Monthly Archives: January 2017

Blacktip Island Scuba Instructor Launches Underwater Ventriloquism Course


Bobo the Monkfish is one of Alison Diesel’s teaching aids for her Underwater Ventriloquist specialty course at Blacktip Island’s Eagle Ray Cove resort. (photo courtesy of Alison Diesel)

A Blacktip Island divemaster has developed the industry’s first underwater ventriloquist specialty course, the Caribbean island’s Eagle Ray Cove resort announced Thursday.

“It started with me and Marina throwing our voices underwater so divers’d think fish were talking,” course author Alison Diesel said. “And there’s already an underwater mime course, so this seemed like the next logical step.

“Water’s denser than air, so sound travels even faster,” Diesel said. “It makes underwater venting so much easier. I’m stunned no one’s done this before.”

Experts say underwater ventriloquism is small step from above-water ventriloquism.

“You have the same issue with making the labial sounds – f, v, p, b, m and w – without closing your lips,” course graduate Gage Hoase said. “But you can’t make those sounds with a regulator in your mouth, anyway. It all comes together pretty quick with a little practice.”

Students construct their own dummies for the course’s final checkout dive.

“Wetsuited sidekicks are standard,” Diesel said. “But we also see tacky tourists, lionfish and even a dive light. We work on developing a character for the dummy that’s totally different from the student’s personality.”

The course is not without its detractors.

“It’s creepy, OK? I said it,” said Sand Spit bartender Cori Anders. “We banned Ali’s students from practicing at the bar. There were too many fights, usually between drunks and the dummies. On Blacktip, it’s hard to tell them apart.”

Industry insiders were harsher.

“Ventriloquism? In 2017? You can to the same thing with an underwater mike and speaker,” said Club Scuba Doo dive manager Finn Kiick. “And it gives scuba instruction a black eye. What scam course will it be next, underwater basket weaving?

“There’s a safety issue, too,” Kiick said. “There’s been accidents, but Ali covers them up.”

Diesel was quick to defend her classes.

“Yeah, we had one unfortunate incident where a student had a, what do you call it, psychotic break while practicing,” she said. “But that was a one-off.

“He was the most laid-back dude you’d ever meet,” Diesel said. “But his dummy, Marker Buoy Mickey, had Tourette’s bad. Mickey hacked off everyone on the reef, and we couldn’t shut him up. Someone finally sent Mickey over the wall wrapped in a 20-pound weight belt.”

Students, meanwhile, raved about the course.

“They start you slow with basic no-lip talking, then work up to the sound substitutions for the lipped sounds,” Eagle Ray Divers guest Charlie McCarthy said. “Underwater, you talk real fast so your voice sounds realistic. Kind of like that clue-egg in the Harry Potter movie. But backwards.”

Eagle Ray Divers offers the course through PADI, NAUI and SSI. NAUI students required to do final performance without a mask or regulator.

“And we actually do have plans for a basket weaving course, where students use turtle grass and sea weed salvaged from the beach,” Diesel said.

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Dermott Bottoms Is Blacktip Island’s First Private Eye


Dermott Bottoms has opened a private investigative service on Blacktip Island, the first of its kind on the small Caribbean island. (photo courtesy of Gary Halvorson, Oregon State Archives)

Blacktip Islanders seeking help with unsolved crimes and hard-to-find information have a new champion as of Wednesday, when long-time resident Dermott Bottoms received his private investigator’s license from the Caribbean Association of Research Professionals.

“Lots of happenings on Blacktip Island, not all of ‘em good,” Bottoms said. “What people need is someone unofficial to help when the police won’t.

“Grew up dreaming of being an inquiry agent, see,” Bottoms said. “‘Dermott Bottoms, P.I.,’ y’know? And I’m out and about anyway, hearing things and seeing things. Thought to myself, ‘all right, then, why not mix business and pleasure?’”

Many residents welcomed the new investigative service.

“This’ll keep Dermott occupied, and I don’t suppose he can do too much damage,” said retiree Frank Maples. “Of course, it’s hard to go undercover or disguise yourself when you’re 6’6” and 300 pounds. And blind drunk by noon.

“Cyber surveillance could be his wheelhouse,” Maples said. “If he can learn how to switch on a computer. Last week he strapped on a hidden camera, but got the ‘on’ and ‘off’ reversed and ended up with video of himself in the Eagle Ray Cove toilet. The clients weren’t happy.”

Other locals were more skeptical.

“We need a PI on Blacktip?” the former-Reverend Jerrod Ephesians said. “There’s the Ballyhoo happy hour for information, and a policeman for crimes. All this does is get Dermott’s talking like Humphrey Bogart. It was funny at first, but now it’s just annoying.”

Others concurred.

“The last thing this island needs is another dick, private or otherwise,” divemaster Alison Diesel said. “It’s creepy, him following me around, peeking my the windows at night. After I hired him to find my bike.

“He should get his nose punched, sticking it in other peoples’ business,” Diesel said. “Only he’s, well, Dermott, and no one’s that suicidal.”

Island authorities downplayed the gumshoe’s impact.

“As long as Dermott’s not driving a moving vehicle, I don’t care,” said Island Police Constable Rafe Marquette. “I’m not sure he’ll get many cases, anyway. He found a lost bike, but the island’s only a mile wide.

“True, I’ve arrested him once for trespassing. And twice for stalking,” Marquette said. “But the next morning I just turn him loose after he sleeps it off.

Bottoms admits he’s still learning the finer points of his new profession.

“One big case already, but that dame, she played me, y’know,” he said. “Shoulda seen it coming, that double-, triple-cross. But I’m a sucker for a big brunette. Won’t happen again, though. Not often, anyway.

“I’m not Sam Spade, but I am Blacktip,” Bottoms said. “My motto’s: ‘Dermott gets to the bottom of everything.’ And if people don’t have money, they can pay in beer.”

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Blacktip Island Cullers Will Hunt Human ‘Lionfish’ Saturday


Eagle Ray Divers divemaster Lee Helm, in a semi-closed circuit rebreather, practices swimming away as fast as he can Thursday in a warm up for Saturday’s Sons and Daughters of the Reef Mock Lionfish Hunt on Blacktip Island’s west coast. (photo courtesy of Peter Southwood)

In response to animal rights protests, Blacktip Island’s Sons and Daughters of the Reef hunt club will substitute a local divemaster for a lionfish in their inaugural Mock Lionfish Cull for charity Saturday afternoon on the island’s west side.

“More and more clubs worldwide are doing these mock hunts,” said S&DR Master-of-Fish Gage Hoase. “The prey, usually a fox, is replaced with a human, and the hunters still get a great chase.

“This cull’ll keep the fish huggers happy and draw good press,” Hoase said. “Plus, truth be told, we’re running out of lionfish on Blacktip. People are spearing and eating so many of them.”

Club officers selected the local divemaster with the most customer complaints during the past year as the Designated Lionfish.

“We’re sticking Lee Helm in a lionfish suit and dropping him on the reef,” S&DR Huntsperson-at-Arms Alison Diesel said. “We’ll give him five minutes, then turn the cullers loose with their spears.

“It’s nowhere near as harsh as it sounds,” Diesel added. “Lee’ll have a rebreather, so bubbles won’t give him away. And a Kevlar suit that’ll turn just about any spear point. Or so we’re told.”

Local fish rights activists say the switch to human prey, while not a perfect solution, is a step in the right direction.

“If the Designated Lionfish is human, and sort-of volunteers, we have no problem with that,” Society for Providing Lionfish-Appropriate Training president Palometa Fischer said. “Ideally, though, they’d jab him with real lionfish spines to make him really feel persecuted.”

Lionfish stand-in Lee Helm expressed reservations.

“There’s no ‘volunteer’ to it,” Helm said. “They just held me down and jammed that bloody costume on me. Someone – Marina, I’ll wager – even speared my neck ‘by accident.’

“The only choice I have is to jump in on my own, properly weighted, or be tossed in with 40 pounds duct-taped to me,” Helm said. “These people are out for blood.”

Hunt club members say the vote for Helm was unanimous.

“Lee’s an obnoxious little git that pisses off everyone, staff and guests alike,” said culler Marina DeLow. “We’re all looking forward for the chance to prang him good, point-blank.”

Other echoed the sentiment.

“If the suit doesn’t stop a spear or two, well, it couldn’t happen to a more deserving guy,” said culler Casey Piper. “You can’t spear Lee enough, really.”

Hunt organizers expect a record 35-40 cullers to participate.

“There’re members with real grudges against Lee,” Hoase said. “We’ve warned everyone not to aim for exposed skin, but you never know what’ll happen in the heat of the hunt. We’ll have the nurse standing by. And lots of bandages.

“On the up side, we’ve never had a turnout this big,” Hoase said. “We may make Lee our permanent Designated Lionfish. Probably best to put it to a vote, though.”

Proceeds from the hunt go to the Coral Reef Protection Fund.

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Horror Films Boost Blacktip Island Blood Drive Numbers


The Blacktip Island medical clinic hopes this year’s Horror Fest Blood Drive will result in more donations that last year’s record-breaking inaugural horror-themed drive. (photo courtesy of NMCSD)

The Blacktip Island medical clinic will sponsor its second annual Horror Fest Blood Drive Friday to replenish the island’s emergency blood supply, depleted during the busy holiday season.

“The horror shtick started as a joke last year,” island nurse Marissa Sanguine said. “We’d had zero eligible donors three years in a row. Most locals had too high a blood alcohol content to donate, and the sober ones were too scared of needles.

“We thought, ‘the turnout couldn’t get any worse, so let’s have a laugh,’” Sanguine said. “Then as soon as we said we’d be showing The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, we had people lined up out the door, begging to give blood. Something about slasher movies gets people in the spirit.”

The clinic will show a peer-reviewed selection of classic horror films on multiple screens in the waiting room while donors give blood in the treatment area.

This year’s curated horror movies include:

  • Nosferatu
  • Evil Dead
  • Psycho
  • Pan’s Labyrinth
  • Night of the Living Dead
  • Dracula (1931 version)
  • Aliens
  • Braindead

“It’s wonderful how Marissa attracts donors by making the donation process so fun,” said island doctor Azul Tang. “She dresses like a vampire, and even sends costumed volunteers to the island’s resorts to drum up donors.”

Some locals, though, say the themed blood drive is inappropriate.

“It’s ghoulish, focusing on gore when they should be touting how blood donations save lives,” the Reverend Pierre Grunt said. “It cheapens the process and, long term, does more harm than good. You really think that crap doesn’t scare people away?”

Drive organizers were unswayed.

“It’s near impossible to find anyone sober enough to give blood on this island, much less willing to let you stick a needle in their arm,” Sanguine said. “Our donations last year were through the roof, and we aim to break into double digits this time around. If ‘ghoulish’ gets us a few more pints of blood, then ‘ghoulish’ it is.”

Local businesses are also supporting the drive.

“It’s a community effort,” island mayor Jack Cobia said. “The Sand Spit’s serving half-price bloody Mary’s to anyone wearing an ‘I Donated Blood’ sticker, and the Tale Spin’s serving fresh steak tartar for lunch and dinner.”

Island residents agree the new approach is a winner.

“Vampire blood drive’s a lot of fun, you know, even if you can’t drink the night before,” handyman Dermott Bottoms said. “Help the island, see a free movie, then get drunk for cheap the next two, three nights. And make some pocket change selling ‘I Donated’ stickers.”

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