Sportfishing in the Cayman Islands

It was a gloomy morning in Grand Cayman, and the tarmac was still wet from the rain that heavily poured the previous night. We grabbed a quick breakfast at a coffee shop in Camana Bay, awaiting impatiently 8 o’clock to arrive. At the dock, Captain Jon, owner of Slackem Charters, and his First Mate Peri welcomed us aboard the ‘Keeping It Reel’ and showed us our ride and roof for the next 4 hours. The 62′ Ocean Sport Fisherman vessel was equipped with a spacious air-conditioned cabin, including a galley (kitchen), 3 state rooms (bedrooms) and 3 heads (bathrooms). It was large enough to accommodate our group of 10, and the crew of 2.

Since the weather seemed to clear out, I decided to climb upstairs and sit by the Captain. We slowly cruised towards the deep ocean. The usual calm and turquoise water was then choppy with shades of dark blues and greys, yet I could see some clear blue patches as we passed shallow areas. It wasn’t raining, but the clouds darkened the sky ahead making the picture beautiful and serene.

The 7 lines trolled behind the boat at different depths, and everyone was eager to catch a monster.

At times the waves picked up, and if I only knew the trick of starring at an immobile point in the boat instead of watching the moving sea, perhaps I wouldn’t have lost my breakfast croissant in the toilet. While I tried to stabilize my motion sickness, laid on the couch in the cabin and starring at the ceiling, I heard the Captain scream: “Fish, fish!” I jumped off my safe zone and hurried to the deck. Kayla, whose sea sickness was beat by excitement to catch a prey, grabbed hold of the rod. After sweat and strong efforts, she victoriously brought back the first mahi mahi onboard.

Back to my couch and to my ceiling… until I hear the captain once more: “Fish, fish!” It was a big one. I was dizzy, could barely balance myself on the deck, but what the heck -I haven’t come here just to stare at a ceiling! I was in, rod in hand, and ready to fight the beast. This is the moment when you hate yourself for gaining those extra few pounds from wine and cheese and slacking on workout and exercise. Captain Jon strapped me to the chair. I wanted to strangle everyone for their endless encouragement words that didn’t help at all: “You’re almost there!” “Ya right”, I yelled between two breathes. “I can see the line 100ft away!” My whole body was shaking, already aching for days. I want to die. I want to quit. No, I won’t quit. I’m gonna get this fish into this boat and thank it for the good fight. Then I’ll eat it. After sweating the last drop of water I had in my already dehydrated body, I saw the end of the tunnel, or rather the tail of the catch. It took 20 min, and a load of sweats and swears, but I reeled it onboard, and all by myself!

I didn’t feel sick anymore. I was too excited! IMG_5795 Everyone got turns to reel the rods.

Captain Jon thought at one point we had a marlin. I’ve never seen someone so excited! I’m still not sure what he yelled at Peri, maybe some fisherman slangs in a Caymanian patois. IMG_5839 On our way back, the sky growled and the thick black clouds released themselves. We sheltered ourselves comfortably inside the cabin and shared our experience.

When we returned to the dock, Captain Jon offered to filet our fishes. I couldn’t resist and went ahead and ate a big piece. I was followed by everyone else.

We thanked our crew and left with our ziploc bags. It was an amazing deepsea fishing experience with Slackem Charters. Captain Jon and his First Mate Peri were very helpful and knowledgeable. Not only their patience and work ethic made us feel very safe and comfortable, but their passion for the fish and the sea, and their willingness to go the extra mile made this day at sea a memorable experience. That day, we caught 10 mahi mahi. IMG_5849 And not that I want to brag, but I got the biggest one 😉

A Caribbean Tale: the End of a Great Chapter

August 29th, 2012: I left a piece of sand. I left behind my island jeep, my snorkeling gears, my oceanfront condo full of stories. I left my friends. I left my life in the Caribbean.

From working solid hours to diving everyday, to swimming to the reef in my front yard, to cruising around the island in my roofless car, to the late night life chats on my balcony looking at the stars, to the simpleness of life under a tropical sun… Cayman Islands you were a paradise in all!

Why did I leave? Well, there was the end of the lease. I only planned on staying for 6 months… almost 2 years ago. And my roommate, the best roomy ever, was about to leave. Signing a new year lease, finding a new roommate, that was way too scary for me. It was like doing it all over again. Plus, I had friends, dogs and a job waiting for me back home. It was time for me to go… Was it?

I miss the island everyday though. I left when I finally made the place feel like home. I had new opportunities opening up to me. I had good friends. I was constantly doing something new. Being on the water everyday reminded me how important this element is to me. I got offered to be an underwater photographer apprentice. I also got offered to operate a watersport business…

So why did I leave? When you feel something in your heart pushes you to do something, sometimes you might hit a stomp, sometimes everything make sense. My heart needed to be back and catch up on the important people of my life, to see my dogs grow and to see the snow fall again. I wanted to be cold. I wanted to experience my home in the mountains again.

I am happy to be back. It is still summer here and the reflections of the snowy mountains on the lakes look fantastic. I caught up on my friends, spend quality time with my dogs and breathe the fresh air. It is good to be cold!

I think of Cayman everyday. I will go back for sure. Either to visit or to stay and work and play. We’ll see. The Cayman Islands chapter has arrived to its end. Now, I need to get to know home.

Island Life: A Year in the Making

I got here on a 4th of July. Like many islanders I came here to search for a new light, try to brighten up on some points in my life, try to escape the mold; try to create life experiences; try to build a new chapter of my own.

This whole experience was never planned. It came up randomly as an opportunity. Call it luck or not, it came perfectly in a good time in my life, where my heart was looking for recovery and my soul was searching to hold on to something new.

I never really put any thought before into the Caribbean. I mean it is touristy, easy to travel to, very modern and built with big hotels and amenities. All the opposite of what I am looking for when I travel. But this time was not about backpacking. It was about leaving home, on my own, at an older age and moving into the unknown. I was there to work and step away from my reality to get a better understanding of it. I had no expectations.  Just a work permit, a one-way plane ticket and an open heart and soul.

With hesitation at first, I took courage by the horns and entered in a whole new adventure. The first couple of months were cruel. I missed friends and my puppies growing up. I missed the family that I built in the past 9 years. I missed the mountains, the lifestyle, the fresh air of my homey Canadian West Coast. I missed home. But there were reasons why I was here. I needed to put aside loneliness and the feeling of longing for home and start living this island experience. After 2 months residing in an old hotel room, I found a cozy condo on the beach. And when my co-worker Jo from Whistler came down on the same opportunity, I felt that a part of me found home. Now, it was time to start that island life!

14 months later I am sitting on my balcony drinking my latte overlooking the Caribbean Sea and I remember those days that went by. I remember day one when the taxi dropped me at destination and the humidity attacked my hair permanently; I remember when I first dipped my toes in the ocean and marked (literally) the Caribbean as my new territory. I remember my first kiss with a stingray, my first dive in the clear waters of the Antilles, the first time I went wakeboarding under the sunset light and trying so hard not to fall and be a prey to sharks. I remember jetskiing the angry sea and holding on to my dear life. I remember the crazy parties, theover consumption of Jager and the nights that once were to forget now became nights to remember. I remember the friends I met, the ones that left, the ones that stayed, the ones that inspired me in future projects.

I remember the pride I had to welcome my mother and my friends from home in my paradise. I remember leaving home with no shoes and going for lunch to restaurants on the beach. I remember walking home from work while the sun sets over the horizon. I remember going for a snorkel right in my front yard. I remember meeting up with my mother in Cuba for a weekend. I remember grabbing my mask and fins and going diving in the morning and clocking in at work with a massive mask mark on my forehead. I remember cheering my roommate on the beach between 2 bottles of Riesling after deciding to purchase a Jeep (with 2 months left to our journey). I remember the with great DJ’s, the boat parties, the famous Sunday Fundays. Like a captain stirring his vessel, I drove my island life through memorable experiences, a bottle at hand (eh, no judgements, I live on an island)!

It surely has been a legendary rollercoaster and a hell of good time! No regrets, only great memories that will last.

Cayman Islands, I raise my glass to you today: cheers to you and thanks for the good ride! Ya Man!

When Does It Start to Feel Like Home?

So when does it start to feel like home? Is it by the number of pairs of shoes that you collect in your condo’s entrance? Or with the number of swimwear that accumulates on your towel rack? Or is it by the repetitive salutations of acquaintances that you encounter at the grocery store, local pub or just strolling down the beach at night? Maybe you realize that your skin surprisingly started to toughen up to the daily absorption of tropical UV rays and the bombing of mosquito bites, fire coral burns and jelly fish stings? How much and how long does it take to really consider yourself… at home? 

I recently found a different taste to the island: the adaptation to the constant hot, humid and sunny weather, the homey comfort of my apartment, the growing circle of friends and acquaintances (at the end, you pretty much met the whole island), and the feeling of being ok with living far away… But do I feel like home?

I still miss my friends, my dogs, the mountains and my life back home. It will almost be a year that I landed foot on this rock. It was interesting to see the emotional progress. I came from being scared and lonely, to feeling comfortable and at ease. And as this Caribbean chapter is about to end, I am not sure if I am quite ready to let go of it yet.

The first 5 months of being away, I still starved to go back home. And then a friend told me: ‘’you JUST got here. This is a new habitat for you. It takes time to mark territory, build amenity and create contentment and assurance. Don’t run back to comfort zone and security. Experience and learn about those feelings you have and grow out of it. Be strong, be confident. This island has a lot to offer, be kind and heart open and go forward. Give yourself the time to be completely submerged with the venture that you gave yourself and get out of it enlightened and accomplished. Don’t give up, just not yet’’. He was right. I came back home on vacation for the Holidays and it was hard to come back to the island. But weeks went by and I committed to my ‘’Cayman To Do List’’. I kept myself busy not only with work and social gathering (which literally were 2 full time jobs during my first months) but I started to fill my time off with stimulating activities. I really got into scuba diving and I try to go on the water at least twice a week. I attempt to go to places I haven’t been, try a new restaurant for lunch or drive around the island in search of a Sunday getaway brunch. I want to take advantage of the Cayman Airways’ low airline fares to explore the islands nearby, like I did when I met up with Mom in Cuba for the weekend. I want to do it all and give this island experience a big and sincere ‘’check’’. I am even considering purchasing a car, just for the liberty and the freedom for my last months on the rock. But hold on a minute, wouldn’t this be getting closer to settling down?

So yeah… After those months of serenading loneliness and homesickness, here I am in Grand Cayman, living the Island Life at its fullest. With doubts at first, but no regrets at last, I stuck to the guns and battled through this separation anxiety that followed me all along. I realized that we all moved away from something, and we all felt lonely at first. But I had to remember that we are all lonely together. So there I go on this piece of rock in the middle of the Caribbean, telling myself: this is starting to feel like home…

The Return to the Rock

Coming back to the Cayman Islands wasn’t easy. I missed home as soon as I left the Whistler grounds. It was snowing pure white snow. The village was awaking to another epic day on the mountains. I said farewells to my dear friends and off on a plane. I left with pain and fear of longing for home again. But I had to do this, in order to complete the experience I gave myself in the first place.

Sunday Fundays

A beach break at Royal Palms

A couple of months went by and I am back into the island life. I luckily get Sundays off, which is just awesome. ‘’Sunday Funday’’ is a common drinking event that rewards every person that is lucky enough to have the day off. Although Sundays in Grand Cayman are at the origin dedicated to a visit to the church by the locals, it is celebrated in a very festive way both by expats and Caymanians. Perhaps start the day with a ceasar at Billy Bones Pool Bar, followed by a glass of Moet at the poolside of Royal Palms. The afternoonis commonly spent on the blue waters aboard luxurious yachts and fancy leisure 

motorboats. Perhaps a stop at the Sandbar for a swim with the wild but friendly sting rays, or perhaps a race aboard the jetskiis. Drinking is involved and the use of clothing is optional (don’t worry Mom, I still have my dignity). All embarked partyers meet at Rum Point, on the North Side of the island, where boats are corded together, where music is Kaibo Beach Bar for some deep fried seafood and goodies, which helps to soak up the heavy consumption of alcohol circulating in our bodies. A ride back to shores under the shimmering stars and it is already bedtime for our inebriated ones. Maybe a stop at Aquabeach for a last one 😉

Winter Months in the Tropics

The weather has been pleasant, the breeze refreshing and the water… revitalizing! Mostly warm and sunny, we still get some stormy days bringing crashing waves to our front yard.  I even considered wearing a long pair of jeans one night after feeling a rush of goosebumps!

Not to forget to mention the wear of my toque, perhaps for some kind of comfort, a feeling from home. The tourist season has finally started and the restaurants have been pretty busy which fills our pockets with decent money.  Cruise shippers abound the port of Georgetown, hunting for jewelry and island souvenirs. I got a yoga pass at the studio next door and I really enjoy my teacher and her Jivamaktu class. I also managed to commit to a regular visit to the gym (who knew I would actually enjoy it). Plus, I try to go for a swim, a true long time gone habit. I also started my Advanced Open Water Course, finally. A bit of studying and workout will hopefully keep me out of trouble for a little while (with the exception of Sundays, obviously).

The Return to the Rock  

The return on the rock wasn’t actually so bad. It took a little while to transition my mind from cold white snow and pure mountain air to warm sun, blue waters and tropical atmosphere but I realized that I do really like this place. You pick and choose what you need and make the most out of it. Having Sundays off brought up to me a variety of new opportunities and I meet positive minded and ambitious people that brighten this tropical journey. I am working on focusing my energies on my mind and my body by learning new things and staying active.

No matter where your life brings you in this journey, remember to let loose, get scared, and live on the edge. It is okay to have fun, just find the right balance. Don’t live a boring life otherwise you’ll regret it when you die.

Live young. Live wild. Live free.

Careful What You Wish For

Dreamy lounging bed at Tikki Beach

Several times in my younger years I was wondering how my life would have been if my parents were rich: taking the family on an annual holiday to Florida, Mexico, or Barbados, or perhaps Dad would have a kickass offer with his growing business employer and we would have move to Atlanta, or Hawaii, or Japan for instance. I would’ve need to start a new life at a new school with new friends, a new accommodation, a new park, a new grocery store and a new everything. It is something I would’ve love to do. I mean, my soul, even as a kid, was always on the go. Day dreaming was my major obsession and I was good at it. Any classes at school were topped up with a dreamy quote. Although science and mathematic were not of my best performance, I was hitting records in writing production and story telling. Falkor (the flying canine dragon from Never Ending Story) was reaching me the paw from the class window and ask me, come, come fly away with me. Yup, imagining a world I didn’t have: a Mom and a Dad, brothers and sisters, a house full of energy and family portraits. Vacation in the sun once a year with white teeth smiles captured and posted on the staircase wall. But came reality and was my life: me, a single mom, a brother gone travelling the globe, a wild orange cat and plenty of dogs. I wasn’t unhappy with what I had, I knew better from looking at my friends’ grass. My mom had a solid interpretation of life. She worked hard and loved me harder. We didn’t have money really but she taught me gold. I didn’t have a Dad, but I had better. I had a unique life and I thank my Mom for that. But still, being a kid watching those American TV programs and films, all about big families, money, big universities with palm trees. What if I want to taste a bit of that? Is that it? Can’t I even get a little piece of it? As pretentious it sounds, I always wished for more and hoped for bigger. I believed that there was hope to realize every dream I have. I wished of growing within a big family. I wished of living in luxury. I wished to live overseas…

When I moved to Whistler in 2003, I left all behind to conquer the unknown. I had no plan and no idea of what I was about to do. All I had was a backpack with my life on my shoulders, and the young adventurous heart of a 19 year old. After scrubbing toilets and serving spoiled brat guests, I got offered a job at one of the best patio restaurant in town (one that caught my attention my very first day while dropping resume, but due to my juvenile English, a customer service position was to dismiss). After sharing a living accommodation with an unknown guy in a garage, I moved into a luxury condo right on the mountains, a very luxurious pad. I had a master bedroom, king size bed, my private fireplace and patio overlooking the snowy mountains. I was living the life of a princess! A couple years later I met my boyfriend and we moved in a house with his brother and his girlfriend and some very close friends. The house was big, with 3 fireplaces, a pool table, a movie room, massive backyard and a gigantic kitchen. An 1.3 million dollar home. And I was part of it. We shared dinners, moments, years together. We were a family. There it was: a wish came true. I had my big luxurious house in paradise with my brothers and sisters.  I got to laugh, fight, cry, converse about life. The feeling of comfort and of acceptance, of mutual support and respect. I felt like home. And I thank you all roomies for that.

But living in Whistler and having all I ever wanted, wasn’t enough for me. I travelled to the other side of my own country. That was easy. I set camp and met family. Worked and made money. I was 26, had a good position at my job, a boyfriend that I loved very much, a dog that I am intensively emotionally attached, amazing friends, a reliable car. We were busy sledding, boating, camping, fishing, adventuring our surroundings. I had a life filled with relationships, activities and toys. But I wasn’t fully happy. My boyfriend once looked at me and expressed: ‘’Capu, you are not happy. You are in need of a new experience’’. As much it was hard for him to say and for me to hear, he was right. I couldn’t stop myself there. I had to go back in that roller coaster of life and jump right into a scary steep line.

Packed my bags and left again. 9 years of life building behind me. A new departure point. New territory. Guess this is where life wanted me to be.

A few years ago while living the life in Whistler, I had dreams of living in a land of palm trees, owning a Jeep and a nice bungalow on the beach. I dreamt of my friends to come visit me in the surroundings of sun, beaches, tropical birds and ‘’Ya Man’’ world. Well, here I am. Haven’t got the Jeep or yet friends that came to visit. But I withdrew myself from that moldy old hotel room at Treasure Island and found myself a piece of paradise in the condos nearby. I wake up to the sound of waves and wind blowing through palm trees and grab a latte coffee on my balcony overlooking the Caribbean sea and tell myself: Wow. Life is great. With determination and persistence, I got want I wanted. Once again.

37. Live and work overseas

Updated: I did get my roofless Jeep and friends (and mom) that came to visit. 🙂

My new backyard
‘“You see things and you say: Why? But I dream things that never were and I say: Why not?”
-George Bernard

Dog Days Are Over

8 weeks, 10 bottles of wine, 37 take outs, 20 pounds and too-many-I-cannot-count island highballs; waking up with cereal in my hair after a night of too many Jagerbombs; retarded nights at O’Bar, nO’Bar, where’s my hO’me Bar; messy room, moldy clothes, parking view. That’s it. Over this. I didn’t come here to rewind 10 years younger. I’m 27 now and I need to focus on what I came here to do. and I won’t find what I am looking for if I keep acting like a teenage girl. Mature up honey.

Don’t get me wrong. I had a good time. Felt like I was in college again, flying free and wide. No one to tell me what to do, no one to boss me around. No obligation, no responsibility, just to show up to work and pay the rent on time. 

Enjoying my ONE day off

Work, sleep, eat, drink, rest. I surely did a whole lot of that. No wonder why I got that 20 pounds of extra chunk in the trunk. Being part of the service industry implore late social nights. A drink after work to cool down. And after working 6 days straight every week, comes my fabulous day off and its thirst. Time to let loose and fool and put stories on the wall. And, as I need to make friends, what better way then to spend money and time on some food and wine, perhaps a lot of wine (do I drink too much?).

But come on. I didn’t come here to party my life away. I came here with the intentions to grow up and learn more about stuff. Finally get to do things on my own. I have a list of things I need to do to make the most out of this experience and I can’t leave this island without completing it. Better start checking some points!

Breakfast on my balcony

Welcome to you September with your wisdom! 2 months of adaptation is more than enough. After living in a moldy and filthy filtered AC room that gave me the nasty cough for 2 weeks, I managed to find the perfect unit by the beach. Call it luck, I call it the fruit of determination and hard work. I got what I wanted, once again! Jo (ex co-worker from Whistler that got the same job offer) is arriving this month and will be sharing with me this beautiful 2bed/2bath condo. Good timing right? I will now have a fridge that I will stock with fresh organic food and start cooking again! Read the news in the morning at the beach with my new roommate, a familiar face. Have a glass of Pino Grigio after work on my balcony and watch the moon rises over the sea. Go to my yoga class at the studio next door. Have a swim in early mornings in the waters of my fantasy backyard. Study my Advanced Open Water manual with a frozen margarita at the swim up bar. Ya Man!

It really took time to adapt and to decide whether or not I want to make this place a part of mine. Different crowd, different air, different vibe. But now that I left those rookie days behind, am enlarging my network of relationships and am leaning towards healthier habits for body and mind, I consider the whole thing again and am thinking… hey, island life for a bit, why not, eh!

Admiring sunset at home