Monthly Archives: August 2017

Rum Bottles Help Find Blacktip Island Missing Persons

missing persons

Rum bottles at all Blacktip Island bars will have photos of missing persons placed on them under a new volunteer effort to reduce the number of people missing on the small Caribbean island. (photo courtesy of Stefan Giesbert)

Inspired by missing persons milk cartons, a Blacktip Island citizens group began placing missing residents’ faces on rum bottles at island bars Monday.

“We tried milk cartons, but no one on Blacktip gives a damn about milk,” Keen to Eliminate Lost People founder Harry Wrasse said. “But rum bottles? Blacktippers spend most of their free time staring at them.

“We don’t get a ton of missing people, but when we do, it’s a big deal,” Wrasse said. “Just last week Antonio Fletcher went missing for three days. The bottles got the word out, and we found him in a palm tree on top of the bluff. Said he flew up there. Jerrod had to fly up and get him down.”

The effort is funded by a local crowdsourcing effort.

“‘Groupsourcing’s’ more accurate, as few people as there are on the island,” Wrasse said. “And we rely on a stable of volunteers. We need as many as possible to make sure we have at least one sober at any given time.”

Bar rum bottles have been fitted with clear plastic sleeves that allow bartenders to change photos as needed.

“When someone goes missing, we send photos to all the bars and resorts,” KELP volunteer Rosie Blenny said. “As soon as we find the person, we send word out and everyone takes that photo off their bottles.”

The project has draw opposition from locals concerned about misuse and privacy issues.

“Less than a week and it’s already a train wreck,” resident Reg Gurnard said. “First, Kitty Katz posted a photo of her husband Mickey. That didn’t end well.

“Then Lee Helm posted a picture of his girlfriend when he thought she was off with someone else,” Gurnard said. “Problem is, she was. A bunch of folks tracked us down and all hell broke loose. Someone wants to be lost, that’s no one’s business but their own. All this does is get a bunch of drunks out snooping on people.”

Organizers are not daunted by the criticism.

“There’s been a few hiccups, sure. But we’ve done a lot of good, too,” Blenny said. “We found a missing tourist just yesterday. He’d taken a resort bike for a ride around the island, only he kept taking the crossover road and kept circling the south end. He’d still be out there if it wasn’t for KELP.

“Dermott gets lost all the time, too,” Blenny added. “Most of the bottles have his photo on them and a note telling him to go home. We’re saving lives here.”

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Vehicle Ban Aims To Save Blacktip Island’s Tranquility

vehicle ban

Automobiles on Blacktip Island will be harder to come by after the island’s council voted to limit the number of motor vehicles on the small Caribbean island. (photo by Samson Post/Blacktip Times staff)

In a 2-1 vote Wednesday, the Blacktip Island Council opted to limit the number of motor vehicles on the Caribbean island in what backers called an attempt to keep the 100-resident island true to its rustic roots.

“We’re saving Blacktip’s charm,” council member Maxie Fondé said. “Visitors come here for quiet, unspoiled nature. Cars and trucks and scooters take away from that.”

Other ban supporters cited population concerns.

“The island’s getting too crowded,” council member Clete Horn said. “Last week I had to stop at the stop sign. Today I had to use my turn signal. Twice. If I wanted to deal with that kind of hassle, I’d live in Miami.

“You used to be able to tell who was coming down the road just by the sound of the car,” Horn said. “Now, I don’t recognize half of them by sight. Any more cars, we’ll be putting up traffic lights. And crosswalks”

The ban limits households and businesses to one vehicle, provided a compelling reason to have a vehicle can be shown.

“Construction companies or Public Works, they need their trucks,” Fondé said. “Divemasters or bar staff that live a mile from the resort? They can ride bikes. Or walk.”

Many businesses owners oppose the ban.

“We’re supposed to get all our guests to and from the airfield in one van?” dissenting council member and Eagle Ray Cove resort owner Rich Skerritt said. “They’re hamstringing my livelihood. If Maxie and Clete don’t like cars, let them walk. I’m not giving up my vehicles.”

Many residents, though, expect the ban to be good for the island.

“Fewer cars means less pollution, less used motor oil and auto batteries in the dump,” resident Goby Graysby said. “They should make the law stricter and only allow Smart cars. Embarrassment would keep people from wanting to drive.”

Others residents concurred.

“We’re going to use a donkey cart to takes guests to and from the air strip,” Blacktip Haven resort owner Elena Havens said. “The guests’ll love it and it’s eco-friendly. Plus, we can also rent it out for kiddie rides when business gets slow.”

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Underwater Rock Climbing Comes To Blacktip Island

underwater rock climbing

Underwater rock climbers scout Slubberdudgeon Wall on Blacktip Island’s southeast coast prior to a climb Thursday afternoon. (photo courtesy of Derek Keats)

Scuba divers on Blacktip Island can now do more than look at fish after Club Scuba Doo resort launched an underwater rock climbing program this week.

“We’ve got to attract a younger, hipper crowd,” Scuba Doo dive manager Finn Kiick said. “We’re revitalizing the sport. Underwater climbing’ll make scuba an adventure again.

“With that wall that dropping thousands of feet straight down, Blacktip’s a natural for deep-water climbing,” Kiick said. “It’s the best of both worlds. You’re on scuba, but you get the adrenalin rush of free-climbing. And with the zero-gravity feel, it’s like rock climbing on the moon.”

Other dive operators were critical of the plan.

“We spend all day telling guests not to touch coral, explaining how the slightest touch can kill a thousand-year-old coral head,” Eagle Ray Divers manager Ger Latner said. “Now we’ve got these knuckleheads encouraging divers to crawl all over it.

“They’re also gonna get divers hurt, too,” Latner said. “People looking for their next hand hold instead of their gauges? That’s a recipe for disaster.”

Club Scuba Doo management defended the program.

“We do the climbing on the southeast wall where all the coral’s dead anyway,” resort owner Ham Pilchard said. “And we don’t allow anchors or hooks of any kind. This is about as eco-friendly as you can get.

“Long-term, this is good for the reefs,” Pilchard said. “It gets young people on the reef and excited about the underwater world. We’re creating the next generation of marine ecologists here.”

Kiick stressed the sport’s safety.

“There’s been zero cases of climbers blowing no-deco limits or breathing their tank dry,” he said. “The injuries so far have been from fire coral. And scorpion fish.

“They’re hard to see, ‘til you grab them,” Kiick said. “We give our climbers Kevlar gloves and booties now, for their own protection.”

Underwater climbers had high praise for the sport.

“It’s great to be able to climb without anyone belaying,” Club Scuba Doo repeat guest Leah Shore said. “Plus, it’s fun for the whole family. We can dive with the kids one day and climb with them the next.

“For longer climbs, or deeper climbs, you can use doubles if you want,” Shore said. “There’s some phenomenal 5.12 overhangs down around 180, if you’re into techie climbing. We don’t let the kiddos do that, though.”

Resort scuba instructors will offer a range of underwater climbing specialty courses.

“You do four climbs rated 5.4 – 5.6, you get your basic Underwater Rock Climber card,” Kiick said. “For the more hardcore, we’ll be offering Trimix Climbing, Heliox Climbing and Extended Range Technical Climbing courses.”

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Resort Tells Blacktip Guests To “Fling Your Phones”

phone throwing

Mobile phones of all shapes and sizes will go flying Sunday afternoon in Eagle Ray Cove’s ‘Fling Your Phone’ contest, aimed at getting resort guests to disconnect from work while on vacation. (photo courtesy of Marina DeLow)

In an effort to help newly-arrived guests embrace their vacations, a Blacktip Island resort will launch a new, weekly ‘Fling Your Phone’ cellular telephone throwing contest Sunday afternoon at Diddley’s Landing public pier.

“People fly in here Saturdays so uptight they can’t even enjoy their free drink at the bar,” Eagle Ray Cove owner Rich Skerritt said. “Every one swears they’ll turn their phone off, and none of them ever do.

“Then last week a woman on the dock snatched the phone out of her husband’s hand and threw it as far as she could,” Skerritt said. “It was beautiful. With that arm, if she didn’t play third base, she should’ve.”

Resort staff hit on the idea of getting as many guests as possible to get rid of their phones.

“We got a lot of lukewarm smiles until we pitched it as a competition,” said divemaster and contest organizer Marina DeLow. “Then guests were fighting to see who would throw first. The ‘I Had A Fling on Blacktip Island’ t-shirt prizes help, too.

“We have separate categories for phones, tablets and laptops, and we’re thinking of adding a flip-phone category, too, for our older guests,” DeLow said. “Throwing styles are different for each. Phones you can throw overhand, but tablets fly better with a Frisbee toss. For laptops, a spinning, discus-style throw seems to work best.”

Many resort guests are grateful for Sunday’s Fling.

“I’ve been practicing with phone-sized rocks all day,” Eagle Ray Cove guest Theresa Troute said. “I know I can’t trust myself to not call work. My husband’s just as bad.

“We popped out our SIMs as soon as we got here, so we won’t lose our data,” Troute said. “Come Sunday, our phones are going flying. Thanks to the Fling, we’ll finally have a proper vacation”

Local scuba instructors will act as judges and supervise reef cleanup after the event.

“We put down ski rope transect lines across the reef so we can accurately measure where each device lands,” Eagle Ray Divers ops manager Ger Latner said. “The official distance is where the phone settles on the bottom, not where it hits the water.

“More importantly, we’ll use the grid to collect all the phones afterwards so no toxic chemicals or heavy metals will leach out onto the reef,” Latner said. “We’ve combined the cleanup with a search and recovery specialty course for our guests. As soon as the Fling’s finished, we’ll put the students in the water and have them swim search patterns until they find all the devices. For a reduced fee, of course.”

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