Throwback Thursday: A Three Hour Tour – Day 2: Roger, we Have Stingrays in Our Sights

Now that we’re sitting in Indiantown Marina and it’s obvious that we’re going to be here for quite a long time while we fix up Daze Off to sail, I don’t want to bore you with stories that are only related to boat work (but don’t worry, they’re still coming).   I know that’s what some of you crave, but if you’re like me, you also need a little fun in there.  A little travel and a little adventure.

So for the foreseeable future while we are doing nothing much more than boat work I will be adding a Throwback Thursday post in every week as well.  Cataloging our trip so far, giving you that needed sense of travel and adventure, and for those of you that haven’t started with us from the beginning, catch you up on some of the most important or memorable parts of our travels.

In this weeks post we have left Cuba and moved ourselves over to the Island of Grand Cayman. After just coming from Cuba (and having spent 6 weeks in the Bahamas before that) it was like we were in the land of plenty again.  Grocery stores with fully stocked shelves of things we actually recognized and needed to provision with.  Electronics stores, marine stores, and even fabric stores so we could go about adding better shade to our roasting boat.

Along with our friends Brian and Stephanie of s/v Rode Trip, we enjoyed the spoils of going out for ice cream, enjoying a pitcher of beer over the waterfront, and experiencing some of the best snorkeling we’ve ever done.  With the whole of Grand Cayman being a protected area out to 80 ft depths, the shallows were teaming with brightly colored fish for us to gaze upon for hours and days on end.

With our days as buddy boats being numbered since Brian and Stephanie had changed their plans to an Atlantic crossing this season, we knew we needed one more epic trip before the four of us parted ways.  So it came to be that one afternoon Matt and I piled some of our belongings on to Rode Trip and we left Serendipity behind on her mooring in the West Bay to head up to the North Sound with Brian and Stephanie.

The reason we were headed to the North Sound is there is an area there called Stingray City, where local fisherman had spent so long throwing scraps into the water that groups of stingrays began to gather there and soon it became a tourist destination, groups of people getting dropped off in boats to swim with them.  Since it was open to the public as long as you could get yourself there, and hey, we had two boats at our disposal. we decided to make a go of it ourselves instead of paying an insanely high price for a tour boat to take us.

The ride up from our moorings turned into an all day adventure even though we thought it would take us only three hours to get there.  Storms, currents, and a setting sun turned this afternoon outing into an unexpected slumber party. None of us were sad about it as we had no place we needed to be, and the next morning we got exactly what we came for.  Swimming with the stingrays.

You can find the original post here.

Thursday May 30, 2015

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There was something very strange about being anchored in the North Sound last night.  It wasn’t that we had four people packed into a West Sail, getting tipsy on a game of Settlers of Catan, that’s actually quite normal, it’s that we were on a boat that was absolutely still.  It was so calming that I almost told Brian and Stephanie that this would be Rode Trip’s permanent location until Matt and I decided to make our next passage, and hey, by the way, we’ll be staying here every night until then.  Having enjoyed ourselves way too much at our little slumber party the night before, alarm clocks didn’t go off until after 8, and even then we were rubbing weary and bloodshot eyes.

Brain took the remaining leftovers from the previous night of chicken and potatoes, and tossed them around in a skillet with a few spices and an egg on top.  I really must try this thing that people call cooking.  Spirits were high as we had full stomachs and the sun was shinning.  I think the words ‘perfect day’ were uttered too soon though, and as soon as that phrase fell into the air, more dark storm clouds rolled in overhead.  We’ve noticed that when the rain actually does come, it passes by fairly quickly, so we’d just wait it out in the cabin before traveling the few miles across the sound to the shallow banks of Stingray City.  Settlers of Catan was broken out once more, without the distilled sugarcane and molasses this time, but Matt decided he wouldn’t get suckered into playing again.

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Beautiful morning we’re having!

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I think Settlers of Catan was more than his brain could handle.

 

When the rain finally let up, even though the sun was never looking like it was going to make it’s way out, we upped the anchor and began making our way to Stingray City.  Visually we could see right where it was by the plethora of other boats packed into one tiny area, but we did still have to keep our eyes glued to the charts since the North sound is full of shallow areas only 5 to 6 feet deep (with the sandbars around the rays at only 3 feet).  Still keeping a safe distance, we dropped the hook in a patch of sand and lowered the dinghy in the water.  Maneuvering our way through jet skis, we dropped the much smaller hook on the dinghy and fell back into the water with our snorkel gear on.  For a few minutes we floated around only staring at sand and the occasional conch, until a few dark spots began drifting our way.

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It’s a stingray floating by us!

 

As soon as one came by, the rest of them began to swarm over as well.  Since we weren’t part of a group and didn’t get the ‘swimming with stingrays’ lecture, I was still a little unsure of what I could or couldn’t do around them.  Both the guys told me to keep my feet firmly planted on the ground so I wouldn’t accidentally step on one, but with the waves that were just rolling in enough from outside the sound, keeping my feet flat on the sand was much harder than I thought.  So I instead floated at the surface, watching the stingrays swim by and weave in and out of people like they were cones for a drivers test.  It wasn’t long before Matt and Brian wanted to go a step further than having the stingrays just swim around at their feet.  They wanted to feed them.  So pulling out some squid that Brian had picked up at the marine chandler the previous day, they wiggled the tasty treat between their fingers….until the stingrays came to suck it out of their hands.

I tried to hover for a bit with the camera as swarms and swarms of them came by, the whole time worried that I was going to accidentally kick one and end up with a stinger through my food.  In the end though, it wasn’t me who got hurt.  Brian had a nice little chunk taken from his hand when he let the stingray suck on it for too long.  Maybe it was more of a bite than a chunk, but it still looked pretty nasty, and we’re pretty sure he’s going to mutate into some kind of sea creature.  It didn’t keep Matt and I from feeding and playing though, and even I had my turn with a feeding, trying to hold my ground as the ray literally kept pushing me back with it’s force.  I decided I was better off with the camera than feeding them, and went back to taking pictures of the guys until one came up to me and basically suctioned itself to my back as I floated there.  Sneaky little bastards…

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I’m sure I would have been stabbed by this point.

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Here fishy, fishy, fishy…

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Like sharks being drawn to blood.

Stingray City, Grand Cayman

There goes Brian, getting his hand eaten off.

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But they still ended on good terms.

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Mmmmm, finger lickin’ good.

Swimming with stingrays, Grand Cayman

stingrays in Grand Cayman

Before long, another storm started making it’s way in and we made our way back to the dinghy so we could get to Rode Trip before a downpour let out.  It seemed like once more for our trip, we had to hide out for bad weather.  I thought this was supposed to be paradise?  I guess that’s what we get for staying in the tropics at the beginning of hurricane season.  When it finally let up we started the long trek back home, making a few light bumps on the sandy bottom while trying to get to the deeper waters of the sound, but clearing any coral through the channel this time.  Once all eyes were not needed on deck anymore, I was put below with a cup of tea, soon zonked out with the wonderful memories of our trip to see the stingrays swimming in my head.

North Sound, Grand Cayman

anchored in North Sound, Grand Cayman

Stingray City, Grand Cayman

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