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Blog Home > Archive (November, 2019)

This is part two of Wenzil Burlington's story. You can jump back to part one here.

Marriage & Job on Island

In 1967, Wenzil Burlington's girlfriend Martha (who lived on island) told him she was ready to get married. After thirteen years of seafaring, Wenzil came home and the two married at the Church of God in West Bay. When asked how they originally met, he smiled and said, “She was my best friend’s little sister.” They all grew up three blocks from each other in the Mt. Pleasant neighborhood of West Bay. After the ceremony, Wenzil took a job in maintenance at the Caribbean Club so that he could stay at home in Cayman with his new bride while also working part time at the Pan Cayman House. The couple would go on to have two girls and one boy. Their first girl was an angel baby who tragically only lived a few days. After their loss they were blessed with a baby boy, Derren, in 1969, and then a baby girl, Magdalyn, in 1972.

Burlington Plumbing and Repair Company

Around 1969, the year Derren was born, Wenzil founded Burlington Plumbing and Repair Company. Through his company, he worked at just about every hotel and condominium in Cayman including Christopher Columbus Condos many many times. When asked point blank, he says he retired ten years ago, but during our conversation he had to take a call where I overheard him taking notes and telling the listener on the other end that he’d have someone call him. It was someone looking for a plumber. Wenzil then told me he still owns the company, but that he just doesn't go out on calls any longer.

Retirement & Undefeatable Joy

Retirement wasn't a choice Wenzil wanted to make, but his health forced him to stay inside due to sun strokes. “I couldn’t even stand to look at the sunshine.” For four years he had to stay inside during the day, and would wait until nightfall to run his errands. The only relief he could get was from taking cold showers. Physicians told him there was nothing he could do except stay in and try to keep cool. This went on until his wife implored his doctor to find something that would help. The doctor gave Wenzil a new prescription to try, and it helped. He was able to finally enjoy some daylight again, although he had to switch medicines along the way, and still has to take it easy in the heat to this day.

One would never know that Wenzil has endured such a painful and isolating illness—he has a palpable spirit of pure joy and gratitude. He went on to explain how much he loves living in Cayman with his family—he and his wife live directly next door to their son and grandson, and their daughter lives nearby as well. He says the whole neighborhood is “close,” too. “I like the peacefulness, the lovely people. This is a beautiful place.”

As we wrapped up the interview, we both decided it would be fun to go see his old schoolhouse. Wenzil said he has to go through the Burger King drive-thru to pick up some meat patties on the way home, and offered to get a couple for my husband and I. Back at the condos, I picked up my husband, and we followed Wenzil to his house so he could drop off a patty for his wife, and then continued on to the schoolhouse. When we arrived, we discovered it had unfortunately been torn down. Not wanting the adventure to end, Wenzil invited us to follow him to see an old wire lighthouse in West Bay. We parted ways at the lighthouse, but not before he gave my husband and I each a beef patty for the road. (Sidenote: these patties are really popular in Cayman, and similar to a hot pocket—only ten times better.)

True CaymanKindness

A few days later, I arrived home in the states and received a call from Wenzil. He wanted to check in and see if I’d made it home safely, and we both agreed we were thankful to have met one another and made a new friend. If that’s not CaymanKindness I don’t know what is! He said he probably forgot to tell me some things for the story, and I assured him it's not meant to be comprehensive. As I think about it, I'm amazed at the amount of stories I heard from him in such a short amount of time, and I am in complete awe of this man's epic life.

Thank you to Magdalyn Burlington for getting us the historical photos to add to this post. In our correspondence, I learned that Wenzil won several awards that he humbly forgot to mention during the interview. A couple that Magdalyn sent along were the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Cayman government for Commerce Business Development in 2003, and the Medal of Honour Commander from the Order of the Cayman Islands in 2010. Magdalyn also shared two poems that Wenzil wrote a couple decades ago that you can read here and here.

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You know what’s awesome about Cayman? It's even beautiful when it rains. Most of the time, our rain comes and goes in quick spurts (lasting no more than an hour), but every once in a while, we get a day when the sun doesn’t seem to want to shine. For those days we’ve made a list of things you can do and ways you can enjoy a day in Cayman rain or shine!

Visit the Cinema at Camana Bay.

On a rainy day, there is nothing better than sitting in a dark theater eating a big tub of popcorn. As the only movie theater in Grand Cayman, a trip to the Camana Bay Cinema is a unique experience that features all the latest films, a packed concession menu, and comfortable seating. The state-of-the-art theater offers a cozy place to relax with the family out of the rain.

After the film, take a stroll through Camana Bay. Though the area is mostly outdoors, there are plenty of local shops to duck into such as 3 Girls and A Kiln, Forever Summer, and West Indies Wine Company. Stop by Books & Books to pick up some new reading material or board game for a night in at your condo. There are also plenty of restaurants to stop by for a snack or a full meal.

Experience the National Gallery

Stay dry and view some beautiful pieces of art at the National Gallery. This cultural hub features artists from all over the world, showcasing some truly stunning examples of visual art. From traditional Cayman artwork to internationally recognized masterpieces, the National Gallery is sure to amaze. You can easily spend a couple of hours moving from exhibit to exhibit, taking a moment to appreciate each brushstroke and sketched line. You can also check their calendar to see what fun events they have coming up for your family to enjoy.

Tour the Distillery

Have you ever wanted to see how your favorite spirits were made? At the Cayman Spirits Company Distillery Tour, you can! The 30-minute tour of the 5,000 square foot facility will give you a taste of how some of Grand Cayman’s favorite rums and vodkas are produced. The best part is you get to taste all of the results at the end of the tour. If you find one you like, you can bring it home for a nice drink on the beach later.

Have a Night In

The best part about staying at Christopher Columbus Condos (besides the views, of course!) is the fact that every unit has a fully stocked kitchen, television, and comfortable furniture making it the perfect place for a relaxing night in. Many of the condos come with fun board games you can enjoy. Head down to Foster’s to pick up the ingredients for a delicious home-cooked meal or order delivery pizza from Gino’s and then gather round for a movie. There’s no better way to spend an evening.

Pamper Yourself

Just because it’s dreary outside, doesn’t mean you have to be, too. Rainy days are the perfect days to focus on relaxing and getting in some self-care. Consider getting a massage, visiting a salon for a full mani-pedi, or get stretching at one of Grand Cayman’s yoga studios. If you’d rather stay in your condo, consider a homemade face mask you can make with simple kitchen ingredients like sugar, coffee, and honey. Let the face mask do its job while you kick back with a book and a cup of tea.

Try Some Place New

With so many restaurants to choose from on Grand Cayman, there’s bound to be one you haven’t tried yet. Here are some of our places to add to your list:

  • Yoshi: One of the only places to get authentic Japanese cuisine on Grand Cayman, you can’t miss Yoshi if you enjoy sushi, hibachi, or other Japanese favorites.
  • Boggy Sand Caribbean Kitchen: Located a short drive from Christopher Columbus Condos, Boggy Sand is the perfect place for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Their diverse menu offers a variety of American favorites, comfort foods, and Cayman dishes. Whether you’re in the mood for fish, pizza, a burger or a salad, you’re sure to find something that suits your taste buds. They even have vegetarian options!
  • Every Bloomin’ Thing: If you’ve never attended a traditional afternoon tea service, this could be your chance. The EBT Tea Room features an assortment of teas, sandwiches, and homemade pastries and scones making it the perfect place for lunch. Despite being the spot for a traditional tea, EBT prides itself on being a casual dining experience anyone can enjoy.
A delicious plate at Yoshi.

Go to the Beach Anyways

We aren’t here to tell you how to live your life, so if you’re feeling the beach, go for it! Hey, you’ll already be wet so what’s a little rain anyway? As any mom would tell you, just make sure swimming conditions are safe and no lightning is present.

The Sun Will Come Out Tomorrow

There’s no need to put your vacation on hold because of a little rain. Grand Cayman offers so many activities for visitors it would be impossible not to find something to keep you having fun while staying dry. Just remember to take a look outside after the rain has passed to see if you can spot a rainbow. It makes for the perfect photo. 😉

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Grocery Store Fosters Friendship

One of my favorite parts of visiting Cayman is the way CaymanKindness seems to radiate from every corner of the island, sometimes in the most unexpected places. I can never guess where I'll meet a new friend on the island, and the tale of how I met Wenzil Burlington is no different! On a quick trip to pick up groceries for our condo, I was looking for a stall to return my cart in the Foster's parking lot. I wasn't able to find one, so I started to push my way back to the store's entrance when I heard a sweet voice holler, “Just leave it, they will come and get it.”

“Anywhere?” I asked confused.

“Yeah, they will come get it,” Wenzil assured me with an island ease.

So I parked my cart by a palm tree, and we started talking. I asked Wenzil if he had always lived in Cayman, and he replied, “All my life, except for thirteen years at sea.” After hearing that amazing answer, I knew I had to hear more, so I talked him into meeting up later. He suggested we chat at Burger King the following Monday. 

On the day of our interview, Wenzil met me at the condos so I could follow him to Burger King. When we arrived, the inside was closed for remodeling, so we drove another couple of blocks down to Wendy’s on Wenzil's suggestion. I got us both a coffee, and we dove right in.

Growing up Caymanian in the 30s & 40s

Wenzil Ebanks was born in 1935 in Grand Cayman. He said the island was quiet at that time, and most families were very poor due to the lack of economic opportunities. To his memory, there were only seven cars in all of West Bay. Without formally organized recreational activities, the kids had to create their own fun. Wenzil fondly recalled playing with a “wheeler”—a bicycle wheel with the spokes removed, which the kids would then roll and chase down the road with a stick. He also made tops with a guava tree and a nail (they called them gigs). I could tell he was pretty proud of them, as he explained that he’d pop one up on his thumbnail, and it would stay spinning for what seemed like forever. He also remembered making kites and flying them in pastures. Made to whistle, you could hear the kites “singing” a mile away.

“When I was growing up, if you wanted a dinner of conch, we’d just go to Barker’s, roll the pants leg up, walk out to sea, and get as many as you want. And go at night with a flashlight and you could get all the lobsters you want.”

He attended school until sixteen, in both his own home and other small, local school houses with other children of various ages. He recalled two of his teachers, Miss Alice Yates & Miss Ridley Powey, who went to Jamaica to qualify as teachers. 

Turtling in the Miskito Cays

At sixteen, Wenzil went turtling in the Miskito Cays off the coast of Nicaragua. As he told stories of that time, I felt like I was immersed in a novel of epic tales. He narrated how they would set up huts on sandbars off the coast because the sand fleas were too much to bear ashore. “In those days the turtles were unbelievable. They’d swim right along side your boat. [There were] a lot of them.”

Wenzil explained the process of catching a turtle, which was far over my head, but it involved finding the perfect rock, anchoring your net, casting that net out, and then coming back the next day. On his last trip, he and his fellow crew members encountered a frightening "freak storm." Wenzil barely made it back in his catboat, and he sadly recalled a couple of boats sinking—losing three of his friends in the storm. As I listened to more of Wenzil’s stories, near-misses seemed to be intertwined in many of this seaman’s journeys.

Swan Islands

After the loss of his three friends, Wenzil decided it was time to change course in his life. He joined up with Caymanian captains Harry and Donald Glidden on Swan Islands—two very small islands between Cayman and Honduras. During WWII, these islands were used as a weather station by the American military and post-war there were still a few Americans stationed there. Wenzil described the Gliddens as the caretakers of the island. During his stay there, he picked, shelled, and sun-dried coconuts that were bound for Tampa, Florida, on a sea route that originated in Costa Rica. Wenzil also worked, under the guidance of two Caymanian chefs, for the Americans who were stationed with the weather bureau on the islands after the war. In total there were only about twenty-six people on the island. At first Wenzil liked the remoteness, but after a while he said he needed to get away.

Banana Boats & Diplomas

Seeking more opportunity to roam, Wenzil decided to work on a banana boat that ran a circuit from Costa Rica to Tampa, hauling bananas to the US marketplace. He worked his first banana boat for a little over a year, and had another run-in with a large storm. With great respect, he recalled the hurricane they encountered between Cuba and the Swan Islands that they had to fight for three long days.

Also while aboard his first banana boat, he earned diplomas for diesel and gasoline through a correspondence course. He received lessons and submitted his coursework to class's home base in Ohio. 

The next job he took was on a bigger banana boat. “That was a nice boat! It was a millionaire’s yacht, and they converted her into a banana boat.” They’d pass through the Panama Canal every week. He started out as a messman, and he laughed as he told me, “We had a cook that could really make a mess. He would use two pots just to boil one egg—just to give me work to do.”

On this boat, he advanced from Messman to Oiler, a position where he’d oil, clean, and check the temperature of the engine. Then he moved from Oiler to Second Engineer—jobs he received because of his diplomas. It was also around this time that Wenzil change his last name from "Ebanks" to "Burlington," which was originally his middle name. He said there were always mix-ups on the boats, especially with mail, because there were so many Ebanks at sea. He was tired of missing his letters, so he changed it on one of his stayovers at home.

While on a stayover in Tampa, waiting to board another banana boat, Wenzil experienced another traumatic event. While waiting, his visa was running short on time, and eventually he was told he had to leave the US, banana boat or no banana boat. The day he was supposed to catch a different ship out of the States, he went to get a haircut before boarding. While getting his trim, a man walked in and shot and killed the barber that was cutting his hair. Wenzil was so frightened that he jumped up out of the chair and ran as fast as he could all the way to the ship, with half a haircut and a towel still around his neck. (Another seafarer helped him straighten up his haircut later.) Eventually, he discovered the motive of the crime was infidelity, AND the banana boat he originally intended to catch sank near Trinidad. Two additional near-misses. As I was talking with Wenzil, I began to think it was somewhat of a miracle that he was sitting across from me!

Iron Ore Ships & Oil Tankers

Upon his return to Cayman, Wenzil got recruited to New York to work aboard a huge iron ore ship that ran back and forth between Venezuela and the east coast of the United States. This was during the 1960s, and “They were some of the biggest ships in the world.” He worked his way from Wiper, to Oiler Fireman, Junior Engineer, Junior III, and all the way up to Relief 1st. He studied fiercely on the ship for his next course, and passed his test for the 3rd engineer license in New York. When asked if he liked New York, Wenzil said he enjoyed it and would go to ball games to watch the Braves (when they were in town) if he had time in between ships.

After working the iron ore ships for some time, he moved on to working on oil tankers that went to the far east and middle east, including places like India, Pakistan, Aden, and Israel. He explained how they went through the Suez Canal in Egypt to get to everything in the far East. He sailed aboard many oil tankers throughout his career—at least seven or eight ships.

Wenzil then went from oil tankers to what he called Liberties, which hauled coal from the east coast of the US to Europe, including Germany, Holland, Spain. Before the age of thirty, he’d seen more of the world than most people see in a lifetime.

He got a green card in 1966, and went on to work on American ships through a mariner’s union. There was an opening for a pumpman, and a friend of his told him he’d only be asked three questions for the certification at the Coast Guard. He hadn’t studied for years, but decided to give it a shot. When he arrived, he ended up having to take a written exam with 180 questions—a far cry from the 3 he expected! But it turned out he underestimated himself, only missing 5 questions, and then getting 3 of the 5 he missed correct when verbally asked again later. The examiner was going to give him his 3rd Engineer License, but unfortunately those licenses were only given to American citizens. So instead he gave Wenzil the next best thing—a QMED Engineer license. Wenzil continued working at sea for another couple of years before settling at home in Cayman.

Want to know what brought Wenzil home to Cayman?

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Last year, Christopher Columbus Condos was excited to become the first development on Seven Mile Beach to implement turtle-friendly lighting. Today, we are delighted to announce that thanks to this update, 142 baby sea turtles hatched on our beach earlier this week.

A few weeks ago, the Cayman Islands Department of the Environment (DOE) began monitoring a nest that was found next to one of our beach huts. They determined that because of our turtle-friendly lighting, the eggs would not have to be moved to another location. On November 12, the eggs hatched and the tiny turtles made their way to the sea with a little help from the DOE and cheers from onlooking CCC guests.

CCC’s turtle-friendly lighting was installed as part of a partnership with the DOE in an effort to help preserve the sea turtle community. This was the first nest on our beach since the lighting was installed, and we hope for many more in the coming years.

*Photo courtesy of property manager Lisa!

What is turtle-friendly lighting?

Turtle nesting season occurs yearly between May and September, and hatchlings appear between July and November. Momma turtles come up onto the beach to lay their eggs, and then after 50–60 days, the hatchlings emerge and begin their journey back to the ocean.

When baby turtles hatch, they use the light of the moon to help navigate them to the ocean. Bright, blue-spectrum lighting on buildings can mimic the lighting of the moon, disorienting the hatchlings and leading them into dangerous places like further up the beach, nearby properties, or even roads. LED lights sit more on the orange end of the light spectrum, which doesn’t bother or confuse turtle hatchlings.

Due to the endangered status of green, loggerhead, and hawksbill turtles, the DOE is working on an official policy that would require new developments on Seven Mile Beach to implement turtle-friendly lights. These regulations would be based on similar ones enacted along the Florida coastline, which have been incredibly successful and world-renowned in helping preserve the turtle population.

Attractive and environmentally friendly

In addition to helping out our turtle friends, LED lighting is more energy-efficient and aesthetically pleasing. The warm lighting creates a cozy, modern atmosphere outside the condos and around the pool. Enjoy watching the stars without distracting bright lights, and don’t worry, you’ll still be able to see your way back inside after taking in every second of gorgeous Cayman sunsets on the beach.

Owner Keith Holloway who oversaw the lighting installation last year says, Christopher Columbus is “invested in keeping the property current and modern for the enjoyment of our guests.” New lighting is one of many improvements that have been made in recent years, including in-unit wi-fi, enlarged laundry facilities, a roomy oceanside gazebo, and more.

*Photo courtesy of condo owner Marsha O'Daniel. This was taken in 2014 when the DOE came to CCC's section of the beach to assist some turtle hatchlings and allowed lucky viewers a chance to see the baby turtles up close.

Heads up for turtle nests

We would like to thank the DOE for monitoring the nest on our beach and for all the continued work they do preserving the sea turtle population in Grand Cayman. Guests can do their part in helping turtles as well. If you notice any turtle tracks on our segment on the beach, let a CCC staff member know or call the DOE directly as soon as possible. The DOE will properly secure and tag the nest so the hatchlings can have the best possible chances at survival. Remember, disturbing a turtle nest is against Cayman Islands’ law so if you see anyone harming a turtle or a nest, you should notify CCC staff or the Cayman police.

Since the DOE began monitoring nests on Seven Mile Beach in 1998, nest numbers have increased from just 30 a year to over 300. We hope that our new turtle-friendly lighting can help foster a comfortable and safe environment for many more nests to come!

This post was originally published on May 31, 2018 and updated November 14, 2019 to share great results from the original lighting project.

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