EDITORIAL – Water hazards: The perils of reckless ‘jet ski’ operators

Call them the motorbikers of the marine environment. Reckless watercraft operators who have been buzzing boats, speeding through dive sites and otherwise interfering with the peaceable enjoyment of our tranquil waters.

As we report in today’s newspaper, several dive operators are calling for tighter restrictions on “menacing” watercraft riders whose irresponsible behaviors are endangering scuba divers and snorkelers.

Like their notorious counterparts on two wheels, antisocial operators of personal watercraft are turning Cayman’s coastlines into speedways, threatening lives and interfering with others on (and under) the water.

Like motorcycles and motorbikes, the popular vehicles (better known as Jet Skis, WaveRunners, Sea-Doos, etc.,) are predominately driven by law-abiding citizens who are merely seeking some innocent fun – and are not looking to be deemed guilty by vehicular association. Responsible watercraft operators must also be repelled by recent videos and eyewitness reports that show their favored means of transportation being abused out of malice, recklessness or sheer carelessness. When alcohol is added to this mix, we have a lethal cocktail in the making.

Cayman’s hordes of “showboaters” are not only sullying the reputation of all watercraft operators; they are risking their own lives, as well as those of anyone unlucky enough to be in their path.

Last week, Divetech reported an incident to police after jet skiers ignored a dive flag and narrowly avoided colliding with a diver, who was pulled underneath the water by a dive instructor just in time to avoid being struck by the vehicle.

When joyriders speed past sailors, paddleboarders or kayakers, with their engines roaring at 115 decibels (louder than a chain saw), it is aggressive, annoying and disruptive – and obviously dangerous.

The problem of unsafe watercraft operators is not new, but it seems to be growing more commonplace. Personal watercraft are readily available for rental from several local businesses, some offering door-to-door delivery. They are simple to operate. And they are very, very fast. In fact, off the shelf, watercraft can hit speeds of upward of 65 miles per hour.

Those factors combine to make personal watercraft favorites of weekend thrill-seekers who may be unfamiliar with Cayman’s waters, marine safety rules or the very machine they are attempting to operate.

Just as with the motorbiker problem, the regular flouting of public safety by a relative small number of watercraft operators sends a strong – and wrong – message about law and order in the Cayman Islands.

It is telling and troubling that there is some uncertainty regarding which government agency has primary responsibility for enforcing the country’s water safety rules: Is it the police? Department of Environment? The nascent coast guard? All of the above?

For a tourism destination where the main attractions are pristine beaches, tranquil waters, serenity and security, our failure to coordinate and carry out effective water “policing” is, in a sense, as dangerous as the behavior of the reckless watercraft operators.

2 COMMENTS

  1. The canal we live on, Governors Harbor to the North Sound, is clearly posted No Wake 5mph.
    This does not stop a number of jet ski operators treating it as a speed way. Endangering kayak users, snorkelers and slamming around boats moored on docks.

    Commercial boats taking tourists to Stingray City also pass by, often creating substantial wake.

    We have complained to the Marine police and even sent them videos of the offenders with little result.

  2. I have been saying this for years. I live at Sunset Cove and we have a buoy out in front of our complex. boats and jet skis are suppose to stay outside of it. I have asked for more buoys on both sides so there is a better line. Almost daily boats and skis go inside the buoy sometimes almost hitting snorkelers. Now that Margaritaville is open there are more snorkelers than ever It is just a matter of time before someone is killed.