Stingray City

Welcome to Day 2 of Rode Trip’s afternoon pleasure cruise! We had a calm night at anchor and Brian, Matt, Jessica, and I all felt well rested after our game night of nearly endless rounds of Settlers of Catan. Brian cooked up a tasty breakfast and soon we had hauled up the anchor (thanks Muscle Matt!) and headed toward Stingray City.

Stingray City is located at the northeast end of North Sound. This string of sandbars is home to hundreds of stingrays. Years ago the stingrays would congregate here because fishermen would stop here to clean their catch. These days, the feeding is done by tourists. Despite it being yet another treacherous day…

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…it was easy to find Stingray City as Rode Trip neared the sandbar. We found ourselves among the many tourists who’d arrived via cruise ship and weren’t letting the rain to spoil their nine hour stop at Grand Cayman.

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We anchored as near the sandbar as our draft would allow and took the dinghy straight into the crowd of tourists and stingrays. The dinghy anchor was down and it was easy for us to jump into the warm water and join the chaos.

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The water was waist deep. All around us people were bunched around their respective guides oohing, aahing, and screeching at the stingrays. One of the guides lifted up a stingray clear out of the water and placed it onto someone’s back! They stingrays weren’t paying much attention to us yet, they were happy to be fed by the tourist groups.

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So Brian brought out our secret weapon…squid! The stingrays like to eat squid and so we’d purchased a box of frozen squid at the Chandlery. Brian coaxed the stingrays nearer and nearer.

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The stingrays were so near that I began scampering about just like a screeching tourist to avoid any possibility of touching the stingrays. Brian firmly reminded me to keep my feed on the ground as I wouldn’t want to land on one of the stingrays. I calmed down just long enough to observe the first feeding. Woah!

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Brian said that the stingray felt like a giant vacuum as it sucked the squid out of his hand. I’d had plenty of excitement already and positioned myself on the edge of the dinghy to watch the tourist and stingray show while Brian, Matt, and Jessica continued to swim with these magnificent creatures.

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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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