Monthly Archives: March 2016

Throw Back Thursdays on Grand Cayman Island

Our month of Thursdays, on Grand Cayman Island provided ample opportunity to “throwback” to our 1982 visit for our honeymoon.  Back then the Caymans’ unparalleled scuba diving drew us.  Thirty-four years later, Grand Cayman provided a great stepping stone in our passage north through the Caribbean Sea.  Our visit provided time to get up close and personal with manta rays, snorkel off pure white beaches, visit with Eulalie’s sister Julie up from Jamaica, and to reflect on the changes that 34 years has worked upon this wonderful island and ourselves (see picture at end of post for recreation of our honeymoon pose).

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We were all smiles on our honeymoon in 1982.  Eulalie is wearing an Institute for Marine Studies tee shirt.  We met at IMS in 1978 where we earned masters degrees in ocean resources management and policy.  Thirty-four years later the ocean and its resources still absorb and fascinate us.

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 The above map shows the Cayman Islands, north of Providencia.

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Elizabeth Jean at the customs dock in Georgetown.  We arrived at dawn with four large cruise ships, one of which looms at anchor in the background.

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A short walk from the waterfront  is the town square.  This statue of a man using his sextant celebrates the Island’s maritime heritage.  The plaque in front of the monument catalogs vessels and crew lost at sea.

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Colorful tiles telling the Islands’ history also line the town square.  This tile depicts the Wreck of the Ten Sail, the 1793 tragedy involving HMS Convert and the nine vessels it was escorting to the United States.  The Convert’s captain, believing he had already cleared Grand Cayman, ordered a change of course bringing the fleet on to the reefs on the Island’s south side.  Caymanians  came to the aid of the 10 ships and rescued the crews and passengers. Despite their efforts, eight lives were lost as a result of the wreck.   Among those lost was the master of the Britannia, who went down with his ship.

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The National Museum is a worthwhile stop on the down town tour.  “Bending the Jib”, by Robert Farlow captures the Caymanian Seafaring tradition.

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Sepia toned photos lined the wall at our marina’s restaurant creating a warm ambiance for sailing and history buffs alike.

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We spent a morning at Stingray City, a sandbar that attracts rays in large numbers.  Eulalie was so taken by a particular ray, Eric was not sure he would get her to come home.

Cayman Catamaran

Although the hotel where we stayed on our honeymoon (along with most of Eric’s hair) has long since disappeared, we were able to find this catamaran on 7-mile beach to recreate the picture from our honeymoon.

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“When you see the Southern Cross” Stephen Stills

Since fall  2014, Elizabeth Jean had been taking us south.  The further south we  moved, the more Alpha Crucis and the other stars in the Southern Cross winked their welcome.  We reached latitude 7 degrees, 16 minutes North, our furthest point south, in the spring of 2015 and lingered between 7 and 8 degrees North through this winter.  As we sailed due north from Providencia to Grand Cayman Island, the Southern Cross appeared nightly astern, framed by Elizabeth Jean‘s solar panel arch.  We were moving north fast towards more familiar skies and stars.

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“Providence has its appointed hour for everything” Part II

Rondon had eluded us and our friends Rod and Debbie from Si Bella since San Andres.  Now on our last day in Providencia, the Rondon was coming together at last.  Four hours of grating coconut, pressing the meat to produce coconut milk, boiling the milk and adding yams and the seafood rundown (hence the name Rondon) on the reefs yielded a savory traditional dish.  As the Rondon is an assemblage of the island’s bounty, we had assembled the Rondon cookout by getting to know some of the locals over several weeks of exploring Providencia while waiting for our weather window.

We first met Giovanni, the Rondon’s chef, at Paradise, a grass hut on the beach near Morgan’s head.  At Paradise, Giovanni cooked us fried fish.  He later led us up the island’s highest peak.   During the hike, Giovanni spoke excitedly about preparing us Rondon.   Kideson Bush, another of Paradise’s owners, delivered us to the beach for the Rondon in his fishing boat.  We had previously hired Kideson to take us to some of the island’s prime snorkeling reefs.  While we had come to trust Kideson and Giovanni, until the Rondon was served we were not quite sure whether the whole idea would end in disaster or success.IMG_0614

Welcome to Paradise!!!!!

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Giovanni fries plantains over the fire.  Giovanni’s grandmother was Italian.  His mother was a chef in restaurants on the Colombia mainland and San Andres.  Giovanni inherited her love of food preparation.

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Succulent and fresh from the sea.  We knew Giovanni could cook fish, but could he pull off Rondon for an anchorage of hungry cruisers?

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Paradise is understated and tranquilo.  Giovanni’s son is in the foreground.  Kideson Bush kicks back in the chair while his Swiss wife, Judy lounges in the hammock.  Judy explained that she visited Providencia over an eight year period before deciding to make her life there with Kideson.

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We spent a day snorkeling with Kideson and Judy.  At times enormous schools of small fish engulfed us in a blizzard of flashing silver.  Photo credit: Rod Merrit.

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Metal signs celebrating the island’s flora and fauna marked the path up Providencia’s highest peak.

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Giovanni giving thumbs up on his way to the top.

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Conch and lobster wait their turn.

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Giovanni’s wife pressing coconut milk from grated coconut.

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Almost done.

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Plated and ready to eat.

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A good time was had by all.

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The day after the Rondon, taking advantage of a three to four day weather window,  Elizabeth Jean departed for the 360 mile sail to Grand Cayman.  Providencia had more than lived up to its name and to its reputation as a cruiser’s delight.  Photo credit: Rod Merritt.

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“Providence has its appointed hour for everything” Gandhi

Providencia, the second Colombia territory on our path north through the western Carribean, has provided refuge for sailors for centuries.  The notorious pirate/privateer Henry Morgan used the island as a base for raiding Spanish settlements and way laying Spanish vessels.  Lying 55 miles north of its sister island San Andres, the island was the site of an English Puritan colony established in 1629.  These English roots provide a cultural heritage distinct from San Andres more Hispanic orientation.  Our 6 week stay in Providencia had its appointed hour for leisurely walks, coco locos in Paradise, supplementing our crew with Elena Leonard, snorkeling in champagne clear water, mountain hikes, our first anchor watch, and a Rondon feast.

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Providencia, as shown on the above chart, is a convenient stepping stone north after San Andres on our way north in the Caribbean Sea.

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The albatross-eye view shows sail boats anchored between Providencia and Santa Catalina.  A colorful bridge connects the two islands.  Photo Credit Robert Britton.

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The french pirate Luis Aury established a fort between 1818 and 1821.

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Colorful mosaics, benches and walkways greet the visitor along the waterfront.

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A walking bridge connects Providencia and Santa Catalina Islands.

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Remains of the old fort.

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The Virgin  overlooks the anchorage.

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The Virgin’s view of Elizabeth Jean.

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Providencia provided the location for Elena Leonard, who had helped us in our first leg from Seattle to San Francisco, to rejoin us to help with night passages as we proceeded north towards Mexico.

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Elizabeth Jean shared the anchorage with several other sail boats.  The sandy bottom provided good holding for Rochna anchor.  The water was so clear that Eric could stand on the bottom and measure the distance from the keel to the sand by snorkeling to the bottom and standing next to the keel.  Several cold fronts hemmed us in the anchorage for several weeks.  One night the winds blew to just under gale force and we took turns standing watch over the anchor as the Colombian Coast Guard Vessel’s flashing red lights lit the harbor is at circulated to make sure all was well.

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