Monday, December 31, 2012


It's New Years Eve hard to believe how fast this year has gone by.  I did not put as many miles (a little over two hundred) under the keel of BIANKA  this year compared to years past but, I did have a wonderful year of cruising. Though work and some unexpected maintenance issues did get in the way. I also bought 200 feet of long overdue replacement anchor chain. I also installed AIS on board  which I will write about in the new year. I also installed  a new battery instrumentation panel  at the helm. Which made monitoring the battery current and voltages much easier. All in all it was still another great year as I look back on it.

January found me in the Leeward Islands starting off in St. Thomas, St. Johns  and then sailing over to the Spanish Virgin Island of Culebra for a nice little warm water  break from the winter.

This was also the month that the Bianka Log Blog reached over one hundred thousand page views. So it was time to celebrate too.

In February I found one of the batteries in the 48 volt propulsion string was no longer taking a charge.

I spent the next several months investigating the issue and finally figured that a parasitic load from one of the battery meters was the cause of the problem. With careful charging and test the battery is once again up to snuff and worked fine all season. I was glad I did not have to purchase a new battery.

March found me in Ocean City Maryland. After seeing a nice little warm weather window my gal and I drove from DC to a beachfront hotel with an 11th floor balcony view of the Atlantic Ocean for a few days.

 We had the beach to ourselves and were able to dine without making reservations. The smell of the sea also gets one thinking about getting the boat back in the water.

April 12th was the one hundredth anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic. It bought back memories of when I was living on board BIANKA at pier 59 in New York. That was the pier  that the rescue ship Carpathia bought the lifeboats from the ill fated Titanic and was only a few piers north of the peir where the Titanic was supposed to dock.

May found me and my gal in the Bahamas. The Exumas specifically via stopovers in Nassau.  A new area for me and one of some great memories and interesting sights.

I also worked on my first major repair of the electric propulsion system in five years by replacing the shaft coupling. Replacing the original steel one with stainless steel.

June was all about getting BIANKA ready for the season and launching. The battery issue had been solved the mast lights checked. The prop cleaned and polished and finally BIANKA was splashed.

In July work reared it's ugly head  eating up two weeks and my gal's beach vacation ate up another week. But, BIANKA was in the water with 200 feet of new anchor chain ready to go when time permitted. Also I worked on some finishing touches on the solar bimini.

August was another two weeks of work followed by another week on the beach. But, I was finally able to get back on board just in time to see another full moon a real treat.

September is usually the end of summer for many but, I view it as a new beginning. Some become melancholy with the end of the Labor Day weekend while I look at it as the time of less crowded anchorages  So I was looking forward to making my annual cruise to New York.

September 11th was also the tenth anniversary of the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center.

Since BIANKA and I were docked in New York then and actually felt the impact of the planes and witnessed the collapse of the buildings I felt somewhat of an obligation to try and be back in the harbor on the anniversary. But, it was not to be,  A broken pull cord and some frozen screws on the Honda 2000 generator soon put an end to those plans. Still I got to see another full moon on board so it was not all bad.

October had some of the highs and lows of the season. I saw a nice weather window and finally took BIANKA on the cruise to New York. I did something different regarding my electric propulsion system on this cruise. Which was to electro sail using about 10 amps to effectively negate the prop drag and actually propels the boat along a two knots when there is no wind. This technique worked really well and since EP is so quiet it does introduce the noise fatigue running and vibration that running a diesel would introduce.

After a night anchored by Ellis Island  it was a nice sail up the Hudson River:

where BIANKA and I anchored for a few days off of Hook Mountain enjoying the fall colors.

Two days after returning back to BIANKA's mooring Hurricane Sandy hit the area:

The storm surge lifted BIANKA and her mooring and dragged them across the channel. I found her over a thousand feet away across the harbor. Still floating and relatively undamaged. I was very lucky.  Since BIANKA had power available from her solar panels and wind generator I decided I would move back on her until power was restored back on the mainland. Which is where I spend most of the my time anyway during the season.  I had all the comforts of home even more so as I had power available.

The beginning of November still had the area recovering from super storm Sandy. Gas shortages had boat owners coming down to the docks draining there boat's fuel tanks so they could keep their home generators running. I recovered the Honda outboard that went to the bottom of the harbor when the dingy flipped during the storm. It will be a winter project to try and get it running again. There were a lot of  lessons learned from Sandy by me and many others too.

December was another month of a few weeks work that came my way. Just in time to pay some of the boatyard bills. Also it was time for holidays and looking back and also planning for the new year. I'm also way behind in some posts here on the Bianka Log Blog. So I will use the winter to catch up and publish about some of the projects I've been working on. Days are already starting to get longer and soon it will be time to starting thinking  the new year and season.

Monday, December 24, 2012


I just happened to be reading a book about the history of the U.S. merchant ships and sailors. In one of the chapters there the author writes about Arctic explorers. Including the ill fated  Greely Expedition.

 "In 1881, 25 men led by Adolphus Greely set sail from Newfoundland to Lady Franklin Bay in the high Arctic, where they planned to collect a wealth of scientific data from a vast area of the world’s surface that had been described as a "sheer blank." Three years later, only six survivors returned, with a daunting story of shipwreck, starvation, mutiny and cannibalism." - American Experience-The Greely Expedition

The book had a section from Greely's diary about what Christmas was like on their expedition as the supplies began to run low:

"Our breakfast was a thin pea-soup, with seal blubber, and a small quantity of preserved potatoes. Later two cans of cloudberries were served to each mess, and at half-past one o'clock Long and Frederick commenced cooking dinner, which consisted of a seal stew, containing seal blubber, preserved potatoes and bread, flavored with pickled onions; then came a kind of rice pudding, with raisins, seal blubber, and condensed milk. Afterward we had chocolate, followed later by a kind of punch made of a gill of rum and a quarter of a lemon to each man.... Everybody was required to sing a song or tell a story, and pleasant conversation with the expression of kindly feelings, was kept up until midnight." -Aldolphus Greely

So as you gather around the table this Christmas appreciate what you have and enjoy it and the day to the max. As the men of the Greely expedition did over one hundred years ago in the Arctic.

Monday, December 17, 2012


  It was mostly a motor sail (or as some of us with electric propulsion refer to it "electro sailing") after leaving the anchorage by Ellis Island. Winds were light to start but, picked up from the west later in the day. Unfortunately, the high cliffs of the Palisades blocked  a lot of the wind from that direction. But, with a favoring current and the quietness of the electric propulsion system even motoring makes it a fast and pleasant cruise up the Hudson. When the winds finally did work their way down to the river level and the sail was filling nicely,  then the eastern lee shore started to became a concern to me. As I tacked toward the center of the river to gain some more room to leeward the winds clocked around from the north and became on the nose due to the wind swirls off the cliffs. So it goes. Finally,  after I reached the Piermont Pier area and the river opened up I got a nice 15 to 20 knot breeze out of the west that even had me considering putting in a reef in the sail.

I  ultimately did not put in the reef as it was just a few miles to my destination though I did do one more tack in order to make it under the center span of the Tappen Zee Bridge. After passing under the bridge I headed BIANKA to the northwest keeping the town of  Nyack and Peterson's boatyard to port and Tarrrytown to starboard.  My plan was to anchor off of Hook Mountain and in the late afternoon that's just what I did:

In some ways this is kind of a homecoming for BIANKA and I. This place brings back a lot of good memories and was a place that changed my life for the better. I have not been here since 2002 when BIANKA last dropped anchor here going and coming on a cruise up the Hudson River into the Erie Canal and Oswego canals and into Canada and back. It was also the first time I had made the trip with BIANKA's electric propulsion system installed. It felt good to be back. The beautiful autumn sunset that evening made me even more glad to be back in this spot.

The next morning reveled the beauty of the spot as it began to be filled with fall colors once again:

It was at this location back in 1999 where I started to think about making a major change in my life. I was sitting in BIANKA's cockpit with a cup of coffee enjoying morning sun lighting up the nearly vertical side of Hook Mountain. The crew woke up poked his head out and said" "ya know you could be doing this everyday if you wanted".  That remark got me thinking and within the year I had given up my full time job and began to work freelance. The result of which allowed me to work less and sail more. I embarked on a plan of working to live instead of living to work.  That was over twelve years ago and it turns out to be one of the best decisions I could have made. Coming back here all those years later brings me back to that morning.

To really take in the beauty of this location one really needs to see it from the water and spend some time observing it. Because it's beauty changes during the day with the changing light:

Also to see how majestic this place is the activity along the waterfront path gives you some idea of the scale of the area. As the photo below with a park pick up truck making it's way along the shore shows:

Here is another photo with a person walking along the shore side trail. The arrow points to them:

A day or two spent here at anchor offers up a number of pinch me moments especially as the colors of the fall foliage start to make a palette of color up the side of the mountain. It's a peaceful place to just sit and stare from the boat's cockpit :

The autumn colors provide a never ending show of color from dawn to dusk:

A few days after these images were taken Hurricane Sandy hit the area  no doubt stripping many of the trees of Hook Mountain of their leaves.  I was glad I was able to enjoy them while they were still there.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012


It seems there is always someplace new to experience on the water. After making the transit down the East River I rounded the Battery a little after sundown and I wanted to find an anchorage soon.  In the past I have poked into the basin behind the Statue of Liberty. But, it does not have a lot of room and if it was filled with a few cruising  boats on their way south I'd have to find another spot in harbor after dark and also fight the ebb current coming down the Hudson (North) River. So I decided to check out a new anchorage that looked inviting but, had never seen to many boats use. It is an area north of Ellis Island. So after rounding the Battery in Manhattan's southern tip I made a B line in the fading light for the area. Winds were out of the west blowing 10 to 15 knots and I put the bow as far west as I dared and dropped the anchor.

It turned out to be a pretty good spot. A little rolling at first but, it calmed down nicely until 4 AM when another roll woke me up. In the morning I waited until the flood current began to push up the Hudson and then weighed anchor and used the current to help push BIANKA along.  First past the still unfinished Freedom Tower:

Below is a photo of what it looked like during BIANKA's cruise in 2011. 

 A lot of progress was made but, last year I thought it might have had all the glass installed by this year. Hopefully, it will by next years cruise. Though there are signs that things will be reaching a peak soon. The parts of the tower that will be making up the transmission tower aka the spire on top have begun to arrive in the harbor as seen in this Tugster Post.

Continuing up the river the Empire State and Chrysler buildings soon showed up in my view with Pier 40 in the foreground:

A little further on I passed the Intrepid Air and Space Museum. Which had a new addition since last years cruise. That white bubble near the stern housed the  Enterprise Space Shuttle.

A week after this photo was taken Hurricane Sandy destroyed the tent which covered the spacecraft and exposed the shuttle to the elements.

Further on several those floating cities known as cruise ships where tied to up the land based city getting ready for their afternoon departures.

Soon BIANKA was passing the George Washington Bridge one of the bridges that make up the gateways to the City of New York. Near the eastern base of the bridge is the Little Red Lighthouse made famous in the book The Little Red Lighthouse and the Great Gray Bridge:

 BIANKA then sailed past the Yonkers Recreational Pier.

The last Victorian steel pier on the HudsonA leftover from the days before air conditioning when people headed toward the waterfronts to escape the stifling heat of summers without indoor air conditioning in their houses.

Further on the main reason why I wanted to make this fall cruise soon appeared as the dramatic Palisades started showing some of the fall colors.

There was not a lot of boat traffic on the river which made for a very pleasant sail. I did come across another boat sailing back to New York. I think it was the ADIRONDACK a day sailor based out of the Chelsea Piers. I was thinking as it sailed by this is what it must have been like on the Hudson in the days before the steamships started plying the waters:

A few miles further on and BIANKA would reach the intended destination of the cruise which I will write about in a future post.

Wednesday, December 05, 2012


As I mentioned earlier this year I had my first major maintenance on my electric propulsion system in five years with the change out of the steel shaft coupling with a stainless steel one. In order to accomplish this I removed the motor for better access to the shaft coupling:

After re-installing the motor I needed to tighten the belt that drives the prop. The Lynch electric motor is pretty small and only weighs about forty five pounds. It is easily carried by one person. But, to try and hold it while trying to keep good  tension on the belt for adjustment was a little awkward. Then I came on a perfect and fast solution using one of the   Ratcheting Tie-Downs   I carry on board.

After wrapping the tie down strap around the motor case and then placing the hooks in the companionway.

 I was then able to ratchet the motor up to have the proper tension on the belt and tighten down the bolts and screws holding the motor to the frame at my leisure. It was a simple elegant solution that makes adjusting the tension on the belt a very easy job.

Thursday, November 29, 2012


Before Hurricane Sandy distracted me and ended the sailing season I was going to chronicle a recent cruise I made with BIANKA.  Originally I had planned to do this cruise to New York back in September. But, a little repair snafu with the Honda Generator in September curtailed that plan. I just about gave up on doing the cruise this year but, a nice weather window opened up in late October and I thought why not head out for a fall cruise. So I did.

I headed early out to take advantage of the flooding current into Long Island Sound winds were light for much of the trip so I electro-sailed BIANKA for forty nautical miles. It was after sundown as I sailed into Port Washington and picked up a free town mooring. Before I did  I had a gam with a fellow sailor already on another mooring. He was a 38 year old fellow who quit his job in September bought a 24 foot boat and was heading south for the winter. He wanted to do it now since he was single and the flexibility to do it.  Certainly sounds like a plan. We had a nice discussion about life, getting through Hell Gate and other things sailors might talk about. I wished him fair winds and then  motored off in the dark to find a mooring. One nice thing about fall cruising the mooring fields are pretty empty so it was pretty easy to pick one up. The next day had some nasty weather coming through. It was windy and wet so it was a lay day for me.  Sometime during the following night the other fellow headed off to travel down the East River through Hell Gate in the middle of the night. He wanted to make it to the Sandy Hook area during the day and meet up with friends. I can only wonder if the fellow made it through Hurricane Sandy which would hit the area a little over a week later.

After the weather cleared I headed toward New York.  Upon crossing under the Throgs Neck Bridge BIANKA left Long Island Sound behind and entered the East River which is actually a tidal strait. I made a video of the trip from Port Washington to the Battery via the East River:

I rounded the Battery a little after sunset and headed over to an anchorage a little north of Ellis Island. I had never anchored there before. It was getting dark and the winds were blowing 10 to 20 knots out of the west. I got as close to western shore and dropped anchor for the night. There was a little roll from the harbor traffic at first but, it calmed down later except for a 4 am roll that woke me up for a bit. But, the holding was good plus I had a real nice view of the lights of lower Manhattan:

Though in a little over a week all these lights would be plunged into darkness after Hurricane Sandy hits the area and knocked out power to all of lower Manhattan. Though  this night it was a very pretty scene from on board.

Friday, November 23, 2012


With BIANKA stored safely away for the winter I've been wondering what was going on around BIANKA as Sandy hit the area. I wish I knew when she made her move across the harbor.  I know she was still at the same location at 11 AM Monday October 29th the day the storm hit. On Tuesday morning she was located over one thousand feet to the southwest still attached to her mooring and floating thankfully. Looking around on You Tube I found footage of what was going on just two miles down the coast from were BIANKA was moored and what the conditions were like on Long Island Sound which was just across the road from where BIANKA was located:

Watching this footage reminds me how lucky BIANKA was. Just 500 feet of a low lying spit of land separated the mooring field where BIANKA was from these conditions. She was protected from the brute force of Sandy but, could not hold on when the storm surge became too great with the the northeast winds of Sandy continually flooding water into the harbor.  I was thinking that maybe a well protected cove located inside of Port Jefferson Harbor might have been a better place to be as it was protected by high bluffs from the north, east and south as shown here:

But, after looking at this video that might not have be such a good idea after all:

No doubt the coastline has changed and there has been a lot of erosion but, to see what the Sound is like in more normal conditions this flyover video of the area shows how the normally rocky beaches (those that are still there)  have ironically become rather "Sandy". While the video below shows how some areas have no beach at all anymore:


Now we wait to see if the winter storms will create further changes.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012


A lot of Thanksgivings seem to be lost to memory or perhaps were not that memorable beyond the next days left overs. But, one Thanksgiving still sticks in my mind from over ten years ago.  A few days before I had  sailed BIANKA back from New York where I had lived on board her since April. The boat was not yet pulled for winter storage and was tied to the dock. Since I was alone I decided I would still have my own little Thanksgiving celebration on board the boat. I picked up a Thanksgiving meal at a nearby Boston Market with all the fixings. Even bought some Apple Cider for drinking. I think it was one of the few times I used the oven on board to heat the meal up. I put on some appropriate  George Winston music on the CD player. As the late autumn sun was setting behind the hill on the west side of the harbor I sat down to a hearty meal thankful that I was able to enjoy the meal on my boat. I was alone but, still thankful and the memory of that day still brings back the good feeling I had.

Friday, November 16, 2012


I have mentioned that those of accustomed to living on boats may have an easier time than those who are only living on land after storms like Hurricane Sandy. That's because cruising on a boat like BIANKA involves getting away from land as much as possible. My boat is usually on a mooring or anchored off in some picturesque spot that pleases me. Very rarely will I tie up to a marina's dock. So one is well aware of how much power one can use and where it comes from. We sailors know it is not seemingly unlimited and always available at the flick of a switch. Millions of people who reside on land including the residents of lower Manhattan had a "reality bites" experience after Hurricane Sandy blew through the area. They might learn a thing or two from sailors like myself who have taken some of the technology that worked so well on board our boats and have transferred it sucessfully to land based structures. You can save quite a bit of power (watts), money  and have an automatic emergency back up system to illuminate the rooms in your house at the same time.  Like my whole house LED lighting system:

I have converted many of the lights on board BIANKA to energy efficient LED's from the masthead anchor light to the ones over the galley and cabin.   They worked so well in the boat I wondered how they would do in the house. So I went about building a simple system that would meet my needs. It's easy to do with off the shelf components the heart of which is a Morningstar SL-10L-12V SunLight 10 Amp Charge Controller LVD .

This unit does a number of things. 

1) It turns on up to 10 amps of 12 volt LED lights at dusk and off at dawn. It also has timed switched presets if you don't won't to have the lights on all night.  

2) It controls the charge to battery from the solar panel(s). It also has a jumper to select charge profiles for Flooded or Sealed batteries. 

3) It uses the output of the solar panels to sense when dusk begins and turns on the lights and also when dawn begins and turns them off. 

4) It has a low voltage disconnect it will disconnect the lights from the battery bank once the battery voltage drops below 11.8 volts to protect the battery bank until the solar panels once again are able to start charging the battery again.

Connections are simple:
Two terminals are for the solar panel connections.
The next two terminals are for the 12 volt battery
The last connections are for the wiring to the LED lights.

I use In-line AGC Fuse Holders on the output to LED lights and the battery to protect against a short circuit. It's for safety and I recommend it.
Two Siemens 12 volt 75 watt solar panels that were left over from a boat project that changed direction provide the charging for the batteries. I've mounted them on the south side of the house.

As you can see one has not yet tilted one of the panels for optimum sun exposure but, it's on the to do list though the system works fine as is anyway.  

 The batteries are two Sealed Lead Acid Battery (12V; 35 AH; UB12350) batteries connected in parallel. 

The only reason I am using two is because one arrived with the lug damaged and the other one was the replacement. So rather than just have one sitting around sulfating I put both of them to work on the LED house system.

I use two types of LED's in the system. One is a   Disc Type G4 Base Side Pin 6 SMD LED 10 - 30 Volt DC  unit. I like to use the warm white version.
It also has a buck regulator that keeps current regulated so that the LED junctions do not overheat and fail due to voltage or current fluctuations in the wiring. It's something you should look for in any LED's you use on board the boat or at the house as a slight variation in current or voltage can blow the LED electrical junctions destroying the LED.

The other LED light I use is the BEKA Light from BEBI Electronics. ( BLOG UPDATE: Bebi Electronics is no longer selling LED Lights )It was designed to be used on a boat as a cockpit anchor light. But, I use them in the house when I want to illuminate bigger rooms like the living room or dining area. I ordered mine with warm colored LED's facing downward and the bright white LED's for the outside  perimeter facing ones.  

 The downward facing LED's  provide a warm incandescent like look directed downward. While the bright white LED's bounce off the walls and illuminate the room with a bright indirect light.

Just about every room in my house is lit up by one of these two LED lights. They provide enough illumination so you can walk from room to room without ever having to turn on a light. Since they are charged by solar energy once the system is in place there are no additional costs and the rooms are lit from dusk to dawn. During Hurricane Sandy my neighbors wondered why I was the only one who seemed to have power when they saw my LED lights on. On the boat it's all about saving as much energy as possible by being as energy efficient as possible. On land this also has the added benefit of saving you money and also providing light when the electrical grid goes down as it did after Hurricane Sandy.