The recent unsettled weather and rough seas aren’t the most helpful Christmas gift to Grand Cayman’s water sports industries.
“It’s unusual for the wind to blow from the northeast,” said Rod McDowall of Red Sail Sports. “We do get the nor’westers that come through at this time of year, but the north eastern high pressure ones have been dragging on for almost two weeks, on and off.” This can impact on the ability of tourists to visit Stingray City, which can be closed under such circumstances as it was on the weekend of 17-18 December.
“Safety first, obviously, but it’s bad for everybody’s business – running people out there plus the transport and taxicabs getting people from their hotels and so on,” he said. “Visiting Stingray City is one of the highlights of people’s vacations in high season and they may have paid prime dollars for their hotels at this time of year. It’s unfortunate and disappointing when they don’t have the opportunity to visit the hotspots.”
Diving also is affected, particularly on the North Wall, one of the favourite sites, although operators always have alternative sites to take their guests, said Tom Byrnes of Cayman Marine Lab.
“These incredible winds have seemed to be incessant for a week and a half; it means that it takes a stressful situation in the week of 26th December onwards and makes it more stressful as we are all together on the same side of the island,” Mr. Byrnes said. “For some of the guys who are doing more adventure diving you see the most people, it gets a little crowded and you are doing dive sites that wouldn’t be your first choice when the wind is coming from one direction.”
He said ultimately there was nothing that could be done.
The winds also led to the cancellation of boat trips in East End on Monday, 19 December, said Mr. McDowall, who noted vessels were not able to get out of either channel because of the angle of the incoming wind.
Cayman’s amount of shallower dive sites and protected Seven Mile Beach sites mean alternatives can be found if there are dive boats on that side, but this presents an inconvenience and added operational cost for transport.
“You don’t have to get too far offshore when it gets up to around 25 miles an hour for it to get nasty – not too bad for diving, but snorkelling can get a little uncomfortable unless you are tucked into a little bay somewhere,” Mr. McDowall said.
Conditions are forecast to improve by week’s end.