Thursday, August 29, 2013

IN BIANKA'S GALLEY: Freeze Dried Blueberries

I found my thrill on Blueberry Hill
On Blueberry Hill where I found you
The moon stood still on Blueberry Hill
And lingered till my dreams came true

When I'm out on a cruise with BIANKA I prefer quiet secluded anchorages over active harbors. Since I converted to electric propulsion there is less need to go in search of a gas dock which is good. But, provisioning and the need to find food is still a concern.. I'd still prefer to stay in the serenity of where the boat is anchored. To that end I have been trying out some products that may reduce the need to find a grocery store and make staying put more of option.

The first product I tried is some Freeze Dried Blueberries . The 4.23 oz can is about half the size of a one pound coffee can and contains delicious freeze dried dehydrated Blueberries. Because they are dried they have an intense flavor that even taste good straight out of the can. Which is dangerous because one could easily pop them into the mouth like candy and not have enough for cooking if one is not careful. But, it does make for healthy snacking. So far I have been able to resist the temptation most of the time. It's a pretty versatile product. Instructions say to add three parts water to one part Blueberries to rehydrate them. I've also used other liquids like soaking one tablespoon of dried Blueberries in a cup of milk for twenty minutes before adding vanilla ice cream to make a Blueberry Milk Shake with a very intense Blueberry flavor.

I've also had great success with making Blueberry pancakes with the freeze dried Blueberries. Except rather than rehydrating them first I just whip up a batch of pancake batter and put about a quarter of a cup of the freeze dried Blueberries into the batter and let it sit in the cooler over night:

In the morning I give the batter another stir before pouring some of the batter out onto my cast iron pan:

After the pancakes are cooked I plate them and drizzle them with some Maple Syrup. Added a cup of coffee and enjoyed a very flavorful breakfast experience in the cockpit:

A can or two of these freeze dried Blueberries will definitely be a staple in the galley of BIANKA from now on.  I'm also trying some other freeze dried products on board that I will be reporting on from time to time here on the blog in the near future.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013


Bars and boats just seem to go together. Especially as gathering places for sailors to get together. Last week I was out on the eastern end of Long Island enjoying a few days on the beach and stopped into the East Hampton Point restaurant overlooking Three Mile Harbor for lunch which has taken that boat and bar concept to the extreme:

With a 5.5 meter former Olympic sailing yacht named Jade located right inside the bar.

Saturday, August 24, 2013


I've carried a Sears Wet/Dry 2-1/2 gallon vacuum on board for a few years. It comes in very handy for various cleaning jobs on board. At the time it was the smallest 120 volt vacuum I could find. Having the Honda 2000 generator on board makes it easy to use even at anchor or on the mooring. Though I primarily bought it to suck water out of the bilge. The bilge on BIANKA is rather deep and I was getting tired of spending so much time on my knees with the hand pump and sponge when it needed to be cleaned or drained. The wet/dry vac did the job a lot faster and better. Recently I saw that Shop Vac had come out with an even smaller wet/dry vac a one gallon unit called the Shop-Vac Micro Wet/Dry Vac. On a 30 foot sail boat downsizing to smaller things is always a good idea. So I bought one and tested to see if it would work for what I needed it for. First lets see what it comes with:

So far so good. You can see how it compares in size the the 2-1/2 gallon vacuum I already had on board even while it was still in the box:

Here it is in a side by side comparison:

Unlike the larger vac which had a dry filter that was wrapped around the foam filter the  Shop-Vac Micro Wet/Dry Vac has a separate filter bag that slides into the intake for the vacuum:

This filter bag wraps around the motor in the lower case:

It only comes with one bag so if you plan to do a lot of heavy duty dry cleaning you will need to order more  Micro Filter Bags so you have them on hand. But, since I primarily use the wet/dry vac for emptying the deep bilge on BIANKA of water I needed to see how well it would do that job. So I did a quick initial test which you can see here:

It works just as well as the larger wet dry vac it is replacing for removing water from the bilge. The cons are since it only has a one gallon capacity I might have to empty it more often depending on how much water is in the bilge. It also seems to sometimes spray a little water out the exhaust as it nears capacity. But, that is easily wiped up. Also unlike larger vacuums the output port does not allow you to use it as a blower but, I never did use the larger vacuum for this either. All in all I am pleased to downsize to this smaller vac which takes up a lot less space than the one it is replacing and will still allow me to do the clean up jobs I need it to do. So it gets the Captain Mike seal of approval.


Thursday, August 22, 2013


Boat bags are useful things to have. I've had one for over ten years that has lugged ton of stuff from bags of ice, groceries etc... But, lately it is showing it's age not in the main part of the bag but, one of it's handles had seen better days:

The handle had frayed and was about to break. I thought what a shame since the rest of the bag still had some good life and usefulness left to it. So I looked around on board to see what I could use to fix the problem. I found the solution in an old web belt that had also frayed a little:

I cut a piece of the belt off and using some Waxed Sailmakers Twine   and a needle made a new handle for the bag.

 This will allow the boat bag to continue to function instead of ended up in a landfill. So it's a good thing. 

Tuesday, August 20, 2013


I am still constantly surprised by the things I find on board BIANKA even after owning her for eighteen years. As I mentioned I decided to reshuffle some storage lockers to make things easier to get at. When I did I found this:

A brand new  Heat Diffuser  sometimes called a flame tamer. Even better this one has a folding handle:

Which  makes for easy storage on board and is why I missed not finding it for eighteen years as it was hidden away on the side of the locker where it was stored. It will come in real handy on board as I like to cook with things like a 4 quart pressure cooker and using a flame tamer spreads the heat under the pot to help prevent burning. Wonder what other surprises still await for me to find on board?

Thursday, August 15, 2013

BIRDS: Black Crowned Night Heron

I've not been able to find a good reason to have a TV on board  because nature provides an entertaining mix of things to see. Sometimes it's the weather and sometimes it's the creatures that come into view. Like when I spotted this Black Crowned Night Heron keeping watch near the docks:

The bird is only usually seen at dusk or at night hence the name Night Heron. I'm amused when I see them because they seem to have the demeanor of a night watchman. A few nights ago I took BIANKA to the dock to refill the water tanks.  A Black Crowned Night Heron flew onto the dock and then proceeded to waddle around the dock like he owned it. Then jumping on the pontoon of an inflatable dingy to get in better position to ambush his prey in the marina waters. Even at night there are things to see on board a boat that you will miss if you go below and pop in a DVD to watch TV. I have never become bored enough to do that.

Monday, August 12, 2013

WHY BOATS SINK: Things that go bump in the night!

I was sitting on a beach chair out on the eastern end of the Isle of Long staring out into the Atlantic about two weeks ago. About fifty feet away from where I was sitting was this:

It was part of a tree about thirty five feet long that was partially buried at the high tide mark another 12 foot piece of the same tree was lying a few feet away. It looked pretty nasty down by the root end:

As thought about the tree and wondered where it came from. I was thinking it is probably a traveler left over from Hurricane Sandy's vist to the area last fall:

I wondered how many other tree trunks were floating out there in the Atlantic vagabond leftovers from the storm? Depending on  the boats construction and how it hits such a piece of debris it could severely damage a boat or maybe damage a prop. It would be hard to see to especially at night. Just another thing to be aware of out on the waters. Coincidently, the tree was located at almost the exact spot that I saw an immense log rolling around in the surf a few years ago. Here is some video of that hull crusher I took with a cell phone:

As I sat back down in my beach chair I made a mental note myself to remember even on a beautiful sailing day there are still things lurking just below the surface that could ruin your day.

Friday, August 09, 2013


When I got my AIS transponder last year it and the battery instrumentation panel I built they were initially mounted at the helm with cable ties:

Not exactly the most secure or organized installation. So I recently got to work on a platform at the helm that would secure both the AIS and the panel that would mirror the one on the starboard side of the binnacle where the GPS  and propulsion control was mounted. 

So that's what I did. I had to modify the new platform made of 1/2"' Starboard  a little  allowing for the mounting of the instrumentation panel:

I had to make sure I had  easy access in order to disconnect the numerous connectors and switches on the side of the panel if I needed to:

Once that was done I simply used a spare piece of aluminum angle to provide a mount to hang the instrumentation panel  below the platform. Then just mounted the AIS display on top:

Much better! Feels good to get another project off the list and make the helm a little more organized.

Wednesday, August 07, 2013


The entertainment system on board BIANKA is not elaborate. For over decade it was a Panasonic RX-DS7 boom box. The unit had a CD player, AM/FM radio and even a cassette player. Yes, I still have some cassettes. Unfortunately, the unit over the years has gotten a little beat up which included a few falls to the cabin floor.

It's got a couple of dents in the speaker grill. The CD had also become non functional and developed a raspy sound in it's speakers. The reason why I found out on closer inspection is that one of the speakers  had broken away from it's mounting:

Obviously after ten plus years it was time for a new unit.  So the other day I made an impulse buy and bought a new "entertainment center" for the boat. It is a GPX CD/Radio/MP3  Boombox   .
It is a basic unit that has no cassette player but, does have a line input so I could plug in my MP3 player or even a cassette player if I ever wanted too. It also has a digital tuner as compared to the old Panasonic unit which had a linear tuning system:

The GPX CD/Radio/MP3 input Boombox   is also much smaller that the Panasonic it is replacing:

On a thirty foot boat like BIANKA having smaller items in the cabin is a good thing. I also modified the GPX so I could hook it into the 12 volt to 9 volt power supply I built to power the Panasonic unit:

I also added Anderson Powerpole connectors to the GPX  unit and power supply making it easy to disconnect and secure the box while underway:

. The unit sounds good and fits easily on the shelf I built for the Panasonic unit:

While I tend to not play the radio or CD too often on board preferring to keep an ear out for the cry of the Osprey or other sounds. Still it's nice to have some tunes available from time to time. The first CD I played on the unit was John Renbourn's The Hermit which is an excellent CD for listening to on board on a tranquil summer evening. Hopefully this unit will last as long as the previous "entertainment center" on board.

Sunday, August 04, 2013


I needed to remove the old shift cable for the old diesel engine. I left it in place when I converted to electric propulsion because I thought I might use it to control some type of electronic switch down the road. But, after six years I realized I probably would never use it. So it was time for it to go. I also had other projects planned to mount on the binnacle and the shift lever would just be getting in the way.

 To get access for it's removal I had to remove the compass from the binnacle:

When I did I broke one of the wire connections to the LED light on the compass housing which provides illumination of the compass at night:

Not a big deal and easy enough to repair. But, then I thought this would be a good time to upgrade the connectors to Anderson Powerpoles .  So that's what I did. First the wires supplying power the binnacle:

Then added matching connectors to the wires that led to the LED compass light:

The Powerpole connectors will make it easier to disconnect things in the future and also offer a little more insulation and protection from shorts than the original spade lug connections.

Thursday, August 01, 2013


Finally got around to making repairs to the helm instrumentation panel built last year. One of the 12 volt battery digital panels meters became intermittent and just went south. While the failure of the whole battery pack voltage meter was my fault. The meter was able to read voltages up to 90 volts but,  two of it's leads needed to be connected to a separate 5 to 30 volt supply to read anything over 30 volts. When I tested it on the bench I used 12 volt power supply and everything tested ok:

But, when I hooked up the completed panel the meter measuring the total battery pack voltage went poof! So I bought another meter one that did not require a separate voltage supply but, one that could read 30 to 90 volts directly. With a new replacements for the 12 volt digital panel meter and a proper 90 volt digital panel meter for the 48 volt battery pack voltage I sat down for what I thought would be a simple quick rewiring job. But I was wrong. Even though the displays of the meters match the others on the instrumentation panel the outside dimension of the replacement meter cases were just slightly larger than the meters they were replacing:

Which required me to spend a lot more time in the 95 degree heat trimming the openings in the panel so the meters would fit. So the quick rewiring job took considerably longer and was a little more messier than expected.