Wreck of the Ten Sail
Most famous shipwreck disaster in the history of the Cayman Islands
"Breakers ahead! Close to us!"
The Wreck of the Ten Sail is the most famous shipwreck disaster in the history of the Cayman Islands. The frigate HMS Convert was charged with defending a convoy of 58 merchant ships sailing from Jamaica to Europe in February of 1794. The French Revolutionary War made armed protection necessary; in fact, Convert had recently been captured from the French.
During the night, six or seven of the merchantmen sailed against orders ahead of Convert and wrecked on the reef. At 3 a.m. on 8 February, their distress signal was heard by Convert's crew. "Breakers ahead! Close to us!" cried a sailor from a topsail yard. John Lawford, Convert's captain, fired a warning shot to the rest of the convoy. While trying to steer clear, Convert was struck by another vessel, causing her to run onto the reef. Morning light revealed ten wrecked ships: William & Elizabeth, Moorhall, Ludlow, Britannia, Richard, Nancy, Eagle, Sally, and Fortune, along with Convert. Caymanians provided all assistance possible, saving many lives.
More than thirty ships are wrecked on the East End reef, including Cumberland (1767), Weymouth (1845), Dene (1846), Glamis (1913), Ridgefield (1962), and Rimandi Mibaju (1964). All ships wrecked in the Cayman Islands are protected under law as part of our maritime heritage.