Cayman Islands – December 2010
Published 12 years ago, updated 4 years ago
The following information is based on two U.S.A. citizens on the 42-foot catamaran “YOLO” with no pets.
Cayman Brac (island), Creek (port)
It is not necessary to call on the VHF for permission to enter the port. However, the Cayman Shipping Adviser (Raymond Scott) will probably contact you via VHF Channel 16 when you approach Little Cayman or Cayman Brac islands. Raymond Scott is an excellent source for weather, clearance, provisioning, etc. information. He typically operates out of his home which is located in the West End community. FYI, radar keeps track of all vessels in Cayman waters at all times.
Approach the Creek community commercial dock from the north. The water is plenty deep, over 40 feet, just 125 feet from the dock or shoreline. Several hundred feet north and west of the commercial dock is a huge commercial mooring drum which is used by commercial ships. Several hundred feet south and west of this drum is a large (2-foot diameter) white mooring ball which has a 12-foot line on it. This yacht mooring ball is about 125 feet from the shoreline and is extremely strong. The line is heavy duty and has a diameter of at least two inches. It can be difficult to see the mooring ball because of the chop created by the shoreline waves. Its position is 19°44.655N, 7°946.214W.
No agent is required for Clearance. When you approach the island you should hail “Cayman Brac Customs” on VHF channel 16. If the Customs department fails to respond you have two options. Contact the “Cayman Shipping Adviser” on VHF channel 16 and request that he contact the Customs department, or you can call the Customs Department via phone from your vessel at 345-948-2222.
When a contact has been made with Customs, they will coordinate a visit to your vessel. Three people will be visiting your vessel (Customs, Immigration, and Fumigation). Typically, it is your responsibility to shuttle the three representatives between shore and your vessel. The assigned Customs officer will coordinate the joint three-person visit to your vessel, via VHF channel 16. At the appointed meeting time you will take your dingy to the pick-up area which is located 125 feet south of the Creek yacht mooring ball. When you look south at the rocky coast from your vessel, you will say “where…no way?” Look closely at the shoreline, there is a narrow (15 foot wide) cut in the shoreline.
Once through the cut, you are in a large hidden rectangular sea pool which has water smooth as glass. The sea pool has a boat ramp, smooth walls, cleats, etc. The depth of the water in the cut and sea pool is at least 6 feet deep. Customs, Immigration, and the Fumigator will board and exit your dingy at the sea pool. All three will visit your vessel at the same time, space permitting. If space is limited in your dingy, you will have to make several trips to the shore.
Clearance paperwork normally will be completed on your vessel, but the officials may also choose to complete the paperwork on land if the seas are rough. The fumigator will spray all lockers and living areas of your vessel for mosquitoes. Receipts for payments will be gladly provided upon request. Each visitor to your vessel will want a photocopy of your ship’s registration papers.
Moorings Around the Island
When you approach and sail around Cayman Brac you will quickly notice the rough coastline, cliffs, deep water, lack of bays, etc. Don’t worry. The Cayman government has placed over 100 mooring balls along the shoreline on all sides of the island. Good news, keep an eye on the weather and grab a mooring ball on the lee side of the island, they are free to use! There are mega mooring balls for large heavy yachts (2+ inch lines) and heavy-duty moorings for the vessels under 65 feet long. The moorings are inspected frequently, and 100% of the lines are replaced every two years or less. And, most of the communities along the shoreline have small well-maintained wharves that you can use as a dingy dock.
When clearing in or out, Customs, Immigration, and Fumigation will visit your vessel at any location around the island. They would prefer the yacht mooring at Creek, yet given weather conditions they are more than accommodating to visit you at West End (northwest corner of the island), the Channel (southwest corner of the island), etc. The large white mooring ball with a three-foot-tall pipe sticking out of it at West End is located at 19°41.763 north and 79°52.815 west. The large mooring ball near the Channel is located at 19°40.837 north and 79°52.977 west.
Customs, Immigration, and Fumigation normal business hours are Monday through Friday, 08:30 to 17:00. Overtime charges are:- Customs charges $70 US dollars and Fumigation charges an additional $20 USD.
You can clear into and out of Cayman Brac or Grand Cayman islands. You cannot clear into or out of Little Cayman island. You must meet with Customs before you depart and move your vessel to another Cayman island or another country. When you clear out of Cayman Brac or Grand Cayman you have a grace departure period of 24 hours. If you are at Cayman Brac and wish to visit Little Cayman (which is only a few miles away) and you want to stay at Little Cayman for more than 24 hours, you must return your vessel to Cayman Brac and clear out prior to visiting Grand Cayman or another country. Once cleared into the Caymans (Grand Cayman or Cayman Brac) you only need to meet with a Customs officer to get permission to travel to another Cayman island. When you are departing for another country, you must meet with Customs and Immigration.
You must declare the usual items. I.e., guns, ammunition, illegal drugs, “hidden compartments,” pets, spearguns/slings, etc.
Fees can be paid in either Cayman or United State dollars. During our visit, 80 cents Cayman equaled 1 US dollar.
Customs: None during normal business hours, $70 USD during overtime hours.
Immigration: None and never has an overtime fee.
Fumigation: $30 USD during normal business hours, $50 USD during overtime hours.
Clearing Out: None during normal business hours, $70 USD for Customs during overtime hours.
Documents: The usual ship papers, passports and zarpe from the previous port.
Security: We felt that personal and property security issues were low risk on the islands if common sense was used during your visit.
Goods and Services: The Caymans are more expensive than most northern Caribbean islands/nations. A loaf of wheat bread cost $3.65 to $4.00 USD. During our visit, an Imperial gallon of gas cost $5.90 and diesel was $6.13 USD. There are several marinas and one boatyard on Grand Cayman.
Garbage Disposal: Use the large trash drums located near the community dinghy docks and piers.
Potable Water: Many of the dive shops will give you fresh water from the tap.
Cayman Brac has about 2,000 residents and is certainly one of the most friendly, helpful, clean, safe, and fun to explore islands we have ever visited. The Cayman government provides free island tours. Just contact the Tourism Office which is located in the Community Park about a half mile west of the Cayman Brac airport. You pick the time and place for the tour to begin. Your personal tour guide will customize the tour to your needs. Explore all 14 square miles of the island or focus on cave exploring, free museums, lighthouses, rock hunting, etc. Take as long as you like. The community of West End is the center of commerce which includes the bank, grocery store, liquor store, airport, hardware store, etc. There are no income, property, or sales taxes in the Caymans. You will not find any high rise hotels, condo projects, fast food joints, or tourist traps on Cayman Brac.
Little Cayman only has 200 citizens and is famous for its world-class diving. The island is surrounded by hundreds of well-maintained mooring balls. Most yachts seek shelter near Small Town which is located at the southwestern corner of the island. The cut through the reef is marked with a green buoy and two white poles. We saw over 12 feet of water in the cut and grabbed the first large white mooring ball in 8 feet of water. Don’t be surprised if the Little Cayman Customs officer calls you on VHF channel 16 when you approach or leave the island. Note, he cannot clear you in or out of the Cayman Islands.
Grand Cayman (island), George Town (Port)
Some cruisers initially cleared-in at Grand Cayman (island), George Town (port). This is the largest city in the Cayman Islands. When you are several miles from Grand Cayman you should call “George Town Security” on VHF channel 16. George Town Security is available 24/7 and coordinates the movement of ALL vessels near Grand Cayman. i.e., George Town Security will tell you when and where to anchor, moor, or dock. They keep a very close eye on the weather and will reposition all vessels accordingly, even the cruise liners.
George Town is a busy commercial port. At times there are up to nine cruise liners anchored in the port, which results in the movement of dozens of shuttle and tourist vessels. George Town Security typically asks new arrivals to tie-up at the Customs and Immigration wharf. Look for the tall cargo container cranes and you will see the high concrete wharf just to the north. Line handlers are typically available at the Customs and Immigration wharf. George Town Security will notify you on VHF channel 16 when you are permitted to tie up at the wharf.
George Town Exceptions: Some cruisers have grabbed one of the free oranges with blue stripe mooring ball at 19°18.289 north and 81°23.210 west before taking their dingy to the Customs and Immigration wharf. In these cases, the Fumigation, Customs, and Immigration personnel never visited their vessel. If George Town Security closes the port due to bad weather they will assign all vessel a new location, for example, Spotts Bay on the southern coast of Grand Cayman. The free orange and blue stripe mooring balls at Spotts Bay are located at 19°16.309 north and 81°19.257 west. Fumigation, Customs, and Immigration will travel to the new location to clear you in or out.
Cruisers have reported being fined up to $350 USD for failing to fly the “Q” flag upon arrival, dropping an anchor on coral (you must anchor in sandy spots only), or failing to report directly and immediately to George Town (unless advised otherwise by George Town Security).
In Grand Cayman tourism is king, you can get your fast food fix, shop at large well-stocked grocery stores, or visit any number of tourist traps.
Jason and Karen Trautz
S/V “YOLO” (You Only Live Once)