From its earliest days, Little Cayman has been tightly tied to the water. It was turtles that drew first itinerant men and later whole families to the Sister Islands. As local stocks were depleted, turtlers traveled further and further to catch their prey, and Little Caymanian families were accustomed to long and frequent separations.
Men from Little Cayman traveled the world, in both sailing and motor vessels. During both World Wars, they served in the militaries of Great Britain and her allies, particularly the United States. Seafarers that they were, most Caymanians who served entered the navy or merchant marines.
Beginning after World War One, Caymanians took advantage of the positive reputation that they had gained for themselves as hard-working, reliable seamen, and moved in large numbers into trans-national shipping, primarily working for American carriers. Of these, the largest and most significant was Daniel K. Ludwig’s National Bulk Carriers (NBC). Nearly one thousand Caymanians would be employed by NBC between 1950 and 1970, and more than fifty of them obtained master’s or chief engineer’s certificates.
At home, Sister Islanders were excellent boat builders. After the design for the iconic Caymanian catboat was first developed on neighboring Cayman Brac, Little Caymanians embraced the versatile craft, and many were built here. Among Little Cayman’s most notable boat builders was “Uncle” Joe Grizzel, who built the skiff displayed here.
To go to sea was the dream of every little boy growing up here for many years. Today, Little Caymanians remain justly proud of their maritime heritage. The elder sea captains are a treasured part of Little Cayman’s history, and their stories capture the island’s essence.