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, thank you Maggie. When 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 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 to take it off your hands.  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.

Additionally we 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.  It turns out, in the offseason, that’s not a problem.

After some research, we selected a condo on the north side in Old Man Bay.  Originally we rented On The Bay Unit #104 via Grand Cayman Villas & Condos.

As we did our pre-travel research we were a little bummed about the number of things that were down/closed for the off season.  Island population is certainly lower, 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 when I 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 –We had originally booked On The Bay Unit#104, upon arrival we were told there was a problem with that unit. It had recently been sold and some of the utilities weren’t turned back on.  Cayman Villas moved us to Unit #310 and we were very pleasantly surprised when we got there. On The Bay Unit #310 (Third floor ocean view) was an upgrade for us from unit 104, (ground floor, no view).  Kudos to Grand Cayman Villas for upgrading us.  The On The Bay condos are nice and spacious. The unit we stayed is was an owner occupied rental so it was extremely well appointed versus a condo that’s 100% rental and filled with the bare minimum. We essentially had the entire 12 unit complex to ourselves.  It really couldn’t have been any better.

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 grazing there and the 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 (in addition to our normal computers/gauges). 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 that was only possible because it was essentially empty. I see no need to go back there. In all fairness, we didn’t get out to the western part of the beach, and if provided with the right opportunity to stay in one of the condos at Kai Bo, or that part of the island for a reasonable price we would consider it.

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.  But no harm, no foul.

Seven Mile Beach Club – We really like 7 Mile beach club for it’s short, less than a block walk to the southern end of 7 mile beach just below the Marriotts portion of the beach. We also like the ability to walk to a number of restaurants including Coconut Joe’s across the street.  Our request for a ground floor unit was honored.  Similar to up north, the place was almost empty.  If you can get a ground floor unit, do it.  There’s no real view to speak of, and the ability to walk out your back door to the pool (vs a screened in balcony) is an added bonus.  However, this is our second visit and we’re 0-2 in the ability to use the pool.  It was broken the first time and being worked on.  It was up and running on Sunday when we got there, but closed on Monday to have a drain installed, so it was down the whole time. They did work out an arrangement for patrons to be able to use the pool at the facility next door (@ Comfort Suites), but it’s just not the same as right out your back door.  It’s this kind of thing that really turns me of to ever wanting to own a timeshare.

Epic Divers –After checking in and getting settled I sent an email to Epic Divers, whom we booked with, confirming our arrangements. I had stumbled upon a post/article about the owner having a party with Guy Harvey and read that they were winding down which had us a little concerned. They confirmed our pick up time and that all things were a go. Long story short, there are rules about how long an expatriate can live and work on the island (9 years to be exact in 2018). When that happens you have to be off island for 1 year before you can come back.  Both owners of EPIC aged out or rolled over within the same year. Had things been managed differently they could have kept it going but they never found a 3rd partner/wheel they trusted enough to do that.  I wish I had met them a year ago. EPIC is (or was) certainly the type of company and class of people I’d consider investing in.

EPIC more than lived up to their name and reputation.  For the most part Claudine and I had the boat to ourselves with Pete (one of the owners) and his parents (Shirley and Collin).  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.  Pete’s family lives in a part of the UK that I’ve never visited and I look forward to having them show us around one day.

The first two dives with EPIC were on the western 7 mile side. I enquired about diving the north wall as we were unable to get to the north side during our last visit. Turns out it’s a bit choppy in the summer as the weather comes from the north. 

EPIC boat on the West Bay Dock:

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. This was the first time I needed to navigate to something. 320 degrees from our drop in point, then 310 from there to a wreck (which we didn’t swim too). 

The way the mermaid is situated with her back to a larger coral formation, it’s easy to swim past on the way out and we did exactly that.  After consuming about 30% of our air we turned back, and found her on the swim back (heading 140 degrees). After the shore dive we cleaned up 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. Daryll told us that the island decided on a marketing campaign “Cayman, dive a new site every day, 365 days a year”.  The put it all together and published it only to realize they didn’t have 365 sites.  They only had 359 or something, so a few of the dive sites are somewhat suspect, (or complete ass as he called them).  But there are 365 moorings today.

Some Stats from this trip:
10 Days on Island
18 Dives, 16 by boat, 2 by shore, plus some snorkeling
13 and a half hours under water during the dives
We put 410 miles on the rental car (that means we spent at a minimum of 11.5 hours in said rental car at an average of 35 MPH)

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.

 

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

 

Matthew, golfing at the diamond in the rough.

Forest Hills #4

Matthew and I, both fighting illness and on the back end of getting rid of strep and/or bronchitis.   Were bored to tears at home so we packed up our golf clubs and headed to the little Diamond In the Rough down the road.   I didn’t blog about this place last year when I found it because I wanted to keep it to myself.

I’m talking about Forest Hills Country Club.   Smack dab in the middle of Middletown, Ohio is this little 100+ year old 9-hole golf course.  It is not fancy, but it is challenging and tough.  5 par 3’s and 4 par 4’s, with two sets of Tees for each hole that makes each hole different enough to keep it interesting.  (3 of the par 3’s are 200 yards from one set of tees).   Narrow fairways and small greens.   A nice, quiet (and cheap) place to play golf that’s literally 5 minutes from our home.  We have lived here for 17 years and had no idea it existed until it showed up on GolfNow last year.

ForestHillsEarth(Overhead Google Earth of the place).

Continue reading “Matthew, golfing at the diamond in the rough.”

DeadCat Quad Gimbal Video

So in preparation for FPV, I started building a ‘Dead-Cat’ style quad.

So out of the box, I’ve hot this HK frame, and crappy arms which I replaced with DJI arms.  It flies well with Stock DJI (red) 2212 920KV motors with stock DJI 30A opto ESC’s and 10 Inch props. 

But when I weight it down with the Gimbal it’s a tad overloaded.

DeadCat Quad Flights.

For the most part I’m happy with the video quality, there’s still some Jell-O in the footage though.   It’s pretty clear in it’s current state I can’t add the weight of FPV gear.   So if this becomes an FPV rig, the Gimbal in it’s current form, has to go.

Perhaps a move to 4S batteries is required.   I’ll have to do some more research.   It’s not a steady as J’s Team BlackSheep Discovery Pro, which is heavier.   But is also using 900kv motors and 10” props which I’ve also only flown with 3S batteries.

I still enjoy and prefer the PixHawk Flight controller to the DJI Naza V2 that’s on the TBS.   Even with it’s pre-arm button ridiculousness.