Cayman Islands – Difficulties to master
After twelve days straight at sea, struggling with zero wind for five days, even drifting back west, a day with only 8 miles (around 12 kilometres) of progress we could finally see the lights of George Town, capital city located on Grand Cayman, in the early morning at 3am on the far horizon. Finally land! And still so far. With no wind it took us the whole day for the last 13 kilometres and we anchored only after the darkness fell again. Sailing without motors take its time.
Welcome to Cayman Islands
Following our daily routine we prepared lunch on Josee for the two groups. At the time we manoeuvered towards Friendship we saw a strange black point at the sky getting closer as we met up. A police helicopter! Cruising right over our heads as we threw a suspicious looking black bag onto the catamaran and received a bucket – filled with food to cook. What we didn’t know at that time : we had been reported missing by worried family members after we had no contact in two weeks. Not a corona security check as we thought, but an investigation to verify us as soon as we contacted the Cayman Island port (as obliged when within 10 kilometres). For some reason the mother of Alina, our youngest crew member, will find a picture of us taken from the helicopter on a facebook page.
However, as we arrived we needed to convince the port captain of the urgency for resupply and a rest. We got permission for two nights and could send virtually a shopping list the following day. The Caymans were surprisingly helpful but amazingly expensive as expected. The following day, Josee was filled with gallons of fresh water, fruit, vegetables, kilograms of Himalayan rice and plenty of cans. At a price of 1060 Cayman Dollars. The best coconut milk I’ve ever had though, for 6 Dollar a can. Apples we haven’t had in so long and Biskoff, a sweet cookie cream. Yeah, that can be a sailor’s dream.
Chatting to the team of helpers while receiving our supplies, only in the beginning in safe distance, we also got some information about their situation. That almost everything was closed, that the people are only allowed to go out every second day for groceries and a little walk. Roy, one of the helpful men, told us that they don’t expect tourism back before the end of the year maybe even not before next year. The Caymans are usually a busy place and a stop for many cruise ships. This time there was not one single cruise ship.
The simple needs
The guys from the port were enormously kind, interested and extremely sorry for us that they could not help more. Especially that they had to send us away although the prognosis for the wind was bad and we would get stuck at sea again. Nothing helped – the land has closed its border and there was no chance of an exception. Out of pity they gave us a bottle of rum and a mug with the logo of the Caymans – and invited us to return some future day, in better times. But the most precious gift they gave us : after refilling every gallon and bottle we have with fresh water, they handed us over the big hose for a shower. The first shower since we left Livingstone three weeks previously. It will be the only one in the entire time of the journey. They seemed to be surprised and amused seeing us gathering together under the fountain keen for refreshing water desperately looking for every drop of that sweet gift.
The winds were calm, the sea smooth like a mirror but we had to leave. Which is a jolly picture to be fair, two sailboats leaving without engines in low wind taking hours just to leave the port. To avoid more days of no progress we decided to anchor two days at the shallow Cayman Bank, a sand bank that is actually the tip of an undersea mountain about 20 km north west from Grand Cayman. Being sent away and not allowed to anchor in Cayman territory again we installed night watches to be prepared in case of having to make a quick departure. Anything is better than the frustrating flat sea.
Still seeing the lights of George Town at the horizon, paying attention for new helicopters or the danger of cargo ships that would not see us as we didn’t turn on a single light not even the mast light on Friendship, we watched the moon rising in a deep bloodish red over the town in the distance. When the moon stood high in the sky it was a golden disc and its reflection in the dark smooth water was shining like liquid gold.
Being offline and not knowing what happens in the world
After we left Roatan, the Caymans were our first option to receive messages and news. Having information only every few weeks is quite stressful. Being totally isolated not only physically but in every possible way in the times of a pandemic, hoping for free accessible internet in the next harbour that may let us anchor to get messages we longed to read. Not to mention how excited we were : the world is threatened and we miss all of it. How are our families and friends? How is the global situation in general? To confess, parts of us have been quite optimistic. The coronavirus and its danger seemed as unreal as the chance to get on land. Being curious after all that time without any information, we contacted a sailboat that was passing in our direction before we even arrived in port. To all our dismay they could only tell the shocking news that the situation is worse than ever. 200.000 cases of coronavirus only in New York.
While we are sailing the sapphire blue sea, struggling with nature and breaking boat gear, being worried about basic needs, the world is dealing with a massive disease that has locked down our known world, changed our habits. While we are stuck on two small boats, every day surrounded by the same group of people without any comfort, without any entertainment except the changing sea, our friends and families are forced to stay home, not allowed to go out to enjoy the slowly starting spring. We cannot imagine how their life must be, and yet we also know it so well.
Giving up? Looking for alternatives
During the disenchanted days the mood changed being anxious of whether the food will last until the winds hit again. We started considering our options. As Mexico, at that time still open, was the same 250 nautical miles away as Jamaica, which was already closed, we shortly discussed it as an alternative. Guadeloupe seemed impossibly far away. Starting to realise that we will just encounter more and more difficulties with resupplying the further east we head, I came to the conclusion that the whole project, returning to Europe by sailing to Guadeloupe, could just be a huge failure. Next to these legitimate concerns, I also felt that a boat life is not as nice as it seemed to be. At least not for weeks. Sailing is an isolating thing and dominated by a permanently repeating routine of the same little varying tasks. When nothing bad happens that could be directly life-threatening, sailing can be a damn boring thing. But mostly I missed my independence and freedom. I missed the opportunity to move freely as well as to decide about my time on my own.
As it loomed that we would need indeterminate more time to reach Guadeloupe instead of three weeks as it was said back in Guatemala – no engines – I doubted more and more my ability to stay on board for an uncertain long time. Too little space, too many moods on board. Too difficult a situation in not being able to go ashore anywhere but so close to all these beautiful places most of us had dreamed about but that had to remain undiscovered to us. In a time of a virus pandemic crisis there is no option just to leave at the next harbour. I was forced to continue as we all were. The worst was not having any choice.
A Bond-like departure
However, seeing Edward, the only British member of the crew, taking his chance and getting off the boat at the Caymans, was an awakening experience. As the Caymans are British he could get repatriated. Asking the port authority for his repatriation, they gave him only five minutes later the green light, asking only for passport and a credit card. An important fact at one of the richest places on earth. Watching him leaving the boat, kayaking to the port and getting picked up by a car and heading directly to the airport within 15 minutes (!) I honestly regretted the German inefficiency in colonising the Caribbean.
I contacted the German embassy on Jamaica directly after that unreal James-Bondish scene as we decided to head there next. It would be only the first embassy on my long list of embassies. From this moment on, I would try to take my chance to disembark wherever we sailed to.
👉 Read in upcoming part 4 how we sailed pointlessly to Cuba and Jamaica and got kicked out within 30 minutes!