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. 

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