Monthly Archives: November 2016

Shark Diver Specialty Lets Blacktip Island Guests Be Sharks

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An Eagle Ray Divers Shark Diver student tries out the scuba resort’s new, life-like shark suit Thursday at Blacktip Island’s Confrontation Reef. (Photo courtesy of Albert Kok)

Blacktip Island’s Eagle Ray Divers announced Friday they will offer a new Shark Diving specialty course that will allow divers dressed as sharks to interact with feeding reef sharks.

After two pool sessions, Shark Divers will don a life-like neoprene shark costume and swim among frenzied blacktip sharks in open water.

“We’ve got to stay competitive with other scuba resorts on the island,” said Ger Latner, Eagle Ray Cove’s dive operations manager. “Sandy Bottoms and Club Scuba Doo are eating our lunch. This gives our divers something they can’t get anywhere else.

“A couple of our instructors, Marina DeLow and Alison Diesel, came up with the idea, and we let them run with it,” Latner said.

“With this course, you don’t just get to see a shark, you get to be a shark,” DeLow said. “The sideways dolphin kick’s the skill that takes the longest to learn. You have to swim on your side to make the shark’s tail go back-and-forth properly.”

“You’ve gotta certify on the mini rebreather, too,” Diesel said. “A shark leaking bubbles freaks out the real sharks and totally ruins the experience. But if you do three open water dives in the suit, you get a Shark Rebreather card, too.”

Other island resorts were critical of the course.

“Ger’s yahoos’re chumming the water, then dropping unprotected divers smack in the middle of the food chain,” Sandy Bottoms Beach Resort owner Sandy Bottoms said. “How smart is that? A real shark bites the fake shark, it’s game over. For the diver and Blacktip Island’s tourism product.”

Scuba divers, though, raved about the course.

“It really gives you a feel of what it’s like to be a shark,” Eagle Ray Divers guest Bill Fish said. “And the Junior Shark Diver certification lets the kids in on the fun, too.

“We even put little Scotty in the Shark Snorkeling class,” Fish said. “Now the whole family can come out on the boat instead of one or the other of us staying behind on shore with the little ones. And the other divers love the way Scotty’s surface thrashing attracts so many blacktips.”

Eagle Ray Divers staff stressed the course entails on more than simple recreation.

“We talk about the role sharks play in our reef ecosystem, shark behavior and shark body language,” DeLow said. “It’s so gratifying when one of our divers does the ‘friendly-approach’ fin waggle and a reef shark comes in for a snuggle.

“Of course, we had that one diver sneeze while gesture beta testing,” DeLow added. “We’re not sure what, exactly, he signaled, but it didn’t turn out well. For the diver or the shark.”

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Bonfire, Fireworks Highlight Blacktip Island Fire Department Fundraiser

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The Blacktip Island Volunteer Fire Department tests fireworks Thursday night in preparation for Saturday’s fireworks show to raise money for new firefighting equipment.

A community bonfire and fireworks display will highlight the Blacktip Island Volunteer Fire Department’s Saturday fundraiser to pay for a new fire truck and firefighting equipment.

“Our buckets are rusted out and our little Isuzu needs a new starter,” fire chief Smokey Diesel said. “And a new grill and radiator and, well, engine, after Dermott crashed it into that tree during last week’s drill.

“We’ve been making do with whatever we could scrounge,” Diesel said. “But there’s only so many scooters and milk jugs on the island. And two big guys sharing a scooter, well, it’s not the professional image we’d like.”

Many locals are eager for the event, which will also feature hot wings- and jalapeno-eating contests, coal-walking lessons and water pistol fights for island children.

“It’s always a laugh to see things burn and fly through the air and explode,” island resident Lee Helm said. “Especially if it’s for a good cause. And there’s beer served.”

Other locals were skeptical.

“There’s not that much call for a fire department on this island,” resident Frank Maples said. “It’s mostly dumpster fires. On Friday and Saturday nights. Only thing they need for that’s a garden hose.”

Government officials were noncommittal.

“We’re self sufficient here on Blacktip,” island mayor Jack Cobia said. “There’s no government funding for anything. That truck and those buckets were donations to begin with. If Smokey wants new toys, he’s welcome to raise all the money he wants.”

Firefighters hope the event sways public opinion.

“The wiener roast and bottle rocket shoot-off will raise money, sure. And it’s always good to see smiles on the kiddo’s faces,” Diesel said. “But it’ll also show folks our volunteers’ firefighting skills in action.

“It’s win-win, really,” Diesel said. “When people see how we handle a big bonfire, that builds their confidence in us. And if a stray spark starts a blaze that gets out of hand, well, then they’ll see first hand the need for a better-equipped fire department.”

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Mud-Slinging Contest Winner Will Be Blacktip Island’s Mayor

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A hastily-dug mud pit outside Blacktip Island’s Heritage House will be the site of today’s tie-breaking mayoral mud-slinging contest. (Photo courtesy of Led Waite/Blacktip Island Elections Office)

A constitutional crisis was averted Thurssday when election officials invoked a little-known amendment to make literal mud-slinging determine who will be Blacktip Island’s mayor after the candidates tied in the popular vote.

Incumbent Jack Cobia and challenger Antonio Fletcher finished the election with four votes each. At noon today the men will strip to their shorts, stand 10 paces apart in a mud pit at the island’s Heritage House and throw sludge at each other.

“Blacktip Island’s founders knew these races would get ugly,” Elections Supervisor Ledford Waite said. “They put in an appropriate tie-breaker that would reflect a messy political campaign and entertain the voters at the same time.

“The constitution say the mayor needs ‘to have a strong arm,’” Waite said. “It also states that, in the event of a draw, throwing mud establishes that ability, as well as the grit to take a shot to the face and stay standing.”

The last-minute announcement had community leaders scrambling.

“We had to dig a mud pit quick-like-the-bunny,” said Public Works chief Stoney MacAdam. “The tricky part was mixing the mud to the right consistency. Too wet, it won’t throw. Too dry, it won’t stick.

“Had to slap together stands for 100 people, too,” MacAdam said. “Legally, we have to provide a clear viewing opportunity for the entire population so they can witness the electoral process first-hand and see the election’s not rigged.”

The last candidate standing will be declared the winner. Election observers have been on site since Wednesday to ensure no rocks, coral or other contraband are hidden in the mud.

“Last recorded mud-off was the infamous Skerritt-Bottoms contest of 1804,” Waite said. “Booger Bottoms’ supporters snuck loads of iguana guano into his section of the pit so he could throw that at Ferris Skerritt.

“The plan backfired, though, since Booger had to get hip-deep in the muck to throw it,” Waite said. “He ended up with more on him than he got on Ferris. It cost him the election.”

Antonio Fletcher was confident in his chances Friday.

“I’m not scared, you know,” Antonio Fletcher said. “Jack, he cheats at dominoes and everything else, but no way he can cheat at this in front of God and everyone.”

Jack Cobia was equally optimistic.

“If ‘Tonio thinks I’ll take it easy on him ‘cause he’s an old man, he’s got another thing coming,” Cobia said. “It’s my duty to whomp him. No way some non-alcoholic-beer drinker’s gonna represent this island.”

Island voters are eager for the contest.

“It’s perfect,” said resident Finn Kiick. “Jack and Antonio’ve been slinging figurative mud at each other for months. Time they finally used the real stuff.

“I voted for ‘Tonio, but my money’s on Jack in this one,” Kiick said. “He played Little League back in the day, and he’s still got that outfielder’s arm. He throws with his fingers together, ‘Tonio’s toast.”

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