The Tibbetts' Family Heritage
The Tibbetts family owners of Reef Divers and the Clearly Cayman Dive Resorts – Little Cayman Beach Resort, Cayman Brac Beach Resort, and Cobalt Coast Resort – are descendants of Cayman Brackers dating back to the 1700s. Their ancestors were fishermen and shipbuilders who became merchants after early 1900s patriarch Nathaniel Tibbetts was injured in a fishing accident and had an arm amputated to save his life.
Nathaniel’s son Linton was just a young boy when the hurricane known as the “great storm” hit Cayman Brac on November 8, 1932, causing massive destruction and killing more than 100 Caymanians. Casualties included Linton’s grandmother and two of his siblings. Linton’s father and older brother Ronnie were away from the island, so his 16-year-old brother Keith managed to help save remaining family members and some relatives. Keith went on to build cargo ships for Caribbean trading and became known as Captain Keith to whom Linton (known affectionately as “Mr. T”) paid homage by naming the Russian frigate purposely sunk off Cayman Brac as an artificial reef in 1998 – the MV Captain Keith Tibbetts.
PATRIARCH LINTON TIBBETTS MOVES TO FLORIDA
Linton Tibbetts moved to Florida in the mid-1940s with just a few dollars in his pocket but a head full of ideas and an entrepreneurial spirit. He purchased Cox Lumber in St. Petersburg in 1949 and grew it into the largest privately held lumber company in the Southeastern U.S. Throughout his life, Mr. T never forgot his roots and frequently launched or supported business ventures that benefitted his Cayman Brac roots. Among these were building two 40-room hotels to secure commercial air service into the Brac – the second of which is now known as the Cayman Brac Beach Resort. He also founded banks, a power company, shopping centers, churches, and an airline. In 2003 Linton received one of the biggest honors of his life – the designation Order of the British Empire (O.B.E.) – for his service to the Islands and their economy, which was awarded to him by Queen Elizabeth at Buckingham Palace.
CHILDREN DAN AND MARY ENTER THE DIVE RESORT BUSINESS
Mr. T and his wife Polly had 4 children. Their daughter Mary and her husband Russ managed the family’s Cayman Brac resort for many years, and son Dan built the Little Cayman Beach Resort and founded Reef Divers which opened in 1993. Dan sought to create a full-service valet diving experience with a focus on the guests’ comfort and safety with acquisition of custom-built Newton boats specifically designed for scuba diving. For his pioneering efforts to promote dive tourism, Dan Tibbetts was named as a Local Honoree to the International Scuba Diving Hall of Fame in 2018.
COMPANY IN CAPABLE HANDS OF THE NEXT GENERATION OF TIBBETTS
Dan Tibbetts passed away in 2006 – five years before his father Linton who died in 2011. Dan’s children Michael, Emily, and Jessica took over ownership and management of Little Cayman Beach Resort and Reef Divers after their father’s passing. In the years since, they completed a major renovation and rebranding of Cayman Brac Beach Resort and most recently purchased Cobalt Coast Resort on Grand Cayman. The Tibbetts family remains committed to honoring their Cayman heritage and legacy, protecting the fragile marine environment, and making guests feel like family when they visit any of their resorts.
Read more about the Tibbetts’ family story here.