Diving Cayman Islands
02 June 2013 | 19 20'N:78 49'W, on passage Cayman-Jamaica
We made landfall at Grand Cayman, the westernmost of the Cayman islands. Here we found a polished and prosperous community, rapidly growing, now about 50,000, and a place that should be recognized as a popular tourist destination, including cruise ships. The lovely 7-mile beach is fine white sand and gentle, warm water. Rent jet skis if you wish or just beach lounge. Numerous resorts range from all-inclusive to the Ritz-Carlton. The roads are in excellent shape, and familiar restaurants abound: Subway, Pizza Hut, Hard Rock Cafe, etc., and food of any genre is available, from sushi to jerk chicken. My friend who lives there, described it as a "Nanny Island," where people can come to be catered to and not have to face unnecessary challenges. I like that description, I was also calling it "Little Houston," with clean SUV's the common vehicle, and strip malls everywhere. OK, there is one challenge different than Houston, they drive on the left in the Caymans. We rented a car and had an exciting time while I became reacquainted with that driving position.
For me, after spending months in Guatemala, Belize, and Mexico I found the culture of the Caymans to be too simple, give me something with a little diversity and challenge! We did take advantage of the underwater natural resources here. Dive shops are plentiful, all very well qualified, and they will take good care of you. We hooked up with Don Foster's Dive, and every morning while waiting for our dive boat, a bus load of doughy cruise ship clients would show up for beginning snorkel lessons, and we got to see the dive masters in full nanny mode. Fortunately much more was expected of the certified dive clients and they gave us great experiences underwater. One of the first was the wreck Kittiwake, a former US submarine rescue ship, intentionally sunk in about 80 feet of water. We were able to follow our divemaster guide through the ship, see the pilot house, engine room, crew quarters, and even the restroom with still reflective mirrors on the wall. In the US, diving in enclosed spaces such as that would normally require advanced training, but that did not seem to be a concern here... We also dove on the Grand Cayman wall, a beautiful coral sculpture garden in clear warm water. Nick took to the diving with confidence and enthusiasm, no hesitation entering the sunken ship even though it was only his second dive after completing his training. He's a great dive buddy! We also spent a night at Little Cayman, 80 miles to the east of Grand Cayman, and one of the world's top 3 dive sites according to some. This was truly spectacular, brilliant water, big fish, and a vertical wall with all sorts of creatures growing from it, from large barrel sponges to numerous species of delicate coral. Life is much simpler on Little Cayman, few roads, and a few high quality dive resorts. This is an easy place to get to with fantastic diving or just beach lounging, and the non-challenging Caymanian culture (if that's your fancy).
Weather weather weather: I spend an hour on this daily, with internet downloads and listening to an expert meteorologist on the long range HF radio. Yesterday, June 1st, locals greeted each other with "happy hurricane day," the first day of the official season. A few days ago tropical storm Barbara made landfall on Pacific Mexico, and the remnants have spilled into the Gulf of Mexico and affecting the weather well to our position, mainly with unstable high moisture air, lots of rain and squalls. Now a storm is expected to spin up in the Gu-Mex and hit Florida this week; that is far enough away to not be a safety concern here but local conditions are far from the balmy dry conditions that I enjoyed for the most part over the winter in the Caribbean. The upwind sail from western Cuba to Grand C was slow but uneventful, now every passage is spiked with unexpected powerful squalls, lightning storms, high wind and rain. Last night was a stormy and exhausting one to remember f or a long time. Now, we are on the final approach to Jamaica, and the end of the upwind work for this journey. Long range forecasting shows no sign of severe weather in the next two weeks along our intended path to Guatemala. We are looking forward to jerk chicken and Red Stripe tomorrow!
Photo above by Nick, me entering a swim-through tunnel at 90 feet depth.