Monthly Archives: May 2014

Underwater Opera Debuts on Blacktip Island

Hand-crafted costumes for “Nudibranch: The Operetta.”

Hand-crafted costumes for ‘Nudibranch: The Operetta.’

The Blacktip Island Community Players kick off their summer musical series Saturday with ‘Nudibranch: The Operatta,’ written by local divemasters and performed entirely underwater.

Plexiglas helmets will provide the airspace for actors to sing.

“We wanted something colorful and festive to celebrate summer,” musical director Doris Blenny said. “And what’s more festive than multicolored sea slugs?

“I’m continually astounded by the operatic and dramatic talent among dive staffs on this little island. We’re fast becoming the La Scala of the Caribbean.”

Original songs include:

  • Slime Trails in the Moonlight
  • Gastropod Gurls
  • Cerata, Cerata
  • Tough Enough For A Butt-Tuft
  • Sea Goddess in the Sand
  • I’m a Slight, Bright, Undersea Hermaphrodite
  • Three Nudibranchs on the Reef Are We

“The idea was to perform open-air,” Blenny said. “But then we thought, what better stage for sea slug-themed light opera than the reef itself?”

“Underwater is the proper setting,” co-writer and mezzo-soprano Catarina Porto said. “The water slows our movements and makes us more slug-like. The realism is uncanny.”

“It cuts down on drunks crashing the show, too,” said co-writer and contralto Alison Diesel. “That’s what ruined last year’s ‘Pirates of Penzance.’ I mean, it added realism and all, but it wasn’t right.”

“All the actors created their own costumes from locally-sourced materials,” costume master and tenor Payne Hanover said. “Some are coming up with colors and tuft configurations I honestly don’t think exist in nature. But that’s where art stops imitating life, I suppose, and we’re all about that.”

Limited kneeling will be available in the island’s underwater theater. Overflow seating and a live transmission will be available at the Sand Spit bar.

“The trick was finding a time when there was no hockey, basketball, baseball, rugby, soccer or cricket being broadcast,” Sand Spit bartender Corrie Anders said. “We tried to show the fall musical on a Saturday afternoon last year and a bunch of West Virginia University football fans about tore the place apart.”

Proceeds from the production will go to the Offenbach Scholarship for island divemasters bound for the Juilliard School.

Leave a comment

Filed under Caribbean, Scuba Diving

Sandy Bottoms to Host Divemaster Decathlon

Scuba cylinders at Sandy Bottoms’ Beach Resort stand ready for this weekend’s Divemaster Decathlon sponsored by Assmonkey Ale.

Scuba cylinders at Sandy Bottoms’ Beach Resort stand ready for this weekend’s Divemaster Decathlon sponsored by Assmonkey Ale.

Blacktip Island’s top divemasters will converge on Sandy Bottoms’ Beach Resort this weekend for the Assmonkey Ale Divemaster Decathalon. The winner will go on to compete in the Caribbean Regional in July.

“We’ve been training like scalded rats,” Eagle Ray Divers divemaster Gage Hoase said. “Marina, there, can swap over six fill-whips in five seconds flat.”

“The dark horses are the DMs from Blacktip Haven,” divemaster Marina DeLow said. “They’re cagey, they’re wiry and, with the resort sequestered in the interior as it is, we’ve no idea what sort of training regimen they’re using or what times they’re recording.”

As per the International Divemaster Decathlon rules, half the events will be conducted on a rocking dive boat moored offshore and half on the resort’s pier.

On-boat events include:

  • switching three Zeagle BCDs with 20 pounds of integrated weights from one cylinder to another,
  • running a slalom course through a rack of peed-in wetsuits while carrying four dive bags,
  • fishing a hat from the water with a boat hook,
  • unclogging the boat’s marine toilet (simulated feces provided by the Peter Paul candy company), and
  • dodging a variety of weight belts and weight pouches thrown at their bare feet.

Dockside events include:

  • filling one round of scuba cylinders and switching the fill whips to fresh tanks,
  • pounding 10 backed-out dock nails back into place using a scuba cylinder,
  • bandaging three toes with duct tape, and
  • answering a stupid question from a randomly-chosen dive guest.

“Last year Finn Kiick clinched the win on, ‘What does coconut rum taste like?’” Sandy Bottoms’ divemaster Joey Pompano said. “Without batting an eye, Finn said, ‘Chicken.’”

In place of the final floor exercises, each contestant will have 60 seconds to look as cool as possible. Degree of difficulty will be factored in as judges deem fit.

All competitors will be required to consume one 12-ounce beer between each event.

“Competition’s getting tougher, and younger, every year,” Eagle Ray Divers’ Hoase said. “The top scores from 10 years ago wouldn’t even qualify today. And this is just the sub-regional.”

All contestants will receive Assmonkey Ale t-shirts. Runners-up will receive a case of Assmonkey and discount coupons for back surgery and liver transplants.

1 Comment

Filed under Caribbean, Scuba Diving

Blacktip Navy Repels Cuban Invasion

Blacktip Island shore batteries fire on attacking naval vessels.

Blacktip Island shore batteries fire on attacking naval vessels.

The Blacktip Island naval militia has repelled an attempted nighttime invasion by elements of the Cuban Navy, Island officials reported Friday.

“They sent their pocket frigates in under the new moon, but we were ready,” said Jack Cobia, Scuba Tourism Director and commander of Blacktip’s defenses. “We showed them there’s more to this little island than drunks and scuba hippies.

“Fidel’s had his sights on us for a long time. We’re just a hop, skip and a jump for him.”

“It was utter chaos at sea, battling in total darkness,” said Sgt. Major (ret.) Beaugregory Damsil, captain of the island’s fleet. “Vessels from both sides were firing flare guns, launching beer bottles, swinging sticks at anything that moved. It was hand-to-hand amongst our own crews at the end. They did themselves proud.”

Some island residents questioned the official account.

“There was an offshore kerfuffle, yes, but there’s no evidence Cuba was involved,” longtime resident and de facto mayor Frank Maples said. “And with Mr. Cobia standing for mayor next month, frankly, it smacks of a political straw man.”

“They were definitely Cubans,” Sgt. Major (ret.) Damsil said. “We’re quite certain of that. Well, reasonably certain. They all spoke quite strangely, at any rate.”

The battle was clearly visible from shore.

“It was lovely, really,” Club Scuba Doo manager Polly Parrett said. “We thought it was practice for next month’s Queen’s Birthday celebration, what with the rockets and starbursts and shouting. Our guests were thrilled.”

Cuban authorities have filed an official protest, claiming Blacktip fishermen attacked several boats of refugees fleeing to Central America.

Blacktip officials cited damage to their own fleet.

“We lost some good skiffs in the battle,” Cobia said. “The upside is we gained some great new wreck dives. In the space of an evening Blacktip Island became the premier wreck diving destination in the Caribbean.

“We issued strict orders: Draw them into the shallows, don’t fire until you see the rivets on their hulls, and shoot for the waterlines. A wreck in 6,000 feet of water does no one any good. We’re not just defending the island, we’re creating jobs!”

Cobia would not comment on the exact number, or sizes, of the sunken warships, nor on the possible existence of Cuban prisoners.

Leave a comment

Filed under Caribbean, Scuba Diving

Rum and Sand Flies Fuel Seaweed Sculpting Contest

A Mount Rushmore-inspired Bangles homage in its early stages on the Eagle Ray Cove beach.

A Mount Rushmore-inspired Bangles homage in its early stages on the Eagle Ray Cove beach.

May’s southwest winds have piled turtle grass high on Blacktip Island’s western beaches, heralding the Turtle Grass Sculpting Contest at Eagle Ray Cove resort.

“The wind and the currents mound the seaweed up at The Cove like no place else on the island,” resort manager Mickey Smarr said. “There’s tons of it. Literally. Last year we hauled away 6,800 pounds in May alone.

“We decided to turn lemons into lemonade, so to speak, make it a social event for the whole community. Plus, it helps with cleanup.”

Four-person teams have half a day to create their most imaginative sculptures before the grass rots.

“You have to work it pretty quick,” sculptor Alison Diesel said. “It gets damn rank after a few hours in the sun, and they banned respirators a couple years back. And the sand flies – oi!”

Past winning entries have included a scale model of the Kremlin, a linear depiction of the Battle of Waterloo and a couchant fuzzy bunny rabbit.

This season’s entries are equally impressive.

“We’re finishing a Mount Rushmore-inspired sculpture of the Bangles,” Eagle Ray Divers divemaster Lee Helm said. “We’ve got Vicki, Debbi and Michael down brilliantly. We’re having a bugger of a time getting Susanna’s eyes and nose done proper, though. Right now she looks more like Robert De Niro.”

As with any island competition, emotions run high.

“There’s extra security on hand after last year’s seaweed fight,” Eagle Ray Cove’s Mickey Smarr said.

“Had no idea there was washed up Portuguese man-o-wars in that grass we was flinging,” sculptor Jesse Conlee said. “Hell, stung our hands, too. But no one talks about that. Just those kids got caught in the crossfire. A little rum and they were fine.”

“Rum does play a big role in the contest. No denying that,” Diesel said. “I’m not sure it’s a definite cause-and-effect thing, but the team that drinks the most while sculpting usually wins. And feels the sand flies less.”

Contest winners receive bottles of Flor de Caña rum and tubes of cortisone cream.

Losers are required to haul away the turtle grass afterwards.

All contestants receive complimentary tetanus shots.

Spectators are advised not to stand downwind of the sculpture area. Tiperon Airways is providing airsickness bags for those who ignore the warning.


Filed under Caribbean

Blacktip Derby Aims To Polish Its Tarnished Image

Krabb Kakes, the 7-5 favorite in this year’s Blacktip Land Crab Derby, in his Blacktip Downs stable.

Krabb Kakes, the 7-5 favorite in this year’s Blacktip Land Crab Derby, in his Blacktip Downs stable.

Sunday marks the 39th annual Blacktip Land Crab Derby, featuring three-year-old thoroughbred crabs from every stable on Blacktip Island as well as international crab farms.

The Derby is the final race in land crabbing’s unofficial Triple Crown.

Organizers of this year’s Run For the Sea Grapes have instituted sweeping changes to restore the race’s image, sullied in years past by allegations of crab-doping, extortion and race fixing.

“It was mooks from the big island muscling in,” Derby chairperson Ledford Waite said. “Popping crabs with phenylbutazone. Rattling trainers with vats of drawn butter.

“This year we’ve sprung for extra muscle. Banned known gamers from the venue. Upped our drug and cholesterol testing to guarantee a clean race. Takes a while to rebuild a reputation, though.”

Island police have stepped up their presence as well.

“Wagering on the Derby won’t be tolerated,” Island Police Constable Rafe Marquette said. “We’ve loads of plainclothes officers in the crowd this weekend. If you place a bet, odds are you’ll be caught.”

Off-track and internet betting has proved impossible to stamp out.

Krabb Kakes is this year’s favorite with 7-5 odds, but will face stiff competition from Scuttlebutt, winner of last month’s Breeder’s Cup, at 8-1, and Fanny Wigglesworth, the Tiperon Stakes winner, at 9-1.

As ever, each crab is required to carry a cockroach jockey affixed to its carapace.

“Last year, Up Yer Address had a record time, but was disqualified for finishing without his rider,” trainer Marina DeLow said. “We suspected foul play, but nothing could be proven. That flypaper was awfully dry, though.”

Trainers with brooms will line the racetrack to ensure all crabs stay on the course.

“Your heart races hearing the scuttle of all those exoskeleton feet on the asphalt oval,” said racing enthusiast Wendy Beaufort. “There’s no other event quite like this. Anywhere.”

A crowd of several dozen is expected to pack the infield and lawn chair seating, traditionally dressed in their finest cargo shorts and sleeved t-shirts.

“Folks dress to the nines for this,” Ledford Waite said. “It’s the first gala fête of the season. Last year some folks even showed up in shirts with collars and buttons.”

Traditional Derby mojitos will be served throughout the day.

The post-race dinner will feature a Caribbean crab rundown, crab Rangoon and fresh crab legs courtesy of the losing crabs, Waite said.

“Losers provide the food? Hell, the losers are the food.”

Leave a comment

Filed under Caribbean, Writing