Monthly Archives: May 2015

Blacktip Island Dive Operators Welcome Emotional Support Animals

Blacktip Island scuba resorts now allow emotional support animals, such as these sandwich terns, to dive with their people.

Blacktip Island scuba resorts now allow emotional support animals, such as these sandwich terns, to dive with their people.

With the growing popularity of emotional support animals, dive operations on Blacktip Island are refitting their dive boats to accommodate scuba diving guests’ companion animals.

“Places have been allowing emotional support dogs and cats for years,” said Sandy Bottoms Beach Resort owner Sandy Bottoms. “After a bunch of guest complaints, we decided to try that with diving.

“We rigged our Titan Eos with special seats and lavatory facilities to see how it’d go,” Bottoms said. “It worked so well, we rigged the Titan Ganymede and Titan Uranus too. Nothing’s too good for our emotionally unstable guests.”

Other island resorts quickly followed suit.

“So long as the diver has proper documentation for their support animal, they’re welcome on our boats,” Eagle Ray Divers operations manager Ger Latner said. “We also rent water-tight Plexiglas crates with pony bottles for folks who want to take their animals on the dive with them. I mean, underwater’s where a lot of our guests need the most emotional support.

“We can accommodate anything up to and including a small pot-bellied pig,” Latner said. “Any bigger, the crate’s buoyancy gets to be an issue.”

Blacktip Island’s divers welcomed the change.

“It’s wonderful to take Frumpy with me and not leave him in the room by himself half the day,” scuba diver Suzy Souccup said, stroking her 12-foot Burmese python. “He and I are both calmer during the dives, though several guests were put off when he decided to explore the boat on his own during our surface interval.”

The island’s dive staffs are not as enthusiastic.

“Underwater’s not the best place for topside animals,” Eagle Ray Divers divemaster Marina DeLow said. “We had a badger go ballistic on a dive last week. Things were fine until we hit 30 feet, then all hell broke loose.

“We had to evac the badger to the surface without a safety stop, then spent an hour getting it calmed down enough for us to open its crate,” DeLow said. “We ended up having to cut back on air until it passed out.”

Other resorts are offering training to avoid underwater mishaps.

“We’ve started NAUI and PADI Emotional Support Animal specialty courses,” Blacktip Haven resort owner Elena Haven said. “At a minimum, we require support animals to do an orientation dive in our pool before boarding our boat.”

Experts emphasized the need for good judgment in choosing an animal to dive with.

“We had a woman with an emotional support squirrelfish yesterday,” DeLow said. “It wasn’t two minutes into the dive a Nassau grouper hit it, bam, duck on a June bug. A doc onboard guessed it set her therapy back six years.”

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Blacktip Island Divemaster Invents Spray-On Wetsuit

Blacktip Island divemaster Alison Diesel’s Can-O-Prene wetsuit substitute has divided the small Caribbean island’s scuba diving community.

Blacktip Island divemaster Alison Diesel’s Can-O-Prene wetsuit substitute has divided the small Caribbean island’s scuba diving community.

A spray-on neoprene substitute invented by a Blacktip Island divemaster has many in the dive industry questioning the future of rubber-based wetsuits.

The brainchild of Eagle Ray Divers divemaster Alison Diesel, Can-O-Prene is applied in layers immediately before a dive.

“Guests always ask how thick a wetsuit they need,” Diesel said. “We can’t tell them. Some people get cold easier than others. With Can-O-Prene, though, they can tweak their thermal protection. The more layers you spray on, the toastier you stay. Then at the end of the day, you just peel it off.

“Plus, we ditched all the polymers and acetylene and metal oxides,” Diesel said. “It’s made from soy and seaweed, so it’s enviro-friendly.”

Diesel teamed up with island entrepreneur Piers “Doc” Plank, owner of the Bamboo You line of scuba gear, to manufacture and market Can-O-Prene.

“Alison had the vision and the biochemical know how,” Plank said. “When she approached us about handling the business end of things, we jumped at the chance. This could revolutionize the dive industry.

“Not only is it all natural, it also takes up minimal space in luggage,” Plank said. “Instead of hauling down a heavy wetsuit, imagine tossing a can of air freshener in your bag. That’s all the room Can-O-Prene takes, and one can’ll get you through a week of Caribbean diving.”

Scuba divers who tested the product were impressed.

“It’s like getting a custom drysuit without the custom price,” Eagle Ray Divers divemaster Gage Hoase said. “I mean, it’s just fwoosh and I got a 5/3 suit in minutes.”

Critics, however, questioned Can-O-Prene’s environmental soundness.

“If it comes out of a can, it’s not all natural,” local activist Harry Pickett said. “We have no idea what makes that goop foam like that, or what sort of toxins it’s releasing onto the reef.”

Medical experts worried the product’s potential health risks.

“Without knowing its exact chemical makeup, we don’t know what agents are leaching into divers’ skin,” said island doctor Azul Tang. “At least with vulcanized polychloroprene we know what we’re dealing with.”

Plank and Diesel were quick to allay those concerns.

“Is Can-O-Prene perfect? No,” Plank said. “Frankly, you smell kind of like a dried herring after the third or fourth dive day. We’re working on that. But it’s better than wrapping yourself in fake rubber.”

“It’s biodegradable, latex free, gluten free and dolphin safe,” Diesel added. “You could eat it after you peel it off. Unless you’re one of those grotty divers who to pee in their wetsuit.”

Neither Diesel nor Plank would comment on rumors Can-O-Prene will also be sold in adult novelty stores.


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Blacktip Island Domino Players Form Regional Think Tank

Blacktip Island’s domino aficionados have created a nonpartisan policy institute to address important issues impacting the region.

Blacktip Island’s domino aficionados have created a nonpartisan policy institute to address important issues impacting the region.

A group of Blacktip Island’s domino enthusiasts have filed articles of incorporation to become the Tiperon Islands’ first nonprofit, nongovernmental policy institute.

The Council for Regional Atmospheric Policy draws on a cross section of Blacktip Island society and will focus on economics, energy, social policy and fashion.

“Folks think we just sit around drinking beer and playing dominoes, you know” Council co-founder Antonio Fletcher said. “But we talk about the news of the day, too. We figure we come up with answers for most every crisis in the Caribbean since 2004. Maybe even 2003.

“It’s really a formality,” Fletcher said. “We already solve the world’s problems each day. This gets us legal recognition, though. And funding.”

The Council is financed by Sandy Bottoms Liquor Store and proceeds from local domino tournaments. Members meet daily in a storage unit behind the liquor store.

Island leaders praised the group’s effectiveness.

“They’ve addressed Blacktip’s sustainability in terms of water conservation, green electricity production and repurposing items from the dump,” island mayor Jack Cobia said. “They also had the idea to put the big recycling barrel next to their domino table for all the bottle and cans.

“Now, we haven’t implemented any of their plans, except the recycling bin, but the results have been impressive,” Cobia said.

The Council’s critics were less enthusiastic.

“A bunch of drunks talking out their backsides isn’t a think tank,” Club Scuba Doo owner Nelson Pilchard said. “By that logic, the Last Ballyhoo bar’s a policy institute, too. And nonprofit? They make out like bandits with free beer.”

Council members were quick to defend the organization.

“I guarantee we don’t turn a profit,” Council member Dermott Bottoms said. “I mean, just look at us.”

“Sandy’s folks do provide the beer,” Fletcher said. “They deliver the cans right out to us, but that’s mostly so we don’t wander in and scare off customers. Couple of members aren’t allowed within 100 yards of the store, too.”

Fletcher said the Council is currently focused on immigration reform and its effects on regional culture, a study he says is facilitated by the dominoes themselves.

“You slap dominoes down long enough, ideas jump up at you,” Fletcher said. “We’ve had some of our best brainstorms at the end of playing all day and half the night. Right before you pass out, things fall into place like, well, like dominoes.”

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Public Transport Comes To Blacktip Island

One of Blacktip Island’s new Sail-n-Rail carriages makes its way across the Caribbean island’s West Sound, bypassing the island’s overcrowded roadway.

One of Blacktip Island’s new Sail-n-Rail carriages makes its way across the Caribbean island’s West Sound, bypassing the island’s overcrowded roadway.

Blacktip Island’s commuters have a new transit option after the Department of Transportation launched its Sail-n-Rail network along the Caribbean island’s west coast Friday.

Dubbed the ‘Manta Rail’ by island residents, the system relies on ultra-light rail coupled with small sailing vessels to bypass the island’s crowded roadway.

“It’s this population boom that’s made it necessary,” island mayor Jack Cobia said. “We have over 100 people living here now, and every one of them has a car or a scooter or a bicycle.

“Our infrastructure’s just not built for that,” Cobia said. “There’s complete gridlock during the high travel periods.”

“That road’s a parking lot during morning and afternoon rush hours,” Department of Transportation director Dusty Rhodes said. “And every night after the bars close.

“Our solution was to run a Hobie on bamboo rails down to West Sound, where the boat pops loose and sails across the lagoon to a railhead on the other side,” Rhodes said. “It’s simple, locally sourced and energy efficient.”

Local reaction to the system has been positive.

“With gas as expensive as it is, this is a great way to lessen our carbon footprint,” divemaster Marina DeLow said. “It’s nice not to have to dig my scooter out of the bushes every Saturday morning after Karaoke Friday, too.”

Island emergency responders praised the new line’s public safety benefits.

“We don’t have the manpower to fish all these single-car wrecks out of the booby pond each morning,” Island Police Constable Rafe Marquette said. “And I can only write up so many DUIs. I’m running out of forms.”

The Department of Transportation’s Rhodes said late-night service was incorporated early in the planning stages.

“We can lay five, maybe six drunks side-by-side, depending on how big they are, and deliver them across the sound slick as snot. These boats damn-near sail themselves.”

The government is offsetting the system’s cost by incorporating snorkeling tours into the sailing portion of the route.

“We rigged the boats with lines off their sterns for snorkelers to hang onto,” Rhodes said. “They look at fish as they drift past, and we charge them for snorkeling.

“The trick’s getting folks to let go before the rail car clamps onto the hulls on the other side,” Rhodes said. “We had a couple of bad draggings, but we’re working out the kinks.”

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Blacktip Island Resort To Charge Per Fish Seen

Spotting a stingray just got more expensive with Eagle Ray Divers' new pay-per-fish pricing.

Spotting a stingray just got more expensive with Eagle Ray Divers’ new pay-per-fish pricing.

Blacktip Island’s Eagle Ray Divers has launched a new dive pricing model designed to aid the Caribbean island’s marine laboratory’s fish population studies.

“Historically, reef fish surveys have been sporadic and of questionable reliability,” Blacktip Aquatic Research Station director Olive Beaugregory said. “The program we worked out with ERD will give us daily, accurate population counts from the island’s most-dived sites.”

“We’re charging divers by how many fish they see,” Eagle Ray Divers operations manager Ger Latner said. “Our divemasters have charts with check boxes to debrief dive guests as soon as they climb back on the boats.

“It’s a set fee per fish, with a sliding scale according to species,” Latner said. “We charge more for the good stuff. You see a parrotfish? That’s $1. A stingray’s $5. A green moray’s $7.50. You see a whale shark? Open up your wallet.”

The model’s creators assured scuba diving guests the plan isn’t as radical as it sounds.

“We’ve simply unbundled the dive experience,” Eagle Ray Cove resort owner Rich Skerritt said. “Divers who kneel in the sand and watch jawfish are a lot less work for our divemasters than yahoos who motor across three dive sites trying to see everything. It’s a safety issue.

“We’re happy to give the research station the data it needs,” Skerritt said. “And if we happen to increase our profit margin in the process, well, that can’t be helped.”

The Eagle Ray Divers staff say the new pricing has already made their jobs easier.

“It’s cut down the posers who come up claiming they saw seahorses, frogfish and nudibranchs,” Eagle Ray Divers divemaster Gage Hoase said. “They don’t make that B.S. up if they know it’ll cost them, and we don’t have to deal with the rest of the divers hacked off because they think we didn’t show them something.”

Dive guests were less enthusiastic.

“When they told me there’s a dollar sign on each fish, I told them I didn’t see a damn thing,” Eagle Ray Divers guest Al Flagg said. “Can I help it if my mask was fogged, you know what I mean?”

Eagle Ray Cove’s Skerritt wasn’t concerned about possible loopholes.

“Some smart-ass says he saw nothing, we’ll charge him whatever we charge the top spotter on that dive,” Skerritt said.

“We’re also kicking around a complainer surcharge,” Latner said. “You come back carping about a bad dive when everyone else loved it, we’ll slap a reef shark or two on your bill.”

Neither Skerritt nor Latner would comment on reports Eagle Ray Divers had cancelled charters by several blind dive clubs.

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Filed under Caribbean, Scuba Diving