2011: Cayman

A Week on the Caribbean



After a difficult night, I groaned at the light leaking through my eyelids. Hmmmm. The boat's rock-n-roll had subsided to a gentle sway, and the engine throb was gone, replaced by subdued lapping of waves against the hull. The crossing was over. We had survived, yay!

Little Cayman. Sandy, deserted shore. Sun deck.

Mike was nowhere to be seen. I stumbled upstairs to the deck, where my bleary eyes took in first an unbroken expanse of ocean, and then the nearby and rather bleak shoreline of Little Cayman. If there is any civilization on this island, it's superbly hidden. Oh well. I wasn't planning a land excursion anyway.

Boat dining room. Getting dressed.

I found Mike in the dining area, and tried to choke down a bit of breakfast; my insides were not particularly liking it, but I was determined to get in on the first dive and I needed fuel. By 8 a.m. we were all suited up and flipper-flopping our way toward the end of the boat.

Naturally this Aggressor had to be one of those boats where you put forty extra pounds on your back, and then DESCEND STAIRS to get to the diving platform. What idiot thought of THAT?

Here I go! Geronimo!

In my case, stair-descending wasn't happening with a tank on; I'd have enough problems getting down those stairs with just my own poundage, a wetsuit, and dive booties. The crew would have to heave a dive tank down to the dive platform, and then hook me up while I sat on the edge like a toddler with my feet in the water. Yeah, I'm a wimp. What's your point? I'm paying your salary, aren't I?

At least the captain didn't KICK me off, like this guy. ---->

And he's Captain, too! Watching a movie. Pretty boy divemaster. Nice sunset.

The rest of the week is a bit of a blur. My nervous stomach blossomed into a full-blown internal attack and I was reduced to eating white rice, yogurt, and Cheerios -- all a few teaspoons at a time. Seasickness, which always plagues me, added to the issues despite my Scopolomine patch. My total weight loss for the ten-day trip was eight pounds. At times I was so sick that Mike discussed with the captain the possibility of transferring us to the island to see if we could get flights to go home. Of course, that would be a two-day ordeal -- small plane from Little Cayman to Grand Cayman, commercial flight to Miami, then Miami to California. Not much help.

The smile is deceptive. Dive briefing. Proof!  I dived! My last decent meal.
Miss Perseverance. This says it all.

So somehow, I hung in there, making a couple of dives each day rather than suffering all day in my bunk below decks. Oddly enough, I actually felt better in the water and immediately after a dive, probably because I was sucking on an enriched oxygen mixture. Ultimately I had at least one reward. On the last evening aboard ship, Captain Alan and the crew presented "awards" to various people aboard ship. Yours truly? The "Perseverance" award. I think he meant it, too. I must have been a pretty pitiful passenger.

Speaking of pitiful passengers, I think this final photo -- taken on the luggage roundabout after we arrived back at the San Jose Airport -- pretty much sums up my trip.

Here are the best of the week's diving photos, all taken either by the divemasters or by a talented 18-YO young man from the midwest. We leave the photography to others; we've tried it and it's just too hard. The divemasters on liveaboard boats always provide photos as souvenirs (for a price, of course), and other divers are always very generous about sharing their work.

While the diving around Little Cayman is pleasant enough, there's nothing terribly exciting -- it's standard coral and fish life, if a bit healthier than the waters near the populated dive desinations. I guess our 2004 trip to the Galapagos has spoiled me for common Caribbean fare.

Freddie the Friendly Grouper. Freddie poses.

However, Little Cayman had one unique and delightful offering: Freddie the Friendly Nassau Grouper, a fish who thinks he's a dog. Freddie follows divers around and likes to be stroked under his chin. Captain Alan warned us about Freddie, so I was on the lookout for him. Sure enough, I had only been at depth for a few minutes in Freddie's backyard when I spotted him swimming directly for me. Wal-Mart should have such personable greeters. Freddie was easily identifiable by his bright-red nostrils as well as his puppy-like behavior. The memory still makes me smile; it makes me happy to know that no diver has ever betrayed Freddie's trust enough to make him fearful.

Grand Cayman also has one unique diving site: Stingray City. This is a shallow sandy-bottomed area on the north side of the island where Southern stingrays gather to be fed and petted by the divers. It's a popular and overly busy spot, since even snorkelers can enjoy the action in only ten feet of water. Mike and I had been there before and thought of skipping the dive. On my earlier visit, I had the skin nearly ripped from my arm by one of these crustacean-crushers, whose mouths have the sucking power of Count Dracula times a hundred. But the boat was going there anyway and it was the last available dive, so wotthehell wotthehell, as Mehitabel the cat would say. This time I just kept my appendages to myself.