Saturday, September 26, 2009



I lived on board BIANKA for six years on the west side of Manhattan Island starting in the mid 1990's. But, It's been three years since I've made the 70 mile trip. So I am looking forward to the trip but, with a little apprehension since this will be the first time using electric propulsion not having a working battery monitor makes it more so.

After after a leisurely morning on the hook I finally weighed anchor in Little Bay at 11:15 am for BIANKA's "historic" return back to New York this time as the world's first electrically propelled Nonsuch 30. Since BIANKA no longer has a diesel engine and alternator I fire up the 47 lb Honda 2000i generator to help the 12 volt house battery bank deal with the heavy current load of the recently repaired electric windlass as I raise the anchor off of the mud bottom of Little Bay. There was still a nice 8 to 10 knot wind out of the northeast so I was able to sail under the Throgs Neck Bridge and the first 11 miles or so of the East River Transit. I keep the generator running charging the 48 volt battery bank just to make sure the batteries are topped off for the trip though Hells Gate and points further south where sailing will not be an option because of the unpredictable swirling wind patterns caused by the buildings on both sides of the East River.

It was not long before I was meet by a flotilla of Dutch barges sent over the Atlantic to participate in NY400. A celebration of Henry Hudson's first foray into New York Harbor some 400 years ago. They were heading to Northport (Long Island)and other ports on Long island Sound. I must say BIANKA with it's wishbone boom got some curious looks from the sailors on the barges. (Special note of thanks to the TUGSTER for providing some help in identifying the barges BIANKA passed)

So far I have only been able to identify the barge below. It is the Lemmeraak. Built over 100 years ago in 1902.

I felt sorry for the crews on board these interesting craft because they must have been bucking the current up the East River especially through Hell Gate and that is never fun even if they did have their engines going. I on the other hand was going with the flow which is good advice when making the East River transit.

As the Hell Gate Railroad bridge came into sight it was time to drop sail and start the electric motor to continue the journey down the East River.

I had just passed North Brother Island when I heard something behind me. Holy Ernest Borgnine! It's PT Boat 728 coming up fast on BIANKA's stern. This is an actual restored WWII PT Boat based in Kingston New York. At some point it was used in the filming of the TV show McCales Navy back in the sixties.

And looking pretty menacing I should say.

I was thinking that the U.S. Coast Guard should be using this type of vintage craft for patrols instead of the small semi rigid inflatables they now use for harbor patrols.
A PT boat with it's two twin barrel deck mounted guns, depth chargers and torpedoes would look a little more serious to those who would want to do some harm in the harbor. As you can see here:

BLOG UPDATE: I was in contact with Capt. Tom Whyte who was at the helm of PT. 728 that day. It was returning from a month long tour that included stops in Milford CT, Fall River MA (Battleship Cove) and Bridgeport CT.
That's what I love about sailing around New York City there is always something interesting to see along the journey. For example I've always thought the Hell Gate bridge was a very beautiful piece of structural art work and to me signifies the gateway to bustling part of the city of New York especially Manhattan.
In the above photo you can see the small Honda 2000i up forward which is running keep the 48 volt battery bank charged up since I will be motoring for the rest of the journey down the East River. Also notice the solar panel. This one is for charging the 12 volt house battery bank. The 48 volt panel that is connected to the electric motor's battery bank is on the starboard side and out of of view.
Once past the Hell Gate bridge things will be getting a little nosier as we get close to Manhattan Island.

Speaking of interesting sights. Just after BIANKA passed though Hell Gate she was followed by this tug and barge:

Apparently someone in Brooklyn actually did have a bridge for sale:

Or at least part of a bridge.

BLOG UPDATE: After contacting Will at the TUGSTER blog who really knows his tugs. I am 99.5% sure that the Tug in the photo above is the John P. Brown. If you click on the photo above you will get to see a bigger picture and compare it to a photo on TUGSTER taken during the Tugboat Races in September of this tug. Hint: The red and yellow stripes along the side seem to confirm it's id.

A little further on I came across one of the stragglers of the NY400 flotilla. They were most certainly going to know what bucking the currents of Hell Gate is all about. I have not been able to identify this barge yet either but, the sail has a 206 VA on it.

BIANKA continued down the tidal strait doing about 4 knots with only occasionally having to provide a little thrust from the electric motor to maintain that speed in the East River current. As I approached the South Street Seaport at around 3 pm and upper New York Harbor opened up before me. I raised sail and decided to head down the Buttermilk Channel on the east side of Governors Island. I did this to avoid the choppy and busy ferry area down by the Battery. But, also to get a close look at the Queen Mary 2 which was berth on the Brooklyn side of the channel:

A beautiful ship and one I had the experience to travel across the Atlantic on in 2006. It was also a beautiful way to end the first transit down the East River by BIANKA using electric propulsion as the QM2 also uses electric propulsion on it's trips. Everything worked well on board BIANKA and because the electric motor was so quiet it was made all the more enjoyable compared to previous trips which had the noisy diesel engine churning away. I think the next time I make the transit I will keep the generator off too. I hardly used much electric propulsion in making the transit and that was a good thing. So the world's first electrically propelled Nonsuch 30 has passed another test with more to follow.


will said...

some of your pics aren't loading . .. i'd love to see the pt boat ones. cheers

Mike said...

Will, Thanks for comment about the missing images. they were there yesterday??? I have have republished them. Hopefully the will stay posted this time.


New York Boat Cruise said...

I love your blog; it would be nice to see some of these pictures in higher quality...

Capt. Mike said...

NY Boat Cruise:

Thanks for the comments. Sorry but Blogger compress the images to allow faster laoding. But, you can click on each photo to see a larger version.

Anonymous said...

Great pictures, looks like it was such a great cruise. I recently went on a cruise that I booked through I highly recommend visiting them for a wide variety of special event cruises in New York.

Anonymous said...

The 206 VA is a "lemster aak".

Capt. Mike said...

Thanks for the update on the VA 206 photo being a lemster aak.