Friday, May 31, 2013

Grand Cayman

Grand Cayman
Saturday 18 May – Saturday 1 June

We arrived under cloudy skies at what we thought was 11:30 (actual 10:30) and called into George Town port security to announce our arrival. On Saturday OT charges can be applied after noon so we were hoping to avoid those. Port authority told us since it was a holiday, Discovery Day, we could just take one of the free moorings and wait until Monday to clear in, sounded good to us. We picked up one of the orange moorings with Ultra coming in right behind us getting the next one. After a long crossing we were glad for the time to rest and get caught up on internet and the water is so BEAUTIFUL with the moorings right on reefs we could just swim & snorkel right off the boats. Later in the day port security called us on the VHF radios and said they did want us to come in to clear in as they were taking Monday off for the holiday also, and told us there would be NO overtime fees. We had to take the big boats a short distance and tie up to the concrete commercial dock to go to customs. The guide book mentions a $30 mosquito spraying fee to clear in but no one came to spray our boats and it was FREE to clear in. Just wanted to know if we had any guns on board & if so would need to turn them in during our stay. Filled out some easy paperwork and we were done ! Back to the moorings we just left still under cloudy skies, letting another boat know they too needed to clear in. Now we were able to go ashore whenever we wanted.

Sunday was a bright sunny day and we snorkeled around the boats, still resting and getting caught up on emails.

Monday we rented tanks and took the dinghies north along 7 mile beach to a dive mooring and snorkeled one wreck and dove another. I was able to get 2 tanks, but they would not rent Steve a tank as his dive card only shows him to be a basic diver. He has been diving since 1977 and is a much better diver then me BUT his card does not allow him to rent tanks. The rental company would be liable, if he dove with a company and a dive master they would not be concerned but they would not rent tanks to him to dive on his own. So they let me rent 2 tanks and we just did one dive each. The dive was of the USS Kittiwake, an ex US Navy submarine rescue ship that was purposefully sunk in 2011 to form an artificial shipwreck reef. It was really cool as you could swim in and out of the different sections of the ship. Steve had a little air left so cleaned the prop when we got back to the boats.

Tuesday I rented 2 more tanks, they gave Steve a quote on an upgrade for his PADI card but at $250 he thought it was too high. We dove another smaller wreck then went off to see some of the coral reefs near by. When we came up we were a little further from the dinghies then expected. We were with Bill & JoAnne from Ultra, who saw us so Bill brought our dinghy over to us so we did not have to swim so far. We had talked a few times with the other boat that checked in right after us, Ismael & Olga from Barcelona Spain on the catamaran Cuatro Patas. They were going to join us for drinks on Ultra that night and we were all going to go for a bike ride the following day. So after returning our tanks Steve & I walked down to the bike rental place to rent bikes. We find out Wednesday is another Holiday, election day, so many businesses close, and NO alcohol is allowed to be sold until 7 PM. The bike rental place was going to be closed so they wanted to charge me for 2 days rental. Did not seem fair to us since we just wanted them for the one day. Got the owner over and we worked it out to just charge us for 1 day for one of the bikes & the 2 for the other. We went over to Ultra that night at 7 as planned for drinks, but Olga & Ismael did not get there for another hour, we thought maybe it was a Spanish thing to be late. We had a nice visit and planed to meet at the dinghy docks with our bikes at 9 Wednesday morning.

Wednesday Ultra & us are by the dock waiting and JoAnne & Bill thought they saw Olga & Ismael getting ready but still not there. Ismael comes in to have someone look at a problem with his bike and then goes back to get Olga & her bike. Again we are thinking it's a Spanish thing to be late. It is a perfect day for a bike ride with the holiday very little traffic on the roads. So we head to town and ride around the closed shops then a little further out to the southeast. Back towards town on another road and we stop at Margaritaville, the one here has a pool so we thought we would cool off and since it was now almost noon maybe get an early lunch. Well the guard says they open at noon BUT that is still over an hour a way. This is when we learn that WE have been an hour off since we arrived 3 days earlier !!
Back on our bikes and head out west toward 7 mile beach. Stop at Treasure Island hotel and they let us swim in their pool to cool off. We talk with Olga & Ismael about the time difference and explain that we just thought they were an hour late all the time. We really had a good laugh over this !! Dried off and back on the bikes heading NW. Found a place for lunch then a few more stops along the way to Hell. Hell is an actual name of a town here and it has this little field of iron rock that they call hell. It was closed and is just a tourist TRAP, but for us a place to ride to so we could say we rode to Hell & back. As a bonus we passed a place called Timbuktu on the way back. On the way back Ismael, Olga & Steve thought they were in a race to see who could get back first while Bill, JoAnne & I were happy taking our time seeing the sights along the way. I made a wrong turn and found the Cost U Less so we were thrilled to learn where that was. Stopping in in Camana Bay, to go up the 75 ft observation tower with a 360 view of the island, but it was closed for refurbishment. Back towards the dinghy dock where Steve was waiting for an hour to re-join us to go back to town to Margaritaville. They have a water slide in their pool that JoAnne wanted to try. Place was just about empty with the holiday & still NO alcohol allowed to be served, but we had brought a bottle of rum, so a few cokes were ordered and we made our own drinks to end the day in the pool before heading back to the boats.

Thursday we go to Cost U Less to go crazy, been a while since we had been in a big store. Between Bill & JoAnne & our purchases we almost filled up the delivery van. JoAnne & I sat up front with the driver and Bill & Steve in the back with the boxes for the ride back to the dinghies. Dinghies LOADED up and back to the boats to unload and find room to put things away. As I was doing that Steve went back in to dump the boxes we had to pack things in and went across the street to the wonderful grocery story called Kirks. Picked up a few items that we either could not find OR did not want 2 huge bottles of something we just need 1 regular size bottle of. Shopping is an all day event !!

Friday we move the big boats up the bay a little to the middle of 7 mile beach. They have a Jet Pack you can fly and JoAnne & Bill were going to do it. They had made a noon appointment, so we took the dinghy to shore to sign the waivers, even Steve & I had to sign a wavier to be on the mother ship. We took the dinghy out to the pontoon boat for JoAnne to get her instructions and to go first in the jet-pack. The instructions & gearing up took longer than her 10 minutes of flight time, but she had a blast. Next up Bill and he too had a blast even while doing an unintended flip into the water. Back to the boats and over to North Sound. Entrance to the sound is through the reef that borders the north side. It is about 5 miles wide & long and very shallow. First stop is over to stingray city, a sandbar that we inched up to and anchored then took the dinghies over to feed & pet the stingrays. The rays know everyone comes to feed them so they come to greet you and once you are in the water are all over you looking for food. Their skin feels like velvet, and as they eat from your hand it feels really strange, doesn't really hurt if they manage to get your finger but still a weird sensation. Back to the boats, Ultra stayed there overnight we moved across the bay to be closer to the marina & chandlery the following morning.

Saturday the chandlery is next to Harbor House “Marina”, more of a boat yard with a fuel dock and a boat launch ramp. We were 99.9 % sure we could not bring the big boat in but we got the depth finder out and went in by dinghy to see. We were right no way was Ocean Star going to get fuel there. But we filled up the gas tanks for the dinghy and went shopping at the chandlery. Two of our lines are staring to show some wear so we wanted to be sure to have spares for when they need to be changed out. Not having seen a boat supply store for a while Steve had quite a list of things he needed. Ultra had gone to another marina for fuel and were now coming over to go to the chandlery as we went to the other fuel dock. They are NOT used to a lot of transient boats here in Cayman and the channel markers are not very good so moving around this big shallow bay was a challenge for our 6'3” draft. This is a new and very nice marina but not made for big sail boats either. We get to the fuel dock with the winds blowing us onto the dock, making it hard to move forward, get 45 gallons of Diesel then walk the boat back down the dock out of the way while we get some lunch at the lovely George Town Yacht Club before going to the hardware store. Back to the boat and even more trouble getting off the dock with the winds blowing us on. With more help from the great staff at Barcadera Marina we get away by 3, slow go across the sound and out the reef into deep water where we have a lovely sail back around to George Town. Pick up our same mooring and get cleaned up for a night out. We had planned to go to the Wharf restaurant & bar to see the Barefoot man show with Bill & JoAnne & Ismael & Olga. BUT even though the sign says every Saturday night this night was not included, no music at all. So we walked to town seeing if anything was going on there, nope! This is a cruise ship town and the 4 ships we have seen since we arrived have all left way before sunset so “downtown” closes up at night. We find a place on the water playing some music but they are closing at 10 but let us stay to closer to 11 when we leave and go back to Cuatro Patas for a night cap and talk some more to 1 AM.

Sunday we sleep late, cloudy day, good day for a few boat chores and get our dive gear put away.

Monday I found a place for a massage while Steve went to clear us out (free) then to a few more hardware stores. Bill & JoAnne had a broken head that had to get fixed so they spent the day running around trying to find parts. Steve & I met back up for one more stop at the grocery store, and a late lunch. We were going to have another get together on Ultra before we left BUT they had been too busy so we said we would just have drinks on our boat. On the way back we see friends Roger & Sasha on Ednbal (green tree frog) had arrived so we invited them over for HH at 7 also. Stopped by Cuatro Patas and after explaining to him what happy hour is, he said he is always happy not just for an hour, and confirming that we both showed it was 3:30, went back to the boat to put things away and clean up. At a little after 6 Roger & Sasha show up and Steve & I just laugh as they are an hour off just like we were, at least they find out on their 1st day as we explain our 3 day mix up on time. We have a fun night on which we thought was our last in Cayman as we were set to leave Tuesday morning to head for the Bay Islands of Honduras.

Tuesday after early morning rains, we are up getting ready to leave. Listening to Chris Parker's latest weather report & predictions. Does not look good, very light winds as we leave and as we arrive at islands surrounded by reefs, squally conditions with big waves. We have a long way to go so need wind but don't want to arrive in unknown waters under adverse conditions. We had a bad connection as we were listening to the weather report so missed part of what was said. We left the mooring but shortly out to sea decide to turn around and go back to wait for a better weather window. We still have a few days to make it to Roatan by June 5th for my brothers visit. More rain after we got back and cloudy most of the day. All geared up and ready to go then not going kind of put us out of sorts so just a lazy day.

Wednesday  listened and talked with Chris Parker about the weather and our passage. It was a good thing we turned around yesterday, the weather on our passage would have been awful with large clusters of very violent thunderstorms and lightning. Looks like we'll be waiting it out in the Caymans for a while. Managed to get off the boat and using our cart brought our laundry to a coin operated laundromat (very nice & clean) where I did 4 loads of laundry. Planned ahead and brought extra garbage bags to double bag all the nice clean & dry clothes for the 10 minute walk back to the dinghy dock in the rain. I am sure people driving by thought I was crazy. Called Steve on the VHF to come pick me up, back on the boat and into dry clothes for lunch. Rained the rest of the day.
Thursday & Friday still more rain !!!! Can't remember having this many days of continuous rain. Friday Steve runs back into customs to clear out again, since we never cleared back in they had him do that first then gave us new departure papers, still ALL FREE. One more stop at a few stores then back to the boat to get ready for Saturdays departure.
Link to pictures;

Hope to add some DIVE pictures & a few more when I get copies from JoAnne

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