The Wreck of the Cali

This “port adventure,” as Disney calls shore excursions, was a unanimous decision. Most days, the various factions of the family go their own way on adventures that appeal to them, but the entire family wanted to snorkel the wreck of the Cali. The boys have been practicing snorkeling back home, so we were all ready to get wet today. The waters around the Cayman Islands enshroud roughly 325 shipwrecks, but this one is easily accessible, making it ideal for family fun. The Cali lies in about 20-30 feet of water just 40 feet or so from shore in George Town, Grand Cayman. I decided to find out a little about the ship before we headed out on the water. Lucky for us, the water wasn’t nearly as murky as the details of how the ship ended up where it lies in pieces today. I will share what I have deduced from all the nutty things I have read online. The Cali was built in 1900 in England and originally christened with the name Hawaii. She was a 220 foot four masted schooner. Reportedly, sometime in the 1920s, a diesel engine was installed. In 1933, she was sold to some people in Mexico who renamed her Hidalgo. She was sold again in 1946 to Colombian owners and again renamed. The Colombians called her Cali. Supposedly, while in the Caribbean in 1948, Cali developed a leak. She was transporting an absolute boatload of rice (seriously, there were 30,000 bags of rice). Some say that the shuddering of the diesel engine caused the trouble because the ship was not originally designed for diesel power. The shuttering supposedly stressed the rivets and the ship started taking on water. Anyway, the crew decided to make for the Cayman Islands rather than risk sinking out at sea, so the ship was deliberately run aground in George Town. It appears that the Cali had totally run out of luck because there she caught fire, burned, and sank. But other sites say that the ship took on so much water that it partially sank and that later the Brits blew it up to completely sink it. (I have to share the funniest thing I saw online. On several websites, I read that during the leak, all those bags of rice took absorbed water and the ship actually exploded. If I thought this factual, I’d probably never eat rice again and I certainly would never have seconds!)

No matter how it ended up on the ocean floor, the wreck is teeming with all sorts of fish which made it an exceptionally wonderful snorkel for the boys. It’s also a plus that the wreck is close in and lies in shallow water so it is easy to reach and easy to see. Actually, you can have lunch at a waterside greasy spoon and walk down the stairs from their deck right into the water. An easy swim puts you right over the wreck. Here is a great picture of the wreck, followed by a photo of the youngest snorkelers on our boat. They enjoyed tossing Fruit Loops into the water and watching the fish pop to the surface and snap them up. We thought it ironic that our family had not only the youngest snorkelers onboard but also the oldest – the two of us. Yikes! Where did the years go?

3 Comments

  1. Pam Morgan on June 20, 2024 at 3:53 pm

    Loving all the great water adventures!

  2. Sarah Guida on June 20, 2024 at 5:49 pm

    How fun! I bet the fish loved the fruit loops and so did the boys!

    • Melinda Young on June 21, 2024 at 3:07 pm

      Sounds like all are having a great time.

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