came in very handy in using it as temporary straps to hold the top of the rear frame to the existing dodger frame. In fact I left it on for quite awhile (weeks) as I worked on plans and building the Solar Bimini in all kinds of weather too.

If you look closely at the above picture (click on it to enlarge) you can see the Filament Tape used as strapping to hold the rear Bimini frame in place. While Filament Tape comes handy to use for some quick temporary strapping. I think it would also work for strong temporary repairs for other items. I just think it's good stuff to carry on board. It really helped me in building the Solar Bimini and it did not drink my beer or complain while doing it.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

SOLAR BIMINI PART FOUR: Locating and trimming the rear frame

 After the rear bimini frame arrived from Sailrite the next thing was to try and see:

1) Where it needed to be located. It had to be in a location where it would not interfere with the operation of the boom. It also had to allow for operation of the mainsheet cockpit winch and allow access of the deck cleats.
It also had to take into account the dimensions of solar panels and how they would fit between the bow frame and the existing dodger.

2) How wide it should be. It not only had to fit outside the cockpit coaming it also would have to avoid things like the wind generator support poles which were already installed.Since the stainless steel bow comes in three pieces with a width of 106 inches. It can be cut if you need to have less width by cutting equal lengths on each side of the middle bow piece. Happily, when I put the assembled frame on deck I found that the width as it came from Sailrite was perfect. So problem two was solved for me.

3) How tall should it be? Again the bow frame comes in at 61 inches in height. If you need less height it is simply a matter of trimming the vertical side pieces of the bow. It turns out I needed to trim off  about five inches of the 61 inches provided by Sailrite. At that height it was high enough to allow me to stand at the helm without hitting my head but, not too high that it would interfere with the boom. An added side benefit of making this Solar Bimini is that it will protect those in the cockpit (especially the helmsman) from a falling boom should the topping lift ever give way.

Once I had the three above dimensions decided upon. It was time to cut the two pieces of stainless steel side pieces . Since I only needed to trim the height of the frame by a few inches.  What to use? Sailrite says a hacksaw will work but, the right tool is a tubing cutter:

Sailrite sold a tubing cutter with a blade to cut stainless steel tubing for about $50. But, it looked like a regular tubing cutter that I could get cheaper elsewhere.  Like this one. It too is made for cutting stainless steel and if you will be doing a lot of cutting of stainless steel tubing it is probably the way to go. But, since I only had two tubing cuts to do and was in a hurry I went to my local Home Depot and checked out the plumbing department. They had similar tubing cutters but, they stated they were for softer copper pipe.

I asked the fellow working the area if their tubing cutters would work on stainless steel. He asked how many cuts are you doing? I said two. No problem was his response. So I bought it and made the cuts on the frame and it worked well.  So now that had decided where the rear frame would be located, trimmed the tubing to the desired length. All I needed to do was use the Drill Steady tool shown in the previous post to drill a pilot hole in the stainless steel tubing and install the rivet to connect the two frame side pieces to the middle bow.  This makes the frame one complete piece. Once this was done it was time to move to attaching the frame to the deck.

Thursday, December 22, 2011


If you ever have found things mysteriously missing from your boats cockpit the explanation may be fairly simple. I recently ordered a GoPro video camera . While I was researching about the camera online  I came upon this video of a brazen theft by a Seagull:

The GoPro camera weighs about 6 oz with the housing. After seeing this video I won't be leaving it or anything else like keys laying around in the cockpit especially overnight. One thing is for sure though Seagulls are not real good when it comes to making videos, they can steal things pretty quickly.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

NOTES OF AN ELECTRIC SAILOR: Tests from the harbor 2011

When I started this blog back in 2006 I thought it might just be a little online scrap book of travels with some photos. An easy place to put those memories and share it with anyone who happened by. It has since morphed into something a little bigger. In between my thoughts, photos, cruises and travels I also post things about products here and there. Those that work and those that don't work for me. I also use the blog as the name implies as somewhat of a log book of maintenance and boat projects on board BIANKA. This is one of those posts.

I had wanted to do some propulsion tests of BIANKA's electric propulsion system as soon as I splashed her for the 2011 season. But, that did not happen. But one morning a few weeks later I was having my usual 6 AM coffee in the cockpit. The air was still in the harbor, the water like glass and it was quiet and empty of any boat traffic. I thought well why not do some testing. Even though it would was not perfect conditions. It was midway to low tide so there would be some currents running and they do run oddly in this harbor. Probably would have been better to do it at the peak of the high or at low tide when currents would have been minimal. The boat had also been on the mooring for two weeks so I did not know how clean the bottom and prop were which could affect things somewhat. Anyway, I turned on the system slipped the mooring and headed out to the channel.  I made several passes between channel markers that were about 450 yards apart. One pass was made in each direction drawing 10, 20, 30, 40 and 50 amps from the battery bank.  I then averaged the speed of each pass and calculated the watts used. Here are the results:

1                  10            1.9           495
2                  20           2.8            984
3                  30           3.3          1458
4                  40           3.7          1933
5                  50           4.1          2417

Again these are the average of the two passes. One against and one with the current. I also did one additional test where I just throttled up to 5 knots and the power used there was 4346 watts. The test data pretty much confirms what I have noticed on board. Especially on pass number two. I can move my 8 ton 30 foot sailboat at about three knots just using power from my Honda 2000 eu generator and the Zivan NG-1 battery charger which is rated at 900 watts. The numbers show I could add an additional 48 volt 500 watt power supply into the mix.  I should then obtain the results of pass number three and still be within the power limits of the Honda 2000 generator. Which is good to know if I ever feel the need to add one. But, since BIANKA is a primarily a sailboat I have never felt the need for it.  I'm also using the same three bladed prop that BIANKA used with the diesel. It has a few dings here and there. I might be able to improve things a bit with a prop optimized for my electric propulsion system. But, I tend to be if it ain't broke don't fix it type of sailor. Anyway I'll try and do another test at the beginning of next season and see how they compare. Also it is good to have this data to compare if I do decide at some point to change the prop at some point. But, I'm very happy with things the way they are and have been for the past four years. So I really don't expect to be making any changes soon.

BLOG UPDATE:  After doing this test I pulled the boat for the season. I found the prop was not as pristine as it could have been as this photo shows just after the boat was pulled:
Usually I would have dived and cleaned it but, it being late in the season the water was too cold. I expect to have even better results in the spring doing the tests with a much cleaner prop.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

GIFTS FOR BOATERS: Eldridge Tide & Pilot book

Whenever I head out for a sail even a local day sail the cockpit seems empty without my copy of  the ELDRIDGE TIDE AND PILOT book within reach. It is easily the book on board BIANKA that gets opened the most. A boater traveling the waters of the northeast U.S. from the Chesapeake to Maine can save a lot of time and money on the water just being familiar with it's contents. In it are times and depths of the high and low tides for various points and harbors up and down the northeast coast.  Also most valuable are the times of current changes and velocities at various important points on the waters. Places like Hell Gate, The Race off eastern Long Island, currents in the Cape Cod Canal etc... The Eldridge also has diagrams of the currents at various times of major bodies of water like New York Harbor, Long Island Sound, Nantucket Sound, Buzzards Bay, The Chesapeake etc...  I've personally used it on cruises from Sandy Hook to Boston. It also has interesting articles on fishing, nautical lore and astronomical data. If you have a boater in your family who ply the northeast waters of the United States  this makes a great gift at Christmas. If you've been invited on board by a boater who is spending the winter in the Caribbean but, you know they will be heading up to the northeast in the summer it also makes a great gift to give to them too. It's data is updated yearly so make sure you get the proper year when you buy it. As for me I never leave port without it.

Friday, December 09, 2011

SOLAR BIMINI PART THREE: A plan comes together!

Let's see where was I. Oh yeah, back in August I was explaining how plan B of the solar dodger project came to fruition. That was before preparations for Hurricane Irene interrupted my train of thought. Now it's time to revisit the Solar Bimini Project on BIANKA.  I had been wanting to use my 75 watt solar  panels to replace the vinyl worn dodger material and had been somewhat successfully done that using the boats existing dodger frame. As explained here and here.

But, now I also wanted to extend it to create a bimini over the cockpit using the new 48 volt solar panels I had bought to help charge the electric propulsion battery bank.  BIANKA never had a bimini. It previously only had an extension of vinyl material that could be zipped to the existing vinyl dodger and even then this could only  be used while at anchor because it interfered with the mainsheet on my Nonsuch.

So if I wanted to have a permanent solar bimini it meant I would have to build a custom frame for it. I thought about how to do this and some things I wanted and some of the limitations I would need to overcome. After sipping  a beer in the cockpit I came up with this list of what I wanted:

1) I wanted to be able to stand at the helm without hitting my head on the dodger as lifted my six foot two inch frame up in one of those "what the hell is that" situations when sailing along.

2) I also wanted to have easy access to leave the cockpit to go forward on the deck. So I did not want a lot of frame tubing in the way hindering me in those situations.

After a lot of thought I came up with a plan that met my needs. The major piece would be a bow frame. I was able to get this from Sailrite a wonderful source for all things a sailor might need for sails, dodgers and biminis. One of the dilemmas I had was about where to install this frame. Should it attach on top of the cockpit coaming like the existing dodger did or should it land on the deck outside the coaming. I decided that it would be better to have it land outside the cockpit coaming. My reasoning was if things got nasty and the boat was bouncing around having the bimini frame mounted on the cockpit coaming could allow a persons head to hit it. Leading to at minimum a painful bump or worse unconsciousness.

Who needs that!  While I debated about where to mount the frame I went ahead and  ordered a one inch diameter long bow stainless steel frame kit from Sailrite. It comes in three pieces. Two side pieces and the top piece. According to the description:

"All tubing bows are prebent in a custom jig mounted on a wall in our shop. To keep shipping reasonable and to allow for greater customization, the bows are cut just beyond each bend creating three sections — two curved and one crowned. The crown in the center bow increases rigidity and improves the appearance of the finished cover. Assemble the three pieces by inserting splines and riveting in place. Once assembled, the bow has more strength than the uncut original."

I also ordered a real handy jig for helping to drill into into the stainless steel tubing for the rivit holes. The Sailrite catalog says "it's not required" but, if you have ever tried to drill into stainless steel tubing you know it can be a real pain.  The Drill Steady Tubing Tool really made drilling into the one inch frame tubing real easy as shown in this Sailrite video:

I recommend it if you should ever need to drill a hole into the stainless steel tubing on your boat. 
The final piece I needed to complete mounting the frame was some way to attach the frame to the boat. I chose a 90 degree stanchion base fittings to secure the one inch frame tubing to the deck:

With these pieces I was able to move onto phase one of building the solar bimini on board BIANKA.

Sunday, December 04, 2011


It's that time of year when I look back on how my electric propulsion system did during the past season. Once again I was surprised by it. When I decided in 2007 to repower with an ASMO MARINE Thoosa 9000 system. There were no boats that I knew that had done this and I thought long and hard about it before making the leap. But, after four years of operational experience I'm still very glad I did. The fourth season will stand out because of two firsts that occurred. One was an extended day of motoring. About ten hours to be exact. A rare day here around the Isle of Long when hardly even a whisper of a breeze filled the sail. So after starting out early and motoring under battery power for a few hours I carried the Honda away from the cockpit and fired it up. I could never do that with the old diesel. The noisy diesel was always right below the cockpit vibrating away making for a noisy afternoon of motoring. Fatiguing too! My day of extended motoring was much more pleasant experience with electric propulsion.

Another first I discovered quite by accident was that BIANKA can actually regen power back to the battery bank. I discovered this while electro sailing moving along at about 6 knots. I had earlier in the season decided  that the best way to operate  under sail was to slightly turn the prop under power. This will negate any prop drag when sailing and therefore increase boat speed. Sounded like a good plan and it uses minimal power from the battery bank and no need to buy a folding prop. But, as I found out that if the boat speed under sail starts touch around 6 knots it also starts recharging the battery bank.

 This is known as "regen" where the prop starts to turn the motor backward and it starts operating as a generator. It's not a lot at the low end but, you really don't want a lot charging because you don't want to take a chance on overcharging the battery bank.  I'm looking forward to next season and hope to experience more days where I can see the regen in action. So even after four years my boats electric propulsion system still had some pleasant surprises left to show me.