Monthly Archives: October 2017

Blacktip Island Church Demands Ban On Split Fins

Version 2

Use of paddle-style scuba fins may become mandatory on Blacktip Island dive sites if a local religious leader’s anti-split fin campaign is successful. (photo courtesy of Steve Dingledein)

The Blacktip Island scuba diving community was polarized this week by an island religious leader’s demand that split scuba fins be banned in favor of paddle-style fins.

“These cloven-hooved fins are the devil’s work, plain and simple,” said the Rev. Pierre Grunt, head of the Blacktip Island Temperance League. “They may seem innocent, but that’s how Satan fools the unwary.”

“They’re symptomatic of the evils overwhelming our island,” Grunt said. “It’s no coincidence the reefs started dying the same time these fins showed up. To save our reefs, we have to return to the paddle fins of our forefathers.”

Grunt’s claim struck a chord among some local divers.

“I never realized how bad these fins were until Rev. Grunt opened my eyes to what’s really going on,” said island resident Edwin Chub. “That was a jaw dropper, all right. I went straight out and threw my split fins away. Lots of us did. I’m not gonna be a part of something like that.”

Local scuba operators denounced the grassroots campaign.

“Pierre scares away any resort guests with this crap, I’ll split more than his fins,” Eagle Ray Cove Resort owner Rich Skerritt said. “That goes for his rants about no diving on Sundays, too. Why would the preacher care about scuba fins? Or even notice them?”

Some Blacktip residents questioned Grunt’s motives.

“The only non-coincidence is Pierre’s part-owner in Bamboo You, and sales have tanked on their bamboo paddle-style fins,” local Clete Horn said. “Last month his schtick was an alcohol ban, and that fell flat on its face.

“He’s just switched to fins, telling a bigger whopper and hoping more folks’ll buy in,” Horn said. “Big picture, Pierre wants to fill his church. And his offering plates.”

Some in the island’s religious community worry the campaign will be detrimental long term.

“We’re being demonized over these fins,” High Druid Joey Pompano said. “People are blaming us for bringing them to the island. For encouraging people to use them.

“We don’t care what fins people use, or if they don’t use fins at all,” Pompano said. “Rev. Grunt and his BITS can go to hell. Why don’t they pick on the Unitarians once in a while?”

The Rev. Grunt remains unapologetic.

“Deuteronomy 23:13 is quite clear,” he said. “ It reads, ‘Thou shalt have a paddle upon thy person . . .’ You can’t get more straightforward than that.”

Grunt declined to comment on his ties to Bamboo You. Company officials did not return several Times phone calls.

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Caribbean, Scuba Diving

Underwater Headphones Let Blacktip Island Divemasters Narrate Dives

underwater commentary

Eagle Ray Divers divemaster Lee Helm, in a full-face mask, narrates a dive on Blacktip Island’s Jawfish reef Thursday. The resort’s new program allows in-water divemasters to talk directly to resort guests throughout their dives. (photo courtesy of NOAA)

In an effort to stay one step ahead in the competitive world of recreational scuba, one Blacktip Island resort Monday began offering reef tours led by in-water dive guides giving running commentaries to snorkel and scuba guests outfitted with waterproof headphones.

“We kit our divers out with underwater headsets, and our divemasters have full-face masks so they can talk through the entire dive,” Eagle Ray Divers manager Ger Latner said. “Before, the best a dive guide could do was point to something and maybe write a quick note on a slate. Now our DMs can give full explanations.

“We’re the only dive op on Blacktip that offers this service,” Latner said. “All the extra gear costs, but it’s worth it.”

Resort guests guests agreed

“I never know what the divemaster’s pointing at, and I can never ask,” guest Jackie Wrasse said. “I usually just signal ‘OK’ and move on. Sometimes I think they point at nothing just to mess with me.

“With this, though, I know exactly what they’re showing me,” Wrasse said. “I had no idea there were so many things down there that’re supposed to be interesting.”

Other island dive operators were critical of the tours.

“With one or two divers it can be OK,” said Club Scuba Doo dive manager Finn Kiick. “But you get 20 divers all trying to get up close to one tiny sea slug, it turns into a real Charlie Foxtrot.

“Already, you can tell where an Eagle Ray divemaster’s been,” Kiick said. “Just look for the broken sea fans and kicked-to-hell coral. No way we’re doing that to the reef.”

Some Eagle Ray Divers staff had reservations as well.

“It’s not fair, having to talk through the entire dive,” divemaster Lee Helm said. “Some people are good at it, but I like to zone out when I lead a dive. And it’s pure hell when there’s nothing to show people, but they still expect a nonstop monologue.”

Others have embraced the narration.

“It’s great being able to explain what I’m showing and why it’s cool,” said divemaster Alison Diesel. “It’s also great the guests can’t talk back. We tried that at first. It didn’t end well.”

“It’s also fun, when a diver hand-signals a question, to answer wrong just to see the look on their face,” Diesel said. “I’m playing with doing tours in rhyme, too. I started with couplets yesterday. I’m working my way up to rap.”

Leave a comment

Filed under Caribbean, Scuba Diving

Blacktip Celebrates Columbus’ Landing With Paintball Shootout

312th Engineers keep it in the family

Some of Blacktip Island’s paintball guns, collected by Island Police Constable Rafe Marquette, after Thursday’s annual Columbus’ Arrival Expat Derby. (photo courtesy of Timothy Hale)

Blacktip Island turned red for the day Thursday with the annual Columbus’ Arrival Expat Derby, which allows island locals to shoot expatriate residents with red paintball pellets.

“Columbus isn’t the hero here he is in the U.S.,” island historian Smithson Altschul said. “His arrival brought disease, genocide and slavery. The Expat Derby started as a way for locals to vent their anger at foreigners without anyone getting hurt too much.”

“In the old days, there’d be fights. Blood would flow,” Altschul said. “Community leaders started the tradition of throwing red snappers at expats instead, to decrease the violence. Then paintball guns came along and we switched. The pellets sting, but red paint’s better than blood. And it doesn’t waste food.”

Paintball guns, normally banned on the island, are regulated by the local police.

“I issue guns and paintballs in the morning, then collect them all at the end of the day,” Island Police Constable Rafe Marquette said. “There’s also strict rules concerning how the devices are employed.

“It’s body shots only, preferably above the belt,” Marquette said. “And tourists are strictly off limits, for obvious reasons. Any violators forfeit their paintball rights next year.”

Blacktip natives say the derby brings the community together.

“It’s a fun tradition that keeps resentments from getting too out of hand,” local Ger Latner said. “The island’s expats understand. Most seem to enjoy it.

“End of the day, we’re all still good friends,” Fletcher said. “We get together for drinks and to patch up any wounds in the evening. No hard feelings.”

Island expatriates echoed Latner’s sentiment.

“I just go out early, in a white shirt, and let them pop me a few times,” island Mayor Jack Cobia said. “People see a couple of splats on you, they’ll move on to someone else. Usually. I wrap my torso in towels, too. Those paintballs raise an ugly welt.

“End of the day, it keeps peace in the community,” Cobia said. “There’s a lot less locals-versus-expats hostility on Blacktip than most Caribbean islands. Bruised ribs are a small price to pay.”

Others agreed.

“I wear a scuba mask, just in case, but it’s not a big deal,” said resident Hugh Calloway. “Antonio, he drilled me good yesterday morning, right in the chest, as I stepped out my front door. Then he gave me a ride to work. And we had a drink on the way.”

Island officials say this year’s derby was relatively uneventful.

“There’ll be no paintball next year for Dermott Bottoms and James Conlee,” Constable Marquette said. “They got in a shootout with each other in front of the store. Several windows were broken, and the police vehicle will need to be repainted. I also have to buy a new police uniform.”

Leave a comment

Filed under Caribbean

Drunks Against Mad Mothers Launches Blacktip Island Chapter

P2010847.JPG – Version 4

Blacktip Island’s drinkers have banded together to form a chapter of Drunks Against Mad Mothers in response to a grassroots campaign to curb drinking on the island. (photo courtesy of Dermott Bottoms)

The international alcohol-rights group Drunks Against Mad Mothers (DAMM) announced Thursday it had established its newest chapter on Blacktip Island to protect the drinking habits of the Caribbean island’s residents.

“Lots of folks criticizing, trying to close bars early and stop liquor sales,” said DAMM chapter president Dermott Bottoms. “But we got a right to drink as much as we want, so long as no one gets hurt too badly.

“This’s a drinking island, you know,” Bottoms said. “You don’t hold with drinking, go somewhere else. We were gonna strike, then ‘Tonio found out about DAMM.”

Other DAMM members agreed.

“We’re not the bad guys. And we were here first,” DAMM vice president James Conlee said. “This’s us protecting ourselves against the tyranny of the masses. And the Baptists. International drunks got our backs now. We’re an organization.”

The chapter was founded after a campaign to curb the island’s often-excessive drinking culture.

“People on Blacktip get hammered,” divemaster Alison Diesel said. “It’s pretty much the Island sport, and mostly it gets a pass. But there was a string of single-vehicle accidents in front of resorts, tourists freaked out and it got ugly on TripAdvisor.

“It would’ve blown over, but then Dermott and Antonio both dropped trou at the Prime Minister’s welcoming cocktail soiree,” Diesel said. “Next thing you know, there’s a push to get everyone on the wagon.”

Island leaders say they sought a compromise with local drinkers.

“We weren’t proposing an all-out alcohol ban,” said the Reverend Pierre Grunt, Blacktip Island Temperance Society president. “The aim was to rachet consumption back to reasonable, non-embarrassing levels and enforce public drunkenness laws. We were making progress, too, before they came up with this DAMM nonsense.

“Case in point, this past Sunday morning Dermott and James both came to church,” Grunt said. “That was huge. Of course, I wish they’d been sober. And that Dermot hadn’t fallen asleep. And snored. I won’t discuss James’ flatulence.”

Island law enforcement, meanwhile, has stayed above the fray.

“I can’t arrest every public drunk,” Island Police Constable Rafe Marquette said. “Fridays and Saturdays, I’d have to arrest most of the island. And I only have the one cell.

“Drunk drivers will still be arrested,” Marquette said. “But there’s only one of me, and lots of them. My advice, as ever, is not to drive if you’ve consumed alcohol. But when you do, please avoid trees, pedestrians and the booby pond.”

DAMM members say they hope to change the public perception of them as irresponsible alcoholics.

“It’s not right, folks calling us alcoholics,” Bottoms said. “We’re not alcoholics. Alcoholics go to meetings. We’re drunks. We go to parties.”

1 Comment

Filed under Caribbean