Monday, December 31, 2012

A SAILOR LOOKS BACK AT 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

CHRISTMAS IN THE ARCTIC

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

DESTINATION: HOOK MOUNTAIN

  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

AUTUMN CRUISE UP THE HUDSON RIVER 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

TIPS FROM AN ELECTRIC SAILOR: BELT TENSION

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.