February 2012

Using a MiFi in the Bahamas & US

This past fall, we purchased an unlocked Novatel 2372 MiFi. This unit connects to cell phone towers and gives you Internet access.

The advantage of the MiFi over a rocket stick or air-card is that it creates a wireless hot-spot and allows up to 5 devices connected at the same time. This hot-spot has an advertised range of 30 feet but the signal seems to extend further than that and we have been able to allow a neighbouring vessel to connect through our MiFi by giving him the code.

Initial set-up in the US was slightly tricky, as we didn’t want a contract. But we did manage to get a pay-as-you-go T-Mobile card and 30 days or 1 G for $30. Once that was working, we never lacked for internet access, unless we were anchored a long ways from civilization.

In the Bahamas, we spent some time at the Batelco office in Lucaya and were lucky that we landed there. The only places where we could get the system set up initially, were Freeport/Lucaya or Nassau. Perhaps next year, it will be simpler, especially now that we have learned some of the tricks.

Cost in Bahamas is the same as the US – 30 days or 1 G for $30. With places charging $10/day for wifi access, that is a deal. You need to purchase a data sim card, which will give you a phone number for your device. Bring both the device and your computer with you to the BTC office. The technician will create a new profile, under Internet settings. The APN is internet.btcbahamas.net and authentication is none. You will receive some messages from BTC, asking to send a confirmation and then to remove and replace the battery.

Once your MiFi is up and running, to renew your service, you need to have MORE than $30 applied to your account/phone number. That extra amount can be as little as $1 and you can transfer money from your Bahamas cell phone to another number ie your MiFi number. My plan, for next year, is to top-up my Bahamian cell phone with $100 and transfer funds as needed to the data card. Top-up cards for cell phones can be purchased anywhere, whereas not every BTC office has the ability to re-charge your data card. It is confusing, but seems to be the case.

When you have the funds transferred, through your MiFi landing page, text this message to 5000 – Data 30D . You will get a confirmation request and once that response has been sent, your renewal takes affect.

If we are anchored some distance from a cell phone tower, we place the MiFi unit in a bucket and hoist it up the mast. As it is a wireless device, it can go as high as necessary but seldom needs to go above the spreaders.

The Novatel 2372 MiFi unit costs about $150 but I was able to purchase a re-furbished unit for less than $40.

The availability of free internet access in the US and Bahamas has been disappearing rapidly. With a MiFi unit, you have safe, secure and reasonably priced internet access, all without the danger of taking your computer ashore in a dinghy.


Hello everyone

We departed the Berry Islands on Feb 8th, headed for Nassau. On the way, Murray caught a lovely mahi mahi, about 36 inches long. It was incredible to see the shiny golden fish leaping and spinning on the end of our line. He tried hard to shake the hook but Murray managed to land him safely in our cockpit, where his bright colours faded quickly.

In Nassau, we anchored across from Nassau Harbour Club and loaded all of the laundry into the dinghy. Murray dropped me off at Nassau Yacht Haven for the laundry while he obtain fuel to top up our tanks. Just before everything was dry, the rain started. A deluge!! Mur had gotten drenched already and we sat waiting for a break in the rain, before making the dash to our boat. With clean sheets and a gentle rain splatting on the deck, we slept well that night. In the morning, bright and early, we walked to the nearby grocery store. There we found empty shelves, empty freezers and few staff. But there were enough fresh vegetables to re-stock our larder, so we just made do with what was available. While at the mall, we stopped by Logo Book Store and spoke to the woman who buys the children’s books. We showed her “The Pig That Couldn’t Swim” and she was quite impressed with the quality and subject matter. In fact, she took some books on consignment.

Back at the boat, we hauled anchor and motored to Shroud Cay and anchored again for the night. Our friends on MarNel had returned from the Berry Islands to West Palm with a broken watermaker and arrived back in Nassau that evening. By radio, we arranged to meet at Norman’s Cay the next day. It was a slow drift northward to Norman’s but we had all day to cover a few miles. After a visit with other friends, we donned dive gear and headed out. In just 30 minutes, Murray got a lobster, a fish and two conch! Food for several days. MarNel showed up later that afternoon and we fed them a dinner of grilled mahi mahi.

The cold front was expected soon and the winds built from the SW, causing the anchored boats to ride up on their anchors or even spin around them as we did. With the wind and current opposing, the boat developed quite a heel, even while we sat still. The cold front hit in the dark, of course. I got up at about 11 pm to use the head and checked outside, just in case. There was a boat right beside us! Only feet away! What the heck? I called Murray and looked up the name of the vessel that had been in front of us ( I wrote it down earlier ). When I called him, he said that he was going to put out fenders and monitor the situation. What??? And he never called us to inform us???? Perhaps he couldn’t read our boat name in the dark? His anchor chain appeared to be passing about midship below us, therefore he was unable to haul anchor. So, we said that we would. By now the wind is blowing 30 to 35 knots and it is very dark. But, we did a super job. Murray hauled anchor while I kept some forward motion by going into and out-of gear. Then we headed away from everyone and dropped the hook again. It caught immediately and we were back in bed, with the drag alarm re-set for our new position. In the morning, that vessel dragged once again and tried once more to impact us. Fiberglass magnets must be installed somewhere aboard.

The wind finally abated but we had had enough of Norman’s Cay. Both MarNel and us hauled and sailed off on Feb 13th, further down the Exuma chain. Shortly after 1 pm, we dropped the hook outside Sampson Cay. It was a glorious sail with the winds picking up so that we had a double reef but MarNel needs lots of wind to move that big cat. They were charging along but we still beat them in by about 30 minutes.

To celebrate Valentine’s Day, we joined some friends for lunch, at Sampson. That lunch went on for hours as we caught up on past adventures and future plans. MarNel went into Pipe Creek the next day while we proceeded to Staniel Cay and Big Major Spot.

In Staniel, I made contact with Bernadette Chamberlain to discuss the next book and whether she has time to work on those illustrations. We also delivered more books to the Yacht Club and some to Isles General.

Now another cold front is expected this weekend and we have taken shelter in Oz, our old hang-out. The lovely sand beaches beckon and I try to swim each day. Early next week, we will head to Black Point for laundry and to re-connect with friends ashore before turning northward once more.

That brings you all up-to-date with happenings aboard. Hopefully all is well with you and yours.

Murray & Heather

Berry Islands

Hello everyone

It took three tries but we finally made it out of Lucaya and on to the Berry Islands. The first time, MarNel has said that the waves were too high for their boat, a catamaran, heading to windward. But we attempted it alone. After we fell off of the fourth huge wave and everything crashed and banged, we opted to turn around.

The second time, I was extremely nervous. The wind had been howling all day long and the waves were higher than before but the wind was from a better direction. Also we were leaving at 5 pm and traveling all night, in a busy shipping channel. But, everyone else wanted to go and I didn’t want to be a wimp. So, we left. It was not a good thing. The waves were crashing onto the boat and the spray soaked us with each wave. The boat was heeled over too much for me to move from my perch at all. Then the lightning started. I am sorry to report that I had a meltdown and we turned around once again.

But in the morning, the wind and waves were much calmer and off we headed again, motorsailing and sailing when possible. Before sunset we were securely anchored at Great Stirrup Cay. After a great nights sleep, we motored on south again, to Devils/Hoffman Cays and both boats were tucked in before lunchtime.

The winds were predicted to increase after an expected cold front but they will blow from the NE and we have great protection from that direction. Last night, as scheduled, the winds started to howl, blowing about 30 km/hr. That will continue for the next two or three days during which time, we will make water, do boat jobs, bake cookies, watch movies, all the usual stuck-on-the-boat things.

The attraction of the Berry Islands is the abundance of fish. Murray has already catch a little tunny, two cero mackeral and is feeding the other boats in the anchorage. Oh, total boat count is three, but only two are in view. So, very private.

We will stay here for a week or 10 days and enjoy this quiet place before heading further south. If we can, we will skip Nassau, depending on the laundry situation. With full water tanks, Murray and I can do some laundry in a bucket when the wind dies a little.

That is what is happening here, on Windswept IV. I hope the groundhog doesn’t see his shadow and that winter will be short for all of you northerners.

Heather & Murray

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