Mr Otto Watler always had an interest in bees and his fascination with these creatures lead him to getting the materials and information on how he could keep bees on his own. That was well over 30 years ago and now his honey,appropriately named Cayman Honey, can be found on store shelves throughout the Islands.
“I just took a liking to them. Often time they can be a lot smarter than we give them credit for and maybe even smarter than some people,” he explained, adding that, “If humans were like bees, there would still be a Garden of Eden.”
After starting the honey harvesting operation on his own, Mr. Watler was able to employ a team of several people to assist in the production of his special honey.
Sitting in his hammock and nostalgically recounting the blessings, he pondered how much Caymanians had given up in the name of advancement, “I wonder what would happen if those ship stopped coming here with all of those goods from America. What would happen to us? There is no more arable land in the Cayman Islands to grow anything on and the pastures for cattle and livestock to graze are a thing of the past,” he lamented.
Mr Watler adds that he never thought he would see a time when the Islands depended solely on imports for its food.
He himself wanted to live a life on the land, and has been harvesting the honey from his hives for over 30 years. Twice a year he extracts his famous elixir from the bee hives. “We are doing this more as a community service these days,” he explained, adding that his operational golden period was right before Hurricane Ivan and he has been working to get back to that level ever since.
Mr Watler has not always been a bee keeper: “I have lived a very varied life…..from one side of the scale to the other,” he declared.
His first job was building the first Owen Roberts Airport, which he said was quite hard work. Back then they were paid eight to ten shillings a day, six days per week. Most of the work for clearing paths on the job was done with saws and pick axes, given that there were no chain-saws at that time. Wood for the first Owen Roberts Airport was brought to Cayman by the Goldfield schooner from Nicaragua.
After trails were made by Mr. Watler and his team, the Jamaican Public Works Department came in to finish building the airport.
Upon the completion of this job, the young Mr. Watler went on to work with National Bulk Carrier, washing and preparing bottles, before moving on to shovelling marl.
It was not long after that the sea came calling and the bright eyed Caymanian boy answered, going to Newport Mews to catch a ship, which sailed to the Arctic, the Mediterranean, Egypt and Kuwait.
According to Mr. Watler, “That was the biggest piece of iron I had ever scene and over there was so hot that in August it reached 130 degrees and we could fry eggs on deck.”
He added that because of the heat, he was unable to continue with the ships making that run and decided to come back home. Though his relationship and respect for the agent that sent men to sea back then remained strong over the course of time.
Upon returning to the Cayman Islands, Mr. Watler went to work at the Yacht Club, where the Wharf restaurant is today. He spent 10 years there up until the establishment closed.
“Those were the best ten years of my life,” he recounted, while fondly reminiscing on the jobs he was responsible for with the yacht Club.
“We were the first place to introduce water skiing in the Cayman Islands and I learnt to ski and became very good at it. In fact that was something that gave me a great amount of pleasure my whole life.”
Mr. Watler joked that he thought he could still ski simply because he was that much of an enthusiast throughout his life, but he had not done so for some time now.
The reason the Yacht Club closed down, according to Mr. Watler’s impeccably acute memory, was that it was ahead of its time and an organization that would have better been served in the 80s and 90s rather than the 1960s.
It was then on to work with Celkirk Watler handling heavy equipment for several years, after which Mr. Watler bought his own truck and went into business for himself trucking sand.
Not long after, a life long affair with bees and the land would turn into the Cayman Honey factor that Otto Watler is so well known for today.
The father of four and husband of 49 years says he hopes to see Cayman continue to grow but we cannot leave our moral values behind to go out in search of the mighty dollar and surmised that much of the problems facing society today is because there is too much emphasis on material things.
He had one simple message for everyone, “keep it simple and live for your needs and not your wants.”