Wednesday, February 26, 2014


Posted by Scot

The culprit!
Despite the recent success Canada had at the Olympics, that is not the victory to which I am referring.  Nope.  I am talking about us finally conquering some boat problems that have been bugging us since before we left the Bahamas.

From our recent blog posts, you might have gotten the impression that the last couple of weeks in the Caymans has been one long party, with dive trips, kite boarding trips, and dinners out with friends.  While it is true that we have been enjoying everything the Caymans have to offer, we also had another reason for our relatively extended stay here.  Given it’s proximity to the States, and it’s relatively affluent population, there are lots of boats here.  And where there are boats, there are boat parts, and expertise in fixing boats.  So, we arrived with an agenda, filled with items we wanted to fix while we were here.  And we have been pretty successful.

As soon as we arrived in the marina, we sat down with Jane, the manager of Scott’s Marine, and gave her our list of things we wanted to get done.  At the top of the list was the electrical issue that has been plaguing us since Georgetown in the Bahamas.  We were still seeing a voltage loss under AC power when we were running high loads, and despite lots of investigating, we hadn’t been able to pin down the cause.

Another item on the list was replacing our wifi antenna, which gave up the ghost back in Jamaica.  I know this might sound like a luxury item, but since I am still doing some work via the internet, it is a huge benefit to be able to have solid access, even when we are not right next to the signal.

View from the top.  The new wifi antenna in place (the white thing on the left of the picture).
We also wanted to finally get our outboard fully serviced.  We hadn’t used it much in Cuba or Jamaica, but when we put it in the water here, it seemed to be doing some funny things, even though I had fixed the cooling water issue we were having with another fresh water flush back in Jamaica.

Anyway, as per usual, at least half of the job of getting anything fixed on a boat is waiting for parts to arrive.

The first issue came with the wifi antenna.  It was easy enough to order it online, and by ponying up the cash, we were able to get it shipped so that it arrived from the States two days after we ordered it (this essentially doubled the cost of the part, but we wanted to make sure we got it in time to install it). Unfortunately, after it arrived, it fell into the hands of Customs.  It turns out that anything being installed on a boat “in transit” in the Caymans can be brought in duty free.  But what that means is that it gets delivered to the Customs office, and not to us.  So, even though it only took two days to get here, it took us another week to track it down at the Customs office.  Even then, the officer didn’t really want to let us have it, since he was supposed to bring it out to the boat himself.  But when he realized that by giving it directly to us, it would save him a trip to the marina, he relented, making us promise we were really installing it on our boat, and not leaving it in the Caymans.

Once we had it, after another windy trip up our 65 foot mast, it was installed, and now we once again can pull in a strong internet signal right on the boat (assuming there is one within a couple of miles).

The requisite picture from the top.  This time, I really had to steel myself to hang around and snap this, since it was pretty windy up there.
The most gratifying fix we have made was with our power issue.  Since we finally have good shore power here, we were able to repeat a complete testing of our AC system.  Initially we thought we were losing voltage regardless of the AC power source, but being able to test with good AC shore power coming in showed us this wasn’t the case.  It turned out our problem was localized to the generator.

This led me to retest all the connections on the generator, and I finally found the one that was causing the problem.  In fact, the connections were all OK, but I noticed that one half of the integrated dual pole breaker on the genset was getting hot while we were running it.  After a couple of days driving around town talking to electrical suppliers, we eventually got in touch with Geoff at Marine Power (who later took us out on his boat to see Stingray City).  He ordered us a new breaker from Florida, and hand delivered it to our boat two days later.  This time, we were wise enough to just pay the duty, so we didn’t have to wait another week to get it through customs.  Again, this all cost more than double what it would have to get the part in Florida, but I guess that is one of the costs of travelling.

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Out with the old breaker...
Once we had the breaker in hand, it didn’t take long for us to switch it out with the old one and bingo!  We now have full juice from our generator again.

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... and in with the new one.

In addition to all that, we have also managed to replace one of the fans in the salon, reseal some hatches, and give the boat a good cleaning, top to bottom.  So it hasn’t all been beer and hockey games!  We have also provisioned the boat for our next leg, including getting some new British sea sickness pills and accupressure bracelets, so we are feeling pretty ready to head back out to sea.  Now it is time to go, before the high cost of hanging out in the Caymans shortens the rest of our trip.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Local Knowledge

Posted by Scot and Katie

A friendly local Caymanian
As interesting as it has been to experience all the different countries we have been to in the last several months, we have found that the best way to get a real perspective on a place is to spend some time with the locals.  This hasn’t always been possible, but here in the Caymans, we have been lucky enough to do just that.

To start with, we got to meet Terry and Tove, who are friends of Sara’s parents.  They have known each other for years, having met in the Varsity Outdoors Club at UBC back in the day.  Tove’s family has had a place on Grand Cayman since the 70’s, and now Terry and Tove have a lovely condo right on 7 mile beach.  When they aren’t on Grand Cayman, they live aboard a 47 foot steel monohull named Siri (after their daughter, who’s lovely name predates Apple’s version).  They keep Siri (the boat, not the daughter) in New Zealand, and sail up to Fiji every year.

One evening, as we were just finishing dinner, they stopped by our boat for a drink.  We instantly sensed the love of life, adventure, and humour that seems common to all the ex-members of the VOC that we have ever met.  I’m not sure if it is selection bias, and that kind of person just gravitated towards the club in the 60s, or if it was something they put in the water back then, but all of Sara’s parent’s friends that we have met from those days are a hoot to be around.

Here’s an example.  As we were eating a wonderful dinner at their condo a few days after we first met, Terry and I were comparing the “gross tonnage” of our boats.  (That is the kind of thing sailors talk about.  Not that size really matters).  When Terry heard that we weighed upwards of 19 tons (or tonnes, I’m not sure), he couldn’t believe that we weighed more than his beloved Siri (again, referring to the boat). 
“Yes,” I said, “but you have to remember, you only really have half a boat.” (“half-boat” is how the owner of a catamaran sometimes refers to their underprivileged brethren on monohulls, usually with a sort of pitying smile on one's face).

Without missing a beat, Tove responded.  “Yes dear, we have taken our training wheels off.”
Touche, Tove, touche.

Talking to these two experienced sailors yielded story after story, and we relished the opportunity to bask in their knowledge.  The tale of the time they lost their wind-vane (which helps steer the boat) in a 60 knot storm somewhere between New Zealand and Fiji left us all wide-eyed.  As the wind “calmed down” to 50 knots, Tove strapped Terry to the transom with two lines, and sent him over the back to fix it.  As Terry recalls, being off the back of the boat in the waves that accompany a 50 knot wind means you are under water as much as you are above it.  Between dousings, as he caught his breath, he managed to repair the wind vane, and restore their steering.  He climbed back aboard, and as the wind calmed down further to “just 40 knots”, he left Tove to finish her watch, and went back to bed.

Anyway, we had a lovely evening with them, and enjoyed their hospitality immensely.  The kids had a great time swimming with them off their beach, and again in their pool, where Terry threw them around with more energy than I could muster.  Add in some ping pong, a wonderful dinner, and great conversation, and we felt lucky to get to spend the evening with them.  We couldn’t believe we forgot to take our camera, and didn’t get any pictures of them for the blog.

Another great opportunity for us to spend time with some locals came yesterday.  Just as we were finishing lunch, and making plans for the rest of our Sunday, I was surprised to hear a voice calling me from the side of our boat facing the water.  I turned around, and there on his own boat was Geoff, who runs Marine Power here on Grand Cayman.  We had met over the phone the week before, when he helped us get the part we needed to fix our generator (more on that later).

Anyway, Geoff and his 10 year old daughter Jojo were out on their boat for a Sunday drive around North Sound, and they had stopped by to see if we wanted to join them.  Without hesitation, we finished our lunch and hopped on their boat, throwing in our snorkel gear and lots of sun screen.

Heading out of the Barcadere Marina with Geoff and Jojo
Our first stop was Stingray City, which is one of the main attractions on Grand Cayman.  In the past, fisherman traditionally cleaned their catch on this sand bar in North Sound, so the stingrays learned to congregate there for the free meal.  Now, the stingrays get fed by the hordes of tourists that come to visit.  There are huge numbers of the black, velvety creatures flying around in just a few feet of water (the stingrays, not the tourists).

Take me down to Stingray City.
This was apparently a quiet day at Stingray City.  Hate to be there on a busy day.
The stingrays.  In their city.
More madcap stingray action.
Alexander, getting up close and personal with his new favourite local.
Katie wasn’t too keen to hang out with them, but the boys couldn’t get enough of them.  Geoff, who seems to know everyone on the island, introduced us to some of his friends who also happened to be there.
After Stingray City, Jojo drove us expertly over to the “mini-sand bar”.  I’ll let Katie take up the story of our day from there.  She has decided to do so in "rainbow".

On Sunday at lunch time we heard a purring sound not the sweet purr of a cat but the even sweeter purring sound of a motor!  Just then a big dingy bigger than ours it was a boat owned by someone my parents had just met the day before we didn’t know that it was his boat because we had seen it (we had not seen the boat before today) we new it was his boat because he was on it.  The boat was inhabited by a dog a girl named Jojo and my dads friend.  Dads friend who was named Geoff called aboard. “Jojo and I were going for a little cruise for a few hours and we were wondering if you might want to come.”  We immediately answered with a yes.  We finished our lunch and we hopped on board. as the boat zoomed across the water at like infinity knots, Stingray City came into view

After Stingray City we arrived at somewhere called mini sand bar. Jojo who was driving parked the boat in the shallows so we could easily walk off and on in knee deep water at the farthest point.  We all hopped off and splashed off to the beach. Some other fellows on the beach started a game of cricket which I honestly have no idea how it works.  My brothers got involved and played for a bit which I was a little nervous about because no offense cricket fans, but I thought it was just like baseball but more boring which those fellows playing cricket agreed with because alexander told us when we were leaving that they told him they  thought the same thing. 

It turned out Geoff knew everyone on the mini-sandbar too, so we got to meet even more locals.  The boys jumped right into the cricket game.
Christopher, taking a turn as the bowler.
Anyway it was better than them going swimming in the pond in the middle.  Jojo told me that the pond was filled with dog pee and dead fish. EEWWW!

Katie and Jojo, discussing what is in the pond in the middle of the sandbar.
When we got going in the boat again Geoff asked if we could use some ice cream.  Surprise surprise, surprise!  Yeses came from everyone and soon we were traveling to Kaibo Marina to get ice cream!  Soon we were all tied up at a dock and hunching over a freezer in a store the size of a gas station. Soon we had picked out ice creams and were back on the boat.

We zoomed across the water and were soon in a beautiful canal where Jojo parked the boat on a dock by the first house in on the canal. There dog named Hugo went for a swim which was sort of worrying but Jojo said he would come back.  The house belonged to Geoff and his wife who soon came out of the house to talk. The backyard would be beautiful even without the wonderful wet lot.  The backyard had concrete tiles the shapes of circles making a path around the house.There was also a octangular picnic table.  Soon we were done talking and Geoff drove us back to our boat in his car.

Thanks for a great afternoon, Geoff and Jojo!

Monday, February 24, 2014

The Heat, the Hockey and the Canada!

Posted by Christopher

Now, I know that many of you are sitting in Canada right now, watching hockey in –20 degrees Celsius, but trust me in saying that it’s not a good sign when a Canadian feels room temperature at +25 degrees.  We’ve been seeing temperatures up to around 38 degrees during most days here.  We’ve cranked up the A.C. when it gets unbearable, so we’re fine, we just try to avoid the outdoor blistering heat.

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The thermometer on our boat, showing the current temperature.  This was actually shortly after we started the air conditioning, so the temperature is down a couple of degrees.

The next order of business that’s blogworthy happens to be (ironically) the winter Olympics. We decided that to miss them would be kind of sad and feel a bit like we’re missing too much home. So we decided to find a sports restaurant/bar to watch them at. So Mom found a place called Beaches, which must’ve had at least twenty big screen TV’s lining the walls all playing the women’s gold hockey game. The food was mediocre, but we had so much fun watching the game that we decided to come back the next day for the men’s game against America and then the men’s gold game as well! (Which happened at 7:00 AM our time).
For those who don’t know our family are not big hockey fans and have never watched much of it, but we decide that getting a little bit of Canada would be fun down here.

Also luckily, the bar was run by a Canadian fellow so the channels were Canadian and every time we got a goal the patriotic hockey fans would put down their beers for a split second to cheer!

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Keeping a close eye on the hockey game.
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Some of the other Canadian hockey fans watching the game with us at 7 in the morning.
That about wraps up what the last couple of days have been for me but we’re going to hopefully leave the Caymans, aiming at Honduras in the next few days. Bye!

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Diving to New Kites

Posted by Alexander Feb.23

The kite beach.
I know Dad has already blogged the diving so I’ll keep it brief. Diving was awesome. Going down into the ocean like you’re a superhero? Totally worth it.  It was fantastic to float down to 60 feet and seeing lionfish and all other sorts! There was a really cool moment where a stingray burst out of the sand and sailed off.

Underwater, like a superhero.
Anyway you’ve all already heard plenty about the diving. I’m here to tell you about the kite boarding. After diving we took a few days break from all the early mornings. Then we went and took some kite boarding lessons! The first day the wind was really good so it was going to be easy kite flying. Which as it happens was what the first lesson mainly consisted of. The two young guys that were our teachers told us that kite boarding is about 90% kite flying. So they taught us how to keep the kite where we wanted it and how to get it into the air. Once we had shown some proficiency with this we got to lay belly down in the water and move the kite. By moving it up to the top of it’s arc and then down again to create momentum. This drags you through the water with amazing power. So that was fun.

Hanging out at the kite shed.
Gearing up.  Katie stayed behind and was our photographer, so most of these pictures were taken by her.
Unfortunately the wind was pretty bad the next day and we gave up early. We never got another good wind day so we will finish our lessons somewhere else.

Christopher, modelling his kite harness.
Heading out to the sandbar in the boat.
We went to Camana Bay to watch the Lego movie! They have a theatre there (as far as we can tell the only one on the island). We couldn’t remember the last time we had seen a movie so we were all excited. I was also excited because:

A. The Lego movie had great reviews

B. I’ve been playing with Lego since I can remember and it has always been around for me. It was really cool to see something that had been a toy I’ve loved forever become a movie.

My review? Everything was awesome! The animation looked like they really made it with lego bricks even though I’m pretty sure it was all computer done. It was really funny and even had some touching moments for fans of Lego. I won’t say anything more in case I spoil anything but people should definitely go see the Lego movie.


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After the movie at Camana Bay, this guy was waiting on the dock by our dinghy.  He didn't budge an inch when we got right up close to him.  I guess when you are this big, you don't move if you don't want to.

More kites on the beach.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Camana Bay is Where the Fancy People Shop

Posted by Katie

Walking from the dinghy landing into Camana Bay

Yesterday was like we were back in Florida!  Not because it was hot (which it was) but because we took a trip in the dingy to somewhere called Camana Bay.  The trip there was a little sketchy because the motor wasn’t operating right, but when we got there we new it was worth it.

The dinghy parking was a lot better than the car parking at Camana Bay.  Way less crowded.
The dock was nice and woody and connected to a small island about 60 feet long and 30 feet wide with palm trees and hammocks.  Then the island connected to the real land with a bridge.  Once in the town we walked along the concrete shore line in awe.  Exotic plants grew here and there. Up ahead were a bunch of kids playing in water spouts with blue blocks of some kind.  Behind the mini water park grew a field of palm trees and  grass.  On the left of us there were stores and stores not to mention how many Ice cream shops there were.  On our right was a little cove the we had parked the dingy in.

There were lots of palm trees all around the shopping centre.
Quickly mom and dad decided to get some errands that we had come here for done, first we got mom a cell phone card so she would be able to call people.  We got the card at a place called MACS. Then we went to a book store to find some cruising guides.It was a place called Books and Books.  Alexander and I were as thrilled as ever, we were not aloud to buy books but we were aloud to look for some series that we like so we can buy them on our kindles which are an electronic device for reading. If you have Wi-Fi you can buy books you like online it is a huge store with almost any book but it is smaller than a bread box! 

Looking for ice cream at Camana Bay.
by now naturally we were getting hot so it was time for the ice cream but the problem was, where?  After studying every Ice cream shop we finally found one called Haagen-Dazs We went inside and ate.  Alexander got coffee flavor, Christopher got cookies and cream flavor, Dad got cookies and cream as well, Mom got tiramisu and I got chocolate.  the shop was very high end with cushioned  chairs and fuzzy couches.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Back to school

Posted by Scot

Dive school that is.

Check it out.  We're diving!

In 1987, when I was in my first year of university, I commuted from home.  That meant about an hour and a half driving each way from the suburbs.  I had to arrive early and go back home late to avoid getting stuck in tunnel traffic.

What all that added up to was needing to kill a lot of time on campus, before, after, and between classes.  It didn’t take long for me to find a place to hide out.  My friend, John, from high school, was good pals with Mike, who was the manager of the dive shop on campus.  Mike was our age, but he wasn’t a student.  Instead, he managed the dive shop, and on weekends taught PADI dive courses.

At first, I didn’t really have any interest in diving.  The dive shop was just a place to feel safe and surrounded by friends in an otherwise huge, anonymous institution.  Before long, though, all those pictures of underwater life, and the cool gear in the dive shop got me interested.  I kept making plans to get PADI certified, but money, time and class schedules always got in the way.

Since then, I have made plans to take the course multiple times, but again, life always intervened, and I have never gotten around to it.

So, one of the goals I set myself for this year was to try and get my open water dive ticket.  Now, there are two things the Caymans are famous for.  One is offshore banking.  The other is scuba diving.  After coming up with the dough to live on a boat for the year, we have no need for an offshore bank account (and won’t for some time!).  This time, though, there was no excuse not to go diving.  So last week, Christopher, Alexander and I signed up for our PADI Open Water course with a local dive outfit called Divetech.

On the first day, the Divetech van picked us up at the marina right at 0700.  We drove to the north end of the island, to an area called the Cobalt Coast.  There, we met our instructor, Susan.  Susan is a 70 year old retired lawyer and professional pool player from Texas.  She has over 3000 dives under her belt, and retired to the Caymans 15 years ago to teach diving.  She is pretty much what you would expect from a Texan, a lawyer, and a pool shark.  She doesn’t mince words, and takes no sh%*& from anyone.  Especially a couple of teenage boys who think they know all the answers.  So, in short, she was a perfect dive instructor for us, and kept us on task and efficient through the course.

Susan, keeping us in line.

The first morning, after filling out all the usual liability releases, we watched videos that went through some of the relevant theory and safety ideas.  The videos were clearly made in the early ‘90s, with lots of neon scuba gear and feathered hair.

The boys actually did great with the academics, and I had to really stay on my toes to keep up with them when we went through the questions and answers at the end of each chapter and video.  In the afternoon, we hit the pool.  The first thing we did was a swim test.  20 laps of the pool and 10 minutes of treading water was a joke for my swim club kids.  Again, I found myself working hard to keep up as they laughed through the exercises.

Slogging through the book work, so we can get in the water.

Finally, at the end of day one we got to put on the scuba gear, and go through a bunch of skills in the pool, including buoyancy control, safety breathing, and gear setup.

The next morning started with an open water dive first thing.  We were off the dock by 0800, and enjoying the sights of the Sea Fan reef.  As we worked our way through the requisite open water skills, we saw lionfish, stingrays, and eels, in among the amazing coral and reef fish.  Unfortunately, I wasn’t allowed to bring my camera, since this was serious dive training, and we weren’t supposed to be fooling around with photography.

Christopher's dive gear and weights weighed about as much as he did.  He never once complained, though.

We followed up with another open water dive right away.  After lunch, we finished off the theory portion of the course with a few more videos, questions and answers.  Then, we did the exam!  Again, the boys made me very proud – we all scored 94% or more on the exam, so if you ever want to dive with us, you can feel confident that we at least have the academic part down.

Day 3 was supposed to be comprised of a few more pool skills, and our last two open water dives for our certification.  The pool skills were easy.  We practiced the backward roll into the pool with our dive gear on.  Since we’ve been doing this off our dinghy for the last five months with our snorkel gear on, it was no problem.

Caution no diving.  Except for diving.

The first of our last two open water dives presented a bit more of a challenge.  There were big waves breaking straight onto the dock as we walked out.  Every so often, one would crest up and over the end of the dock, sending salt water washing towards our feet.  As we made our way along, we had to step over one board that had already been knocked loose by the big waves.  Suddenly, right in front of Alexander, another dock board got knocked out, nails and all, by a crashing wave.

As we lowered ourselves down the ladder at the end of the dock, we kept a cautious watch to make sure we jumped in between waves, so that we didn’t get smashed back into the dock.  The dive itself went well, but by the time we got out of the water, the waves were even bigger.  Most of them were now cresting above the height of the dock.

Mastering buoyancy control.  And looking good doing it.

The boys got themselves out during a lull in the waves, and managed to escape getting bashed against the dock.  I wasn’t so lucky.  Just as I started to climb out, a big wave caught me from behind, and threw me straight into the steps of the ladder.  One of the steps caught me in the ribs and knocked the wind out of me.  The pain was significant, and I briefly got knocked off the ladder.  But I grabbed on again and hauled myself out as quickly as I could, since I didn’t want that to happen again.

As we sat and watched the waves breaking over the dock, waiting the appropriate surface interval for our next dive, I could feel the pain in my chest with every deep breath.  Nothing felt displaced or broken, but I figured another run-in with the dock would probably change that, so I approached Susan, and told her I wasn’t keen to go back in today.

Just hanging out under water.

She jumped at the chance to postpone our final dive for another day.  She wasn’t too happy about going back in either, and told us that she probably wouldn’t have taken us out at all if we weren’t strong swimmers.
So, we held off until the following day.  On the morning of day 4, I was still having some pain with a deep breath, but we were determined to finish our course.  The waves had calmed down significantly, so we went back in, and had our best dive yet, staying down at 60 feet for most of our 45 minute dive.  Then, up we came, now certified PADI divers!

Now, a few days later, my chest is still sore, but starting to feel better, and we are already planning our next dive.  The wind and waves are pretty high here right now, so we may hold off until later in our trip, but stay tuned for some attempts at underwater photographs assisted by scuba gear.

Ready for our next dive.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Off to Grand Cayman

posted by Sara

After a bouncy couple of days in the Sister Islands, we were excited to be going to Grand Cayman.  Katie and I tucked into bed about 7:30pm.  I heard Scot and the boys start the engines and pull our lines off the mooring ball in the dark sometime around 8 o’clock.  As I fell asleep I could hear the two boys chirping away at the helm as they took the first watch.  Scot took stood by as second watch for them, then when they went to bed he took over until 1am.  I woke up and did the shift until 6am.

Taking the first watch.

Some people have asked us why we sail at night.  The main goal is to arrive somewhere new in the daylight.  Coming into an unknown port in the pitch black is not a smart move even with all our high tech navigational tools.  At our average speed we can only safely do about a 50nm mile passage within daylight hours (leaving at 7am and arriving at 5:30pm.)  And this leaves little room for error.  Anything longer than 50nm and it’s smarter to leave in the evening and arrive at our destination the following morning with full light.  That also gives us lots of time to check in with customs & immigration, which can often be a long process.
Our passage to Grand Cayman was uneventful with super light winds and small waves.  Really more of a motor than a sail, but a peaceful night.  We arrived at the entrance to North Sound at about 9am.  With a visual inspection we realized that the waypoint our cruising guide had given us for the tricky entrance channel through the reef was clearly wrong.  There was no line of entrance buoys anywhere near the coordinates we had punched into our nav software.  Good thing it wasn’t dark! 

We radioed Port Security to inform them that we were there, only to find out that they required us to sail around to Georgetown, on the west side of the island, to check in with customs (yet again).  This was a 2 1/2 hour sail past where we wanted to be.  We had read that Customs would come to the boat in North Sound, but arguing with Port Security on the radio didn’t seem like a battle we were going to win.  So we continued west around the point and headed south dodging dive boats, fishing boats, snorkel boats, parasailors, and underwater viewing submarines.  We got a beautiful view of 7 mile beach with it’s line of resort hotels. 

The Disney Wonder was in at Georgetown.

We were aimed at the main Georgetown dock off which a huge Disney cruise ship was anchored.  We radioed in as we approached.  There was so much action we didn’t have a clue where we were to go.  The Port Authority kindly sent out a pilot boat to lead us in.  We docked and only took 10 minutes to complete all the paper work (identical to the forms we had completed twice in the last two days in Cayman Brac).  The customs guys were very friendly.  They recommended we grab one of their mooring balls in the harbour and invited us to stay as long as we wanted.  We were exhausted after sailing overnight, so we decided to grab the ball, take a nap and then do a little exploring in the town. 

A pilot boat took us into the concrete customs dock.

Glad to be ashore again!  Sting ray fountain in Georgetown.

The West Bay harbour area is where all the cruise ships come in.  All the stores within a 6 block radius cater to the cruise ship clientele – duty free diamonds, jewellery, watches, t-shirts, and souvenirs.  It was eye-candy for us as we haven’t seen 1st world shopping in 4 months.  The main attractions were real coffee shops (Chai tea latte – yum!)  and a Dairy Queen!  Yes,  I admit, it’s all about the food for me!  There was also a Digicel store so Scot and I picked up Cayman sim cards for our unlocked phones.

This is the spot for tourists to get their money out and buy some Rolexes...

...or Swarovski jewellery.

We were pretty happy just to buy some DQ treats!

Before heading back to the boat, while we still had WiFi, we skyped our great friends who were enjoying the – 20 degree weather at Sun Peaks on our annual family ski trip.  So great to talk to you guys and see all your smiling faces!  I could tell that all the personalities were the same by who wanted to be front and centre in the camera (you know who I’m talking about).  Selfishly, I confess I’m a bit glad that you weren’t out tearing up a foot of new powder snow.

Vancouver did killer whale street art, Calgary did cows, Toronto did moose, and Georgetown did iguanas.  These statues are everywhere.  Some are really great.

By the way, unlocked phones are definitely the way to go if you are planning to travel in the Caribbean.  They have allowed us to have pretty reasonable communication in the Bahamas, Jamaica, and now the Caymans.  Everywhere except Cuba.  Jamaica was super cheap – $10 card for 600 minutes of international calls.  Calls from Grand Cayman are as low as 25cents/minute on evenings and weekends.  Of course skype is the cheapest way to call but we don’t always have good internet.

The following morning we headed back to North Sound.  North Sound is a huge bay.  It is 7 nautical miles from the entrance channel down to the south end.  The bay is very shallow – mostly 7 to 10 feet deep with several pockets of 4 feet, so navigation is tricky.  We finally found the proper entrance channel and snuck in through the reef with 9 feet under our boat.  (If you are going, you can find great instructions for the deepest approach into North Sound here.  This is what we used, and the waypoints are all perfect). 

On the morning we left the west side of the island, 4 cruise ships came in, and apparently a fifth was on the way.  We were glad to get our of their way.

We passed Sting Ray City, a shallow area where the sting rays congregate and all the tourists go to feed them.   We had reserved a spot at a marina, Barcadere, as we are hoping to get some work done on the boat.  The marina is very nice.  Only a year old, with a swimming pool for the kids and a great restaurant.  And most importantly, they have a huge marine store and boatyard attached to the marina.  Ironically, the marina is actually located on the east side of Georgetown just across a narrow part of the island from the West Bay  Harbour where we checked in.  From the marina it’s about a 1/2 hour walk back across the island to the Harbour.  Too bad it took us 3 hours to get the boat all the way around.  At least we know where to find the DQ!

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Visiting the Sisters

Posted by Scot

Leaving Jamaica meant saying goodbye to our friends on Ja.  Good luck Jon and Giovanni!
The dirty secret that cruisers mostly keep to themselves is this: sometimes sailing is awful.  For example, when it is the middle of the night off Punta Maisi at the east end of Cuba, and wind and waves are attacking from two different directions, making you feel like a cork floating in a 4 year-old’s bathtub, you pretty much want to be anywhere but on a sailboat.  And for a pastime who’s attraction is largely based around freedom, at a time like that you are anything but free.  You are stuck on that boat, in the dark and wild seas, with your only option being to ride it out and hope for the best.

Christopher piloting us out of Bloody Bay, Negril, Jamaica
Other times, though, everything seems to come together, and the sailing is more or less perfect.  That is how things set up for us as we left Negril on the western end of Jamaica.  The wind was just slightly ahead of our beam, and the waves were behind us, giving us a fast and stable beam reach.  We only ran our engines long enough to help us get clear of the glass-bottom sight-seeing boats and the parasailors.  Then, we shut them down and let the wind take over.

Dodging the parasailors as we left Jamaica.
Once again, just at sunset, dolphins came to play in our bow wake.  This time they stayed for a good half  hour, jumping, diving, and rolling over as if to say “Welcome to our ocean!”  As the sun went down, the waves got a bit stronger, and once again, a few of us succumbed to the nauseating effect of losing our point of reference.  Soon enough, though, everyone was asleep, and I was on watch as we continued our rhumb line straight at Cayman Brac.

More dolphins!  Amazing ocean visitors to help us on our way.
The rest of the night went by without mishap.  Sara took over again around midnight, and when I woke up at 0600, the cliffs of the Brac were in view.  Sara went back to bed to catch another hour of sleep, and I steered us past the high bluff that gives Cayman Brac it’s name (apparently “Brac” means “bluff” in Scottish).

The bluffs at Cayman Brac.  They looked a lot bigger in person.
We picked up the mooring ball off the customs dock at about 0730, and settled in to wait for the customs officials.  At 1030, they called us on the radio to ask us to bring our paperwork to shore.  I dinghied in, and after the usual round of filling out several sets of paperwork with all our particulars, customs and “mosquito control” came back to the boat with us.  The mosquito control official sprayed the inside of the boat with  an insecticide, then two customs officers did a pretty thorough search of the boat.  They were all polite and pleasant, and gave us lots of good information about the two smaller “Sister Islands” of the Caymans.

Sara scouting for the customs dock at Cayman Brac.
After they were done, and we were cleared to land, we all went ashore to a bakery that was right across the road from the dock.  We bought some of the famous Cayman Brac “round bread” and a few other assorted pastries and goodies.  Right away, we could tell we were in the first world again.  Everything was clean and modern, and for the first time in two countries, no one was trying to hustle us for money on the street.

Back at the boat, we released the mooring ball and headed south, trying to find another spot to moor that was protected from the roll and swell we were getting from the northeast wind.  Unfortunately, Cayman Brac and Little Cayman both lie in a north east direction, so the wind and waves marched right down the side of the island, and we couldn’t get away from it.  We even tried rounding the southern tip, but then we were exposed to the bigger eastern swell coming across the Caribbean.

Finally, we picked up a mooring ball and decided the best way to get out of the swell was to get off the boat.  So we dinghied in to another little town, and marvelled at the modern grocery store with all the food we haven’t seen for months.  After a quick shop to top up our provisions, we headed out for pizza at the local Popo Jeb’s, and the kind owner from the Philippines put on the “the Hunger Games, Catching Fire” for us.  We all sat back, enjoying the delicious pizza and the air conditioning, and watched the first half of the movie.

We  saw a couple of well tended cemeteries on Cayman Brac, right by the ocean.  Monashee in the background.
The swell calmed down a bit when we got back to the boat, and we watched the second half of the movie there, on our own TV.  Despite the ongoing rocking, which made us feel like we were still at sea, we were soon all asleep.

This morning, we woke early as the waves picked up, rocking us even harder.  We called customs, and asked them to come and check us out, figuring that if we were going to be rocking this much, we might as well be moving.  I’m not sure why, but both here and Jamaica require you to check in and out of every port, so anytime you move from one spot to another, you need to see customs again.  They just fill out another copy of the same paperwork, and send you on your way, so I’m not sure exactly what the purpose is, but when in Rome…

We sailed on over to Little Cayman, and picked up another mooring ball.  One of the great things about the Caymans is that they have free government maintained mooring balls all around the islands.  Apparently at Grand Cayman, there are more than 100.  These have been placed in an effort to keep the pristine sea bottom untouched by anchors and chains.  For us, it is great, since it is easy to pick up and drop a mooring ball, without having to worry about our anchor holding.  If only there wasn’t such a swell all around the islands, the place would be perfect.

On Little Cayman, we have spent the day snorkelling and checking out the world famous reefs.  This is really a diver’s mecca, and this is the first time I’ve really wished we had tanks and dive gear (and knew how to use them).  One of the moorings had a beautiful wall dropping off into the depths right beside it, and the underwater cliff was covered in coral and fish.  It would have been a great dive.

The wall off Little Cayman.
Alexander, practicing his free diving on the wall.  Going down...
... hanging out...
... and coming back up.  This kid is part fish.
Now, we are sitting at the south end of Little Cayman, waiting to make an overnight run to Grand Cayman.  Once again, we are being tossed around in the swell, and it feels like we should be sailing.  But if we leave too early, we will get to Grand Cayman before the sun comes up, and we don’t want to enter the shallow North Sound in the dark.  So here we wait, reading books, playing games, and, when the rocking gets too crazy, jumping in the water for another swim.

Swimming - the best way to get off a rocking boat.