Wednesday, May 29, 2013


Finally got back on the boat Memorial Day after a month away. Beautiful day somewhat cool and windy. My 48 Volt Marine Air X turbine was spinning away charging the batteries. As I sat there I was waiting to see it stop as it usually does on sunny days such as this because the solar panels manage to keep things charged up. In fact The 48 volt Air X is usually stopped much of the day as the solar panels do most of the charging. But, for some reason it was spinning longer than usual,  When I went into BIANKA's cabin I soon found out the reason.

What happened was the  Morningstar ProStar PS-15M-48V, 15 Amp 48 Volt Charge Controller was still in over voltage disconnect mode and had not been charging the battery bank for the last month. A month ago I used the Dual Pro 4 Bank Charger to top off and balance the four 8A4D batteries using grid power. The voltage applied to the battery bank by the charger can reach 62 volts at some point in the charge cycle. The Morningstar controller senses this as an over voltage condition and disconnects the solar panels from the battery. It's a safety feature of the controller. I just need to hit the reset button on the Morningstar controller after the Dual Pro finishes it's charge and it starts charging normally. Apparently, I forgot to do this the last time before I left the boat so the only charging of the propulsion bank for the past month was from the Marine Air X turbine. Not a problem when one has multiple ways to charge the battery bank. Nice to know the boat is always fueled up with energy even if one of the systems is accidentally disconnected. This sailor always likes to have a backup. With electric propulsion it's easy to have multiple backups for charging.

Saturday, May 25, 2013


Well, Memorial day weekend has rolled around and despite my best efforts to have the boat in the water before now, BIANKA is still high and dry. Some freelance work gigs and and a two week vacation that included a week cruising the Florida Keys have once again conspired to delay the splashing of my boat. But, now it is time to hit the ground running. I already have the shaft zinc ready to put on and my copy of the ELDRIDGE TIDE AND PILOT on board.
But, I've still got a few projects I'd like to get done before the boat is put into the water. I've bought a Chain Stopper  which will help me raise and secure the anchor chain. I kind of need to install this this while I have access to the anchor locker and before the mast gets stepped. So it will be somewhat of a priority I also need to permanently mount the now completed helm instrumentation panel. Likewise the AIS electronics also needs to find a permanent home. The Lexan part of the solar bimini torn off by hurricane Sandy need to be reinstalled. I also need to look at why the wash down pump was not working during winter layup.  Then there is the usual bright work touch ups. The list will grow but, one thing that does not need much attention is the electric propulsion system. It's been charged up over the winter ready to go. No fluids, zincs, hoses need to be checked. No impellers replaced and no mysterious leaks to be traced and cleaned up. With a little luck I hope to have BIANKA in the water by next weekend. At least that's the plan.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013


The  film ALL IS LOST with Robert Redford is causing a lot of talk at the Cannes Film Festival. Looks interesting but, those of us who have spent enough time on the water already know that "stuff happens" on the water  usually at the worst possible time. Here is a trailer from the film.

Saturday, May 18, 2013


You may recall that BIANKA although being dragged a thousand feet across the harbor during superstorm Sandy there was very little damage to her. The same could not be said for my dinghies  Honda BP2 outboard. Which sat on the harbor bottom for several days after the dingy flipped over at the dock.  I was lucky enough to snag it with a grapple borrowed from the boatyard and bring it up on the dock:

A couple of fish and crabs fell out of it as I bought it up on the dock and I discovered more after I took off the cover and rinsed the motor down with fresh water.

I was hoping to be able to remove the carburetor ASAP but, found some long rusted nuts prevented that from happening. So after removing what I could and spraying the unit down with WD-40

and hitting the rusted nuts with PB Blaster , heat and whatever else I could think of. I had no success. So I  left it for a while. The winter was cold and the idea of spending it in the cold garage was not that inviting. So when it warmed up I again started to work on the engine. I found that over the winter the hard to remove corroded nuts were able to be removed and I was finally able to get at and remove the carburetor. Which by this time had started to corrode rather badly:

I could buy a new carburetor for about under a hundred and fifty bucks. That's just to start. So I started thing maybe it's time to just stop trying to revive the outboard and move on. Maybe sell the engine for parts and get a new outboard. I don't really use the outboard much in fact it's been about two years since I last had it on the dingy before Sandy dumped it onto Davy Jones locker. The outboard came with BIANKA when I bought her in 1995 so it's not like it's a new motor.  The corroded nuts attest to that! I thinking perhaps it's time to make BIANKA an all electric boat with a new electric outboard for the dingy too! Decisions, decisions.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013


Recently I went to my local West Marine store looking for a shaft zinc. In my wanderings I found myself in the engine supply aisle.  As I looked down at all the fluids, fittings, tools and parts in that location I smiled at how I no longer needed any of them since I converted to electric propulsion.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

A CAPT. MIKE TIP OF THE HAT: Swann Communications & their Freestyle HD Camera

I've got several video cameras that I use on board BIANKA. From GoPro, Canon Powershot to the one built into my Blackberry phone. They all come in useful for various purposes.  But, one I've been using a lot has been the  Swann Freestyle 1080p HD Waterproof Sports Video Camera. It  is small like the GoPro but, comes with a lot of accessories that that GoPro charges extra for. Things like a remote start and LCD screen are included with the base unit. I also like that it has separate buttons to either shoot video or stills. Unlike the GoPro which requires pushing several buttons to change how you want to shoot. On a recent trip to the Spanish Virgins my Swann stopped working. It seems one of the battery connectors broke. Not sure when it happened but, it was not something I could fix. Since the Swann warranty was for a year I contacted them  for a repair. After getting receiving the shipping information I sent it off. Then the other day I got the package back from Swann USA. It was not the camera I sent to be repaired my camera  but, they had sent a brand new camera with all the accessories. All I can say is WOW that's great customer service. So that's why Swann and their  Swann Freestyle Sports Video Camera get a tip of the hat from Capt. Mike.

Here's some of the video I've taken with the camera. The first is from a recent trip to Vieques:

and here is a timelapse of Dawn arriving on Hook Mountain as BIANKA sat at anchor:

Wednesday, May 08, 2013


I mentioned a few posts back that NOAA and the Army Corp of Engineers where doing post superstorm Sandy surveys of New York Harbor.  Making sure the channels were clear of debris and shoals. I hoped that they would also do surveys of the areas around the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. I and other sailors often use these areas for anchorage as we wait for a favorable currents to help speed us up the Hudson (North) River.  I am glad to report that is the case NOAA has recently released a graphic of some recently completed surveys of those areas made in April:

As you can see the survey includes the whole area around the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island and also the basin where the the Liberty Landing Marina is located. These new surveys should lead to some new chart data and comfort that there are not any new surprises waiting below the surface in these areas for smaller cruising sailboats following Hurricane Sandy.

Sunday, May 05, 2013


While I was doing some of that preliminary organizing I came upon my Olin flare kit:

. So I thought this was as good a time as any to open it up and check to make sure what flares where inside and if any where out of date. Which is a no no with the Coast Guard and just not a good idea in general.

In my  Flare Kit there are both hand held flares and 12 gauge aerial flares:

I was glad to see that non of them were out of date and I could get through the sailing season without having to buy new ones.  I hope to never have to use one but, it is important to have them available just in case. Spring outfitting is a good time to check them and make sure they are not out of date. 

Friday, May 03, 2013


The winter was cold and wet so other than a few quick checks I did not spend much time on board. So the cabin pretty much stayed somewhat disorganized from the post Sandy cleanup:
As you can see there are some things that really have no place in the cabin. Like the fender thrown in as I was buttoning up before the boat was pulled it really does not belong in the cabin. Also the piece of Lexan that use to be secured to to the solar bimini but, was not secure enough to survive the 95 MPH winds of Hurricane Sandy should be out of here. So now that it's time to start getting the boat ready for spring outfitting a little organization might is in order:
 It may not look like much improvement but, dropping the table down and having better access to various tools and parts really helps me find things as I go around and do some spring boat maintenance. Once the boat is ready for launch then everything gets stowed away properly. But, for now having things very accessible is the plan