Monday, April 29, 2013


One of the things that signals the start of the sailing season for me is buying a nice fresh copy of the Eldridge Tide and Pilot Book 2013   .  If you are sailing through the waters anywhere from Maine to the Chesapeake this is the one book to have on board. Just make sure you have this years edition. By the end of the season my copy of this book will be well dog eared and beat up from the crisp pristine condition it is now in. That is because I use just about every time I leave the harbor. It is one of the items I bring into the cockpit before heading out along with items like binoculars, horn and the handheld VHF radio. I will refer to it a number of times on just about every sail trip I take. The Eldridge has most of the tide and current information you will ever need to transit the waters of the northeast coast of the U.S. and has been providing that information for well over 100 years. Yes, you can get some of the same information on many chart plotters and computer programs. But, the  Eldridge Tide and Pilot Book 2013 being a paper publication will always work and allows you to quickly find the information you need without going through a bunch of menu screens. It also contains various interesting articles concerning tides, currents, fishing, astronomy and seafaring history. I often bring it down to my cabin and peruse it when planning for the next days journey before nodding off to sleep. If you know of a northeast sailor or someone who will be sailing in the northeast U.S. waters who does not have a copy on board  it would make a great gift.

Saturday, April 27, 2013


It seems the Army Corp of Engineers and NOAA have been busy the past few months re doing surveys of the major commercial waterways and channels of the New York and New Jersey waters. I hope they will also survey the basin behind the Statue of Liberty and also the area north of Ellis Island. These areas are used as anchorages for smaller boats waiting for favorable currents going up and down the Hudson (North) River. BIANKA and I used the Ellis Island anchorage a few days before Sandy raked the area last year. It would be real good if they were to be surveyed and cleared of debris post Sandy before sailors start using them again during the upcoming season.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013


Thinking about Joshua Slocum today.

"I had resolved on a voyage around the world, and as the wind on the morning of April 24, 1895 was fair, at noon I weighed anchor set sail, and filled away from Boston, where the Spray had been moored snugly all winter. The twelve o'clock whistles were blowing just as the sloop shot ahead under full sail. A short board was made up the harbor on the port tack, then coming about she stood to seaward, with her boom well off to port, and swung past the ferries with lively heels. A photograp her on the outer pier of East Boston got a picture of her as she swept by, her flag at the peak throwing her folds clear. A thrilling pulse beat high in me. My step was light on deck in the crisp air. I felt there could be no turning back, and that I was engaging in an adventure the meaning of which I thoroughly understood."

Since BIANKA is still currently on land and blocked by other boats in the boatyard the next best thing might be to start reading SAILING ALONE AROUND THE WORLD again. The book was one of the first books I loaded onto my Kindle E-reader.  The book always seems to get my cruising juices flowing and today being the anniversary of Slocum's departure it seems like a good day as any . 

Tuesday, April 23, 2013


I was sad when the U.S. Government shut down all theU.S. LORAN transmitting stations back in 2010. That action rendered my Kings 8001 unit obsolete. Still, I kept it aboard for a while until I thought I might be able to recycle part of it even if it was just the case. I posted about my plans for the obsolete unit here. Then about a month ago I received an email from a fellow in Norway who had seen my post and wanted to know if I still had the boards. It seems that LORAN is still alive and well and used on the waters around Norway. Who knew? He also mentioned that he had a non functioning Kings 8001 unit and would like to acquire the boards so he could try and repair his unit. This is what I call a win win situation and so yesterday on Earth Day I sent the LORAN boards off to Norway to hopefully continue to help guide fellow sailors on their way as it did for me. I love when things can be recyled!

Sunday, April 21, 2013

THOUGHTS OF AN ELECTRIC SAILOR: The Battery investigation one year later

I was thinking of the disturbing battery issue I had on board last year. When all of a sudden one of my batteries refused to complete a full charge using my   Dual Pro Quad 4 battery charger. It took a few times  of repeated charging but, finally the battery came back to being comparable to the other batteries in the 48 volt propulsion string and has stayed there ever since.

Some thoughts on what happened:

1) The main cause seemed to be that I was hanging a 25 milli amp load on this particular battery to run the Paktrakr Battery Monitor. I had done this years before with no problem but,

2) I had also removed the 48 volt Marine Air X Wind Turbine over the winter to replace it's blades and have it repainted. So the only charging that was happening was from the 48 volt solar panels and an occasional charge from  the Dual Pro when I check up on the boat. During the winter solar availability was limited to short daytime charging. So that 25 ma drain started to add up. Possibly sulfating the battery enough to prevent it from ever really getting a full charge over the winter months because of the constant 25 ma load.

Over this past winter I no longer had the Paktrakr hooked up to that battery and I had the 48 volt Marine Air  X wind turbine also helping with the charging. The battery that was causing the trouble last year now charges with the rest of the batteries. The lesson learned is that to avoid taking any load off a single battery in a series string. Also when a battery suddenly refuses to charge all is not lost and one may not need to run out and get a replacement battery.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

TOOLS OF A SAILOR: Another Use for an Inspection Camera

I've mentioned before how an inspection camera comes in handy for various projects on board. With the confined spaces on board a boat that are difficult to inspect a borescope or  Inspection camera is handy to have around. I've used it to inspect the inside of a fuel tank. I found another use this spring that shows a another use for the camera. Last fall just before Superstorm Sandy arrived I found one of my deck scuppers clogged and that the water on the deck was not draining. I was able to clear it enough so it drained but, I was not sure if I had cleared it completely. Then the other day just before I was heading down to the boatyard I thought why not use the inspection camera to see if my through hull drain hoses were all clear of obstructions. Why not indeed:

I tried the camera in several of the drains and did in fact discover that there were some reeds stuck high up in the galley sink drain hose:

There were some issues trying to get the camera up into some of the drains that had more severe bends in the hose run. But, I have a plan to modify the camera to make it easier for inspections of these drains in the future. I'll post about that sometime in the future.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013


It was a cold winter with blizzards and other snows. I did not get down to the boat as much in previous years. So it always please me when I finally see the moorings are in the harbor and the firsts boat start to appear on them.  The sailing season has begun:

Monday, April 15, 2013


and if you are in the mood some rap Remy has it:

Sunday, April 14, 2013


I mentioned that after the two plus feet of snow that the blizzard NEMO dumped on the Isle of Long I found BIANKA's bilge half filled with water when I finally was able to check on the boat. Since I could empty the water by activating the bilge pump with the manual switch it was apparent the automatic bilge switch was the problem:

Because of some freelance work commitments I was not able to replace the switch for several weeks. I emptied the bilge and hoped for the best. When I finally got back to the boat yesterday I was glad to find only about an a half inch of water in the bilge. It seems the blowing snow of the blizzard had found some ways into the boat where normal rains do not.  The bilge switch that failed was a Rule Super Switch that had worked reliably since I bought BIANKA in 1995 and may have been installed when the boat was commissioned in 1986. So it had a pretty long life in the Marine environment. When I remove the switch I was surprised to find there were two parts that made up the bilge switch. There was the float switch it's self and an optional guard case that it fit into:

Since I never had to mess with it in seventeen years it came as a surprise. The case helps keep debris away from the floating switch and also has a button you can push to test the switch to make sure it is working. This helps to make sure any debris will not cause the switch to stick in either on or off position.

In my researching for a new bilge pump switch I read several reviews the the newer bilge pump switches were a little more trouble prone. As they changed from a mercury switch to a metal ball conducting between to contacts. Some reviews mention the switches not lasting too long before failures. So I look at other choices and settled on  a Water Witch 101 control.

The Water Witch is an electronic switch the senses water between two electrodes to turn the bilge pump on. It was also considerably smaller than the Rule switch it was replacing:

The install was pretty simple and the manufacturers web site had a diagram on how to wire it up for my particular installation. I have a switch panel on board where I can manually power the bilge pump via a switch or switch it over and have a bilge switch automatically turn the bilge pump on once the water rises.
I used  Anderson Powerpole Connectors to connect the switch and bilge pump. This will allow for easier trouble shooting and/or replacement in the future.

I waterproofed the connectors with some   Marine Adhesive Goop and will further waterproof it later with some heat shrink and additional sealant in the near future. With the units wired up I tested it by putting the switch into a plastic cup and then added some water:

The pump operated as expected after a short delay to prevent cycling of the pump the bilge pump turned on. I then removed the switch from the water:

Again after a short delay it turned off. Convinced that the switch was working correctly I installed it into the bilge by attaching the switch unit to the bilge pump hose with a cable ty:

Well that's one pre launch project finished now on to the next one.

Saturday, April 13, 2013


Somewhere in the night the BIANKA LOG BLOG reached 200,000 page views. Just wanted to say thank you to all those who come on board here.

Thursday, April 11, 2013


"Sandy has been retired from the official list of Atlantic Basin tropical cyclone names by the World Meteorological Organization’s hurricane committee because of the extreme impacts it caused from Jamaica and Cuba to the Mid-Atlantic United States in October 2012. "- NOAA

No complaints from me. Even though I was one of the lucky ones. The day after Sandy hit I found BIANKA over a thousand feet away from where I last saw her the morning before. She was still attached to the mooring just not where I left her.  Here is some video I took of Long Island Sound in the morning before Sandy hit. Already Long Island Sound waters had covered the beach and were starting to crash onto the parking lot:

Here is a short video of me just barely making it off the spit area as the rising waters covered the roadway leading away from the harbor:

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

ANOTHER ELECTRIC BOAT: The Archimedes Project

Sail maker Ed Botterill asked me in an email if I had seen or heard about solar panels integrated into sailcloth material.   My answer was no,  but, when I look at the 540 square feet of sail that BIANKA uses it is an intriguing idea. Though I expect there will have to be many boats like BIANKA powered by electric propulsion on the waters before that type of solar technology becomes available  Though I have to admit sometimes when I'm sitting in the cockpit nursing a cold beer I think about how things would work with a deck full of solar panels instead of sails. A new sail would cost over $5,000 and that could buy a lot of solar panels too. Well,  a fellow named Carter down in Florida has actually done it and is currently underway doing sea trials with his boat.
He took an old run down sailboat with rotten wood masts:

and converted it into a solar powered trawler with 5 kilowatts of movable solar panels on deck:

Carter and his wife are on board under going sea trails with the boat along Florida's Gulf coast in preparations for an eventual trip doing The Great Circle Route.
 So if you see this unique electric boat in your travels tell them Capt. Mike says hi!