And then the Stars came to the Beach

Probably the best thing about a snorkeling charter with Sail Cayman, other than the attentive personal service and a boat all to yourself, family and friends, is the fact that we take you to where YOU want to go. It is with this in mind that Sail Cayman would like to suggest Starfish Beach as one of your stops during your boat charter.

Starfish Beach is one of those magic places that even Cayman Islands residents keep going back to on lazy Saturdays and Sundays. Easter weekend, the only time when camping is actually legal in Cayman, finds beach and nature lovers camping at Starfish Beach. The rest of the year this pristine sandy peninsula of white beach provides a quiet and peaceful place and the ideal Caribbean getaway with oodles of paradise charm.

How do you get to Starfish Beach? Well that’s easy as it’s only a 15 minute boat ride with Sail Cayman’s speedy power boats, Lazy Daz and The RIB. Our luxury yachts, Nauti Gal and Splendour In The Wind will get you there by chilled out wind power and anchor just offshore in order to protect their keels. Lazy Daz and the RIB can beach in knee deep water from where you can wade to shore, frosty in hand.

Crystal clear water, palm trees swaying in the wind, a sunny and soft sandy beach, what more could you want…maybe just some sunblock Sail Cayman would suggest, we bring the rest!

Starfish Point (1) Starfish Point (3) IMG_4190 IMG_1088 IMG_1107

What you Need to Know about Lionfish and How You Can Help

This article was published in the New York Times and because the threat of the ever growing evasive lionfish species become more prominent throughout the Caribbean we here at Sail Cayman felt it was imperative to share. Orneil, one of our Sail Cayman Captains is an avid lionfish hunter who participates in regular lionfish hunts throughout the Cayman Islands. So when you do come visit us in the Cayman Islands and when you do see lionfish on the menu, please order it, eat it and enjoy it and know that you are doing your share to make a difference.

MIAMI — They eat anything that fits in their mouths. They reproduce copiously and adapt effortlessly. And they have become as ubiquitous and pesky as rats — only prettier and more conniving.

Nearly three decades after a lone venomous lionfish was spotted in the ocean off Broward County — posing as a bit of eye candy back then and nothing more — the species has invaded the Southern seaboard, staking a particular claim on Florida, as well as the Gulf Coast, the Caribbean, and even parts of South America. Spreading gradually at first, and then frenetically from 2005 onward, lionfish have become the most numerous marine nonnative invasive species in the world, scientists said. Along the way, the predators, which hail from the other side of the world and can grow here to 20 inches long, are wreaking havoc on delicate reefs and probably further depleting precious snapper and grouper stocks.

There is no stopping them now, salt-water experts said. But hoping to at least slow them down, marine biologists and government agencies have been intensifying efforts recently to spearfish them out of certain areas that harbor fragile reefs and figure out how they became a threat so quickly and so successfully in the Atlantic Ocean.

Most recently, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission voted in June to ban as of Aug. 1 the importation of lionfish, and this month to prohibit the breeding of the fish in the state, steps that marine experts said will serve to focus attention on the severity of the problem. The commission had already lifted fishing licensing requirements to hunt lionfish and even started an app so that people can report lionfish sightings.

“Eradication is not on the table, but local control has proven to be very effective,” said Lad Akins, special projects director for the Reef Environmental Education Foundation, a grass-roots organization helping to curb the proliferation of lionfish. “They are what many people call a near-perfect invader.”

Figuring out how to combat them —what works, what does not — has been an exercise in both imagination and frustration. The lionfish derbies, or rodeos, seem to have the best success rate. Groups of divers gather for a day of spearfishing; last week, 22 divers, some from as far away as Texas, strapped on tanks in the Florida Keys and speared 573 lionfish in one day. There is talk of offering bounties, as one university in Mississippi did to create incentives, but money is scarce.

Then there is the gourmet approach. Some Florida restaurants are now buying lionfish, which are light and flaky when cooked, not unlike snapper, and serving them to diners. Once there is a large enough market for them, scientists said, fishermen will pay attention and help haul them out of the sea.

But there are problems there, too.

“The tricky part is catching them — traditional fisheries use hook and line and that doesn’t seem to be effective with lionfish,” said Maia McGuire, a marine biologist at the University of Florida. “Divers with spear guns, they catch and catch and catch; it’s labor intensive and requires divers, gear and boats.”

Being as wily as they are, lionfish do not typically swim in schools, making them difficult to sweep up with traditional fishing nets. And they have somehow adapted to deep waters — a submarine found some of them 1,000 feet below the surface of the sea, which is too deep for divers.

Traps offer some hope, scientists said; lobster fishermen in the Keys have noticed lionfish in their traps. Work is underway to build traps just for lionfish, which would make it easier for fishermen to catch and sell them.

Scientists are also finding some comfort in the fact that merely limiting the number of lionfish on a reef — as opposed to culling them all — will allow the reef and its fish to recover, said Stephanie Green, a marine ecologist at Oregon State University who is conducting a study of such efforts.

Lionfish do not belong in the Atlantic Ocean. They wound up there when people bought them to glam up their aquariums and eventually freed them in the ocean, probably thinking they were doing a good deed, scientists said. Their true home is the Pacific and Indian Oceans, where they do not pose a problem, most likely because they are eaten by more powerful predators that keep the population in check. Here, the predators seemed befuddled by them. They either steer clear or are enticed a little too close by their orange-stripe colors and Lady Gaga-like appearance.

“Our native species don’t know who they are,” said Matthew Johnston, a research scientist at Nova Southeastern University in Florida. “I’ve seen pictures of juvenile fish trying to hide within their tentacles. They think they are shelters — and then they just eat them. It’s a pretty bad deal.”

And eat they do. Mr. Johnston described lionfish as gluttonous, because studies have shown that they can stuff 50 or 60 baby fish into their stomachs. They even have big layers of stomach fat, the result of so much overindulgence, he added. But, as committed survivalists, they also can make do without food for long spells.

There is little likelihood of extinction. When one dies, gazillions more take their place. Female lionfish are built for spawning; they each release two million eggs a year. By the time scientists here sorted all this out, their numbers were headed toward infinity.

“They can spawn as frequently as every four days, which is really crazy,” Ms. McGuire said, then wondered, “Are we going to end up with reefs just covered with lionfish?”

Splendid times on Splendour in the Wind.

Captain Neil from Sail Cayman has had a busy couple of weeks on Splendour in the Wind hosting sailing charters on Grand Cayman’s north sound. In one of our recent posts  we blogged about a family that had a great day out with Neil introducing them to stingrays and taking them snorkeling on the barrier reef.

This past week Neil played host to a group of friends from New Orleans…the group of ladies planned an all girls trip to Grand Cayman and booked a sailing and snorkeling charter with Sail Cayman.

At 47ft, this Beneteau offers ample space, both below and above deck. With 3 cabins, one of them ensuite in the bow of Splendour of the Wind, and with full A/C below deck, a full galley perfect for prepping appetizers and a 2nd marine bathroom, comfort is Splendour’s middle name. Above deck, Splendour has a shaded cockpit also with comfortable seating, in fact Splendour can accommodate up to 12 passengers easily.

All the Sail Cayman captains have excellent choice in music, but feel free to bring your iPad, iPhone or Android and we will be happy to enjoy your music.

As no sailing charter would be complete without a couple of frosties, Splendour has a fridge and cooler.

The most important thing to remember though is that Splendour takes you on a beautiful charter in the lap of comfort and luxury. In fact, Sail Cayman is really keen on doing an extended charter to Little Cayman, maybe even Cayman Brac…we just need the passengers who wants to sign up and are ready for an adventure, a very comfortable adventure!

Keen and curious? Contact Neil ASAP, he can’t dream of a better way to spend his summer….sailing!

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Feeling the Sting with Lionfish

Lionfish started appearing on Cayman’s Reefs around 2009 and have since grown into a huge problem for Cayman’s reef life. So “How did they get here? How did they make it to an island in the middle of the Caribbean and where did they come from?”

While no one knows exactly how these voracious eaters arrived in the Atlantic (they are indigenous to the Red Sea for example where they have natural predators), the most common thoughts are:

  1. Accidental or intentional release of aquarium fish into the marine environment.
  2. Transport of the species in the ballast water of ships.
  3. The only confirmed release was during Hurricane Andrew in 1992 when 6 lionfish were liberated from an aquarium into Biscayne Bay.

Sadly Lionfish have now been documented along the entire US East Coast from Florida to as far north as Massachusetts, east to Bermuda and south throughout the Bahamas and in other Caribbean nations such as Turks and Caicos, Jamaica and Cuba in depths ranging from 2 to 500 feet!  Here’s what we know about Lionfish:

  1. They are voracious predators that will eat juvenile fish and crustaceans (shrimps, lobsters, etc.) in large quantities.
  2. Here in the Cayman Islands they have no natural predators but the Nassau Groupers in Little Cayman, for example, are fast getting used to being fed Lionfish by divers who hunt Lionfish weekly. 
  3. Lionfish have venomous spines which deter predators and can cause extremely painful wounds in humans.
  4. Lionfish are capable of reproducing monthly from about one year old  and can produce an astounding 30,000 eggs each month!
  5. Lionfish grow incredibly fast, in fact they outgrow most native species with whom they compete for food and space.

Sadly Lionfish are prolific on Cayman’s Reefs and have made a meal of way too many of our reef fish. Dive Operators throughout the Cayman Islands have made weekly and monthly efforts by organizing successful Lionfish hunts. In turn local restaurants have been proactive in creating truly delicious meals out of Lionfish. 

Sail Cayman’s very own Orneil Galbraith has been an avid Lionfish hunter and have twice this year won the prize for most fish caught or biggest fish caught. We are proud of Orneil’s efforts and encourage everyone to take part in the fight against this invasive species, even if you don’t hunt, you can still spot the fish and let the hunters do the catching. Every fish caught is one less on our reefs and only with concerted efforts will the Cayman Islands be able to save their reefs and reef fish from Lionfish.

So Sail Cayman says; “Go Orneil GO!”

Follow Sail Cayman on Facebook for updates on Orneil’s lionfish catching adventures…

LionFish_Diagram

What you need to know about Lionfish anatomy

Orneil and lionfish

Removing poisonous spines

Lionfish weigh in

Catch of the day

Lionfish winners

Orneil’s winning team

Lionfish Sandwich

Delicious and freshly caught

Lionfish ceviche

Lionfish Ceviche

 

 

 

 

Paradise Found in the Cayman Islands

According to Tripadvisor’s 2014 Traveller’s Choice awards which were published this week, the Cayman Islands was voted as the 3rd best Island in the Caribbean to visit! WOW, we here at Sail Cayman are pretty stoked! Boasting our own 2013 Certificate of Excellence Award from TripAdvisor Sail Cayman would like to believe that we were an integral part of the Cayman Islands attaining this outstanding accolade.

Now let’s take a look at Paradise right here in Cayman and how Sail Cayman can help you realize our awesome paradise!

Our Captains, Orneil, Neil and Antonio have collectively shared some fabulous lifestyle images on our Facebook page this week. Neil Galway helped out with the TRIO International Kite Boarding Event, he used our beautiful and bright yellow RIB as a safety boat and then took the participants on an unforgettable snorkel charter to Stingray City with Splendour In The Wind and Lazy Daz.

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Neil took TRIO participants to Stingray City on Splendour In The Wind and Lazy Daz

Orneil did what he loves to do best on his day off. He took his lovely wife and 2  adorable girls to Starfish Beach on The RIB. The 2 girls had a fabulous time meeting the Starfish!

Orneil's wife and two girls at Starfish Beach

Orneil’s wife and two girls at Starfish Beach

Orneils' two girls make friends with a starfish
Orneils’ two girls make friends with a starfish

Proud Dad Orneil

Proud Dad Orneil

Nicolas took these awesome pics of NautiGal and Splendour In The Wind as they were anchored side by side in the North Sound on a snorkel charter. The clear blue water, the sunny skies, and the stunning boats literally makes for a picture perfect moment that so many dream of.

splendournautigalSailing fleet

Huge thanks to all our wonderful clients and friends who have sailed and chartered with Sail Cayman, but above all thank you to all the visitors to Cayman who put our islands in 3rd place!

As the saying goes: “Y’all come back now you hear”

Want to get to your boat and snorkel charter destination faster? No problem!

Yes our company name is Sail Cayman and yes we have two beautifully kept and cared for yachts and yes the word sailing certainly invokes a dreamy vision of cruising clear blue waters with fresh ocean breezes in your hair.

But what if you like speed, what if you like to get where you are going fast? No problem, once again Sail Cayman steps up to the plate, this time with two power boats ideal for charters to Stingray City, Coral Gardens snorkeling, Starfish Beach, the Mini Sandbar, Rum Point or Kaibo. Lazy Daz offers shade, speed and space and the very yellow and very bright RIB offers speed, adventure and a lot of fun. Sail Cayman even offers reef fishing sessions on Lazy Daz where we provide tackle and bait.

Now we’ve reached your destination of choice super fast on Lazy Daz or the RIB, your Captain hand out complimentary masks and fins and before you enter our beautiful clear water remember to please not touch or kick the reef as we’d like it to be here and healthy when your grand children comes to visit and go on a charter with our grand children!

Now let’s take a look at what can you expect to see

ImagePurple Seafans, always grow perpendicular to the current and prefers quite shallow water where they get lots of sunlight. Please please please resist the temptation to take one home! We love our seafans and we think they add just the right amount of purple to our Caribbean Seas!

ImageA pair of butterfly fish, they mate for life and always cruise the reef as a couple searching for the next meal. Here Orneil captured them above a healthy head of star coral.

ImageSea Urchins, lovely to look at, in fact fascinating to look at but NOT to hold and also preferred on the reef and not a sushi roll please! Now if you ever end up with some urchin in your foot or hand, don’t panic, simply immerse the affected area in hot water, as hot s you can handle it. The heat will relieve the pain and speed up the process of the broken spines coming back out.

Image A Flounder and two butterfly fish cruise the sandy flats. Perfectly camouflaged the flounder is the underwater version of a chameleon.

Image Nice shot Orneil! Pink tipped anemone…we challenge you to say that fast 10 times over! Look closely inside these anemones for the golden crowned blenny, a tiny little fish with a gorgeous crown of gold on it’s head and a symbiotic relationship with their host anemones.

We hope you enjoyed our Sail Cayman underwater trip! And as they say here in Cayman; “More soon come!”

Why Sail Cayman?

So you’ve booked your trip to Cayman and now it’s time to start planning your excursions.

What do you look for in a tour operator? Experience? Professionalism? Variety? Fun times? Adventure? Safety? Knowledge? A choice when it comes to departure times and destinations? If you are reading this blog it means you have already started your research and it also means that you have probably been to several websites by now all offering attractive choices.

Well let’s look at what your preferences are and how Sail Cayman fulfills each and every single one of them;

If you are looking for experience you can rest assured knowing that Sail Cayman has close to 50 years of experience when you add up all the years that our 3 crew members have worked on boats both in Cayman or on international waters.

If you are looking for professionalism, we can give you peace of mind with Yacht Master and RYA certificates.

Variety is indeed the spice of life and no-one can add spice to your day like Sail Cayman. Our 3 crew members are as diverse as our destinations and the vessels we operate. Ireland, Cayman & Nicaragua, you’re bound to have an interesting conversation on board and en route to destinations like Rum Point and Stingray City (to mention only 2) where you are guaranteed to find something that amazes you. With a choice of two sailboats and two power boats, the variety just keeps getting better.

Fun Times? Sail Cayman have four boat loads full of memorable times. As our T-shirts rightly states; “Life starts at 15 knots”. The fun continues at Stingray City and when you have finally had enough of those friendly rays (if that is indeed possible) you experience the serenity of Starfish Beach, the calm tropical beauty of the mini sand bar or  the waist deep azure waters of Rum Point which seem to carry on forever and a day.

Adventure? There is no doubt in our minds that sailing is one of the ultimate forms of adventure. If you would prefer engine power over wind power you can start your adventure on our bright yellow and super fast RIB or our comfortably shaded Lazy Daz. The adventure continues at Stingray City where close to a hundred Southern Rays glide past to take food from your hands.

Safety on the water is vital, which is why you will always find our 4 boats fully fittted with a VHF radio, a cell phone, a first aid kit and our 3 crew members who are all first aid trained.

Knowledge…this is a good one for Sail Cayman. When you add the above mentioned 50 years of experience on the water to our knowledge of the Stingrays, the surrounding reef, it’s marine life, and Cayman’s attractions in general, you’ve found a winner!

Choice, always important when you’re on vacation as it is after all YOUR vacation. This is why we are flexible with our charters, both in destinations and departures.

Our fleet awaits, you coming?

A superb and tranquil spot named after all the Starfish that can be found here. Walk from the boat to shore

A superb and tranquil spot named after all the Starfish that can be found here. Walk from the boat to shore

Shallow azure water with Starfish abound. Just one of our awesome destinations

Shallow azure water with Starfish abound. Just one of our awesome destinations

Stingray Deep Splendour FB profile RIB 2