Hi - some thoughts -
The issue of water-safety is multi-faceted. I'm going to lay out a few thoughts & ideas below - I hope we can discuss ideas without rancor and with an eye to seeing what we can do in a positive way ...... I am posting this for the business section in hopes that it can lead to action on the part of people who can do more than just talk about it.
Kraals were a good plan in years gone by. They provided safe swimming areas in the sea. Perhaps they can be reintroduced / approved for construction?
We've all done risky things when we were in new environments. It's natural.
Tourism industries the world over are tasked with guest-safety-education.
This is a process that begins anew with each planeload of sun-seekers.
Perhaps the SPBA and Tour Guides can make a small, succinct guide that specifically addresses water-safety on Ambergris Caye - have it handed over to guests at check-in. The front desk or guest relations person at each establishment can answer questions at that time. The same information piece should be in each "guest book" and should be posted on the walls of each establishment. This would be a single piece of paper, easily reproduced on a copy machine and not a huge bother to read.
Suggested items - Basic water safety -
1) swim in designated areas only
2) go out with licensed tour operators only
3) Boats can't see you - listen for them and if you hear one look around you immediately - if one is coming towards you get out of the way and/or make a ruckus so they see you
4) Waters inside the reef tend to be shallow - DO NOT DIVE off piers - you can break your neck
5) do not go out in kayaks in a north wind.
The big water taxis are a "relatively" new phenomena. We had one or two in the past - and in fact one swimmer's death was the result of an accident with one of these larger multi-passenger vessels. That first tragedy was totally avoidable - a man had just arrived on the island - he went to the nearest pier and jumped into deep water for a swim. Unfortunately it was 5pm, he jumped off the Texaco dock and the big boat from BC was just coming in to the dock. The man died on the spot. Had there been a sign would he have read it? Maybe, maybe not. Had there been staff on the dock could they have directed him to a safer place - absolutely - but it was a holiday and the gas station was closed.
My suggestion - the large, scheduled-run water taxis/BC ferries should come and go from one central place - on the back lagoon where swimmers do not venture anyway. This would allow for several things -
1) convenience for travelers
2) few if any swimmers in the area
3) screening of boat-captains for sobriety prior to departure
4) routine safety-compliance inspections - lifejackets? engines running ok? lights?
5) police presence at arrivals as has been so often suggested by people focused in crime-fighting
6) less taxi-cab congestion on front street - a more sensible and convenient place for pick-ups and drop offs.
7) the creation of a pleasant arrival park that welcomes travelers
8) generally calmer waters for safer docking, embarkation, disembarkation
Public carriers should not only be licensed for certain times, but should be mandated to follow certain courses. These courses should be farther from shore than the smaller boats that individuals and tour companies use.
Pier owners should not be forced to host pick-ups and deliveries from large (30 or 35 feet and longer?) commercial vessels, regardless of whether they are passenger or freight carriers. The larger commercial carriers should have pick-up and delivery zones that are appropriate to their work. This would make it easier for the passengers and captains alike.
It would also encourage pier-owners to make pleasant swimming & recreation areas for all of us to safely enjoy.
Lastly - we all know that accidents happen. We already have a decompression chamber. The current focus on upgrading the Polyclinic is a brilliant and urgent step in the right direction!