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Keeping History Alive: Seafaring stories of old

History 10 Jun, 2021 Follow News

From left, the late Mr Athens Bodden, the late Mr Timothy Hydes, Mr Booth Hurlstone, Capt Paul Hurlstone, Capt Farrington, President of the CISA, the late Mr Henry Parsons and Mr Buddy Wood.

As written by Captain Owen Farrington


This year (2021) is the year of the Cayman Islands Seafarers, are the following are reminders of days gone by.

I am not a writer or poet, but I try to give the younger generation a reason to start a conversation, on a subject that we Seafarers failed to chronicle (seafaring). It is a lengthy story, and I only have a small part to share, but hopefully it will arouse other Seafarers to contribute their part of the story.

A fair question would be: “Why am I sharing my part of the story now?” Ralph Lewis, publisher of the Caymanian Times newspaper, gladly allowed me two of my seafaring stories of which I was involved in to be published in the Caymanian Times newspaper.

The first story was about when I extinguished a fire that was in the engine room of a vessel I was chief engineer on, the MV Addie H. The cargo was dynamite and detonators, dynamite in the forward hole and detonators in the after hole, the fire was on the wooden floor of the engine room. That was a scary time which brought all hands on deck.

The second story was about receiving a call from the Captain of a shrimp vessel advising me that a group of Caymanian shark fishermen were out of food and water and were asking me to rescue them. I was Captain of the MJ Jemsons, and had to travel at night to get to the rangers, when I told them I would be there.

I told the Captain to tell the men I would be to them the following afternoon, which I did, and there is only one man alive from the group, as I write I am told that this man was in Florida, receiving radiation therapy. Please pray for him, and when he gets back home, you can ask him to tell you of their experience.

I brought to Grand Cayman 17 able shark fishermen. There was celebrating and praying, and I am thankful that God was given the Glory. The name of the Captain was the late Captain Bradford Tatum of Guanaja, Honduras (in West Bay English, the island was known as Bonaco.)

I will now share the story of a vessel, that sailed from Grand Cayman on July 6th 1936 for Tampa, Florida with empty 55-gallon drums, passengers and crew. This sad story ends when the MV Nunoca never arrived in Tampa. An extensive search by the US Coast Guard was conducted, and this search was unrevealing of the MV Nunoca, or any part of the hull, or empty drums being seen by the Coast Guard.

I was only four years old at the time, so the sad story was told to me years later. The disappearance of the MV Nunoca has been the main topic for many years among Caymanians.

I will now go forward to September 27th 1941, and this is the date of the storm that shook the schooner Majestic with a crew of five, and a number of rangers from the Cayman Islands.

There were 18 rangers and a crew of five from the schooner Majestic and four from the schooner Wilson, making a total of 27 men that died because of the storm of 27th September 1941.

I do not remember the date of the memorial service that was held at the Pilgrim Holiness Church, but I attended the service, and remember one of the hymns that were sung was ‘Never Alone’. The Archives is the place to go and get information on schooners that were built in the Cayman Islands, and many of them were lost in hurricanes along with a number of crew members.

I can give those who are interested in knowing the names of those 27 men who died as a result of the storm of 27th September 1941, but I am unable to give the names of those who were crew or passengers that were on the MV Nunoca which disappeared in 1936.

I do know the names of other Caymanian Seamen who died at sea: Brenton Parsons, Sherlock Farrington, Everet Ebanks, Woody Ebanks, Walter Rivers, Woodly Connolly, Calvert Ebanks – I am sure there are other men from Grand Cayman who died at sea, and I suggest that the Archives would be where one would be able to get those names. There were a lot of men from Cayman Brac and Little Cayman who died at sea, of course I do not have their names.

From my experience, in trying to compile the names of all Caymanian seamen, not just those who died at sea, I was unable to manage the logistics.

In closing, let me thank all ladies who kept the fires burning while the men were at sea. I say thanks also for the prayers that were offered for all Seafarers.

When a shipping company needed a crew, they contacted Miss Gwen’s office, and the word went out that a call had come in for a ship’s crew. The grapevine would start to buzz “John Bloke” got his call., Miss Gwen just sent word to him that he should be to her office next day. The photo was taken when the Cayman Islands Seafarers Association were dedicating a slab and headstone in memory of the late Miss Gwen Bush, on 23rd March 2002.



The call came for a ship’s crew

Miss Gwen started doing what only she knew

The men would join the ship in Newport News

And they started preparing to deal with the blues


Having completed their physical examination

They made sure that all was correct with documentation

Goodbyes were always hard to say

But to the ship they went for better pay


Dear ones we joined our ship today

The officers did not have much to say

You see they are all from distant lands

And we are speaking in the English of Cayman


Sailing time is posted on board

To Kuwait we are going to load

Pray for us as we journey there

And to the teachings of home we will adhere


We miss you all so much tonight

As the tears flow they diminish the light

We hope to be home for Christmas holidays

We will give thanks and shout Hoorays


Miss Gwen, we appreciated you so very much

And we hated to see you go

But your call came to receive your award

So, may you rest in peace, with the Lord

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