Monthly Archives: July 2018

Sargassum Scooper To Protect Blacktip Island Beaches

sargassum collector

Sargassum seaweed has covered Blacktip Island’s beaches in recent months, causing many tourists to cut short or cancel their visits. A group of local scientists are testing their ‘Dr. Port’s Sargasstic Super Scooper’ seaweed collector off the island’s west coast in hopes it will alleviate the problem. (photo courtesy of Jonathan Wilkins)

A Blacktip Island civic group has deployed a giant seaweed vacuum device off the Caribbean island’s west coast in an attempt to control the mounds of sargassum seaweed washing up on beaches upwind of the island’s resorts.

“The sea’s choked with sargassum these days,” Blacktip Island Chamber of Commerce president Jay Valve said. “The beaches’re knee-high in rotting seaweed. Tourists can’t get to the water, and the stench’ll gag a maggot.

“It’s so thick in the water it’s even clogging seawater intakes on dive boats,” Valve said. “Blacktip Haven’s Sea Monkey blew an engine overheating from the stuff.”

The device’s inventors have dubbed it the Dr. Port’s Sargasstic Super Scooper.

“It’s basically a smaller version of that machines that’s skimming plastic from the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, just modified for seaweed,” Tiperon University-Blacktip engineering chair Sally Port said. “Giant, floating booms go out 50 feet on either side and funnel the sargassum into a central processing chamber.

“We tweaked the basic design with parts scrounged at the dump,” Port said. “Its heart and soul are a couple of scooter engines, a refrigerator compressor and the drum from a big washing machine. It grinds the seaweed into micro pellets, combines them with salt pulled from the seawater to make them negatively buoyant and shoots them back out into the ocean.”

Island environmentalists worry the Scooper will create more problems than it solves.

“That’s literally tons of detritus they’re releasing into the sea,” Blacktip Island Greenpeace spokesperson Harry Pickett said. “If even a fraction of that settles on the reefs, it could smother the coral and wipe out the underwater ecosystem.

“As stinky as the rotting seaweed is, that’s better for the island and its economy than dead reefs,” Pickett said. “This island lives or dies with the scuba industry. No coral reefs, we’re screwed.”

Scientistss say that worry is unfounded.

“The preliminary models we ran showed the macerated vegetative matter should actually nourish the coral,” marine biology professor Ernesto Mojarra said. “In theory, it should make the reefs healthier than ever.

“Now, all that particulate matter will kill the visibility. No denying that,” Mojarra said. “But the models suggest the increased nutrient levels will attract manta rays, so, long term, Blacktip should benefit from even more scuba-diving guests.”

Island officials say they hope to expand the program soon.

“We’ve deployed the Scooper on a slow sweep upwind of all the resorts to maximize its effect,” island mayor Jack Cobia said. “That protects Blacktip’s major population centers, but it’s short term.

“The next step is to extend the gizmo’s booms far enough to protect the whole west coast,” Cobia said. “If it works well, we plan to export the things, too. Ideally, this could save the entire Caribbean tourism industry.”

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Beach Cleanup Organizers Stiffen BBQ Attendance Rules

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Beach Sweeper president Finny Chub shows off some of the trash he collected by himself on a recent beach cleanup. Poor cleanup turnout has prompted Beach Sweepers to change the rules regarding the post-cleanup picnics. (photo courtesy of Mike Baird)

Blacktip Island’s Beach Sweepers, a volunteer beach cleanup group, has tightened attendance rules for its post-cleanup celebratory barbecue this Saturday at Spider Bight beach, a move that angered many local residents.

“You don’t get food or a beer unless you actually pick up trash off the beach,” cleanup organizer Finny Chub said. “Last month it was just me out in the baking sun for three hours. Then when it was time for the cookout, 50 people showed up. We’re calling BS on that.

“I had a whole pig roasted and three coolers of beer, and folks hit that like a swarm of locusts,” Chub said. “It was all gone before I could have any of it. From now on you’ll have to hand in a full trash bag to get a food voucher. No voucher, no BBQ for you.”

Some in the community backed Chub.

“It’s harsh, but something had to be done,” Beach Sweeper member Christina Mojarra said. “The trash collection has to be substantive, too. No, “here’s my cigarette butt,” like Dermott Bottoms tried last time.

“It’s pretty simple, really,” Mojarra said. “You want a burger? Pick up a burger wrapper. You want a beer? Pick up a bottle or two.”

Most, however, opposed the new rule

“Cleanups are a community event, a community celebration,” Antonio Fletcher said. “That’s when people come together. Finny’s creating division where there wasn’t any. Where there shouldn’t be any.”

“Now, some of us might not be out in the noonday sun physically collecting garbage, but we’re there in spirit,” Fletcher said. “That community spirit is what we’re celebrating. Or were.”

Others objected on cultural grounds.

“They called me a freeloader, and they’re damned right,” Dermott Bottoms said. “Freeloading’s a Blacktip tradition. We’re celebrating our heritage, you know. Honing our foraging skills.

“There’s givers and takers in this world,” Bottoms said. “Blacktip has a long history of taking. We’re proud of that. Mess with that, you mess up the balance that makes the island tick. Finny’s gonna have hell to pay.”

Island authorities have warned residents to keep their disagreements civil.

“There’s been two instances where household waste was dumped on the beach upwind of Mr. Chub’s house,” Island Police Constable Rafe Marquette said. “Anyone caught purposely littering is going to be doing some forced beach cleanup. A lot of forced beach cleanup. With no cookout afterwards.”

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Blacktip Island Readies For Most Boring Person Contest

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Rusty Goby is favored in Saturday’s 17th Annual Most Boring Person on Blacktip Island contest. “Talking to Lee’s like trying to have a conversation with a bunch of sea grass,” one resident said. (photo courtesy of Doris Blenny)

Blacktip Island’s 17th Annual Most Boring Person vote will be announced Saturday afternoon at the Caribbean Island’s Heritage House, with proceeds going to the local Habitat for Humanity.

“Rusty Goby’s won the whole enchilada three years running, and he’s the favorite to win it again,” vote organizer Jerrod Ephesians said. “Rusty’s so boring, I’ve seen people ditch him to watch paint dry.

“You get stuck next to him at the bar, it can make your teeth hurt,” Ephesians said. “He’s the guy you’ll cross the street to avoid in case he tries to start a conversation.”

Contestants are judged by a monetary donations from island residents.

“We charge a dollar a vote, and people can vote as many times as they want,” Heritage House docent Doris Blenny said. “It’s not uncommon for some people to vote multiple times for the same person and treat every dollar as a charitable donation.

“It’s doubly charitable, really, since it raises money for a good cause and publicly identifies a person one should avoid at all costs,” Blenny said. “We think of it as a public service.”

Goby faces stiff competition this year from island newcomer Brandon Schaft and longtime resident Lee Helm.

“Lee’s about the dullest person I’ve ever met,” resident Finn Kiick said. “He’s an ass, too, but that’s a different contest. My money’s on him, hands down.”

Others disagreed.

“Lee’s not so much boring as he is tedious,” Val Schrader said. “You cringe when he shows up at a party, but then you pull up a chair to see how many people he pisses off in how little time. There’s a brute entertainment in that.

“Brandon, now, he could stupefy an ADHD monkey on acid,” Schrader said. “I’m not sure if he can knock off Rusty, but I put in $100 to hopefully put him over the top.”

While many island residents see being nominated as an insult, many old-timers view it as a badge of honor.

“If Blacktip folks say you’re boring, that means they’re not gossiping about you,” Rocky Shore said. “That’s tough to accomplish on this little rock. And if no one’s talking about you, you’re living your life right.”

The winner will be announced at 5 p.m., then promptly ignored.

“We used to give out a t-shirt, but there’s not really any point,” Ephesians said. “We leave the winner at the Heritage House and go out bar hopping without him.”

Rusty Goby could not be reached for comment.

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Feuding Bars Divide Blacktip Island Residents

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Customers of Blacktip Island’s Last Ballyhoo and Tail Spinner bars are at odds this week after a disagreement about personal cleanliness. (photo courtesy of scottb211)

A dispute between Blacktip Island bar owners evolved into an island-wide feud this week, pitting patrons of The Last Ballyhoo and the Tail Spinner bars against each other.

“It started when Whitey Bottoms put a big bowl of popcorn on the Ballyhoo bar for everyone to snack on,” Ledford Waite said. “Folks were coming back from the restroom and grabbing handfuls of popcorn, and there were some harsh words about whether hands had been washed.

“As a joke, Ginger Bass up at the Tail Spinner made a show of handing out individual cups of popcorn to each drinker there, and Whitey took it personal,” Waite said. “He said anyone who drank at the Spinner wasn’t welcome at the Ballyhoo. Then Ginger banned Ballyhooers from the Spinner and the whole island turned on itself.”

Residents say the feud has many of them afraid to go out.

“It started with practical jokes. Dirt on car hoods, rude messages on windshields, that sort of thing,” Joey Pompano said. “This week, though, it’s really ratcheted up. Three scooters had their tires slashed in the Ballyhoo parking lot just last night.

“It’s all over nothing, but it’s dividing families. It’s dividing dive staffs,” Pompano said. “It could end today if Whitey and Ginger just made up, but everyone’s gone all tribal and no one’s listening to reason.

Bottoms refused pleas to end the strife.

“Ginger called my customers dirty and my bar dirty. Hell, she called me dirty,” he said. “If her people are so almighty sanitary, they can kiss my unwashed butt.

“A couple of them wandered down yesterday, trying to bury the hatchet,” Bottoms said. “I chucked them out the door. Literally. And it’s not my fault their tires got cut up.”

Bass has dug in her heels as well.

“It wasn’t meant as an insult, but Whitey’s got thin skin,” she said. “Now, I wouldn’t put any of his popcorn in my mouth. And I’m not serving any of his regulars, either, unless they wash their hands first. Where I can see them.

“Sure, we’re all Blacktippers, and we should all get along,” Bass said. “But I’m not caving in to that kind of bullying.”

Island authorities are taking steps to curb the violence.

“There’s only one of me, and I’ve had it with this crap,” Island Police Constable Rafe Marquette said. “Dermott Bottoms and James Conlee are in the jail cell right now, and they can rot there. I was set to go on vacation, now this happens.

“And whoever’s calling in the false firearms violations is going in there with them,” Marquette said. “I broke down the Maples’ front door last night, and it was all a prank.”

Other island bars have tried to provide common ground, with varying success.

“We’ve implemented a snack-free bar and declared the resort a judgment-free zone in terms of personal hygiene,” Sandy Bottoms Beach Resort manager Kay Valve said. “So far all it’s got us is beer bottles through a couple of windows, but I think we’re moving in a positive direction.”

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