In one word: expensive.
Georgetown is a beautiful harbour to navigate, well marked, open with no hidden surprises. Customs and Immigration is super easy: they meet your boat and hand you paperwork, once completed they’ll tie you up to the nearest pier and finish the stamping and welcoming inside. No matter how long you’re staying, it seems to be an automatic 30 day permit.
Just off the main harbour, there is a row of transit buoys. From there you can dinghy pretty much everywhere depending on how long you want to take to get there. It’s safe to beach or tie up anywhere that’s not in the way or private property – take the keys and your valuables, of course, but the dinghy will be there when you get back.
Georgetown seems to be geared exclusively for cruise ships and that is understandable as they get usually 2-5 per day. Almost the entire downtown is duty free shops and high end merchandise. The cruise ships come in Monday to Friday with an occasional visit on Saturday. Since no one is around, everything is closed Sundays (I guess sailors and other visitors don’t count); bars and churches are about the only things open.
Restaurants are expensive but the food is pretty good. At Breeze’s, we had one order of fish and chips, an appetizer of shrimp poppers, one beer, one drink and it totaled about $60 US. Cayman Cabana has great cheeseburgers and super salad – there again though, it’s expensive.
Divers Supply is the largest diving store here and they have a great selection of everything watersports. Their prices are a little high so shop around; the little dive shops along West Bay Road offer much the same stuff (a little at a time) but usually cheaper.
Grand Cayman, like Jamaica, is a British island so they drive on the wrong side of the road here too. The difference is that here they will sometimes stop to let you cross, there is much beeping of hellos and waves and they are not as crazy. Sidewalks are hit and miss; it seems they change from one side of the road to the other every block or so so you’re either constantly crossing the road or having to walk on very narrow shoulders.
There is almost every type of bank here and they seem to be more tied into the main system. For example, in Curacao, the CIBC First Caribbean Bank could not take care of normal day-to-day banking needs; you had to withdraw from the machine to get Gilders and deal with your daily limits, etc. If you exchanged at the teller, they charged you tax on top of the exchange rate. Here in Grand Cayman, the CIBC is also First Caribbean but you can do everything there that you would normally do at CIBC at home. Of course, you can always pay in US and get CI in change; all places take US dollars and most will take a major credit card. The exchange rate at the moment is $1 CI = $1.25 US so approx
$8 CI = $10 US. It’s backwards to what it normally is outside the country but I guess that’s what happens when the economy of Cayman is strengthened by the offshore banking of the US elite.
Fuel (gasoline) is about $5.60 CI per imperial gallon = $7 or so US. Diesel is a little more expensive, about $0.40 per gallon.
Gunk-holing and camping on the hook is allowed pretty much anywhere around the island. You don’t need a special permit to move around here, ya just gotta tell ‘em when you’re leaving.
Fishing is allowed off the boat or off the shore but you need a permit and it’s catch and release only. Other seafood taking is not allowed at all.
Cigarettes can be found at the gas stations or at Foster’s Food Mart. Marlboro at ESSO is about $8.50 CI, at Foster’s is about $7.15 CI. Gas stations have some beer in cans, not a wide selection. Big Daddy’s is a liquor store next to Foster’s that has everything and is kinda central to Georgetown/Seven Mile Beach.
The local brew, Caybrew, is done right here and has various types under the same name….Light, Amber, Lager, etc. I’m told it’s pretty good (personally I loathe beer in all its forms both before and after it has been drunk)
You can pick up a tourist book at the bank or a free map at the gas station; they are also geared mainly for cruise ship or resort type people. Restaurants, hotels, shopping, touristy attractions are all front and centre but the marine stores/liquor stores/wifi hotspots, etc are nowhere to be found.
Speaking of wifi, there is free wifi at Burger King but it sucks worse than their burgers and there are no outlets. There is free wifi at the coffee shop on Fort St but it is closed weekends. When it is open, it looks very very similar to a Starbucks inside and has great latte. Guy Harvey’s, right across from what they call North or South Terminal which doubles as a taxi stand, is a restaurant/bar that has free wifi, outlets and is open every day.
There are very very few laundromats on the island but the best one is ____________ on Eastern Ave. It costs $2.00 CI per wash, $3.00 CI for dryer but the many many machines are well maintained and the place is very clean, open and airy, with sturdy and clean folding tables. The lady who runs it, Linda, is a love who takes pride in keeping her place nice and it shows.
There is no such thing as a public shower. The only think I can think of is to pay a drop-in fee at one of the local gyms (there are several) and use the locker room/shower there.
Shopkeepers are a funny lot here. They automatically assume you’re with the cruise ship and will ask for your ID for the duty free. When you tell them you’re not “that” kind of boat people, they are split right down the middle: some love you and some will ignore you. There doesn’t seem to be any in-between. Except in the marine stores….they just love everybody connected to boats.
Cabs, like everything else, are expensive. We dinghied to the Avalon Resort right beside the public beach about ¾ the way up Seven Mile Beach then taxied over to Marine Diesel in Morgan’s Harbour. It was $30 CI return with about a 10 minute wait in between and big smiles and welcoming conversation from Barry with Charlie’s Cab Service (shameless plug for you). The next day we taxied from the South Terminal Taxi Stand to Harbour House Marina, about the same distance; it was $30 US return with about a 15 minute wait in between but also included grumbles and complaints from the taciturn driver about having to wait a few minutes longer than we said. Ya takes yer chances.
Marine stores: There are a few smaller ones that cater mostly to outboards, fishing, skiing, tubing and the like. In our estimation, there is only one marine store on the island: Harbour House Marina, Marina Drive (www.harbourhousemarina.com). They are a full boatyard and chandlery and their retail store is huge, two floors, that contains almost everything you could need. If they don’t have it, they will gladly order it in for you. The people there are wonderful, friendly and helpful, and really advertise the fact they like their work. Alfredo Challenger is the Assistant Manager and so accomodating, he will talk with you on the phone, answer questions, follow up with your needs, etc. Carl knows the store inside out and has great knowledge about a lot of different things. He can help you with rigging, wiring, plumbing, a step for your ladder, stern lights, just everything from soup to nuts. What he really excels at though (and you can tell he is interested and likes it) is electronics. We were told our brand new Garmin 4210 was toast, that it wouldn’t even accept power, and so have been navigating (if you could call it that) without it so far. Carl took a look at it, connected it at the store and said it was fine. He connected all the wiring for us, gave us instructions on how to finish it, and even did the internal setup of our boat dimensions, mast height, draft, etc. This we didn’t find out until later when we had it all set up on the boat and turned it on. Poof! It was all done.
We were like 0 for 10 with this thing. The dealer/salesman who sold it to us said it was a “plug and play” type thing since we already had a Garmin (421S) – nope. He told us it had an internal antenna and the one in the box was an “extra” – nope. The technician who tried to install it said it wouldn’t accept power let alone anything else – nope. He said we needed to almost re-wire in order for this to be accepted – nope. He said we got a duff machine and we should send it back – nope. Everything anyone said about this thing was wrong. Carl didn’t say a word, just took it and plugged it in and set it up. Then explained it all. We can’t thank him enough for all his help, time and energy spent on us this week. Garmin will also be getting a letter of kudos about Carl.
Weather forecast for this area is found at the NOAA site: http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/text/MIAOFFNT3.shtml but use your judgment. They were calling for 10-15 knots NE to N and 2-4 ft seas today and tonight. It hasn’t gone under about 30 knots all day and I’m damned sure the seas are higher than 2-4 feet! We are in an inlet marina, surrounded on all sides by breakwater and land, and we’re rocking and rolling.