Rough seas inspire caution

Rough seas in the North Sound last week saw local watersports operators use their better judgement and cancel snorkel trips to the sandbar and reefs in that area.

The East to North Easterly winds over open seas on Thursday and Friday were about 25 knots, with a small craft warning in effect.

While in the East and North seas were rough, in George Town port seas were relatively calm allowing the four scheduled cruise ships on Thursday to anchor.

The water ride into the harbour on the tenders was smooth said the Port Authority’s Manager of Operations and Security Joseph Woods, but further out, where the ships were anchored, there was a little wind chop, he said.

On Friday, one cruise ship was scheduled into George Town port, Cunard Cruise Line’s luxury Queen Elizabeth II, but she cancelled because of the wind, said Mr. Woods.

Captain Charles ‘Chuckie’ Ebanks of Black Princess Charters said on Friday that he did not venture out to the North Sound on that day or Thursday because of the weather. ‘It’s very bad out there; it’s like a young hurricane,’ he said.

But Captain Chuckie said he felt sure some operators would have gone out to that area on their boats. ‘The dollar signs are there,’ he said. ‘Because of that people will go out no matter what.’

Captain Chuckie said he makes the call not to go to the North Sound when it is rough out there for his own safety, along with that of his customers.

While fishing might be possible, though unpleasant, in such conditions snorkelling would not be safe.

‘People are not used to those types of conditions in the water,’ he said. ‘It is very choppy and people can get in trouble. They can drown or have a heart attack.

‘It can also be hard to control large groups in that weather. You might tell them one thing but they’ll go and do the opposite.’

Speaking as President of the Cayman National Watersports Association, Captain Chuckie said he can advise his members not to go out in that type of weather, but he cannot dictate to them what to do, especially the older seamen.

Chairman of the Cayman Islands Tourism Association Steve Broadbelt said the CITA does not act as a weather service to its members.

Each individual member is capable of assessing the weather conditions themselves and judging if it is safe to go out, he said.

With regard to diving, he said when weather is rough on one side of the island it is generally calm in another and dives are simply relocated to the calm areas.

For instance, in a Northwester, the South and Eastern sides of the island tend to be calm, he said. The dive can be moved to a safer area, not affected by the weather. This way the docks at South Sound and Red Bay tend to get more use this time of year.

The CITA recommends to its members bringing out both dive and snorkel trips that they follow the weather advisories from the Met office and small craft warnings.

But, ultimately, it is up to members to use their own common sense, and experience prevails on whether to go out, he said.

‘There’s no compromise for safety,’ he said.

Captain Bryan of Captain Bryan’s Sail and Snorkel said local operators that deal directly with the cruise ships came together last week and cancelled Thursday’s trips because of the weather, he confirmed.

Captain Bryan said he did not believe anyone was out in the North Sound on those two days. ‘Most people realise it’s too rough out there,’ he said.

Captain Marvin’s Watersports also confirmed that they had no sandbar or North Sound trips Thursday and Friday because of rough seas.

Captain Dexter Ebanks of Dexter’s Fantasea Tours has made his voice heard in the press on numerous occasions about the dangers of boats taking passengers out to the North Sound in bad weather when winds are in excess of 20mph (17.5 knots).