Monthly Archives: February 2016

Blacktip Island Divemasters Develop Hoseless Regulator


The prototype of the “L’Air de la Mer” hoseless regulator, showing its patented triple bamboo oxygen separator units. (photo courtesy Marina DeLow)


In what is believed to be a scuba industry first, three Blacktip Island divemasters announced Thursday they have developed a working prototype of a hoseless regulator.

The device works by separating seawater’s oxygen atoms from the larger hydrogen atoms and salt molecules to create a constant supply of breathable air, the regulator’s creators said, and allowing its users to dive without the need of a scuba cylinder.

“A hoseless reg’s been an ongoing joke for years,” said divemaster Marina DeLow, one of the creators. “Then one night after the Ballyhoo closed, the physics of how to make it work just popped.

“We spent the next couple weeks working out the mechanics and building a working model,” DeLow said. “We used old second-stage regs, bamboo tubing and refrigerator water filters, mostly. It’s pretty technical.”

The team has tentatively dubbed the device the “L’Air de la Mer.”

“The Cousteau suits are all up in our business over the name,” co-creator Finn Kiick said. “But that’ll sort itself out. If not, well, you can’t buy advertising like that.”

Though the current prototype is limited in scope, its designers say they plan to produce freshwater versions, Nitrox versions, and a version suitable for technical diving.

“It’s rough looking, but it works,” said Gage Hoase, the team’s third member. “For now the L’AM’ll only convert water into pure O2, so we can’t go below 20 feet. But we got plans to rig one with an oxystat that’ll let you dial in whatever O2 percentage you need.

“On deeper tech dives you’ll be able to crank the O2 down as you descend, then turn it back up as you decompress,” Hoase said. “No more being weighed down with doubles and side mounts and pony bottles.”

The device is not without its skeptics.

“A bunch of drunk scuba bums cooked up The Holy Grail of scuba after a night at the bar, then got rat-faced again while they built the gizmo?” said local scuba enthusiast Barry Bottoms. “That’s not a breakthrough. That’s an accident waiting to happen.

“They say they have a specialty course in the works, too,” Bottoms said. “What’re they gonna call it, ‘Dumb-Ass Diver?’ ‘Dead Diver?’”

Local entrepreneurs, though, are eager to back the project.

“Assuming the L’AM tests to specs, we’re gonna handle the manufacturing and marketing,” said Piers ‘Doc’ Plank, owner of the island-based organic scuba outfitter Bamboo You. “Making this out of locally-sourced, renewable bamboo’ll be boon for the economy, too.

“This’ll be a top of the line reg, and eco-friendly, what with the bamboo O2 filters. This thing could sell better than our Nitrox snorkels.”

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Blacktip Island Fire Department Burns To The Ground


A bottle of Dermott Bottoms’ highly-distilled coconut liquor is suspected of starting the catastrophic fire that destroyed Blacktip Island’s fire station and pickup truck.


The Blacktip Island fire station burned to the ground early Thursday morning in circumstances authorities have described as suspicious.

“There was nothing in that pole barn that would’ve caught fire on its own,” Island Police Constable Rafe Marquette said. “Not even the fire truck. The question’s whether someone started the fire on purpose or by accident.

“All we know for certain is the fire department was alerted at 2:15 A.M., and he responded within minutes,” Marquette said. “Smokey gave it all he had with a garden hose, but that wood siding burned fast. It’s been so dry lately.”

A fire department spokesperson denied rumors the fire was the fault of a disgruntled firefighter.

“I was down at the Last Ballyhoo when the call came in,” Fire Chief Smokey Blaise said. “And I was there all evening. I got the blood test to prove that.”

Blaise’s story was corroborated by many locals, who believe the fire was started inadvertently.

“Dermott Bottoms just did cook up a batch of his coconut hootch,” Blacktip resident Rocky Shore said. “That stuff’s closer to jet fuel than it is to liquor, and the usual crew was pounding it down and smoking and playing dominoes on the picnic table out back of the fire station all night.

“Ol’ Dermott’s been threatening to light his hootch-fueled intestinal gas for years,” Shore said. “You think it’s coincidence he’s been on his stomach in the clinic ever since? And that Rafe can’t question him because every time he tries, Rafe busts out laughing so hard he can’t talk?”

Island property owners, however, are more concerned about the safety of the island’s other structures.

“With the fire truck burned up, what happens if one of our homes catches fire?” local businessman Ham Pilchard said. “This is a serious failure that puts us all in jeopardy. Smokey riding around on his bike with buckets of water hanging from the handlebars just doesn’t cut it.”

Island mayor Jack Cobia was quick to reassure residents.

“Our public services are more than adequate to protect the community,” Cobia said. “And end of the day, Blacktip’s a small island, surrounded by water. There’s only so much that can burn, and so far it can burn.

“This fire was on the west coast, by Diddley’s Landing cement pier, with a strong east wind,” Cobia said. “It burned itself out pretty quick. Yeah, the concrete got a little scorched, but nothing that’ll stop supplies form coming in.”

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Fish ID Invitational Returns To Blacktip Island

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The discovery of a rare scratcher wrasse was the highlight of the last Blacktip Island Invitational Fish Identification Tournament. (Photo courtesy of Lonnie Huffman)


The Society to Protect Aquatic Wildlife Now’s 43rd Fish Identification Invitational Tournament returns to Blacktip Island this Saturday and Sunday after a two-year hiatus.

“We got blackballed three years ago after the culling fiasco,” island mayor Jack Cobia said. “No one told us an island-wide lionfish hunt was going on that same day.

“The counts were horrible, and five, six competitors got speared by over-aggressive cullers,” Cobia said. “There were reports of non-lionfish getting culled, too. SPAWN banned IDing here until we could get that situation under control.”

Tournament organizers are excited to be back on Blacktip.

“Blacktip Island’s one of the region’s premier competitive fish ID spots,” said SPAWN president Olive Beaugregory. “The marine parks ensure great species diversity, and the Central Caribbean Drift goes right past here, bringing nutrients and exotic species.

“We’ve found gassy basslets, jack blennys, even a scratcher wrasse here,” Beaugregory said. “We’ve been itching to bring this tournament back to these reefs, so long as we can do that safely.”

As ever, participation in the tournament is restricted to fish identifiers who have won or placed in previous regional tournaments this fish ID season.

Among the competitors are points leader Bess Porgy, defending champion Laika Sturgeon, and local IDing phenom Ginger Bass, who’s having a stand-out sophomore year in the pros.

“Competitive IDing’s a fish-eat-fish world,” Bass said. “Sure, Blacktip’s my home turf, but I’ll still have one eye on the fish and the other behind my back.”

Teams of two SPAWN-certified judges will accompany each competitor to verify findings and to deter the unsportsmanlike behavior that has crept into the sport recently.

“Used to be, you’d stick canned tuna in your competitor’s BCD pocket, or rub them down with squid juice,” Beaugregory said. “Then last year in Belize it escalated to clipping mini chumsicles on your competitors to draw sharks. This year our people will make sure nothing fishy happens.

“Two judges per IDer means one can come up to swap out an air tank while the other keeps watch,” Beaugregory said. “And we’ll be patting down all the divers each morning, whether they like it or not. Most do.”

The tournament winner will receive the coveted Golden Coney trophy, $1,000 and a 10-point bump league standings.

Other tournament-related activities include a fish fry, and underwater chili cook off, a children’s Go Fish card tournament and free screenings of the 1960s Hollywood classics “Hello Down There” and “The Incredible Mr. Limpet.”


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Reality Television Show Focuses On Blacktip Island


Gossiping, shown on a fresco at the Our Lady of Blacktip cathedral, has been a popular Blacktip Island pastime for centuries. A televised reality series will focus on the island’s gossip mongers this spring.


Blacktip Island residents will be the subjects of a new reality television show premiering Saturday on the Hallmark Channel.

The show’s producer said the idea for the show came to her during a recent holiday on the small Caribbean island.

“I’d be at the bar after a day of diving, and all the locals wanted to do was dish dirt behind each others’ backs,” executive producer Catalina Luxfer said. “You can’t make this stuff up. We tried. It was nowhere near as entertaining as real-life Blacktip Island. The show writes itself.”

Luxfer said the island’s unique population keeps production costs at a minimum.

“We don’t have to coach the actors or provide scripts,” Luxfer said. “Our only staff’s a couple of camera people. Well, and a stable of editors to censor all the obscenity and profanity. We’re definitely editor heavy on this one.”

The show is titled “Well, I Heard,” after the most-commonly used phrase during early filming.

The inaugural episode centers on the fallout from Eagle Ray Cove managers Mickey and Kitty Smarr’s marital dysfunction.

“They’re quite keen about showing Kitty sleeping around behind Mickey’s back. Again,” said Eagle Ray Cove divemaster Lee Helm. “That’s old news, but I reckon the viewers don’t know that.”

Other locals say later episodes will draw a larger audience.

“It’ll be way better when they zoom in on dive staff,” said Alison Diesel, also an Eagle Ray Cove divemaster. “You know how it is on this little rock. You sneeze down at the Ballyhoo, someone’ll say, ‘Bless you’ up at the Tailspinner before you can wipe your nose.”

Not all Blacktip residents are happy with the notoriety the show has brought.

“This makes us all seem mean spirited,” the former Reverend Jerrod Ephesians said. “Only some of us are that way. Some of the time. I mean, sure, people stir the fecal matter, but Blacktip’s a small island. That’s just how people here interact.”

Blacktip Island’s Chamber of Commerce, meanwhile, praised the show’s effect on local businesses.

“They say overnight stays are up 23 percent from this time last year,” chamber president Sandy Bottoms said. “So are dive bookings, souvenir sales and bar tabs.

“That feeds on itself,” Bottoms said. “We give away free drinks when we hears they’ll be filming at our resort. The more booze people drink, the better the show is, the more tourists come down. Or so I’ve heard.”

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