Blacktip Island divers on their safety stops are now able to buy prepared sandwiches and other snacks from the Dive-In Snack Shack, the brainchild of local entrepreneur Piers “Doc” Plank. (photo courtesy of jeffreyw)
A Blacktip Island business startup this week introduced what the owner calls ‘dive-through dining’ on the small Caribbean island’s reefs, allowing scuba divers to purchase food underwater for consumption on dive boats later.
“We tried a food boat, but it never really took off,” Piers “Doc” Plank said. “Then we had this ‘Dive-In Snack Shack’ idea, and it sounded crazy enough to work. We set up a station in the sand on Wahoo Reef and divers can buy food to eat when they’re back on their boat later—during their surface interval or after their last dive. Instead of ‘take out,’ it’s ‘take up.’
“We catch divers at the end of the dive, when they’re feeling their hungriest,” Plank said. “They have their choice of shrink-wrapped sandwiches, pizza by the slice and tacos. We’re working on soup in little squeeze bags, too, so people can eat while they’re underwater. Novelty sells. We charge twice what we’d charge on shore, and divers line up to pay.”
Servers say the setup is simpler than it sounds.
“We lower weighted food bins mid-dive, so we’re ready when the divers start their safety stops,” Christina Mojarra said. “Then we lift-bag it back up afterwards. Divers pay by scanning their resort room key card.
“To keep staff from taking on too much nitrogen, we only have staff underwater for that 10 to 15 minutes divers are actually under the dive boats,” Mojarra said. “And we rotate staff, so no one gets too nitrogen saturated. So far it’s worked great. Diver are fed and none of us have been bent.”
The Dive-In is not without its critics.
“If they’re in the sand and not damaging coral, it’s legal, but just barely,” Tiperon Marine Parks spokesperson Val Schrader said. “They’re turning the marine park into a circus. There’s also the issue of what happens to all those plastic wrappers. Do they wind up back on the reef? There needs to be less plastic out there, not more.
“A bigger concern is what happens when some joker decides to feed some of this food to the fish,” Schrader said. “That is a violation of the law. The first time there’s any sign of fish-feeding, we’re cracking down hard on Doc and his gang. Never mind the safety implications of divers concentrating on food, not their gauges.”
Plank downplayed those concerns. “We require divers to do an air check before every purchase,” he said. “And we have signs underwater asking all our customers to eat responsibly. All the dive boat crews are good at impressing their guests with the importance of putting all food waste in onboard refuse bins. It’s a foolproof system that benefits everyone. Val needs to lighten up and come have an underwater fish taco.”
Channeling You Inner Nudibranch will be the focus of Antonio Fletcher’s inspirational talk Saturday from a Blacktip Island dive site. (photo courtesy of Nick Hobgood)
Local jack-of-all-trades Antonio Fletcher Thursday announced he will deliver a TED-style Talk, live-streamed to Blacktip Island bars, on scuba from Blacktip Island’s Hammerhead Hole dive site Saturday to promote personal empowerment and mental health awareness.
“Calling it ‘Channel You Inner Nudibranch,’ on account of nudibranchs have life figured out,” Fletcher said. “They’re not in a hurry, they’re beautiful and don’t have any negative impact on the world around them. Except for the other sea slugs they eat.
“With so many people stressing these days and being ugly to each other, the idea’s to get folks thinking more like nudibranchs,” Fletcher said. “Folks need something upbeat, something empowering in these trying times. I’m gonna talk about how to make the world a better place by harnessing the inner strength we don’t know we have.”
Some in the community questioned the concept.
“I like, ‘Tonio, I really do, but this makes even less sense than he normally does,” resort owner Elena Havens said. “I get the upbeat, self-improvement idea, but ‘think like a nudibranch?’ Nudibranchs are sea slugs. They don’t think. ‘Tonio’s essentially telling people to turn off their brains. There’s way too much of that on Blacktip as it is. And ‘Tonio’s the last person to give motivational advice.”
Fletcher was quick to respond.
“I know a damn sight more about motivating folks than Elena thinks,” he said. “Sure, I drive the Eagle Ray Cove airfield shuttle now, but, past life, when I was Fletcher Christian, I motivated the Bounty’s crew every day. And nudibranchs? They make everybody around them smile. Even if they can’t smile themselves.”
Other residents are looking forward to the talk.
“I think it’ll be a hoot,” Ginger Bass said. “I like seeing photos of nudibranchs, and I love those rare times I find them on dives. We’re gonna take the kiddos to the Ballyhoo to watch his talk. We can all use a little positive energy these days.
“We’ve already had the little ones visualizing themselves as nudibranchs, to get them in the right frame of mind,” Bass said. “We’re not going so far as to wear antenna or butt tufts. They can just imagine them. That’s the real power of this, bringing out your inner butt tuft, and going through your day as if you had one.”
Fletcher noted the talk is not an official TED Talk or associated with the TED Conferences.
“I pitched the idea to the TED folks a couple of times, but never heard back,” he said. “So I decided to channel my own inner nudibranch and do this anyway, Got to do what you can with what you have, especially with the island still on lockdown.
“I even learned to scuba dive, with a full-face mask, so I could give the talk underwater. Have more impact that way, y’know,” Fletcher said. “Still calling it a TED Talk, though, ‘cause nobody’d listen to a ‘Tonio Talk.”
Blacktip Island do-it-yourselfer Harry Blenny said his microwave and other electronic devices have taken on lives of their own after he activated a home-made, smart-home network. (photo courtesy of Jstapko)
A Blacktip Island inventor this week accidentally created the island’s first autonomous internet network while attempting to turn his home into a smart house with locally-sourced items.
“I was killing time during the quarantine, rigging up a smart house with whatever tech gizmos I could find on the island,” Harry Blenney said. “Couldn’t get all the stuff I needed ‘cause of the quarantine, so I made do. That may have been a mistake. First sign I had something was wrong was when Alexi told me to go get stuffed. Guess I should have spent the extra money for Alexa.
“Next thing I knew, all my gadgets were talking back to me. Rudely,” Blenny said. “Using that refurbed Chinese router may have been a mistake, too. I cut the internet connection, but that didn’t help. Everything’s still yapping at me 24-7. I’m calling it smart-ass tech.”
Local authorities were quick to isolate Blenny’s house.
“We yanked the fiber optic on the pole out at the street,” Island Police Constable Rafe Marquette said. “Would have been a nightmare scenario, this—whatever it is—spreading to the rest of the island, or over to Tiperon. Luckily the house is up on the northeast coast where there’s not any nearby homes or businesses.
“Folks had talked to Harry about his tinkering with things he didn’t understand,” Marquette said. “He’s had that dream of making an experimental house for a while. Problem is he’s using makeshift parts and devices. We’re also looking into the possibility of some outside hacking, too. In the meantime, I’m not letting him out of the house, even for groceries.”
Residents worry the seemingly-autonomous network will spread, despite island authority’s efforts.
“Whatever it is Harry built, it’s got a mind of its own,” Ernestine Bass said. “He has no idea what he did or how he did it. Who’s to say this thing can’t spread, despite him being cut off and cooped up? Can it spread through the cell tower? We’ve all got our phones turned off until this gets sorted.
“There was talk of people going over there and tearing up all his electronics, but Rafe has the place pretty well locked down,” Bass said. “And no telling if it can transmit itself to people, so we’re keeping our distance.”
Blenny says many islanders are blaming the victim.
“It’s my house that’s acting up. I’m the only one affected,” he said. “All day the coffee maker makes fun of me. The microwave plays Bananarama songs. The security system touch screen keeps printing obscenities. And TV shows Howard the Duck non-stop.”
The Blacktip Island Literary Society this weekend will stage a series of readings and performances celebrating the life and works of British Romantic poet Walter Savage Landor. (photo courtesy of Payne Hanover)
The Blacktip Island Literary Society Thursday announced its plans for the inaugural Walter Savage Landor Literary Festival, honoring the obscure British Romantic poet and his alleged ties to the small Caribbean island.
“A lot of people never heard of Landor,” festival organizer Payne Hanover said. “We’re all about giving him some love. His work, by itself, is largely unknown today, but he was a huge influence on the next generation of writers, including Dickens, Browning, Yeats and Ezra Pound. Never mind Pound was a complete nut job there at the end.
“As for the local connection, people don’t realize he spent his last days on Blacktip Island,” Hanover said. “History books said he died in Italy, but we’ve got island records saying that was just a ruse. He gave his creditors a head fake and sailed for the Caribbean. Blacktip Island was a Brit Rom hotspot back in the day.”
BILS members praised Landor’s work.
“Critics loved him. The public, not so much. And that sucks,” Alison Diesel said. “He was the bomb in prose and lyric poetry. His Imaginary Conversations are lit, especially the ones between Marcellus and Hannibal, Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn, and Diogenes and Plato.
“People don’t remember he was tight with Coleridge,” Diesel said. “Dude had the connections and the chops. He and Byron had no use for each other, but we let that slide—he was a Blacktipper. We’re all Romantics at heart. Except for . . . well, never mind.”
The society plans readings of Landor’s work at various sites around the island.
“We’ll have scheduled readings at the Heritage House, of course,” schoolmaster Barry Snapper said. “But there’ll also be surprise pop-up readings at bars and resorts all across the island. Flash-mob style interpretive dance performances, too. Some of them on scuba.
“You really don’t have a true appreciation for Landor until you hear Dermott Bottoms stumbling through, I Strove with None and Twenty Years Hence on the Heritage House steps,” Snapper said. “It gave me chills during rehearsals.”
Island residents are looking forward to the weekend’s festivities.
“Don’t know nothing about poetry, but they talked me into helping by telling tales about the man,” Dermott Bottoms said. “Had total contempt for authority. I like that. He’d fit right in on Blacktip.
“Had a mouth on him, too,” Bottoms said. “Dude could piss off the Pope without half trying. We gonna have a two-day booze-up and get in fights to celebrate his life properly.”