Management, Labor Unite For Divemaster Rehab Center

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The Blacktip Association for Re-envisioned Futures divemaster rehabilitation center will be built on landfill wetland on the Caribbean island’s east coast. The center will provide counseling and job training for injured dive staff. (Photo courtesy of Finn Kiick)

In a rare show of unity between business leaders and labor activists, Blacktip Island resort owners have partnered with Divemasters’ Local #138 to build a rehabilitation and job-training center for incapacitated divemasters.

Groundbreaking for the Blacktip Association for Re-envisioned Futures will begin Saturday morning with island mayor Jack Cobia and other dignitaries ceremoniously blasting out the first chunk of ironshore.

“Guests don’t realize the career-ending injuries dive staff can get,” union president Finn Kiick said. “Decompression sickness isn’t even in the top five. The real monsters are blown out backs, shredded elbows and anger-control meltdowns on the boat.

“It’s even gnarlier because a ton of DMs are in their 30s when they have to retire,” Kiick said. “Some don’t know how to do anything else. It’s a bumpy transition into the adult world. This center’ll help with that.”

BARF backers outlined its rigorous rehabilitation schedule.

“They’ll get daily physical therapy and occupational training,” said Eagle Ray Cove owner and center financier Rich Skerritt. “The first few weeks they’ll learn how to wear collared shirts. Then they’ll work up to going a full day in shoes.

“Psych counseling’s big, too,” Skerritt said. “Especially for the ones who teed-off on guests. We address head-on the main question lots of these scuba hippies have: ‘if I’m not a divemaster, what am I?’”

Not all locals are sympathetic.

“It means more employment for the island, certainly, but is the expense really necessary?” said longtime resident Frank Maples. “These young people don’t need training and counseling, they simply need to grow up and get a proper job. A divemaster’s much like a municipal bond – when it turns 30 it ought to mature and earn some money.”

Others, though, were enthusiastic about the center’s plan for long-term divemaster care.

“One wing will be housing for dive staff who are . . . well . . . a bit longer in the tooth than is ideal,” counselor Peachy Bottoms said. “Some have been divemasters so long, they’ll never be able to integrate back into in the real world. And there’s no way we can, in conscience, turn them loose on an unsuspecting population.

“Most divemasters take it quite hard when they realize it’s time to hang it up,” Bottoms said. “For some it’s when joints hurt too much. Or when the hangovers get unbearable. Or when the younger dive guests start treating them like a pervy uncle.”

BARF officials touted the center’s long-term residency program.

“It’s rare for a divemaster to save much money. Any money, really,” Skerritt said. “We can’t have a bunch of bums wandering the island. If they’re here, we can keep an eye on them. And we’ll keep them here with housing, meals and a generous bar tab at subsidized rates. The Divemasters’ Union’s picking up the tab.

“We’ll have the usual retiree activities,” Skerritt said. “Shuffleboard, movie nights, drinking contests, the whole shebang.”

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