Category Archives: Boats and Hobbies

Finally! Pushed the boat out.

Torre de Aires, near Pinheiro, Tavira, Algarve Portugal, canoeing
Pushing the boat out

And I am really happy that after a long time I can post to this category.

So summer is well under way it’s very hot and it's ‘o tempo do berbigão’ although I haven’t yet indulged 😀

I had to make an concerted effort to get my boat to the water, being challenged for transport.

I have an electric bicycle type scooter and a small excellent trailer that I got from On the Rocks Bike shop in Olhão. I had to modify the connecting bar in order to get the canoe to fit. I replaced the connecting bar with a interchangeable standard 50mm diameter by 3 metre galvanized hollow steel rod.The ground clearance I ended up with is quite low, about 4 inches but I made the journey to Pinheiro including traversing speed bumps without incidence.

Prior planning and preparation.

I decided to moor the kayak/canoe in the Ria Formosa. So I had to first secure a bit of chain to the river bed to which I attached a home made bouy. The camera passed the underwater test. I also made a shroud of standard plastic shade screen which works quite well. I also made rollers of black irrigation pipe to help move the canoe over the ground.

The crossing.

Yesterday we made the crossing with Bonji to Praia Paríoso beach from Torre de Aires. We went out as the tide was coming in. So it was hard work paddling out. A bit windy too but there weren’t any waves to make the journey a bumpy ride. The Critter2, an open plastic 2 man kayak, is a river kayak/canoe and has quite a flat bottom. Bonji was very relaxed . Coming back was easier as the current was with us. I lost some time by taking a wrong channel and so had to double back. There were a lot of mullet and perch native to the Ria Formosa, leaping out of the water. They seemed to be having fun. 🙂 .

After beaching the canoe we walked across the dune, about 250 m to the beach with the real ocean. The beach goes on for miles and was deserted.

The real ocean
This is the map of where we were.

That’s all for now!

Vortex TWA electric bicycle (type scooter) Lithium ion Battery modification.

Vortex TWA electric bicycle (type scooter)

Existing batteries: 5 units of 12V 20Ah sealed gel lead acid.

Replacement battery: 60V 18Ah lithium ion battery pack made up of 18650 lithium ion cells of 3.6V each. I have assumed of maximum 20A discharge rating of these 18650 cells (to be confirmed by lipotek)



The 60V 18Ah lithium ion pack was unable to work on its own with the motor and controller on the Vortex TWA and kept cutting out. This is probably due the 18650 cells unable to maintain a constant 60V under heavy load conditions.


My solution is to use the lithium ion pack in parallel with the sealed lead acid batteries.

I have fitted a switch to allow each set of batteries to be charged independently. The obvious overhead with this that you have to charge two different batteries with two different chargers (not shown in the diagram). The lithium ion 60V battery pack has to be charged at a very specific constant voltage hence you cannot use

the 60V acid battery charger and the reason for installing the switch to isolate the two batteries from each other during the charge process. See diagram below.

lithium ion battery modification

Note: I tried a 10A diode before I installed the switch. It worked in principal. However on one long journey to São Bras do Alportel it became very hot and exploded. I was not best pleased with the walk home. Fortunately there was a lot of downhill bits so this helped. It maybe possible to use a diode that has and integral heat sink but this would have to be mounted on part of the metal frame to conduct the heat away. The switch is a simpler solution and doesn't have any internal resistance once the contacts are closed.

I think it is possible to install much smaller lead acid batteries as they are only necessary to prevent a sudden voltage drop under initial load take-up. My current 20 Ah lead acid batteries are chemically exhausted and the bike can only run 3 km on these. I intend to replace them with 5Ah lead acid batteries and save on the weight.

In conclusion , the lithium ion battery pack weighs less than 7 kg. Each of five 12V 20 Ah lead acid batteries weigh 7 kg. each. With the 18 Ah lithium battery pack I can easily do a 30 km trip. So I am overall very pleased with this battery pack built by lipotec.

Blade Eflite mCX – a fantastic little indoor micro helicopter!

After many an hour of flying the delightful Blade Scout, I decided to get the Blade Eflite mCX after reading the reviews. In under two weeks of owning and flying this wonder, I can tell you it is

another flying marvel from Horizon Hobby. I really think this is the first helicopter to get, if you want to get into the pastime of flying remote controlled helicopters in a more serious way. With 4 channels you have full directional control.

It is a very stable flying machine and an absolute delight to fly indoors. I have heard that you can fly them outdoors in very light winds but I have yet to try this.

This is a full 4 channel 2.4 GHz radio remote controlled helicopter. This technology along with the marvelous 5-in-1 controller give you very precise control of the helicopter. It takes awhile to master the Mode 2 controller which while intuitive takes a light touch to maintain a constant throttle input while operating the rudder. It is vital to master this as lost of orientation will result in crashes.

At 28 grams it is heavier than the Blade Scout. While it is a very resilient little helicopter that will pick itself up and fly time after time, you - can - damage it in a crash.

white mCX at

mCX with white canopy

I have managed to snap a strut of the luminescent landing skid after I crashed my white bodied trainer mCX into the aquarium in a moment of confusion.  So practice and more practice while taking it easy is the way to go with this delightful helicopter. Practising precision indoor flying with it will give you months if not years of delight.

The Blade Eflite mCX like other 4 channel helicopters defers from the 3 channel Blade Scout primarily in it's ability to fly sideways as well. This is how real helicopters fly. The mCX will never fly upside down as it is a fixed pitch helicopter. What this means is that the rotor blades are moulded so that they generate lift only whilst the helicopter is in a upright position. I don't think it's capable of doing a loop either but the jury is still out on this one.

One thing you should not do on this or any other Blade helicopter is touch the 5-in-1 electronic control unit with first taking the necessary antistatic precautions. Static electricity is very damaging to electronic components. Ground yourself before you handle the controller board.

Product Specifications

Type: Ultra micro coaxial helicopter
Main Rotor Diameter: 7.5 in (190mm)
Gross Weight: 1.0 oz (28 g) with battery
Length: 7.9 in (200mm); Height: 4.7 in (120mm)
Motor Size: Micro coreless (2 installed)
Experience Level: Beginner
Recommended Environment: Indoor
Is Assembly Required: No

Eflite mCX at

Battery charger for the mCX

Blade Scout CX micro helicopter

Christmas Day was drawing nearer and I was thinking about presents. I decided I would get something fun for my brother this Christmas as he is under a lot of stress due to work. I decided I would get him a
micro helicopter. I had got one of these 4 years back from Robert Dyas in Windsor. I don't think it flew all that well and I never had a go. However, I decided that they must have evolved since then and seen a people flying some which seemed to fly quite well. So I popped into the local toy store and picked up a 'Air Tiger' brand 3 channel IR controlled one on the recommendation of the store owner. The product was a nightmare. The build quality was okay-ish but the flight characteristics were not very good at all. And there is no online support and the instruction manual was nightmare. The product had obviously been made in China as a clone from another better brand. I decided I did not want to torture my brother with this product and returned it to the shop.

I had a feeling all such IR 'made in China' clone helicopters that have filled the shelves in toy stores would have similar poor flying characteristics. I then remembered I had seen something called a Blade Scout in Daniel's of Windsor. I did some quick research and found the Blade website . They seemed to be manufacturer of micro helicopters who supported their helicopters and had a wide user based. So I decided to pick up a Blade Scout CX after watching the official video and reading just a couple of reviews.

What can I say!  This little flying marvel does exactly what it says on the tin.  It is really a delight to fly and very easy to control. You can fly this flying miracle in the standard mode which I have tried and the expert mode (high rate), which makes it more responsive. It comes with a 2.4GHz radio control system and an onboard computerized Piezo gyro for solid directional control and stability. The 'Air Tiger' clone had this gyro stabilisation system with the crystal hand exposed on two wire from the bottom.. :/ and was nowhere as stable!

It's light weight (just 17 grams), flexible canopy and bendy blades makes this flying marvel nearly indestructible. Just kill the throttle when you crash or get into trouble. It goes up rapidly, so be warned. You have to bring it down at a slower rate to avoid it falling out of the air like a stone.

I am delighted with this marvelous little helicopter. I am giving it to my cousins as a present. I have now got my brother the Blade mCX which is still in the box.

Horizon Hobbies, who made the Blade helicopters are an American company. I hope they will think about moving R&D and some of the manufacturing to the US and Europe. Because it is us, the users who support the Blade/Eflite helis from being overwhelmed by the 100% Chinese clones.

Raketa (Rocket)

This name is now used for pretty much all the hydrofoil craft on Russian rivers, the Black Sea and the waterways in countries that came under the influence of the Soviet Union. But there was indeed an original Raketa (Rocket).


Raketa 1

Raketa-1 the original Rocket


A brief history of the Raketa (Rocket)

The Raketa was the first type of hydrofoil boats commercially produced in the Soviet Union. They were manufactured from 1957 until the early 1970s.
The first model, the Raketa-1, was built by Krasnoye Sormovo shipbuilding plant in Sormovo, Nizhny Novgorod. On its maiden voyage, on 25 August 1957, it carried 30 passengers from Nizhny Novgorod to Kazan (420 km) in seven hours.

The Raketa Experience

I was in the city of Krasnoyarsk in Siberia the summer of 2004 and had the privilege to travel on a raketa from Krasnoyarsk up to the town Divnogorsk where there is a massive hydro-electic dam built across the river Yenisei . The Yensei is a mighty river that makes our river Thames look like a stream. It rises in Mongolia and flows all the way to the Artic sea.


Raketa pic

Raketa at Divnogorsk

The river after the dam is still over a mile wide at Krasnoyarsk and the water flows fast. There is a scheduled raketa service to and from Dyivnogorsk. The raketa trips are very popular with Russian tourists and locals. After queuing up for our tickets for which turned out to be a pointless exercise as everyone simply rushed to the gate as soon as the raketa arrived, we boarded. The only sell you tickets for the number of seats available. It's probably to do with maintaining the stability of the vessel and the fact that the raketa won't plane if it is overloaded.

The raketa was fast! Especially considering that we were going up river against a strong current. It made the other vessels look as if they were standing still. They views were spectacluar too. Dachas, farms, taiga (birch forest) meeting the river and of'course the spectacular views of the gorge itself as we approached Divnogorsk.


Me at Divnogorsk

The trip took less than twenty five minutes or so. It was smooth and comfortable all the way.

The Canoe Clavacade

Launching off

The Beginning.

This was organised by members and Volunteers of the Maidenhead Waterways Restoration Group(MWRG). The Maidenhead Waterways Restoration Group arranged to have the Bray Cut which becomes the York Stream in the Maidenhead town centre cleared of  overgrowth,rubbish, dead trees and another debris which was restricting the flow of the water. I too part in two of the weekend sessions in August. It was hard but worthwhile work. A sterling fellow volunteer by the name of Stewart and I began the first session my clearing rubbish and other debris from the river by the  bridge at Green Lane. Stewart from the ROTA Group.

We had to be careful as we waded as the bottom was very silty in places. Indeed, I sank it at one point and was firmly stuck. I almost began to panic as I sank deeper and deeper and the water breached my waders!  After extracting myself and emptying my waders I carried on. We pulled out a bathtub, a suitcase (thankfully there weren't any body parts inside), cars seats, car wheels and so much other rubbish like plastic bags and bottles, beer cans and the like. People are really thoughtless  . What really got my goat was a lot of the rubbish  around there.was left by fishermen. You'd think they would respect the environment more.

By the second day we were clearing the section of river called The Cut which flows through the Bray Nature Reserve. A really beautiful place. Here the clearance work consisted mainly of pulling out and cutting trees that had fallen into the river and which were restricting it's course.  We managed to clear a decent 5 metre wide section along here.

Setting off

Setting off from Green Lane

Off we go.

So in thanks and to to make people aware of the work they are doing, the MWRG organised the afore mentioned Canoe Calvadcade. I was lucky enough to be invited by a gentleman by the name of David who had a beautiful 13 foot wooden Canadian canoe. A piece of art really. You can see it the pics. It was a wonderful event with several entire families taking part. There was an inflatable Sevoylar Yukon paddled by a nice lady and her soon. I thought it was quite sturdy and stylish for an inflatable.

We started of at the bridge of Green Lane and followed the river all the way down to Bray where it joins the Thames. We then paddled back up a bit and got off at the Bray Marina who kindly let us use their pontoon and car park. I thoroughly enjoyed my time on the water. We even managed to pick up a football and a pelican cone from the river on the way 🙂

My final thoughts.

I do support he efforts of the MWRG to make this section of water way navigable all the way to the town centre from Bray. But only for canoes and rowing boats. I think motorized boats, even small ones would disturb the wild life and tranquillity of this section of the river. There are a lot of bird species that seek refuge and breeding grounds along this selection of the waterway. This is due to it's current relative inaccessibility to man.

Davids's Wooden Canadian Canoe

A 2009 Mirror summer adventure

I have been meaning to write about this for neigh on a year. But being the lazy sort of chap that I am I have kept on putting it off. Since no sailing adventure is in the offing this summer I thought it time to put pen to paper before time distorts my memory of the events any further.

My brother's family was away in the California and he was feeling like doing something adventurous especially as he had a new car he wanted to try out. As for me I was keen to sail my Mirror in the sea.

The first attempt - Knoll Beach

Knoll Beach

Our first attempt sailing  my old Mirror was in mid June from Knoll Beach, Purbeck.  Knoll beach is not very far from Bournemouth.  This turned out to be a rather trying experience and a steep learning curve.  I rapidly discovered that the sea is not a sheltered lake and unforgiving of one's  mistakes.

The beach had been crowded and I was inexperienced and had launched without first setting the main sail. With my limited sailing skills and a stiff wind blowing I found it impossible to pull in the boom and cleat the foot of the sail. The wind was just too strong and I was not able to turn the boat into the wind. By now the offshore wind had caught the jib sail and we were rapidly being carried out to sea at a roughly forty five degree angle from the shore.  At this point Yuri and I decided to row on the same side of the boat and force it gradually towards the shore.  Proceeding in this manner we managed to make shore,  some three miles from where had originally started.  It turned out that we found ourselves stranded on the nudist beach. There wasn't much to see. Mainly middle aged men showing of their tackle. Nice beach though. We waited a few hours for the tide to and the sea to calm as attempting to launch with big waves breaking had swamped the Mirror. The water in the boat had fried our phones, the walkie-talkie and a camera. So we weren't able to get a message to the rest of our camping group who were waiting for us on Middle Beach which was couple of miles from where we had launched.

We did try relaunching once at high tide but found that the waves and wind pushed the boat back, the waves breaking over the boat. So we had wait it out. Once the tide had turned and the sea calmed significantly we launched and sailing back to Knoll beach without any further incident.

Shell Island and thereabouts.

In the middle of July we, Yuri and I and the Mirror strapped to the top of his car and were off again.  The car drove quite well, cruising at 70-80 mph without any problem. This time to   Shell Island, situated in North Wales.

Camping Shell Island, North Wales

This  is a huge campsite (tents and camper vans only) where you can camp pretty much where you want. Really an excellent campsite. The only downside was the toilet block and showers were miles away and you need a bike to get to these  from most locations on the island. There were porta loos scattered throughout the site but I'd only recommend these for a short visit.

It has 3 beaches. A muddy  tidal estuary where kids love to go crabbing, Dinghy Beach where we launched from and a 2/3 mile long gloriously sandy beach which backs onto the dunes . Great for cycling on when the tide is out. But I digress.. .

After the harrowing experience we had at Knoll beach our first attempt went quite well. The decent to the water lugging the  dinghy without the aid of a trolley was the most difficult bit as we had to decent and he ascend up quite a  step rocky path.  But the sailing was great! We had a 15- 20 mph  breeze and  a maximum swell of a couple of feet. Really ideal for us novice sailors. Notice us looking worried on our first sail out, though.  You would be too!

The only bouyancy aid..

If you didn't have any buoyancy aids except for this inflatable ring, currently deflated and tied up  at the front of the Mirror. I had forgotten to pack these and we couldn't find anything else on Shell Island.

Crisps anyone?

On the second day our confidence levels were up and we sailed 4 miles up and down the beach. The Mirror sailed wonderfully bouncing up and down the rolling in swell like a cork.

We even stopped to have a break and on this wonderfully long and sandy beach. It really runs for miles.

Bro rowing. Hard going!

That's my bro  there - pulling on on the oars. The versatile Mirror can be rowed as well as sailed! We tested this and tried a spot of fishing too. Only caught a bit of weed. Another chap in a kayak bagged 7 sea bream that same day.  I put it down to skill, bait and location. He had rowed out to an underwater reef which we only found out about later that evening.

We can attest  that rowing  against wind and current  is much more difficult compared to sailing in these same conditions.  So it's worthwhile knowing how to sail! 🙂

Going out with Paul

After some great sailing at Shell island we packed up and moved to a campsite 12 miles further

south  to meet up with some family and friends.  This was on the beach as well but the launching was more

tricky as you had to negotiate rocks going in and out.  We only had one morning sailing as the rest of the peeps

wanted to go cycling.  I took a gent by the name of Paul out. He got a bit sea sick as the wind was up that day. It was good fun racing along the shore.

I hope we'll be able to do it again. Sadly it didn't happen this summer of 2010 but there's next year to look forward too. 🙂 Thanks bro!

- The End-

Mirror sailing in North Wales