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.

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