Something Old – Something New – Something Borrowed – Something Blue
In some ways this was the club’s worst trip ever – a trip from Hell – at least until we got there… We were scheduled for June 2020 at Little Cayman Beach Resort – then due to Covid-19 was pushed out to April 2021 – and when that did not look plausible pushed out again to Sept 2021… Even though the last date looked risky from a weather perspective we felt adequately protected by the policies of Clearly Cayman and Cayman Airways. When we got into the last fray – triggered by the Cayman government’s unwillingness to open on a schedule similar to the rest of the Caribbean – Ronnie and I got “tunnel vision” – and focused only on medical and insurance related Turks and Caicos (TCI) entry criteria.
Clearly Cayman repatriated a fraction of their dive shop – Reef Divers - a flotilla of 4 dive boats - from Little Cayman to East Bay Resort, South Caicos. Despite the less than ideal season a large number of our divers originally committed to Little Cayman accepted the move and on top of that we got several late/additional sign ups – as this was something new and interesting. Except for a few divers that made “half” a Fiji trip in March 2020, most of our divers had not been on a club trip for over 2 years. The general Attitude was “Just Do IT”. In addition we were up against “a wall” – any additional delay would have been equivalent to a complete cancellation – as the trips in 2022 – all looks to be on track/on schedule
We ended up with 28 divers, our second biggest trip this century - second only to a prior trip to Little Cayman. All in all we had a great time – so wonderful to get back the water with our fellow members
Clearly Cayman is famous for the hospitality of their staff. The diving staff delivered Reef Divers famous Valet diving to expectations. Clearly Cayman is also famous for their buffet food service… The chef was actually a new hire – but he performed perfectly to expectations and traditions – including serving Ice Cream to Roger and others – not satisfied with the sweet selection on displays…
Some of our more experienced members have recollections – and pictures – of diving South Caicos around 1980…
To most – S Caicos is a new destination – And East Bay Resort is a relatively new (10-12 years old) set of buildings. The accommodations are exquisite all Ocean View suites – excessive space, well-functioning AC. If you need to ride out a hurricane – hunkering in place – this is where you want to do it! – The place is built like a fortress. Because we were the first big group a few things - AC and other amenities - had to be repaired or swapped out and we had a single complete room swap.
Large Infinity Pool with swim up bar. The dining area was hybrid – felt like outside, but under hard roof and well protected in case on inclement weather. The Wi-Fi worked well (almost?) all the time – and a few people were able to attend work events in lieu of diving
One thing is slightly different than Little Cayman – because we do fly charters on the last leg from Provo to S Caicos you need to get your luggage – including the heavy camera stuff - for a few people …on the correct (and only) plane. We did request special allowance for 3 “heavy duty” photographers – and we had no problems. The charter operation was smooth and effective.
Some of our divers – facing the 60 lbs. luggage limits - actually did us a favor – by committing to rental gear. For the rest of us packing light was a stressful exercise – mistakes did happen – and there was more borrowing from each other than normal. To maximize payload – I did purchase from Amazon and “official JetBlue” personal item bag – only 8 ounces
We were promised Nitrox (but the compressor was delayed)* – which is a prerequisite for normal healthy blue water diving in the Caicos – the wall crust at 50-60’ and the best pictures – my personal wide angel-only opinion - are only after you drop below the crest – so my assessment of the diving – and the ability to take the kind of pictures I care for – “is wait and see” … On two of the diving days the dive boats took us to Grand Turk. Our club was there last time in 2000 with Peter Hughes and we did dive the same moorings as back then (at least the mooring still left). Especially the first morning dive in Grand Turk is deep dark blue – because the position of the sun keeps the wall in the shade. I did find some nice clusters of Giant Purple Tube Sponges – a characteristic Grand Turk Picture. Because all the diving in Grand Turk is leeward – West facing – the water was flat with little to no current.
For the S Caicos diving a little more practice will help improve things – say picked dive sites with acceptable current and/or choosing to drift dive when appropriate
On the dive map – there were sites – North of South Caicos, e.g. East Caicos. While we were there those sites were all classified as “exploratory” – maybe Bob and Phebe that stayed behind for another 1.5 week got try that area.
At S Caicos we had two shallow dives looking for Eagle Rays. We saw them on both dives – but only close enough for pictures on our last dive. Due to the size of the group – we were split between two boats. The key dive master on our boat, Lee, had a classical European sense of humor and took great care to ensure that Alan was always “adequately” instructed before each dive
*In lieu of Nitrox we had to suffer with the substitution to a free drink card (21 drinks) each. We had only a few complaints on this account
Quoting a past president – “if you missed it – you missed it”
Ronnie and Nils
PS – we should have a folder in the club’s photo achieve shortly