Sunset Divers 40th Anniversary
On April 30th, 2012, Sunset Divers celebrated their 40th anniversary! All the dive staff on island were invited as well as all Alumni Staff of Sunset Divers… Thanks to Divers Alert Network for helping sponsor the evening!
Hurricane Ivan was a large, long-lived, Cape Verde-type hurricane that caused widespread damage in the Caribbean and United States. The cyclone was the ninth named storm, the sixth hurricane and the fourth major hurricane of the active 2004 Atlantic hurricane season. Ivan formed in early September, had reached Category 5 strength on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale, and became the 10th most intense Atlantic hurricane ever recorded. At its peak in the Gulf of Mexico, Ivan was the size of the state of Texas. It also spawned 119 tornadoes across the eastern United States.
Ivan caused catastrophic damage to Grenada as a strong Category 3 storm, heavy damage to Jamaica as a strong Category 4 storm and then Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands and the western tip of Cuba as a Category 5 storm. After peaking in strength, the hurricane moved north-northwest across the Gulf of Mexico to strike Gulf Shores, Alabama as a strong Category 3 storm, causing significant damage. Ivan dropped heavy rains on the Southeastern United States as it progressed northeast and east through the eastern United States, becoming an extratropical cyclone. The remnant low from the storm moved into the western subtropical Atlantic and regenerated into a tropical cyclone, which then moved across Florida and the Gulf of Mexico into Louisiana and Texas, causing minimal damage. Ivan caused an estimated US$18 billion (2004 USD, $22.5 billion 2014 USD) in damages to the United States, making it the fifth costliest hurricane ever to strike the country.
Ivan came within 25 miles of Grand Cayman. Ivan caused the bar to lean over, requiring a lengthy closure until repairs could be done. Many of Grand Cayman’s other housing didn’t fare so well and Sunset House opened its doors to the many newly homeless, sometimes 4 to a room. Our restaurant cooked 168 dinners in one night and never charged anyone who came by. With a stand-by generator, well water and cistern water on hand, the hotel was up and running the day after Hurricane Ivan.
Sea surge from the 200 mile away Hurricane Michelle took the bar completely and washed straight through eight rooms. Amazingly, the staff worked around the clock for the next 4 days and nights and hosted a full hotel with the PADI Total Submersion Group.
My Bar Rebuilt
As popular as the hotel has been with visiting divers, the Sunset House bar – My Bar – has been equally popular with Grand Cayman’s residents. Friday night happy hour at Sunset House is basically an island institution and tradition that attracts up to 200 people every week.
The thatched roof My Bar was originally built in 1968, and then rebuilt – with 32,000 thatch leaves – after Hurricane Michelle in 2001.
Appropriately, it was the son of the man who did the thatch work on the first time that did the thatch work on the second time. A testament to craftsmanship, the thatch roof remainded largely in tact after experiencing Hurricane Ivan’s Category 5 winds.
Amphitrite is commissioned
Always looking for a competitive edge, Sunset House commissioned Simon Morris to create a nine foot tall, 600 pound bronze statue of a mermaid. Amphitrite, Siren of Sunset Reef – as the statue is officially named – was submerged in 50 feet of water just offshore from the hotel and draws the visit of thousands of divers each year.
Even though it was on the sea, Sunset House avoided any significant storm damage for more than 30 years. But in December 1990, exactly 10 years to the day of the fire, the “Christmas Eve nor’wester” damaged the bar significantly, leaving only the deck and roof.
LCM David Nicholson
Sunset House sank the LCM David Nicholson, an old naval landing craft that was named after the first dive master to work with Sunset Divers. The wreck of the Nicholson lies just offshore from the hotel, in just over 60 feet of water.
Dominoes at My Bar
My Bar has also been, with exception of a few years, one of the most popular places to play dominoes since it opened.
However, in the late 1980s, the play got a little too wild and boisterous for the Brigg’s liking and it was banned for three years. Eventually, dominoes were allowed to be played again at two tables at the bar, and everyone from cabinet members, magistrate judges, guests and Adrien himself can be found playing there on occasion.
My Bar mascots
During the 1980′s and early 90′s, My Bar had two “unofficial” mascots, two dogs – a black lab named Pirate and a golden lab named Honey. Unfortunately, “Honey” lost one of her legs as a pup and was renamed, lovingly, “Tripod”. Both dogs slept under My Bar and would come out to see patrons as they arrived.
On Christmas Eve, 1980, fire burned down the original main house, which served as the office and gift shop along with eight rooms. The fire was caused by an electical overload in the original 1950′s wiring. A month before the fire, the new restaurant building opened, a part of which became the temporary office operations location for the next couple of years.
Sunset Divers becomes a force
Sunset House and Sunset Divers became a force when it bought two new boats from Virginia in 1980. They were the first custom-made dive boats in the Cayman Islands. The ability to affordably accommodate divers and then offer them full dive services – including great shore diving – has been key to Sunset House’s success.
Dive Shop opens
Sunset House took an important step when it opened its dive shop in 1972, as the hotel began catering more to divers. Sport Diving, like tourism was still in its infancy in the early 70s.
My Bar built
In 1968, another two one-bedroom apartments were added. According to Adrien, after that, each year they added something. Eventually, the hotel reached 59 guest rooms, although only 55 of them are available for guests today.
Due to demand, she expanded several times. The first expansion occurred in 1965 when two concrete block guest cottages were built.
Sunset House is born
Owner Adrien Briggs has been with Sunset House since the beginning. After his father passed away in Brighton, England, the 12 year old Adrien moved to Grand Cayman with his Caymanian mother, Hebe, in 1958. Hebe’s parents, Captain Huber and Marie Bodden, sent her to school in Jamaica where she had met Adrien’s English father, who she eventually followed back to England.