Wednesday, November 21, 2018

GIFT FOR SAILORS: TIDES: The Science and Spirit of the Ocean

Holiday gift giving time is just around the corner and if you are looking for a gift to give to a sailor   I have a great suggestion.
A book called TIDES: The Science and Spirit of the Ocean I thoroughly enjoyed reading it and learning about tides all over the world and what makes the depth and current values different in various locations. It is a fascinating and informative read that I'm sure anyone who sails or just enjoys the sea will enjoy reading.

 In Tides: The Science and Spirit of the Ocean, writer, sailor, and surfer Jonathan White takes readers across the globe to discover the science and spirit of ocean tides. In the Arctic, White shimmies under the ice with an Inuit elder to hunt for mussels in the dark cavities left behind at low tide; in China, he races the Silver Dragon, a twenty-five-foot tidal bore that crashes eighty miles up the Qiantang River; in France, he interviews the monks that live in the tide-wrapped monastery of Mont Saint-Michel; in Chile and Scotland, he investigates the growth of tidal power generation; and in Panama and Venice, he delves into how the threat of sea level rise is changing human culture—the very old and very new. Tides combines lyrical prose, colorful adventure travel, and provocative scientific inquiry into the elemental, mysterious paradox that keeps our planet’s waters in constant motion. Photographs, scientific figures, line drawings, and sixteen color photos dramatically illustrate this engaging, expert tour of the tides.

Sunday, November 11, 2018


I had just finished storing the Porta Bote dinghy in the shed for the winter when I spied a Great Blue Heron land in one of the trees. I had often seen Great Blue Herons while I was relaxing  on BIANKA at the mooring. The Great Blue Heron is a shorebird I had never seen one this far inland. So it was surprised to see it land in one of my backyard trees. I like to think it came to say goodbye for the season before it headed south.  Anyway it was still a nice way to end the season seeing it.

Sunday, October 28, 2018

SAILING SEASON 2018: A quick look back

Now that's sailing season has ended here on Long Island and I am about to pull the
boat for the season. I thought I'd post a little report of how the 2018 season went.
Several small cruises to a nearby harbor provided enough sailing satisfaction to satiate
my wants and needs.

The new Thoosa controller I installed last year worked flawlessly and was an
improvement on the old Navitas controller that mysteriously died over a recent winter.
Not only where there are no problems with it. The good news is it appears that I start
getting Regen charging at 4 knots as opposed to the 6 knots with the old controller.
That was a pleasant surprise.

On another matter I discovered that one of the brand new batteries I installed in 2016 seems to be failing. Pretty sure this was damaged in shipment. However I was able to make due for the season by careful monitoring of it’s voltage and going into hybrid mode using the Honda 2000 generator and Zivan NG-1 battery charger as needed. I plan to do a load test on the batteries over the winter or next spring to verify it is indeed bad. I suspect I'll need to buy a new battery but I'm not going to buy four new ones as the others seem to be OK.

The boats 48 volt Marine Air-X wind turbine controller board seems to have failed.
I’ll probably send it back for refurbishing in the spring considering it’s been trouble free
for about eight years. Meantime BIANKA’s 48 volt solar panels and occasional Honda
generator charging took up the slack.  

All the projects I had planned to work on over the summer did not get done as usual
despite my good intentions. These included:
A new VHF radio install with a remote microphone.
Replacing the non-working macerator pump.
Finishing the conversion of the diesel tank into a freshwater washdown tank.
Install additional LED lighting
Hopefully over the winter and spring  I'll have better success completing some of these items.

I did have good success sewing the bronze sail slides onto a sail and somebody gave to me over
15 years ago. It was in very good shape.  It has replaced the sail that came with
BIANKA when I bought her and was probably original back to 1986. So it looks like I will
not have to buy a new sail for a few years. Though I am planning on making a new
Stack Pack sail cover for it over the winter.

The new Porta Bote Dingy works well even when towed behind BIANKA.  Though its
built-in transom now makes it 12 pounds heavier and I can no longer easily carry it under
one arm like the  previous one I owned.

All in all a good season of sailing and looking forward to an even better one next year.


Saturday, October 20, 2018


It's an exciting day. I made a post back in 2017 about an underwater drone called the Fathom One. I purchased one sight unseen. In fact it had just graduated from a Kickstarter funding project to the initial development phase when plunked down my money to buy it. Originally the unit was supposed to be available in June 2017. But the development and testing took a little longer than expected.  It finally arrived at my front door today.

I opened the box and attached the three motors to the main body of the drone and put it on the bench. I also wired up the antenna to the WIFI module and attached the tethered cable to it.

I'm charging the Lithium batteries and soon as they are charged I'll give it a bench test.

I have been putting off pulling BIANKA out of the water for the season waiting for this drone to arrive. I want to get at least one under the water test before the sailing season ends. I'll be making a video on the setup and testing of the Fathom drone soon. Stay tuned!

Tuesday, August 21, 2018


One of the great pleasures of being on board is to climb into the bunk on BIANKA with a good book. Usually it pertains to sailing or nature. My current read is a recently published book called A FIELD GUIDE TO LONG ISLAND SOUND by Patrick J. Lynch

It is a very informative book that encompasses all types of interesting information regarding the waters and shoreline of Long Island Sound. The book delves into the geological history of how the sound was formed. The various types of shorelines that borders the waters as well as the plants and animals that are part of it's ecology. It's a fascinating book and nicely illustrated with photos and maps. If you sail Long Island Sound as I do or are planning a visit to the area it is a great companion to many of the things you will see and places that you will visit. I recommend it.

Wednesday, August 08, 2018


I don't have a television on board BIANKA. Just a small pocket size AM/FM Radio and MP3 player. Nature is what I spend most of my time watching and listening to while in the cockpit. Sometimes there is a special night performance as happened last night as Thunderstorms lit up the sky with lightning that was close but, not too close:

Thursday, August 02, 2018


After 16 years my 8 foot Porta Boat dingy had seen better days. It still floated well but, a pesky small leak dispite my half hearted attempt to find it eluded me. After sixteen years it really did not owe me anything. So I bought a new one to replace it. The new model has some improvements over my original Porta Boat including an attached folding transom. Which means less pieces to store on board if I ever carry it folded on board.

A few weeks ago I put it together and began using it to row out to the mooring. After awhile I wanted to start using one of the two electric outboards I have with it. This requires that I register it with the state and pay some sales tax for it's purchase. It had been a number of years since I went to the DMV to register anything. But, I knew there would be a certain amount of waiting and bureaucracy. I finally decided to make the attempt and went down to one of the local Department of Motor Vehicles. I order to minimize any wasted time waiting I downloaded the proper documents and filled them out at home. When I got there I met my first line and after a short wait was met by a DMV representative. I explained that I wanted to register my the boat and showed her my filled out documents. She looked at them and gave me a number.  I was two hours  before later my number was finally called.
I went to my assigned window and handed over my documents relieved that I would soon be out of there. But, there was a problem my original Bill of Sale from the Porta Boat company was a copy on an 8 x 11 piece of paper not the 6 x 8 inches. Also I had not put in the Hull Identification Number on the document thinking I would just fill it in at the DMV. Apparently this was not acceptable and though I argued the original Bill of Origin from the company was also a copy just a different size piece of paper it still seemed to cause a problem. A call to the main DMV office did not resolve the problem. I needed to come back with the original Bill of Origin and also a photograph of the HIN number in order to register the Dingy.

Needless to say the idea of another two hour wait just because of the dimensions of piece of paper was not making my day. So I left to deal with this another day. As I was gathering my documents to leave the clerk mentioned I could make an appointment on line for my next visit and save time. Hmmm, that sounds good. So I went home and made an appointment a few days later and bought all the properly sized documents and photograph of the HIN number on the Dingy. I was expecting just a few minutes wait since I now had an appointment. No such luck. But, the good news was that instead of a two hour wait I only had to sit there for an hour. I finally got up to the window and submitted my properly sized documents and was never asked for the photo of the boats HIN number.

I finally got the registration number and State sticker showing the dingy was properly registered and I could finally use my electric outboard on it.  Relieved that the DMV experience was finally over I decided to complete the registration process by driving over to the Marine store and buy the characters and numbers that I needed to attach to the boats hull. I entered the store and went to the aisle where the 3 inch numbers were on display.  Once applied my trials and tribulations of registering would be a
thing of the past. But, it was not to be. It seems the store had all the alpha characters and numbers I needed except one which was out of stock.  Apparently Neptune has some influence of land based nautical procedures and has been having a good laugh at my expense as I attempt to finish the registration process.

But, I cut short his enjoyment as I quickly found a way to avoid the wait while the Marine store restocked the all important 3 inch high number. I went online and found that instead of paying one dollar for each registration number and alpha character I could buy them online for a little over eight dollars for a pack containing all of the numbers and characters I needed.

Also the Shoreline Marine Letter Kit contained four of each character and numbers so I would also have extra's should any fall off and need to be replaced. So two days later I had everything I needed to finish the arduous registration process and could once again be back on the water.

Friday, July 13, 2018


It was after sundown. I was relaxing in the cockpit when I heard two strange thumps at the bow of the boat. I investigated and found a Cormorant trying to bed down for the night.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

TIME OF THE SEASON: Eldridge Tide and Pilot Book

As the cold wet spring gives way to warm temperatures I finally start to get on with idea of finally launching BIANKA.  Last minute items like installing the shaft zinc, polishing the prop and grounding plate are done. Telling the boatyard to paint the bottom and take down the mast from it's storage location. One of the final items is picking up the latest Eldridge Tide an Pilot Book. A most useful book of information for sailing the waters of Long Island Sound and the entire Northeast United States. Beyond the tide and current information it is also packed with information about the skies as well as a number of interesting articles of a nautical nature. The latest edition is an example. There is a page with sketches of the various rigs and types of sailboats. I have always described BIANKA as a Catboat.  Though the latest Eldridge describes it quite accurately as a Wishbone-Cat. I always learn something new with an Eldridge on board.

Tuesday, June 05, 2018


I was thinking about flashlights and an incident that occurred several years ago while I was cruising with BIANKA. I had taken the dingy into a dock. Since I did was not familiar with the harbor and it's security issues. I really don't even remember where it was. I decided it best that I secure the dingy with a security cable and a combination lock. I went into town, I think for dinner and came back to the dock where the dingy was after dusk. I went to unlock the dingy but, found my eyes could not read any of the numbers on the lock in the fading light. Try as I might my aging eyes just could not discern the numbers. It was late in the season and the summer crowds had long disappeared and it was getting cold. Did not look like anyone else would be coming to the dock that fall evening. I was a bit in a panic as it was not getting any lighter. I should have had a flashlight in the dingy but, had forgotten to put one in. I looked around and did not see any other boats that might have a flashlight I could use to unlock my dingy. Then I spied the Harbor Police boat tied up nearby. I thought it might have a flashlight I could use to unlock the dingy. It did. But, it also caused a little bit of a dilemma. Getting caught boarding a Police boat and even worse taking something off of it might be hard to explain. But, I was getting desperate as the evening grew darker and it grew colder. I bordered the boat and found a flashlight. I quickly went and unlocked my dingy and replaced the flashlight back on the Police boat without being noticed. I thought about this incident from years ago and how unlikely it would not happen today thanks to advancing technology. These days I would have my cellphone and  use it's flashlight app to light up the dingy lock. Of course one would have to remember to bring the cell phone along. But, I'm less likely to do that since it's usually in my shirt pocket.


Monday, May 28, 2018


 I got back on the boat the other day to get things ready for launching. I'm in no hurry this year as the spring has been rather wet and cold. Just messing about on the boat is nice since I have a harbor view from the boats location in the boat yard. So when NOAA said the day would be sunny and hot it seemed like a good idea to get down to BIANKA and start doing what needs to be done. When I got down to the boat it was indeed a hot day. Too hot to work in cabin much less down below the cockpit.
What to do except open a cold can of seltzer in the cockpit where there was a hint of a breeze and a little cooler. So some work around the cockpit seemed like the thing to do.
Looking around I noticed some of the wires around BIANKA's helm station looked like they could be tidied up.

They were out of the way enough but. making them a little neater and secure would not hurt. So I took out the newly bought Cable Tie Gun and went to work.

Once those were taken care of I remembered I needed to re secure the Helm Station platforms themselves as the old ty wraps holding them level had broken.  

Using the Tie Wrap Gun I had them re secured, tightened  and level in a few minutes. 

I think I should add a second ty wrap to add some extra holding power in the future. But, for now one should do. Then looking above my head I noticed that the wires for BIANKA's 48 volt solar panels needed to be secured. A few tie wraps slipped between aluminum bars and the job was done

It was a quick and easy job. But, one that helped make things neater and secure. Plus it made me feel somewhat productive on such a hot day.                  

Sunday, May 13, 2018


I'm constantly reminded of all the things I'm missing since I converted BIANKA to electric propulsion ten years ago . Namely all the bad things that go with having a diesel on board. We were anchored off the Staniel Cay Yacht Club in the Exumas Bahamas. I was relaxing in the cockpit of a St. Francis 44 foot Catamaran when I heard someone call "Ahoy'  as fellow in a dingy motored up to the stern. He was looking for the Captain of the boat he had met a few weeks earlier. He discovered had no control of speed as he came into anchor.  It seems a part of the throttle lever assembly had broken. It was the metal lever that connected the throttle leakage to the throttle cable at the helm.  Probably not something you are going to easily find in Staniel Cay.  It reminded me of all the mechanical pieces that can break that go with having a diesel on board. These mechanical linkages that control the speed and direction are not used on an EP system. Instead a single sealed electrical potentiometer control is used and is a plug in cable like the battery meter in the previous post. It should be much more reliable than the mechanical linkages that are used with a diesel.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

FIRST SPRING PROJECT DONE: TBS Expert Pro Battery Monitor instal

With winter finally releasing is grip on the Isle of Long it felt good to finally start to make a dent in the spring outfitting ToDo list. I choose a fast and easy one. Last year I bought a new controller from Annapolis Hybrid Marine. Unfortunately, the new controller was not compatible with the old Xantrex XBM Battery Monitor installed ten years ago. So I bought a new TBS E-xpert Pro Battery Monitor that is compatble with the new controller. It was a quick replacement as both fit the same mounting hole and I just had to plug it into the new controller box. The old XBM Battery Monitor will still be used on board since my plan is to re purpose it's use as a battery monitor for my current house bank. But, that is a project for another day.

Saturday, March 31, 2018

HONDA EU2200i GENERATOR: More Power To You!

My Honda 2000i generator has been a proven versatile workhorse for the past ten years and looks like it will continue to function as such for the foreseeable future.  It was originally bought to be part of my poor man's hybrid system when I converted BIANKA to electric propulsion. It has work well for that and more. It was light weight and easily stored and much more quieter compared  to other generators on the market. Hard to improve on the design. But, Honda has with the new Honda EU2200i model.
The new model   increased the power output by 200 watts.  Which is an impressive 10% improvement in power output. With the same size generator case. In the case of BIANKA this would mean the ability to have a constant 37.5 amps to push my boat along at about 4 knots without draining the battery bank. A nice speed for a 48 pound generator. It would also mean faster charging times when at anchor. Plus there are a few more physical improvements to the generator. Like a bigger oil filler opening and oil drain gutter making oil changes easier and cleaner. There is also a fuel shut off valve so you can run the generator until the carburetor is drained of fuel.  It's very tempting on my part to upgrade to this Honda generator. But,  my frugal side is telling me "If it ain't broke don't fix it". Since my ten year old Honda 2000i is not broke I'm able to resist upgrading to the Honda EU220i. But it's nice to know it will be available to me should I need it on want to.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018


It's been about a month or more since I last visited BIANKA. The weather has been cold and the winds blowing off Long Island Sound make it feel colder. But, since the fourth Nor' Easter is about to arrive tomorrow I figured I should make the trip. I needed to make some measurements and check on space availability for some various projects I have planned once the weather warms up.
I arrived at the boatyard a few minutes before Spring or the Vernal Equinox happened. Though it sure still felt like winter. I did the usual checkout of the deck and charged up the batteries. I then moved the piles of cushions, boxes of parts and tools so I could check the space where I planned to relocate the new Jabsco Macerator Pump. It looked very doable and should be a pretty easy job:

Which was a relief. However. the location where I planed to install a new Standard Horizon 2200 VHF radio was not going to go as smoothly.  Behind the bulkhead where I wanted to install the unit was hose and fitting for BIANKA's anchor wash down outlet.

It may require that move the outlet. But, perhaps not I'll know better once I get the unit and see how it fits. But, at least I'll be prepared to do the work.

Not much else to do in the cold temperatures on board once the batteries were topped up except to check the bilge. There was some water there. Not surprising since the boat has weather three Nor' asters and some heavy rains since I last visited. I took out the Micro Wet/Dry Shop Vac and sucked the water out of BIANKA's deep bilge. The small shop vac makes the job so much easier, faster and cleaner. 

   I empty the Shop Vac into a five gallon bucket . One that I had labeled to show one gallon for deck washing solutions.  It showed I had only about a gallon in the bilge.

Having accomplished all I had planned to do. I buttoned the boat up disconnected the power cord and went home to await the storm. Hopefully warmer Spring temperatures will soon be on the way.

Friday, March 02, 2018


I mentioned awhile back how living on my boat with it's LED lights and Solar Panels inspired me to build the solar powered lighting system for my house.
Now a company called BIOLITE has come up with a compact solar lighting, charging and music system that is priced reasonably and could be used at home or on a boat.
It even has an FM radio and MP3 player built in. Here is an overview:

Looks like a quick and easy way to add a solar powered lighting system to a boat or home.

 Kit includes a 6 watt solar panel, screws, the control box, three individual string lights with individual switches, including one with a motion sensor.
  • Lighting includes 3 over-head lights with their own switches: 2 100-lumen string lights and 1 motion sensor light.
  • Control box includes 20-watt hour rechargeable battery to store solar energy, 2 USB device charging ports, digital display for feedback on power availability, and speaker control
  • Enjoy the built-in FM radio and speaker or use the SD card reader to play your MP3 music

At $149 the BioLite SolarHome 620 Portable Off-Grid Solar Lighting System is at a minimum a great way to light up your evenings or if you already have solar it could provide the backup lighting you need for nights at anchor. While allowing your current system to deal with important functions like refrigeration. 

Hat Tip: Boat Bits