Tuesday, May 29, 2012


I woke up about 6:30 am. I went down the spiral staircase and used the in room coffee maker to brew me a cup. I then settled out on the deck where a soft breeze blew.  I watched the island come to life. Skiffs large and small raced around the point picking up passengers and taking them to work. So were heading to other islands working on public and private construction projects. Others were bringing workers to the Staniel Cay Yacht Club to open up the restaurant and other operations. Later in the morning we headed to breakfast. I was hoping to duplicate a Bahamian breakfast I had in a back ally cafe in Nassau back in the nineteen eighties. But, alas there was no Fish Stew and Johnny Cake on the menu at Staniel Cay Yacht Club. But, I was able to get something different beyond eggs, sausage and toast. They did have Tuna Fish and Grits on the menu and like the Conch I had for dinner last night the Tuna was fresh and tasty. I was a happy diner.

Around noon we headed for docks with our luggage. There we would meet Corky Clark the Captain of Surprise a 48 foot Chris White Voyager catamaran. Only one of two built. We  booked our charter through Paradise Connections.

After loading our bags on to the dingy we headed out where Corky's wife Sue Clark was waiting for us. Since it was slack high tide we put off unpacking and attempted to head over to the famous Thunderball Grotto a short dingy ride away. It's located at the longest of three small cays north of Staniel Cay.

The grotto is located at the north end of the Cay:

It's best to visit the grotto at slack tide because there can be a swift current inside of it at other times. Unfortunately,  the tide was too high and the entrance to the grotto was underwater. So we decided to do a snorkel on the other side of the Cay instead. Which turned out to be very nice with no current.
After our snorkel we headed back to the boat to unpack and have a nice lunch in the cockpit. A little nap and later in the day we once again headed back to the Grotto this time aT low slack water and we were successful in entering it:

Here is a shot from inside the cave starting at the roof of the grotto and panning down into the water.

Here's another shot that shows two entrances to the grotto. The two entrances are why it's best snorkel the grotto at a slack tide. At other times the current can race through the two entrances:

After visiting the grotto we emerged and Corky suggested we do a drift snorkel around the point of the Cay. Which we did and had a nice snorkel and got to see the second entrance to the grotto from the other side. Snorkeling the grotto in the late afternoon was a great way to end our first day on our chartered catamaran. Soon we were back in the dingy and heading back to the Surprise for a sun downer drink  and a nice meal followed by after diner drink under the stars. Tomorrow we up anchor and started heading north.

Saturday, May 26, 2012


Woke up the next morning and headed to the domestic side of the Nassau Airport for an 8 AM flight to Staniel Cay. While waiting to board the woman from the airline announced that boarding would be delayed one hour "due to late arrival of equipment".  Then a few minutes later I saw this same woman board eight or nine fellows some who looked like they might be government officials. Looked to me like our plane was commandeered and we would board after the plane returns from dropping them off. Oh well, it is the Bahamas. One hour later we and seven Bahamian workers board a plane that looks way too small for all of us but, fit we did and made the 30 minute flight to Staniel Cay:

"Staniel Cay is a small Bahamas island in the middle of the Exuma chain, where neither the temperature nor population rarely rises above 100. A mere dot on the map, it is one of the best kept secrets in the travel industry. There is no bank, no ATM, no super department store, no big hotel. A rental car is a golf cart. There is incredibly clear water, world-class snorkeling, diving and fishing, deserted beaches and a friendly native village." - Chaos to Serenity

We booked a one night stay at the Staniel Cay Yacht Club before getting on our chartered boat. The Staniel Cay Yacht Club is a major stop for boats cruising the Exhumas.

It has certainly been expanded over the years as this photo from 1961 shows:

Here are the docks as they look today:

I took a little walk down the docks and my attention was drawn to the numbers on this fuel pump which is another reason a lot of boats stop here.  Fuel stops are limited in the Exumas:

Yes, that's an almost a six thousand dollar fuel bill on the meter. Seeing this made me glad I've got a sailboat even better that I use electric propulsion and will never see a fuel bill like this in my lifetime.

Over the years some note worthy celebrity sailors have stopped here like Walter Cronkite:

Also scenes from the James Bond Thunderball film were shot nearby:

Another reason the Staniel Cay Yacht Club may be so popular boaters is because it has pretty well stocked liquor store on the premises:

As well as dark waterfront bar/restaurant whose ceiling is filled with yacht club pennants on the ceiling  and an obligatory pool table:

The Staniel Cay Yacht Club also has a few rental cottages on the property.We booked the Key Lime Cottage which had much more room than we needed. Which was similar to this one:

It was the only cottage that was available when we booked it. It had a very pleasant waterfront view on both the first floor:

and the upstairs bedroom:

When renting one of the cottages you can also rent one of the Staniel Cay Yacht Club skiffs to fish or check out some nearby Cays and during your stay. They are located on electric lifts on docks near the cottages:

There is also a nice little beach near the cottages too if you just want to take a quick dip:

As far as entertainment goes. The highlight of the day occurred near the docks after the local fishermen came in and started cleaning the days catch of fish and conchs which will soon find their way to the on premises   restaurant:

Of course there were others waiting around the dock for morsel or two to come there way:

After watching the show at the fish cleaning station I had a sun-downer drink from the bar and waited for the dinner bell to ring. Once again Conch was on my plate and I have to admit it was one of the most succulent Cracked Conch I've tasted. After dinner I enjoyed a night cap back at the cottage on the deck. Then it was off to bed for tomorrow we board the catamaran and head out to explore the waters of the Exumas.

Friday, May 25, 2012


Well after spending about eight hours of my life (which I won't get back) trying to embed some Exumas videos into a blog post using Microsoft's Internet Explorer 9. I finally gave up trying recommended fixes and suggestions from the Internet. None of which worked. I hope there is a special place in hell for those at Microsoft who were involved in letting this monster out on the Internet without fully checking how it works with simple things like embedding You Tube videos into a blog. Though part of the fault lies with me in trusting that Microsoft would improve things and so I upgraded to IE9 the other day. Though I know I should have been less trusting that software updates would ACTUALLY make things better and the Microsoft marketers would never allow an inferior product out on the market:
And so I decided to go for something completely different and downloaded Google's Chrome browser. It downloaded in about two minutes and worked right from the start and allowed me to embed some of my videos like I could do before. I am a happy digital sailor once again! And now we return you to our regularly schedule blog post.

Thursday, May 24, 2012



I attempted to add another post about my visit to the Exumas  But, either You Tube, Blogger or Microsoft has in another attempt to "improve" things  unfortuntely has made things worse. What worked before is now not working.  Life is to short and I have a boat to get ready for launching. So please come back later when I have more time and patience to try and figure things out or the situation is corrected by Google or Microsoft.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012


Well,  my girlfriend needed a vacation between teaching gigs and decided it was time for us to check out the Exumas in the Bahamas. Who am I to say no to eight days of swimming, snorkeling and boat drinks on a chartered catamaran even though it delays getting BIANKA into the water. So come along on the journey as I head to check out some new waters.

We come on the sloop John B
My grandfather and me
Around Nassau town we did roam

We had a direct flight into Nassau where we spent our first night. Nothing looked familiar from the last time I was in Nassau back in the 1980's. But, the ride to the hotel showed there was a lot of construction going on. Including a brand new Airport terminal nearing completion. The ride from the airport had some interesting sites. Many of the round abouts we drove around were decorated with borders of empty Conch shells:

The shells made a nice pink border, kept the weeds from growing and was a great way to recycle the shells. It also made me kind of hungry because one of the treats for me traveling to places like the Bahamas is I get to eat some Conch.  That chewy sweet tasting mollusk that I enjoy in all it's forms. I usually only get to taste it once a year or twice a year on trips like this.  

After a twenty minute ride we ended up at the British Colonial Hilton Hotel.  Though our cab driver did point out that the Nassau locals only refer to it as the Hilton Colonial Hotel. Preferring to have little reminder of the British presence on the island as possible. Though the original Hotel was built by an American the Standard Oil tycoon Henry Flagler and has a rather interesting history including being part of location shooting of several James Bond films including Thunderball .  It was not long after we checked in that I found myself  sitting in the outdoor restaurant enjoying one of the local brews:

In this case a Sands beer neither shaken nor stirred. I had a nice view of the Nassau Paradise Island (Hog Island) Lighthouse:

Built in1817.   They say this is and the oldest surviving lighthouse in the West Indies. It marks the entrance to Nassau harbor. If I turn my head to the right I can see the giant cruise ships lined up at the dock:

Later in the day as I sat in the lounge chair on the beach I watched as these floating cities heading out to their next destination.

Maybe it's just me but, I think the design on the side of this ship makes it look kind of fruity and cartoonish.  Speaking of cartoonish Nassau has it's share of tourists drink until you drop bars like Senor Frogs:
Not sure if it's wise to have a seven foot frog standing outside a bar where people tend to drink heavily.  

After watching the ship depart I headed into downtown area. The newly built straw market was all but, closed up  now that the cruise ships had departed. But, heading toward the waterfront I found a local fisherman who was selling some of his catch, conch shells and would also whip up some conch salad for you:

I was tempted to try some but, since it was getting close to dinner time I resisted and headed back to the hotel. Where I proceeded to conch myself out starting with this:

An appetizer of Conch Salad, Conch Chowder and a Conch Fritter. Followed by:

Some delicious Shrimp and Conch Curry for the main course.  After such a satisfying meal only thing left to do was get a good nights sleep before heading off to Staniel Cay in the morning.

Friday, May 18, 2012


 I bought a GoPro HD camera a few months ago and really like it. But, it is so small and light one could easily lose it. Especially if there are sinister Seagulls around:

I have not yet lost the camera but, I did lose one of the  Acorn Cap Nuts
 that holds the camera to a home made GoPro mount I made.

If it happens once it can happen again. So I decided to make it more secure. First I had to find a replacement Acorn Cap nut. It is 5 mm in size.  Look for something that reads M5-.8 on the package. They are also available on  AMAZON

So when I got the replacement nut I secured it with a little super glue:

This should make it pretty secure so it does not come loose again:

Friday, May 11, 2012

ON CAPTAIN MIKE'S KINDLE: Within the Tides by Joesph Conrad

I have not read a lot of Joesph Conrad.  I did read Heart of Darkness  a number of years ago. But, really nothing else by him until I put Within the Tides on my Kindle  recently. The four short stories in this book really opened me up to what a great writer Joesph Conrad was.  The stories in this collection like many of his books involves sailors and Captains of vessels.  What Conrad shows in these tales is the trouble sailors can get into when they spend to much time on land. These troubles of Conrad's characters might be the result of a beautiful woman as is the case in The Planter of Malata. Though the Captains awkward ways from being to long at sea seemed to be the crux of his problems.  Or it could come in the form of the the macabre story called The Inn of the Two Witches which is a rather haunting tale that was hard for me to put down. Another sailor is nearly done in while taking his vessel on a goodwill mission. Another tale tells of the tragedy that happens when one ship owner falls under the sway of a nefarious fellow of dubious ethics. In all the stories Conrad's characters both major and minor ones are well described and weave in and out of the tales vividly. I enjoyed the stories in the book and developed a real appreciation of Conrad as one of the world's great writers. It's also available for the Kindle  as a free download


Tuesday, May 08, 2012

USEFUL THINGS: Cardboard boxes

One of my projects this year is to re varnish Bianka's cockpit table.  I'm applying three coats of West System epoxy first followed by three coats of varnish. Applying the epoxy was not a problem for flat pieces of the table. But, the fold down end pieces were unstable when standing on their edges. What to do?  I found the answer in a cardboard box I had laying around:

I cut two slits into it with a box cutter and put the edges of the side table pieces into them:

The box held them securely so I was able to apply the epoxy to the edges. Plus I was able to move and position both pieces at once. Sometimes simple solutions to problems are all around you if you just look.

Saturday, May 05, 2012


After charging up the battery bank and then disconnecting the batteries I let them rest over night. I came back on board the next day and measured each battery's voltage and did two tests on each battery  using the Centech Battery Analyzer  and a 100 Amp Battery Load Tester.

Here's a quick video showing how to use the Centech Analyzer:

Here is the data I got from the Centech battery analyzer testing

                                      VOLTS   mOHM  CCA     BAT CAPACITY
BATTERY 1                   12.94      2.39      1235          100%
BATTERY 2                   12.45      2.33      1265          100%
BATTERY 3                   12.92      2.35      1241          100%
BATTERY 4 (suspect)   12.92      2.48      1179          100%

All batteries have passed the test from the analyzer. Though battery 4 (the lowest battery in the string) is certainly has a slightly diminished CCA (Cold Cranking Amps) reading compared to some of the others. But, it still passed the tests. The parasitic load from the Paktrakr that was on this battery for four years seems to have weakened it a little. It also has a slightly higher milliohm resistance reading compared to the other batteries not much more though. This might be due to some sulfation internal to the battery because of the parasitic load.

I followed the Centech battery analyzer test with the  100 Amp Battery Load Tester. All batteries passed that load test too:

Obviously, I will be keeping an eye on battery four which when I started this investigation would not even complete a charge on two separate battery chargers. After those results some might have just thrown the battery away and replaced it. But, as you can see it did manage to redeem it's self over time once the parasitic drain was removed. Why all of a sudden did I have this problem after four years? The only thing different this year is that I did not have my 48 volt Air X wind turbine also providing additional charging over the winter layup. This made the solar panels the only charging source and it may have not been enough considering the constant parascitic load on the fourth battery. I also added an additional device to monitor the charging of the battery bank. This additional load may have been enough to add additional sulfation to the suspect battery. So the lesson learned for this electric sailor is to keep parasitic loads off any one battery in the string. Another good thing from this investigation is I now have data to see how each individual battery the 48 volt propulsion bank ages from here on.

Tuesday, May 01, 2012


Well, sitting around in front of computer all winter has caused Capt. Mike to put on a few pounds. Pounds that I did not really need. So I felt the need to get some exercise in my life to counteract that until the sailing season starts here on the Isle of Long. During the summer it's easy enough to jump off the side of BIANKA and get in some free range swimming and exercise. But, this time of year when the water is in the low 50's it's a little too cold for swimming. So I thought perhaps I might join a local health club. One that has pool. But, that requires a sign up fee and monthly dues. Plus soon I'll be living and cruising on board BIANKA and won't be wanting to spend too much time on land. Especially inside a building. Then I had an idea: What about a buying a wetsuit?   It's cheaper than a health club membership in the long run plus it would get me swimming NOW. I could use it on the boat and would also extend the swimming season well into the fall as well. Besides swimming in pools is rather boring. With a wet suitglovesboots and a hood  I find can swim for an hour or more in fifty two degree waters. So these days I come down to the boatyard and go for swim for an hour. Then go work on the boat. Yep! I'm going in!