Monday, December 30, 2013

THE ELECTRIC PADDLE: Part Two: Capt. Mike's Review

When it looked like the costs of trying to resuscitate the Honda 2HP outboard drowned by superstorm Sandy were going to head upward by several hundred dollars. I decided it was time to move on. Since I had already converted BIANKA to electric propulsion getting an electric outboard seemed like the logical choice. As I explained in the previous post I did not use the gas powered Honda too often. Using it mostly when the winds would make rowing the dingy tough if not impossible and some occasional gunkholing. Though it was under thirty pounds moving it on board and installing it in the dingy was sometimes dicey. So when looking at the alternatives I had several choices for an Electric outboard. There were trolling motors. Though they required that I carry a hefty battery on board to use it. A Torqueedo outboard which are nice though a little pricy for my needs. Finally,  there was the Electric Paddle made by PropEle Electric Boat Motors. It was an electric outboard I was intrigued with it since I first blogged about it several years ago. It seemed to be the right fit for my needs so I bought one:

As you can see it is small enough to fit on the cabin table along with the battery pack, charger and the spares that come with it. It is very light and compact and is much easier to stow under the cockpit without the worry of leaking oil and other fluids. It was about two hundred dollars more than a new Honda BF2 outboard would be. But, there are no oil changes, zincs, lower lube or winterization costs like with the gas powered Honda. It also means I need to carry less gasoline on board. Indeed maintenance seems to only involve dipping the lower unit into a bucket of fresh water and letting it drain.

It's designed for propelling small yacht tenders, rowboats, canoes, kayaks and sailing dinghies less than 9 feet long and under 800 pounds when loaded. So it looked like it would work well with my 8 foot Porta Boat and it does.

Both the Electric Paddle and it's 24 volt battery pack  fit very nice and compact on the transom. The battery pack hangs suspended on the locking handle out of the way and off the bottom of the dingy. There is no concern it will be sliding around if the boat gets hit by a wake. The motor and battery pack each weigh only eight pounds and are much easier to install on the dingy than the 28 pound Honda gas outboard. I am able to hold it in one hand and still have one hand for the boat. I never felt it or me had the possibility of going overboard while trying to attach it to the transom in rough conditions. PropEle also make a 12 volt Electric Paddle without battery or charger too.

It has a magnetic key attached to a lanyard that inserts into the steering handle and stops if it is pulled out. It also has a safety start feature in that the motor will not start unless the throttle is first turn to the off position. So that there is no sudden unplanned forward movement when inserting the key. Another nice thing about electric outboards is unlike small gas outboards you won't knock out your passengers or spouses teeth when pulling the starter cord because there is none. A turn of the throttle and you are moving. Connection between the motor and the battery pack is with a secure waterproof connector:

 I've left the Electric Paddle hooked in the dingy during several rainstorms with no ill effects. I've also inadvertently left the throttle control laying in water in the bottom of the dingy when I tilted the unit up and it has not caused any problem. That's because the design uses waterproof magnetic hall effect sensors for the control.  Adjusting the tilt of the Electric Paddle is very easy as shown in this video:

Note: You don't have to be in the water to make the adjustment. It was just easier to get a good camera angle for the video.

Another nice feature is the ability to slide the shaft and prop up in the bracket when tilting the motor up:

This makes it easier to reach the prop to clear it of weeds. Though the Joe Grez the Industrial Product Designer who designed the Electric Paddle said usually all one has to do it power the prop a second or two once it is out of the water and any debris goes spinning off easily. Speaking of props the Electric Paddle uses a large diameter, high pitch, high aspect prop like those used on propeller airplanes. But, Electric Paddle uses one that is specifically designed to be efficient at lower RPM's needed for pushing a boat through the water.

When using the Electric Paddle I have recorded speed tests of 2.2 miles per hour using the GPS app on my cell phone:

Which is just .1 MPH below the minimum specs the manual says I should be getting. Though playing around with the tilt angle may improve that. I'm still very happy with it's performance.

The Electric Paddle comes with an extra magnetic key, key for the motor lock, spare cotter pin and prop.

Having used the Electric Paddle during this past season I have to admit I'm getting a little spoiled. I've been using it more and rowing less. In part because it is so much easier to carry and install than the old gas outboard. I've used the Electric Paddle outboard more in just this past season than I have the old gas outboard in the past five years. I'm sure I'll be using it more in the future. I don't miss the old outboard at all. It was a gas guzzler and very noisy. The Electric Paddle is quiet enough to be able to have a quick conversation while passing other moored boats without slowing down. Because it is so quiet it makes great for gunkholing and bird watching.  To charge the battery pack requires 120 volts but, it can be charged with an on board inverter that is only 200 watts or larger.

In short if you are use to speeding across the harbor with a 15 HP outboard doing 15 knots in a 12 foot inflatable sitting over the gas tank with a cigarette dangling from your mouth. Then the Electric Paddle is not for you. But, if you need a quiet,reliable, low maintenance,  easy to store and carry electric propulsion system for the dingy to get back and forth to the dock at speeds that won't get you in trouble with the Harbor Police then it might be just the thing. You can also use it on your  Kayak or Canoe too so it's more versatile than the gas outboard too . For my needs the Electric Paddle gets the Capt. Mike thumbs up. It's a welcome addition on board BIANKA. One that I'll be using more than the old gas outboard.

Friday, December 27, 2013

THE ELECTRIC PADDLE: Part One: What's in the box.

When I bought BIANKA in 1995 she had on board a Honda BF 20SA outboard a 2 HP four stroke outboard for use with the dingy.

 I did not use it a lot and most of the time it stayed down below in the cockpit locker. It weighed only 35 pounds and was small enough to fit there though one it was a little awkward to lift out sometimes. The outboards metal fins or handle would sometimes catch on stored lines and other items stored next to it. Since I did not use it all that often it was not a big issue. I mostly rowed the dingy. On occasions when I actually used it I found it noisy (especially after having converting the mother ship to electric propulsion) and a real gas guzzler when compared to the on board Honda 2000 generator I used for charging the electric propulsion system. Still it was nice to have on board and be able to use it when the need arose. Like other Honda products it was pretty reliable so it stayed on board.

At the end of October 2012 I was preparing BIANKA for what would become super storm SANDY. The winds the day before while I was on board preparing for the storm were blowing 20 to 25 knots from the northeast and the dock I needed to bring the dingy back to was located northwest. I was not sure I would be able to row the dingy in the docks direction without first being blown across the harbor. So I decided it would be prudent to bring out the Honda outboard and have it available on the Porta Boat dingy in case the winds prevented me from rowing to my destination.  It turns out I was able to row to the docks crabbing the dingy with just the oars and never needed to fire up the outboard. When I got inside the marina I tied the dingy to one of the docks protected by high bulkhead. I left the motor on the dingy just in case I would need to use  it once the worst of the storm had past to get back to the boat. I thought the dingy would be protected from the worst of the storm but, I was wrong. The dock it was tied to broke apart:

When it broke apart it flipped the dingy and sent the Honda BF 20 outboard to the bottom. I spent a few days with a grapple until I finally snagged it and brought to the surface. A few crabs and small fish had already tried to make a home inside the cover:

I quickly rinsed the outboard in fresh water and sprayed it liberally with WD-40. I spent a number of days over the winter trying to remove one or two screws that had over the years became severely corroded even before Sandy. It took several attempts using  PB Blaster . to remove them. By then the carburetor had signs of severe corrosion. Still I continued on the taking it apart:

 In the spring I started to look at the economics of trying to resurrect the thirteen plus year drowned outboard and decide it might not be worth it on such an old engine. So I started to look for a replacement.

I had done a post about a small electric outboard called The Electric Paddle back in 2011. I was intrigued with it's concept and it seemed like it was really what I needed for my dingy use. But, since I'm a "if it ain't broke don't fix it sailor" and the Honda BF20 was still working for me it did not pass the "want vs need" test. The drowning of the Honda outboard during Sandy changed all that. So earlier this season I decided to buy the Electric Paddle. It did cost more that replacing the Honda outboard but, my experience with converting to electric propulsion on BIANKA and it's low maintenance and high reliability tipped the equation toward buying it. It was also cheaper than other electric outboards like the Torqueedo's. It arrived just a few days after ordering it. It's made in the U.S.A built in the Pacific Northwest by a family run business. When it arrived I took the box on board here's what I found when I opened it up:

In the next post I'll share my experience with using the Electric Paddle.

Monday, December 23, 2013


Well winter has finally arrived and the docks that were filled with power boats are now empty and so is much of the harbor that was filled with hundreds of boats.

Even the moorings are gone. Leaving no trace that sailboats like BIANKA where ever in the harbor. But, not all the boats have gone into hibernation mode. They boatyard was still pulling the boats of the commercial fisherman:

 Cleaning the bottoms, replacing props, engines and whatever else has to be done. One would think winter time would be a time of scarce resources for much of the wildlife of the harbor. But, different species of ducks from the north have replaced others that have moved south. Sightings of Arctic Snowy Owls have been reported. Meanwhile, the local Seagulls have been enjoying a seasonal treat in the town marina parking lot. Where the marinas floating docks have been hauled out to ride out the winter on the pavement.

The sides and flotation packs are coated with plump mussels and barnacles and the seagulls have all winter to gorge themselves on the easy pickings:

So though the activity has changed there are still things going on in and around the harbor and why I still enjoy coming down and being on the boat no matter what the season.

Friday, December 20, 2013


We here in the states are stuck with the semi droning artificial voices for the NOAA VHF radio marine forecasts. Over in England humans still read the weather forecasts for shipping interests and boaters around the island nation. It also attracts it share of landlubbers also. Books have been written about The Shipping Forecast like Attention All Shipping: A Journey Round the Shipping Forecast (Radio 4 Book of the Week) or And Now the Shipping Forecast: A Tide of History Around Our Shores. Another is a book of paintings of locations and areas mentioned in The Shipping Forecast called Rain Later, Good: Painting the Shipping Forecast
  National Public Radio had an interesting report about the allure of the Shipping Forecast that can be found here.  It is interesting to hear how all of the English waters are covered in one broadcast while here in the states forecasts are more localized. Click here to listen to the latest Shipping Forecast on BBC4.

Monday, December 16, 2013


NOAA has just announced that a new edition of Nautical Chart 12334 which covers New York Harbor. This latest edition includes new depth measurements and shoreline depictions.  Since it covers changes that occurred since super storm Sandy devastated the area it's probably a good idea to update as soon as possible.  I had cruised through the area just a few days before that storm hit and have not been back since. So I will definitely be updating my chart before heading there again.  It's always important to try and keep charts up to date. Here's an example. This is look at the special anchorage 20A around Ellis Island in New York Harbor from the chart 12334 edition 37:

Here is the same anchorage area from the new updated 12334 72nd edition chart:

There are changes in depth and more obstructions charted in the post Sandy chart. Also good to know is how the anchorage has changed over the years. Including the addition of a security zone around Ellis and Liberty Island which has been in effect since after 9/11 terrorist attack. Not being aware of it is sure to invite a visit from the Coast Guard, National Park Service or New York Marine Police. So you definitely want to avoid entering or anchoring inside that area. You can download a  free PDF file of the chart here  and also as free raster navigational chart here. Print on demand charts are available at your local chart supplier.

Friday, December 13, 2013


It was 25 degrees fahrenheit outside this morning.  Even though technically it is still fall here in the northeast it sure feels like winter already and I'm reminded that I  really need to go check on the boat despite the cold temperatures. When I bought BIANKA it came with a Espar diesel heater installed. Which came in handy during early April and late fall sails to and from New York where I lived aboard the boat. Since I no longer carry diesel on board after converting to electric propulsion the diesel heater has not been used in years. But, in the off season while working on the boat I do have supplemental heat in the form of an Holmes  Compact Ceramic Heater .
I also used it on board when the boat was at the dock in New York. It provides nice heat in a small package. It can even fit under the steps blowing heat along the cabin floor or on a counter blowing a dry heat toward the bunk keeping one nice and toasty. It has a thermostat but, I never keep it on unless I am on the boat. The boatyard also has a policy of not allowing any electrical power to be connected unless you are on the boat. Which is a good idea since fires can start if heaters are left unattended. But, when working on the boat on a cold day it helps make things nice and toasty in the cabin as one waits for the warm  Summer Wind to once again arrive.

Monday, December 09, 2013

HARBOR TEST 2013 Part Two: Watts Up With The Data!

Someone expressed an interest in what the battery voltage was doing during the 2013 harbor tests so here is the raw data and the averaged results that were shown in the plotted results in the previous post.




% FINISH 90.8%
                                                          AVERAGED WATTS AND SPEED
10E         49.75        2.0                      10                 497.5                  2.35
10W       49.75 2.7                       20                 977.0                3.35
20E   48.8         3.0                       30                1459.5                3.95
20W       48.9          3.7                       40                1937.0               4.40
30E        48.65 3.7                       50                2407.5               4.75
30W       48.65 4.2
40E        48.45 4.1
40W       48.40 4.7
50E        48.15 4.5
50W       48.15 5.0


TIME END   9:01


                                                           AVERAGED WATTS AND SPEED
10E       49.40            2.2                    10              495                      2.00
10W      49.60            2.3                    20              985                      3.30
20E       49.25            3.4                    30            1467                      3.90
20W      49.25            3.2                    40            1936                     4.30
30E       48.95            4.0                    50            2396                     4.55
30W      48.85            3.8
40E       48.45            4.3
40W      48.35            4.3
50E       48.00             4.5
50W      47.85            4.6

Monday, December 02, 2013

NOTES OF AN ELECTRIC SAILOR: Harbor Test 2013 Part One

Back in early June I had just splashed BIANKA but, had to wait for the boatyard to step the mast. Since I had nothing else pressing on board I thought I would take the opportunity to do some testing of the electric propulsion system both without and with the mast installed. So that's what I did. I made several runs between two buoys in the harbor that were 450 yards apart. I did a similar test back in the fall of 2011. Though I conducted these tests with a cleaner bottom since the boat had recently been splashed.

The mast on my 30 foot Nonsuch weighs about 300 lbs which is pretty heavy compared to a lot of other boats the same size. So I was curious to see what effect the mast weight might have on the boats performance. Like the test I did in 2011 I made two passes between the buoys. One going east and then turning around and making another pass going west. They were made at various current draws from the 48 volt battery bank of 10, 20, 30, 40 and 50 amps. The two passes were averaged to take into account any tidal current pluses and minus to the speed.
Here is the graph comparing the speed both with and without the mast on board:

As you can see there is a slight difference at the low end and upper end of the speed data. But, only about a  quarter of a knot or so. The sweet spot seems to be right around 3 to 4 knot range where both graphs are pretty close. Out of curosity I took the data from the Harbor Test of fall 2011 and added it to the above graph's data:

What's interesting to note is that the 2011 test data was taken at the end of the season just before I pulled the boat for the winter. The hull and prop had not been cleaned for probably a month or more:
So that growth seemed to have had some effect on that test data. 

Thursday, November 28, 2013

GIFTS FOR BOATERS: Eldridge Tide and Pilot Book

 A great stocking stuffer gift for northeast boaters and those sailors you know who travel south for winter and return to the east coast  in spring is the Eldridge Tide and Pilot Book 2014 . It is full of data and charts that will help those boaters make the journey faster and easier.

Along with astronomical  data and interesting articles on things like fishing, currents and nautical history. It's a book that I always carry on board and keep in the cockpit when underway.

Monday, November 25, 2013


I had been looking forward to seeing this movie since I first heard about it being screened at the Cannes Film festival earlier this year. It takes a lot for me to become interested in going to see a movie especially in a theater. I subscribe to the notion that I will not be found on my death bed wishing I had spent more time watching movies, TV shows or playing video games or any other means by which many people seem to entertain themselves to death with these days. Time is precious and as one gets older one had better realize that and the sooner the better. From interviews with the films director J.C Chandor it seems that notion was also one of the reasons he wrote the movie. I also found it interesting that Chandor was inspired by seeing the boats stored for the winter that sailed during the summer in BIANKA's home waters of Long Island Sound as he explained in this article:

"It all started on a train in fall 2010. Writer-director J.C. Chandor found himself regularly commuting between Manhattan, where he was editing his first film, Margin Call, and Providence, R.I., where he lives with his wife and two young children. The tracks run along the coast of Connecticut, where he would see hundreds of boats -- not yachts, but more middle-class sailing vessels -- piled up on land for the winter. "There's sort of an absurdity of a boat on land," he remembers thinking.
At the same time, Chandor also found his thoughts revolving around questions of death -- and life. When he was 19, he survived a car accident that claimed the life of a friend. And during his early 30s -- when, he felt, he was letting his professional life slip by as he worked on music videos and commercials -- he witnessed the death of both his grandmothers. Suddenly, he says, "I had this tremendous energy about seizing the day, that every day has to be treated as a gift."- Hollywood Reporter

For me being on a boat intensifies those feelings of each day being a "gift" with every sunrise and sunset I see. But, it is not always fun either. I've been out in bad conditions a number of times when things stopped becoming "fun". Certainly not as bad as depicted in the movie but, miserable enough to be a learning experience. One thing you can say about the one and only character in ALL IS LOST played by a well weathered Robert Redford is that he is a "Jonah"  a sailor with an incredible amount of bad luck. But, experienced sailor's know that "stuff" happens when you're sailing and usually when you don't expect it. The movie highlights this by having events start to break bad for Redford's character on what would appear to be an otherwise beautiful day. That's the way it is sometimes on the water. The trick is to not panic and sometimes things are not as bad as it first appears as I have learned. But, the film also adds credence to the adage that the sea will find out everything you did wrong.
Chandor via Redford shows this side of sailing all pretty well too. Even as Redford's character meticulously assembles his survival supplies one mistake nearly cost him losing his all important water supply. He then had to improvise or die and that is just the way it is out on the water. The movie has several of these moments and also captures quite realistically what could happen as a sailboat and life raft are tossed about in storms. Including being rolled, dismasted and overturned. There are some things that would have made sense in real life situations that are missing in the film. For example to have an EPIRB beacon on board that would have made a rescue for Redford's more certain. But, not every sailor carries one (or wants to carry one) and they can certainly fail as most of his other technology on board did. My only major complaint is that one interior scene had entirely to much camera shaking that I found distracting. It looked more like Redford's character was in an earthquake rather than down below in a boat being pounded by waves. Otherwise I thought the film was a well done in that it realistically captured the things that can go wrong when one ventures out on the water in a boat and the lengths one may have to go through in order to survive. I give it the Captain Mike thumbs up.

All Is Lost

Friday, November 22, 2013

All Men Shall Be Sailors Then Until The Sea Shall Free Them

"I really don’t know why it is that all of us are so committed to the sea, except I think it’s because in addition to the fact that the sea changes, and the light changes, and ships change, it’s because we all came from the sea. And it is an interesting biological fact that all of us have, in our veins the exact same percentage of salt in our blood that exists in the ocean, and, therefore, we have salt in our blood, in our sweat, in our tears. We are tied to the ocean. And when we go back to the sea – whether it is to sail or to watch it – we are going back from whence we came." -Jack Kennedy

Monday, November 18, 2013

GIFTS FOR BOATERS: Columbia Sport/Fishing Shirts

Well, the holidays are coming up including the ominous Black Friday and this year Black Thursday events. Though, I certainly won't be in that crowd of shoppers. Fact is most of my shopping is on line. Especially for things I need for the boat. One of the things I will always be carrying on board and in my travels is several  Columbia Men's Bonehead Long Sleeve Shirt. I live in them for most of the year and take a few of them with me on any charters I go on in the off season. They are light and well ventilated and have lot's of pockets to hold things like cell phones, cameras, notepads, pens and the all important reading glasses. They are easy to clean and rinse and dry faster than most other shirts. They look good on the beach and at the bar and stay cool in hot climes. Which is why I recommend them as gifts for any boaters or crew members you may have on your holiday list.

Saturday, November 16, 2013


Back in 2002 I took BIANKA up the Hudson River into the Erie Canal then into the Oswego Canal and sailed across Lake Ontario. It was an interesting trip and one I might like to do again. A fellow sailor posted this interesting profile of the Great Lakes that shows the depth, flow, waterfalls and locks as the waters make their way to the Atlantic Ocean:

Hat tip Arthur Langley and RCR Yachts

Wednesday, November 13, 2013


Though the Berkshires seemed dream-like on account of that frosting
With ten miles behind me and ten thousand more to go
There's a song that they sing when they take to the highway
A song that they sing when they take to the sea
James Taylor

I came home from a quick trip to New York City to find the first snow on the lawn:

I was glad I had already winterized BIANKA. Though winterizing a boat using electric propulsion is almost an enjoyable experience compared to the times when I still had the old Westerbeke on board. I still give a little shudder as I recall trying to winterize the diesel engine as the sun was setting in the autumn evening. With cold hand filling five gallon buckets with cold water as the temperature dropped in the darkness. running the fresh water though the engine heating it up enough to open the thermostat and then running a few gallons of antifreeze through the engine to finish the winterizing. Followed quickly by a changing of the now warmed engine oil. By the time I climbed down the ladders I was cold and wet and my clothes smelled like anti freeze, diesel and oil. Brrr I get chills just thinking of those days.

Thanks to electric propulsion I and the boat no longer smell like diesel this time of year. In fact winterizing is now a quick and easy process:

One that I can now do using only one gallon of antifreeze. You can see the technique I use by clicking here. Winterizing is not the dreaded cold and smelly process from the diesel days. I'm usually off the boat in an hour and off well before the chilly autumn evening begins. That's a good thing.