Its hard to believe that we've been here 4 days. It is very strange to go from Spanish speaking latin countries where we knew we would get good ceviche and good local beer, because we knew 2 Spanish words, cervesa and ceviche, to Grand Cayman where we are tied up to a mooring just offshore of a Burger King fast food restaurant. I guiltily admit that we have already had 2 burger and fries meals in 4 days.
Arriving and checking in here has been such a pleasant experience. The greeting and welcome from the Port Captain was so professional and 'welcoming', the first Port Captain who has welcomed us into their port. The Customs and Immigration Officers came to our boat to fill in the forms, which they brought with them and would have been happy to photocopy our documents if needed, but we already had that taken care of. The 2 officers, a man and a women kept up a lively conversation in patois we had trouble following, but they included us and we had conversations about our teenage children, who seem to be the same the world over.
We are now tied to a mooring provided by the Port Authority; they prefer we use these rather than damage any of the beautiful coral growing everywhere. The mooring if free. There is a public dock closeby where we can safely leave our dinghy while going ashore.
In the last 4 days we had a day of recovery and a valiant attempt to dry out the boat, 2 days ashore looking for groceries, a marine related store, laundry and a bank. The bank part is a joke, this is the Cayman Islands and of course there are lots of banks. And the Scotiabank here recognises Canadian account holders. There does seem to be a major Canadian business presence here, including Tim Hortons. At the risk of sounding very unworldly we admit that we enjoy seeing all of these symbols of home. We even have 2 TV channels coming through with a clearer picture than we had in Sidney and they're showing TV shows we remember from home.
Yesterday I did my first paid work in a long time. I repaired the mainsail of a boat which is moored near us owned by our newest friends, Lelia and Jeff on Ivory Moon. They are Australians who bought their boat in Florida and are heading in the other direction - going the 'right way'. They were attempting to leave a couple of days ago and ripped out a section of their mainsail. That brought them back for a few days for repairs. Once I had the machine out I repaired our genoa, which was coming apart in quite a few places. In fact what I found was that all of the sun-exposed part of the sail when furled was so brittle that when I pulled too hard on it the actual fabric ripped. So now it has a brand new UV protection strip all around the sail. This is a band of sunbrella fabric about one foot wide all around the leach and foot of the sail. We hope this will extend the life of the sail. If not we have a spare Yankee which though we aren't crazy about will do in a pinch.
We still have a good day's work to do with caulking all of the places that seem to need it, repairing our bow sprit platform which became detached from its frame during all of the upwind pounding it endured, and cleaning the salt off the interior. Fortunately we had a good rain a couple of nights ago which took most of the salt off the exterior. Having been boat dwellers in British Columbia where we have lots of rain we were unprepared for the damage the salt does to EVERYTHING. Its like acid burning away at the stainless, wood, glass, plastic, interior fabric, our skin. Speaking of wood - all of the brightwork which we so lovingly scraped and sanded and cetoled looks terrible. In all of the exposed areas it looks like it has never been done. And that is in just 6 months. Not sure how to deal with it. Just let it all go and scrape the rest off or slap more cetol on to protect the wood knowing that at some point in the future it will all come off again anyway. We have alot of wood, so that decision is hard to make.
So far we have not had time to venture too far into the island, but we intend to remedy that by renting a car for a day to have a good look around. We must say however that right from our boat here we are in the most beautiful water I have ever seen. It is so clear and blue, torquoise where the white sand is and darker blue where the coral is. The water is teaming with fish.
2 days ago Tony and I were cleaning the bootstripe of the boat, which needs to be done every couple of weeks - not an unpleasant job if you like to be in the water, which we do. I was working on the sunny side. The boat was pitching quite alot, so when I got the side done I swam around the other side to find Tony just about to exit. I had by mask on so when I looked underwater I saw a huge fish just hanging there in the shade watching us. I recognised it just by its attitude. I called to Tony to come back in and have a look at this huge fish - it was about 4 feet long - and he confirmed it as a baracuda and we both got out of the water really fast, he behind me pushing me up the ladder. Its hard to climb our ladder with fins on - but not impossible. It stayed with us for awhile and though people say they will not bother anyone they look menacing enough not to take any chances.
We also snorkelled a couple of hundred yards away from our boat on a wreck of a big ship. Its marked with red floats all around it. Its all there but it is completely broken up and sitting on the bottom in about 15 feet. That was a great place to snorkel, lots of really interesting fish, a few very big tarpin, which gave me a bit of a fright initially as I thought they were baracuda, a many species I have never seen before.
On the way back we swam over coral reefs which are everwhere, and we saw a couple of big lobsters running along the sand. There is a fishing restriction in the harbour so these creatures are not constantly hiding.
We have changed our plans about Cuba which was to be our next destination. As we need to be leaving the Caribbean by the last week or so of May we have decided to head from here to Antigua, which will be our jumping off point for the Atlantic crossing. This will likely be another upwind bash which we don't look forward to, but it will mean we'll have a few weeks rest and repair time before heading out. We will also have the opportunity to stop into Puerto Rico where we should be able to do major provisioning as they have a Costco.