Eagle Ray Cove dive boats are under constant surveillance this week after a series of bizarre thefts at Blacktip Island resorts. (photo courtesy of Ger Latner)
A rash of stolen scuba gear this week has Blacktip Island authorities puzzled, and tourists worried, on the small Caribbean island.
“There’s dive gadgets disappearing from drying sheds, boats and resort porches all over the island,” Island Police Constable Rafe Marquette said. “First a full-face mask and two Zeagle BCs went missing. Then a bunch of big dive knives and tank bangers.
“The only common thread is the missing items are all things dive staffs hate,” Marquette said. “And the thief always leaves a ‘Nitrox Diver’ mask strap behind as a calling card.”
Island officials are concerned the thief, dubbed the ‘Nitrox Bandit,’ is a threat to the island’s tourism.
“We’re trying to keep a lid on this thing so guests don’t get spooked,” island mayor Jack Cobia said. “So of course everybody knows about it.
“Whether it’s for laughs or for profit, a smart ass is about to ruin Blacktip’s economy,” Cobia said. “Of course, the elephant in the drying shed is it may be some rat bastard from Tiperon Island trying to steal our guests. They’ve done it before.”
The island constable has focused on island divemasters.
“Most likely is it’s a disgruntled DM,” Marquette said. “One who’s either had it with annoying scuba gear, or trying to hide one crime amongst a lot of others. Either way, it’s classic divemaster passive aggression taken to the next step.”
The scrutiny has angered some dive staff.
“It’s not fair, Rafe pulling us aside and grilling us without a bit of evidence,’ Eagle Ray Cove divemaster Lee Helm said. “He questioned me in front of guests yesterday, and others have been detained more than once.
“It’s profiling, plain and simple,” Helm said. “The divemaster’s union will have something to say about this, I can assure you.”
Island resorts, meanwhile, have upped their security.
“We’re patrolling the drying shed and the boats ‘round the clock,” Eagle Ray Cove dive operations manager Ger Latner said. “And Finn up at Scuba Doo has webcams and motion detectors. God help the person caught with a ‘Nitrox’ slap strap on them. There’s been several ugly incident with innocent guests already.”
While many guests are troubled by the thefts, others see them as an adventure.
“It’s like vacationing in a 1950s Cary Grant crime caper film, isn’t it?” Sandy Bottoms Beach Resort guest Suzy Souccup said. “There’s a real-life cat burglar out there, eh?
“This is my best vacation ever!” Souccup said. “Sure, I lost my underwater Etch-A-Sketch, but I have the thief’s calling card on my mask now. What a souvenir!”
The police and mayor’s office have released a join plea to the island’s scuba-diving guests.
“Divers, if you have annoying, or useless, scuba gear, lock it up,” Marquette said. “Or better yet, leave it at home.”