Wednesday, January 30, 2013


I recently finished a book called Cast Away in the Cold An Old Man's Story of a Young Man's Adventures, as Related by Captain John Hardy, Mariner by I.I. Hayes and is available as free Kindle download

It's a fictional tale but, still a good nautical read about survival in a harsh environment.  In the book a retired sea captain named John Hardy befriends some local children and tells them the story of how he first went to sea. He was raised on a farm and soon grew tired of the labor involved. So he ran away to New Bedford Massachusetts with the plan to get on a ship and go to sea:
“Up to this period of my life, I had never been ten miles from home, and had never seen a city, so of course everything was new to me. By this time, however, I had come to reflect seriously on my folly, and this, coupled with hunger and fatigue, so far banished curiosity from my mind that I was not in the least impressed by what I saw. In truth, I very heartily wished myself back on the farm; for if the labor there was not to my liking, it was at least not so hard as what I had performed these past two days, in walking along the dusty road,—and then I was, when on the farm, never without the means to satisfy my hunger.

“What I should have done at this critical stage, had not some one come to my assistance, I cannot imagine. I was afraid to ask any questions of the passers-by, for I did not really know what to ask them, or how to explain my situation; and, seeing that everybody was gaping at me with wonder and curiosity (and many of them were clearly laughing at my absurd appearance), I hurried on, not having the least idea of where I should go or what I should do.

“At length I saw a man with a very red face approaching on the opposite side of the street, and from his general appearance I guessed him to be a sailor; so, driven almost to desperation, I crossed over to him, looking, I am sure, the very picture of despair, and I thus accosted him: ‘If you please, sir, can you tell me where I can go and ship for a voyage?’

“‘A voyage!’ shouted he, in reply, ‘a voyage! A pretty looking fellow you for a voyage!’—which observation very much confused me. Then he asked me a great many questions, using a great many hard names, the meaning of which I did not at all understand, and the necessity for which I could not exactly see. I noticed that he called me ‘landlubber’ very frequently, but I had no idea whether he meant to compliment or abuse me, though it seemed more likely to me that it was the latter. After a while, however, he seemed to have grown tired of talking, or had exhausted all his strange words, for he turned short round and bade me follow him, which I did, with very much the feelings a culprit must have when he is going to prison".

Of course he gets on a ship and things get even worse as he experiences his first bout of sea sickness:

“In the first place, you see, they gave me such wretched food to eat, all out of a rusty old tin plate, and I was all the time so sick from the motion of the vessel as we went tossing up and down on the rough sea, and from the tobacco-smoke of the forecastle, and all the other bad smells, that I could hardly eat a mouthful, so that I was half ready to die of starvation; and, as if this was not misery enough, the sailors were all the time, when in the forecastle, quarrelling like so many wild beasts in a cage; and as two of them had pistols, and all of them had knives, I was every minute in dread lest they should take it into their heads to murder each other, and kill me by mistake. So, I can tell you, being a young sailor-boy isn’t what it’s cracked up to be.”

“O, wasn’t it dreadful!” said Alice, “to be sick all the time, and nobody there to take care of you.”

“Well, I wasn’t so sick, maybe, after all,” answered the Captain, smiling,—“only sea-sick, you know; and then, for the credit of the ship, I’ll say that, if you had nice plum-pudding every day for dinner, you would think it horrid stuff if you were sea-sick.”

“But don’t people die when they are sea-sick?” inquired Alice.

“Not often, child,” answered the Captain, playfully; “but they feel all the time as if they were going to, and when they don’t feel that way, they feel as if they’d like to.

He eventually gets his sea legs and actually starts to become familiar with the ways of the ship he is on as it sails into the Arctic waters to hunt for whales and seals.  But, disaster soon strikes and he finds himself alone stranded in the Arctic:
“We were but a moment getting into the boats. The boat which I was in had something the start of the other two. Just as we were pulling away, the master of the ship came on deck, and ordered us to do what, had the red-faced mate done an hour before, would have made it impossible that this danger should have come upon us. ‘Carry your line out to the fast ice,’ was the order we received from the master; and every one of us, realizing the great danger, pulled as hard as he could. The ‘fast ice’ was dimly in sight when we started, for we had drifted while at breakfast towards it, as well as towards the berg. Only a few minutes were needed to reach it. We jumped out and dug a hole, and planted the ice-anchor. The ship was out of sight, buried in the fog. A faint voice came from the ship. It was, ‘Hurry up! we have struck.’ They evidently could not see us. The line was fastened to the anchor in an instant, and the second mate shouted, ‘Haul in! haul in!’ There was no answer but ‘Hurry up! we have struck.’ ‘Haul in! haul in!’ shouted the second mate, but still there was no answer. ‘They can’t hear nor see,’ said he, hurriedly; and then, turning to me, said, ‘Hardy, you watch the anchor that it don’t give way. Boys, jump in the boat, and we’ll go nearer the ship so they can hear.’ The boat was gone quickly into the fog, and I was then alone on the ice by the anchor,—how much and truly alone you shall hear. 

So begins Captain Hardy's story of Arctic survival.  As I read the book and was impressed by it's detail of how people stranded in the harsh Arctic environment could survive for an extended period of time. It was then I found it's author Issac I. Hayes had been part of the Second Grinnell Expedition to search for John Franklin.  An expedition which became a matter of survival as the expedition's ship Advance became stuck in ice. Three members of the crew died and the others including Hayes embarked on an epic journey of Arctic survival. No wonder this book has such detail how to survive in Arctic conditions. Hayes is also the author of other non fiction books about his Arctic adventures:
An Arctic Boat Journey: In the Autumn of 1854
The Land of Desolation, being a personal narrative of adventures in Greenland. With illustrations

Friday, January 25, 2013


The idea of passing through Hell Gate on New York's East River often causes apprehension for first time cruisers through the area. Having made the transit through   Hell Gate numerous times I can say there is really nothing to be afraid of that a secure hand on the tiller or wheel won't solve.  There are current swirls, some up-welling and short choppy waves making it look more threatening than it is.  Here are some are some tips to make the transit:

1) The biggest danger is getting in the way of a tug and barge or one of the New York City sludge barges that also frequently transit the area. There is plenty of deep water in the Gate to avoid them and give them a wide berth. Remember they do not have the same ability to maneuver as smaller boats do.

2) It is best to motor through Hell's Gate. I've only managed to sail through one time on a northwest wind on my previous boat a Bristol 24.  But, as soon as I was through Hells Gate the streets and buildings of Manhattan and the East River currents caused the boat to do boat spins as it traveled down with the current. So now I always motor from the Brother Islands to at least 23rd Street off of Manhattan when heading toward the Battery and visa versa when heading toward Long Island Sound.

3) It is always better to go with the flow of the current. It makes for a much quicker and  pleasant passage.

4) The metal bridges in the Hell Gate area can reek havoc on the magnetic compass of autopilots so put them in standby and keep a firm hand on the tiller or wheel until you are well clear of them.

The following video shows what it like to transit Hell Gate motor sailing with electric propulsion. I had rounded the Battery about three hours after low tide. BIANKA rode the flood current 14 miles all the way into Long Island Sound. Winds were light so it was mostly motoring under electric propulsion  This trip was in late October 2012 and amazingly  boat traffic both recreational and commercial was non existent for this passage. That may not always be the case . Especially during summer and on weekends:

Ironically, the Honda 2000 generator that had been operating since about 9:45 am had finally ran out of gas right in the middle of Hell Gate. It had been running five and a half hours on one gallon of gas motor sailing BIANKA for about twenty five miles. Nice thing about electro sailing in a hybrid mode using a generator like the Honda 2000 is that the batteries automatically take over and keep propelling the boat as shown in this video:

After refueling it was another ten miles of electro-sailing until  I reached my destination after forty nautical miles of motor sailing under electric propulsion.

Monday, January 21, 2013

ELECTRO SAILING AROUND NEW YORK: Part Two: Riding the East River Flood

 The current that took BIANKA and I down the Hudson River got the boat to the Battery at the southern tip of Manhattan Island at just about the time the of the flood current up the East River. Even though I had to use the motor exclusively for the past six hours,  the quiet operation of electric propulsion made it a very pleasant journey.  This video covers the East River  part of the trip from  the Battery to just before Hell Gate.

Wednesday, January 09, 2013


Time to get caught up on some of the blog posts after Sandy, the holidays and a freelance job interrupted my work flow here on The Bianka Log Blog.  I return now to the beautiful fall days before Superstorm Sandy raked the area with 90 MPH winds and storm waves. I was anchored up near Hook Mountain on the Hudson River admiring the fall colors. But, I had to get back to BIANKA's homeport for a dentist appointment in a few days. Of course I had my ear on the forecasts of the storm Sandy heading up to the area but, details were fluid five days out as to where it would hit. Since this was my first trip this far north on the Hudson River since I installed electric propulsion I did not know how far I would get. If things work well with the currents and winds I might make it all the way to the East River and back to Port Washington in Long Island Sound. A distance of about forty nautical miles. Shown by the red line below:

My plan B was to stop off at one of the marinas in New Jersey or the 79th Street Boat Basin on the way down for the night if it looked like the Hudson river currents were going to be turning against me. BIANKA and I would  continue up the East River and into Long Island Sound the next day. Happily, I did not have to use Plan B as the currents were favorable. The forecast winds however were pretty light (5 knots or less) which meant I would be electro sailing (motor sailing) for much of the way. But, the real nice thing about electric propulsion is that motoring with it for the forty nautical miles is nothing like motoring with a diesel engine. It is very quiet and there is almost no vibration. You can hear birds squawking over head and the sound of the trains along the shore. It makes for a much more pleasant trip.  Here's a video of the first part of this journey around Manhattan under electric propulsion:

Saturday, January 05, 2013


I went down to the boatyard to check on the boat a few days ago. It's been a busy and cold winter so far. Colder and wetter than last year it seems too. I found the evidence on board where I found the deck bucket filled with six inches of water and frozen solid:

Looking inside it looks like the Nitrile gloves I left in the bucket are not going to be thawed until sometime in the spring:

It was a cold visit on board but, things were ok. Bilge was dry and the batteries charged. I wandered over to the marina office to warm up a little and hear the latest scuttle butt . Looks like I'll be needing to get a bigger mooring as the 300 lbs was no match for the forces of Hurricane Sandy. 

 Some additional heavy weight chain might be in the mix also. Bottom line I'll be needing to open the wallet in the spring for the new mooring setup. But, after what Sandy had wrought it will be money well spent.