07 December 2007 Georgetown Grand Cayman.
It was a beautiful day, it was a gorgeous day and even better, we were alone. We were the only ship in port. No lines in the shops, no tourist jams in the main street. Having sting ray city all to yourself. It could not be better. The sun shone all day and there was a gentle breeze blowing to make it pleasant.
That gentle breeze is also of extreme importance to me as it is needed to keep the ship in position. Georgetown is the strange place where if there is too much wind and or from the wrong the direction then you have to cancel. If there is not enough wind then you can not anchor as the ship will drift unto the reefs.
Georgetown has four anchorages each one about 2000 feet away from the other. The ship anchors on a ledge with the bow in 30 feet of water and the stern in about a1000 feet of water. The steady trade wind keeps pushing the ship away from the coast and the anchor then holds it connected to the ledge. If there is too much wind, the anchor can not take the strain, it starts dragging and will fall of the ledge. If there is no wind, the current that runs along the ledge will slowly push the ship onto the ledge and into too shallow water. The only thing you can do to avoid this is to keep one propeller working and going a little bit astern so the ship stay off the reef in that way. Having a gentle breeze doing it for you if of course much better.
To find the right spot on the reef is done with the help of the local Pilot Captain Banks.
He comes out in a tour boat and parks himself on the exact spot that he thinks is best for the ship. It is then up to the captain to bring the anchor above the pilot boat and the ship to a standstill when it gets there. If you overshoot, you end up in too shallow water. As soon as the anchor is above the pilot boat, the pilot boat moves away and the anchor is let go. That letting go of the anchor is always a bit scary with that pilot boat floating under it. There have not been any accidents but there have been a few close calls, when a too eager young officer forward was too quick with giving the “let go” order after permission came from the bridge.
When the anchor has landed on a sandy spot on the ledge, the ships bow (and thus the rest of the ship) is moved sideways and the chain is paid out over the ledge. In that way we create maximum holding power. The anchor will dug into the sand with the flukes and then the ship moves little bit astern so that most of the ship is over deep water again. For a person that has never seen this sort of “ledge anchoring” being done it is a bit of an eye opener. The bow is moving closer and closer to the beach followed by almost dropping the anchor on top of a boat and then for the remainder of the day relying on the wind to keep you in position. But it is safe and never has ship has come to harm over it.
Due to the influx of bigger ships, the town has a new pier for tender boats so there is now a lot of space, even when there are six or seven ships calling at the same time. Plans have been made to build two docks for four ships but the starting date of the construction start has been moved back a few times and a firm date is not in sight yet. Until the piers have been completed, we drop the hook on the ledge and float behind the anchor on the easterly trade winds.
We left Grand Cayman on time and headed Northwest in the direction of the West point of Cuba. Tampa is our final destination. It should be a good home run as the weather forecast looks very good.