Friends and family of five boaters missing at sea for a year gathered on Seven Mile Beach Tuesday in a tearful tribute to their lost loved ones.

More than 100 people congregated on Public Beach, under cabanas decorated with balloons and photographs of the missing five, including two children.

As the sun set, lanterns were released into the night sky to mark the somber anniversary.

Family members say they still hold on to a glimmer of hope that the three men and two boys may yet be found alive.

“There is always hope. Until there is a body, there is hope,” said Kerry Whittaker, brother of Edsell Haylock, one of the five missing boaters.

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Mr. Haylock, Gary Mullings, Nicholas Watler and brothers Kamron Brown, 11, and Kanyi Brown, 9, never returned from a fishing trip to 12 Mile Bank on March 6 last year. Their upturned vessel was discovered 20 miles offshore on March 7, but no trace of its crew was ever found.

Gabriella Ebanks Watler, sister of Nicholas Watler and niece of Gary Mullings, said, “We know our family is out there somewhere and we just want them to know that we love them and we will not give up.

“We would like for the community to continue to pray for the safe return of our family members and for Edsell Haylock, who was a close friend to my uncle Gary.”

Friends and family members say a prayer for five boaters missing at sea for a year. – Photo: Taneos Ramsay

She said the families of the missing five wanted to thank the community for their support over the past year and for coming out Tuesday.

“Not a day goes by that I haven’t cried, but my faith has never dropped,” she added.

Mr. Whittaker, one of the organizers of last night’s memorial, said it was important for the family and friends to mark the anniversary by sharing stories and memories.

Now he and other family members are pushing for a system of registering and licensing leisure boats in Cayman’s waters to help prevent more lives from being lost.

He wants the Port Authority to require boats to be registered in a central system, with a photograph of the boat and captain. He said the system would be similar to that used for motor vehicles and would require boat owners to meet certain basic safety standards, including having life jackets and flare guns on board.

“We don’t want it to be for monetary purposes or to become a political thing. It is to save lives, that is the bottom line.

“People go missing from this island like there is no tomorrow.

“We do it for commercial vessels that carry tourists, why not for locals?

“We know we don’t have a coast guard to go out and rescue people. Now they say firefighters are going to do it. That is great, but we think the registry would help as well.”

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