Sunday, January 29, 2012


It's been many years since I was in Charlotte Amalie harbor St. Thomas. We picked up a charter here on a 44 foot monohull back in the 1980's named Valkerie and another time when we had a weeks vacation on board one of the Windstar cruise ships in the 90's.

We left the St. John area bound for St. Thomas in late afternoon with a favoring trade wind and tied up to a mooring for the night near the old Navy submarine base area in St. Thomas. The area now houses a marina and some cruise ship docks. The shoreline nearby was littered with the wrecks of boats whose owners failed to reason with the Hurricane season and other storms:

The next morning we dropped off the mooring and headed out West Gregerie Channel for Culebra:

We passed Sail Rock. A uniquely shape geological form that is said to have fooled many pirates to appear to be a ship under sail.

They would sometimes fire a warning shot at it. The sound of which would echo off the rock surface and make it sound like return fire. Only when they got closer would they see that it was only a rock and not another ship to be plundered.

Things were moving along nicely as OPUS towed the twenty foot dingy:

We were breezing along when all of a sudden there was a crash at the stern. The dingy had crashed into the boarding ladder and smashed it up pretty good:

Well that's sailing! You are cruising along fine and then something happens not always in a positive direction. Capt. Billy scrambled and was able to save the bottom half of the ladder but, were were never able to quite get it back into shape to use. After about three hours we were in the channel heading into Ensenada Honda Culebra's major harbor:

 After we cleared the reef at the entrance we turned to port and picked up a mooring in Ensenada Dikity.

There were a few boats already there when we arrived:

Including this boat which seemed to have something missing:

Friday, January 27, 2012


After getting settled on board we were soon off heading toward St. Johns, motoring into to the trade winds.

We passed this discolored rock shoreline:

It is said this site was used for the Hollywood movie Guns of Navarone filmed in the early 1960's. They supposedly blew it up for the explosive climatic scene. Though I could not find any official confirmation that this was true.

Continuing on past St. Thomas we first stopped at Christmas Cove on Great St. James Island:

We jumped in for a snorkel around Fish Island and saw a ray, spotted eel and two turtles among the other fish on the reef around Fish Island. Not a bad way to start. Then it was off to Mingo Cay for lunch and another snorkel. Then another stop at a small cove between Lovongo Cay and Congo Cay where Captain Billy said we were lucky as the conditions here often made this stop impossible.

 But, the winds were cooperating and we took advantage of another wonderful snorkel. We then headed out past Carval Rock:

We motored on heading for the nights anchorage.  Occasionally reminded by the ruins on shore of the history of the area:

Like this sugar cane processing building on the former Annaberg Plantation:
Which was a good reminder that since we were in the islands of rum that some sun downer drinks are soon to be had after we anchored for the day. The nights anchorage was just off Waterlemon Cay in Leinster Bay.

All the moorings were taken so we dropped the hook and were enjoying some boat drinks. When we heard someone call out to Capt. Billy "Why you salty dog!" Turns out it was musician and sailor Michael Beans:

Billy asked what he was doing here? Beans said he got kicked out of the British Virgin Islands. You know there has to be a good story there. Unfortunately, we were not able to get the details in the time he sailed by.

The next morning we hoisted anchor around 9:30 am and motored past Beans anchored boat. Beans being a true musician was still not awake so we sailed on.

Our next stop was Cinnamon Bay.

Time for another snorkel.

This was not a great spot for snorkeling compared to some of the others we saw. So I played around with Capt. Mikes homemade GoPro camera snorkeling handle rig to get some other shots like this:

My snorkeling camera handle worked out real well with my Go Pro camera on this trip. I'll post about how I made it in a future post.

Back on board we noticed something was drifting toward the boat. As it got closer we were able to identify it:
Obviously a very "board" woman. Just another example of some of the things you can see from a boat. There was a discussion about how far we should let her drift out into the Windward Passage before we we would need to rescue her. Happily, she woke up not to long afterward and paddled her self back into the beach. After lunch and an obligatory afternoon nap we headed for Little St. James island and snorkeled some ledges there. Afterwards we headed back to Charlotte Amalie harbor for the night. In the morning we head toward the Spanish Virgin Islands.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

A Note of Thanks.

Sometime earlier today The BIANKA BLOG LOG passed one hundred thousand page views. I want thank all who at one time or another tied up to this blog over the years.


Well, it's that time of year when Capt. Mike's companion needs her winter vacation. BIANKA is laid up for the winter and the winter winds are starting to blow colder and colder. Lucky for Captain Mike she is partial to chartering a crewed multi hull sailboats and heading some place warm for some sun, snorkeling and and occasional dive. Capt. Mike knows enough to get along you have to go along. So go along I did.  While our trip to the Maldives last year was certainly one of our top trips, unless a winning lottery ticket comes our way that will remain just a very pleasant lifetime memory. For this years trip we decided to explore some old and new places in the Leeward Islands much closer to home. Starting in the U.S. Virgin Islands and then heading toward the Spanish Virgin Islands of Culebra and Vieques before embarking on Puerto Rico at Farado. At least that was the plan.

We started our trip flying to the island of St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

“By the way, maybe you can tell me some other hotels in town. The bartender says this one’s full.” He laughed. “Nope, not an empty room on the island.” “Damn,” I said. “Why worry?” he replied. “Sleep on the beach. Lots of people do—better than most hotels.” “Where?” I said. “Are there any close to town?” “Sure,” he replied, “but they’ll all be full. Your best bet is Lindbergh Beach, out by the airport. It’s the nicest.”- Hunter S. Thompson, THE RUM DIARY

I'm not sure about sleeping on the beach but, we did get a room at one of the two places to stay on Lindberg Beach and yes it is a nice beach.

Lindberg Bay was renamed for Charles Lindberg who flew to St. Thomas on January 31 1928 after his successful nonstop flight across the Atlantic.
Lindberg Bay was formally known as Mosquito Bay. But, happily it did not live up to it's previous name while we were there for two days.

Trading the city for a tropical dream
And if you meet anyone who's asking for me
Tell all you meet they can reach me
Right down on the beach
St. Thomas way
                                                                Sonny Rollins

After our relaxing stay it was a quick five minute taxi ride  to Charlotte Amalie  to meet the boat we had booked through Paradise Connections charters.

Captain Billy Pratt picked us up at the Crown Bay Marina and took us out to OPUS a 50 foot Piver  designed trimaran built in 1986 that would be our home for the next ten days.

Thursday, January 19, 2012


I'm an open water certified SCUBA diver. I've read the books, taken the course passed my dive tests and have had my PADI Dive card since 1985. SCUBA diving is fun but, it is also dangerous. You can drown easily if you get careless. A few weeks ago Bob at BOAT BITS had a post about free diving blackouts. Where people have passed out and some have died just free diving with a snorkel and a mask and fins. Since I'll be diving and snorkeling in the Spanish Virgin Islands sometime this winter it  certainly got my attention and you should be aware of it too:

Monday, January 16, 2012


There are things I can do now that I could not do when I was younger. Then there are things I won't do now that I could do when I was younger. Somewhere between those two thoughts is my comfort zone. That zone is different for each person and that zone has changing parameters, at least for me. Others don't find out what theirs is until they have shoved off.  I find for me there is a certain ebb and flow in my plans and desires at times. Then there is this fellow who decided the time was right to act on his plan:

Between Home: Odyssey of an unusual sea bandit - OFFICIAL TRAILER from Jack Rath on Vimeo.

This documentary when it comes out might be worth a look for sailors and others with a "dream" of just sailing off someday. It seems to be cross between inspirational journey and a reality check and that is not a bad thing.

Friday, January 13, 2012


I went down to check on the boat recently. It's that time of year that I call the winterlude period after the waltzing Bob Dylan tune of the same name. This year was a rather mild winterlude compared to the winterludes of 2011 and 2010 and even 2009.  So I'm not complaining.  I spent several hours just hanging out an enjoying the unusual winter warmth. I even set up my new GoPro camera and tried a little time lapse shooting from my cockpit view as the tide ran out:

 You know after seeing this video I made sure the camera was Seagull proofed before I started shooting. All in all not a bad way to spend part of winters day.

Saturday, January 07, 2012


In thinking about the design for Bianka's solar bimini I had a eureka moment when it came to mounting the rear bimini solar panels. That was to use 1/4 inch aluminum bars to support the panels and clamps around the tubular frames to secure them to the frame tubing.
It was a simple and elegant solution and one that I also eventually incorporated to the existing 12 volt solar panels already installed on the dodger. These were attached to angle brackets as show below:
But, the aluminum strap method I came up with to install the 48 volt Kanaka Solar panels for the solar bimini is much better way to secure the panels as well as being easier to install from my experience.

The above photo shows the two mounting techniques I used. The aluminium bar and strap method on the left for the Kanka 48 volt panels on the solar bimini and the former jaw hinge and angle bracket method on the right.

The above photo shows the clamps I used to secure the rear aluminum bars to the one inch rear frame. The lengths are different because I did not have enough clamps and ran out to Home Depot to get an additional clamp. They will later be trimmed with a Dremel Tool.

The above shows a hole I just drilled to mount the Kanaka solar panels frame to the aluminum bar. Note the clamp to hold the aluminium bar and panel frame together. Also note the block of wood to intercept the drill bit as it breaks through. You really do not want to take a chance that you will drill through the solar panel. It will ruin your day and the solar panel.
The above photo shows the panels mounted to the bimini frame. The curve of the frames also allows for water to drain out to the side of the cockpit.

The photo above is from below in the cockpit showing the two of four aluminium bars holding up the panels to the frame.

Above is another view looking aft.

I like the aluminum bar design so much that I also modified the forward 12 volt solar panels to use this attachment method too. Attaching the solar bimini to the forward dodger using the bars has also added more rigidity to each frame. So far the combination has survived two brushes with category one hurricanes as well as protection from sun and rain for those in the cockpit in normal conditions. I will be adding some additional features to the bimini in the future. But, for now the solar bimini  project has been completed and is a complete success as far as I am concerned.

Thursday, January 05, 2012


Now comes the hardest part for me of my Solar Bimini project. Hard for me because it involves drilling holes in the deck. I just don't like making holes in the boat. Accidentally or on purpose. But, in this case it can't be helped. I need to have the the rear frame securely attached to the deck. I looked at several different ideas for fittings for the 1 inch frame tubing and decided that a 90 degree stanchion base mounted on the deck would be the best choice. I'm using a 1/2 inch piece of Starboard as a backing plate too.
Some things you might want to consider when purchasing a base like this for a deck mount is how does it handle excess water. Since it will be mounted on a relatively flat deck water can accumulate underneath the stanchion from the deck or by running down the frame tubing. You don't want that water to hang around under the base. Especially if your boat experiences freezing temperatures for some time of the year. That's why you want a base that looks like this underneath:

See that horizontal groove? That will allow any water that accumulates underneath the base or in the tubing frame to drain away. If the stanchion you buy does not have such a groove you might want to cut one in yourself.
Freezing water aka ICE can exert a lot of force if allowed to collect in tight places. Best to prevent that anyway you can.
Once I had the deck location for the rear frame landing chosen. I laid out some 3M painters tape on the deck to transfer the stanchion hole patterns to it. 

I then drilled holes through the deck where the mounting screws would pass through. CAPT. MIKE NOTE: Always check underneath the deck before drilling to make sure you will not be drilling into any wiring or other obstructions.
After the holes were drilled I routed out the core material between the deck using a Dremel Tool with a  #115 bit. I then filled the void with thickened epoxy (taping the holes underneath the deck with a strong tape to prevent it from draining.  This helps waterproof the area of the deck around the holes. Compass Marine has a great tutorial on the process here. After the Epoxy hardened I re-drilled the holes through the Epoxy and counter sunk them.

I used Life Calk for the bedding of the bolts. You could also other bedding materials like butyl tape if you want.
You can see the stanchion base for the rear solar bimini frame bolted through the deck in the above photo with the solar bimini frame inserted into it. Well,  the hard part is over now all the I need to do is connect the rear solar bimini frame to the existing dodger frame and mount the solar panels. That will be shown in the next solar bimini post.