A Journey with Captain Allan

by Toni Keesee

Captain Allan Ebanks is unlike anyone I’ve ever met. I feel like I’ve met him in a storybook or two, but never someone like him in the flesh. During a recent trip on his charter boat, he took my friends and I on an unforgettable tour of the North Sound and told us grandiose story after grandiose story about his life as a 5th Generation Caymanian. I was absolutely captivated.

We boarded Captain Allan’s boat in the North Sound on a late Saturday afternoon and headed out towards Starfish Point. Captain Allan introduced himself, and it didn’t take long before he was deep into storytelling. We learned that his paternal great-great-grandfather moved to the island all the way from India, and his mother moved to Cayman from Cuba. Born in 1952, Captain Allan, told us that he remembers when Cayman traffic was mostly horses and donkeys and only a few cars. When he was a young man the Captain set out to sea with his father, a fisherman, to learn the trade. He did this for many years and said that men at sea ate so much turtle that they could see the turtle oil running under their skin. He laughed at my bewilderment, and said the omega in the turtle oil also made the men like Hercules.

group photo

Watching Starfish and Looking for Conch at Starfish Point

Captain Allan, stopped the boat that we were on at Starfish Point and invited us all to join him as he jumped into the sea. He and his cousin, Merle (who was on board helping) went in without flippers or goggles. They said the salt water didn’t bother their eyes. And trust me the flippers were needed for us as well. The water was very choppy, so they helped us swim with more gusto. I spotted some starfish in the wild for the very first time, and while some may consider watching starfish anti-climatic, I really felt a major sense of gratitude and awe for having the opportunity to be there in that moment. Captain Allan and Merle were also looking for conch shells during this stop. The season for conch hunting had apparently just began, and the men explained that we would see several boats out looking for conch.

looking out at the water

We kicked our way back to the boat, hopped back on, and the Captain took us towards Stingray City. During our ride, he dove right back in to storytelling. He told us that during his time at sea, he made traditional, wooden fishing boats. The boats were made with cotton caulking and he made them aboard large ships. Once they were lowered into the water they could never be pulled back on board because the material became way too heavy once wet, so these types of boats could only be pulled on shore. They also had to dry on shore for 3-4 weeks before being used again.

snorkeling at Starfish Point

Getting a Stringray Backrub at Stingray City

Once at Stingray City, Captain Allan anchored us again and explained that the stingrays are very tame and hang out at this reef because they know they will be fed here. He threw out some food for the stingrays and we saw them come swarming. Everyone on board jumped into the shallow water and played with the docile creatures… there were plenty of squeals as the stingrays slithered over and around us. Merle talked me into petting and holding one of the huge creatures, and then he placed one on my back for a “stingray backrub.” Squeals and laughter followed.

Captain Allan continued looking for Conch. He would dive under water for what seemed like 5 minutes at a time, and little did we know that we were about to get a very special treat from his hunting adventures.


Enjoying Conch Civiche on the Ride Back

Once we were all back on board, Captain Allan and his cousin, Merle, started harvesting and then preparing the conch in a conch civiche. After harvesting the conch, he showed us how you could use the shells as a blow horn. They work very well for this!

The captain continued his stories while preparing the civiche. At one point during his sea life he fished for tiger sharks, green turtles and hawksbill turtles. They sold the green turtle shells to China for manufacturing and sold the beautiful hawksbill turtle shells to local markets for wall hangings and jewelry.

I learned that hunting tiger sharks was not for the faint of heart. He said these sharks were smart. Once hooked, they would only fight for a short while and would then wait in preparation for their prey to pull them from the water. As soon as their heads hit the top of the water they would snap their tails as quick as possible often times knocking fisherman off boats. Allan had heard these warning tales, and knew not to get too close when pulling a tiger shark up. However, he did have a close call. When pulling one from the sea, the shark flipped his tail around and Captain Allan had to quickly duck to avoid being hit. He said the shark took the hat off his head and he was thankful to be alive afterwards.

cleaning conch


In the 70’s Captain Allan came back to the Cayman Islands and began taking Canadian tourists out on chartered boats for Cayman Style picnics. He fell in love with leading these tours which eventually led to the purchase of his own boat and building the business he has today.

After the sun set, we rode back into the mainland and Captain Allan turned the music up to celebrate our day on the sea. A dance party pursued and we all toasted to a perfect ride upon Captain Allan’s boat.

If you’re interested in taking a tour aboard Captain Allan’s charter boat, you can reach him at (345) 945-4340 or charter@candw.ky. You can also find more information on his tours on TripAdvisor, and if you need somewhere to stay while on island, we’ve got you covered.