The "Marlin" high on the wind off Grand Cayman
Clearing in on a Caribbean island on a Sunday is rarely a good idea. Sunday belongs to God and the family, and the authorities pay dearly for the formalities. We can't change it, of course it's Sunday when the rugged cliff in the north of Cayman Brac appears in front of us. However, this Sunday belongs not only to God and family, but also to the dead. Our call on Channel 16 is answered by Raymond, a self-proclaimed Ship-in-Traffic-Advisor for the Cayman Islands and a distant relative of Lady X, who is being buried in the Creek Cemetery. Whether we could pay homage to the deceased and contribute six long gun salutes to the ceremony, the request comes via VHF
We can't shoot, but the smoke canister is ready in the pilothouse. The can is suspiciously light. I send four full long tones towards the mourning community, the last two are only squeezed out of the can with great effort. You probably need a classic brass foghorn to blow it in. As a thank you for our contribution to the funeral, the authorities spare us on Sunday and save 60 euros for the board cash. Cayman Islands. If you think of banks in Europe, numbered accounts, lots of money, maybe palm trees and cruise ships. Of all this, there is not much to see on Cayman Brac. Only 2000 local islanders lead a contemplative and quiet life here, in the main season there are 150 tourists who only have one thing on their mind: diving, diving and diving again.
Under water or high above
Around 50 diving murings are anchored in the seabed around Cayman Brac alone. South of the island is the deepest part of the Caribbean, over 7000 meters it goes down here. The few who do not stick their heads under water hang in their climbing harness on the 50-meter-high cliff in the east of the island. The climbing routes have names such as "Blackbeard’s Revenge" (Black Beard's Revenge) or "The devil wears flippers" (The devil wears fins). The only spectators of the daring climbing tours are the numerous boobies that have their breeding grounds here on the cliffs.
However, there are no sailing boats. Every season, a handful tie up at the mooring in front of the post office in the north-west of the islands, mostly in transit, on their way to Jamaica or Cuba. No bay, no estuary, no gaps, pure rocky coast with a few meters of sandy bottom and behind it the steep face loved by divers. The swell from the east hits us everywhere, runs around the island and makes the coffee cups slide on the breakfast table. Still, we like it here. We like the calm that the residents exude, hitchhike across the island or let Raymond tell us stories from his days as a great sailor. His house, right on the beach, was hit by a hurricane a few years ago. Now he's building again, during the day. In the evening he sits on his radio and tries to contact the passing cruise ships. His children prefer to play with our girls and let the stories be stories. A few days after we arrived, we almost fall out of bed at four in the morning. Breakfast at the table is out of the question. "Worse than at sea," the crew mumbled to themselves, loosened the lines and flees with an unclear destination. We had already cleared out to be on the safe side, because the strong wind was announced. On the neighboring island of Little Cayman we find a diving ring behind an offshore reef, which at least provides some protection.
The calm before the storm
A huge barracuda, a pot-bellied grouper and a small reef shark cavort under the "Marlin"; not to forget the schools of small fish that shoot to the surface with every crumb, no matter how tiny, that falls into the water. With all the enthusiasm for the underwater world, we don't care much about the necessary sailing strategy and in the evening we find out that we missed the wind in order to get to Grand Cayman before the trendy north wind. The proverbial calm before the storm prevails. 85 nautical miles engines with a 165 hp engine that hurts. Good advice is expensive. Between December and April, the northwestern Caribbean is regularly hit by extensive cold fronts. They are particularly cold, windy and rainy in Belize, Mexico, Kub and the Cayman Islands. All of a sudden the temperature drops by 10 degrees, the wind turns from south to west / north-west and, depending on the region, starts to blow at around 25 to 40 knots. The anchorages, which are well protected during the prevailing eastern trade winds, become untenable.
Photo gallery: "Marlin" blog Caymans
The colder it gets in Florida, the more pronounced and violent the fronts are. One of these fronts is ahead of us. And after the forecast in the Windfinder even reached the 40-knot mark in between, we get nervous. We still don't want engines, so we decide to use the harbingers of the front the next evening to sail the 85 nautical miles to Grand Cayman.
The wind is supposed to arrive at four o'clock in the morning, by then we would certainly be in the cover of the island. It's going to be a nervous night, but the plan works. At dawn we stand in the south of Grand Cayman and hear the announcements of the cruise ships on channel 16. It is not possible to disembark, the first steamer sets course for Jamaica, the roadstead in front of Georgetown is untenable even for the huge cruisers. We pick up a mooring in a rollercoaster maneuver in Spott Bay in the south and begin our game of rabbits and hedgehogs on the main island of Grand Cayman.
In the grip of the cold fronts
The weather has a firm grip on us. As soon as a cold front has passed through, the east swell sets in and drives us from our southern refuge back to the main road in front of Georgetown. The track is permanently burned into our memory, after a week we know the way in our sleep, we know where the mural are and it is not uncommon for us to anchor in the middle of the night just to roll a little less. We would like to continue sailing, because expensive supermarkets, duty free shops and banks are not exactly our taste. But no weather window is long enough for the 130 nautical miles to Cuba. It blows constantly from the north, northwest, northeast at 20 knots.
Of course there is also a marina, safely located in the Grand Cayman lagoon, but it has its price. 120 euros per night. Without electricity, of course, it will be billed separately. Even if we had the money, the fun ends with the prices.
Not only do we wish the devil this weather, the Caymanians are also starting to grumble because the tourists stay away from them. Up to five cruisers with 4000 passengers each invite their guests ashore for shopping and sightseeing every day. If they disappear, the capital will be deserted. The diving schools in the west close for several days because they cannot get their guests into the boats due to the swell. The white Seven Mile Beach with its little umbrellas and deck chairs is deserted - and that in the high season in January. Nevertheless, we are starting to like the island, because as if by chance we met the German ENT doctor Uli, his wife Claudi and their four children in the island's sailing club. We are naturalized in no time and learn everything about the island that is not in the travel guide.
The children leave the rocking ship
At the next cold front, our children move in with their new friends with a suitcase without batting an eyelid. "This time you can go south alone in the middle of the night!" But let's not do it, the "Marlin" bravely wobbles with us on its buoy through the strong wind, which earns us the respect of the domino-playing locals who have been sitting at the dinghy dock for year and day and tell so many horror stories about the boats on reefs knowledge. Shortly before our visa expires, the situation is cleared up, the wind is turning east, and finally the weather window is long enough to sail towards Kub. At the northern tip we luff, the "Marlin" lies down on her cheek, 7.5 knots on the log, and is heading north-northeast. "Hey, that wobbles less at sea than at anchorage!", The children who finally return are amazed. They are right, and how beautiful life on board will only be when the coffee cups stay on the table.