Boaters’ families seek healing

Police move to search and recovery mode

With few significant developments following a long week of searching for five missing boaters on Grand Cayman, family members and friends were scheduling vigils and memorial services for the four men and one teenage girl who vanished on Sunday.

Thursday night saw a candlelight vigil for Astor Range, Raynel Wood, Josh Gilman, Jeamie Avila and Michelle Wood hosted at the Cricket Oval in George Town by the Cayman Islands High School class of 1989.

On Saturday, a memorial service was scheduled by the family of Mr. Gilman for 4pm at George Town’s Mary Miller Hall.

‘Anybody that knows Josh or who wanted to come can feel free to come,’ said Mr. Gilman’s mother, Claudette Bodden on Wednesday.

Mrs. Bodden said she did not want to speak for all of the family members of the missing boaters, but for her and Mr. Gilman’s five brothers and sisters, the memorial service was a way of seeking healing and at least some closure to what appears to be one of the greatest marine tragedies in Cayman Islands modern history.

The five boaters, all from Cayman, left the Newlands dock Sunday morning in terrible weather conditions. The five boaters intended to take a trip around Grand Cayman to test out a 26-foot canoe in preparation for a longer trip to Honduras.

The canoe was found capsized near the Rum Point Channel in the north-eastern section of the North Sound on Monday afternoon.

No sign of the five boaters was found around the capsized craft, and they were never heard from again.

On Thursday, the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service and volunteer searchers continued combing the North Sound and adjacent areas, although the cooler, blustery weather continued to hinder smaller search craft in the North Sound as well as efforts to put divers into the water.

A police spokesperson said the focus of the search efforts was changing from search and rescue to search and recovery, as there was now virtually no hope of finding any of the boaters alive more than four days after they went missing.

Mrs. Bodden said if that was to be the end for her son – an avid boater and watercraft repairman – she could accept it.

‘If his remains are to be at sea, then his spirit is with God,’ Mr. Bodden said. ‘I would rather have that, as a mother – than to have him back in pieces.’

All of the five families of the missing boaters have indicated, throughout the week, their deep thanks to the many volunteers who have used their own craft – even some who have donated their aircraft, such as Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman developer Mike Ryan and Internet executive Paul Allen whose fixed-wing aircraft and helicopter, respectively, were used in the search this week.

Mrs. Bodden said she wanted to particularly thank the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service and members of the Marine Unit who worked tirelessly since late Sunday night.

‘The RCIPS has been fantastic,’ she said. ‘The whole family would like to express our gratitude.’

‘Poor decision’

Although clearly wracked by her grief, Mrs. Bodden said she knew that Mr. Gilman and the others shouldn’t have gone out on Sunday morning.

She even told her son so.

‘He shouldn’t have gone that day, he knew that,’ she said. ‘He had a young son who needed him.’

Mr. Gilman’s 10-month-old Joshua Jadan or ‘J.J.’ as he is known is now in the care of Mrs. Bodden, her husband and Mr. Gilman’s girlfriend, Roberta Bush.

While he was well-known as a boat repairman and painter on the Island, Mrs. Bodden said Mr. Gilman was not necessarily an expert seaman. He had made a canoe trip to Honduras before, but she said it was under the direction of more experienced boaters.

‘When they didn’t come back Sunday night my first thought was ‘they didn’t make it out of that channel,’ Mrs. Bodden said. ‘It was a poor decision.’