Friday, June 29, 2012

CHECKING THE MAST LIGHTS

I pull the mast on BIANKA every year. I do this because having the mast up while the boat is on land puts stresses on the boat that are not as large when it is in the water because the hull does not move as on a mooring. It also allows me to have easy access to the chain locker and the windlass motor. It also allows me to inspect the mast and checkout the wiring and lights since the mast is on ground level.  I've mentioned how much I like to use Anderson Powerpole Connectors on board for connections. It also allows me to make various  adapters that help in testing various items around the boat.




 Using a small 12 battery and adapters made using Anderson Powerpole Connectors  and matching connectors for the mast fittings makes checking the mast light wiring an easy task.






Wednesday, June 27, 2012

SPRING CLEANING: PROP

I don't put any anti fouling on my prop. I do occasionally dive over the summer and clean the prop by hand when the boat is in the water. But, late in the season the water gets a little too cold to do so. When I pull the boat there might be a few barnacles that have attached themselves to the prop. So one of my annual spring outfitting chores is cleaning and polishing the prop. I start using my trusty hand held Paint Scrapper to knock off what barnacles I can:




It easy to knock off the hard barnacle shells using this tool both on land and also when the boat is in the water too.

Once I've removed most of the barnacles that attached to the prop late in the season. I then switch to using an electric drill and an 3M Paint and Rust Stripper which makes cleaning and polishing the prop a fast and easy process as this video shows:





It also does a real good job cleaning and polishing the boats Dyna Plate ground plane too:





Monday, June 25, 2012

LET THE SEASON BEGIN!


After spending way to much time writing, culling and editing some of the photos and videos of my trip to the Exumas. It's time to get back to my local waters and catch up with what has been going on with BIANKA.  I've already picked up my Eldridge Tide and Pilot Book 2012
   So let the season begin!

Friday, June 22, 2012

CAPT. MIKE IN THE EXUMAS DAY ELEVEN: NORMAN CAY

It's our last day or I should say morning in the Exumas. We have a chartered plane that will fly us back to Nassau at 12 noon from Norman Cay. So we will have to pack a few things in this morning starting with an early morning on the reef we discovered yesterday afternoon.
Even better is that when we dove on the reef this morning there was absolutely no current. Always nice when you can explore a reef while snorkeling at your leisure. As I was snorkeling close to the rock cay I discovered the keel of a shipwreck:

Seemed to be about 50 feet long and still had the engine and prop attached. I wondered how it ended up here? Was it put adrift during some hurricane? Or did it run aground onto the cay in the middle of the night in the hey day of drug running in the area? A mystery but, still neat to snorkel around:


After our early morning snorkel on the reef we found it was back in the dingy to head to the other side of Norman's Cay. There another wreck awaited us. In he late 1970's and early 1980's Norman's Cay was used by drug trafficker Carlos Lehder to ship illegal drugs to the U.S. from South America. He bought the island lengthened it's air strip and improved it's docks to facilitate the illegal activities. A brand new plane he had ordered was carrying a load of grass. Real grass as in sod to simulate a plane loaded with drugs and doing touch and go landings on the island's air strip. Something went wrong and the plane crashed onto the flats near the island. It is this plane wreck we are heading to for our final snorkel in the Exumas:


Two large Puffer Fish came out of hiding to greet me:


The plane is slowly disappearing but, it is still a neat snorkel when cruising through the Exumas:


Two great snorkels is how we ended our trip in the Exumas after which it was back to the Surprise pick up our bags and fly back to Nassau. It was a wonderful trip but, I was also eager to head back home because I wanted to get BIANKA ready for the upcoming sailing season. The fifth season since I installed electric propulsion  on board. So after eleven days in the Bahamas I was kind of singing this song:








Wednesday, June 20, 2012

CAPT. MIKE IN THE EXUMAS DAY TEN: HAMMERHEAD GULCH

I awoke early and enjoyed listening to the twittering of Tropic Birds as they flew by. After breakfast we took the dingy over to place called Hammerhead Gulch. We jumped in for a snorkel and happily saw no hammer-headed Sharks. But, did encounter an somewhat aggressive large Remora:





I guess he had been waiting for a while in the area for one of the Hammerheads or any other shark to give him a free ride. But, it looks like we were the only game in town that day. Hammerhead Gulch was a little bit of a disappointment. Because it was so deep I think it would make a better dive than the snorkel we did. In fact a lot of the Exumas were a little disappointing for snorkeling during our trip. One would think there would be a whole lot more pristine coral reefs to dive and snorkel on but, we found that was not the case. Since this was our last full day in the Exumas I was ready to pack it in. But, we decided to do some scouting at a nearby cay. Happily we found a real nice snorkeling spot that saved the day. More on that in the next post.





Monday, June 18, 2012

CAPT. MIKE IN THE EXUMAS DAY NINE: CAMP DRIFTWOOD

In the morning we took the dingy up a scenic creek at the north end of Shroud Cay:


It was a pleasant ride up the mangrove lined waterway:

Evans W. Cottman wrote about riding out a Hurricane here in his book Out-island Doctor.


After about twenty minutes we came a nice little beach and landed the dingy:


After a short hike up a steep path that was created originally by a recluse sailor named Ernest Scholtes back in the 1960's. When drug trafficker Carlos Lehder and his associates set up their drug transport operations on nearby Norman's Cay. The DEA setup a sophisticated camera at Camp Driftwood  to keep an eye on the comings and goings of Lehder's operation. When we got up to Camp Driftwood the sign that told of it's history had been removed or perhaps blown away by Hurricane Irene which passed through the area last year:

But, other signs of previous visits by people still remain:


Saturday, June 16, 2012

CAPT. MIKE IN THE EXUMAS DAY EIGHT: HAWKS BILL CAY AND SHROUD CAY

We had some rain and lightning overnight making for an entertaining night show but, it was all gone before morning. After breakfast we heading to the park station for a look around and around 10: 30am we dropped off the mooring:

We then headed off to Hawksbill Cay where we dropped the hook for lunch:

I kind of feel this particular Cay got it's name from some of the natural formations like this one:


Which to me looks like shell of a turtle hence the name Hawksbill Cay. After lunch we snorkeled through a nearby cut. Afterwards we headed off to Shroud Cay:


After dropping the hook for the night we had a visitor. A Laughing Gull found a comfortable perch on the Lifesling box.



Thursday, June 14, 2012

CAPT. MIKE IN THE EXUMAS DAY SEVEN: BELL ISLAND AND WARDERICK WELLS CAY

As we were heading into the anchorage yesterday we passed Bell Island and noticed a huge pile of limestone sand on it:

The island is owned by the Aga Kahn. On closer examination there is some heavy duty development going on as evidenced by the earth moving vehicles next to the limestone pile. Captain Corky and I being curious kind of guys decided to head over and check out what was going on. So we jumped into the dingy and headed over to the island. Our timing was good because as we approached it happened that a tug was backing out with a barge of some of that limestone pile:

They even had a big dump truck on board for added measure:

Once the tug and barge had cleared the entrance it was wide open so we headed on in:

Looks like that pile of limestone is what was removed to create a man made harbor on the island. The shear vertical walls show where the limestone was cut out:


It was a pretty extensive excavation. Big enough to hold several mega yachts,. Though from the looks of it breezes may have a hard time finding their way into the basin. But, those on the air conditioned mega yachts will hardly notice that.

After a few minutes we were chased out by some security/construction personnel. Our fortuitous arrival as the Tug and barge was pulling out allowed us to enter before the security barrier had been in back in place. One wonders if we would ever be able to enter the harbor in the future once the island development has been completed.  A Joni Mitchell song comes to mind.

Back on SURPRISE we upped anchor and headed over to Warderick Wells Cay. Warderick Wells is also the  headquarters of the Exumas National Park. We picked up a mooring nearest the main building:

A very scenic channel has boats lined up all in row on moorings at this location. Meanwhile on shore the natural history of the Exumas is on display. Including this skeleton of a whale that washed up that is on display on the beach:

 While we napped  Corky and Sue went ashore and bought back a copy of  THE INLAND SEA by Mortimor M. Hunt from the swap library at the park headquarters. It's a book about a cruise around Long Island Sound taken in the 1960's. I look forward to reading it this summer while on board BIANKA.
In the afternoon we had two drift snorkels through a nearby cut. They were fast but enjoyable.


Monday, June 11, 2012

CAPT MIKE IN THE EXUMAS DAY SIX: CROSSING INTO THE EXUMA CAY LAND AND SEA PARK

We were hoping to do a morning snorkel at a location known as  Rocky Dundas :

Which has another grotto like Thunderball to explore while snorkeling. Unfortunately the strong easterly winds made the entrance like being inside a washing machine so we scrubbed the idea of seeing it. We than scouted around in the dingy hoping to find another spot for a snorkel but, we found just a few sparse patches and nothing worth diving over the side for. So we headed back to the boat. We pulled up the anchor and crossed over into the National Park area of the Exumas and picked up a mooring off of Cambridge Cay:

In the afternoon we snorkeled at in an area called Conch Cut and found some decent snorkeling at a place called the Coral Garden:



Not a bad way to end the day.

Thursday, June 07, 2012

CAPT. MIKE IN THE EXUMAS DAY FIVE: COMPASS CAY MARINA AND RACHEL'S BATH

Corky and Sue raised the anchor of Surprise we continue to head northward. At mid morning we arrived at Compass Cay.  Compass Cay has the Compass Cay Marina which like the Staniel Cay Yacht Club welcomes cruisers who like to tie up to a dock rather than anchor out.

While not as big as the Staniel Cay Yacht club operation. There are signs of expansion going on. Including a "Tiki Bar" which was under construction. We anchored outside and took the dingy in. Corky advised us if we wanted we could have lunch on the dock. The proverbial Cheeseburger in paradise.

Getting off the dingy dock the facing wall is full of signs from boats that have passed this way:

and also some fishing philosophy:


plus some unique creature art renderings:

But, what people really come here to do is swim with the sharks:


Who prowl right under the dingy dock:

Of course those who jump in may not have noticed these signs on the dock:


Not a problem for Capt. Mike as I had no intention of taking a dip with the sharks even if they were Nurse sharks. We also passed on the Cheeseburger and were glad we did because Sue had whipped up a delicious shrimp curry soup for lunch back on Surprise.

After our standard afternoon nap we once again headed further north toward the end of Compass Cay and took the dingy to shore and saw this sign:

It was a short hike along a shallow delta:

After about ten minutes we finally came to our destination Rachels Bubble Bath:

A small cut in the rocks allows the water  from Exuma Sound to flood over the rocks and creates a natural jacuzzi in a pool of water just beyond:





That's Captain Corky on the rocks just next to the cut.  A dip in Rachel's Bubble Bath was a certainly refreshing way to end the day.



Monday, June 04, 2012

HURRICANE SEASON 2012


We interrupt the Bahamas Exumas blog posts to remind you that the 2012 Atlantic Hurricane season has begun. The people in the Bahamas are reminded of this with every letter they send as the Bahamas stamp above shows. BIANKA has survived through two recent brushes with Hurricanes.  Earl in 2010 and last year with Irene. Experiences I hope not to repeat. Irene was particularly disturbing because  unfortunately I had to be 250 miles away on a work assignment and was not able to check on the boat during or after the storm. The best that I could do was prepare the boat and then hope for the best.  Hurricane preparation for your boat especially when it comes to chafe protection of the lines that hold it should be a top priority as this video shows what kinds of conditions boats on moorings and anchor might go through:


Best to have a plan  in place before a Hurricane threatens.

Friday, June 01, 2012

CAPT. MIKE IN THE EXUMAS DAY 4: SWIMMING PIGS AND WIND TURBINES

I was once again up at 6:30 in the morning. Went for a twenty minute swim and when I got out Sue had some french press brewed coffee on the table. After breakfast Corky and Sue raised the anchor and we headed for Big Majors Spot as the locals call it another cay just to the north of Staniel Cay:


We anchored off this beach:

With in a few minutes some pigs wandered out of the brush and onto the beach entered the water and made straight for our catamaran:



Capt. Corky got into the dingy to make sure they did not try to climb onto the boat. Then he ask Sue for the boat hook to make sure they did not try to climb into the inflatable.  Which in my opinion now becomes an additional nautical definition of a "pig stick".



One thing is for sure pigs may not be able to fly yet, but they sure swim pretty good:




 The pigs were brought over by locals from Staniel Cay. Who on occasion come over and slaughter one and have a local feast. But, the swimming pigs have become somewhat of a tourist attraction with cruisers and fast speed boats that come all the way from Georgetown carrying tourists to see and feed them. Though I would consider them wild animals and treat them as such. Even Pit Bulls are a little apprehensive with their approach:


or as this little girl found out that even cute hungry pigs can bite:



Capt. Mike's advice is to be cautious with these creatures. If you lose a finger it won't be the pigs fault.

After our obligatory stop to see the swimming pigs. We headed off toward Thomas Cay. Passing by Over Yonder Cay one can not help but, notice these wind turbines spinning in the breeze :



We actually saw these from the plane as we flew into Staniel Cay a few days ago. There is also a big solar array on the cay also.  A local media report has some background on what's going on here:




It's unclear to me what they mean by "family island" is it just owned by one family or is it being developed into a family resort. Still it's good to see renewable energy being used in such a pristine environment like the Exumas. I know from my experience with my conversion to electric propulsion that my boat and the waters are much cleaner using renewable sources such as wind and solar on board.