As far as birthday presents go, Isabelle Welds says this one is up there with the best.
“Phenomenal. The beach is everything on this island,” said Welds, who is about to turn 17.
She was one of many Cayman Islands residents who made their way to the beach Tuesday to exercise. It marked the first time in more than a month those living in Grand Cayman could access the water. For many, it was the first time they’d been to the beach at all since COVID-19 prevention measures were tightened in April.
“It was really hard and me thinking that – my birthday’s coming up – that I wouldn’t be able to get out here. So it’s just great to be out here,” Welds said.
Waters off the west side of Grand Cayman were a bit more rough than normal thanks to a high pressure system across the Caribbean. That didn’t stop residents from taking in the sun and sand on world-renowned Seven Mile Beach.
“It’s fun because in quarantine we couldn’t do anything,” said 12-year-old Andre Campbell, who was swimming with his family. “I normally go outside, play with my sisters, play with my friends. In quarantine, we’re just stuck in the house.”
Naomi Welcome was all smiles as she chased after Campbell, covering them both in sand as the sun began to set.
“It’s amazing, the water is beautiful. I missed it big-time.” – Mark Mimnagh
“It’s really nice. I’ve (only) been outside for like two days. It’s really amazing and the beach is all we’ve got here in Cayman,” she said.
Government prohibited beach access entirely following Easter weekend, when Police Commissioner Derek Byrne and Premier Alden McLaughlin bristled after reports of large gatherings on the beach.
Now, under recent loosening of restrictions, residents can access the beach for up to two hours for exercise, which includes walking, running, swimming, snorkelling, fishing, kayaking or paddleboarding, on your ‘letter day’.
Further south, beachgoers flocked to Smith Barcadere.
“It’s amazing, the water is beautiful. I missed it big-time,” said Mark Mimnagh, who said he was not counting down the days, he was counting down the minutes. “It was almost like getting your freedom back. I was just waiting for the weekend to finish so we can come swimming.”
It was a big day for Cayman’s anglers as well. Restrictions on water-based activities, including fishing from a boat or from the shore, were eased.
“I’m really excited and I’m looking forward to being out on the water,” said Ben Jarod Ebanks. “I love it. I started back work last week so after work I’m definitely going to be back out on the water just about every day, so I’m just looking forward to that.”
He said fishing is more than just about the catch.
“As a youngster it is really a good stress relief for me because I love being out on the water. It is just my natural way of releasing stress; with the COVID-19 going on I feel like it’s really stressful,” Ebanks said.
Over at Red Bay dock, however, Dennis Ames wasn’t ready to head out just yet, being content simply to relax near the water.
“I do some fishing myself. I try to line out here, but I catch more water than fish,” Ames said. “I will be passing my line maybe later in the week; right now I’m just relaxing watching the water.”
Ames says he hopes people have learned a lesson and will adhere to the restrictions.
“Remember, it is privilege to fish,” he said. “At least we have the freedom to do it now.”
Additional reporting by Reshma Ragoonath