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.  

Thursday, November 15, 2012


Another lesson I learned after Sandy is when to use and when to secure the dingy outboard.  I was on board the day before Hurricane Sandy hit. Due to the pressure gradient between the departing high pressure and the approach of Sandy the winds piped up to 25 knots with gusts to 35. I was concerned that those winds out of the northeast might make rowing back to the docks northwest of the mooring impossible. Turns out I was able to row the Porta Bote fine in that direction in those conditions without using the engine. But, the big mistake was leaving the outboard on the dingy after I reached the calm conditions inside the marina basin. When I tied up to the dock it was very calm as the the land and bulkhead protected the area from the blowing northeast winds. I thought the dingy would be fine there. I left the motor on because I thought I would need it when I would have to get back on BIANKA at some point before Sandy had totally departed the area.  I tied it on the northwest side of the dock so I also thought the dingy would also be secure even when the winds backed around from the southeast later in the storm   I did not expect the docks to break apart and flip the dingy sending the Honda BF-2 outboard to the bottom.  Below is what it looked like after spending a week on the bottom.

Luckily, I did take my oars with me when I left so I was still able to get back to the boat after the storm. So the lesson learned was to remove the outboard and everything else in the dingy if you are going to leave it at a dock. Though removing it some place secure on land might be the best solution if it can be easily done. I'm in the process of try to revive the drowned outboard which I will post about here in the near future.

Monday, November 12, 2012


It's been almost two weeks since Hurricane Sandy came ashore and decimated parts of the northeast United States especially those living near the shore areas. I was pretty lucky despite finding BIANKA over a thousand feet away from where I left her the night before the storm I found her floating and still attached to her 300 pound mooring. Here are some of the lessons I learned from Sandy:

1) Putting an extra line on the mooring works well as a precaution to keep the boat attached to the mooring. I probably don't need to attach the anchor chain on board to the mooring chain as I did when Hurricane Irene threatened last year.

2)  The surge from a storm is going to have a big impact on weather the boat stays put or decides to wander across the harbor. I may need to think about adding additional anchors to the mooring chain to try and keep it in place or close to it when the tidal surge comes in. This will involve some prep and diving before the storm hits. Perhaps a heavier mooring might be in order.  Upon inspection earlier this year the eye of the mooring was showing quite a bit of wear following last years Hurricane Irene.
This yearBIANKA's mooring had a new eye welded on to it at the beginning of the season. I'll be interested to see what it looks like when it is pulled after Sandy.

3)  I need to be more thorough in making sure I have dogged the hatches. I'm still amazed I missed  latching the overhead hatch in the forward cabin. It was closed but, not secure.

The winds from Sandy were able to lift it and fling it wide open damaging the Charlie Noble vent for the water heater. Luckily there was not a lot of rain when Sandy hit the area and I only found about an inch of water in the bilge and a damp bed quilt.

4) The solar bimini with it's solar panelsI built over the cockpit is strong enough to stand up to hurricane force winds and there is no need to take it down before the storm. The design has now been through three hurricanes with Sandy's gusts to 95 MPH being the strongest so far. I do have to secure the clear  Lexan centerpiece better as the two screws holding it to the frame were not enough to hold it in storm conditions but, that was just a temporary install at the time Sandy hit anyway.

5) I should have probably taken the sail down below. I did for Hurricane Irene last year. But, this time I opted not to do it. I was on the boat the day before Sandy and the winds were blowing 30 to 35 knots at times and the boat seemed to be riding well. So I opted to leave them on. Not sure how much of difference it would have made since BIANKA's beam is over 11 feet and there were plenty of other boats that dragged that had there sails stripped off of them. But, in the future I will store it below when another storm threatens.

6) I ran out of propane about two weeks before Sandy. Even though I was heading out on a fall cruise I opted not to refill the propane tank  since it was toward the end of the season. I thought I would refill it in the spring. I would use my backup cooking devices for the few remaining weeks. One of my backups is a butane single burner stove. I bought some additional butane canisters but, when I went to try it I found the butane did not flow to the burner. Some parts looked a little corroded  and I did not think it safe to use it.  I then went to my second backup which was a  Coleman PefectFlow 1-Burner Stove which works very well 

as a backup but, can only be used at an anchorage in calm conditions because cooking pots and pans are not secure from toppling over. Luckily, I bought some extra Propane Fuel Canisters  for it's use before Sandy hit. Because they might have been scarce after the storm knocked out power and some people on land would be using alternate cooking devices like I was.  As it was I was on my last propane canister when power was restored back at home and was beginning to wonder if I would be able to find more if I needed them. So getting the on board propane tank refilled should be a priority if one wants to be able to move on board after a storm without worry.

7) Communications can get spotty after a storm like Sandy hit's. At first things seemed to be ok but, as the days wore on and the batteries and generators of the cell phone towers ran down communications began to get flaky. Cell phone calls dropped out, internet access via the cell phone modem was slow or non existent at times.  It seemed that emails sent from my Blackberry were the most reliable form of communications when the others were not reliable.

8) Having an  Engel Portable Refrigerator - Freezer and a cooler on board was a great asset to have. I made the decision to move on board primarily because I had all my basic needs available there. Including refrigeration with the Engel . I was able to empty the freezer at home and store most of the frozen items in the Engel in freezer mode and use the Coleman cooler for the items that just needed to be refrigerated. So I threw very little of the food at home away and had plenty for a week of meals on board the boat without having to find a supermarket or grocery store. I took frozen items from the Engel and defrosted them in the Coleman cooler as needed where it helped to keep the cooler items cold too. As I emptied the Engel I froze plastic water bottles to use as the ice ran out in the cooler.

9) Since I was just getting back from a 200 mile fall cruise as Sandy approached I did not refill the gasoline jerry jugs I use for the Honda 2000 generator. I was winding down the sailing season so I had less than a gallon left of the six gallons I usually carry when cruising. Again since it was toward the end of the season I saw no need to refill them. But, after Sandy hit a lot of gas stations had no power for several days and then after power was restored there was a run on gasoline and they were soon shut because they no longer had gasoline. Even as I write this two weeks after the storm gasoline is being rationed by a system of odd and even license plate days. So the lesson learned when a storm threatens refill the jerry jugs before it hits. It turns out I did not need to run the Honda 2000 generator that much. I only ran it for a few hours one day out of the seven I was on board. But, if I had to use it more I might have run out of gas before too long. So the lesson is to keep your fuel supply topped up and ready until you are sure you won't need it. The same goes for the water tanks.

10) Having solar and a wind turbine on board is a real plus for after storm living. As I mentioned above I only had to run the Honda 2000 generator one day for a few hours. That was because we had a some cloudy days during and after Sandy and with the ENGEL running in freezer mode it was draw a few more amps than usual. But, after things got charged up I was able to use both the 12 volt house bank and the 10 kilowatt 48 volt propulsion bank efficiently.  During the day when the sun was out I would power the Engel freezer from the 12 house bank as the two 75 solar panels were able to power it and charge the house bank  a little. I used the 48 volt propulsion bank to power my laptop as I checked emails and blogged. In the evening after I was done using the computer I would then power the ENGEL freezer from the 48 volt bank because in addition to some solar I also had the Marine Air X 48 volt wind turbine helpeing to charge things overnight. I needed to use the 12 volt house bank to power some LED lights and a small radio.

In short I found that after a storm reeks havoc on land moving onto ones boat is better way to weather the aftermath until things get back to normal on land. Provided of course you already have the systems and provisions on board to live for an extended time at anchor which I did.

Thursday, November 08, 2012


This is the scene from the desk of my study this morning:

I guess it's time to winterize the boat. Amazing how abruptly the season ended with Sandy and now this Nor'easter. Just a little over two weeks ago I was enjoying a nice fall cruise. Oh, well. One nice thing about having electric propulsion is that when it comes to winterizing there's no need to deal with oil changes, flushing motors with fresh water and then running anti freeze through the intake. All that one needs to do is winterize the on board water system and even that is relatively painless and economical.

Wednesday, November 07, 2012


Just when things were getting back to normal. On Monday the lights at the marina where BIANKA was tied up came on. Same for the houses in the hills surrounding the harbor. BIANKA was going to be pulled for the winter so it was my last night on board. But, I will be taking the Honda 2000 generator with me. I'm so glad I did not opt for an inboard marine generator when I converted to electric propulsion. I can move the Honda to where I need it. Because as I leave the boat for the winter NOAA is predicting another Nor'easter to hit the area today. It won't be as bad as Sandy but, coastal flood and high wind warnings have been issued. Though today I take comfort that BIANKA is now safely on land for the coming months and I don't have to worry about her as much with the coming Nor'easter as I did last week when Sandy approached.

Tuesday, November 06, 2012


It was one week ago yesterday that Sandy was raking the harbor with gusts up to 90 MPH and severe coastal flooding. Taking BIANKA for a trip across the harbor and knocking out power for millions of people destroying the homes of others. Today a number of things have come together that mean things are coming to an end at least for me. I had just about given up ever finding the Honda outboard that went to the bottom of the harbor seven days ago when Sandy flipped over the dingy. After several hours using a grappling hook without success one of the boatyard guys suggested I try off another dock where he had seen some bubbles coming up. I did and on the third try I snagged the shaft of the outboard and was able to bring the Honda 2 HP outboard to the surface:

Some fish and crabs fell out from inside the coaming but, the Outboard looked in good condition. I flushed it with some fresh water and took it back home and placed into a bag filled with fresh water. I'll try and resuscitate it in a few days. I have hopes it will once again run. On the way to the house I noticed Utility Company trucks were on the block. So it it looks like the power outage at the house will also soon end.
Today the mast was also unstepped from BIANKA to be stored until next spring.

It means the end of the 2012 sailing season for me. Though I will be sailing in warmer climes over the winter it won't be on BIANKA. But it will be something to look forward to. Tomorrow BIANKA will also be pulled to be stored on land for the winter. Just in time before the next Nor'easter arrives in the area.  So this will be my last night on BIANKA too. Though I will be frequently be on board over the winter working on projects or sometimes just hanging out and staring thinking about the next season. So in some ways it's not the end it's the beginning of the wait for the next sailing season.

Monday, November 05, 2012


Now the warriors of winter they gave a cold triumphant shout

And all that stays is dying, all that lives is getting out
See the geese in chevron flight flapping and a-racing on before the snow
They've got the urge for going, and they've got the wings so they can go

They get the urge for going
When the meadow grass is turning brown
Summertime is falling down and winter is closing in

SATURDAY  Nov. 4 2012
The boatyard supervisor wants to pull BIANKA early next week and with another Nor' easter heading this way I guess it's time to call end to the season. The docks and piling have taken a beating during Sandy:

Who knows how well they will hold up after another Nor' easter. The nights are getting colder but, the harbor is still pretty dark after the sun goes down as power still has not been restored to a lot of the island.  I hunker down in the cabin once the sun goes down. Nice and cozy with a hot cup of tea. Internet and cell phone service has finally improved quite a bit. I can surf the Internet and see what other areas have experienced. I poked my head out  and saw an orange glow way to the east on the shore. I was thinking uh oh ,  somebody's beach house is on fire and from the Halloween orange glow it's pretty intense. I see it grow bigger as I keep looking. Then I'm thinking there are no houses in that direction on the beach where this fire was. They are on the bluffs. I was relieved a little while later what I had really seen was the orange moon rising through some hazy clouds on the horizon.
I took off the sail and took it home.  As I headed home I noticed the cars lined up at the gas stations along with several Police officers at each one with gas directing traffic. I was glad I had filled up on Monday right before the storm and I have a small efficient car allowing me to make several trips back and forth without worry.  Though I can understand the desperation of some in the search for gas.  
I still have same gas in the Honda 2000i generator and about a half gallon in a Jerry Jug left over from the latest cruise. But, the winds have been brisk and the sun has been shining so I have not had to fire up the generator for charging in a few days on board.

SUNDAY Nov. 5 2012
After my morning coffee I walked the lopsided stormed tossed dingy docks 

to get to the area where the fellows of the boatyard found my overturned Porta Boat dingy sans the Honda BP2 outboard. The consensus is the outboard went to the bottom when the dingy flipped. It was low tide and I spent an hour throwing the grapple. But, the only thing I caught were some Oysters and mussels:

It's possible the motor is under the dock I was standing on since it was the one that broke away during the storm. I may have to wait until they move it and maybe try some again. But, it may be a lost cause at this point anyway.

I tied up BIANKA in front of a 47 foot Hunter that was moved at some point when I was away. The owner came back this morning to remove some steps and  fenders he had left attached to the dock. I asked how the boat fared which was tied to the dock during Sandy.  He said he had some damage in the stern area because every cleet on the dock except for the stern one had been pulled out during the storm. When I looked at the dock he was right four or five cleats were  missing from the dock.

I dropped the boom on BIANKA and removed all the lines. While I was sorting them out.  The owner of a big beamy Regal power boat across the dock  arrived with his nephew. They were there to siphon some gas out of the Uncles boat so they could keep the generator running at home.

As high tide approached I took a lot of the canned goods I had in BIANKA's galley and put them into an empty cooler to bring home along with the Porta Boat dingy. I'm timing this with the high tide because it is easy to lug this stuff  up the gangway at that time. As I was folding the Porta Boat for the last time this season. I noticed that two of the four screws that hold the transom were missing. Not sure how they could have loosened but, found it strange they were gone while the two others were still there and tight.

I also took some time to go over and see a power boat that washed up near the town docks:

There were a few people working on it. Luckily it landed on a sandy patch next to one of the town docks. They had wood rollers underneath and some heavy thick line wrapped around the bow. I wonder if they are going to try to pull it off on the next high tide which according to my Eldridge is about 9 o'clock tonight. I wish them luck.

Saturday, November 03, 2012


I am noticing a difference at night while living on board BIANKA. The harbor the first night on Tuesday had a different feel to it. Mostly because the lights of the beach parking lot and those houses in the surrounding hills were dark due to the power outages. The nearly full moon rose and played peak a boo in the swirling clouds that were the remnants of Sandy.  It was very calm and somewhat warm enough that I was able to have dinner in the cockpit and enjoy the scene.

On Thursday I drove home to check on the house which was still without power  and did some yard cleanup before returning to BIANKA for the night. It was comforting to return to BIANKA where I had power and food available thanks to solar and wind power which were doing a nice job keeping things topped up. But, I did fire up the generator as the cloud cover during the day did keep the 12 volt house bank a little under charged.  It did not take long to fully charge it and I used the waste heat from the Honda generator to totally dry the portion of the quit on my bunk that got wet from the open over head hatch. I enjoyed the nights dinner which was Pasta with Captain Mike's homemade Bolognese sauce. It was a colder night than the previous ones but, under the down quilt in BIANKA's cabin I did not notice it.

On Friday I bought the boat to the dock as the boatyard boss was getting antsy to pull her and put BIANKA in the special corner where I get a very nice harbor view over the winter as I work on projects. He wants to do this soon so that he can also put in other boats in front of her and fill up the yard. I've finished the water from the 50 gallon tank on board and switched over to the 30 gallon tank so I guess it's time to think about ending the season anyway. I tried grappling for the lost Honda BP-2 outboard but, I was not able to find it. I may try again over the weekend. A gusty wind kept the Marine Air-X wind turbine spinning all day  nicely adding some  amps into the battery bank and we had enough sun that I did not need to use the Honda 2000 generator to top things up. Driving home to check on the house I notice that gas has become an issue with many gas stations closed because of no supply and those that were open had long lines and Police directing traffic. This is not a crucial issue on an electric boat like BIANKA  the solar and wind generation are able to keep up with my demands while I live on board most days. I heard some scuttlebutt in the boatyard about hiring private security to keep an eye on things. As contractors in the area were finding it hard to find fuel for their trucks and a boatyard full of diesel fueled boats was a tempting target. As for me I will be hiding the half gallon of gas I have on board for the Honda generator and sleeping with one eye open.