HOME › Forums › General Discussion Topics about the Cayman Islands › Trip Reports › Divesergeant 2008 Trip Report
Home now for over a week, we?re already missing the island, warm weather and warm people. The day after we got home, about 7 inches of snow dropped on us. This was especially frustrating because my 30hp Kioti tractor is not really sufficient for the task. If I had the 45hp model, I?m sure I could do a much better job. For her, of course. It?s not that I really want it for me, it?s just that I want to be able to clear the snow well for the Mrs. We broke the snowfall record for our area this winter and that 45hp tractor would really, really have been helpful.
Although we got more snow two days ago, signs of spring are all around us. The robins have returned. In the fields around us we can hear the hoarse croaking calls of the sandhill cranes as they stake out their brooding areas. In the pre-daylight dawn we hear the peeenting calls of returning woodcock and their whistling mating flights. The deer around our field have obviously heavy bellies, so we anticipate a good crop of fawns again this year. The local pheasants are starting to be seen strutting around in their search for a mate. Even the birds that winter here seem to be singing with more enthusiasm as they feel the lengthening days and rising temperatures.
We?re thankful for the coming spring. Still, we can?t help but think that on the island it is always warm and usually sunny!
Here?s the report on our trip, which lasted from March 8, 2008 to March 20, 2008. I hope you all enjoy it and it helps you get through until your next trip there!
Before beginning the report, I want to thank those who helped make it a reality.
First, thanks to ?He Who Hath Founded It Upon The Sea? for, well, ?founding it upon the sea?, as well as blessing us with the health and wealth to make the trip.
Thanks also to the friends we already knew but just met during the trip for their friendship and for the good dives and the evening together on the beach.
Thanks to the partners of mine in Team National who were busily at work building our business and helping to pay for the trip.
GETTING THERE AND BACK
The weather in Detroit was lousy. We were an hour and a half late taking off on the Northworst non-stop to GCM. Once we de-iced and had a ?minor? equipment snafu fixed, we took off.
We Landed at GCM and taxied to the terminal at 3:15 after a nice smooth flight. Our arrival was well timed as there were no other flights that had arrived near to ours.
The return was more eventful. We flew Continental from GCM to Newark (Miami is better than Newark!) and then eventually got our connection to Detroit, arriving at about 2:30 am on 3/21/8, instead of 10:30pm on 3/20/08.
Now, the delay wasn?t the fault of Newark or Continental. It was because of the weather. The problem was getting around in Newark. We found both signage and helpful people to be sorely lacking.
ARRIVAL IN GCM
We got through immigration, retrieved our bags, got outside to the taxi stand, summoned a taxi and were in the taxi by 3:30, just fifteen minutes after deplaning. (Note to NorthSideSue: Thanks for the tip about getting into the right-side queue near to the ?Resident? line.)
Now here?s a complaint. This was the first time we can remember ever arriving at GCM and not having a steel drum / calypso / reggae band playing to welcome us. What?s up with that!?
Once at our lodging, Harbour View Apartments as before, we got our welcome hugs from Rose and were in our unit by 3:40, just 25 minutes from our deplaning time. This has got to be a record.
Here?s our view?
For kicks, I tried my Motorola Razor / Verizon cell phone to check in with my mom and step-dad who were dog-sitting our Labrador Retriever (They call him their Grand-Dog. Good Grief!). The phone worked, the dog was fine, and I?m dreading the bill for that call!
Next, we got our Jeep and headed for Kirk?s, right across from our apartment. We dropped a couple hundred on groceries, but it?ll keep us in breakfast and most lunches for the trip, so it is money well spent.
After Kirk?s we headed to Blackbeard?s for beverages. We stocked up, paid the man, loaded it into the Jeep and then remembered the CAG coupon. Drat!
Finally, dinner was at Rackam?s, a past favorite of ours which seems in decline. After our last trip we had thought about sending Joe to get them on the guide. After going there three times this trip, we don?t think they?re worthy. The food was good (the curry shrimp stir-fry was a tasty, enthusiastically curry-ish dish!), but the service pretty much stunk each time we were there.
I was pleased to note that after running around all afternoon I had the start of a Teva-tan!
DIVING & DINING
Our plan was to dive several days with the non-guide operator with whom we had dived last year, to dive with Neptune?s several days and to do several days of shore diving. The 9th, 10th, 11th and 17th were with the non-guide folks and the 13th, 14th and 16th were with Neptune?s. Shore diving was done at Turtle Reef on the 12th and 15th, off our apartment’s dock on the 18th and at Lighthouse Point on the 19th.
The dining plan was to do breakfast in the apartment, split lunches between the apartment and restaurants and then do most dinners out. For breakfast, we rely on scrambled eggs with cheese and bacon, along with English muffins.
About the muffins; we bought ?Easy Fork Split? English Muffins. ?Fork Split? this. There was nothing easy about the splitting. In fact, it required the application of a good knife. I think it was just a cruel joke played upon us unsuspecting Yankees by the Brits. And all along I thought they had forgotten about that whole misunderstanding about ?The Colonies? and all. Live and Learn. Next time I?m on a boat I?ll heave some tea overboard in protest!
As for the weather, the first day was very rough, with the rest of the time being mostly smooth until the last day of diving.
March 9, 2008
Awakening to the alarm, we ate and loaded our gear for the trip to the dive shop.
We were shuttled to the South Sound and boarded the boat in Red Bay. Saying the weather was rough is being kind. The dives were nice, but the surface time beat the heck out of us. Our dives were ?No Name Wall? and then after a 45 minute ride in 4-6 foot seas to the SMB area we dove the Doc Polson.
A note about the rough seas. Mrs DS used to not like the rough seas. Or, more to the point, her head and stomach didn?t. She takes Scopace (in pill form, not the patch, it requires a prescription here in the USA) along with Bonine and does absolutely fine now. This worked for Mrs DS, but neither I nor the CAG are here to provide specific medical advice, and we don?t know what else you might be taking that could interact. So, obviously, talk with your doctor.
After recovering from the dives, we went sightseeing and scouted out the in-progress bypass east of George Town and its several new roundabouts.
Dinner was at Eats. A burger for Mrs DS and I had the Szechuan shrimp stir-fry. We liked Eats, more to follow about them.
March 10, 2008
We awoke to find smooth waters. There was much rejoicing! We dived Orange Canyon and Governor?s Reef. Both were nice.
Here are pics of a Queen Angelfish and a Grouper. The Grouper is getting cleaned at a cleaning station, although I don?t know if the resolution will show the cleaner fish.
With only one cruise ship in, we headed to George Town to scout jewelry. She always needs a trip or two to town for scouting before deciding what to pounce on!
Dinner was at The Cracked Conch. Man that was good. I had Snapper with Coconut Shrimp and she had Tenderloin with a Blueberry Sauce. Happily, they cooked her steak to order. She likes it with no red and only the barest hint of pink, if any at all. Many chefs don?t like to cook a good cut this much. The Cracked Conch may, I repeat ?may? have displaced The Reef Grill as our favorite spiffy dinner joint.
March 11, 2008
Again, smooth waters greeted our awakening. This time we dived Dragon?s Hole and Hepp?s Pipeline.
Here are some pics from these.
Dive master Lee hamming it up
Speaking of Lee. I noted that he wasn?t afraid to address reef conservation issues underwater. I saw him actually go and pull a diver away from the reef when they started to bang into it while taking a picture. Way to go, Lee!
Cool coral formation
Mrs DS hangin? out
March 12, 2008
Doing the shore dives at Turtle Reef allowed a bit more sleeping in. We rented nitrox tanks and did two dives each. On the first dive we went to the right along the mini wall and the second we went to the left.
We can?t say enough about this. Ollen has a nice setup and for the both of us to do two nitrox tanks each it was only $60 US. You can?t beat that! We didn?t even use the coupon (something about it not saving much money when diving nitrox). The entry and exit were easy climbs up and down a short ladder.
Here are a few pics from these dives.
Herd of Tarpon
Anemone with Squat Anemone Shrimp
For dinner we tried the pizza at the Brick Oven, watching folks try their hand at surfing while we ate. The service was great (we had a very pleasant waitress from Windsor, Ontario, right across the Detroit River from Michigan) and the comic value from watching the surfers was fantastic!
March 13, 2008
Diving with Neptune?s also let us get a bit more sleep, since we didn?t need to be at the boat as early. Way to go Casey! Our crew was Casey and Paul, (AKA the Rock Star) who has apparently graduated from customer last year to employee this year. We headed to the North Wall and had wonderfully calm seas. Our dives were Black Forest and Lemon Reef.
As before, Casey was very good about stressing reef protection during their dive briefings. Highlights included a Spotted Eagle Ray (too far away to get a good picture), turtle and a juvenile Drum.
I also got a video of this guy munching on a sponge-type thing, but we?ll have to see if I can get videos to load this year!
Snail in sponge
March 14, 2008
Neptune?s on the north again. This time we dived with Jon (Caymanguy), Geoff (Grateful Diver), Captain Jack (Captain Jack) and the DS pair.
Dives were Eagle Ray Pass and Main Channel Reef. Highlights included tons of lobster, a Green Moray, good Barracuda shots, a Scrawled Filefish and Flamingo Tongues.
Here?s some pics of these dives.
CAG folks taken by Casey
Casey taking the CAG group photo
Lizard dude on the road from the docks
We ate dinner at Eats. This time the Mrs wanted more than a burger. Unfortunately, the menu was weighted very heavily toward spicy dishes. She does not do spicy, so there was very little for her to choose from. Our waitress, Ria, was a doll. She was very patient while we scoured the menu and she arranged for Mrs DS to get a non-spiced version of a normally hot dish. Thanks Ria!
March 15, 2008
This was another Turtle Reef dive day. Again we each did two nitrox dives along the mini wall. The dives were great and yielded Scorpion Fish, Stingray and ?Cuda sightings. We also got some pics of a Spotted Eel and a Graysby side by side.
Spotted Eel and Graysby
?Cuda showing teeth
After the dives we enjoyed lunch at Macabuca. We ate with a couple we had met on the Divetech boat. Joe and Dorothy, from Atlanta, we found were also CAG folks, although she hadn?t been online for a while. (Deco Dorothy, are you out there?)
Dorothy mentioned that she got a lot of info for a Cayman trip a few years ago from the CAG and remembered Caymantwins. (Coincidentally, they bumped into Caymantwins later that night having dinner at The Reef Grill!)
March 16, 2008
We returned to Neptune?s again. We joined Geoff and Captain Jack. By popular request we dived Bonnie?s Arch and Mitchell?s Reef. Highlights included watching a turtle feed on a broken sponge, a Spotted Eel, adult Drum and Mrs DS spotting two Caribbean Reef Squid at Mitchell?s Reef.
Turtle still feeding
I have a video of the turtle chowing. I?ll see if I can get it to work later.
Casey, Captain Jack and Grateful Diver on a safety stop
Caribbean Reef Squid
Captain Jack and Mrs DS
Later that evening, we descended upon Tamarind Bay for a gathering. It was great to finally meet everyone we already knew so well. Under the watchful eye of Caymantwins, we managed to keep ourselves in line, so no bond money was needed. A great time was, nonetheless, had by all.
The guys. Restrain yourselves, ladies, we?re taken!
Neptune Divers get the chicks!
During the evening, much was learned, including?
Rooms are optional
Mudslides cause twins
I guess you had to be there!
March 17, 2008
We returned to Divetech and dived Orange Canyon and Spanish Anchor. Orange Canyon yielded distant shots of Rainbow Parrotfish. We opted for heading off on our own on the second dive and found Flamingo Tongues, a Hermit Crab and Feather Dusters. My camera battery pooped out and caused me to miss pics of 2 Queen Trigger fish. Damn that NiCad, it?s off to the recycle center for it!
Lee with another original whiteboard rendering
After the dives we headed into George Town to get some earrings the Mrs had found. Bummer for her they were gone. Of course, unbeknownst to her, they were gone because I had bopped into Landmark and gotten to them first. (Thanks Caroline for not tipping her off when she returned to look for them!)
We headed to Macabuca for dinner, but they had no regular menu, only a Barbecue. Not being in the BBQ mood, we headed back to Eats for burgers. Ria was there and served our table. She saw us and instantly said ?No Spice for you miss!” She also remembered that we had ordered coconut shrimp and two Pepsis the last time. Not a bad memory considering the hundreds of people she must have served in the intervening three days.
NOTE TO EATS: Ria is a gem. Keep her around. Heck, give her a raise and pass our appreciation on to her.
We got a great shot of the sunset from our balcony to end the day.
Sunset from our balcony
March 18, 2008
This was a Harbour View dive day. We rented tanks from Eden Rock (I told the guy there that we were there because of the CAG recommendation) and swan to the reef directly out from our apartment. There was a lot of boat activity so there was a lot of sediment in the water. Thus, most pictures are of poor quality except those taken at short distance.
Christmas Tree Worm
Fire Worm- touch it and you?ll know why it is called that!
Chub under the dock
After diving, we returned the tanks and drove around to the East End. The surf was up on that end of the island. We saw Ocean Frontiers? boats both diving the south-east side. It would have been an exciting experience!
Dinner was at The Reef Grill. Yes, I had the Sea Bass. Mrs DS had the Filet of Beef. Both were fabulous, as always. Of course, the highlight of the evening for the Mrs was getting the afore-mentioned earrings in time to wear them out for dinner. Guys, ya can?t go wrong with jewels! Buying her jewels is like buying ?Dog House Insurance?.
March 19, 2008
We decided to try the new Lighthouse Point shore dive. The attendant there, Bob, said he had a diver who wanted to dive but lacked a buddy. We introduced ourselves and invited him to join us. Santiago was pleased to get to dive. He was with two others who were only snorkelers and had been snorkeling around hoping to get to dive with someone. He spoke broken English but diving is kind of a universal language, especially under water, so we were fine.
The entry there is harder than at Turtle Reef. This combined with a strong surge, made Mrs DS decide to wait on shore.
Santiago and I struck out for the main wall. On the way we saw a turtle swimming up the mini wall. Later, as we broke out over the drop off we spotted a large turtle catching a nap on a shelf under a ledge at about 100 feet.
We headed back in through a cut-through and found a stiff current developing. From then on it was simply and athletic event fighting the current. I was glad to have rented a 100 cu ft nitrox tank.
Exiting the water was exciting, too. The waves and surge had picked up noticeably and the cut in the ironshore through which you swim to get to the ladder is narrow. Basically, you position yourself and kick to hold position until the surge goes in and sweeps you to the ladder. Then you grab and hold on.
We ate lunch at Macabuca (the Cracked Conch and Coconut Shrimp are both fabulous). We headed to Rum Point for an afternoon excursion, stopped at the Thirsty Surfer to use the internet to confirm our flights out the next day and then returned to the apartment to start packing.
We had papa John?s pizza for dinner. They?re close to the apartment and make great ?za, We then crashed for the night, anticipating a long return journey.
Miscellaneous Dive Comments
Let me climb on my soapbox for a minute. Okay, here we go?
First, let me reiterate about reef conservation. Casey, Keith and Paul make sure they preach being careful about the reef. While we love Divetech, they don?t always preach it during their briefings and they should. Lee at least takes matters literally into his hands when he sees someone damaging the reef. Also, each diver should make sure they are careful, especially us photographers. It is easy to get involved in getting your shot and bang the reef. The Mrs has standing permission to smack me if I hit the reef. (Hey, it?s not Domestic Violence if I have it coming, right?!) Divers who lack buoyancy skills should stay away from delicate stuff underwater and should work to improve their skills. Heck, PADI probably has a class for that!
Also, for photographers, remember that getting a shot isn?t so important that you can cut in front of others who are already checking out some critter. I try to wait until others have had a look, and then try to work on the shot. Sometimes I do this even if I am the one who spotted the critter in the first place. It is called courtesy, for those who aren?t familiar with the term!
Also, what?s with guys peeing off the back of the dive boat? A person who would not even think about standing beside the road peeing next to a bus of people will think nothing of peeing in front of a boat load of other divers, including women and teens. This is rude, poor taste and should be stopped. It almost seems that maybe PADI needs another specialty course in Dive Etiquette. I hope dive masters will read this and make it clear that this practice is offensive and won?t be tolerated. Heck, you can jump in and pee in the water all you want, but don?t do it standing on the dive boat. Let?s all start a campaign about pushing these folks in while they are in mid-stream or something.
Okay, I?m done preaching.
Summarizing, it was a great trip, meeting new friends and re-meeting others. We met a couple from the East Coast of the USA with whom Mrs DS had dived in 2005. (I gotta get a rebreather like Jim had so I don?t have to come up low on air with his wife Laura while our spouses stay down below!) We met a lady from Ann Arbor who spends several months or so diving on Grand Cayman each winter. As a bonus, she?s a great cook and always had a delicious snack to hand out on surface intervals. (Thanks Cindy, when are you going back? I want to be on your boat!) And of course I already mentioned Dorothy and Joe from Atlanta as well as the CAG bunch.
As before, we were a bit put off by the mega-complex developments. They seem foreign to the Cayman we know and love. Comments from locals seem to say that it is the Caymanians who oversee the tourism and development who want the big, exclusively expensive developments, perhaps to bolster the reputation of Grand Cayman. Others, such as ?normal? vacationers and non-development-related Caymanians see the huge complexes as a threat to their way of life. I?m with them.
The natives mostly still maintain their outgoing friendliness. The only surly experience was when trying to exchange a BareFoot Man CD that didn?t work. The gal was a bit snippy, despite the sign saying exchanges were allowed but not returns. I think they are used to selling to cruise ship folks whom they will never see again.
CAMERA GEEK INFO
Olympus Camedia C5060 w/ Olympus NiCad batteries
Sea & Sea YS-90 Automatic strobe with Energizer NiCad batteries
Sea & Sea fiber optic cable to trigger the flash
Olympus PT-020 U/W housing
Ultralight Control Systems strobe arms
I kept the camera mostly in the ?Automatic mode, but changed halfway to ?P? which let me select an automatic ISO selector. Also, most pictures were taken in HQ mode which yields 2592×1944 pixels. Halfway or so through the trip I reset it to SHQ Enlarge? mode, yielding 3264×2448 pixels. The difference is very notable as the picture is enlarged, but probably won?t matter much with the small file sizes loaded through photobucket for the forum. This higher setting will fill a smaller memory card up fast, so I used a pair of 2.0 GB CompactFlash cards, one a Lexar and the other a SanDisk.
In all, another wonderful Grand Cayman trip, made even more so by the rich memories of the wonderful people we met.
Now, where to next??
Turtle in Blue
Final note: No marine life, CAG members or DS personnel were harmed in the making of this trip report. However, Kim’s probably gonna kill me later!
It was sure cool diving and partying with you and the Mrs….. we’ll have to do it again some time!!
We did ten days in a row diving, and that’s a bit of work! Still, it beats working a regular job.
Rooms are optional
Mudslides cause twins
I guess you had to be there! “…or NOT!!!!
Great report and photos. We had a lot of fun with you and enjoyed meeting you and Mrs. DS in person finally! I do have a problem with the “ladies restrain yourself” picture…you need a better caption for “the lades” photo. lol!
I’ll be working on my report today!
We had a blast with you and hope to do it again!!!
Now, I’ll take suggestions for an appropriate caption for the picture of “the Girls”. I considered something like, “The Girls. Sigh”, but elected to go caption-less.
Good think I know the source…unpublished?!? I can break that one!
I’ll think of a good caption…need some time though.
Closeup of Squat Anemone Shrimp
I like seeing the detail on the shrimp and the texture of the anemone it is on. I wish this had been taken later in the trip when I was using the “SHQ Enlarge” setting on the camera.
Thanks! It’s actually kind of fun doing a report. It helps keep the trip in mind and we can go back to it next year when we plan our trip to remember what we liked! It is a bunch of work, though!
Thanks. Take the plunge and get certified! You can do all of your class work wherever you live and then get a referral to complete the wet work the next time you visit the Cayman Islands.
As for naming the sealife, I hope I didn’t mess up any identification!
Sounds like a great vacation.
What a great trip report and fabulous pictures! Even though I don’t dive I sure enjoy the vicarious experience through those of you who do.
Sure sounds like you had a wonderful time
……..it’s beautiful and HUGE……..how big was that fish…..and I mean the “real” size not what you’ll be saying when you’re on that rocking chair someday and telling the grandkids!