Grand Cayman, so far

There was no room at the Inn, so we parked for the night at a marker. A couple of cruise ships coming in in the morning made a move necessary to a transit buoy that had come open.

Friday was spent walking. We beached the dinghy at the little beach beside Customs and toddled around Georgetown looking for a marine store, a diesel shop, public showers, diving supplies – oh we had a long list and just marked stuff down when we came across it. Everyone kept sending us to Kirk’s Marine – ‘they have everything’ – but we found their ‘everything’ was motorboat/fishing related. But they pointed us out to Morgan’s Harbour where the (supposedly) only diesel mechanic is – at Marine Diesel. So we dinghied up Seven Mile Beach as far as the public beach and stowed it there. A cut through a hotel complex (with a quick stop at their foot shower thingy by the pool) and we were able to get a cab the rest of the way.

One thing we have noticed here is that we can moor or beach the dinghy anywhere along the shore that there’s room, and no one touches it. We obviously stay out of the way of cruise ship tenders, cargo docks and other privately owned-looking places but there are plenty of spots to fit a 9 ft dinghy. The water is so clear you can see the rocks/coral on the bottom 30-40 feet down. The problem is you can’t tell the depth and in some areas that coral is only 2 feet down. The water has a pretty steep drop off along the beach where it will go past knee deep only a few feet out. I’ve gotten wet to the waist a couple times beaching that thing.

The sand all along Seven Mile Beach is white white and so very fine – almost like a coarse dust. And it’s all cool! No burning feet when walking, it actually feels really good and does a great job of sandblasting dry cracked heels. 🙂

Lunch at the Cayman Cabana was fantastic. The prices here are on the expensive side but we expected that. $8 CI for a cheeseburger platter, $5 CI per beer, etc. I had a side salad ($4 CI) with a most excellent honey mustard type dressing, and something they call Aunt Dawn’s Awesome Mac & Cheese. It came in a square and broke apart with the fork; done with at least a couple types of cheese and oozing cheese and butter goo out the bottom. It reminded me of the way I make mine so yes, it was awesome.

It was the bartender there (the owner, I think) that was the catch of the day. After our experience in Jamaica, I now assume that bartenders know everything – and I’m right again. He was the one that told us about Marine Diesel, gave us the name, address and phone number and even called out there so Jean-Marie could talk to the guy.

Friday was also Jean-Marie’s first dive of the season – too bad it was to untangle stuff from the prop. But we found that the engine will not start if the prop is tangled or slightly off ‘neutral centre’ – hence the ordering of the new starter. We are learning things about this boat every day.

I finally slept Friday night for more than 2 hours at a time. Maybe I was used to being on the move where we switched off every few hours, maybe its all the incoming energy – I don’t know but I haven’t slept through since leaving Vancouver. Bed time is whenever I’m tired enough (10-12) then it was heat or mosquitoes or no-see-ums or party boats or or or … by 1-1:30 I was awake again for a good couple of hours. Jean-Marie starting the coffee at 0500 or so usually woke me for the day – but I was never tired during the day. Hmmmm.

Finally, on Friday, I figured I’d stay up reading until I was tired enough to sleep. The sun going down at 6 is deceptive (since its warm, it must be summer therefore it should be light out til after 9 – follow my reasoning?) and we watched the two cruise ships leave for Miami, all lit up like the floating cities they are. I was yawning my head off not having read a word, and decided to lay down – it was 7:30! At 1135, I got up out of necessity but right back to sleep. I heard Jean-Marie putzing around at something after 7 (it was light out) and figured I should probably get up. Twelve hours – I felt like a new woman! THAT should hold me for another month or so…lol.

Saturday we hit Kirk’s Supermarket. This guy Kirk seems to own a lot of this island: Kirk’s marine store, jewelry stores, clothing stores, grocery store and on and on. The supermarket is a great place, better than Curacao or Jamaica by a long shot, and has a nice little pharmacy inside. I picked up something in Curacao, right at the beginning and don’t know what caused it – a type of fungus on my toes that spread across, but only the toes. Little bumps that burst open and spread like blisters, and itchy as hell. I’ve been bathing it in peroxide (as well as sea water or chlorine pools) but it’s not getting better. The pharmacy here has some lotion that should work.

A trip back to Kirk’s Marine on the off-chance they had charts – again out of luck. But this time they actually told us about another marine store – Harbour House Marina. They let us call out there through and ask questions before committing to a cab ride. (One of these days we’ll actually find something in that store that we can use)

The trip to Harbour House was a super score. We found new furling rope (we have been crossing our fingers every time we used the jib just waiting for the rope to snap), a Mexican flag, sundry small items – and they ordered us a new Garmin chip.

I’ll take this moment to tell you that we’ve sorta been sailing by the seat of our pants; not quite Christopher Columbus but close.

Jean-Marie bought a new Garmin 4210 in Vancouver and ordered the chips – South Caribbean (C30) and West Caribbean (C31). Steveston Marine in Langley was able to get the C30 but ran into major errors with the other one. This meant we could leave Curacao but couldn’t go anywhere. He got hold of Garmin who knew of the problem and were working on it, but not in time for us. We figured we could pick up a new chip in Curacao as there were Garmin dealers there. But when we tried to install it on the boat, we found that it was a “Friday afternoon” machine and didn’t work at all. There was a little 421S on the boat already that would take the chip so we’ve just been using that for the time being. We managed to find a chart of sorts that would take us to Jamaica – somewhat. We loaded the GPS with a waypoint and coordinates to put us within 20 miles of Kingston and hoped for the best. The chip we had left off halfway to Jamaica and the basic chart already loaded did not have any detail. The paper chart we had was a 1:3 million scale with no distance legend marked and very poor markings of shoals or reefs. So we sailed by compass and on estimated heading of the GPS in comparison to the chart. Once we were in sight of land, we eyeballed it. Kingston is not a harbour to try and navigate at night so it was a good thing we anchored the night before.

Jamaica had no charts at all so we pretty much estimated a course to Grand Cayman, again eyeballing the last bit. Georgetown, by comparison, has a fantastic in-and-out harbour. They also monitor the radio and are right on your ass when you get close. Wonderful, wonderful assistance here form beginning to end.

So now we have a new chip on order through Harbour House and hopefully that will get us to Mexico.

Since we have to stay here til at least Wednesday (19th), we’re thinking of moving around to the other side closer to both Morgan’s Harbour and Harbour House Marine. We’ll go to a wifi hotspot tomorrow to see if we can find a marina to park in for a couple days. I don’t mind being on the hook at all, it’s like camping on the water; but to have shore power, access to wifi and showers would be like a mini vacation.

We ran our new furling line Saturday as well, and tidied up a bit. Since it was still early, I was able to get out the diving gear and have a go. I found it difficult to stay down, even with weights, so I figure I’m doing something wrong. More experience will definitely help. But it was a nice little toodle around; I got to see the lady’s new little black dress, the beautiful coral designs and even a shy little nurse shark. I tried out the new underwater camera, actually underwater for the first time (all the photos I’ve uploaded were taken with the u/w camera), and found it is yet another situation that needs more experience. 

Grand Cayman rolls up the sidewalks on Sundays. Nothing is open except churches and bars. Not even coffee shops! The cruise ships are here Monday to Friday only with an occasional Saturday and I guess nobody else matters. We tried the wifi at Burger King but it sucked as badly as their burgers so we headed farther into town to find somewhere. Guy Harvey’s Restaurant and Bar was our wifi hotspot for the day.

The rest of Sunday was taken up with fixing stuff since the transmission decided to start acting up. Inside the control box in the cockpit, the sleeve that the cable rode in had broken in two so it wouldn’t change gears at all. We tried a few different fixes but didn’t have quite the right parts. Monday we hit the hardware store and came away with a nice brass sprayer wand that was just the right diameter to fit the cable. We taped the old tube tightly to snug it into the brass tube and were able to re-connect everything. The transmission has always clunked hard, it still does, but at least now it works.

Once it was working, and the engine stayed running (we had fixed it yet again), we decided to motor around to North Sound and find the marina we looked at on Google – Barcadere. What we didn’t realize was that the Sound, although huge, was very shallow and there was a specific channel that zigzagged back and forth until entering various inlets that held marinas. Again with no chart and eyeballing the whole way, we made it to the south end of the Sound and called the Barcadere. They gave us coordinates to their entrance but I guess they figured we were somewhere else because getting to those coordinates was a nightmare. We ended up grounding at about 5:30, just before dark. We only have a 4’9” draft so you can see just how shallow the Sound is. Luckily it was low tide so we just had to wait another 6 hours for the tide to rise. One boat stopped by and tried to pull us out but had no luck. So we waited. About 11:15, I could see the boat had straightened up from her slight list and there was a faint bobbing feel. We dumped all our water (about 150 gallons) and were able to maneuver out of there. We went back into the middle and anchored for the rest of the night, still in only about 9 feet of water.

At first light we headed for the marina, having finally spotted the lighthouse they had spoken about – I don’t think it was lit up at night or else it was a stationary white light amongst a whole coastline of stationary white lights. We called them to let them know we were there and they met us and brought us into an empty slip. Paperwork was done in short order and one of our neighbours, also a sailboat couple, came over to yak awhile. Lisa and Blake are also doing the semi-retired sailing life thing and can commiserate with our engine/sail troubles – their last trip, from Florida, was 6 days of hell instead of the 3 days of sailing bliss they were expecting.

We dinghied over to Harbour House to enquire about the chip and found that they hadn’t ordered it – a good thing because it was the wrong one anyway. It turns out they had the very one we needed already there. Also Jean-Marie will take the Garmin in tomorrow for them to have a look at. Maybe, just maybe, they can get it working.

Today, Tuesday, was hot shower day. Ahhhh, bliss! I didn’t want to come out. We haven’t had a hot shower since leaving Vancouver so this was a real treat. Walking to the grocery story about 2 kms away, I spotted a spiny iguana in a tree and more of the funny little lizards that run with their tails curled up and, of course, more chickens. How different this place is! – I was sitting on the cement railing of the store having a 5 minute timeout before heading back and a guy walking down the street stopped to ask if I was okay or if I needed help. That wouldn’t happen in Curacao and, in Jamaica, you don’t walk anywhere. People here are so nice and friendly, there is no crime to speak of, drivers will stop to let you cross the road, there are always little beeps of hello….now, if they could do something about them mosquitoes……………

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