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May 2004 Vol. 19, No. 5   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Cayman Eases Diving Restrictions

from the May, 2004 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

In the early 1980s, dive operators in the Cayman Islands adopted a Code of Safety Requirements and Standards. The idea was to be self-governing and to develop a standard "product" for all dive operations, says Nancy Eastbrook, owner of Divetech.

Among other self-imposed restrictions, operators limited all divers to depths of 110 fsw for no more than 20 minutes on the first dive of the day and 60 feet for 40 minutes on the second. Planned decompression diving was prohibited for customers or with customers onboard.

These limitations were adopted before dive computers and technical diving certifications became commonplace. When Eastbrook formed Divetech in 1994, the sport was evolving and the Cayman Islands Watersports Operators Association was behind the times. So she and other dive operators began working to liberalize the guidelines.

First, Nitrox was introduced. That was followed by tech diving, free diving, and finally, about 18 months ago, the Watersports Committee stretched the recreational depth limit to 130 feet. Today, it's permissible for buddy teams with computers to set their own profiles to 130 feet and make unguided wall dives. Technical divers are able to dive to the limit of their certification. Solo diving is still officially prohibited.

However, individual operators may set more conservative limits and many dive operators still use the old guidelines. Of course, the old limits made tourist diving more manageable. It's easier for an operator to schedule his day -- that is, get back in time for lunch -- when dives have specific time limits. Indeed, even Divetech stuck to the old profiles on the boat dives I made with them. Exceptions should be arranged in advance with any dive operator.

For more information about the revised Watersports Operations Guidelines, call 949-8522 or e-mail cita@candw.ky.

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