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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Locals To Shelter-On-Scuba For Meteor Shower

A university scientist warns this year’s Perseid meteor shower will rain destruction on Blacktip Island.

A university scientist warns this year’s Perseid meteor shower could turn Blacktip Island into a cratered wasteland.

Blacktip Island residents are urged to seek shelter during the height of this week’s Perseid meteor shower, predicted to strike the Caribbean island from 11:17 pm – 2:43 am the night of August 11-12.

“Blacktip will be at the absolute bull’s eye for this year’s Perseid event,” said Tiperon University-Blacktip professor Ernesto Mojarra. “We’ll experience one of the most projectile-intense passes in recent history.

“By Tuesday morning this place could look like a World War I battlefield.”

Many locals plan to shelter in place underwater on the island’s coral reefs for the shower’s most intense period.

“That hurricane shelter smells of feet, and the tin roof barely stops rain,” island resident Lee Helm said. “No way it’ll stand up to meteors. Me? I’m riding it out on scuba.”

“Your average meteor is only deadly to about 18-20 feet in seawater,” TU-B’s Mojarra said. “After that it’s just a cold rock dropping a few feet per second.

“We’re telling folks the best depth for survival is in the 20-30 foot range. That gives the ideal balance between safety from meteors and prolonging one’s air supply.”

“All our rental gear’s spoken for,” Eagle Ray Divers’ owner Rich Skerritt said. “Regulators, tanks, everything. Some folks are reserving two, three cylinders just to be safe.

“We’ll have dive boats available, too, to take folks to the deeper reefs. For an additional fee, of course. Pricey? Sure. But, hey, what’s your life worth?”

Other resort operators are skeptical.

“We’ve set up chairs on our beach so people can watch, and will have complimentary Kevlar umbrellas, but that’s about it,” Club Scuba Doo manager Polly Parrett said. “The way some people are reacting, you’d think the sky was falling. And I suppose it is. But not in a bad way.

“Is it coincidence Ernie’s got a ton of money invested in Eagle Ray Divers? I think not.”

“The Chicken Little story has its basis in fact,” Mojarra said. “This sort of catastrophe’s happened before. And’ll happen again. We can’t just bury our heads in the sand.”

Eagle Ray Divers will offer NAUI, PADI and SSI Meteor Diver distinctive specialty courses for those who shelter on the reefs.

“This is a unique opportunity, despite the danger,” Eagle Ray Divers’ Skerritt said. “Folks are crazy if they don’t take advantage of it. This is a cert card none of their friends’ll have.”

“How often do you get to say, ‘meteors rained down on me and I survived’?” Mojarra said. “And with luck, divers will find spent meteorites on the reef to keep as souvenirs. That’s priceless.”

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Anger Management Retreat Angers Locals

Anger management sessions at Blacktip Haven and on Blacktip Island’s reefs have created friction on the Caribbean island.

Anger management sessions at Blacktip Haven and on Blacktip Island’s reefs have sparked friction on the Caribbean island.

Blacktip Haven resort’s annual anger management retreat has island residents up in arms following repeated run-ins between participants and scuba diving guests from Blacktip Island’s other resorts.

Local business owners have demanded the resort cease the week-long program.

“The Haven’s up on the Bluff, within easy earshot of half the island,” said Rich Skerritt, owner of Eagle Ray Cove resort. “There’s no way to get away from the noise. Sound carries in tropical air.

“The primal screaming at all hours of the night, it keeps guests and staff alike awake. I know these retreats are all the rage, but this one’s killing our business.”

Blacktip Haven owner Elena Havens was quick to defend the program.

“What we do at The Haven’s no one’s business. I’m filling my resort during the slow season, covering my expenses. If Rich’s place’s half-empty, that’s his problem.”

Other locals disagreed.

“All that hollering, we thought the mersquatch was back on the prowl,” resident Molly Miller said. “To find out it’s just tourists, honestly, that pisses me off.”

“We advertise our resort as a peaceful getaway,” Club Scuba Doo manager Polly Parrett said. “When Elena brings these people in, it destroys that. They set the birds off. Get the iguanas stampeding.”

Island police records show an uptick in violence during the weeks Blacktip Haven has conducted the retreats.

“You bring that many angry people together on one small island, it’s a recipe for disaster,” said Island Police Constable Rafe Marquette. “One person’s anger sets off another, and the next thing you know it’s snowballed into a bar fight or road rage.”

Attempts to conduct sessions underwater have resulted in confrontations as well.

“I’m swimming along with a stingray when this jackass starts whacking me with a stick,” said a Sandy Bottoms Beach Resort dive guest who asked to remain anonymous. “Then his buddies joined in. Only thing kept them from killing me was my pulling a knife on them.”

“There was an isolated incident where a diver stumbled into an underwater drum circle,” Elena Havens said. “It was unfortunate, but in no way indicative of these retreats.”

“These workshops do a lot of good,” said the former-Reverend Jerrod Ephesians, the workshop’s facilitator. “I’m a recovering anger-holic myself. It’s easy to think of Blacktip as a tropical paradise, but there’s a lot of pent-up anger here.

“The naysayers need to have some sense beat into them,” Ephesians said. “When you point a finger at someone, you have three more fingers pointing back at yourself.”

A town hall meeting to discuss the fate of future anger retreats was aborted when a fight broke out in Eagle Ray Cove’s conference room. The meeting had not been rescheduled at press time.

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Scuba Hunt Club Primed for Lionfish Season

Red lionfish, native to the Indo-Pacific region, have overrun Caribbean reefs in the past decade. Cullers hope rifles will prove more efficient than spears.

Red lionfish, native to the Indo-Pacific region, have overrun Caribbean reefs in the past decade. Cullers hope rifles will prove more efficient than spears.

Blacktip Island’s Scuba Hunt Club will kick off lionfish season this weekend with an underwater safari along the Caribbean island’s west coast. Club members aim to cull as many of the non-native pests as possible with newly-developed underwater rifles.

The Tiperon Islands Department of Natural Resources instituted the hunting season as part of the effort to eradicate the invasive Indo-Pacific fish devastating the islands’ reefs.

“Seven years ago we put a firm quota system in place,” the DNR’s Noddy Bolin said. “Licensed hunters are allowed to cull as many lionfish as they can, with whatever device they can find.”

“We’ve used nets, clubs and spears,” hunt club president B.C. Flote said. “It’s been pretty piecemeal, though, with folks getting what fish they could, but having to leave a lot behind.”

The recent invention of an underwater lionfish rifle – a specially-adapted .308 caliber sealed for underwater use and chambered for an ultra-high velocity round to compensate for water’s density – has made this year’s safari possible. The rifles are fitted with underwater scopes that correct for light refraction at depth.

“Spearing’s fun, sure,” said divemaster Gage Hoase. “But with the spears, you can only get a dozen or so before your air runs out. And the fish duck back in the coral where you can’t get them.

“With these rifles, we can pop hundreds in one dive. It’s not elegant, but it’s effective. And still fun. We can take down a stripey from 40, 50 feet away, no matter how they hide.”

The club hopes the safari concept will allow it to cleanse entire sections of the reef.

“We’re using beaters and baggers to streamline the process,” B.C. Flote said. “Beaters’ll fan out over the reef, whacking their tank bangers to flush the lionfish from the tall sea grass, drive them into killing zones where the hunters can shoot them. The fish, not the beaters.

“Then once a fish is shot, baggers’ll scoot in and grab the carcasses so the hunters can concentrate on shot count and quality. That’s the dicey part. Wounded lionfish can be ferocious. Lots of good hunters’ve been spined that way. They got special gloves this season. And orange wetsuits.”

“We tried using grouper as underwater retrievers instead,” Gage Hoase said. “But the grouper just kept eating the fish.”

Blacktip Island’s PETA chapter has filed a formal protest against the hunt.

“This is piscine genocide, pure and simple,” said PETA head Harry Pickett. “‘Cull’ is just another word for ‘murder.’ The ecosystem has changed. Lionfish are the dominant species on the reef now, with no natural predators. We have to embrace that. Embrace them.”

“Those suckers’ll have plenty of predators come Saturday morning,” the hunt club’s Flote said. “And us hunt club folks are as natural as it gets.”

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Ruptured Windows Doom Island’s Underwater Home Show

The sole surviving entry in Blacktip Island’s Underwater Home Show. Designers in the destroyed homes were rescued by passing scuba divers.

The sole surviving entry in Blacktip Island’s Underwater Home Show. Designers in the destroyed homes were rescued by passing scuba divers.

Catastrophic window failures Thursday afternoon destroyed all but one entry in Blacktip Island’s Underwater Home Show. The Caribbean island homes were to be featured on HGTV’s “Pimp My Beach Shack” reality series highlighting alternative destination housing, with the winning designer to host a network DIY show.

“They said it was some kind of high-tensile, space-age polycarbonate,” show organizer Sheena Goode said. “Everyone bought it. Everyone used it. Now we see why we got such good prices.”

“We were putting the final touches on the armoire and, KABLAM! Water and snappers and chubs were everywhere,” designer Payne Hanover said. “Luckily there were scuba divers outside to breathe us to the surface.”

The windows’ manufacturer, Fenêtres de la Mer, denied culpability.

“Do our brochures specifically state not to use our plastic windows underwater? No.” spokesman B.P. Glass said. “But who in their right mind would expect an eighth-inch thick sheet of plastic to hold up to that kind of pressure? Not to cast stones, but this is an end-user issue.”

The sole surviving home, built without windows, was declared the show’s winner by default.

“I’m sickened by the damage, and I hate to win this way,” said Suzanne Souccup, the house’s designer. “But I’m keeping the prize money. And the reality show gig.”

“It was the modern, open-concept design of most of the homes that did us in,” organizer Goode said. “We laughed at Suzanne’s manky grotto, but that saved her from disaster.”

“Everyone was going with lots of light and rattan,” Souccup said, “So I opted for post-modern gloom. It’s not so much feng shui as it is funky shui.

“It’s done in 100% organic materials, locally-sourced and dyed with seaweed-based tinctures harvested from the island’s reefs. We finished it off with coral-rubble walls and black coral posts for the master bedroom.”

Local environmentalists decried Souccup’s choice of materials.

“Rattan is renewable,” said Harry Pickett of Earth First!. “Those black coral logs took centuries to grow. This isn’t locally sourcing. This is devastating the locale. This home should have been destroyed along with all the others.”

Picketts denied allegations Earth First! targeted any of the homes for sabotage, or that Souccup had any connection to his organization.

The Tiperon Island Department of Tourism has embraced the flooded homes.

“This is a lemons-to-lemonade situation for us,” the D.o.T.’s Val Schrader said. “We’ve plans to turn the mess into a self-guided snorkeling trail. This kind of opportunity doesn’t come along every day.”

Local scuba divers have been recruited to help with making the homes safe for snorkelers.

“We can’t pay you,” Schrader said, “but you can keep anything you haul up.”

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