Blacktip Island Divemaster Invents Spray-On Wetsuit

Blacktip Island divemaster Alison Diesel’s Can-O-Prene wetsuit substitute has divided the small Caribbean island’s scuba diving community.

Blacktip Island divemaster Alison Diesel’s Can-O-Prene wetsuit substitute has divided the small Caribbean island’s scuba diving community.

A spray-on neoprene substitute invented by a Blacktip Island divemaster has many in the dive industry questioning the future of rubber-based wetsuits.

The brainchild of Eagle Ray Divers divemaster Alison Diesel, Can-O-Prene is applied in layers immediately before a dive.

“Guests always ask how thick a wetsuit they need,” Diesel said. “We can’t tell them. Some people get cold easier than others. With Can-O-Prene, though, they can tweak their thermal protection. The more layers you spray on, the toastier you stay. Then at the end of the day, you just peel it off.

“Plus, we ditched all the polymers and acetylene and metal oxides,” Diesel said. “It’s made from soy and seaweed, so it’s enviro-friendly.”

Diesel teamed up with island entrepreneur Piers “Doc” Plank, owner of the Bamboo You line of scuba gear, to manufacture and market Can-O-Prene.

“Alison had the vision and the biochemical know how,” Plank said. “When she approached us about handling the business end of things, we jumped at the chance. This could revolutionize the dive industry.

“Not only is it all natural, it also takes up minimal space in luggage,” Plank said. “Instead of hauling down a heavy wetsuit, imagine tossing a can of air freshener in your bag. That’s all the room Can-O-Prene takes, and one can’ll get you through a week of Caribbean diving.”

Scuba divers who tested the product were impressed.

“It’s like getting a custom drysuit without the custom price,” Eagle Ray Divers divemaster Gage Hoase said. “I mean, it’s just fwoosh and I got a 5/3 suit in minutes.”

Critics, however, questioned Can-O-Prene’s environmental soundness.

“If it comes out of a can, it’s not all natural,” local activist Harry Pickett said. “We have no idea what makes that goop foam like that, or what sort of toxins it’s releasing onto the reef.”

Medical experts worried the product’s potential health risks.

“Without knowing its exact chemical makeup, we don’t know what agents are leaching into divers’ skin,” said island doctor Azul Tang. “At least with vulcanized polychloroprene we know what we’re dealing with.”

Plank and Diesel were quick to allay those concerns.

“Is Can-O-Prene perfect? No,” Plank said. “Frankly, you smell kind of like a dried herring after the third or fourth dive day. We’re working on that. But it’s better than wrapping yourself in fake rubber.”

“It’s biodegradable, latex free, gluten free and dolphin safe,” Diesel added. “You could eat it after you peel it off. Unless you’re one of those grotty divers who to pee in their wetsuit.”

Neither Diesel nor Plank would comment on rumors Can-O-Prene will also be sold in adult novelty stores.


Filed under Caribbean, Scuba Diving

Blacktip Island Domino Players Form Regional Think Tank

Blacktip Island’s domino aficionados have created a nonpartisan policy institute to address important issues impacting the region.

Blacktip Island’s domino aficionados have created a nonpartisan policy institute to address important issues impacting the region.

A group of Blacktip Island’s domino enthusiasts have filed articles of incorporation to become the Tiperon Islands’ first nonprofit, nongovernmental policy institute.

The Council for Regional Atmospheric Policy draws on a cross section of Blacktip Island society and will focus on economics, energy, social policy and fashion.

“Folks think we just sit around drinking beer and playing dominoes, you know” Council co-founder Antonio Fletcher said. “But we talk about the news of the day, too. We figure we come up with answers for most every crisis in the Caribbean since 2004. Maybe even 2003.

“It’s really a formality,” Fletcher said. “We already solve the world’s problems each day. This gets us legal recognition, though. And funding.”

The Council is financed by Sandy Bottoms Liquor Store and proceeds from local domino tournaments. Members meet daily in a storage unit behind the liquor store.

Island leaders praised the group’s effectiveness.

“They’ve addressed Blacktip’s sustainability in terms of water conservation, green electricity production and repurposing items from the dump,” island mayor Jack Cobia said. “They also had the idea to put the big recycling barrel next to their domino table for all the bottle and cans.

“Now, we haven’t implemented any of their plans, except the recycling bin, but the results have been impressive,” Cobia said.

The Council’s critics were less enthusiastic.

“A bunch of drunks talking out their backsides isn’t a think tank,” Club Scuba Doo owner Nelson Pilchard said. “By that logic, the Last Ballyhoo bar’s a policy institute, too. And nonprofit? They make out like bandits with free beer.”

Council members were quick to defend the organization.

“I guarantee we don’t turn a profit,” Council member Dermott Bottoms said. “I mean, just look at us.”

“Sandy’s folks do provide the beer,” Fletcher said. “They deliver the cans right out to us, but that’s mostly so we don’t wander in and scare off customers. Couple of members aren’t allowed within 100 yards of the store, too.”

Fletcher said the Council is currently focused on immigration reform and its effects on regional culture, a study he says is facilitated by the dominoes themselves.

“You slap dominoes down long enough, ideas jump up at you,” Fletcher said. “We’ve had some of our best brainstorms at the end of playing all day and half the night. Right before you pass out, things fall into place like, well, like dominoes.”

Leave a comment

Filed under Caribbean, Writing

Public Transport Comes To Blacktip Island

One of Blacktip Island’s new Sail-n-Rail carriages makes its way across the Caribbean island’s West Sound, bypassing the island’s overcrowded roadway.

One of Blacktip Island’s new Sail-n-Rail carriages makes its way across the Caribbean island’s West Sound, bypassing the island’s overcrowded roadway.

Blacktip Island’s commuters have a new transit option after the Department of Transportation launched its Sail-n-Rail network along the Caribbean island’s west coast Friday.

Dubbed the ‘Manta Rail’ by island residents, the system relies on ultra-light rail coupled with small sailing vessels to bypass the island’s crowded roadway.

“It’s this population boom that’s made it necessary,” island mayor Jack Cobia said. “We have over 100 people living here now, and every one of them has a car or a scooter or a bicycle.

“Our infrastructure’s just not built for that,” Cobia said. “There’s complete gridlock during the high travel periods.”

“That road’s a parking lot during morning and afternoon rush hours,” Department of Transportation director Dusty Rhodes said. “And every night after the bars close.

“Our solution was to run a Hobie on bamboo rails down to West Sound, where the boat pops loose and sails across the lagoon to a railhead on the other side,” Rhodes said. “It’s simple, locally sourced and energy efficient.”

Local reaction to the system has been positive.

“With gas as expensive as it is, this is a great way to lessen our carbon footprint,” divemaster Marina DeLow said. “It’s nice not to have to dig my scooter out of the bushes every Saturday morning after Karaoke Friday, too.”

Island emergency responders praised the new line’s public safety benefits.

“We don’t have the manpower to fish all these single-car wrecks out of the booby pond each morning,” Island Police Constable Rafe Marquette said. “And I can only write up so many DUIs. I’m running out of forms.”

The Department of Transportation’s Rhodes said late-night service was incorporated early in the planning stages.

“We can lay five, maybe six drunks side-by-side, depending on how big they are, and deliver them across the sound slick as snot. These boats damn-near sail themselves.”

The government is offsetting the system’s cost by incorporating snorkeling tours into the sailing portion of the route.

“We rigged the boats with lines off their sterns for snorkelers to hang onto,” Rhodes said. “They look at fish as they drift past, and we charge them for snorkeling.

“The trick’s getting folks to let go before the rail car clamps onto the hulls on the other side,” Rhodes said. “We had a couple of bad draggings, but we’re working out the kinks.”

Leave a comment

Filed under Caribbean

Blacktip Island Resort To Charge Per Fish Seen

Spotting a stingray just got more expensive with Eagle Ray Divers' new pay-per-fish pricing.

Spotting a stingray just got more expensive with Eagle Ray Divers’ new pay-per-fish pricing.

Blacktip Island’s Eagle Ray Divers has launched a new dive pricing model designed to aid the Caribbean island’s marine laboratory’s fish population studies.

“Historically, reef fish surveys have been sporadic and of questionable reliability,” Blacktip Aquatic Research Station director Olive Beaugregory said. “The program we worked out with ERD will give us daily, accurate population counts from the island’s most-dived sites.”

“We’re charging divers by how many fish they see,” Eagle Ray Divers operations manager Ger Latner said. “Our divemasters have charts with check boxes to debrief dive guests as soon as they climb back on the boats.

“It’s a set fee per fish, with a sliding scale according to species,” Latner said. “We charge more for the good stuff. You see a parrotfish? That’s $1. A stingray’s $5. A green moray’s $7.50. You see a whale shark? Open up your wallet.”

The model’s creators assured scuba diving guests the plan isn’t as radical as it sounds.

“We’ve simply unbundled the dive experience,” Eagle Ray Cove resort owner Rich Skerritt said. “Divers who kneel in the sand and watch jawfish are a lot less work for our divemasters than yahoos who motor across three dive sites trying to see everything. It’s a safety issue.

“We’re happy to give the research station the data it needs,” Skerritt said. “And if we happen to increase our profit margin in the process, well, that can’t be helped.”

The Eagle Ray Divers staff say the new pricing has already made their jobs easier.

“It’s cut down the posers who come up claiming they saw seahorses, frogfish and nudibranchs,” Eagle Ray Divers divemaster Gage Hoase said. “They don’t make that B.S. up if they know it’ll cost them, and we don’t have to deal with the rest of the divers hacked off because they think we didn’t show them something.”

Dive guests were less enthusiastic.

“When they told me there’s a dollar sign on each fish, I told them I didn’t see a damn thing,” Eagle Ray Divers guest Al Flagg said. “Can I help it if my mask was fogged, you know what I mean?”

Eagle Ray Cove’s Skerritt wasn’t concerned about possible loopholes.

“Some smart-ass says he saw nothing, we’ll charge him whatever we charge the top spotter on that dive,” Skerritt said.

“We’re also kicking around a complainer surcharge,” Latner said. “You come back carping about a bad dive when everyone else loved it, we’ll slap a reef shark or two on your bill.”

Neither Skerritt nor Latner would comment on reports Eagle Ray Divers had cancelled charters by several blind dive clubs.

Leave a comment

Filed under Caribbean, Scuba Diving

Coral Mummy Found on Blacktip Island Wall Dive

A preliminary scan of Wally the Coral Man, discovered by recreational divers on a Blacktip Island wall dive. (Photo courtesy of Utilisateur : 120)

A preliminary scan of Wally the Coral Man, discovered by recreational divers on a Blacktip Island wall dive. (Photo courtesy of Utilisateur : 120)

A group of Blacktip Island recreational scuba divers on the Caribbean island’s Alpine Wall Wednesday discovered the coral-encrusted remains of a diver who died there years ago in unusual circumstances.

Nicknamed “Wally,” after where he was found, the body was protected from decay by a fast-growing fire coral, leaving the remains in a mummified state, experts said.

Divers found the body face down, with a prominent spear wound in the back of his left shoulder. Other wounds on the body indicate he was involved in a physical altercation shortly before his death.

Island police were called, but quickly turned the remains over to the island’s scientific community.

“What we have is a diver who died suddenly, violently,” Tiperon University-Blacktip archeology professor Kraft Leakey said. “Initial radiocarbon tests date the remains to between 3,760 and 3940 BCE. If that date is correct, this could rewrite the history of scuba diving.

“Last year we discovered what appeared to be a Neocorallic Age scuba resort, but that theory was poo-pooed by archaeologists and scuba training agencies alike,” Leakey said. “This find, dating to the same period, gives that theory new legs, though.”

Other testing has provided clues to Wally’s final hours.

“Our scans show significant levels of nicotine and hot pepper residue on Wally’s skin, suggesting he visited a public house before his fatal dive,” TU-B pathologist Christina Mojarra said. “His stomach contents include charred meat, a fried starch and ethyl alcohol, all consumed an hour before his death.

“We surmise he was in an altercation at the pub and fled underwater in an unsuccessful attempt to escape his pursuers,” Mojarra said.

Island police agreed.

“This was definitely foul play,” Island Police Constable Rafe Marquette said. “You don’t just stab yourself in the back. That’s what friends are for. Especially on this island.

“He probably lost a bar bet and didn’t pay up,” Marquette said. “Or stole someone’s girlfriend. Some things on Blacktip never change.”

Island business entrepreneurs, meanwhile, are hoping the find will attract more tourists to the island.

“We’ve got blueprints for a Wally visitors center and museum,” Eagle Ray Cove resort owner Rich Skerritt said. “Once the pointy-headed geeks get through with him, we’ll put him and all his gear where everyone can see. For a fee.

“It’ll be a tasteful affair in keeping with Blacktip Island’s natural beauty,” Skerritt said. “We’re calling it the Wallyplex.”

Leave a comment

Filed under Caribbean, Scuba Diving

Blacktip Island Players to Stage Underwater “Winter’s Tale”

Cast members hit their marks while rehearsing for the Blacktip Island Community Players’ underwater production of “The Winter’s Tale.”

Cast members hit their marks while rehearsing for the Blacktip Island Community Players underwater production of “The Winter’s Tale.”

The Blacktip Island Community Players will stage an underwater version of Shakespeare’s ‘The Winter’s Tale’ for their spring production, with all dialogue performed with scuba hand signals.

“This play’s a spring classic,” said director Doris Blenny, “Plus, with so much of the play set on the Bohemian coast, and with scuba diving being so central to our island life, it seemed natural to cast it in an underwater milieu.”

The underwater production was inspired by the success of last fall’s semi-submerged ‘The Somonyng of Everyman.’

“This is the first Shakespearean production performed solely with scuba signs,” Blenny said. “‘As You like It’ was done in American Sign Language several years ago, and there was a mimed version of ‘Titus Andronicus,’ but we’re doing something quite different here.”

“We had to invent all kinds of new hand signals for Elizabethan words and phrases,” retired linguistics professor and cast member Frank Maples said. “‘Fardel,’ ‘bawcock,’ and ‘the verier wit’ were especially challenging.”

The cast includes

  • Frank Maples as Leontes
  • Kitty Smarr as Hermione
  • Jay Valve as Polixenes
  • Finn Kiick as Florizel
  • Polly Parrett as Perdita
  • Payne Hanover as Autolycus

Lee Helm is temporarily standing in as Antigonus after the company lost several actors in rehearsal mishaps.

“That ‘Exeunt, pursued by a shark,’ stage direction’s been phenomenal in walk throughs,” Payne Hanover said. “But it’s played hell with our Antigonuses. We’ve had to replace him three times. And counting.”

The play opens on Earth Day, April 22, with all proceeds from the first day’s show going to the Coral Reef Awareness and Preservation fund.

“Our staging emphasizes reef conservation,” Blenny said. “Two coral heads will serve as the backdrops for the Kingdoms of Sicily and Bohemia.

“We also have schools of French grunts and schoolmaster snappers trained to play the respective courts,” Blenny said. “Of course, the occasional snapper will nip an actor’s fingers, but a bit of blood’s necessary for any art.”

Limited kneeling space will be available in the sand around the underwater stage. Seating and a live video feed will be available at the Sand Spit bar. The bar will feature Sicilian wines and Bohemia-brand beer.

A ban on hand heckling from the underwater audience will be strictly enforced.

“Japes and cat-calling were a tradition at the original Globe Theatre,” Blenny said, “but we’ll have none of that here. Anyone gesticulating or making rude gestures will be escorted to the surface.”


Filed under Caribbean, Scuba Diving

Mutant Mosquitoes Overwhelm Blacktip Island

Genetically-modified mosquitoes have created a public safety emergency on Blacktip Island. (photo courtesy of siamaksabet)

Genetically-modified mosquitoes have created a public safety emergency on Blacktip Island. (photo courtesy of siamaksabet)

In a case of pest control gone wrong, genetically-altered mosquitoes released on Blacktip Island to combat the native mosquito population have instead mutated into giant insects now threatening the island’s wellbeing.

“All the experts said this’d work,” Blacktip Island Public Safety chief Rocky Shore said. “All the run-throughs tested to specs. We sterilized the mosquitoes with radiation, then turned them loose to mate with the locals. Our mosquito numbers should’ve dropped 75-80 percent.

“Instead, they’re breeding like rabbits, and getting bigger each generation,” Shore said. “Gamma rays were the fly in the ointment. The lab folks saved money using gammas instead of the standard beta rays. We’re still tracking who signed off on that.”

The resulting mosquito swarms have island residents on edge.

“Some of these suckers are the size of peregrine falcons,” Eagle Ray Cove owner Rich Skerritt said. “And bright green. We’re telling our guests to not piss them off and to stay inside after dark.”

The plan’s critics were more vocal.

“We warned this could happen,” said Tiperon University-Blacktip entomology professor Belinda Graysby. “It’s classical biological pest control gone wonky. Like cane toads in Australia and mongooses in Hawaii, the solution’s worse than the original problem. This could make Blacktip uninhabitable. And yes, it’s ‘mongooses.’”

Others worry about the mosquitoes’ impact on island wildlife.

“These mossies’ve wiped out the island’s birds,” Blacktip Island Audubon Society president Sula Beakins said. “And the iguanas. They’ve moved on to feral cats, but what will they prey on once the cats are gone?”

Sports enthusiasts, meanwhile, have embraced the growing mosquito threat.

“We hang fresh steaks outside to draw ‘em in,” Blacktip Skeet Club president B.C. Flote said. “Then we break out the shotguns, and when the skeeters come over the tree line, we all open fire.

“We give the kids tennis rackets to swat any little ones that get through, too,” Flote said. “It’s good family fun, and it helps the community.”

Concerns remain, however, about how large the mosquitoes will grow and their impact on island businesses.

“Used to be, a light breeze’d keep the bugs down,” Eagle Ray Cove’s Skerritt said. “These things, though, they’ll fly in anything up to 20, 25 knots. They just about dragged off two guests yesterday. Small children, you understand, but the threat’s real. And growing.”

Leave a comment

Filed under Caribbean