CAYMAN REPORT: Okay, I’ve been slow to post this because I got home a day late (thanks, Delta!) and had a lot to do. But here goes. First, the diving: As usual, it was great. Interestingly, I wondered if hitting the Rippetoe-style weight training was going to hurt my air consumption, but it didn’t. My fear was that having added a substantial amount of muscle mass, that muscle would require more air. But, in fact, my air consumption was the best it’s ever been: I was finishing hour-long dives at 50-60 feet and still getting on the boat (after a safety stop) with 1200 pounds. (Starting with 3000-3200 pounds of pressure in the tank). Perhaps more muscle made me swim more efficiently, or maybe — and I think this is likely based on my experience doing aerobically demanding stuff — the weight training has boosted my cardiovascular fitness. Whatever, it was a relief.
The weather was terrific, the reefs looked good, and I dove the Kittiwake again, which I thought would bore me but which didn’t. There’s just so much to explore there, and the marine life changes every time. This time it was full of silversides, which made huge clouds that were super-cool to swim through. One caveat: If you tend toward claustrophobia, which I absolutely do not, you probably don’t want to dive the Kittiwake, and you might find being in the middle of a cloud of fish that cuts off your vision upsetting.
The fight between Cayman officials and the Cayman Compass over a corruption editorial was still the talk of the town, with most people I talked to saying that the Governor (a British official with great but seldom-used power) might wind up intervening. (Islands are basically like municipal governments pretending to be a nation, and the possibility of outside supervision is salutary.)
But that’s not the big story or conflict. The big conflict is over a proposed cruise ship dock that would damage a lot of the reef. The folks at Sunset House, a dive resort that I’ve stayed at in the past, write:
The Environmental Impact Assessment indicates that dredging and its silt plume will destroy much of the unique, thousands of years old reefs that we currently earn over $20 million/year from and upon which numerous watersports operations are primarily dependent.
The Wreck of the Balboa will be dredged up, as well as Soto’s South will certainly perish, but the deadly silt plume will likely affect all of the reefs in the harbor to various extents, including Soto’s Central, Soto’s North (Cheese Burger Reef) and Eden Rock.
The massive silt plume will destroy the reefs to the South of Sunset House to as far North as Treasure Island Resort.
Seems like a terrible idea to me. The cruise ships bring in lots of people, but they don’t stay long, they only spend money in the rather tacky cruise-ship area of town, and, frankly, I think they give people a bad impression of the island. As Doug Weinstein and I have noted, when you drive past, you never see the cruise ship people smiling. They generally look tired and disgusted as they trudge around. And when I talk to people who say they’ve “been to Cayman” on a cruise ship, their impressions are usually not favorable. Divers, on the other hand, tend to stay a lot longer — a week, say — and spend a lot more money, as well as coming away with a lot more good things to say about the place. Cruise ships are kind of the “fast food” of tourism.
The dive community has a petition and a Facebook page. I’ve reported here before about how Cayman has done a good job of balancing environmental and financial concerns; this would seem to be a departure from that.
Lionfish, which I’ve written about before, were vastly less plentiful everywhere I dove, and more restaurants were serving lionfish appetizers (the ceviche is excellent) and entrees. Lionfish is quite tasty, and while they still thrive at depths recreational divers can’t reach — there aren’t enough tech divers to make much of a dent in the population at 300 feet down — they have been significantly beaten back. Also, they’re delicious.
I briefly met the fair Fiona, who married a Caymanian and has thus been able to stick around (and have a kid) despite Cayman’s highly restrictive immigration laws.
Here’s a sporadically updated Cayman political/economic blog.
In terms of equipment, not much change in my setup. I’ve used this Cressi Travelight BC for the last couple of years, as my old SeaQuest was getting kind of frayed. I use an Atomic Aquatics M1 regulator which I like a lot, and I still use a Suunto Vyper dive computer, which I’ve had for a decade now. I dive with the Spare Air, too, though I’ve never used it. Best investment? A prescription dive mask that I got at Diver’s Supply on Cayman a while back. They fitted me on the spot and although I can see okay underwater without it, it’s a lot nicer to be able to see clearly. I highly recommend one of these.
When on Cayman I generally dive with Nat Robb’s In Depth Watersports. Great service, great boats, a great experience.