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What You Need to Know About the Wreck of the Ten Sail

Grand Cayman Island boasts a colorful history, but perhaps the most infamous event occurred in the wee hours of the morning on February 8th, 1794. The Wreck of the Ten Sail refers to a convoy of ten ships that were lost when they crashed upon the rocky reef on the east end of the island.

The convoy consisted of six merchant ships sailing from Jamaica to Britain, three ships bound for the United States, and the newly christened British naval frigate, the HMS Convert. The Convert was captained by John Lawford, a veteran sailor charged with protecting the merchant ships.

Lawford went to bed on February 7th thinking the convoy was already past Grand Cayman Island. He awoke at 3 am to a disastrous scene. A distress gun had been fired, and the breakers were unavoidably close. Lawford gave orders for the convoy to disperse, but it was too late. All ten ships were lost on the reef. Villagers living nearby immediately came to the aid of the shipwrecked crew, saving the lives of more than 400 people. Despite their best efforts, eight lives were lost to the sea.

A famous and oft-proclaimed legend tells of a royal prince, the son of Britain’s King George III, being rescued from the wreckage that fateful night. According to the legend, when the king heard the news of his son’s rescue, he immediately decreed that the Cayman Islands would forever be free from war conscription and all taxes. While there’s no proof that any of this ever happened, the story is told as fact, and tax-free living is embraced throughout the islands.

Visiting the Wreck of the Ten Sails Park

The park overlooking the site of the shipwreck is perched on a craggy bluff with beautiful views of the ocean and reef, as well as the remains of more recent shipwrecks. Historical markers document the details of the event, and there is a memorial plaque along the shore, dedicated by Queen Elizabeth II on the 200th anniversary of the event. It’s free to visit the park, which is located  in the East End of Grand Cayman Island.

The Wreck of the Ten Sail is is just one of the intriguing sites you can visit in the East End. The area is known for quiet waters, sandy beaches, and natural beauty. It’s a perfect day trip from the South Bay Beach Club.

 

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  • February 1st, 2016

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