Iguana Yoga Takes Blacktip Island By Storm

iguana yoga

Meditation sessions with Blacktip Island’s native rock iguanas have proved popular at one island resort. (photo courtesy of James St. John)

The latest trend in yoga has been given a topical twist at Blacktip Island’s Blacktip Haven resort, where guests can now participate in yoga sessions while the island’s rock iguanas crawl around, on and over them.

“We wanted to get in on the goat yoga craze, but there’s no goats on the island,” yoga instructor Bindy Pigeon said. “Then an iguana wandered in on a yoga class. No one moved, so it stayed and ended up climbing on top of a prone student. That’s when the light bulb went off.

“Turns out, iguanas are better than goats,” Pigeon said. “They love the body heat, and once they settle in they’ll stay on your back or stomach or head for as long as you let them.”

The classes have proven popular with tourists and locals alike.

“It’s way better than plain yoga,” said Blacktip Haven guest Marlin White. “The interaction with nature helps you center yourself better physically and mentally. And there’s nothing quite like a resting iguana on a downward dog.”

Other students, though, saw drawbacks to meditation with the reptiles.

“It can be a bit of a distraction when one starts munching on your hair,” Blacktip resident Cori Anders said, “And you have to make sure they don’t poop on you. That’ll get you uncentered in a big-ass hurry. And those claws!”

Resort management stressed the classes are safe as well as eco-friendly.

“Sure, we had a couple of students get clawed,” Blacktip Haven owner Elena Havens said. “But the scratches don’t bleed much and we keep plenty of antibiotic cream on hand. You have to expect that with wild animals. It’s what makes our yoga sessions so effective.

“These iguanas aren’t trained or restrained or coerced in any way,” Havens said. “We toyed with land crab yoga, too, but there was no way to do that without catching the crabs and penning them here. And they wouldn’t stay still long enough to be therapeutic, anyway.”

Community leaders have embraced the classes.

“It’s something to do on the island that doesn’t involve alcohol,” the former-Reverend Jerrod Ephesians said. “For Blacktip, that’s revolutionary, really.”

Others concurred.

“People can laugh all they want, but this is just one more unique thing that draws visitors to Blacktip,” island mayor Jack Cobia said. “The classes are so popular, Bindy’s turning students away. And Elena’s resort’s booked solid for the next six months.”

Pigeon shrugged off the nay-sayers.

“People can snicker all they want,” she said. “Iguana yoga’s the real deal and it’s here to namaste.”

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Council Meeting Melee Guts Blacktip Island Church

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The interior of Blacktip Island’s Our Lady of Blacktip interdenominational church was demolished during a fight that broke out during an island council meeting concerning liquor laws Thursday afternoon. (photo courtesy of the Rev. Pierre Grunt)

A Blacktip Island Council meeting at the island’s church turned violent Thursday afternoon during a debate over liquor laws. The ensuing melee sent council members diving for cover and resulted in more than a dozen people being taken to the island’s medical clinic.

“It started with Reverend Grunt pitching a Sunday booze ban,” island mayor Jack Cobia said. “The bar owners objected and all hell broke loose.

“Rich Skerritt and the Reverend had each other by throat,” Cobia said. “Jerrod Ephesians tried to break them up and got cold-cocked with a hymnal. The next thing you know Dermot was swinging that candelabra like a scythe and people were trampling the pews to get out. I jumped through the window to get away. I still got stained glass in my hair.”

Seven islanders were arrested on assault charges.

“This is a hard-drinking island community. I accept that,” the Rev. Pierre Grunt said from his jail cell. “We’re not trying to change that. We’re just asking folks to take a day off, dry out a little, maybe even come to church.”

Resort owners say the proposed law unfairly favored the religious community.

“Pierre wants to steal one of our big-money days,” Eagle Ray Cove resort owner Rich Skerritt said from the adjacent cell. “You think it’s a coincidence he made an exception for the church?

“He’s selling that mead of his behind the sacristy Sunday afternoons and making a fortune,” Skerritt said. “He’s axing the competition. That’s dirty pool.”

The church has been selling its artisanal St. Dervil’s Mead, named after the island’s patron saint who first distilled mead on the island and taught its native iguanas to sing, to raise funds for building improvements, church officials said.

“The mead isn’t for inebriative purposes,” Grunt said. “It’s part of our after-church social fellowship, and sales go to new windows for the church. Now we need even more windows. And pews. And hymn books.”

Other resort owners criticized the mead sales as purely commercial.

“Pierre just wants a slice of the tourism pie without having to invest in the marketing or infrastructure,” Blacktip Haven owner Elena Havens said. “He’s even offering punch cards for every mead purchase. After 10 pints, you get your choice of a t-shirt or an Indulgence.”

Most locals sided with the resort owners.

“It’s about choice and free will, you know,” Dermott Bottoms said. “You don’t want to drink, go to church. You do want to drink, go to the bar. Rev’s trying to take away our freedoms.”

The island clinic has issued an urgent call for blood donors in the wake of the violence.

“We’re not equipped for injury on this scale,” island nurse Marissa Wrasse said. “We need blood of all types, so long as the donor is sober. Most donors so far can’t pass the breathalyzer test.”

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Blacktip Island Hosts Conch Herding Competition

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Eagle Ray Sound, on Blacktip Island’s west coast, is the site of this weekend’s conch herding trials. Herders from across the Caribbean will compete in the semi-annual event. (photo courtesy of Clete Horn)

Blacktip Island will welcome conch herders from around the Caribbean Saturday for the 47th Semi-Annual Caribbean Basin Conch-Off in the island’s Eagle Ray Sound.

“Conch herding’s an island tradition, and we’re damn proud to be selected to host this year’s Conch-Off,” Blacktip Island Traditional Conch Herders president Clete Horn said. “It’s a competitive sport, like sheep herding, except underwater. And with conchs instead of sheep and grouper instead of herd dogs.

“The handler on the surface directs a pair of trained Nassau grouper to herd a half dozen conch across the sand, around coral and whatnot, then into a catch basket,” Horn said. “And it’s strictly catch-and-release. No conchs are injured, despite what some say.”

The herding trials are conducted in heats, with two conchers facing off on opposite sides of the lagoon, directing their groupers with hand motions and finger pops. The first to get six conchs into a basket and to the surface moves on to the next round.

Blacktip Island will be represented by local favorite Antonio Fletcher. Competitors, from as far away as Guiana and Cuba, include regional sensations Shelly Hard, Jorge Pompano and reigning champion Caracol Gigante.

“The trick’s to think like a conch, get inside its brain,” Fletcher said. “Me having The Sight helps with that. Got to have the right grouper, too. Raised mine by hand from little-bitty fry.

“Folks tried herding with stingrays a while back, thinking they’re smarter, easier to train,” Fletcher said. “But the rays get distracted too easy, you know. Like they all got ADHD or something. No, groupers are best, and my Nassaus are best of the lot.”

Animal rights groups are campaigning against the competition.

“One person grabbing one conch for personal use is reasonable,” said Conch Appreciation Committee president Harry Pickett. “Not necessary, but justifiable.

“Chasing bunches of conchs across the sand, then jerking them to the surface for sport, well, it’s not good for the conchs. It can give them strokes,” Pickett said. “That leaves us with lots of traumatized conchs. The last thing this island needs is neurotic snails.”

Conchers were quick to defend their sport.

“It’s Blacktip. Short-term memory’s a non-issue here,” Horn said. “I guarantee they’ve forgotten about it by the time they hit the bottom again. Hell, most of the spectators will have, too.”

The competition is a popular spectator sport among locals and tourists alike.

“Families with kids like to watch from the surface,” Horn said. “But we also have underwater videographers streaming the action to the Sand Spit bar so adults can watch with a cold drink in the air conditioning.”

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Reef Rage Sparks Blacktip Island’s New Underwater Police

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Blacktip Island’s tranquil beauty has been marred by recent violence on the Caribbean island’s dive sites. The incidents prompted the creation of a special underwater police unit. (photo courtesy of Ger Latner/Eagle Ray Divers)

A rash of underwater incidents described as ‘reef rage’ has prompted Blacktip Island officials to create an underwater volunteer police unit to safeguard the Caribbean island’s divers.

“The high stakes world of scuba tourism isn’t for the faint of heart,” Eagle Ray Divers operations manager Ger Latner said. “There’s more dive boats out there, carrying more divers, each competing for the same amount of space on the reef. You pay a bunch of money to dive here, you want to see everything. Trouble is, so does everyone else.

“We’ve had everything from divers bumping other divers out of the way to pulling dive knives on each other,” Latner said. “The final straw was the guy who surfaced with a cut regulator hose. The bubbles were beautiful from the surface, but somebody could’ve been hurt.”

The island’s police constable formed the ad hoc Special Underwater Police Auxiliary to deal with the attacks.

“There’s only one of me, and I barely know how to swim,” Island Police Constable Rafe Marquette said. “I can put on a snorkel vest and watch from the surface, but I can’t stop anything from happening, and I can’t be at every site all day.

“I ran local divers through a quick Special Constable course, then turned them loose,” Marquette said. “We stress de-escalating confrontations and non-violent intervention. The volunteers do carry underwater Tasers, though. Just in case.”

S.U.P.A. officers say their experience often lets them stop trouble before it starts.

“Most confrontations start with someone inadvertently getting kicked, or not letting other divers see an interesting sea creature,” said S.U.P.A. member Frank Maples. “Photographers are especially bad. If we can nudge them along, we’ve nipped the problem in the bud.”

One overzealous scuba diver has been arrested so far.

“The jerk with the big-ass camera started it,” Blacktip Haven guest Maxie Fondé said. “Planted that sucker in front of an eel hole and camped there 10, 15 minutes. Wouldn’t let me or my husband see.

“He ignored a polite tap on the shoulder, then flipped my off when I pulled him away,” Fondé said. “Shooting my spear into the sand next to his head sure got him to move, though. Then he had the audacity to file charges.”

Other dive guests applauded the new special constables.

“It’s nice not having to confront bad divers anymore,” said Club Scuba Doo guest Olive Beaugregory. “If someone’s being an ass, I just motion to the reef patrol and they take care of things. Just this morning, when a man was lying on the reef, the constable squeezed his inflator vale and WHOOSH! sent him to the surface. Problem solved!”

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Leadbellies Dive Club Angers Blacktip Island Dive Staffs

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A pair of weight-belt bandoliers worn by members of the Leadbellies Dive Club. The club’s questionable weighting practices have angered many Blacktip Island divemasters. (photo courtesy of Eagle Ray Divers/Eagle Ray Cove resort)

A social club for scuba divers who wear excessive amounts of lead weights angered Blacktip Island dive staffs this week when the club booked space on all the Caribbean island’s dive boats.

“It’s a show of force on our part,” Leadbelly Divers president Ida Sunck said. “Wherever you go, divemasters shame you for wearing too much lead. It’s embarrassing and degrading. So we banded together to push back.

“We put members on every boat on the island, so there’s no way one outfit can shuffle us off to another one,” Sunck said. “We’re the customers, and we’ll wear as much weight as we want. Period.”

To qualify for membership, divers must meet strict weighting requirements.

“The baseline, with no wetsuit, is at least 10% of your total body weight, Leadbelly Bob Dunker said. “After that, there’s a BMI-based sliding scale, with roughly one pound added for each millimeter of wetsuit thickness worn.

“With a five-mil suit, you’d better be wearing 30 pounds, minimum, or you’re out,” Dunker said. “We encourage members to use weight-integrated BCs, just to surprise the divemasters, but some folks use so much they have to strap on weight-belt bandoliers.”

Island dive professionals say their opposition is focused on safety.

“It’s crazy wearing that much weight, especially on a wall dive,” Eagle Ray Divers divemaster Gage Hoase said. “If you’re wearing 20-plus pounds of lead over the wall and your BC fails, you’re gone. The guy with 26 pounds? That’s not integrated weight. That’s ballast. Why not just use the boat’s anchor?

“With that much weight, they’re vertical in the water,” Hoase said. “They burn through air and stress the hell out of their hearts. And most of them aren’t in the best shape to begin with. We keep the oxygen kits set up and ready to go with this group.”

Other staff focused on environmental concerns.

“Overweighted like that, they’re dragging across the bottom,” Club Scuba Doo operations manager Finn Kiick said. “They kill coral every time they kick. We showed them the Marine Parks rules, but they don’t care.

“We tried to charge a dollar a day per every pound they used, too,” Kiick said. “But the owners scotched that one.”

The island’s resort owners have welcomed the Leadbellies.

“Sure they’re yahoos, but if we turn them away, they’ll just dive with Sandy Bottoms or Blacktip Haven,” said Eagle Ray Cove owner Rich Skerritt. “The dive staff just needs to suck it up.

“We lose a customer, we’ll never get him back,’ Skerritt said. “We lose a couple of staff cat-herding the guests, well, we can always get more dive hippies. I got a foot-high stack of resumes by my desk.”

Island guests, meanwhile, gave the club high praise.

“The kids love to watch their giant strides,” Sandy Bottoms Beach Resort guest Christie Cottonwick said. “The splashes are phenomenal! It’s like being at a belly-flop contest!”

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New Blacktip Island Constable Fired For Enforcing Laws

new policeman

Tourists speeding on bicycles bore the brunt of the traffic citations issued by Blacktip Island’s short-tenured probationary police constable during the recent holiday weekend. (photo courtesy of draconiarain)

Blacktip Island’s newly-assigned police constable, who arrived Saturday to provide backup and relief for the island’s sole police officer, Rafe Marquette, was fired Sunday afternoon due to his issuing an excessive number of traffic citations.

“Probationary Island Police Constable B.H. Wrasse set the record for number of tickets written and shortest time on the job,” island mayor Jack Cobia said. “He came in gung-ho and wrote tickets for every minor infraction he saw. Seat belt violations. Failure to use turn signals. Public intoxication. Disorderly conduct.

“There’s no call for that sort of thing on Blacktip,” Cobia said. “He was ticketing tourists on resort bikes for topping 15 miles per hour. You get one of those bikes to go that fast, you deserve a medal, not a citation. He bit the hand that feeds us all.”

Other officials say Constable Wrasse’s firing was due to who he ticketed.

“Problem is, it was St. Dervil’s Day weekend,” Public Works chief Stoney MacAdam said. “The whole island was drunk, most of them were driving and we were all disorderly. I mean, it was St. Dervil’s Day.

“B.H. screwed the pooch when he ticketed four Bottoms, three Skerritts and a couple of other big wigs,” MacAdam said. “Skerritt and Skulkin’s the only law firm on the island, and he managed to ticket both Skerritt and Skulkin in less than an hour. Skerritt twice. Not a good career move.”

The fired constable was unapologetic.

“I’m sworn to uphold the laws,” P.I.P.C. Wrasse said. “All the laws. I don’t get to choose which ones get enforced.

“Seems Blacktip’s not a rule-of-law kind of place, though,” Wrasse said. “It’s not safe, and people are going to get hurt. But at least I’m reassigned to Tiperon. They enforce everything over there.”

P.I.P.C. Wrasse had no sympathy among residents.

“We barely need one cop, much less two,” Bartender Cori Anders said. “People sort things out on their own here. Now, Rafe Marquette can be handy when someone gets a snoot full and starts trouble at the bar, but that’s about it.

“Besides, drink driving’s standard on Blacktip,” Anders said. “There’s no taxis or buses, and everyone’s out partying. Someone has to drive home. So long as no one gets hurt, or breaks anything, it’s not a problem.”

Others concurred.

“Rafe’s family,” handyman Antonio Fletcher said. “Knows what needs to be enforced and what doesn’t. Keeps his nose out of peoples’ business.

“The new kid didn’t see how Blacktip’s not like other places,” Fletcher said. “Most seat belts are too rusted to latch. And we only have two roads. No need for turn signals. You’re either going this way or that way.”

Island Police Constable Rafe Marquette was not available for comment.

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Maglev Sightseeing Sub Debuts On Blacktip Island Reefs

maglev sub

Blacktip Island’s new maglev bullet sub made its underwater debut Thursday afternoon. The sightseeing submarine can circle the small Caribbean island in less than an hour. (photo courtesy of Sally Port/Tiperon University-Blacktip)

A new high-speed sightseeing submarine took its maiden tour around Blacktip Island Thursday morning to launch what backers hope is as an emerging tourism market.

The submarine circles the island on a magnetic levitation rail at a depth of 25 feet, carries up to 32 passengers and can complete the island’s 26-mile circumference in less than an hour.

“Lots of places have submarine rides, but Blacktip’s the only one with a bullet sub,” Eagle Ray Cove owner Rich Skerritt said. “All us resort owners ponied up, and the Tourism Department kicked in some cash, too, to get more guests to visit the island.

“Lots of people don’t dive. They just want a quick look at the reefs, then back to the bar,” Skerritt said. “Hell, half our divers cover two, three sites every dive anyway. And no one gets seasick on the sub. So far.”

Scientists say maglev technology makes the quick tours possible.

“The carriage does 37.3 miles per hour, top speed,” said Tiperon University-Blacktip engineering chairperson Sally Port. “The drag from the water keeps the velocity down, and that’s key. If it went 200 miles per hour underwater, all you’d see would be a blue blur.”

The submarine is not without its critics.

“They’ve turned a pristine reef into an amusement park,” Pelagic Society president Edwin Chub said. “And no environmental impact study was done. They just pounded a rail into the reef and let her rip.

“And ‘bullet sub’ is a fitting name. It goes so fast fish can’t get out of its way,” Chubb said. “Snapper and coral die for this every day. There’s ichor on Rich and Sandy’s hands.”

Business owners brushed aside the criticism.

“There’s been bullet trains in Japan and Korea for years, so why not have one underwater on Blacktip?” Sandy Bottoms’ Beach Resort owner Sandy Bottoms said. “We’re just keeping up with the times. Showing fish to people who wouldn’t otherwise see them, and without a long boat ride.

“Guests say it’s better than diving,” Bottoms said. “The sub slows down at good sites where there’s stuff to see, then zips past the boring junk,” Bottoms said. “We can cycle through 30-plus tourists an hour, then sell them seaweed-dyed Bullet Sub t-shirts when they get off. This is the future of ecotourism.”

Guests on the sub’s inaugural trip agreed.

“It was like being in a video game, zooming over the coral like that,” said Sandy Bottoms’ guest Paula Porgy. “We scared the crap out of a bunch of fish, and I think we bonked into a couple of divers, but what a ride!

“It was the trip of a lifetime! We saw everything!” Porgy said. “And we were back in the hot tub in time for pre-lunch margaritas. Who could ask for more?”

 

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