2011: Cayman

The East End

February

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I thought I had one more low-stress dive trip in me, so we decided to return to the Cayman Islands, where we'd celebrated my 50th birthday so many, many, MANY years ago. Argghh. I remembered the diving around Grand Cayman fondly; of course, I was a new diver then, and easily impressed. Since those days, we've come to prefer liveaboard diving, which guarantees more dives per day and a bigger variety of terrain. We signed on for a late-February trip on the Cayman Aggressor, which takes divers from Grand Cayman across the channel to Little Cayman, known for its easy and pristine diving.

I hadn't been diving in three years, and I thought it might be prudent to get back my water legs before boarding the Aggressor for a full week of liveaboard diving; so I booked three nights at a land-based dive resort on the east end of Grand Cayman, an area reputed to have better diving than the over-populated west end. We'd also be out of the hustle and bustle of Georgetown, the major city and resort center on the island.

Because of the time difference between the coasts, we couldn't actually get to Grand Cayman in one day, so we started the trip with a five-hour flight to Miami and one night at the Miami Hilton -- a fateful decision, although I didn't know it at the time. More about that later.

The next day, we flew into Grand Cayman and picked up a rental car to drive from the Georgetown airport to the east end of the island, a distance of about fifteen miles. The drive was a bit of an adventure, to say the least. The Caymans are a former British colony, so they drive on the left-hand side of the road. Mike had handled that OK on our previous visit; but this time, the rental car we got was a right-hand drive. That threw all kinds of kinks into his driving style. Especially amusing was his tendency to hit the windshield wipers instead of the turn signal.

Eventually we made it to the east-end resort, avoiding the occasional errant rooster on the rural tropical road. Our condo was modest but very nice, including a separate Murphy bed in the living room for Mike.

Condo living room. Mike's Murphy bed. What a mess! Nice view.
See the ruffly hair? Guess what that means?

After unpacking, we strolled around outside; we wouldn't be diving until the next day. I was dismayed at the high winds, which seemed to be constant. There was no shelter from the open water on this end of the island, and that could make for some difficult boat rides to the dive sites.

At least we were able to accomplish one dive-related thing that first day -- getting a weight check. I was going to be wearing a new-to-me wetsuit combo, using my Galapagos 7-mil farmer-john under a 3-mil torso step-in. Sounds exotic, right? And WTF does that mean? Succinctly, that's a crapload more wetsuit than most people would wear in 75-degree tropical waters, but I can get cold in a sauna, much less on a 45-minute dive in the ocean. So I overdress.

Yeah, yeah, I can hear you snoring from here. Bottom line, I'd never worn that particular fashion statement before, and I had to figure out how much weight I would need to counteract the buoyancy of all that Neoprene trying to keep me floating. And you can't figure that out at the surface of the water, you need at least ten feet of depth.

I wasn't too keen on the idea of jumping off the pier and then having to wrestle my way into the shore in full gear. We discovered that there was a small, rather pathetic swimming pool next to the resort. So Mike snagged me an air tank from the supply room, I tugged and grunted and panted my way into the suit, and we gradually stuffed weights into my pockets until we had an approximate solution. One dragon slain.

Boat dock. The 'resort'. The good life.

Dive boat. Lotsa air tanks.

I can't tell you much about the next two days, except that I was miserable. The dive boat was small, with no sun shelter, and it pitched and rolled in the wind and waves, causing me significant misery; I was saving my seasickness patch for the liveaboard. As if that weren't enough, I had been having some gastrointestinal upset ever since I consumed a hamburger that first night in Miami -- fateful decision, remember? (And stay tuned, that part gets even better!)

And of course, I wasn't physically ready for this. Supposedly that's what these two days were about, helping me get my bearings in the water and try to find my leg muscles. But I was too sick to accomplish much, and in addition I realized just how out of shape I was. I barely managed three dives in two days, and they were mostly about not drowning. Quite the auspicious start for our trip.