Cayman Brac loses a veteran seaman

Captain Robert McLearn Ebanks
Captain Robert McLearn Ebanks

Cayman Brac is mourning the passing of Captain Robert McLearn Ebanks, a man who contributed tremendously to the seafaring heritage of the Cayman Islands and Cayman Brac.

Captain Ebanks passed away at his home after a long illness on Monday, March 28.

He was laid to rest at the West End Cemetery on April 9 after a service of thanksgiving for his life held at the Veterans’ and Seamen’s Centre.

“It’s over. May the record show and history record that this honorable seaman, Robert McLearn Ebanks, has sailed his last voyage and pulled into his final port,” said his brother Alan Ebanks reading his final goodbye.

“He’s anchored in a safe harbor called the Haven of Rest. The ship’s line is tied, activities have ceased and everywhere there is calm and peace,” Mr. Ebanks continued.

“Wait. There is one more voyage, There is another ship, the Universe Eternal. Robert told Norris he asked the captain permission to join and had been welcomed with open arms. This ship’s crew is numberless and it sails one route.

“Robert is there, He has never been happier, He’s on the water again, and forever those hands are big and capable, the arms muscular and the legs straight and strong. He’s on board; he’s on course; he’s sailing home,” said Mr. Ebanks at the end of his tribute.

“Several years ago, I felt a great urge to get closer to my brothers because I knew there would be days like this. I’m glad I did,” Mr. Ebanks said.

Captain Ebanks was born in West End, Cayman Brac in September 1931. He was the son of the late Nathan Alvin Ebanks and Alda Rose Ebanks, a seaman and homemaker, respectively. He was the eldest son in a large family of seven brothers and two sisters.

Mr. Ebanks said Nathan and Alda raised their nine children with values of respect, manners, honesty and an appreciation of the value of hard work, just like their own parents had taught them.

”Papa couldn’t read or write, but there was nothing he didn’t know about the tides, fishing and catching turtles. Mama made thatch rope and knitted hats by hand,” said Mr. Ebanks.

His other brothers also felt the loss, but stood firm to remember the good times spent with Robert at sea, the fishing trips, catching turtles and growing up on the Brac with their brother.

Captain Ebanks traveled the world as a seaman, rising in the ranks to the position of captain and earning a Panamanian Master Mariner Unlimited license, the highest licence available at the time. He worked on ships of all sizes, including some of the world’s largest supertankers.

Throughout his life, Captain Ebanks was beloved for his integrity, strength, kindness and loyalty by those who knew him. He sailed for 40 years before calling it a day, retiring to work as mooring master off Cayman Brac.

He was married to the late Floris Gloria Ebanks, who he wed on June 21, 1959. Family life was a challenge at best. Time spent at sea meant missing very special occasions, but throughout it all, Captain Ebanks was loved and will be greatly missed by his family. Captain Ebanks leaves his son Robert Charles Ebanks, daughters Mary Elizabeth Rodrigues, Rose Roberts and Charity Ebanks, nine grandchildren, 15 great grandchildren and a host of nieces, nephews and other relatives.