Thursday, April 20, 2017

I BOUGHT AN UNDERWATER DRONE

I made a post a few weeks ago about an underwater drone geared toward fisherman that I thought might be useful on board BIANKA if the price was reasonable. Since it is over the one thousand dollar mark I scrubbed that idea. But, doing further research I can upon an alternative underwater drone that was in an acceptable price range for my budget. The only problem is it has not yet hit the market and will not be available until at least June. So placing an order for a non existent product is somewhat a leap of faith. But, I have been there before. Like in 2007 when I decided to convert BIANKA from having a diesel engine to installing electric propulsion. Not a lot of sailboats had done such a conversion at that time. So I had no real models to follow. Though since this drone is considerably cheaper than the EP conversion it is a much better risk. At around $500 the Fathom One drone is the right price for my budget and so I decided to take the leap and buy one sight unseen.
I'm looking at the drone as another tool to have on board not a toy. My primary reason for buying it is to use as a visual check on how BIANKA's anchor is set.  The five hundred dollar price seems worth it if it helps me know that my much more expensive boat is anchored well so I can sleep at night. It can also help me see what the anchor might be hung up on if I sould have trouble raising it. Another use might be to find an item accidently lost over board. Of course it might also be fun to see what lies below the boat too. But, checking the anchor will be it's primary use. I will post more details and show how the Fathom One works out once I have it on board and can test it's abilities. So stay tuned.


Tuesday, April 04, 2017

SPRING CHECK SURPRISES: The Good and the Bad

A nice 60 degree F day in between rain storms. It has be awhile since I've checked on BIANKA about a month. Since that time we've had a near blizzard and some pretty heavy rains. I don't shrink wrap BIANKA for the winter having found the boat when shrink wrapped develops mildew in spots and generally tends to get grimy and feel humid when shrink wrapped. So I was surprised to see despite the snows and rains of the last month BIANKA's bilge was pretty dry except for the splash of antifreeze I left in it during my last visit:


She's a pretty tight boat. I think I helped make her tighter by taping over the cockpit hatches. This prevents excess water, ice and snow from leaking down below. Probably something I should do every year when storing her for the winter.

I just did a quick check and took some photos of a few things that are on the maintenance list. One of the items is the jammed Maceration pump. I'm not looking forward to working on this item for a number of reasons but, mostly because it's location looks like it is going to be a pain to get access to and remove. While taking some photos of the pump area I noticed that one of the clamps that secures the head intake and wash down hoses was severely rusted:


This is a boat sinking issue and it is moved to the top of the list of Spring Outfitting issues to address.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

SOMETHING NEW IN CASE OF EMERGENCY: Weems and Plath SOS Distress Light

At some point this spring on my checklist of things I will check on the expiration date of the emergency flares I have on board. Though the flare testing I did on a few of the expired flares two years ago has me a little apprehensive as to how safe they are to actually use in an emergency situation. Here is a link to the post on that experience. That's why this year I am planning on buying a Weems and Plath Emergency SOS Distress Light  in my on board safety kit. There are a couple of real good reasons to have one on board. For one thing it will flash for 60 hours (2.5 Days) so it can be left on constantly as opposed to having to a limited number of flares that one has to think about rationing. Another reason is it requires no further action other than turning it on.  So it can be quickly left on deck so that one can go back and hopefully deal and correct whatever emergency situation caused one to call for help in the first place.  Someone has to be on deck to launch a meteor flare or hold a handheld one. A problem when one is sailing alone or with inexperienced passengers. It also floats which is an important consideration if one has to enter the water. Plus it's portable so you could take it with you and use it in the dingy too. It would be real handy should your outboard fail in the night on the ride back to the boat. Best of all it does not expire. Though it is recommend the three C batteries that power it be replaced every year. Considering that the cost of replacing one set of expired meteor and handheld flares is more than half of what the Weems and Plath Distress light costs. It seems like much better deal. In addition it comes with a bight orange distress flag so your boat is covered for both day and night emergency situations. Here is a little more on the light:
I probably will still carry flares but, I will probably use this Weems and Plath SOS light as my primary signaling device as it seems safer, constant and more convenient than dealing with emergency pyro technics onboard.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

USING GPS VS THE BRAIN

"Using a satnav to get to your destination 'switches off' parts of the brain that would otherwise be used to simulate different routes, reveals new UCL research.
The study, published in Nature Communications and funded by Wellcome, involved 24 volunteers navigating a simulation of Soho in central London while undergoing brain scans. The researchers investigated activity in the hippocampus, a brain region involved in memory and navigation, and the prefrontal cortex which is involved in planning and decision-making. They also mapped the labyrinth of London's streets to understand how these brain regions reacted to them." - EUREKA ALERT

I always like to have some type of paper chart nearby when cruising. Even though I do have a chart plotter at the helm. Perhaps keep on plotting on it also like it just might be a good idea to keep the brain functioning well too! 

Monday, March 13, 2017

WINTERLUDE 2017: IT'S GONNA BE AWHILE [UPDATED]

It's been several weeks since I last checked on BIANKA. Just when you feel the urge to go check on the boat this happens:

 ...BLIZZARD WARNING REMAINS IN EFFECT FROM MIDNIGHT TONIGHT TO
MIDNIGHT EDT TUESDAY NIGHT...

* Locations...Northeastern New Jersey, Rockland and Westchester
  New York, Southwest Connecticut and interior Southeast
  Connecticut, New York City, and Western Long Island.

* Hazard Types...Heavy Snow and Blizzard Conditions. Some freezing
  drizzle late Tuesday afternoon into early Tuesday evening.

* Snow Accumulations...12 to 24 inches.

* Ice Accumulations...A few hundredths of an inch or less.

* Snowfall Rates...2 inches to locally 3 inches per hour from
  very early Tuesday morning into Tuesday afternoon.

* Timing...Late Tonight through Tuesday evening.

* Impacts...Dangerous travel due to whiteout conditions at
  times. Several roads may become impassable. Power outages
  possible.

* Winds...Northeast 25 to 35 mph with gusts up to 55 mph.

* Temperatures...In the upper 20s.

* Visibilities...One quarter mile or less at times.

PRECAUTIONARY/PREPAREDNESS ACTIONS...

A Blizzard Warning means severe winter weather conditions are
expected or occurring. Falling and blowing snow with strong winds
and poor visibilities are likely. This will lead to whiteout
conditions...making travel extremely dangerous. Do not travel. If
you must travel...have a winter survival kit with you. If you get
stranded...stay with your vehicle.


Looks like it will be a little while longer before I head back to the
boatyard. But, "hope SPRINGS eternal" In the meantime it's time to hum to 
a Randy Newman tune:



BLOG UPDATE: Looks like the dire warnings of Blizzard conditions failed to
materialize thanks to the storm moving more westward than planned. Fine with 
me as that means less snow to melt and the sooner I will start spring 
outfitting for the upcoming season. 


Wednesday, March 08, 2017

FORGET THE HAMMOCK TRY AN INFLATABLE LOUNGER ON BOARD

I've see some boats where people rig up hammocks to relax in. They never looked like they were all that comfortable in the long run. Especially if you have back issues. Others like bean bag chairs in the cockpit to relax in. But they take up a lot of room on the boat and can leak Styrofoam pellets all over when they break. I've also been wondering if it might be nice to carry a beach chair for an occasional relaxing afternoon on the beach. But, the idea of finding a place to store it on board has always dissuaded me. Then I just recently came across this:



It's a Vansky Inflatable Lounger. Basically it's a big air bag sofa one sits or lays in. Un-Inflated it folds into a small pack making storage on board easier. If you can find space on board it looks like it could replace the hammock, bean bag and beach chair.  I like that it is available in various colors. I personally like the Orange one for the boat so it might be able to be used in an emergency rescue situation. It requires no pump and is cheap enough it will not make too much of a dent in the cruising budget.



Here is a fellow checking one of them out:



Monday, February 20, 2017

ELECTRIC PROPULSION: SOME THOUGHTS ON ELECTRO SAILING: Part Two

Now that I've shown an example of how I am able to easily Electro-Sail with BIANKA when the winds fail to show up. I'll discuss the components that enable me to achieve it and some of the things I have learned in the past nine years since I converted BIANKA to Electric Propulsion.

My Thoosa 9000 EP system specifications were designed  for 20 miles at 4 knots. This was using my 8A4D AGM batteries only. I have never checked if this was the actual case nor do I want to unless it becomes necessary. BIANKA is a sailboat and I always prefer to use the sail for propulsion. Another reason to avoid trying to push the battery bank close to depletion is you decrease the amount charge cycles of the battery bank. As this chart below shows:


It's about saving the amps champs! But, that does not mean I just use the EP system to get into and out of the harbor. Which is very easy for an EP system to do. I tend to leave my home harbor for other destinations not just day sails. But, EP makes that easy to do too.

So what do I use when I feel the need to Electro Sail? I will first start out under battery power alone. I watch the XBM battery monitor to see when my battery back has dropped down to about 75% battery capacity from the 100% fully charged condition I started out with. This is about two hours after I have started motoring. As noted above this habit allows me to have more recharge cycles out of the battery over it's lifetime. This is better than depleting the bank to down say 50%. It also reduces the amount of time spent to charge the battery back up to 100%

So when the battery bank has dropped to the 75% capacity.  I fire up the Honda 2000i generator and plug in the ZIVAN NG-1 charger into it.
The ZIVAN has turned into a real workhorse and has been very reliable. When I first installed the Thoosa system back in 2008 I was concerned about what would happen if the charger went bad and could no longer charge the battery bank while on a cruise. So I bought a backup NG-1. I'm happy to say that the backup has remained in it's box for these past nine years and has never had to be put into service.  The ZIVAN also works well with the Honda 2000 generator. When I use it for Electro Sailing on BIANKA it functions as a power supply pushing out 15 amps of max current to propel the boat acting as a power supply to push the boat along. It's output is just 900 watts well within the maximum 1600 watts continuous rating of the Honda generator. As the graph below from one of my harbor tests shows that 900 watts allows me to motor BIANKA at around three knots without drawing any amps out of the battery bank:


 In fact it allows me to operated the Honda Generator in ECO mode which makes the one gallon of gas in the Honda generator last for about four hours. I have operated the ZIVAN in this full out mode for hours at a time without issue. BIANKA will move along quite nicely at this speed until the fuel runs out. Of course despite being a fairly sophisticated charger the ZIVAN does not know it is being used only has a power supply to push BIANKA along on a windless day. It thinks it is still charging a battery bank. Which brings up something one has to be on the lookout for when Electro-Sailing with this and other chargers. Because the charger never sees the battery being charged at some point it will disconnect. Thinking the battery is not charging it will timeout. It takes several hours to reach this conclusion and it is easily reset by unplugging it from the generator and plugging it back in. Then it is good to go for another several hours.
 One of the nice things about having Electric Propulsion is how easily it is to modify components of the system or change operating modes. Because the ZIVAN's output is limited to 900 watts it means I am not able to take advantage of the full 1600 watts continuous output of the Honda 2000i. So I am contemplating buying a 48 volt 1500 watt power supply to use when it looks like I will have to operate on an extended Electro-Sail mode. I expect it should move BIANKA along about 4 knots. I'll test and post about that hopefully some this upcoming season.


Thursday, February 16, 2017

ELECTRIC PROPULSION: SOME THOUGHTS ON ELECTRO-SAILING. PART ONE

I was awakened from my mid winter doldrums by an email from a fellow who had some questions about electro-sailing if he were to convert to electric propulsion:
but because there may be rare occasions, like if we have to transit a canal the like Erie Canal, where we would need to motor for an extended period I am I am trying to determine if a small generator like the 2000i would be suitable to propel the boat at a slow speed for extended periods.

You stated that you could motor at about 3 knots with your 2000i generator. What charger do you use? Have you done this for several hours at a time? I am curious if you have experienced issues with heat build up, or other problems that might be an issue with extended use of the charger to power the electric engine."

These are great questions and ones I wondered about back in 2007 where I began to get serious about converting to electric propulsion. So I thought I'd make a blog post about my experience over the past nine seasons with electric propulsion and electro-sailing.

1) I am trying to determine if a small generator like the 2000i would be suitable to propel the boat at a slow speed for extended periods.
The answer is yes. I have found I don't really need to do it often but I have had to at times  motor up to 40 nautical miles just using a Honda 2000i generator and battery charger to move my 30 foot boat along. An example of such a day is shown in this video:


Again I have not had to do this often since at some point during most sailing days a breeze does kick up at some point. But, even if it does not I find electro-sailing with Electric Propulsion to be much quieter and much less vibration than when I had a diesel which makes for a much more pleasant day on the water.
I'll get into more specifics as to the components used on BIANKA for extended electro-sailing  and the things you need to know to make it possible in the next post.

Wednesday, February 01, 2017

WERE HAVE I BEEN?

There are lot's of ways to go cruising. Even those who live on board full time do get off from time to time and head off traveling on land and/or visiting relatives etc.... I have come to terms with pulling BIANKA out of the water for the winter and not taking her south to warmer waters. I think this is good for a couple of reasons it allows one to really look forward to the upcoming sailing season. That's the absence makes the heart grow fonder reason. Another reason is my semi-landlubber companion likes to go on mid winter sailing vacations on crewed Catamarans. We've been doing this for a number of years and have spent part of the winter sailing various parts of the world. So my wanderlust to visit these places like the Carribbean  is satiated and no longer have the strong desire to make the journey to these areas with BIANKA. This year was no exception. But, it was not just a quick Jet ride down to the Caribbean. It was a trip halfway across the world and out to the Indian Ocean to spend twelve days cruising in the Maldive Atolls. It's a special place with gorgeous reefs and also a place I'd never be able to bring BIANKA easily. Nor would I want to since the numerous reefs and sand banks are better navigated with someone with local knowledge. We spent most of January in the area and I will try and post some of the highlights of the cruise here in the next few weeks. Upon returning from this trip I got some more good news. In the mail yesterday came the paperwork from the Town for renewing the mooring permit. A sign that the sailing season is just around the corner.

Monday, January 09, 2017

WHAT LIES BENEATH: PowerRay Underwater Drone

Those of us who spend time anchoring in murkier waters than most places in the Caribbean often have this question nagging us: How well is the anchor really set? Yeah,  you do a back down test but, it is still an unknown. If you are in places like the Exumas where the water clarity and temperature make it easy to check on the anchor it is not an issue. But, in places like the Northeast U.S. where visibility may be ten feet if you are lucky and the water temperature is in the low 60's it can be a problem. That's where this new underwater drone might come in handy. It's called the PowerRay and is primarily marketed toward fishermen who want a little more info on what is exactly underneath their boats. But, I see using it as a way to easily check on the anchor without guessing in less than clear or inviting waters. Since it's a tethered Drone there is less chance it will be lost to Neptune too. There is no price on it yet but, if it's reasonable it could be cheap insurance to have a restful nights sleep when the winds start to pipe up. It could also be very handy to see what ones anchor is fouled on if it does not come easily when trying to lift it. Another use would be to locate an item that went over the side that needs to be found.


Wednesday, January 04, 2017

GETTING AROUND ON LAND

Sometimes when cruising one wants to get to some stores for some parts or provisions. Your choices are usually walking, taking a Taxi, bus etc... I just came across this 35 pound fold able electric scooter called the URB-E with a twenty mile range. Smaller than a bicycle it folds and should be easy to store on board. Might be just the thing to throw into the dingy for a quick trip to pick up something on land or just exploring around town.