Saturday, October 12, 2019

Grand Cayman

Georgetown, Grand Cayman


Picking-up crew for the Cuba sail

The estimated 350 Nm trip from Providence ended up being 406 Nm as we altered course to give wide berth to the infamous Gorda Banks. With sporadic piracy again on the rise we even went east of the Rosalind Banks which required about 9 hrs of motor sailing to get the easting we needed to clear the bank. The trip was 3 days and 3 hrs long with close hauled sailing for 60 hrs of the 75 hrs and motor sailing the rest of the time for the crossing. This was the first longer sail since returning to Kanilela in November but we felt ourselves settling into schedule of life at sea pretty quickly. The NE winds had us close hauled all the way so it was quite bumpy, especially when motor sailing tighter into the wind.

When my “big” brother, Doug joined us in Panama to transit the canal he made some repairs to our Single Side Band (SSB)/Ham radio which dramatically improved our sending and receiving abilities. It was great on the longer crossing to be able to get Chris Parker’s weather reports daily and managed radio contact with Randy and Dawn from s/v Reciente who were on their way south to Panama and Steve Warren from s/v Warren Peace who had heard my calls to Randy. Steve was in the San Blas Islands about 550 miles south of Grand Cayman expecting Reciente to arrive any day. The name Warren Peace is unique enough that I was certain it was Steve Warren from the Bluewater Cruising Association who left Vancouver a few years before Mags and I left. Although we had never met in person before it was great to finally talk to Steve because we had met numerous cruisers who had asked if we knew Warren Peace. 
Calm day at the Immigration Dock

After the tranquil life style of the past months we knew that we were probably in for a cultural shock in Grand Cayman Island. Weaving our way in past the numerous shuttle boats running from the three cruise ships anchored and all the other commercial and pleasure craft confirmed the tempo had changed. We were initially directed to return to the outer staging area avoiding the cruise ships but before we got headed out we were called back in to the Immigration/Port Captains concrete pier. Although we had read numerous horror stories of boats smashing the concrete in the swell from the open Caribbean we were fortune to have a perfectly calm sea to arrive and moor. The two female Immigration Officers who met us were exceptionally friendly and helpful and we were done entry in minutes.

Mags’ cousin Ann and her husband Tom were arriving from Liverpool so we decided we would check in to Barcadere Marina. 
Coral heads tight on both sides entering the North Sound
The interesting challenge with Cayman is the only all-weather anchorages are in the North Sound and it has an extremely shallow entrance, a reported nine foot depth between submerged corral heads into an equally shallow huge lagoon. To get to the marinas or anchorages you have to follow very specific way points and generally cannot draw more than 6’ 4”. Frank Virgintino’s, Free Guide to the Caymans is available online and is extremely helpful but recent local way points for specific locations are imperative as buoys wander and disappear!

Barcadere is a new marina close to the airport and within walking distance, a long walk, to downtown Georgetown. There is a very good restaurant and bar as well as a small store and fuel dock at the marina. Staff were very friendly.
Ann and Tom arrived from Liverpool for the sail to Cuba

 Having four people and wanting to see all of the island we rented a car at the airport. Life was easy. The huge modern stores with food and hardware were amazing. We had been warned to expect high prices and with that knowledge and the sheer joy of finding almost anything you could want we still enjoyed a buying spree.

As well as being an international banking center for the world, Grand Cayman hosts a continuing parade of cruise liners, often having 5 ships in Georgetown at a time. Many of the boats in the marina were charter boats that take people from the cruise ships on various day charters. The crews were really friendly and helpful. 
Stingrays do not strike unless they are stepped on
so shuffle your feet along the bottom

The owner of an excursion boat moored near us treated us to a trip to Sting Ray City. We had great time shuffling our feet on a shallow sand bar making sure not to step on any of the numerous stingrays. 

Ann and Mags feeding squid to a big female
The females are the biggest and love to be held and fed squid which explains the great numbers that patrol the shallow sand bar in the middle of the North Sound.

Having the car let us drive on every road on the island enjoying small restaurants serving great jerk chicken and visiting the more remote beaches and villages. 


Providence, Columbia


Slowly northbound

Providence Island is about sixty sailing miles from San Andres, about fifty miles from north point to the south point so it makes for a good overnight sail if you do not sail too fast. As it turned out that was not our problem.

We untied our Med moor lines and with help from Stephan from Coco Prinz and Guillermo from Nene’s we untangled our anchor rode and headed south down the entry channel. Mags was great on the helm while I manually cranked the windlass retrieving our chain. The repairs to the solenoid were working intermittently at best. A project for Providence….

We arrived at the Providence entry channel way point in the early morning having motor sailed in near calm conditions, doused our sails and motored past Morgan’s Head on the west coast of Isla Santa Catalina into the anchorage. It is always a joy to arrive in an anchorage to a radio welcome, in this case it was from Mike and Michelle on s/v Minuet, friends from Bocas del Toro who we had not seen for more than a month. They were in the process of clearing out of Providence while we were clearing in. Mr. Bernardo Bush is the sole agent for the island and you must use an agent. After completing the forms at his office which is in the small town of Isabel beside the anchorage we then rode by motorbike to the Capitan del Puerto, to sign forms and get a new stamp from the Immigration officer who had obligingly come to the Port Captain’s. Because Mr. Bush had business elsewhere it was agreed that she, the Immigration Officer, would give me a ride back to town on the back of her motorcycle. These have to be the most accommodating, friendly people anywhere.

Kanilela, second from right with the locally named Morgan's Ass in the distance

Mike and Michelle were not leaving until early the following morning so we went to an excellent restaurant, Miss Francia’s on Isla Santa Catalina where the barracuda was superb. Also, the opportunity to visit with Mike and Michelle and get a wealth of local knowledge was greatly appreciated. They were headed to Isla Mujeras, Mexico so our next shared anchorage could be well into the future as our paths diverge.

Providencia, or as the locals often call, Old Providence, has a small island, Isla Santa Catalina, attached on the northwest corner by a floating foot bridge called Lover’s Lane. The names are further confused by the locals calling it Ketlina Island. The waterfront sidewalks are lined with brightly painted hand rails and many small alcoves with benches and shade trees on both islands. Everything is so clean and well maintained, the civic pride is obvious. 
At the Providence end of Lover’s Lane Bridge a collection of motorcycles are parked because no vehicles allowed on the small island. The finished sidewalk goes right for about 200 meters past approximately ten homes ending with an ancient cannon that had no doubt seen action in the days of Captain Morgan who lived on the Island.
stairs up to the Virgin Mary statue
 At the bridge, the sidewalk also extends to the left about 800 meters along the coast past a few restaurants and small hostel type hotels and another ten or so local homes ending with a steep, 81 step, promontory lookout with a statue of the Virgin Mary. Miss Francia’s is along this coast and the sidewalk has a small public dock. From the Statue the finished trail drops down to a beach with clear water for swimming and snorkelling. A dirt trail continues to Morgan’s head, approaching from above giving great views of the coral heads and sandy places for the dinghy anchor.

Downtown Santa Isabel

On our walk we met a lovely couple from the San Francisco area who were staying in one of the hostel/hotels and we agreed to meet for dinner at Miss Francia’s. Back on the boat we were visited by a Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, couple, Randy and Dawn on a classic 51’ ketch s/v Renceinte who had already been in Providence for one month followed shortly by a visit from the newly arrived m/v Fish Vicious with Doug and Nancy from San Francisco. Doug and Nancy agreed to join us for dinner with Ron and Susan our recently met land travellers. Another fantastic meal at Miss Francia’s with engaging conversation with our newly met friends.

The crews of Zverver, Renceinte, Fish Vicious and Kanilela

As the week progressed we enjoyed numerous snorkeling opportunities and had the pleasure of a new arrival to the anchorage, a beautiful Dutch ketch Zverver with owners Diederik and Ilsa. As a group we visited sites around the island spending time in engaging conversations and enjoying the incredible local hospitality.

Of course, no stop occurs without the obligatory boat repairs. There is an oft repeated line that 9 out of 10 times windlass problems are in the solenoid. As our exit from San Andreas with the rebuilt solenoid proved, we were the 1 out of 10 exception. After removing the motor and separating the gear box the problem was still not obvious but in checking everything possible it became apparent that the housings for the four brushes were all corroded enough to inhibit the springs designed to provide tension of the brushes to the rotor. Lofrans is purported to be one of the best built windlass brands so I was a little disappointed that the brushes housings were made with a stamped mild steel material located in one of the most moisture plagued parts of the boat. Cleanup done and the fight to reinstall the windlass in an impossibly tight location completed, all was working fine. Providence/Providencia ranks at the top of our list of favourite ports of call for Kanilela.