Sidebar: Dockside restaurants
Cruising across the clear blue waters of the North Sound with the sun on your face and the ocean breeze in your hair is one of the true pleasures of living in the Cayman Islands.
Paddling in waste deep water as graceful stingrays circle your feet at the sandbar, water-skiing on the glassy surface at Duck Pond or cruising along the Seven Mile Beach stretch at sunset – the options are manifold.
On an island spanning just a few miles, the land-based leisure options can seem a little limited so getting on the water literally expands your horizons.
There are far more things to do on the ocean than people imagine, suggests Shawn Green of the recently-launched Leisure Boat Leasing Club.
“It just depends on what you want to do,” he says.
“Some people like to just sit and watch the sunset; some people want to go scuba diving or wakeboarding. Personally I like to take the kids out and go up to Kaibo or Rum Point and play in the sand.”
Look across North Sound on a Sunday and you will find people out free diving for lobster and conch (during season), gleeful kids tubing behind speed boats and groups of friends moored up outside the many bars and restaurants that service boaters in this area.
Some even take the opportunity for an overnight stay in some of the magnificent properties that fringe the sound.
The Retreat at Rum Point offers affordable accommodation while Cayman Villas offers overnight rentals on some stunning beachfront properties.
But the ocean lifestyle has not always been open to everyone. The expense and hassle of owning and maintaining a boat is a major downside and the thought of skippering your own vessel can be intimidating for inexperienced mariners.
For others, such as work permit holders living in Grand Cayman for a few years, having your own boat is just not practical.
Shawn envisions the Leisure Boat Leasing Club will help fill a gap in the market for would-be boaters on the island.
The club offers the fun of boating without the stress of outright ownership.
“It is totally hassle-free,” says Shawn.
“There are no storage costs, no monthly dockage fees, no insurance, no maintenance costs and no worries about hurricane preparation. Also, you don’t have that upfront cost, so it is an affordable option.”
The club currently offers a variety of packages for four different classes of boat, ranging from a 16ft runabout to a 26ft bowrider.
Members can sign up for a 21-day or 30-day package, with different pricing options based on weekend usage.
An online booking system enables owners to pick their days in advance and the boat is delivered to the Camana Bay dock on North Sound or the Lobster Pot dock, George Town, for pick-up.
There is an option to book a lunch basket from Black Trumpet gourmet delicatessen in Camana Bay or to have watersports gear, like water skis or wakeboards on board when you pick up, and the club will also provide assistance for first-time boaters.
“The idea is that we do the work and you have all the fun,” says Shawn.
“There are tonnes of options. If you’re into boating, I would say this is the way to go. If you want to get into boating, this is the way to go. We can bring you up to speed on using and operating the boat.”
Perhaps the club’s greatest selling point is that when the sun goes down there are no cumbersome chores to deal with.
While others rinse down their boats and hook up to trailers in the fading light you can be watching the sunset with a cold beer, letting someone else do the dirty work.