Blacktip Island Shipwreck May Be Legendary Pirate Galleon

The wreck discovered by lost scuba tourists off Blacktip Island could be the Caribbean’s legendary Santo Mojito pirate ship.

The wreck discovered by lost scuba tourists off Blacktip Island could be the Caribbean’s legendary Santo Mojito pirate ship.

Tiperon Islands authorities announced Thursday the discovery of a previously-unknown shipwreck off Blacktip Island’s west coast. The wreck, possibly dating to the early 18th Century, was discovered by scuba diving tourists.

“Couple of knuckleheads got lost and stumbled across it,” Eagle Ray Divers operations manager Ger Latner said. “They came up on the wrong boat, hell-and-gone from where they started, with no idea where they were or where they’d been. Took us three days of swimming grid patterns to find the damn thing.”

“It’s too early to tell for sure what we’re dealing with,” said government spokesperson Doc Plank, “but it’s definitely a galleon-type vessel, and there’s not many of those unaccounted for in this part of the Caribbean.”

Local maritime experts speculate the ship is the legendary Santo Mojito, which terrorized the Spanish Main under three famous pirate captains. The ship was lost in the Great Hurricane of 1723.

“Redbeard absconded with the ship, crew and all, from the docks in Cartagena in, oh, 1712,” island historian Smithson Altschul said. “Blackbeard commandeered it from him in 1718, then lost it to Fauxbeard in what the records famously call ‘a gamme of pokker’ in 1721.

“Historians are in consensus that Fauxbeard was the nom de guerre of pirate Mary Read after she faked her death in Jamaica the year before,” Altshul said.

“The Santo Mojto was refitted as a casino cruise ship, the first of its kind in the Caribbean,” Altschul said. “She left Panama in mid-September. A week later the hurricane whacked the central Caribbean. The Santo Mojito was never heard from again.”

“If this is the S-M, it’s a priceless piece of Caribbean history,” Blacktip Island Historic Association chair Wade Soote said. “So’s all the gold she carried. Especially the gold.”

The government is flying in experts from the United State and Europe to confirm their findings. In the meantime, authorities are focused on preserving the wreck and its contents.

“We’ve cordoned off the area with fishing skiffs until we can positively identify the wreck and inventory its contents,” Island Police Constable Rafe Marquette said.

“Yahoos’ve tried to sneak in on underwater DPVs, but their scuba bubbles gave them away,” Marquette said. “Our big concern is looters using rebreathers that leave no tell-tail bubble trail. We’ve installed nets made of 200-pound monofilament around the wreck to discourage that. Divers can’t see the monofil, but it tangles them up in a heartbeat. Then we just haul them to the surface.”

The Caribbean Salvage and Exploration Association is protesting the government’s efforts to protect the wreck, as well as the netting of several of its members.

“It’s a pirate ship filled with pirate treasure,” said CSEA commandant Jack Snapper. “Its rightful place is with pirates, not some government warehouse.”

“If this island’s authorities aren’t pirates, I don’t know who is,” Doc Plank said. “Any treasure found on this wreck will used for the public good. Mostly.”

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Blacktip Island Braces For Palindrome Slam

The winner of Saturday’s palindrome slam will name one of the Caribbean island’s new scuba dive sites.

The winner of Saturday’s palindrome slam will name one of the Caribbean island’s new scuba dive sites.

Saturday brings Blacktip Island’s third annual Palindrome Festival to Blacktip Haven resort, celebrating words and phrases spelled the same backwards and forwards.

“It’s a celebration of our cultural heritage,” event organizer Emma Lamme said. “Blacktip has been at the forefront of international palindroming for generations. People think of Blacktip Islanders as a bunch of beer-swilling scuba bums and fishermen. This event shows we’re so much more than that.”

The island’s top palindrome artists are expected to compete in Saturday evening’s palindrome slam.

“Show up with something weak like ‘racecar’ or ‘do geese see God,’ you’re going down hard,” contestant Lee Helm said. “Last year I threw down ‘go hang a salami, I’m a lasagna hog’ and finished dead last.”

“There’s several dyslexic locals who are absolute wizards at palindromes,” Emma Lamme said. “We wanted to disallow them this year, but we got the ballots reversed.”

In a break with precedent, the composer of this year’s winning palindrome will get to name one of the island’s new dive sites.

“Years past we let them name a site after the winning whaddya-call-it,” marine parks spokesperson Val Schrader said. “That’s how we ended up with Satan Oscillate My Metallic Sonatas reef and wall. We’re not having a repeat of that nonsense.”

Last year’s runners up included:

  • Tarzan raised Desi Arnaz’ rat
  • Eliot nixes sex in toilet
  • Kay, a red nude, peeped under a yak
  • Lisa Bonet ate no basil
  • Eros? Sidney, my end is sore

“Payne Hanover won an honorable mention for ‘rum, rum, I murmur,’ but I don’t think he knew he was competing,” Lamme said. “Frankly, I’m not sure he was fully conscious.”

Island authorities are prepared for unruly crowds after last year’s brawl between rival palindromers spilled into the street, sending six festival-goers to the island clinic.

“It was a question mark that caused the ruckus,” Island Police Constable Rafe Marquette said. “Alison Diesel rattled off, ‘Golf? No sir, prefer prison flog,’ Jessie Catahoula wanted it disqualified because the punctuation didn’t work in reverse, then all hell broke loose.”

The festival will also feature palindrome-related music and film.

“We’ll be playing ABBA and Emily’s Sassy Lime all weekend,” Lamme said. “We’ll also be showing select movies in forward and reverse. Most people don’t realize Oklahoma! played backwards is Paint Your Wagon. You just have to squint. And pinch your ears.

“After midnight there’ll be a reverse beer drinking contest out back, too,” Lamme added, “but that’s not an officially-sanctioned part of the festival.”

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Government Chains Blacktip Island to Sea Floor

The chains holding Blacktip Island to the seabed were forged on site and installed by Public Safety Department scuba divers.

The chains holding Blacktip Island to the seabed were forged on site and installed by Public Safety Department scuba divers.

In an effort to keep Blacktip Island in place should it break free from its foundation, the Tiperon Islands Public Safety Department has installed chains to hold the Caribbean island to the seabed.

“Given the advanced stage of erosion under the island, we were concerned Blacktip might come loose and float away,” public safety spokesperson Rocky Shore said. “The last thing we want to be is a navigational hazard.”

“The bigger worry was if Blacktip drifted into someone else’s territorial waters,” added acting-mayor Jack Cobia. “I mean, a good south wind and we’d be part of Cuba in a day, day-and-a-half, tops. And I don’t speak a lick of Spanish.”

The island’s tourism professionals fully back the measure.

“This has been a huge worry among our scuba diving guests,” said Blacktip Haven resort owner Elena Havens. “They ask all the time if the island goes all the way to the bottom. Now we can take them down and show them the safeguards we have in place.”

“There’s no chance divers will surface and finding our island’s gone,” Club Scuba Doo manager Polly Parrett said. “That’s happened other places in the Caribbean, you just don’t hear about it. Tourism departments hush that sort of thing up.”

Government engineers teamed up with the island’s scientific community to design the mooring system.

“Every computer simulation we’ve run shows this is the best way to safeguard the island,” Tiperon University-Blacktip professor Ernest Mojarra said. “It’s not the easiest solution, or the cheapest, but these chains’ll hold up to a Cat Five hurricane without missing a beat.”

The chains are forged from a titanium alloy formulated to reduce corrosion and wear-related weakening. Individual links were manufactured on site due to their size and weight.

“It took every tree on the island to keep the forges hot, but that couldn’t be helped,” the government’s Shore said. “It was deforestation or public safety.

“We left plenty of slack to allow for tides and storms, so Blacktip’ll drift a bit,” Shore added, “but we’re only talking maybe a 100-meter total swing, max. Divers using landmarks on shore may have a little trouble finding dive sites, but not much.”

Environmental groups, while decrying the topside damage, are pleased with the shelter the chains will offer aquatic life.

“These big links going down, down, down from the surface will provide wonderful new habitat for species throughout the water column,” said Ginger Bass, Foundation for Ichthyologic Species Habitat president. “We couldn’t be happier about that.”

Scuba resorts are already pitching the mooring system as unique dive sites.

“It’ll be lovely once there’s some sponge and coral growth on the links,” Club Scuba Doo’s Parrett said. “Our chains will be one of the Caribbean’s premier dives in a few years.”

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Divemaster Strike Closes Blacktip Island Reefs

Protesters have blocked the Blacktip Island airstrip, preventing resort owners from flying in replacement divemasters. (Photo courtesy of The Guardian)

Protesters have blocked the Blacktip Island airstrip, preventing resort owners from flying in replacement divemasters. (Photo courtesy of The Guardian)

In a move sending shock waves through the Caribbean scuba diving community, dive staff at all Blacktip Island’s resorts have gone on strike demanding better compensation.

“We tried talking to the resort owners rationally,” Divemaster’s Local #138 president Finn Kiick said. “They turned a deaf ear. Now we’re playing hardball, shutting down the dive sites. We’re the ones who built up these dive operations and keep them running every day while the owners sip champagne.

“They’re exploiting us, and their greed perpetuates the economic gulf in the island’s society.”

“Exploiting, hell,” Sandy Bottoms Beach Resort owner Sandy Bottoms said. “We give these people jobs, pay their wages. They want a scapegoat for their personal failings and lit on us.”

“What proper society isn’t greedy?” Eagle Ray Cove owner Rich Skerritt said. “Greed transformed this island from mass subsistence to mass prosperity. Left to their own devices, these damn scuba hippies wouldn’t know enough to come in out of the rain.”

At the heart of the strike is the divemasters’ pay and benefits.

“We get whacked in the face with peed-in wetsuits,” union president Kiick said. “We get weight belts and scuba tanks dropped on our feet. We laugh at the same stupid jokes week-in and week-out. All without complaint.

“We’re simply asking for a livable wage. And health insurance that includes mental health coverage,” Kiick said. “Mental stability’s a huge issue on this island.”

“They need to stop the drug and alcohol testing, as well,” said union member Lee Helm. “That’s pure systemic repression, that is.”

The strike has left island dive guests furious.

“I save up money all year to come diving, and these yahoos shut down the dive sites?” a Sandy Bottoms Beach Resort guest said. “Hell, I’d do their job for free!”

“We tried letting guests act as divemasters and boat captains,” Blacktip Haven owner Elena Havens said. “We lost a group of eight divers the first morning and had to drag our boat off the reef. We’ve had our guests watching old Sea Hunt episodes in full scuba gear ever since.”

“We’re flying in replacement staff from the big island,” Eagle Ray Cove’s Skerritt said. “For every union-boy, there’s a hundred divemasters begging to take their place. We’ve cut off our dive staff’s bar privileges, too.”

Union organizers have responded by blocking the island’s lone airstrip.

“We have picketers lined up three deep across the runway,” Kiick said. “They can’t bring in scabs if they can’t land an airplane. We have picketers on scuba at all the dive sites, too, in case guests get the notion to shore dive.”

In the interim, resort owners have hired local residents to fill in as dive staff.

“I usually drive the garbage truck,” island resident James Conlee said. “Hauling tourists can’t be that different.”

“I’ll lead dives myself before I knuckle under to these Bolsheviks,” Skerritt said. “They’ll be begging to shovel iguana crap by the time I’m done with them!”

“If guests understood the issues, they’d back us 100 percent,” picketer Helm said. “Plus, if football players making £5 million to work half a year can go on strike, why can’t we?”

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Battle of the Bands Rocks Blacktip Island

Blacktip Island’s Battle of the Bands  will feature the Caribbean island’s top musical acts.

Blacktip Island’s Battle of the Bands will feature the Caribbean island’s top musical acts.

Eagle Ray Cove scuba resort will celebrate the end of summer with Blacktip Island’s 9th annual Battle of the Bands this weekend. The three-day music festival will showcase the island’s top musicians, with the winner earning a contract with Island Records.

“This year’s acts are as diverse as the island’s population,” festival organizer Jay Valve said. “From traditional island country-western to death metal, there’ll be something for everyone.”

The lineup of bands includes:

  • The Social Morays
  • TURTLE!!!
  • Effing Zeagles
  • Ivan the Embolizer
  • Red Über Red
  • Young Jacques and the Double Hose
  • See You Next Tuesday
  • Duck on a Junebug

“We built a stage out over the water,” Eagle Ray Cove manager Mickey Smarr said. “It’ll limit access to the musicians and cut down on folks rushing the stage, like spoiled the last few Battles.

“There’ll be a few drunks who try, sure, but they’ll have to swim. And we’ve been chumming the water to draw in the sharks. It’s way cheaper than hiring security.”

The festival will kick off with local favorite Young Jacques and the Double Hose performing Black Sabbath covers on steel drums.

“You haven’t heard ‘War Pigs’ until you’ve heard it banged on pans,” double-tenor pannist Cori Anders said. “We’re redefining ‘heavy metal’ for a new generation.”

Other bands have taken similarly creative approaches.

“We do lounge-punk,” Effing Zeagle guitarist Casey Piper said. “Think Green Day does Sinatra – ‘I’ve got you under my skin,’ if you take my meaning. And I think you do.”

A newcomer to this year’s competition, Red Über Red will play German techno on dog whistles.

“You can’t really hear anything, but, man damn, does it get people dancing,” said pennywhistler Marina DeLow. “And when we play our recordings underwater for divers, it morphs into ‘Eine kleine Nachtmusik.’”

The festival will also feature traditional quadrille dancing and cloggers between musical acts.

“We’ve gone out of our way to make the festival family friendly,” Valve said. “We’re even have non-alcoholic beer for the kids.”

Proceeds from the concert go to the Blacktip Island Institute of Noetic Sciences.

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Cross-Island Canal Sparks War Between Scuba Resorts

A new canal, created to shorten ride time to the Caribbean island’s scuba diving sites, has cut Blacktip Island in two geographically and culturally.

A new canal, created to shorten ride time to the Caribbean island’s scuba diving sites, has cut Blacktip Island in two geographically and culturally.

A cross-island canal dug to facilitate access to Blacktip Island’s eastern dive sites has sparked a conflict between scuba resorts over who has priority at the island’s most popular dive sites.

“It’s always been first come, first serve out there,” Sandy Bottoms Beach Resort owner Sandy Bottoms said. “It’s not our fault we’re closer to the sites and have faster boats. Digging this canal, that’s playing dirty pool.”

“We cut the canal to help everyone,” Eagle Ray Cove resort owner Rich Skerritt said. “Sandy and the other yahoos up north are free to use it. When they’re finished sucking on their sour grapes.”

Bottoms and other resort owners from Blacktip’s north refuse to back down.

“Rich wants two islands? Fine,” Club Scuba Doo owner Nelson Pilchard said. “The dive sites north of his canal are technically in our territorial waters. The southerners think they can dive up here, they have another thing coming.”

“Some of the Caribbean’s best wreck dives are off our north coast,” Bottoms said. “Rich brings his divers up here, the island’ll have a few more wrecks to dive.”

The split echoes a deeper divide in the small Caribbean island community.

“It’s a Pond versus Bluff thing that’s been simmering for generations,” Bottoms said. “The southerners sit up there in the breeze, looking down at us like they’re something special.”

“We have better sense than to live by those stinky bird ponds,” Skerritt said. “We give our dive guests gas masks for the boat ride when the east wind’s blowing. This canal lets us bypass the stench altogether.”

An island council meeting has been scheduled to settle the issue. However, neither side can agree on where to meet.

“I’m not setting foot up there,” Skerritt said. “It smells like bird poop. I might catch something.”

“Crossing to their so-called island acknowledges its right to exist,” Bottoms said. “We go down there, we’ll probably end up as hostages.”

Island authorities are taking steps to bridge the divide.

“We have the police launch standing by so all parties can confer mid-canal,” Island Police Constable Rafe Marquette said. “If neither side’s amenable to that, we’ll have them stand on either side of the canal and yell back and forth at each other.”

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Blacktip’s Dirt Roads To Be Striped For Safety

Public Works crews have begun painting lane lines on both Blacktip Island’s unpaved roads.

Public Works crews have begun painting lane lines on both the Caribbean island’s unpaved roads.

In a controversial move that has angered many island residents, the Tiperon Islands Public Works Department has begun painting center lines on both the Caribbean island’s roads.

“This is a matter of public safety,” Public Works director Dusty Rhodes said. “We have what, maybe 24 miles of road on Blacktip? Just because they’re not paved doesn’t mean they don’t need stripes.”

Island residents disagreed.

“It’s a waste of time and money,” long-time resident Payne Hanover said. “There’s, what, a dozen cars on the island? They’ve managed to dodge each other so far without center stripes.

“And these are dirt roads. Drive over the paint a couple times, they’ll be gone. Hell, a good, heavy rain’ll wash them away. What happens to public safety then?”

Local authorities could not immediately verify the hazard posed by the island’s current, stripeless roads.

“Vehicles do cross the center of the road all the time,” Island Police Constable Rafe Marquette said. “Don’t know that causes many accidents, though. Unless they cross the road and keep going.

“Most auto accidents on Blacktip are single-vehicle affairs, with the vehicles ending up in the sea grapes or the booby ponds.”

Despite the controversy, some locals support the plan.

“Not striping these roadways resigns our island to Third-World status,” said Stoney MacAdam, owner of MacAdam Paving. “Blacktip Island’s as much a part of the 21st Century as any place else. Do the roads have center lines in your country? Then why shouldn’t the roads here have center lines?”

“It’s Colonialism, pure and simple,” Public Works’ Rhodes said. “Expats move here and want to keep this island a backwater. Well too bad. This striping project’s already creating local jobs. Will the rain wash the stripes away? Sure. And when it does, we have the workforce in place to repaint them. No one complains about us replacing downed power lines after a hurricane do they?”

Other residents voiced concern about the impact the project will have on the island’s fragile environment.

“That paint’s highly toxic. And this is the rainy season,” said Blacktip Audubon Society president Nelson Seagroves. “That means potentially repainting the roads every day. That’s a boatload of paint killing our reefs and marine parks. Killing our birds. Contaminating our water supply.”

“A project this size, you have to expect a few loses,” Rhodes countered. “These folks are a bunch of nervous Nellies who don’t know what’s good for them. They’ll thank us soon enough.”

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