The cheers were loud and long when Nancy Easterbrook received the Special Contribution Award at the 2011 Cayman Islands Tourism Association Stingray Awards, 2011.
The gong was given due to her sterling work as project manager for the Kittiwake, the Caribbean’s newest dive attraction and something that finally came to fruition in January after some eight years of hard, and voluntary, work.
“It was an honour,” she said. “There were so many people involved in the Kittiwake project from the public and private sector and it was definitely a huge team effort. [I was project manager for] one of the very significant and successful public/private sector ventures, where both sides worked together in support of legal financing, concept and so on to bring it to pass.
“We are very happy it has turned out to be the success it has been,” Mrs. Easterbrook said. “The PR coverage was worth multi-millions of dollars and tremendous exposure for Cayman not just in diving circles but CNN, NBC and around the world. Wrecks are really popular – not to take it away from our natural beauty but every industry needs to reinvigorate.”
The Winnipeg, Canada native has been a part of Cayman’s tourism community since first arriving in 1994 to try and get into diving.
“My first venture was bearboat rental in the North Sound,” she said. “I spent months playing around on and under the water, the old B-52 wreck, Starfish Point, Stingray City, mapping out the reefs and the marinas. I leased the boats to aquanauts.
“When I got my watersports license I started Divetech and brought in technical diving which at the time people were not doing properly or safely,” Mrs. Easterbrook said. “
This was a way of trying to up the bar and keep it safe, and I also introduced Freediving with world, national, local, amateur and professional competitions for whom we provided support and co-authored a series of training curriculums.”
The business grew over the years with one of the key philosophies being that diving is a family sport; whil
e the more experienced members of the family would dive, younger kids would be able to learn at their own pace.
“Maybe dad’s off doing his deep dive but they all get a chance to experience the type of diving they like to do. At the beginning I had a few naysayers but look at skiing – some are on the bunny slopes and some might be on the blue and black runs. They are all together and interacting with each other. We need to make sure we offer that variety that allows a diver and a non-diver, a technical and recreational diver to come on vacation together.
“Cayman is a wonderful family vacation destination with lots to do topside, lots for the kids and a wall just offshore which was my model thinking,” she said.
Since the start, Mrs. Easterbrook has been active in the Cayman Islands Tourism Association, and before that the Watersports Association. She said that both have been wonderful and that there is a real sense of support and camaraderie within the industry.
“It isn’t like this elsewhere in the world – we do of course compete for business but we do co-operative marketing opportunities which as a small business you could not afford to do on your own. To be part of this bigger recognised picture, a brand with credibility, safety standards and reputation is phenomenal,” she said.
Environmental standards A recent project by Nancy and her husband, Jay, was the Lighthouse Point eco-resort, constructed to the United States Green Council Platinum environmental standards.
“Our initial intent was to put a dive shop here but the economics of that were not feasible. Jay has been building in Cayman since 1983,” she said.
“We had been working along with Cobalt Coast on Green Globe and took environmental initiatives early on but wanted to set the bar for how to build a sustainable building.
We spent two and a half years researching and learning about what technologies are on the market; we set a lot of firsts for Cayman.
“We opened in October 2009 and have finally got permission to send our power from the wind turbine back [to CUC]. But that’s what happens when you are first,” concluded the innovator.