Monthly Archives: May 2016

Blacktip Island Boaters Launch Dive-Sharing App

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Fishing skiffs sit ready to take Blacktip Island scuba divers to dive sites Friday morning.

Starting today, Blacktip Island scuba divers wanting a ride to or from a dive site can use a boat-sharing application launched by island boat owners. The app, modeled after similar land-based services, allows individual divers to hail private boats via their dive computer.

“We’re calling it ‘UBoat,’” founder Antonio Fletcher said. “You just punch your dive computer, and a boat picks you up.

“Divers like to sleep in, you know, and maybe only do one dive,” Fletcher said. “Or go places the resort boats won’t take them.”

Eight local fishermen have signed on for the service so far, most using fishing skiffs shorter than 20 feet.

“Going out fishing anyway,” local angler Dermott Bottoms said. “Might as well make a little side cash. And divers don’t mind the lines and hooks.

“Get extra money when sharks show up, too,” Bottoms said. “So long as the divers don’t catch me chumming.”

The app has already proved a hit with the island’s scuba diving guests.

“The little boats make it an adventure,” said diver Paula Plongeur. “And you never know who your captain’ll be. There’s nothing quite like hitting the surface, tapping your computer and seeing a half-dozen skiffs racing to get to you first.

“With UBoat, we dive where we want, as deep as we want for as long as we want,” Plongeur said. “Even late-night dives, though they do charge extra for those drop offs and pick ups. Especially the pick ups.”

Dive industry insiders, however, question UBoat’s safety.

“There’s no guarantee a boat’ll be there to pick you up,” said Eagle Ray Divers operations manager Ger Latner. “Some of these clowns are even dropping off solo divers.

“Sure, it’s a lower rate and personalized service, but what’s your life worth?” Latner said. “And you really want ‘Tonio or Dermott picking you up in the afternoon after they’ve been drinking all morning? Or worse, sleeping through the pick-up call?”

UBoat drivers were quick to defend the service.

“Tourists want to give me money for a boat ride, all right then,” Bottoms said. “Divers get on my boat ‘cause they want to, you know.

“They got a c-card and say they’re meeting a buddy on the reef, who am I to say they’re lying,” Bottoms added. “Not illegal. No one can tell me how I can make money.”

Divers defended the service as well.

“We see it as a kind of dive insurance,” Plongeur said. “People will fight to pick us up, even if a charter boat leaves us behind. Plus, Dermott lets us drink beer on the way to and from.”

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Guano Crayon Factory Solves Blacktip Island’s Health Woes

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A batch of giant crayons sits ready for export at Diddley’s Landing public pier on Blacktip Island. The crayons, made from reclaimed booby bird guano, have boosted the island’s economy and eliminated a public heath crisis.

Blacktip Island government and business leaders teamed up this week to solve an island public health concern and calm unemployment worries by opening a factory to make wax markers from booby bird guano.

“Droppings from all these birds was a making folks sick,” said public health chief Herring Frye. “It dries into dust, then the wind blows it everywhere. Folks all over the island were hacking and coughing and whatnot.

“We collected a bunch of it, it was too expensive to ship off island,” Frye said. “And the reef huggers wouldn’t let us chuck it in the sea. That’s when ol’ Doc stepped in and saved our bacon.”

Island entrepreneur Piers “Doc” Plank had recently patented a process that turned bird waste into multi-colored wax.

“It started as a gimmick to sell for writing underwater,” Plank said. “When I saw the mountain of bird poop Herry’d collected, well, the light bulb went off. What do you do with a giant pile of poo? Turn it into crayons, of course.

“Island unemployment dropped to zero when we hired staff for processing, distribution and sales,” Plank said. “And there’s a whole lot less wheezing now, too.”

Plank noted the facility manufactures markers of all sizes for a variety of uses.

“We started with industrial-sized ones to use for striping the road and landing strip,” Plank said. “They’re even coloring navigational beacons with them. The wax is brighter than paint, and holds its color longer.

“Of course, we also make the standard-sized crayons you’d expect, for underwater slates and kids’ coloring,” Plank said. “We’re marketing those as ‘Poopons.’”

Many islanders have embraced the markers.

“It’s kind of nasty, using crayons made from bird poop,” said local Olive Beaugregory. “But Doc’s factory separates outs the impurities. They don’t smell much, I’ve never seen such vivid colors, and knowing they’re made from poop keeps the kiddos from eating them. Well, most of the kiddos.”

Not all residents are happy with the factory, though.

“When the wind’s from the east, you’d think something died over there,” said Palometa Fischer, who lives next door. “Our eyes water, and the dogs have a nasty cough now. Mr. Plank did give the kids free crayons, though, so we make the best of it.”

Other locals are concerned the manufacturing masks a more sinister product.

“One of the little-known byproducts of Doc’s ‘cleaning’ process is trinitrotoluene,” said island political activist Harry Pickett. “You think it’s a coincidence those big markers look like warheads? TNT on Blacktip Island’s a disaster waiting to happen.”

Officials denied the claim.

“All this missile talk is pure crap,” Frye said. “We’d only use crayons for defensive purposes.”

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Blessing of the Regulators Returns To Blacktip Island

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Scuba diving regulators of all types and ages will be prayed for at Blacktip Island’s Blessing of the Regulators Sunday. (photo courtesy of Jerrod Ephesians)

The Our Lady of Blacktip cathedral will host the Caribbean island’s annual Blessing of the Regulators Sunday morning, safeguarding scuba divers and their equipment for the busy summer diving season.

“It’s a non-denominational ceremony open to all divers, regardless of religious beliefs, or lack thereof,” said the former-Reverend Jerrod Ephesians. “We do it on behalf of St. Dervil, Blacktip Island’s patron saint, who blessed the island’s first divers back in the 1550s.

“The ceremony’s totally inclusive,” Ephesians said. “We welcome single- and double-hose regs as well as rebreathers, Spare Airs and even snorkels.”

As ever, local divers are excited about the ceremony.

“I trust my training and all, but I’ll take any backup I can get,” said Eagle Ray Divers divemaster Alison Diesel. “‘God’s my alternate air source,’ you know? Whichever god’ll listen.

“Using Dervil’s original Canticle for Regultors is what makes the Blessing stick,” Diesel said. “The whole ‘Bless me that I may not so much breathe, as to continue to breathe’ thing. And sprinkling us with rum.”

Others questioned the ceremony’s efficacy.

“There’s no proven cause-and-effect relationship between praying over your regulator and diving safely,” said long-time resident B.C. Flote. “Folks want this superstitious shtick, let ‘em do it on their own time. This’s a religious ceremony and the bars can’t open until it’s over.”

Church officials take a pragmatic view of the service.

“Hand of the Divine or self-fulfilling belief, it amounts to the same thing,” Ephesians said. “We administer the Blessing. People have safe dives. Boom. Done.

“We ran a couple of double-blind test Blessings a few years back, but the results were inconclusive,” Ephesians said. “It’s metaphorical, anyway. The Blessing covers not just regs, but all scuba gear. Except dive knives. That’d be inappropriate, since Dervil was hacked to death by Norse raiders.”

Island business leaders have embraced the Blessing for more secular reasons.

“The resort’s chock-a-block full this weekend, and we’re selling Blessing t-shirts like crazy,” Eagle Ray Cove owner Rich Skerritt said. “Mumbo jumbo or not, it fills our bank account every year. That’s a result you can measure.”

The Blessing will be administered en masse rather than individually to avoid the scuffles that marred last year’s ceremony.

“There was a rumor the regs that got blessed first got more oomph than the later ones,” Ephesians said. “Next thing we knew, divers at the back of the line were about killing each other to get to the front. We had to replace a bunch of pews and three stained-glass windows.”

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Blacktip Island Braces For Booby Days

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The dried surface of Blacktip Island’s booby pond will be the site of Sunday’s Booby Days race celebrating the Caribbean island’s resident booby bird population. (photo courtesy of Sula Beakins)

The first weekend in May brings the annual Booby Days to Blacktip Island, celebrating the island’s most numerous and most popular residents, the goofy-footed booby birds.

“People come from all around the globe to see these birds,” said Sula Beakins, Blacktip Booby Benevolence League president. “They’re Blacktip Island’s life blood.

“There’s only about 100 people here, but there’s thousands of boobies,” Beakins said. “There was even a push a few years back to rename Blacktip ‘Booby Island,’ but the island council thought that’d give potential visitors the wrong impression.”

As ever, the weekend’s highlight will be Sunday’s race across the island’s dried central pond, to the booby rookery and back again.

“It’s tougher than it looks, and dangerous,” said 2015 winner Edwin Chub. “That mud’s a dried crust on top of sharp ironshore. It looks flat, but there’s all kinds of cavities and crevasses underneath.

“We race in the traditional manner, with tennis rackets strapped to our feet,” Chub said. “We also have to fight our way through a line of folks dressed as frigate birds. It’s a bit like ‘sharks and minnows,’ just stinkier.”

“The nesting boobies’ll peck king hell out of racers on the other side,” Beakins said. “But that’s added incentive to hightail it back.”

Public health officials require all participants to wear full-face respirators to guard against inhaling any dried booby pond dust.

“In the rainy season that pond’s liquid, but there’s damn-little water in it,” said Public Health Director Stoney MacAdam. “That’s generations of dried-up rotted vegetation, dead fish and bird poop. There’s diseases out there that don’t have names yet.”

Participants are also required to tie a long rope to their waist to facilitate body recovery should they fall.

“You go down out there, you’re history,” MacAdam said. “And ain’t no one going out to get you.”

Other weekend activities include a mackerel rundown cook off, a booby-petting booth for children and the ever-popular soused herring-eating contest.

“We serve up raw herring, just like a booby would eat it, but with diced onions,” Beakins said. “Whoever eats the most in a minute, keeps it down for five minutes and hasn’t got food poisoning in four hours wins the coveted Booby Prize.”

The celebration is sponsored by the Centers for Disease Control.

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