Wednesday, December 31, 2014


Well, it's New Years Eve and I'm looking back on some of the years highlights on the water past year. April found me in the Pacific Northwest spending a few days in Portland Oregon. While there I contacted a fellow named Myles Twete who is very involved in Electric Vehicle area and the Electric Boats group on Yahoo. When I converted BIANKA back in 2008  he and others in the group were very helpful with advice and expertise that was not commonly available elsewhere.  I was eager to spend a little time on the water and Myles graciously agreed to show me his twenty six foot Columbia River Scow Reach of Tide built by Sam McKinney . To start things off Myles picked me up in his THINK electric car.  Here's a quick video of some of that day spent on the Columbia River back in April:

It was not a total pleasure cruise. Even though Myles had converted the Tohatsu outboard back in 2006. Being an engineer he was still keeping data it's operation, modifications and charging:

Myles had a movable inductive speed control for the motor that allowed him to operate the motor at the helm position or in the cockpit:
The toggle switch was to put the motor in reverse. BLOG UPDATE: Myles has informed me that the switch actually is the on/off control  for the main power to the controller. Forward and reverse of the outboard is done by the original mechanical shifting of the outboard.

Despite the rain and overcast conditions it was a fine day on the water.

Saturday, December 27, 2014


While cruising this past year I met a family with a son in high school who had a 3D Printer at home. He made a new sheave for one of the blocks on their boat. While it was not really UV stabilized and it probably would not last as long as the original still, was holding up quite well after year. Pretty impressive. Making ones own small parts to replace broken ones while cruising might be common place at some point in the future if one had a 3D printer on board. I forgot which one he had but, I do notice even major tool companies like Dremel now have products like a Dremel Idea Builder 3D Printer for sale. The ability to make ones own custom parts even if only for a temporarily fix can save a cruise or enhance things on board. While current 3D printers may be somewhat large to carry on board some boats. There is another aspect of 3D printing may show up on land in the near future.  Hardware and marine stores with sophisticated 3D printer will be able to make parts using various materials that are currently unavailable. Even in remote locations. That would also be good thing for cruising sailors.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Joshua Slocum Christmas

"The Spray early in the morning passed Twofold Bay and later Cape Bundooro in a smooth sea with land close aboard. The lighthouse on the cape dipped a flag to the Spray's flag, and children on the balconies of a cottage near the shore waved handkerchiefs as she passed by. There were only a few people all told on the shore, but the scene was a happy one. I saw festoons of evergreen in token of Christmas, near at hand. I saluted the merrymakers, wishing them a "Merry Christmas." and could hear them say, "I wish you the same."-Sailing Alone Around the World

Sunday, December 21, 2014


I've been using a folding eight foot Porta Bote for my dingy for over thirteen years now. I'd have a hard time considering using another type of boat. Recently I lost the wooden setup stick that came with the boat. It fell out of the car unbeknownst to me at the time. I could have made up a new one of some 3/4 inch wood. But. looking around the garage I notice I had a bunch of 1-1/2 inch PVC tube laying around. I wondered if it would make a good replacement for the original set up stick?  So I cut one to the approximate size need to open the folding Porta Bote hull. It worked fine.

Plus since it was not wood it could not soak up water and split as my original stick did after several years. Though I repaired it with some epoxy type glue the PVC tube is not prone to water water damage. The only thing was it did not float like the original wooded stick did.  What to do? The answer I came up with was to fill the inside of the PVC pipe with some Great Stuff Gap Filler. This did two things not only did it ensure that the setup stick would float if accidently dropped into the water. It also stiffened the tube quite a bit structurally making it stronger and less likely to crack.

I very pleased with my improved setup stick homemade replacement and it should last longer than the original.

Thursday, December 18, 2014


Interesting new watercraft that might replace noisy gas guzzling Jet Ski's and possibly one's dingy with electric propulsion powered Quadrofoil.

"the average jet ski is powered by a 125 hp motor, and one Kawaski model uses a mind-melting 300 hp, the Quadrofoil is powered by 5 hp (3.5kW), 25 times smaller than the average jet ski. Yet on that mere 5 hp, it can hit speeds up to 40 km/h and, says Pivec, accelerate like a Ferrari. Better yet, once it reaches between 10-12 km/h (6-7.4 mph) and the 'wings' lift it out of the water, its speed suddenly increases, while its power consumption drops by half. Best of all, it dumps no dirty hydrocarbons into the water. And if skimming over the water at 25 mph - and in the process slicing through those wakes and waves - isn't exciting enough for you, Pivec says they are working on faster craft and bigger models: a four-place is on the drawing board. They also have a patent that overcomes one of the drawbacks of conventional hydrofoils: their inability to turn in tight circles. The Quadrofoil has a 7 meter (23 ft) turning radius, made possible by their steerable 'wings' and motor." - EVWORLD

Adoption of electric propulsion should make anchorages a little quieter too! Stay tuned.

Hat Tip: John Rushworth

Wednesday, December 10, 2014


I've been thinking about doing another around Long Island cruise recently. I did one a number of years ago back in the days when I still had a diesel engine on board. It was somewhat of an adventure with the engine exhaust elbow developing a hole the first day requiring some jury rigged repairs. I also lost my crew when he had to leave the boat because of the death of a friend. I ended up heading into Shinecock Inlet for the first time at night by myself in those pre GPS days. Like I said it was a little bit of an adventure but, I got in despite the conditions.
I've been thinking about doing another similar cruise now that I have electric propulsion. There is a lot of traffic in the area from freighters, cruise ships, tugs and barges and a lot of fishing boats. So one needs to be alert. Then there was this kind of a good news/bad news story that is making people stand up and take notice:

"Humpback whales, the gigantic, endangered mammals known for their haunting underwater songs, have been approaching New York City in greater numbers than even old salts can remember. Naturalists aboard whale-watching boats have seen humpbacks in the Atlantic Ocean within a mile of the Rockaway peninsula, part of New York's borough of Queens, within sight of Manhattan's skyscrapers.
"It is truly remarkable, within miles of the Empire State Building, to have one of the largest and most charismatic species ever to be on this planet," said Howard Rosenbaum, director of the Ocean Giants program at the Wildlife Conservation Society.
Humpbacks were spotted 87 times from the boats this year, and by cataloging the whales' markings, at least 19 different humpbacks have been identified in the waters off the city."- ABC News

As I said it's a good news bad news story as far as my plans go. While it's nice that the whales are returning to the local waters here. It does add a little more apprehension when cruising the ocean waters in a 30 foot fiberglass boat. Namely that one of them might perceive BIANKA sailing along in the middle of the night as a threat. I know the risk is probably low but, it's just another thing one has to think about and prepare for these days.

Wednesday, December 03, 2014


I have a GoPro camera that I use on board BIANKA and when chartering on other boats. Though my homemade floating handle requires I use one hand to hold it when taking videos or stills. While I was looking around for a new dive mask this summer I came upon the XS SCUBA GoPro MASK . This mask has a metal bracket where one mounts the underwater housing of a GoPro camera when snorkeling or diving.
Seemed like a good item to have on board. Though my local waters are rather nutrient rich and visibilty is limited. I do get to spend a lot of time in waters of the Caribbean and elsewhere around the world where visibility is much clearer and the mask would be more useful. So I bought it and here is a quick look and test on how it works:

I'm pleased with the mask and will get to try it out in clearer warmer waters soon. If you know someone who has a GoPro or similar camera like the Swann Freestyle Waterproof Video Camera  it would make a great gift too!

Saturday, November 29, 2014

IN BIANKA'S GALLEY:Zojirushi BB-HAC10 Home Bakery 1-Pound-Loaf Programmable Mini Breadmaker

Adding the 48 volt inverter to BIANKA opens up new choices for items that enhance cruising on board. One of the simple pleasures I enjoy is a nice sandwich for lunch in the cockpit. Though having bread on board can be problematic.  On one hand some of the store bought bread seems to last an unnaturally long time due to the preservatives it is made with. On the other fresh store bought bread does not last that long before it needs to be thrown out. In both  cases the bread eventually gets moldy and requires a trip back to land to replenish the galley with more. That's why I bit the bullet and bought a Zojirushi BB-HAC10 Home Bakery 1-Pound-Loaf Programmable Mini Breadmaker. It is more expensive than some of the larger capacity breadmakers one can buy in the big box stores. But, it's small size really makes it more useful on board a 30 foot boat of this single sailor. So that was a major consideration for me. First let's take a look at what comes with the Zorirushi:

With the Ames 48 volt inverter using the Zoriushi is pretty simple. It's small size allows it to easily fit somewhere on the counter as it makes fresh bread. As shown here on BIANKA's slide out surface over the stove:

It has a much smaller footprint and the built in handle makes it much easier to move into storage than the bigger two pound bread makers. It also has a convenient clip on the back to store the power cord:

The clip helps when putting the unit into a locker for storage.  Now to move on to the bread making test. I first made sure the 48 volt battery bank was fully charged and the XBM battery monitor was reset to 100%:

The bread maker comes with a large instruction manual and also a DVD for the various recipes. But, it also has a decal on the side with the procedure and ingredient list for the basic bread recipe: 

This comes in handy as one does not need to always refer to the written manual just to use the basic bread recipe. After adding the ingredients in the order selected I hit the start button. The unit seemed to just sit there for twenty minutes with the words "Rest" on it's LCD screen:

At first I thought this strange. What is really going on is the Zojirushi  is heating up the container and the liquid ingredients to the proper temperature before mixing  them with the dry ingredients. Handy since one does not need to preheat the water like on some of the other bread makers. The unit goes through several cycles in the three hour and 40 minutes it takes to make a one pound loaf of fresh bread. There is the mixing/kneading cycle:

Looking at the amp draw from the 48 volt battery bank shows a 1.9 amp draw:

During the rising cycle there is minimal current as the dough is allowed to rise:

It is during the baking cycle where it has it's highest current draw of about nine and a half amps:

Though this is not constant amp draw but, cycles depending on the heat of the baking chamber. Speaking of heat the top of the unit does get quite warm 196 degrees Fahrenheit when measured directly at the vent:

Though the top of the unit is about 50 degrees cooler. Still it's best to keep inquisitive hands away from the unit during baking. After three hours and forty minutes the bread is finished:

In between the cabin has has been filled with the aroma of fresh baked bread. After it was finished baking the bread I took a look at the XBM battery monitor:

Which shows the loaf used about 2.2% of the battery capacity. Which quite easily made up with the solar panels and/or wind turbine. 

Checking on other parameters the XBM showed the Zojirushi only used 4.6 amp hours from the 48 volt battery bank. A small amount to expend in order to have fresh bread available on board. I have found that a loaf will last me three or four days including having toast in the morning and a sandwich in the afternoon. I am very pleased with the Zojirushi unit.  It also seems to be better built and quieter than the cheaper bread makers. It's compact size makes it ideal for a boat with limited storage space. But, best of all as a sailor who tends to cruise having the ability to make fresh bread also limits the need to head back to shore to re-provision. I can stay in the cockpit enjoying lunch thinking about  the parting words of the late Warren Zevon which were to "enjoy every sandwich".

Wednesday, November 26, 2014


What's that sound? It's a Gravy Boat coming around.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014


I installed electric propulsion in BIANKA for several reasons. One was because my diesel engine died. Two because I spent a good amount trying to get it running again. I began looking at alternatives to having a diesel. Diesel works well where it is worked hard. On a sailboat where most people use the engine to primarily get into or out of the harbor is not the best way to use it. Installed on a trawler is a much better match. So diesels tend to rust out before they wear out or fail at some point when you least expect it. Hopefully in some location  where you can get help and parts.  Another thing about electric propulsion is the ability of it to regen i.e. recharge the battery bank when the boat reaches a certain speed under sail. I thought for the first few years  that my system was not capable of regen but, then one day I discovered that it did. Hybrid Marine has a nice video of how regen works.  The boat in question is a hybrid design and still has a diesel engine. Which would mean the engine might be used even less than in a normal engine setup. But, you still have all the maintenance issues involved with having a diesel installed. But, for those not quite ready to make the leap to a pure electric propulsion system it is an option. Anyway this video is a good primer on the regen aspects of electric propulsion. Hat tip Elektra Yachts:

Saturday, November 15, 2014


Now that sailing season is over for a few months I have time to to take stock and post about some of the items that were repaired, replaced or purchased this past season. For example the Porta Boat dingy has been holding up pretty good for some thirteen years now. Much better than some inflatables where seven years seems to be the upper limits of usability. Not that the Porta Boat did not require some repair over the years. This year the Oar Locks seemed to be at the end of their life as wear and tear and rust combined to push for their replacement:

Thirteen years was a good run considering the salty marine environment they lived in most of the time. Though when I went to replace them I decided to try a little beefier pair. Namely a pair of Seasense Clamp On Heavy Duty Oar Locks:

Definitely a little heftier than the originals. My only concern was whether the pins would fit the Porta Boat's oar lock sockets. I kind of bought them on a whim. Happily, they fit perfectly into the sockets. They are a little loose around the oars but, will not slip out beyond the Oars handles.
 Another nice thing it looks like some parts that might wear like the bolts on the swivel can be replaced quite easily. Though I doubt I'll have to do that for a real long time.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014


Someone on a sailing forum recently asked me how things were with my electric propulsion system after seven years of use. I said it is kind of boring. But, boring in a good way. For example I recently pulled BIANKA for the season. All I really need to do was empty the water tanks and winterize the water system. Something I am able to do with one gallon of antifreeze. I certainly don't miss lugging a half dozen or more   gallons of antifreeze down to the docks just to winterize the engine. But, first of course I would change the oil which was somewhat of a messy job not matter how careful I tried to do it. Bending over the engine and contorting the body to reach the oil filter was sure to cause a back ache at some point. Squeezing my body down below the cockpit hatch to access the raw water filter for cleaning and to hook up the hose to the raw water pump to flush the engine with antifreeze would often cause a pulled muscle in the confined space too. My clothes wet with water and antifreeze in the cool November air is something I don't miss either. Really the only thing I can think of that I may want to do is install an additional on/off switch to the battery bank and another switch that would provide battery power to the 1500 watt inverter and 48 volt to 12 volt converter. Even this is not an urgent thing. After these projects there is nothing I can think of that really needs to done.  Like I said with the reliability and lack of maintenance required on an electric propulsion system things become pretty boring.

Thursday, November 06, 2014


Though it was a shortened season for me having worked all of July hundreds of miles from the boat. It still was an enjoyable one. I was also pleased at how little I needed to fire up the Honda Generator this season. Despite having added some new energy using items on board. Adding an 100 watts of Renogy Solar panels helped with the house bank and also the 48 volt Marine Air-X wind turbine also did it's share of adding energy to the propulsion bank. Which I also tapped into using a 48 volt Inverter and powered a  bread maker with it. The nice thing about having an electric boat is the number of ways one can capture and store energy easily for use at a later time. Something that is not easily done with fuel consuming conventional on board internal combustion engines. I'm always keeping an eye out for new ways to add more energy into the mix.   Boats even when at anchor or at a dock are still often at motion. Some research at Georgia Tech offers some interesting ideas on maybe harvesting some of that energy from this motion. Something to keep an eye on.

Sunday, November 02, 2014



When to pull the boat for the season can be a  dilemma. Two years ago the boat was still in the water when Hurricane Sandy hit. It allowed me to move aboard after the storm passed and have a normal lifestyle including power, hot water and Internet while back at the house it took several weeks for things to get back to normal. Still, I think one should take the cues from nature here in the Northeast. When the first Nor'easter starts coming up the coast it's time. One did last week and another arrived this weekend but, happily BIANKA had been pulled earlier in the week. The mast was unstepped and so my concerns for the boat are somewhat minimal for these storms and the winter.  Another sign that it is time to pull the boat that I use is when the sun starts setting before 6 o'clock in the evening. The nights get colder and longer making any cruising days that much shorter. But, storing the boat on land for does not mean I just walk away until spring. There is still plenty to do on board over the winter. projects I did not get to over the summer. Then there are a number of blog posts I never published because I was enjoying being on the boat and Internet access was painfully slow in the harbor. So there is plenty to catch up on and do over the winter even if the boat is not on the water.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Remembering Sandy

It was two years ago the superstorm Sandy hit the area.  I went down to the boatyard in the morning before the storm hit but, the winds had already whipped up Long Island Sound into very rough conditions:

In addition water was already flooding over the only access road in or out to the boatyard. So I was only able to catch a quick glimpse of BIANKA still at her original location before I had to hightail it out of the area or be stuck for as the storm hit. I choose to head back and just barely beat the flood waters:

After the storm passed I found BIANKA a thousand feet from where I had left her the day before. Luckily undamaged and still floating. Which was good since I moved back on board since there I had power thanks to the solar and wind turbine and also the Honda 2000 generator. I also had Internet access via the cell phone. While back on land many did without these due to power lines being down for weeks.  The storm also taught me some important lessons.  .

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Nor' easter Season Again

Two days ago I had a delightful sail back to BIANKA'S homeport at the end of a fall cruise to the Oyster Bay Oyster Festival. Today I am tied to a dock as a Nor' easter starts to form just to the south of the Long Island. I actually prefer to ride this weather out on a mooring. But, I am expecting some packages to arrive on shore and wanted to be there to receive them. I have doubled up on the lines and they have stretched enough to make stepping on the dock a little iffy. Another concern is the cleats on the aging dock. Winds are expect to increase even more this afternoon with gusts to 30 knots. Welcome to Nor' Easter season.

Monday, October 13, 2014

OH WELL!: Not all ideas work out.

Having Electric Propulsion can be boring. Once installed there is not a lot of maintenance or repair. But, it is easy to modify. So one day I thought about how when using the propulsion system  in hybrid mode on a windless day I am only using 900 watts of power from the Honda 2000i generator. That is because this is the max that the ZIVAN NG-1 charger can provide to the 48 volt battery bank. So I thought if I bought an additional 600 watt power supply and connected it in parallel with the Zivan I might be able to get another 12 amps when electro sailing. So yesterday I installed the wiring to make this happen and did some tests to see if my idea would work. Let's just say it did not. The Zivan performed as usual but, the new 600 watt power supply did not add any amps for charging like I thought. Oh well. I have not totally given up on the concept. I'll try another test and see if I can make it happen but, the first attempt was not encouraging. But, at least nothing smoked either. I'll post about the next attempt in the future.

Thursday, October 09, 2014


I was glad to be on board to once again see the full moon rise over the harbor. It was the Harvest Moon and probably the last one I see before I put the boat on land for the winter. Watching that Harvest Moon I began thinking that BIANKA has been back on the mooring for over two weeks. In that time I have not had to fire up the Honda 2000 eu generator to charge the two battery banks on board. Which is a good thing because as efficient as the Honda is it is still fuelish to use it. Instead BIANKA has be harvesting all the energy it needs from the solar panels and 48 volt Marine Air X wind turbine. So there has been no need to fire up the generator. No doubt the addition of the new 100 watt Renogy solar panel has added enough power to make up for the additional refrigeration I added this year.

Monday, October 06, 2014

OCTOBER CHANGES: Wind and windage

October is a month of change here in the harbor on the Isle of Long. Boats start disappearing from dock slips and morrings. Sails come off of boats and on some boats the masts also come down. At least they don't fall down but, are laid on deck so the boat can be moved and stored in some inland location. Yep, lot's of changes happening around BIANKA.  The taking down of the mast on a sailboat before it's pulled can change things quite a bit especially if the boat is put back on it's mooring to await hauling out for the winter. I observed this the other day as two nearby boats had a close encounter with the change of tide. One of the boats had it's mast laid on it's deck the day before which changed the amount of windage upon it. This gave the currents flowing underneath the boat more sway in how the boat lay at the mooring. Meanwhile, the boat on the next mooring still had it's mast and was affected more by the wind. The result is when I looked up at one point the end of the mast of the demasted boat was poking into the cockpit enclosure of the fully rigged boat:

Luckily, it appeared to be just high enough to make it over the lifelines and did not appear to be hung up on anything. I kept watching hoping I did not have to make an intervention. Which would have been difficult in the conditions since I only had a dingy with oars and the wind was picking up. In a few minutes the boats had separated:

But, only for a few minutes. Soon the currents and winds resumed their battle and the boats were once again in close proximity to each other. But, not in any danger of getting hung up as before:

Eventually, things got back to normal and the collision danger passed. The next day I woke up from a nap hand found that the boat with the stepped mast had been removed from the mooring eliminating any further chance of the two boats bumping into one another. Just something to consider this time of year when the wind and windage of the boats can change and mysterious damage happens.