Rode Trip’s Pleasure Cruise

Rode Trip had been hard at work lately sailing Brian and I all around the Carribean. Now at Grand Cayman Island, we were waiting for an ideal weather window to sail once more on a journey across the Atlantic Ocean. Rode Trip was waiting right along with us, bobbing around on the mooring ball anxious to break free! So we thought this a good opportunity for a pleasure sail to see the sights Grand Cayman Island offers from the water. We invited our friends, Matt and Jessica (sv/Serendipity) along for a day sail that we’d packed full of fun.

Anyone who has ever traveled with any of the Grandjeans knows that we sure do cram an itinerary; Brian and I didn’t skimp on this trip either. We’d start with a sail from Georgetown, Grand Cayman into the North Sound. The Main Channel to North Sound was approximately 12 miles from our mooring ball; not to mention another five miles through to the south end of the sound. No sweat for ‘ol Rode Trip, an easy reach north with a few tacks to get around the point and into the sound. We’d read the Main Channel was well marked so that we could easily navigate through the reefs and sandbars. So we figured a three hour sail then plenty of time once inside the sound for the other activities before we’d sail back: swimming with stingrays at Stingray City, topping off fuel and water at Barcadere Marina, shopping at the Chandlery at Harbor House Marina.

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Matt and Jessica arrived promptly at 8:00am and secured their dinghy to our mooring ball to save our spot for our return. We were suited and sunscreened and I’d served up hot coffee to get our day rolling. It was overcast, but warm, and after a sunny week at Grand Cayman we knew the clouds would clear in no time.

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We sailed away from the hullaballoo of the newly arrived cruise ships. Matt got right to work helping me with sail handling; quite an experience to see how he and Jess may have cruised had they done so 30 years ago with hank on sails. I was thrilled to have the additional crew! We raised the stay sail so that Matt could truly experience a cutter rig.

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Jessica and I were fascinated by the newest visitors to the boat, baby crabs. Several of them had made their way on deck having crawled up the lines extending from the mooring ball.

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Within the first hour of our sail rain drops had started to fall. It wasn’t enough to rain on our parade…until we neared the northern point of the island and the next storm approached.

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Brian quickly set the windvane and Matt and I reefed the main sail. We took down the stay sail. Then we all piled inside to stay as dry as possible. These clouds looked like they’d pack a whollop!

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Our three hour sail turned into a five hour sail as we were finally approaching the Main Channel into North Sound. On the contrary to “well marked” per our guide book, the channel was difficult to navigate with few and confusing buoys. There were tall stakes in the water which we believed to mark the edge of the reef followed by two, small red and green buoys. In addition to translating the buoys, which weren’t on our chart, the weather had remained rainy and foggy. It was difficult to see at a distance and difficult to see through the water to visually navigate depths, coral, etc. We selected the second channel which we felt we could best navigate and headed inside. Very slowly and cautiously we went along with only on loud, hard THUD! We’d hit something and it was not the type of soft grounding we were used to; we’d actually hit something. Fortunately we’d been moving slowly and we continued onward without damage (thank goodness for full keeled bottoms of lead!).

Brian and I had the jitters as we continued through North Sound but no more encounters with the bottom. We did find the Barcadere Marina in the southwestern corner of the sound with a beautifully marked, wide, deep channel entrance.

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We docked Rode Trip and were very pleased with the staff and services at the Barcadere. We spoke with the owner/manager when we first arrived and with his invitation we took a walk around the marina and the adjacent Georgetown Yacht Club pool area. Everything was spic and span. Dockage was $ .90/ft and we’d be happy to stay if we had a long stay planned. But, it was mid-afternoon on our pleasure cruise day and we still had much to see!

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From the Barcadere we motored along the southern shore of the sound to the Harbor House Marina where we anchored. We dinghied to the Chandlery. This was a good stop! Brian and I topped off our list of supplies with hypalon glue for our ever-leeky dinghy and spare 1/4 inch, double braid rope for the windvane.

Now it was about 5:30pm. Still dreary and getting darker by the minute it was clear that we’d miss Stingray City today. Luckily, Matt and Jessica had brought their crash pants (because they have experienced traveling with the Grandjeans) and were happy to slumber party aboard Rode Trip. Still at anchor on the southern end of the sound, we took the dinghy into the Grand Harbor Shopping Center to pick up some dinner at the grocery store. Along the channel wall we spotted several iguanas. One was even swimming across the water!

That evening we enjoyed a sunset cruise back toward the northern end of the sound where we anchored for the night. We added pineapple rum drinks and several games of Settlers of Catan to the newly extended itinerary.

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Snorkeling Cayman

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The water here at Grand Cayman is BEAUTIFUL! From our mooring ball we can look down and clearly see the bottom 40 feet below. There is a small reef directly under the boat that I took a long look at while scrubbing Rode Trip’s bottom, but I was long overdue to go explore the reefs. I hopped in the dinghy and headed over to Serendipity to pick up Matt. We headed to the far south end of Georgetown harbor and tied the dinghy up to one of the numerous mooring balls on the reef.

The reef here was completely different than under Rode Trip. The sandy bottom was only about 15 feet down and the coral reef came up nearly to the surface in places like mountains reaching up from the bottom. The reef was huge and the coral was colorful and healthy looking.

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There were deep canyons and crevices with fish lurking in them.

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The largest fish we saw were tarpon that were about 3-4 feet long and they were patrolling the deep sand canyons.

It felt like flying as we circled over the reef and headed out to where it dropped off to about 25 feet of water and the bottom became sandy. We even dove down and peeked into the caves near the bottom. We may have surprised the SCUBA divers who were coming out of one of the caves.

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The parrot fish were everywhere and not shy at all. They went on eating even as we approached as close as we wanted.

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We headed in to shallower water and found a small school of squid near shore. As we approached we startled them and they changed from red to white and back to red before taking off.

On the way back to the dinghy we spotted a big grouper eyeing us from the bottom.

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Once we climbed out at the dinghy we decided we were still having fun and wanted to stop at another location on the way back towards Serendipity. The “wreck of the Cali” is a highly advertised location here in Georgetown so we thought we would check it out. Lots of restaurants and bars have free access from their decks where you can rent a locker or snorkel equipment and then swim 300-400 feet out to the wreck. We were in the dinghy so we didn’t have to walk past the deck bar wearing our flippers and mask, although in hindsight it may be fun to climb out of the water at one of the deck bars, have a drink in full snorkel attire dripping wet and then return to the water merman style to return to Rode Trip…maybe that will be tomorrows adventure. After grabbing an empty mooring ball we dove in and swam over the entire 200 feet of the wreck. The fish here were a hiding out under the old steel plating.

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This fish made me wish that spearfishing was allowed here! I really like hogfish.

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We ended our wreck tour with the giant engine of the ship.

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Grand Cayman Island

Our passage from Cienfuegos, Cuba to Georgetown, Grand Cayman was uneventful. We traveled for 45 hours in very light, east winds. Clearing customs was a breeze. We hailed Port Security on VHF 16 when we were approximately five miles from Georgetown. We provided information pertaining to our vessel; name, length, draft, beam, number of persons aboard, previous port, and estimated time of arrival. Grand Cayman’s hotel lined Seven Mile Beach was a stark contrast to Cuba’s untouched mountainous landscape. We hailed Port Security a second time upon approaching the Government Dock and the very helpful officer directed us to the Customs Dock. It took us longer to dock Rode Trip against the stone wall than to clear customs. Brian and I each completed a form, we provided our passports, and Brian surrendered his Hawaiian Sling. Then we left the dock and secured Rode Trip to a free mooring ball just off Georgetown’s shoreline.

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Grand Cayman is the largest of three sister islands (Little Cayman and Cayman Broc) which are situated in the northwestern Carribean Sea. The islands are a British Overseas Territory and are known for their banking industry and tourism. Grand Cayman is a popular diving location; the clear and well protected waters are home to an abundance of coral and fish. When Columbus found the islands he had named them La Tortugas because at that time there was an abundance of sea turtles here. During the 1600’s and 1700’s the Cayman Islands became a provisioning stop for vessels in the Carribean because the conveniently situated islands provided turtles and also fresh water wells. Sailing vessels could stock their food stores with fresh meat, turtles which they often kept alive on board, and fresh water from limestone wells. Turtle is still eaten in the Caymans and the turtle population has been maintained through farming. Brian and I planned to reprovision at Grand Cayman prior to our passage across the Atlantic Ocean. Unfortunately we won’t be catching any sea turtles to keep on board but we should find everything we need. This is quite possibly the most expensive location we could have chosen since each $1.00USD equals $ .80CID. There were so many sights to see…not to mention making all the necessary stops for provisioning.

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First on our agenda was connecting with Mike at Compass Marine to arrange the replacement of a piece of our rigging. During a rigging inspection back at Jamaica, Brian found a kink on one of the inner stays. A kink is not a good sign because it means that the stay is weakened. Since the stay holds up our mast it needed to be replaced. Brian took down the stay and we were able to arrange for Mike to pick it up at the dinghy dock. Mike’s assessment was that the kink resulted from improper tightening. Fortunately Compass Marine had 9/32 stainless in stock but had to order swaged fittings in order to make our new stay. It was Wednesday and Mike thought the project would be done by Monday the following week. Brian and I were thrilled with Compass Marine; Mike was prompt and straightforward and the new stay was made right.

Rigging in progress, now we had several days to one month’s worth of food stores and replace yet another vital piece of our boat…the vent fan for the composting toilet.