Friday, February 28, 2014


I do most of my sailing solo on board BIANKA. Not that I don't mind having other people on board. It's just that my boat is so easy to sail that most of the time the crew is sitting around drinking my beer and gobbling down snacks. Then you have to have to also extra provisions, water etc... to feed them and that adds up.  I can usually balance my rudder under good conditions and don't need really to use to use the autohelm on most cruises. Though I have been thinking of building a home brew wind vane steering system for the boat too. Recently I came upon an article where some scientist have come up with an artificial muscle. Much stronger than human muscles and to make things even more interesting it was made from simple everyday materials. The researches started thinking they would use some esoteric nano tube technology but, discovered that some common yarn and fishing line actually works quite well:

"To create the artificial muscles, the researchers twisted the fishing line to create a muscle that turns like a rotor and can spin. That creates a torsional, or twisting, muscle that can spin a rotor to more than 10,000 revolutions per minute, notes UT Dallas.

Extra twisting, to the point where the fishing line looks like a “heavily twisted rubber band,” creates a type of muscle with greater contraction than a human muscle. Twisting the fishing line the opposite way creates an artificial muscle that expands.

According to Ray Baughman, director of the NanoTech Institute, twisting a few strands of fishing line can create a muscle that lifts 16 pounds while bundles that are designed like a muscle, containing 100 of these small fishing line muscles, can lift up to 1,600 pounds." -IBT

Just by using a little heat via a wire woven into the yarn fishing line cloth makes the artificial muscle expand and contract as show in the video:

Here is another video showing the simplicity of making the basic building block of the artificial muscle using the fishing line:

It got me thinking using some of this artificial muscle would come in handy on board for operating winches or moving the rudder as part of a wind vane steering system. Maybe also as part of an active anchor  snubber system or self adjusting dock lines. Various pumps from bilge to head might also be areas where these could be placed into use.  The fact that it uses common everyday materials such as yarn and fishing line makes it even more appealing. Something to keep ones eye on.

Monday, February 24, 2014


This winter has not been one conducive to working on board the boat so far. So I've been sitting around thinking about the projects not getting done, whether or not I need a Sailrite sewing machine in my life and other wishful things. Every once in a while a tangential project comes along like this:

Over ten years ago I won a stained glass lighthouse at the Nonsuch Rendezvous dinner in Boston. As far as I can figure it is modeled after the Absecon Lighthouse in New Jersey near Atlantic City:

Being real glass it's too fragile for use on the boat so for the last few years it has been used as nightlight in the bathroom. Where it guides this sailor to the right port in the night. Well, last week the 120 volt 5 watt incandescent bulb that lights it internally burnt out.

Now I could have probably found another bulb and replaced it. But, then it would still have to be turned on manually and it would still be powered by plugging it into the electric grid. Costing money as part of the monthly electric bill. A small issue but, one of my mottos is "if you watch the pennies, the dollars will take care of themselves". Also having electric propulsion on board has made me more aware of where the energy one uses comes from. Plus I've already built and have used for several years a solar powered whole house lighting system. Hmmm, why not replace the incandescent lamp in the night light lighthouse with an LED bulb and hook it into the solar powered lighting system? Why nor indeed!
I had a few spare 3 LED Module 12 volt White Waterproof Lights  sitting around that I've used around the house and also on the boat. So I put one inside the lighthouse and connected it up to the 12 solar powered house lighting system.

Now when dusk comes the lighthouse light comes on just like the big boys:

 I never have to turn it on since the solar light controller does that automatically and it is greener and more efficient than the old incandescent bulb. Plus it is not longer taking any green paper out of my wallet as part of the electric bill. A win, win, win situation. I like that.

Friday, February 21, 2014


Interesting article on what went into the making of the movie All Is Lost in the latest addition of the Perspective: Art Directors Guild Magazine. Including some background on the Robert Redford character that was never mentioned in the film like when and how long he has owned the boat:

"Mr. Chandor gave very clear notes about the history of the boat which shaped all of our major decisions: 

1985: Boat purchased by Our Man at 51 years old, six years after it 
was built. 
1995: The economic slump of the mid-1990s causes Our Man to 
let the boat slip.
2001: Our Man retires and invests approximately $20,000 in 
updating the boat. 

This personal chronology allowed for a feeling of layering over time, 
and for the boat to embody the aspirational spirit of Our Man, the 
hopes he invested in this boat and the mobility, adventure and freedom 
it inspired in him."

The article begins on page 46 of the magazine. My personal review of  ALL IS LOST .

Monday, February 17, 2014


I am occasionally reminded that boat owners do not have to be in the middle of a stormy ocean to die. Back in the mid nineties I was living aboard BIANKA at the Chelsea Piers docks on the west side of Manhattan. I worked in midtown and it allowed for an easy commute to work but, allowed me a sanctuary from the hustle and bustle of the city. Back then they closed down the marina in the winter. So I was only able to stay there from April to the beginning of December. I had a great time there living on board and a ten minute commute was an added perk since I was working long hours and had little time for enjoying the boat. But, at least I was on it everyday. Then today came this sobering story:

"Body discovered near Chelsea Piers that of missing fashion designer Michele Savoia
The body of Michele Savoia, 55, was fished from the water by NYPD divers near his yacht at Pier 59. The designer — whose client list included Robert DeNiro, Mickey Rourke and Chris Noth — likely slipped off a gangplank leading to the yacht after a night of partying, sources said."-DAILY NEWS

Just a little reminder that one should never let ones guard down just because your boat is tied to a dock. One wrong turn or slip could be your last. Add some type of altered state of mind due to booze or drugs and your chances of a tragic accident increase quite a bit.

One wrong turn is all it takes
and there ain't many signs -
you only get a few breaks.
Some get more. Some get less.
One wrong turn leads to the next.

Friday, February 14, 2014


The mooring permit arrived in the mail the other day. Despite the snow still on the ground I really had to get down to the boatyard to pick up some documentation for the application. Also because I had not been on the boat since late December I really wanted to make sure things were ok on board. We have had several winter storms during January and I had visions of an ice filled bilge or worse. In addition a Nor' Easter was expected the next day which would make getting to the boat even harder if not impossible. So for all of these reasons I put on some boots and headed to the boatyard.

Like Robbie the boatyard manager told me a few days before there was still some frozen snow drifts making for a difficult walk to the boat but, not too bad. I used the folding ladder like a crutch or walking stick to help break through the frozen drifts. Soon I was in sight of BIANKA:
There was no snow underneath the boats but, icy  foot and half drifts along the sides. My boats southern location help keep the snow to a minimum around the boat so I could unfold the ladder. But, before I did I noticed the three foot icicles hanging down from some of the cockpit and deck drains:

Yeah, it's been a cold winter with very little thawing in between storms.  I'm going to be doing a close inspection of the cockpit drain hoses when things warm up for sure.  Just to make sure the ice build up has not damaged them. Climbing up the ladder I saw first hand how much snow we have had compared to previous winters:

Somewhere under all that snow is the cabin top and deck. Looks like it was a tactical error not to cover the boat this year. Previous winters for the past ten years had been rather mild and any snow did not stick around for long. Especially with the harbor waters helping to moderate the winter temperatures.

The cockpit was partially filled with snow. The solar panels on one side of the solar bimini were covered as well from the snow of last week:

So I was expecting the worse as I went into the cabin I had not seen since late December. But, to my surprise I found only about an inch of water in the bilge despite all the snow that hit the area:

The water was still way below the bilge switch but, unfortunately because of the recent below normal single digit temperatures the water was frozen.

 So I added a little more spare Antifreeze to the bilge and hope to come back again soon to remove the water when things warm up a bit. I still was relieved to see how little water had actually ended up in the bilge in the month and a half since I was last on board. I also checked the cover over the mast partner area of the boat and it was secure and things were completely dry by the mast step:

Despite the solar panels having been partly covered by snow I was glad to see the batteries were still fully charged. Though I turned on both battery charges to make sure they would get a little top up too while I was on board. I also took out the small ceramic heater and fired it up:

Soon things were nice and toasty. I took off my boots and warmed the insides as well as my toes after trudging around in the 20 degree temperatures and snow drifts  to get to the boat. This little heater works very well to warm up the cabin on a cold winters day. I stayed on board about an hour. Picked up the paper work I needed. I took one last look at the winter view of the docks:

The  undisturbed snow on the dock makes it seem like spring is so far away.  But, after the snow storm last night temperatures reached up to 40 degrees fahrenheit this morning and started to melt much more of the snow. This gives me hope that my next trip to the boat will be a lot easier and warmer.  

Monday, February 10, 2014


I've been trying to get down to the boat to check on things. I was away for the month of January so the last time I checked on things was late December. This winter has been particularly cold and snowy. I tried to get down there last week but, the boatyard is not plowed and there was no place to park on the street. Then this morning I called the boatyard and discussed the possibility of coming down and checking on the boat. Robbie who runs the yard advised against it. He said the snow from last week is now covered with ice making it kind of dangerous walk down to the yard. Especially carrying a ladder. In the meantime  Mr. NOAA reported:


Just great! At this rate it will be spring before I get back on board. All the winter projects are on hold too. So I decided to check on conditions out on one of the sound weather buoys:

 Thirty Two degrees fahrenheit! Looks like it is going to be a long time before things warm enough to start swimming too!  

Friday, February 07, 2014


The cold winter, snow and unplowed boatyard have been preventing me from checking on the boat this past week. Trying to keep warm thoughts and hoping spring is on the way in the meantime. Came across some video taken in Belize a few years ago when I was in warmer latitudes:

Monday, February 03, 2014


I installed an AIS transponder on board BIANKA two years ago. It seemed like a good idea to me. At times when sailing I've been surprised by a tug and barge sneaking up behind my at certain choke points like Execution Rocks on Long Island Sound. Situations that had me wondering now where did he come from?  Having AIS gives you a heads up of where those BIG boats are and what they are doing. Having an AIS transponder lets those other boats know what you are doing or at least your name so they can call it out on the VHF. Instead of saying "white sailboat sailing southwest by buoy X.  Also when navigating places like New York Harbor or the Hudson River it really comes in handy for both boats to make and see the subtle changes in course that eliminate the possibility of a collision. In short it gives everybody some piece of mind.
Recently on a foggy winters day off Long Island another very good reason for having an AIS transponder on board became clear. A tugboat named SEA LION was sinking rapidly off of Long Island coast in a thick fog. Captain Bjoern Kils of NY Media Boat was in the area on the boat APERTURE when he heard:

"MAYDAY. This is the ‘Sea Lion’. We’re sinking. Men in the Water.
Water in the wheelhouse. This is our last transmission. We’re going down." - NYMEDIABOAT

The Coast Guard rebroadcast the Sea Lions coordinates but, somewhere things got broadcast, copied or heard wrong:

"I wrote down the numbers and plotted the coordinates. The location showed close to Lake Champlain in upstate New York, about 180 miles to the north, making it unlikely that I was able to hear the actual radio transmission from the ‘Sea Lion’ so clearly. I deemed the given coordinates as improbable and started working my on-board navigation system pulling up a list of close-by ships. Most commercial vessels are outfitted with an AIS transceiver as part of an automated tracking and collision avoidance system, so chances are that they were still transmitting.
There she was! SEA LION — right on top of that list with a position only about two nautical miles to the south of my location. Putting down the throttle, we made it to the scene in just a few minutes, running 35 knots in 6-foot seas and less than 200 feet visibility."  -NYMEDIABOAT

As Captain Kils said after the rescue:

“I think it's fair to say that the AIS system saved these guys’ lives,” Kils says. “The coordinates broadcasted by the Coast Guard were 180 miles to the north of the sinking vessel — I’m not sure why. By working my AIS system I was able to mark the Sea Lion’s actual location. Realizing I was only 2 nautical miles away from her position enabled me to respond, resulting in a rescue, not a recovery.”- SOUNDINGS

The crew of the Tugboat were very lucky to have been rescued so quickly in those frigid waters. While mistakes can happen when humans try to get out location  coordinates in panicky emergency situations working electronic systems like AIS are dispassionate and will keep broadcasting the GPS coordinates until the power is lost. In this case it saved four lives. Thanks to Captain Kils and another boat in the area and having an AIS transponder on the sinking boat.

AMEC CAMINO-101 Class B AIS Transponder
Garmin AIS 600 Automatic Identification System Transceiver w/ Programming
Raymarine AIS650 Class B Transceiver - Includes Programming Fee