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!

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