Monthly Archives: April 2014

Scuba Fashion Week Comes to Blacktip Island

Designer wetsuits hang ready for Blacktip Island’s Underwater Fashion Week.

Designer wetsuits hang ready for Blacktip Island’s Underwater Fashion Week.

Underwater Fashion Week returns to Blacktip Island this weekend, with top local and international fashion designers showcasing their latest collections.

Underwater runway models have been chosen from local dive staffs following last year’s near-drownings.

“Blacktip has always been at the cutting edge of Caribbean dive fashion,” event organizer Georgio Pompano said. “This year’s designers have pushed that edge to put us at the absolute fringe of the submerged fashion map.”

“‘Retro, sassy and fun’ is the touchstone this season,” said local designer Kitty Smarr. “Your grandpa’s black is the new black. It contrasts phenomenally with our models’ sun-bleached hair”

“We’ve done some daring things with board shorts,” local designer and Sand Spit bartender Corry Anders said. “We’re using mole fur and alligator skin to enhance the sensory experience before, during and after the dive. And all our shorts are edible, of course.”

As ever, the wetsuit is at the heart of Blacktip’s sub-aquatic haute couture.

“We’ve re-imagined warmth protection to transform cliché into major pizzazz,” Pompano said. “Our suits are not your quotidian, urine-soaked farmer john-and-jackets.”

“Beaver tails are back, with a mid-60s retro vengeance,” Anders said. “And French-cut women’s shorties. It gives divers a definite ‘Dr. No’ vibe.

“Throwback dive knives are hip, too. We’ve taken the Sea Hunt-standard dive machete and updated it with a faux black coral handle, sheath and matching sunglasses.”

“The showstopper is our Chanel-inspired mid-thigh hooded vest with a chinchilla fur-rimmed hood and duct tape accents,” Pompano said. “When is a hooded vest not a hooded vest? When it expands into a hoodie-mini! Hello!”

“Makeup is the biggest challenge,” Kitty Smarr said. “All our divemaster models have brown noses and white eye sockets. We have to mask that. And the makeup has to hold up under water.

“This year we’re mixing all our bases and mascaras with a neutral-tinted axle grease to make sure they stay on during the grueling runway presentation and any backstage scuffles that may break out.”

The runway finale will be podcast live to Sand Spit bar during next Friday’s happy hour. Free hors d’oeuvres will be served.

“We’ll have all-you-can-eat popcorn and cocktail weenies,” Anders said. “Plus the full cash bar menu, of course.”

A second television will feature the first round of the NBA playoffs.

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Island Landfill Preps For Holiday Gift Dump

Blacktip Island Ecumenical Council volunteers ready the pit for Saturday’s gift return.

Blacktip Island Ecumenical Council volunteers ready the pit for Saturday’s gift return.

Blacktip Island residents have their unwanted Christmas gifts bundled for Saturday evening’s Easter Eve gift dump at the island’s landfill. The event was introduced more than two decades ago to foster goodwill among the Caribbean Island’s small population.

“Everybody gets crap they don’t want during the holidays,” said the former-Reverend Jerrod Ephesians, head of the island’s Ecumenical Council. “In the real word, you can return the stuff, sell it or just throw it away. This island’s nothing like the real world, though.

“Returns aren’t an option. If you sell or re-gift, word gets around. Throw it away? People pick through that dump all the time. That’s when things go to hell.”

“Back in ’91 or so it got so bad half the island nearly killed the other half,” longtime resident Reg Gurnard said. “I didn’t go outside until May Day.”

“Started with Dermott Bottoms giving Billy Ray a pink mermaid table lamp cut from a scuba cylinder,” Eagle Ray Divers operations manager Ger Latner said. “God-awful thing. Billy’s wife, Lucille, chucked it. Clete Horn spied it in the dump, had seen Dermott with a lamp just like it before Christmas, and tried to sell it to Dermott, thinking Dermott’d want a matching set.

“Dermott beat the tar out of Clete for thieving, then beat the tar out of Billy for being an SOB. Then Lucille beat king hell out of Dermott. Friends and family got involved, and by the end of the week the clinic was out of bandages and sutures. Had to send the Home Guard over from Tiperon to stop the feuding.”

As a solution, the island’s Ecumenical Council instituted an Easter Eve no-questions-asked, blind gift-dump.

“We dig a big pit at the edge of the landfill,” the former-Reverend Ephesians said. “As soon as it’s full dark, people are free to throw their unwanted holiday gifts in. Then, just before first light, we have blindfolded volunteers backfill the pit with bulldozers so no one ever knows what all was buried.

“It’s done in the spirit of forgiveness and atonement,” Ephesians said. “It really binds the community together. Plus, it gives folks a four-month cooling-off period to make sure they really don’t like a gift.”

“The gift dump makes Easter morning a joyous time for everyone, whether they’re religious or not,” Reg Gurnard said. “Soon as those diesel engines crank to life and dirt starts tumbling, all the guilt and remorse of the past three months just evaporates. You feel reborn.”

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Tollbooths Installed on Island Reefs

A Marine Park ranger monitors one of Blacktip Island’s new reef tollbooths.

A Marine Park ranger monitors one of Blacktip Island’s new reef tollbooths.

The Blacktip Island Marine Park Service is installing underwater tollbooths on all the Caribbean island’s scuba dive sites this week. The move is a response to dwindling public funding and increased diver impact on the island’s reefs.

“Think of it as a graduated impact fee,” Park Service spokesperson Val Schrader said.

“Instead of charging every diver a flat marine park fee, we’ll be charging based on how much of the reef they actually see.

“The old system wasn’t fair to new divers who blow through their air and surface in twenty minutes. Or to the Type B divers who stay close to the boat looking at one coral head.”

Collection boxes fashioned as oversized conch shells have been installed at all popular coral heads and swim-throughs.

“They’re big and obvious enough that divers will know what they are,” Schrader said, “but not so outlandish they detract from the diving experience.”

Divers can buy scan cards that clip onto their BCDs, and add credits in $10 increments. Alternately, divers may carry Tiperon currency to drop into collection boxes.

Divers purchasing a Park Service Reef Pass will have their dives charged directly to their hotel room or credit card at a reduced rate.

The plan’s opponents vowed to fight the tolls.

“We’ll go in from shore, on sites where there’s no collection bins,” local resident Barry Sennett said. “These reefs don’t belong to the Park Service or the government. These reefs are your reefs, these reefs are my reefs.”

Other protestors plan to take a more active approach.

“They’ll have a hard time collecting if their precious conch shells get dropped 6,000 feet down the wall,” said a local diver who wished to remain anonymous.

“We’re installing cameras,” Schrader said. “Hidden ones. To keep an eye on things. Divers caught illegally diving will be fined and have their scuba gear confiscated.”

The Park Service has also mandated all BCDs on Blacktip Island be fitted with remote inflator valves. Scuba divers not paying the tolls will have their BCDs auto-inflate them to the surface, where a red dye will be released.

“We’re definitely using shame as a deterrent,” Schrader said. “Sometimes a stiff fine just won’t do the trick.”

Snorkelers will be charged at reduced rates. Free divers will be charged according to the number of dives they do as well as the depth of each dive. Blind divers will be allowed to dive free of charge.

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Resort Owners Erect Beachfront Staff Housing

A staff housing unit nears completion on Blacktip Island’s west coast.

A staff housing unit nears completion on Blacktip Island’s west coast.

In response to Blacktip Island’s growing housing shortage, local businesses have launched an affordable housing program benefiting the Caribbean island’s scuba, housekeeping and maintenance staffs.

“Housing’s scarce on the Blacktip,” Eagle Ray Cove divemaster Lee Helm said. “And damned expensive. We’re sleeping two and three people in a one-bedroom place. Playing rock-paper-scissors for who gets the couch.”

“It’s embarrassing, our staff having to live on top of each other like that,” Sandy Bottoms Beach Resort owner Sandy Bottoms, Jr. said. “Resort guests are put off when they hear of it. It reflects badly on us.”

“We’re building lodging for every worker on the island,” Club Scuba Doo owner Nelson Pilchard said. “No one should have to share a couch. Unless they want to.”

The initiative is not without critics, though.

“It’s not about providing housing,” community activist Jerrod Ephesians said. “It’s about collecting more rent from more people. Instead of renting one place to four people, they’re now renting four places.

“The Sandy Bottoms of the island are building these places from junk,” Ephesians said. “It’s a company store-type scam, charging their own employees for glorified camping.”

“Are we building deluxe accommodations? No,” Bottoms said. “But these are dive hippies we’re talking about. Here for the adventure. They love it.”

“We’re experimenting with sustainable building materials,” Eagle Ray Cove resort owner Rich Skerritt added. “Driftwood, bamboo, palm thatching, it’s all natural. And what’s more picturesque than a thatched hut on the beach?”

“My place is nice,” Club Scuba Doo staffer Joey Pompano said. “So long as the weather’s nice, anyway.”

“These places allow our folks to save money,” Scuba Doo’s Pilchard said. “There’s no utility bills, no phone or internet fees, no overheard after rent. I should be so fortunate.”

Other locals are concerned about potential public health issues.

“These places have no garbage pickup, no sewage or septic,” island doctor Lance Tang said. “Any rain will wash their waste into the ground water. And the first big storm surge will push that waste into our back gardens.”

“What everyone’s overlooking is these places are on prime real estate – right on the water, right at the dive sites,” Sandy Bottoms said. “Dive staff can roll out of their hammocks and go straight to work. It saves them commute time and the expense of a vehicle.”

“If this works as well as we think,” Eagle Ray Cove’s Skerritt said, “we have plans for a rustic dive-in, dive-out resort built on this model.”

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