Grand Cayman | Anniversary and Dive Trip, Sept 2018

A couple of things happened to make this possible.  Our wonderful daughter Maggie gave us a week of babysitting so that we could take a vacation without any kids, and the opportunity presented itself for us to rent the same condo in Seven Mile Beach Resort in Grand Cayman that we did in May of 2017 so we jumped on it.  The earliest we could book a vacation for me, at the time, was in September.  We also decided to make the most of it and extend the week by a few days.

We also decided that if we’re going to spend the bucks to get there and dive, might as well maximize the opportunity and decided to extend  it a couple days, three to be exact.

We originally asked the condo folks for a special rate to extend because, well, honestly, we like to be frugal like that, and we also have a boat load of Marriott points so we could technically stay at the Marriott resort for free. Initially the resort said “No” and quoted us standard rates which were ridiculous.  Anyone in Cayman in the offseason (August-September-October) an paying list price is not doing their homework.

So we looked around.  The problem with the Marriott for us, was simply that it’s basically a standard hotel room, an when you’re diving, you have a lot of wet, sometimes stinky gear to deal with.  There’s no good place to store it at the Marriott and they don’t have their own dive company.  We also like to have the opportunity to cook a bit and save some money when we can and you can’t do that when all you have is a Microwave. Well, I suppose you can, but we can’t.

We also wanted to experience other parts of the island, not just Seven Mile, which can be busy like Gatlinburg only with a beach.  If you don’t know how busy that is, just know that it’s crazy busy.

After some research, we selected a condo on the north side in Old Man Bay.  Originally we rented Unit #104 via Grand Cayman Villas & Condos, a ground floor unit at the back, which didn’t really have the best of views but it was priced really good. Upon arrival, we were notified there was a problem with #104, it had recently sold and the electricity hadn’t been turned on so we were moved to unit #310 on the third floor with a spectacular view!

As we did our research we were a little bummed about the number of things that were down/closed for the off season.  Island population is certainly low, it is hurricane season after all. A few of the dive companies we planned to dive with told us they would be down for maintenance and we tried to get reservations at one of the all you can eat lobster nights and they were like, “Yeah, uh, no, we’re closed in September.”  But we soldiered on.  We eventually booked diving with EPIC divers for the 7 days we’d be staying on 7 Mile because of their stellar reputation on Trip Advisor. We figured we’d just snorkel, shore dive, or find someone on the North side when we got here.  We also planned to check out the Morritt’s resort and Ocean Frontiers as potential places to stay next time.

Unit #310 On The Bay @ Old Man Bay on the North Side

Starfish Point

Did someone say starfish? What a great little corner of the earth. Named Starfish Point for a reason.  We stopped out there on our first night to check out the sunset, then followed up with a poor attempt to snorkel there the next day.  Worth going for the starfish but it’s not a great place to snorkel despite what you may read.  Super shallow to a 10 -15 foot deep sea grass area to a deep drop off.  Not a ton of life outside of some basic fish and the starfish of course.  We’re told you sometimes see turtles feeding there.  Current was strong when we visited.

Over The Edge Restaurant – Great place on the north side for a relatively inexpensive meal. Inexpensive as far as Cayman goes.  Good food, locally sourced fish, etc, with a bit of a french flair.  We stopped here for dinner the first night on the porch over the water.  Wonderful view.

Friday morning after snorkeling at Starfish point and stopping off to see Rum Point (not real sure what the attraction is there) we headed around the east end of the island to see what Ocean Frontiers had to offer and to inquire about diving with them on Saturday.

Ocean Frontiers

This dive resort is now on our list of places to stay in the future.  Something about rolling out of bed and onto the dive boats really appeals to us. The facilities were super well organized and the room that they showed us was very clean with a good view.  Sad that the pool is located across the street in the other part of the complex but we’d manage.  We booked our first dive with them for Saturday morning, with a penciled in spot for Sunday if we could coordinate the move out of the north side and into 7 mile in a way that would work out.

The Brasserie

What can I say?  This is our go-to night out in Grand Cayman.  Their food is amazing as well as the atmosphere.  This is our second trip.  I made reservations for The Brasserie as soon as I knew we were coming.  We opted for the Chef’s selection.  A five course tasting menu that was out of this world.

We started with their Tuna Ceviche with plantain chips, followed by the Prince Edward Island Mussels, Swordfish, Steak, a sample of some magical cheese, and our desert sampler.  All of it was amazing@

Saturday morning we dove with Ocean Frontiers, and loved every minute of it.  It’s a larger boat for sure, but there was PLENTY of space.  I liked having the room, and the service and attention to detail spoiled us.  Everyone had their own dunk tank next to their two tanks of gas.  3 Dive masters on the boat, two in the water with every dive.  We were fortunate, there weren’t any newbies, or anyone that required any attention.  Two stellar dives , enough to get us to book again for Sunday.

Dive logs were captured using my new dive watch/computer. The Garmin Decent MK1.  This little gem logs not only the dive particulars but my heart rate as well.  Additionally it logs the GPS location of your entry and exit.  SWEET.  (Click any of the links below for the details)

Dive 1: Eeny Meeny Miny Mo | Single-Gas Dive
Dive 2: Iron Shores Garden | Single-Gas Dive

Rum Point 

I don’t see the attraction to Rum Point, sure it might be quieter, there’s a Rum Point beach area with a bar or two, bar food, and a restaurant (which was closed except for dinner).  The beach there was small, and full of seaweed.  Clearly party central though if that’s what you’re looking for.  That’s to say to buy overpriced buckets of beer and play sand volleyball.   No kidding, I paid $28 Cayman for two Mango Coladas and I don’t think there was any alcohol in them to speak of.  Worst investment of the trip.  We did however enjoy the hammocks for a bit.  But I see no need to go back there.  In all fairness, we didn’t get out to the western part of the beach.

Sunday

Two more dives with Ocean Frontiers

Dive 3: Lost Valley | Single-Gas Dive
Dive 4: FantaSea Land | Single-Gas Dive

Again, exceptional service, and great overall dives. Same boat, completely different and equally great crew.

On the bay was kind enough to allow us a later than 11am check out so that we could dive on Sunday.  We were told by 7 mile we could check in after 4pm, maybe early but 4pm for sure.  After our dives we took a little pool time to wind down before packing up and moving to 7 Mile Beach Club and Resort.

Upon arrival (at 4:10) we noticed that the office closed at 4pm.  Fortunatly the manager lived in unit 1 and was able to accommodate our check in. That certainly didn’t jive with the “You can check in after 4pm for sure story we got the day before.

Epic Divers

After checking in and getting settled I sent an email to Epic Divers, whom we booked with confirming our arrangements after I read that they were winding down.  They confirmed our pick up time and that all things were a go.

EPIC more than lived up to their reputation.  For the most part Claudine and I had the boat to ourselves with Pete (one of the owners parents).  What a distinct pleasure it was to meet them and dive with them.  We did pick up another couple divers Thursday, Friday and a full boat for their final run on Saturday.

I wish Pete and his family success in whatever it is they decide to do and plan to keep in touch.

The first two dives with EPIC were on the western 7 mile side.  I enquired about diving the north wall as I hear that’s often harder to get to, specifically when in the summer as the weather comes from the north.

Monday’s dives:
Dive 5: Knife | Single-Gas Dive
Dive 6: Ono Verde | Single-Gas Dive

Tuesday’s dives:
Dive 7: Big Tunnels | Single-Gas Dive – Drift
-= Followed by a move to the North Sound
Dive 8: Lemon Reef | Single-Gas Dive

Wednesday’s dives:
Dive 9: Leslie’s Curl | Single-Gas Dive
– Surface Interval at Stingray City Sandbar.

Dive 10: Ray’s Bedroom | Single-Gas Dive

We got to spend some time with “Hook” about a 5 foot reef shark, that once had a huge hook in his nose (note the scar) which was removed a while back.

We had originally planned to take Wednesday and Saturday off to shore dive, but because the service was so good, and the weather on the north wall was cooperating we elected to dive both Wednesday and Saturday as well in the end.

We also took our Sunset Snorkel trip off Cemetary beach this evening.  Good stuff.

Thursday’s dives:Dive 11: Main Street | Single-Gas Dive
Dive 12: Blue Pita | Single-Gas Dive

Shore Dive @ Macabuca
Dive 13: Macabuca | West Bay Single-Gas Dive

Friday’s dives:
Dive 14: 7 Fathoms | Single-Gas Dive
Dive 15: Sturgeons Domain | Single-Gas Dive

Shore Dive @ Sunset HouseDive 16: Sunset House | George Town Single-Gas Dive
-= Yes, we found the mermaid. We did swim past it but found it on the way back. Cleaned up after the dive and had dinner on a patio all to ourselves.

Saturday’s dives:
Dive 17: Hammerhead Hill | Single-Gas Dive
Surface Interval at Stingray City Sandbar again
Dive 18: Monet’s Garden | Single-Gas Dive

At the end of the trip, these are all the dive sites we hit in 10 days, 8 of them diving.

There are supposed to be 365 dive sites between the 3 Cayman islands.  We have only scratched the surface, with 18 this trip and 11 the last trip, with the only duplicate so far being the shore dives at Macabuca.

Video

Disclaimer: This is a quick chop down of over 40 hours of video captured during the trip.  I am not a professional videographer or video editor.  You may be about to spend time on the internet that you’ll never get back.

Video 1:  Photos, Sharks and Eels

Video 2: Fish and Stingrays

 

 

 

 

2018 Makers Mark Mini Man Camp

~7 years ago, on another motorcycle trip, Alan (Dad), Kyle and I stopped at Makers Mark for a tour.  We were introduced to the Ambassadors Program, became ambassadors, put our names on a barrel, and followed it from birth to maturation.  

Fast forward to 2018 and our Bourbon was ready to be picked up.  It had probably been almost 4 years since I’d had a motorcycle trip that was more than a simple day ride so I was well overdue.  We put together the group, and added another friend (Carter).

Dad planned the weekend routes starting in Cincinnati, OH down to Lexington, a good ~400 mileish loop for Saturday in KY back to Danville, then Sunday to Makers Mark, then back home.  All via back roads.

Sadly when we departed on Friday the 20th the weather essentially consisted of this:

So, while maybe not the smartest thing we’ve ever done, we decided not to wimp out and went anyway.  Pretty much our entire ride from Cincinnati to Lexington on mostly back roads was completely wet.

Now, I know what you’re thinking… “That’s just dumb”, and “That had to suck”, and it was, and mostly did.  However.  Riding in the rain on a motorcycle isn’t nearly as bad as people think provided you can stay dry with good rain gear and have good tires.

We made it to our intended destination only to find that a large majority of the area was without power, including the hotel we we intended to stay. We didn’t check in, headed for dinner hoping that maybe they’d have power in an hour or so.  That turned out to not be the case.  We moved our accommodations to a Marriott on the north side of Lexington.  Everywhere was busy as lots of travelers were seeking alternate accommodations.  Marriott Platinum status won the day, though all-in-all the Marriott folks were more than accommodating for a large number of folks considering they had no internet, an no way to actually confirm reservations or charge credit cards.  As far as I witnessed, no one was turned away.

So Friday evening we spent drying out our gear, drinking bourbon, and catching up.

Saturday morning started our dry with a Ferry ride across the Kentucky River, on 169. Weather for the day was 80 percent chance of rain and it lived up to that expectation.

We spent the rest of Saturday around various back roads in KY, all of them great motorcycle roads, and some were even dry.  A Video of some of the excitement is below.

Full disclosure, I only spent about 15 minutes cobbling this together.  The audio sucks and watching people ride in the rain isn’t super exciting.  You’re about to lose 12 minutes of your life you will never get back.

Footage was captured with a GoPro Session and GoPro 4 mounted to my helmet.  This was sort of a test as I purchase these for use while scuba diving in an upcoming Grand Cayman trip.

Did I mention we got rained on? A lot? During one downpour we did embrace our inner Harley rider and hid out for 15-20 minutes.

More Video (if you’re willing to lose another 14 minutes of your life) of some of the smaller back roads, and mostly a dry section:

We finished up in Danville, and had a great meal at Guadalupe Mexican restaurant.  Saturday evening was filled with more bourbon drinking and story telling.  We of course evaluated some Jefferson Ocean that was quite good.

Sunday we slow played it trying to avoid the rain but that didn’t work out either.  Our trip from Danville to Makers, while short was also completely wet.

But we made it, took our tour, collected our bourbon, dipped our bottles and were happy ever after.

The rain stopped about long enough for us to take the tour and walk from building to building.

The tasting room, from left to right: White Lightning (pre barrel Makers), Makers Mark, Makers 46, Makers Cask Strength, and Makers Private Select, recipe #3.

The dipping of the bottles…

And More Rain…

All in all a very successful motorcycle trip and we’re looking to put together another one for the fall.  Hopefully a little drier.

 

This Old House, Pool Deck Replacement.

This blog does a number of things for me, one of which is my own personal time capsule or library.  When we try to remember when we did something we often turn here.  With that in mind this year we decided to replace our pool deck.

We have our own special FAUX in-ground pool.   It’s an above ground pool built into the side of what was at one point the Summer kitchen for this 1800’s farm house.  From there a deck wraps around it.

It was here when we moved in, and quite frankly needed replaced about two years after we moved in.  In 2009 we had our pool replaced, you can see how bad the deck was in the photos on that post here.

Part of the problem was that the new pool wasn’t put as close to the deck as the old pool, so we had to build up a little extra trim to get by.

In 2010, instead of tearing up and rebuilding the deck we used “Restore” deck paint, which was awesome and got us to where we are today.  That product worked so well we intend to put it on this deck from the start, or next year.

Over the memorial holiday weekend this year (2018) we gutted the deck, rebuilt a bunch of the foundation, and replaced the surrounding fence too.

The fence still needs painted and will be in the fall.

Final results:

Lumber and materials were purchased at Menards, though if I had it to do over again I might try Lowes or HomeDepot.  I ordered online, and they delivered it pretty quickly.  However, I didn’t go pick out the wood and there was a lot of low-quality wood in the decking that got delivered.

 

Hey Dad!, You know that dirtbike in the barn?

(Back in late February 2018)

Matthew: Hey Dad!, You know that dirtbike in the barn?
Me: Yes, the one you’re not supposed to mess with?
Matthew: Yeah that one.  I haven’t been messing with it.
Me: OK, what about it?
Matthew: If fits me now.
Me: How would you know that?
Matthew: I might have sat on it a couple times.
Me: Uh Huh…
Matthew: It’s just my size, but the tires are flat, we can fix that, and it needs new stickers and I think the brake are frozen cause I can’t roll it very well.  I mean it rolls but not very well.

Fast forward to today:

Had a little work to do:

  • Carb rebuild kit: $30 (or I could just buy one for $23) so that’s what I did.
  • Air Filter, it’s no longer a home for Mr. Mouse.
  • New Plug
  • Oil Change
  • Cleaned out the tank (lots of crap in there).
  • Cleaned out new carb (yes in that order).
  • New petcock and fuel line
  • New brakes front/rear (it stops now).

Ready to ride.

In the meantime, I picked up this for myself:
KDX200 2-Smoke of near equal vintage.  I had a 220 previously.  I should be able to follow him around on this.  🙂

Looking forward to some summer fun this year 😀

I drummed up some LEGACY web content from the pre-blog days.  Believe it or not people are still searching for some of it on this site now and then.

All my X-dirtbike trip reports, and maintenance and mods for KDX are back here: Super-Legacy-KDX-And-General-Dirtbike-Content

 

Diving Cozumel

Diving Cozumel

Our 2nd Dive trip, so we’re still newbies by all counts.

Prior to the trip we did invest in our own gear.  We already had good masks/snorkels/fins.

We shopped around and ended up with Aqualung gear.  I opted for the travel-light Aqualung Zuma BCD, Aqualung Legend Regulator with ABS Octo, and basic console with i300 dive computer.  We chose to purchase locally over ordering on the internet. Pricing was about the same and we get lifetime free parts for the Aqualung stuff if we have our service performed there.  Oh, and the first service is free as in beer.  Claudine initially wanted a Zeagle Covert, but when it arrived she did not like how it fit.  Fortunately with our trip less than 2 weeks away they had an Aqualung Pearl in her size.  Not as ‘travel light’ as I would like but it fits her well, is made for women, and she has more pockets so she gets to carry all the stuff 🙂

We stayed for a week at Cozumel Palace Resort, and dove with the on-site dive operator (Aqua Safari) and did all dives off of their boat Ocean Three.

We got picked up at the dock on site at the resort.  Ocean Three is a larger boat, holds up to 16 divers, and it was full most of the trips.  For whatever reason we always got the spots on the back of the boat which worked out well.

The resort is just south of town, and most of the dive sites are on the south west side of the island.  Each morning started with about an hour boat ride to the south western tip, to a deeper wall/drift dive.  We then headed back north for a shallower reef dive closer towards the city but still south of the cruise ports.

This was our first drift dive experience and at times was pretty crazy.  Like hopping on the freeway, straight into the fast lane.  It took a couple of these dives before we got comfortable enough to just settle in and enjoy the show.  The first couple dives we spent way to much time fighting to keep oriented and trying to stay off the coral.  TIP: generally speaking, the current isn’t going to smash you into anything, you’ll flow around, up and over with the current.  Until that sinks in you end up trying to avoid things you don’t need to avoid.  Kicking with the current zooms you right along and away from everyone, turning and kicking into the current is exhausting.  Just go with the flow.

Our first dive trip was in Grand Cayman so that was our frame of reference.  If Grand Cayman is a 10 on a 10 scale, Cozumel is 8, 9, and in some slow spots 10 as well.

The wild life was amazing, we saw quite a few turtles, eals and spotted eagle rays that were huge.

There was a photographer on all but one dive day and captured most of what we saw.

Having been spoiled by Neptune Divers in Grand Cayman, who keeps the dive group smaller (Max 8 Divers), I’m not a fan of a full boat of 16 divers plus a photographer and two dive masters (19 people in the water).  Especially when half of those divers don’t realize that it’s a big freaking ocean you don’t need to be on top of other people.  When the dive master would try to draw your attention to something it was like 12 moths to a flame and half of them had no sense of “space”.  I had more fun just hanging out around the perimeter and got to see a lot of things like eagle rays just off in the distance that they didn’t get to see.

Because we could use the resort credits with Aqua Safari we did, and in the same situation I’d do it again.  But if I have a choice I’ll use a smaller operator next time like the highly recommended Scuba Tony in Cozumel.

We will definitely be back!