Charter to the Cays

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Image of Ella Latter

Published 19th October 2021, 2:17pm

In an interview recorded on the 17th October 1990 Mrs. Ella Latter (nee Hurlstone) gave an entertaining and unusual account of a time she and several other George Town friends took a pleasure cruise on the CIMBOCO in the late 1920s to Nicaragua’s Mosquito Cays.

Dr. Roy McTaggart, a local merchant, had chartered the vessel to pick up a load of turtle. Instead of having the CIMBOCO make the journey empty, he invited a few young people to make the journey there and back at the bargain fare of $10.00 round trip including three good meals a day. 

Miss Ella and about ten other adventurous young adults jumped at the opportunity and in her words they all went along “Just for the fun of it.” At the time of interview, she was able to remember the names of a few of the other passengers which included her brother Otto Hurlston, Veta Merren, several members of the Crighton family, Cyril Coe and Dr. Roy himself.   The trip lasted for approximately a week – three days down, three days back with a day in between to load the turtles.

Accommodations:

Onboard there were two bigger rooms which had four bunks, as well as several single cabins that had only two bunks. Miss Ella and Miss Veta nabbed one of the single cabins for this trip. She described the cabins as “Clean as a whistle.  When you went … on board, that bed was made up freshly.  White sheets and pillow cases; clean as anything.  And for the size boat it was well-done.” (She explained that the CIMBOCO was not a turtle vessel, but was primarily a cargo and mail ship that ran between Jamaica, Cayman Brac, Cayman and Tampa). She observed that passengers slept with all the doors open.

Itinerary:

#1 - The first stop was Cape Gracias where the vessel stopped to obtain a clearance permit which gave permission to collect the turtles that the rangers had caught on the cays.  The passengers did not go ashore there. 

#2 – Next stop was Puerto Cabezas where the clearance was paid to fish in Nicaraguan waters. Miss Ella described going ashore where the group visited with friends, had a good meal, and she added, “…probably a bath….because when you went on these trips, and anybody invited you [in], the first thing they wanted to find out…if you would like a bath [laughter] you know, because there wasn’t much chance of taking a bath on the old CIMBOCO.”

#3 – Their final stop was at the Mosquito Cays to pick up the turtles which took over a day to do.  The vessel would sail from cay to cay doing this and she remembered going ashore on Man-o-War Cay where she climbed a very tall lighthouse (she estimated to be about 100 feet tall). The very daring Miss Ella climbed right up to the top and “I didn’t worry one bit about me.  But I looked behind, and there was Otto coming right behind….and I thought, ‘Oh my goodness! If anything happens to him….!’ But I never thought about anything happening to me!” 

#4 – Once all the turtles were collected they sailed back to Grand Cayman where the turtles sold for consumption locally or else shipped to Key West for sale in the USA.

This trip to the Mosquito Cays was certainly memorable for all those young adults, providing an insight into several of the ports and cays frequented by the Caymanian turtlers.  However, it was no doubt that their sailing conditions was nothing like those faced by the turtle rangers and fishermen.

To research more information on the unusual exploits of women who had the rare privilege of experiencing something of the seafarer’s life  as well as other similar topics, contact the Cayman Islands National Archive at cina@gov.ky.

Image of Mrs. Ella Latter c.1937. Not to be reproduced without the permission of the Cayman Islands National Archive.