Monday, August 29, 2011


Though I have not seen it for myself. I received a phone call yesterday from a reliable source that BIANKA and the other boats in it's mooring field survived Hurricane Irene. One of the nearby boats  dragged it's mooring slightly but, suffered no damage. Time to cue the Edwin Hawkins Singers:

Sunday, August 28, 2011


Looking at the 50 knot wind speed probabilities this morning showing the Isle of Long with a 100% chance of having 50 knot winds is not pleasant to see but, of course not unexpected.


I have the Prince song Purple Rain playing in my head at the moment. I'm not a big Prince fan and I can't really express how I feel about Irene at this point. I've been on in BIANKA sailing in gale conditions and she did well by me. What I don't know is how she will do attached to a mooring in those same conditions. It is going to be a long day.

BLOG UPDATE 9:00 AM : Checking on some buoys in Long Island Sound looks like the winds have mostly been a steady 30 knots with gusts to 45 or so. Looks like tides are about 4.5 feet over prediction.  Not good but, not terrible either. I hope those numbers go down from here as the storm comes ashore. Things seem to be going in the right direction though. My optimism is rising.

BLOG UPDATE 12:46 PM  Checking the buoys shows the winds at Execution Rocks out of the north and only gusting to 35 knots. While further east the buoys are still gusting to 50 knots and out of the south. So it looks like Irene is moving on. My cell phone has not rang and that's good news too. Though I'll probably have to wait until tomorrow morning to find out how BIANKA fared before I start doing the happy dance.


Saturday, August 27, 2011


Spent most of yesterday on board. It was a beautiful cloudless windless day. A fine summer day in August.  It would be hard to predict what was coming from these conditions. It was a tad humid and hot and as a result I took a few swims in between prepping the boat for the arrival of Hurricane Irene. I got a email from Bob who writes the BOAT BITS blog and who recently had some sundowners on board his boat while the eye of the same Irene passed over St. Criox a few days ago. He mentioned that Jeff Masters at Weather Underground said the eye wall of Irene was weakening. Meaning that the storm was not strengthening. That good news was tempered with my talk with the guys at the boatyard who said that during Hurricane Gloria the last storm to directly hit the Isle of Long there were 100 boats on the beach. I'm trying to make sure that BIANKA is not going to be one of them after this storm.
There were a number of owners out preparing their boats but, not everyone. Some were just wrapping their sails up.  While others like myself and those on the moorings around me where taking them off completely.

Funny how an approaching storm can get one to focus on those little projects that one has not gotten to on board. Like replacing the temporary cable tie that was holding up one of the solar bimini frames.

I had the eye strap on board for over a week and did not get around to installing it. Irene got me focused on making sure it was installed. Cable ties are useful things on a boat. But, trusting them to hold up in Hurricane conditions is asking too much from them.

I also secured some of the wiring for the solar panels that was on my to do list too.
While on board I decided to do add some additional attachment to the mooring beyond the primary and secondary mooring line.  I was worried about my Bruce anchor which hangs over the bowsprit  could catch on an errant boats life lines or pushpit and could drag BIANKA along with it or cause a lot of damage. So I removed the anchor and stowed it below. I then used the anchor chain to act as a the "all hell breaks loose" third pennant to the mooring chain. I shackled it to a different link than the line pennants with a shackle and a swivel. It's always good to have a number of shackles of various sizes on board.

They may cost a few sheckles but, in situations like this they are priceless!  I'm also glad I took the time last year during Hurricane Earl to use some Tef Gel on the shackle threads. This made them able to unscrew easily when I needed them. I also wrapped and secured the chain around the mast. This made sure that the Sampson Post was not the only point on the bow recieving the stress from the storm pull. I feel with the anchor chain now secured to the mooring system BIANKA my drag onto the beach but, it will be taking it's mooring with it. I added some anti chaffing to the existing lines and adjusted the anti sail bow drogue I used last year while riding out Hurricane Earl in three Mile Harbor. I stayed on board until about 10:30 pm exhausted and tired having done everything I could think of to make sure BIANKA would still be floating come Monday. Now I only have to watch and wait for the storm to arrive.

Friday, August 26, 2011


Not  good to to wake up to this:


Looks like a direct hit right over the boat. One final visit today to take the sail down add anti-chaffing gear. Just hope it won't be the final visit. 

Thursday, August 25, 2011


This latest track shows Irene moving a little toward the west putting most of the Isle of Long and my location on the nastier side of the storm. Spent this morning adding an additional line to the mooring. I'll be back on board tomorrow to finish up. I took some tools off the boat and some electronics.  I'm also facing the reality there is a chance I may lose the boat with this storm. When I rode out Hurricane Earl last year at anchor I was more confident in the situation. I had plan A, B, C & D ready. But, back on the mooring I only have one shot with plan A. Even if that works there are hundreds of other boats in the harbor whose owners may have no plan at all.  Which could make all my plans moot if they drag into the BIANKA. I am optimistic but, also resigned that nature also has it's plan A.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011


This is one of those times when I hope the NOAA people get it wrong. Expecting tropical storm conditions on the Isle of Long for the weekend. I guess the good news is they are not calling for Hurricane conditions. At least not yet.


I got a call from my girlfriend who was in Washington D.C. She started the call with  "I'm alright." O.K What happened? I replied. Didn't you hear about the earthquake about twenty minutes ago? she asked.  I had not though I was busy at the dock filling the water tanks and putting stuff away before heading out on a mini cruise. But, thinking about it more. I did feel it. Though from where I was down below it felt like some powerboat with some very heavy horsepower on board was starting up nearby. So I really did not notice it as an earthquake. Now if the harbor had started to empty out pre Tsunami like. Now that would have got my attention.

Monday, August 22, 2011


Well the first idea of using the existing dodger frame to mount the solar panels worked out well for a few years:

The sail cleared it fine when tacking. I installed some Lexan in between the panels which not only helped keep things dry under the hatch but also allowed me to view the sail as I raised it. I was happy with this plan until one of the hanger lines broke and dropped the sail a few inches and a reefing line I suspect grabbed a corner of the solar panel and broke the 1" aluminium angle used to hold the solar panel. Time for Plan B.

Plan B was to lower the solar panels so they did sit so high above the stainless steel frame where an errant line could once again grab it. To do this required I buy a few more jaw slide hinges. But, letting the jaws hang below the frame instead of above as shown here:

I then cut up the remaining aluminum angle into four pieces:

I drilled  mounting holes so they could be attached to the jaw slides and they would cradle the solar panels in between the dodger frame and not above it:

This was a better idea and there was less chance of a line getting caught on a panel compared to the first setup. It is not perfect because the stainless steel frame of the dodger is lightly curved and the aluminum angle is straight so there was some distortion in trying to mount the solar panels to the aluminum angle but, it can be done.  This was phase one of the project. When I added some additional panels to make a solar bimini over the cockpit and provide the panels that would help charge my electric propulsion system I came on an even better solution to mount the panels.

Thursday, August 18, 2011


When I bought BIANKA in 1995 it came with a nice heavy duty vinyl coated dodger with windows:

It also had an extension that could be zipped onto the back of the dodger when at anchor. Which also had sides to enclose the cockpit if one wanted too:

It offered real nice protection from the elements but, was also hot in summer because it blocked the refreshing breeze when the windows were installed. Though you could unzip them and roll them up which I often did. Like many things on a boat exposed to the sun and elements it deteriorated over time. Zippers break, threads wear out, plastic glass windows crack etc... I restitched things a few times but, eventually it became time to replace it. As I pondered what I would replace it with I started thinking about durability. Sunbrella is often the fabric used by most boatowners but, it always seemed to me that in a few years that would have to be replaced again too. Around this time I was also thinking about adding some solar panels. Hmmm. I wondered. Why don't people use solar panels instead of fabric for the tops of dodgers? Why not indeed! It is much sturdier and would last much longer than fabric and it would also serve to provide power to help charge the battery bank. A dual purpose solution always works for me. So I decided to go about replacing the worn vinyl dodger with a solar powered one.

I wanted to use the existing dodger frame. It seemed sturdy enough to hold the two 75 watt Seimens solar panels I bought. At four feet long they were just about the perfect size to fit on top of the dodger frame on the port and starbord sides. There might be a little shading on occassion from the sail and boom on one of the panels but, at least one panel would probably be in full sun during much of the day. If I got anal about it I could tie the sail off to one side and get both panels in the sun if I wanted. This is starting to sound like a plan.

At first I thought I would drill holes through the frame and attach the panels directly to them. But, I found that drilling trough stainless steel is pretty hard and I thought holes might weaken the frame a little too much so I abandoned that idea early on. I then came up with what I thoughT was the perfect solution. I would use hinged jaw slides to clamp around the 7/8" dodger frame and install the solar panels to them. I then thought I could save a little money and use less clamps if I use two pieces of aluminium angle to mount the solar panels onto before attaching the brackets to the clamps. The advantage to this is I would only need four of the hinged jaw slides for the whole dodger instead of four for each panel like I originaly thought. So that was plan A:

This worked out well for a number of years sailing in all kinds of conditions and weather until last year. When a broken hanger line grabbed the edge of one the solar panels and broke the aluminum bracket holding the solar panel almost taking it over the side. Resulting in a scramble by me to do some serious damage control since I was sailing solo in near gale conditions at the time. Well so much for that idea! It's time to move on to "Plan B".

Sunday, August 14, 2011


Sand to us sailors can be both a friend and foe depending on the circumstances where we encounter it. If a sailor makes a miscalculation in navigating it is better to run aground on sand than hard rock or a reef. Sand can also make anchoring and holding the boat to the bottom in a blow difficult or if it is only a few inches deep and obscures a hard rock bottom beneath the holding will not be good.  It can also clog the raw water intake of boats with engines that run aground. So it really behooves a sailor to really get to know as much as possible about one of the most abundant materials on earth. That's what Michael Welland has done in his book SAND: The Never-Ending Story.
It is a fascinating book about sand, those who study it and how it behaves and what it is made from.  Things you learn about sand in Welland's book include: The earth's most common element in the crust of the earth is oxygen and the second most common element is silicon. Together they form the mineral quartz which makes up 70% of all the sand grains in the world. But, sand can be made from biological materials too like shells:
Photo taken by Capt. Mike on Assateague Island
You will also find out a lot about how sand behaves. Like why the sand builds up behind the broken shell in the above photo and why only the white sand does so. Why grains of sand will move easily in underwater currents creating shoals that we sailors need to avoid but, mud will not. Sand can also travel overland quite easily too as shown in this photo I took on an island off the coast of Mozambique:  


Even if you don't sail like I do but, spend  your time just sitting on a beach. Reading the book SAND you will find out about the eco system that resides in between those grains of sand on the beach you are walking on and not just those creatures you see are on top of it. 
I happen to think it is the perfect book to read on the beach too!

A billion sand grains are made every second and it's not going away anytime soon.  The book SAND by Michael Welland will give you new insight into a material you might have previously taken for granted. Still think sand is not interesting?  Take a look at this:
Markus Kayser - Solar Sinter Project from Markus Kayser on Vimeo.

Sunday, August 07, 2011


Another shaking my head what were they thinking video:

Saturday, August 06, 2011


Shout out to Eugene O'Neill for help with the title today. I still carry a Honda BP 2 outboard on board for occasional use with my 8 foot Porta Bote dingy. I actually have not used it since last September. It is still running good but, at some point it will have to be replaced. So that's why I'm always interested in what's happening in the electric outboard market with products like the Electric Paddle and from those from Torqeedo. I've already posted about the Torqeedo 1003 and my thoughts on it. Today I came across two reports from down under in Australia concerning recent tests using a Torqeedo 1003.  The first was a 19 nautical mile trip in an inflatable using 160 watts of solar panels as some additional supplemental power. The second trial was with a 12 foot Porta Bote which was of real interest to me since I'll probably be using an electric outboard on my 8 foot Porta Bote dingy.  

Thursday, August 04, 2011

SHORELINE: Good Intentions

Hanging out on a boat just offshore offers a unique view of the shoreline and how the people and other creatures use it. With the fishing pole by his side I'm sure this fellow came to the harbor with good intentions to do some fishing but, somehow the washed up piece of dock looked like a good place to take a nap instead:

It also reminds me I need to put this Otis Redding tune onto my IPOD SHUFFLE.

Monday, August 01, 2011

THE SQUALL RULES!: Anatomy of a sinking.

Recently I was listening to reports on VHF radio from the Coast Guard of a sunken vessel north of Ellis Island in New York Harbor. I was wondering how that vessel got there. A post at Learning To Sail  I think has the answer to my question:

"Yesterday evening a squall rolled through the harbor with terrific force. The anemometer aboard Willy Wall, our floating clubhouse, registered a peak of Force 9--that's a "Fresh Gale" on the Beaufort Scale, meaning up to 54 mph of wind.  The Manhattan Sailing Club's Wednesday round of racing was caught squarely in the middle of it, as well as some other sailboats in the middle of what was otherwise supposed to be a splendid sunset sail."

What could go wrong here? Julian at Learning to Sail has the photos and story of the sinking along with some really good advice that all sailors should think about before and after heading out on the water like:

"Whether you are planning a long car trip, an aircraft flight, or a sailing trip, risk assessment and risk mitigation are important parts of the go/no-go decision. Weather is one of those risks that applies to all souls on the road, in the air, and on the mane. Apps abound to watch it from afar, but looking up and around is free, and there's always Hal on WX-1."

"It's better to be on the dock wishing you were out sailing, than out sailing wishing you were on the dock."

"We lost one boat last evening, and it would have been more if some frisky, on-the-ball sailors hadn't been able to STRIKE SAIL, NOW! Can't do that if your halliards are thrown down the hatch in a ball instead of figure-eight coiled on your winch. Can't do that if you hung 'em backwards."

The sinking of the Grand Republic also dramatically makes the case of why you and your crew should always  be wearing a PFD  when getting on the boat.