September 17, 2021

Missing diver incident mentioned in blog

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220px-Plongee-StabilisateurDorsal_20090220_PlaqueLacasseBy Solomander From Scuba Diving

Grand Cayman, 1/16 – 1/20/14

I’m typing this at the terminal, sitting 20′ away from Anthony Bourdain. The Cayman cookout is held here every MLK weekend. This was my fourth trip to GC over this weekend and I have yet to summon the will to check it out.

We flew direct from JFK on Jet Blue on 1/16. The flight was a bit bumpy, but uneventful. The flight was an hour later this year. Last year, we were able to do a pm boat dive. This year we were too late. We consoled ourselves with the fact that we were staying at Sunset House and could do a shore dive when we got there. As it turned out, the water was rough and there was no shore diving during our stay. Oh snap!

This was our first stay at Sunset House. Sue Lauzon hooked me up with Keith Sahm via Facebook, so we were acquainted by the time we reached the resort. Sunset House is the third dive specific place that I have stayed at. I found it to be significantly nicer than Buddy Dive or Scuba Club Cozumel. We had a nice big room with 2 double beds, a couch, a table, a fridge and a microwave. We had a small balcony out back with a view of the water. There was a grassy area right behind our room with lounge chairs. Having said that, dive hotels are graded on a different curve than regular hotels. Everything was very plain. Our room and bathroom always had some dirt or debris on the floor. I suspect floor mats at the entrances would help this greatly. Anyway, it was what it was. The common areas of the hotel were really fun. My Bar is a great place to hang around. You can socialize with everybody or sit and quietly read. We spent a lot of time there.

The weather was the worst that we had ever experienced in GC. It was cool and cloudy most of the time. The first day it rained with strong winds during the diving. The other two days is was overcast in the morning and cleared in the afternoon. Some combination of a fleece and a shell were necessary in order to be comfortable. It wasn’t a deal breaker, but not what we had been used to this weekend.

We had dinner at My Bar for the first time. The Indian food was surprisingly good. We had a really good lunch at da Fish Shack. The fish and chips were very good and the view was awesome. We ate at the Sunshine Grill twice. I always enjoy their burgers and fish tacos. Their waitresses are always nice. We had lunch at Cimboco, which is around the corner from the Marriot. Very good food too. We had lunch at the Brasserie Market. Its on Elgin St., a bit off 7 Mile Beach, in an office park. The Market has sandwiches, soups and salads. It caters to the people who work there and I’m confident that there were few out of towners there. We had dinner and watched football at the Lone Star Cafe. It had a million TV screens and serves credible barbecue. It’s a great place for watching sporting events.

The diving was very good. We dove the south end for the first two days. Dive sites included To the Left, Laura’s reef, Lem’s Tunnels and Red Bay Caves. We love the coral finger formations. There is a lot of stuff to look at and the feeling of flying over the sand between the fingers is fun. There was some surge the first two days. On the third day we dove on Cable Wall on the west end. There was a significant current that day. There were no amazing sightings. I saw my first glasseye snapper and a couple of turtles. Aside from that it was the usual suspects. Once again, I didn’t get to the Kittiwake. The Sunset dive op goes on Mondays and Wednesdays. I will have to adjust my schedule accordingly next time. The dive op ran one boat the first two days and three boats on the last day- two dive clubs arrived on Saturday. Our boats usually had around 12 people on board. We did guided dives at first, but the formations are easy enough to navigate that we dove on our own after the first day.

Things changed from the routine after the first dive yesterday. One of the divers on another boat was missing. He was 57 years old and was part of a foursome from North Carolina. We dove with them the day before and he seemed to be a competent diver. I spoke with the other couple and they said that the four of them surfaced 100 yards from the dive boat and swam over. The man never turned up at the ladder. One minute he was there, then he wasn’t. Our second dive was cancelled and all of the Sunset dive boats did a search. 2 rescue divers on our boat went down to take a look where he was last seen at the site, then they did a drift dive. Our boat spent 2 hours as part of a search team. There was a police boat, a police helicopter and a few jet skis involved. The boat let us off at noon and resumed their search, which continued until nightfall. They started again this morning. There was no sign of the missing diver when we left the resort.

This was a good trip tempered by a very sobering experience. While talking to a bunch of people, it turns out that some of them don’t routinely inflate their BCs [buoyancy compensator] upon surfacing. The two reasons that I heard were “I’m right at the ladder” and “I’m a good swimmer.” This has led my dive buddy and I to go over our practices with this in mind.

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