At a time that’s generally considered Cayman’s peak tourist season, more than a dozen tour boats were at docked in SafeHaven harbour Thursday with no passengers in sight.
The Royal Cayman Islands Police Service was forced to close down the Sandbar to all marine traffic Wednesday afternoon because of rough weather. That closure order remained in place Thursday, and depending on conditions could continue today as well.
‘It’s very, very nasty today,’ said Dalvin Kelly, sitting in the boat Beauty II. ‘On a normal day we’d be taking out 200 people.’
Employees of Red Sail Sports at the harbour closed up around 8am, realising no one was coming into the shop Thursday.
‘Right through Friday, they were expecting things were going to be rough,’ said Wayne Cloete, Red Sail’s catamaran supervisor. ‘Things had been picking up for us now. This is when you’re trying to make as much cash as you can really. So, I think a lot of the boys will take a bit of a knock because no one’s going out.’
Police have ordered the Sandbar attraction closed in the past when weather conditions dictate. In March, there was some controversy over a decision to pull all tour boats out of the area on a bright, sunny day when the waves got rough and some visitors ended up being stung by small jellyfish, known as sea thimbles.
However, operators contacted by the Caymanian Compass were voicing no objections on Thursday, since most had planned to stay out of the North Sound anyway.
‘When it’s raining like this it’s quite unpleasant to be on a boat and obviously for safety reasons as well,’ Mr. Cloete said.
‘If there’s any (operators) complaining about it (Wednesday’s Sandbar closure), those are the people we need to keep an eye on,’ said Ronnie Anglin, co-owner of Captain Marvin’s Watersports.
He admitted the shutdown was likely costing his company some thousands of dollars.
‘It will vary,’ Mr. Anglin said. ‘One day we might have a couple thousand dollars worth of business, and there are days when we are really maxed out. But (the closure) is significant, especially when it happens in the middle of the week. Wednesday and Thursday tend to be the busiest cruise ship days.’
‘It really hurts,’ he said.
The weather also disturbed seas on the north western end of the island near Conch Point in West Bay. Waves reaching as high as 10-12 feet were seen Wednesday evening at the Cobalt Coast resort.
Shore dive operations at the resort were shut down Wednesday and would likely remain closed through Friday, according to Divetech owner Nancy Easterbrook.
‘We lost a thousand dollars worth of business Wednesday afternoon cancelling a trip to the Sandbar,’ Ms Easterbrook said. ‘But you can’t control Mother Nature.’
Ms Easterbrook said shore dive operations were also shut down at Divetech’s new site along North West Point Road. However, she said a dive boat was still running from the dock at West Bay Public Beach where the waves were not bad.
Seven Mile Beach was not experiencing the same kind of high waves seen in the North Sound or at Conch Point. But the rainy, gloomy weather kept most visitors and residents off the beach.
By today, the highest winds were expected to have shifted around toward the eastern end of Grand Cayman. High seas were still expected in the North Sound, along Old Man Bay, and near Morritt’s Resort, with winds gusting up to 25 knots.