Passenger Pick of the Month
Capt. Marvin’s Watersports
Grand Cayman’s most popular and famous excursion is Stingray City! It is a must do activity that all ages and stages can enjoy. Capt. Marvin’s Watersports, the largest and most established operator on the island, has been taking guests to experience Stingray City for decades. Passenger Picks recently caught up with Ronnie Anglin owner of Capt. Marvin’s.
PP: Ronnie, our first experience at Stingray City was with Capt. Marvin's. We’ll never forget your uncle greeting everyone at the dock as they arrived. He thanked each person and said, ‘be blessed!” He was so kind and loved to share stories of Cayman history. How long did he greet guests this way?
RA: We called my uncle, Captain Marvin, “Cap”. Due to health reasons Cap stopped captaining his boat at the young age of 93. He would then come out to the dock or porch to make sure we were "doing things right" and greet old and new friends alike until he was hospitalized in December of 2014, and passed away shortly after. He was 98.
PP: So sorry to hear that. What a great life! We have heard Capt. Marvin was the original founder in discovering stingrays at the sandbar. Could you give us a little history?
RA: Certainly. Our company was established in Grand Cayman in 1951 by Capt. Marvin Ebanks, who is the founder of snorkel trips to the Stingray City sandbar. Capt. Marvin remembers as a boy fishing with his father and stopping by a shallow area in the North Sound to clean their catch. They and the other fishermen noticed that stingrays would congregate and eat the fish scraps that were being thrown into the water.
Some years later, when Capt. Marvin returned to the island after serving in the Merchant Marine, he decided that tourists to the island might like to see the stingrays from a boat, so in 1951 he began with a borrowed sailboat, taking people out from a dock in West Bay to see the stingrays. In those days masks and snorkels hadn't yet been invented for widespread commercial use, but the locals used five-sided wooden boxes (called 'water glasses'), with the fifth side being glass, to look into the water to find conch and see the fish and coral.
Once masks and snorkels were in common use, Capt. Marvin took people out to the clear, warm waters of the North Sound to snorkel, pick up some conch, see the stingrays (still from the boat), and his crew would use spearguns to catch fish and lobster. The lunch break was on the beach near Rum Point, and the fresh catch was cleaned and steamed Cayman-style over a wood fire. The conch, meanwhile, was cleaned and marinated with Capt. Marvin's special marinade and served on soda crackers as an appetizer while the fish was steaming. Ms. Anna, Capt. Marvin's wife, would have cooked a big pot of rice and peeled and cooked potatoes in the morning for their famous potato salad as well, to bring along on the boat and serve with the fish lunch.
PP: Wow, that’s fascinating! Stingray City has become the number one excursion/ favorite activity of many families when they visit the island many folks ask me if there is any danger in feeding the stingrays?
RA: The stingrays are very docile and are accustomed to having people around. If you listen to your guides when they instruct you about handling them, you will be just fine.
PP: People love to interact kiss, pet, even dance with the rays! Do your guides share how to feed and handle the stingrays before they get into the water?
RA: Yes, this is done in a short but informative briefing prior to getting into the water; the guides will give more information on the 'rays while in the water and interacting with them.
PP: Why are the rays fed squid?
RA: Squid is the most readily available source of food for them but they also like fish scraps.
PP: What is the life span of the stingrays? I heard that Guy Harvey has them medically checked out once a year so they stay healthy, is that true? What is the greatest danger for the rays?
RA: Very little is known about the life span of the 'rays but some of them have been at the sandbar a lot longer than some of the guides. Many of the rays there have been born and have spent most of their lives at the sandbar. They get fed regularly and are quite happy in their environment of stress free life.
PP: Tell us a little bit about your boats.
RA: We have a good selection of boats that range from very nice to luxury class yachts, between 30 and 60 ft in length. We are always trying to learn what our guests want, and what we may be able to add to make their trip as enjoyable as we can.
PP: Can folks book private charters for large groups and families?
RA: Yes, we have been offering private charters to groups and individuals for over six decades now.
PP: How long does your standard tour take and doyou snorkel any other areas while you are out?
RA: The most popular is the beach lunch trip (5 hrs) but most people opt for the 3-stop (3-hour) tour. They all include some additional snorkel sites such as the reef and the gardens as well as the stingray swim.
PP: We hear you will do some combination tours so if folks want to see Hell, the Turtle Farm and the rays, can you make that happen?
RA: For sure! We have two sister companies (Action Watersports and Cayman in a Nutshell) that allow us to give any visitor the opportunity to take in the entire Island while they're here and get that service that Capt. Marvin's has gained a reputation for delivering.
PP: Many folks come to the island to fish, some want deep sea fishing and others like reef fishing. What do you have to offer and what is the best time of the year to fish Grand Cayman? What kind of fish can be caught?
RA: We are fortunate to be located where we are able to have good year-round fishing. The best months for marlin are from May to July; tuna usually run through July as well; and mahi-mahi have been strong this year, while the wahoo have been sporadic. They are a good fight and very tasty.
So there you have it folks. Capt. Marvin’s is a great way to see Stingray City or take that special private charter, or experience the fishing trip of a lifetime.