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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Blacktip Island Scuba Instructor Launches Underwater Ventriloquism Course

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Bobo the Monkfish is one of Alison Diesel’s teaching aids for her Underwater Ventriloquist specialty course at Blacktip Island’s Eagle Ray Cove resort. (photo courtesy of Alison Diesel)

A Blacktip Island divemaster has developed the industry’s first underwater ventriloquist specialty course, the Caribbean island’s Eagle Ray Cove resort announced Thursday.

“It started with me and Marina throwing our voices underwater so divers’d think fish were talking,” course author Alison Diesel said. “And there’s already an underwater mime course, so this seemed like the next logical step.

“Water’s denser than air, so sound travels even faster,” Diesel said. “It makes underwater venting so much easier. I’m stunned no one’s done this before.”

Experts say underwater ventriloquism is small step from above-water ventriloquism.

“You have the same issue with making the labial sounds – f, v, p, b, m and w – without closing your lips,” course graduate Gage Hoase said. “But you can’t make those sounds with a regulator in your mouth, anyway. It all comes together pretty quick with a little practice.”

Students construct their own dummies for the course’s final checkout dive.

“Wetsuited sidekicks are standard,” Diesel said. “But we also see tacky tourists, lionfish and even a dive light. We work on developing a character for the dummy that’s totally different from the student’s personality.”

The course is not without its detractors.

“It’s creepy, OK? I said it,” said Sand Spit bartender Cori Anders. “We banned Ali’s students from practicing at the bar. There were too many fights, usually between drunks and the dummies. On Blacktip, it’s hard to tell them apart.”

Industry insiders were harsher.

“Ventriloquism? In 2017? You can to the same thing with an underwater mike and speaker,” said Club Scuba Doo dive manager Finn Kiick. “And it gives scuba instruction a black eye. What scam course will it be next, underwater basket weaving?

“There’s a safety issue, too,” Kiick said. “There’s been accidents, but Ali covers them up.”

Diesel was quick to defend her classes.

“Yeah, we had one unfortunate incident where a student had a, what do you call it, psychotic break while practicing,” she said. “But that was a one-off.

“He was the most laid-back dude you’d ever meet,” Diesel said. “But his dummy, Marker Buoy Mickey, had Tourette’s bad. Mickey hacked off everyone on the reef, and we couldn’t shut him up. Someone finally sent Mickey over the wall wrapped in a 20-pound weight belt.”

Students, meanwhile, raved about the course.

“They start you slow with basic no-lip talking, then work up to the sound substitutions for the lipped sounds,” Eagle Ray Divers guest Charlie McCarthy said. “Underwater, you talk real fast so your voice sounds realistic. Kind of like that clue-egg in the Harry Potter movie. But backwards.”

Eagle Ray Divers offers the course through PADI, NAUI and SSI. NAUI students required to do final performance without a mask or regulator.

“And we actually do have plans for a basket weaving course, where students use turtle grass and sea weed salvaged from the beach,” Diesel said.

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Dermott Bottoms Is Blacktip Island’s First Private Eye

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Dermott Bottoms has opened a private investigative service on Blacktip Island, the first of its kind on the small Caribbean island. (photo courtesy of Gary Halvorson, Oregon State Archives)

Blacktip Islanders seeking help with unsolved crimes and hard-to-find information have a new champion as of Wednesday, when long-time resident Dermott Bottoms received his private investigator’s license from the Caribbean Association of Research Professionals.

“Lots of happenings on Blacktip Island, not all of ‘em good,” Bottoms said. “What people need is someone unofficial to help when the police won’t.

“Grew up dreaming of being an inquiry agent, see,” Bottoms said. “‘Dermott Bottoms, P.I.,’ y’know? And I’m out and about anyway, hearing things and seeing things. Thought to myself, ‘all right, then, why not mix business and pleasure?’”

Many residents welcomed the new investigative service.

“This’ll keep Dermott occupied, and I don’t suppose he can do too much damage,” said retiree Frank Maples. “Of course, it’s hard to go undercover or disguise yourself when you’re 6’6” and 300 pounds. And blind drunk by noon.

“Cyber surveillance could be his wheelhouse,” Maples said. “If he can learn how to switch on a computer. Last week he strapped on a hidden camera, but got the ‘on’ and ‘off’ reversed and ended up with video of himself in the Eagle Ray Cove toilet. The clients weren’t happy.”

Other locals were more skeptical.

“We need a PI on Blacktip?” the former-Reverend Jerrod Ephesians said. “There’s the Ballyhoo happy hour for information, and a policeman for crimes. All this does is get Dermott’s talking like Humphrey Bogart. It was funny at first, but now it’s just annoying.”

Others concurred.

“The last thing this island needs is another dick, private or otherwise,” divemaster Alison Diesel said. “It’s creepy, him following me around, peeking my the windows at night. After I hired him to find my bike.

“He should get his nose punched, sticking it in other peoples’ business,” Diesel said. “Only he’s, well, Dermott, and no one’s that suicidal.”

Island authorities downplayed the gumshoe’s impact.

“As long as Dermott’s not driving a moving vehicle, I don’t care,” said Island Police Constable Rafe Marquette. “I’m not sure he’ll get many cases, anyway. He found a lost bike, but the island’s only a mile wide.

“True, I’ve arrested him once for trespassing. And twice for stalking,” Marquette said. “But the next morning I just turn him loose after he sleeps it off.

Bottoms admits he’s still learning the finer points of his new profession.

“One big case already, but that dame, she played me, y’know,” he said. “Shoulda seen it coming, that double-, triple-cross. But I’m a sucker for a big brunette. Won’t happen again, though. Not often, anyway.

“I’m not Sam Spade, but I am Blacktip,” Bottoms said. “My motto’s: ‘Dermott gets to the bottom of everything.’ And if people don’t have money, they can pay in beer.”

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Blacktip Island Cullers Will Hunt Human ‘Lionfish’ Saturday

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Eagle Ray Divers divemaster Lee Helm, in a semi-closed circuit rebreather, practices swimming away as fast as he can Thursday in a warm up for Saturday’s Sons and Daughters of the Reef Mock Lionfish Hunt on Blacktip Island’s west coast. (photo courtesy of Peter Southwood)

In response to animal rights protests, Blacktip Island’s Sons and Daughters of the Reef hunt club will substitute a local divemaster for a lionfish in their inaugural Mock Lionfish Cull for charity Saturday afternoon on the island’s west side.

“More and more clubs worldwide are doing these mock hunts,” said S&DR Master-of-Fish Gage Hoase. “The prey, usually a fox, is replaced with a human, and the hunters still get a great chase.

“This cull’ll keep the fish huggers happy and draw good press,” Hoase said. “Plus, truth be told, we’re running out of lionfish on Blacktip. People are spearing and eating so many of them.”

Club officers selected the local divemaster with the most customer complaints during the past year as the Designated Lionfish.

“We’re sticking Lee Helm in a lionfish suit and dropping him on the reef,” S&DR Huntsperson-at-Arms Alison Diesel said. “We’ll give him five minutes, then turn the cullers loose with their spears.

“It’s nowhere near as harsh as it sounds,” Diesel added. “Lee’ll have a rebreather, so bubbles won’t give him away. And a Kevlar suit that’ll turn just about any spear point. Or so we’re told.”

Local fish rights activists say the switch to human prey, while not a perfect solution, is a step in the right direction.

“If the Designated Lionfish is human, and sort-of volunteers, we have no problem with that,” Society for Providing Lionfish-Appropriate Training president Palometa Fischer said. “Ideally, though, they’d jab him with real lionfish spines to make him really feel persecuted.”

Lionfish stand-in Lee Helm expressed reservations.

“There’s no ‘volunteer’ to it,” Helm said. “They just held me down and jammed that bloody costume on me. Someone – Marina, I’ll wager – even speared my neck ‘by accident.’

“The only choice I have is to jump in on my own, properly weighted, or be tossed in with 40 pounds duct-taped to me,” Helm said. “These people are out for blood.”

Hunt club members say the vote for Helm was unanimous.

“Lee’s an obnoxious little git that pisses off everyone, staff and guests alike,” said culler Marina DeLow. “We’re all looking forward for the chance to prang him good, point-blank.”

Other echoed the sentiment.

“If the suit doesn’t stop a spear or two, well, it couldn’t happen to a more deserving guy,” said culler Casey Piper. “You can’t spear Lee enough, really.”

Hunt organizers expect a record 35-40 cullers to participate.

“There’re members with real grudges against Lee,” Hoase said. “We’ve warned everyone not to aim for exposed skin, but you never know what’ll happen in the heat of the hunt. We’ll have the nurse standing by. And lots of bandages.

“On the up side, we’ve never had a turnout this big,” Hoase said. “We may make Lee our permanent Designated Lionfish. Probably best to put it to a vote, though.”

Proceeds from the hunt go to the Coral Reef Protection Fund.

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