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.

Saturday, November 09, 2013


BIANKA is back on land and stored for the winter. It was a fun season though I did not cruise as much as in previous seasons.  I did spend a lot of time on the boat pretty much living on board for the past six months. The electric propulsion system is still going strong and has once again been maintenance free all season. The AGM batteries are still holding up after six seasons as well.

A lot of projects I thought I would finish never got started. That's just the way it is when an hunting Osprey grabs your attention or a refreshing swim and a nap take precedence on ones day on board. Though I did manage to rewire the solar Bimini  a project which was long overdue.  I did add a few new items on board. I decided to replace the Honda BP 2 outboard that got drowned by Superstorm Sandy last fall. It was replaced by an Electric Paddle outboard which I will post a review about in the near future. I also installed an AIMS 48 volt 1500 Watt Pure Sine Wave  Inverter. The inverter was purchased to be able to charge the Electric Paddle battery from BIANKA's 48 volt propulsion battery bank but, I bought a larger wattage unit  than those needs in order to use it for other devices in the future. I will post an evaluation on that soon too.

Most of this years action centered around the galley. A spring outfitting discovery of a corroded Gas header in BIANKA's twenty four year old stove caused me to rethink how I use propane on board.

That yikes moment caused me to experiment with alternatives to using the stove on board and I am happy that both Plan A and Plan B both worked out well for my cooking needs this season and so I will probably use them in the future. Another advantage of my new propane usage plan is some energy savings. I plan to spend some time this winter dismantling parts of the old stove to see if I can incorporate the new cooking burner into it's space.

Another discovery from the gallery was using some freeze dried items in meals for the first time. Namely freeze dried Blueberries and  Bacon Flavored Textured Vegetable Protein TVP .. Both products look likely to be items I will carry on board in the future as they mean less trips to land for provisions when cruising. The Blueberries tasted good straight out of the can for a quick snack and also worked well when one has a hankering for Blueberry pancakes:

The Bacon flavored TVP added some nice bacon flavor as well as being somewhat healthier than meat based bacon. Also it won't spoil as rapidly and and has no grease to get rid of. It worked well mixed in with scrambled eggs and especially added some nice flavor and texture to old standby meals of Ramen Noodles. With the success of these two freeze dried products I plan to expand the selection on board next season. Though the smaller can of Blueberries runs out quickly the two pound can of the Bacon flavored TVP was still half full at the end of the season. A double order of Blueberries and dividing up the TVP into smaller containers may be the plan for next season.

Now that the off season is here I hope to get a started on some of the projects I never got to during the summer. Because "messing about in boats" is always good no matter what the season.

Tuesday, November 05, 2013


The Oyster Bay Oyster Festival is over and it's time to start thinking about heading back. Conditions were the reverse of the sail to Oyster Bay I made a week ago. The winds were now expected out of the west in the morning which was good for my easterly journey. Unfortunately, just like a week ago the winds were expected to be light only between five to ten knots. But, the sun would be shining so it would still be a nice day on the water.  But, like last week during my Columbus Day voyage I would need to get an early start in order to ride the last of the ebb current out of the Oyster Bay/Cold Spring Harbor entrance and into Long Island Sound:

Not quite as early as the trip to Oyster Bay. I figured a 6 AM departure would give me enough time to get out into Long Island Sound before the flood current started to enter in the harbor. I would be bucking the flood current for most of the day but, that's a sailor's lot sometimes.

The alarm went off at 5:30 AM. I made coffee and had a blueberry muffin for breakfast. I had everything ready in the cockpit including even having the searchlight nearby. I let go the lines off the mooring at 6:11 AM. I raised the sail  and  fired up the electric propulsion system for a 10 Amp draw and was moving along at about 1.7 knots in the pre dawn of the morning:

A slight breeze kicked in and BIANKA was soon moving along at 2.2 knots. Even though I was motor sailing I could still hear the noise of the traffic along West Shore Road which was over a mile away as the residents of Bayville started their early Monday morning commutes to work.  A solitary Seagull was keeping watch on a buoy and appeared to be checking that things were clear as I headed toward Cold Spring Harbor bound for the sound

At 6:56 AM I was off Plum Point at the entrance to Oyster Bay Harbor. At 7:44 AM I was at Buoy 1 in Cold Spring Harbor having used 16.4 amp hours and the battery capacity had dropped to 92% .

At 8:43 AM I was in Long Island Sound off of Buoy 2 at Lloyd Point. The XBM battery monitor showed I had used 26.3 amp hours and battery capacity was at 87.4%. the current in Long Island Sound had also turned against BIANKA.

10:22 AM Found BIANKA off Eatons Neck and battery readings were 79.5% capacity and  showed the EP had consumed 42.8 amp hours in four hours of electro sailing. As I rounded Eatons Neck the Northport Power plant stacks hove into view:

They are hard to miss being 600 feet high and part of the biggest gas fired power plant on the east coast.
Here's a little Nav tip from Capt. Mike: When the Northport Stacks line up they point due north.

At 11:24 AM I was directly north of the stacks. BINAKA's electro sailing had consumed -52.7 amp hours and battery capacity was now at 79.5%. Usually by this point I would have fired up the Honda 2000 to start operating in hybrid mode and not draw down the battery bank much further. But, it was such a nice day even in the very light wind and I still was bucking the flood current so I kept motoring along. I had ducked into Smithtown Bay where the flood current was much weaker than further out in the Sound and was moving along at 2.3. knots.

At 12:05 PM the wind picked up from the northwest and I was moving along nicely at 3 knots so I backed down on the electric propulsion.

At 12:35 PM A gentle breeze developed so that I was moving along at 3.4 knots and I shutdown the EP completely after drawing down 65.4 amp hours and having a battery capacity reading of 69%.

Later in the afternoon I spied the Tall Ship MYSTIC that was docked in Oyster Bay for the Oyster Festival just north of BIANKA:

I thought they might be headed back to their homeport of Mystic Connecticut. But, they instead ducked  into Port Jefferson. Probably were on a cruise with passengers of Long Island Sound. 

I sailed on until the breeze started to lighten and fired up the EP once again to minimize the prop drag. By 2:22 PM The battery monitored showed 69% and amp hours used at 63.5.. I set the EP for a 10 amp draw. I continued on this way until about sometime around 4 PM when a nice 15 knot sea breeze made it across Long Island and BIANKA was soon sailing toward home at 5 plus knots which was a real nice way to end the day. At 5:10 PM BIANKA was back on her mooring. Where the final readings for the 20 plus mile electro sail were  85.3 amp hours and battery capacity was 58.9%. Battery voltage was 49.5 volts. I think a lot of the extra amps were to buck a hefty current coming out of the narrow harbor entrance as the current had once again turned a few hours before. Still BIANKA's electric propulsion system made for a delightfully quiet day on the water and showed that 20 mile legs are easily made in light winds without even turning on the generator during the whole trip.

Saturday, November 02, 2013


After having some sustenance at one or two of the many food booths at the festival and checking out a few of the craft booths located under the big tent I then headed over to the waterfront dock where the Tall Ship Mystic and the John J. Harvey fireboat were docked:

I bypassed the Mystic which is actually a fairly new ship and one that you can book passages on as it has a number of cabins for passengers on board. Though I did admire some of the details of the boat as I walked past:

Instead I headed for the retired New York Fire Department fireboat the John J. Harvey. Built in 1931 and it worked New York harbor until 1994. It was the first modern fire boat because it was not steam driven but, used gas engines. It was called back into service during the after math of the September 11th attack too. Climbing on board I was amazed at the access we visitors had to the boat and the things that were to be seen. Which is why I spent most of the afternoon on board. I started down in the engine room:

Which was filled with diesel engines, pumps and electric motors:

The Harvey operates is also a "bell boat" which means (other than steering) it was controlled from the engine room via commands sent down from the helm via a mechanical telegraph system which is on display in the engine room:
It is one of the last boats in the U.S. still operating this way. There is also another telegraph up at the helm and that's how the Captain and engine room crew communicate:

I was glad to learn that the John J. Harvey uses Electric Propulsion to turn the boats props. It has been operating with electric propulsion for over eighty years. Which bodes well for BIANKA's auxiliary electric  propulsion to last for a long time too!

Heading back up topside I came upon a display of extra nozzles for firefighting.

One of the things I found out is the Harvey is not just about fighting fires with the deck mounted spray nozzles.

It has manifolds located on the deck that  extra fire fighting hoses can be connected to if needed:

For a final treat of my tour on the John J. Harvey we were allowed to stay on deck as the crew put on a pumping display (which they did every half hour during the festival):

It was fun to watch the pumping from on board.

Even if the wind did shift and I and others on deck got a little wet toward the end of this video seeing the rainbow from the boat's spray was worth it:

What a great way to spend an afternoon. If you want more info on the John J. Harvey check out their website

So that was my second day at the 30th annual Oyster Bay Oyster Festival. There were many of the food booths I did not get to sample and a few other things I did not get to do like take a tour of the Mystic. But, I think I may make this even an annual part of BIANKA's sailing season. I'm looking forward to sailing back next year with BIANKA.