West Coast Developments May Capsize Blacktip Island

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Blacktip Island’s world-renowned west coast beaches may be lost forever if the island flips over due to too much development on its west side, a recent study suggests. (photo courtesy of Ferris Skerritt/Skerritt Construction)

A study released Thursday by a Blacktip Island construction firm revealed the Caribbean island may be in danger of flipping upside down due to the concentration of resorts and other infrastructure on the island’s west coast.

“All that cement, the vehicles, the staff, the pool water and whatnot, it puts a lot of strain on the island’s base,” Skerritt Construction owner Ferris Skerritt said. “We’ve been keeping an eye on it for years. It’s a ticking time bomb.

“At this point, a big influx of tourists to those resorts could cause the island to snap off,” Skerritt said. “I mean, have you seen the size of some of those folks? At that point, Blacktip’d capsize and drown us all. We need to get this island balanced. Pronto.”

Local business owners urged development on the sparsely-developed east coast as a solution.

“We got the Spring Break crowds coming, then the summer crowds,” Eagle Ray Cove resort owner Rich Skerritt said. “For the good of the island and everyone on it, we need more development over on the east side.

“Problem is, building over there’s always been cost-prohibitive, what with that being the weather coast and so far from the airfield,” Rich Skerritt said. “But with some public funds to offset the construction costs, there may still be time to save our island.”

Others business owners concurred.

“I always wanted a resort on the east coast, just couldn’t justify the cost,” Sandy Bottoms Beach Resort owner Sandy Bottoms said. “I don’t like taking public money, but if it’s for the good of the island, I’ll make the sacrifice.”

Some experts, though, disputed the study’s findings.

“The island’s not going to break loose or flip over,” said Tiperon University-Blacktip geology department chair Ernesto Mojarra. “That’s physically, scientifically impossible. People need to use their noggins.

“Rich and Sandy are just trying to scare people into subsidizing new resorts,” Mojarra said. “And Rich’s brother just wants the construction contracts.”

Some locals remained worried, despite Mojarra’s assurances.

“It’s scary, these experts saying opposite things, especially when it concerns our safety,” Sand Spit bartender Cori Anders said. “With so much controversy, it’s probably best to err on the side of caution.

“They say something like this happened near Fiji a few years back,” Anders said. “Stuff like this happens all the time. You just don’t hear about it.”

Other island entrepreneurs are unconcerned.

“If Ernesto’s right, we’re fine,” said Blacktip Haven resort own Elena Havens. “And if Blacktip does turn turtle, well, we’ve already waterproofed the Haven’s rooms so we can be the first full-service underwater resort in the Caribbean.”

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Rude Dive Staffs Prompt Blacktip Island Cotillion Class

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Alison Diesel and Gage Hoase practice their quadrille Thursday evening at the Blacktip Island Heritage House. Dancing is one of many social skills being taught to island dive staff in a new cotillion class aimed at boosting tourism on the island. (photo courtesy of Silar)

Faced with a growing number of complaints about rude dive staff, Blacktip Island community leaders and etiquette activists have joined forces to create a cotillion program aimed at the Caribbean island’s divemasters.

“We got loads of guest complaints from every resort on the island,” mayor Jack Cobia said. “It ranged from not saying ‘hello,’ to sarcastic remarks, to snatching food from guests’ hands. Dive ops fire the bad apples, but the replacements’re just as bad.

“When word hit travel review sites, we knew we had to do something drastic,” Cobia said. “It was killing our tourism product.”

The solution was to recruit the island’s gentry.

“Jack could have been describing wild animals,” long-time resident Helen Maples said. “He asked if I might teach the rascals manners, deportment, dancing and other social graces.

“I was delighted! I’ve wanted to institute a regimen like this for years,” Maples said. “The next evening I lined up a dozen hostile scuba hippies, and whacked them with a ruler if they didn’t stand up straight.”

Cobia is cautiously optimistic about the course.

“Honestly, it’s a pilot project,” he said. “But if it works, we may expand it to include all resort workers, then airfield staff, then anyone else in the tourism industry.

“If it doesn’t work, it’s still fun to watch,” Cobia said. “Helen tells them to imagine their granny’s standing next to them. Then, if they so much as look sideways, TWHACK! Bruce Lee’d be jealous of how fast that ruler moves.”

Predictably, many divemasters were critical of the class.

“That bloody ruler hurts,” said Eagle Ray Divers’ Lee Helm. “It’s not right, requiring us to go there and be physically abused. Mrs. Maples is a sadist, she is.”

Maples was unapologetic about her methods.

“It’s a time-honored tradition. Or should be,” she said. “The ruler reminds them to wear shoes, to speak in complete, non-obscene sentences and to pass the salt and pepper together when a tablemate requests, “Would you please pass the salt?”

Some dive staff, though, say they enjoy cotillion.

“Lee’s a whiner,” said Eagle Ray Divers’ Alison Diesel. “It’s so cool when Gage, umm, I mean Mister Hoase, comes up and says, ‘Miss Diesel, may I have this dance?’ and I say, ‘Certainly, Mister Hoase.’”

Attendee Finn Kiick, of Club Scuba Doo, sees other positives.

“It’s goofy, sure, but you learn proper, formal dancing,” he said. “Women dig that crap. You’ll see DMs out cutting a rug at the Sand Spit pretty much any night of the week now, practicing.

“It’s value-added on the boats, too,” Kiick added. “Run out of stories to tell during a surface interval? Now you can entertain the guests with a waltz. Or a quadrille.”

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It’s Sharks vs. Jetfins in Blacktip Island Players’ “West Side Story”

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Marina DeLow, right, performs ‘I Feel Pretty’ during the dress rehearsal of the Blacktip Island Community Players’ “West Side Story,” celebrating 50 years of recreational scuba diving from resorts on the Caribbean island’s west coast. (photo courtesy of Doris Blenny/BICP)

The Blacktip Island Community Players will perform their take on the Rodgers and Hammerstein classic “West Side Story” Saturday evening at the island’s Heritage House. The performance celebrates 50 years of the recreational scuba industry on the Caribbean island.

“We usually go for something original,” director Doris Blenny said. “But this year we decided to reimagine a classic to honor the founding of Muddy Bottoms’ Double-Hose Divers all those years ago.

“We’re casting the Sharks and Jets as rival dive operations,” Blenny said. “It speaks to the competition between resorts that defines Blacktip Island. And with all the island’s scuba charter companies on its west side, well, it adds an extra layer that truly resonates.”

Many locals are eager to see the show.

“This is the sort of thing that really spotlights Blacktip’s vibrant thespian scene,” said island theater aficionado Frank Maples. “And Doris’ casting, as ever, is spot-on.”

Blenny chose this year’s performers exclusively from island dive staffs.

“We wanted realism,” she said. “And really, who can put all the yearning, the anger, the lusts of a young divemaster into a performance better than a divemaster, young or otherwise. You can see that especially in the Act I dive knife fight scene.

“Marina DeLow as Maria was an obvious choice, what with her beautiful, if off-key, lyric contralto voice,” Blenny said. “And the jump from ‘Marina’ to ‘Maria,’ well, it’s just one letter isn’t it?”

Other cast members include:

  • Lee Helm as Tony
  • Finn Kiick as Bernardo
  • Alison Diesel as Anita
  • Gage Hoase as Riff

“We respected the original score as much as we could, but we also tweaked some songs to be scuba-themed,” DeLow said. “We do the standard ‘Maria’ and ‘I Feel Pretty,’ but then we get jiggy a little with ‘Tonight’s Dive,’ and ‘(I Like To Be On) Blacktip.’ When Gage sings, ‘When you’re a Bottoms, you’re a Bottoms all the way,’ the crowd’ll go bonkers.”

The producers are encouraging audience members to dress in scuba-themed attire.

“Come as a divemaster, a tourist or even in vintage dive gear,” Blenny said. “We want theater-goers to become part of the spectacle. Muddy would have liked that.

“As ever, though, alcohol will not be allowed, and attendees will be frisked and given breathalyzer tests prior to admission,” Blenny added. “We’re not having a redux of the ‘Tora, Tora, Tora’ melee of three years ago.”

Proceeds from the show go to the Heritage House and to the Blacktip Island Divemasters Retirement Fund.

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Blacktip Island High Kicks Off Homecoming Weekend

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A fanciful Blacktip tasseled nudibranch (Bomella blacktipius) is part of the decoration for this weekend’s Blacktip Island High School homecoming festivities. The school’s teal-and-pink colors were inspired by the nudibranch, the BIHS mascot, found only on Blacktip Island reefs. (photo courtesy of Doris Blenny)

The Blacktip Island High School Fighting Nudibranchs will celebrate their 143nd homecoming on land and sea this weekend to honor students and alumni of the Caribbean island’s sole secondary school.

“It’s an exciting schedule we have planned,” homecoming chair Doris Blenny said. “We kick things off tonight with the spirit rally, the beach bonfire and the crowning of the homecoming court.

“Saturday’s the parade, then the offshore hand-line fishing tournament against arch rival Tiperon High, followed by a formal dance in the evening. School spirit’s sweeping the island.”

Locals of all ages said homecoming brings the community closer.

“I tear up just thinking about fishing against those cheating Tiperon High Frigates back in the day,” BIHS Class of 1981 alumni Antonio Fletcher said. “Proud we still go head-to-head with the big boys instead of bringing in some patsy to beat.

“I do love seeing the school colors flying all over the island, too,” Fletcher said. “And when they burn that paper mache frigate at the bonfire, folks go wild.”

The highlight for many will be the crowning of the king and queen.

“We only have one senior this year,” Blenny said. “Well, one student, period, so the voting was fairly predictable. It was Rusty Goby or no one.

“We set precedent, though, when the voters decided it wasn’t right to have just a king,” Blenny said. “They named Rusty king and queen. And to fill out the court, we’ll have iguanas with ribbons around their necks, and some of them wearing lipstick.”

Goby echoed Blenny’s enthusiasm.

“It’s a double honor, believe you me,” he said. “And appropriate, frankly, since nudibranchs are both male and female. For the homecoming court’s dance, I’ll do a sea slug-themed Viennese waltz to Billy Idol’s ‘Dancing With Myself.’

“It’ll be an exhausting few days, but well worth it,” Goby said. “The pep rally and bonfire and parade and the fishing tourney then the dance. I mean, I won’t be able to sneak a beer, or a smoke behind the gym, until everything’s over.”

Some alumni downplayed the celebration.

“I’m happy for Rusty and all, but a Blacktip homecoming can be a bit underwhelming after you’ve been through a few,” said BIHS Class of 1993 alumni Wendy Beaufort. “I mean,the parade’s usually just Dermott Bottoms bicycling past the resorts with an MP3 player blasting salsa music.”

Blenny defended the perceived lack of spirit.

“We’re a tiny school, all right?” she said. “We’ve tried bringing back famous alumni, but we couldn’t find any. Besides Jack Cobia, our mayor, but he’s locked up on a drunk driving charge.

“Frankly, the tailgating’s where Nudibranch spirit really bursts out,” Blenny said. “You want to see spirited celebration, check out the Sand Spit parking lot Saturday afternoon. Especially if Rusty can make it three in a row against those rat-bastard Frigates.”

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Ironshore Golf Is Blacktip Island’s Newest Tourism Draw

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Despite the Paradise Links clubhouse and other amenities still being under construction, Blacktip Island entrepreneur Rich Skerritt will open Blacktip Island’s first golf course Saturday. “This’ll boost the Blacktip economy more than you’ll ever know,” Skerritt said. (photo courtesy of Snively Skerritt)

Blacktip Island sports enthusiasts will have a new option this weekend with the opening of the Paradise Links golf course on the Caribbean island’s southwest coast. The course is the brainchild of local hotelier and entrepreneur Rich Skerritt.

“This another gem in Blacktip Island’s tourism crown,” Skerritt said. “A golf course puts us on the map. Makes the big hotel and retail chains realize they need in on the action.

“We only have three holes so far,” Skerritt said. “Some folks pushed for a more family-friendly mini-golf sort of thing, but we wanted to keep it classy.”

With flat land at a premium, course builders set most of the fairways across the island’s rough coastal ironshore.

“We routed as much as we could over the beach, but most of the course is on some pretty rough terrain,” Ferris Skerritt of Skerritt Construction said. “We put down indoor/outdoor carpet for the greens and tee boxes, and filled in enough ironshore to make cart paths, but otherwise it’s raw nature.”

The terrain necessitated some golf club innovations.

“Ironshore’s the big course hazard,” course designer Chuck Mulligan said. “You hit your tee shot solid, the ball carries right over it. But get down in one of those crevices, you’re screwed.

“You should’ve seen all the broken clubs,” Mulligan said. “We ended up milling special stainless steel pitching wedges with sharpened, tungsten carbide heads that’ll blast through the limestone. Kablam! Guests love it. Plus, the chipped stone fills in the course, and makes great gravel for Ferris’ cement plant.”

Some Blacktip residents, though, decried the new course.

“People come to Blacktip Island for its unspoiled natural beauty,” Blacktip Haven resort owner Elena Havens said. “The last thing we need is fake grass and a bunch of yahoos playing whack-and-chase, pick-axing the hell out of the ironshore. You come here to get away from that kind of crap.

Others welcomed the new course.

“Anything that adds to this little rock’s veneers of civilization can’t be bad,” said longtime resident Rhodes Batten. “And there’s talk of making it a private club. People are already lining up for membership.

“It’d be relatively exclusive, too, in Blacktip Island terms,’ Batten said. “They’ve floated the idea of not allowing Huguenots. Or Hottentots. I get them confused.”

Rich Skerritt would confirm only that he plans to expand the course as soon as is feasible.

“We’ve got two more holes in the works, including a par five up the side of the bluff,” Skerritt said. “We’ll have a putting green and an aqua-driving range on the beach, too.

“That means even more construction and service jobs,” Skerritt added. “Boosting the economy every whish way. Pro shop staff. Restaurant staff. Groundskeepers, too, to keep an eye on stuff like manganese. And chinch bugs. Ironshore can be tricky to maintain properly.”

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Blacktip Island Erupts In Decades-Long Family Feud

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Some of the flare pistols confiscated by Island Police Constable Rafe Marquette during the current Bottoms-Conlee feud in Blacktip Island’s Little Seoul neighborhood. (photo courtesy of Sustructu)

A long-simmering family feud erupted in violence Thursday evening in Blacktip Island’s Little Seoul district, leaving three persons injured and several others emotionally scarred, island officials said.

“Things get ugly fast up in Koreatown,” Island Police Constable Rafe Marquette said. “Usually what happens there stays there, but this started at the public pier, then the fight spread to bars and work sites. I confiscated every flare gun on the island and they’re still shooting at each other.

“It started with James Conlee fishing at Diddley’s Landing, only he was in Dermott Bottoms’ corner spot,” Marquette said. “The families have unwritten rules for that kind of thing, to keep the peace. But James got him a snootfull of white rum and the veneer cracked.”

Community members say the feud brings back bad memories

“This is how the gang wars started ten years ago,” ­­­­­­­­­­local Cori Anders said. “Dermott’s daddy tossed his hand line too close to James’ daddy’s. Would’ve been no big deal, but Booger Bottoms ended up catching a big, fat snapper. Took months to end the violence, and grudges smoldered for years.”

Island authorities say residents should avoid the neighborhood until the violence can be contained.

“We don’t want bystanders injured by crossfire or drive-bys,” Marquette said. “Well, technically pedal-bys, since all the Bottoms and Conlees have had their driver’s licenses revoked for drunk driving.

“I’m up there half the day and all the night to keep a lid on it,” IPC Marquette said. “We’re trying to broker peace, but James and Dermott aren’t making it easy.”

Each side claims the other is to blame.

“Insult to my family, you know. Things were settled, now this,” Dermott Bottoms said. “Daddy’s rolling over in his grave right now. That’s his hard-won fishing spot.”

“We won’t forgive and we won’t forget,” James Conlee said. “Them Bottoms crossed our lines years ago. I just balanced the scales.”

Locals worry about safety island-wide.

“Rosie and Peachy Bottoms were at the Ballyhoo last night, minding their own business, when Jesse Conlee busted in with a flare pistol,” resident Val Schrader said. “Popped a flare straight down the bar at them. No one was hurt, but it cleared the Ballyhoo right quick.

“My heart goes out to Rosie Bottoms and ‘Cephus Conlee.,” Schrader said. “They got married a month ago, they live in the middle house in Little Seoul and’ve been catching pure hell from both sides. Habitat for Humanity’s sitting on ‘G,’ waiting on ‘O’ for the gunfire to stop so they can go in and rebuild.”

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Blacktip Island Filmmaker Wins Golden Flipper Award

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The opening credits of Jerrod Ephesians Flippér d’Or-winning documentary at the inaugural Blacktip Island Documentary Film Festival. Festival films will be shown at random times throughout the week at the Caribbean island’s Heritage House. (photo courtesy of Hammer Films)

Amateur filmmaker Jerrod Ephesians took top honors at the inaugural Blacktip Island Documentary Film Festival Wednesday night, receiving the coveted Flippér d’Or for his film, “What Does Dermott Do All Day?” The ceremony was the finale of the Caribbean island’s week-long event, sponsored by the Blacktip Island Filmmakers Federation.

“Local documentary buffs spent the past month filming and editing,” BIFF chairman Christina Mojarra said. “We’ve been publicly screening the films at various times all week, so everyone can see them regardless of work schedule.

“We had everything from a simple time-lapse security cam footage that condensed a night at The Last Ballyhoo Bar into five minutes, to nesting iguanas set to hip-hop, to an in-depth look at the struggles of a newly-settled expat couple,” Mojarra said. “The films truly reflected the Blacktip Island experience.”

Judges said Ephesians’ film encapsulated the reality of daily life on Blacktip Island, raising the mundane to the sublime.

“Jerrod cut the perfect slice of Blacktip life,” judge Elena Havens said. “From Dermott Bottoms’ first breakfast beer, to his rummaging through the dump, to fishing, napping, dominoes and finally passing out. Every Blacktip resident can see themselves in some aspect of the film.”

Ephesians said he eschewed a linear narrative to focus instead on evoking a mood.

“I wanted to get at the Zen of the gestalt of the entirety of whole Blacktip thing,” he said. “Plus, I got jammed for time, only had one day to shoot, looked out the window, and there was Dermott, sipping on a Heineken.”

Festival-goers were also impressed by Antonio Fletcher’s existential short, “Mais N’Enculons Pas des Mooches.”

“It was a delightful throwback to early Buñuel-esque cinema,” judge Frank Maples said. “Black-and-white footage from ‘Tonio’s cell phone that he’d strapped to a bicycle’s handlebars during a ride through the island’s resorts. Literally weaving through lobbies, around pools, everywhere. He even edited in some fake scratches to make it look more like vintage film.

“As cinema, though, it stumbled with the voiceover,” Maples said. “‘Tonio randomly repeating ‘je t’aime, je t’aime,’ in an odd, faux-Russian falsetto, well, it became a bit off-putting. Quickly.”

All festival films will continue to be screened throughout the week at the Blacktip Island Heritage House in whatever order and times strike festival organizers’ fancies. Admission is free, with proceeds go to BIFF, less an administrative fees.

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