Monthly Archives: June 2019

Underwater Gift Shop Comes To Blacktip Island

underwater gift shop

Eagle Ray Cove resort staff will vacuum seal retail merchandise in plastic wrap to stock the resort’s new underwater gift shop, believed to be the first of its kind in the Caribbean. (photo by Wendy Beaufort/Blacktip Times staff)

A Blacktip Island resort owner will open the Caribbean’s first underwater gift shop this Sunday in an effort to increase the resort’s profile in the scuba industry.

“We’re creating a new revenue stream and boosting the outfit’s visibility,” Eagle Ray Cove owner Rich Skerritt said. “We already got our topside gift shop, and world of a new, submerged one’ll get around quick. It also lets us tap into visitors from all the resorts, not just The Cove.

“We’re aiming at the impulse buyers, the kind of folks who wander through Wal-Mart picking up crap they don’t really need,” Skerritt said. “Whether it’s a coffee mug or paperweight or what have you, they’ll pay good money to say they bought it underwater. We’re not just selling tchotchkes, we’re selling the experience.”

The store, on the sand flats off Didley’s Landing public pier, will be manned by Eagle Ray Divers staff.

“Our divemasters’ll stock the place every morning, then break it down after the last dive boat docks in the evenings,” ERD operations manager Ger Latner said. “We’ll only staff it when boats are nearby, and rotate DMs through so no one takes on too much nitrogen, though we may staff it all day if it proves popular with shore divers.

“We vacuum seal the products in plastic, like food for the freezer, along with fishing weights to make sure nothing floats away,” Latner said. “People can tap their credit card or charge it to their room. Cash is welcome, too, but we don’t make change.”

Island visitors embraced the concept.

“It has everything you can get in a terrestrial gift shop, only better,” Earnestine Bass said. “So what if the t-shirt’s a little damp? It’ll dry.

“I’m staying an extra day just so I can be at the grand opening,” Bass said. “I’ll be able to take my friends gifts from underwater. How do you get more unique than that?”

Island environmentalists raised concerns.

“This is crass abuse of an incredibly-fragile ecosystem,” activist Harry Pickett said. “There’s already plenty of shiesse shops on shore that don’t damage coral or disturb aquatic wildlife.

“And there’s the issue of people unwrapping purchases underwater and letting the plastic wrapping float away,” Pickett said. “The last thing we need is more plastic on the reefs or washing up on the beach.”

Skerritt shrugged off those concerns.

“Harry and the scuba hippies need to see the bigger picture,” he said. “We’re offering guests a new service. That’ll bring more people to Blacktip, and that benefits everyone. A rising tide lifts all boats, and a little dinged-up coral’s a small price to pay for that.”

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Hungry, Hungry Hippos Will Decide Blacktip Island Mayoral Race

Hungy_Hippos!

Blacktip Island’s four mayoral candidates will compete in a Hungry, Hungry Hippos tournament Saturday to determine which two move on to next month’s general election. (photo courtesy of Dave Fischer)

In an effort to combat low voter turnout, Blacktip Island’s four mayoral candidates will face off in a game of Hungry, Hungry Hippos Sunday at the Caribbean island’s Heritage house, with the two candidates receiving the most crowd support moving on to next month’s general election.

“Last time around we only had three people vote,” election chief Wade Soote said. “That’s how we ended up with a hermit crab as mayor. So we decided to make this election a public spectacle – on Blacktip, that’s guaranteed to draw a crowd. We were gonna have a Whack-A-Mole tourney, but this seemed more dignified. And no one had a Whack-A-Mole game.

“The mayor’s got no power and really doesn’t do anything other than make the occasional speech,” Soote said. “People basically ignore him. But we’re determined to keep democracy alive and well on Blacktip. And to keep crustaceans out of public office.”

This year’s candidates include former mayor Jack Cobia, resort owner Elena Havens, activist Val Schrader and ne’er-do-well Dermott Bottoms.

Island residents supported the idea.

“Blacktippers are always up for a party, so this really isn’t as whacky as it sounds,” Alison Diesel said. “The mayor’s a stuffed shirt, and doesn’t get paid. Why not have some fun with it and bring the community together?”

Election officials have built a small arena for the expected crowd

“We’ve erected a four-sided grandstand so everyone can see the game table in the center,” election supervisor Rocky Shore said. “Fans’ll sit behind their favorite candidate, and we’ll have multiple decibel meters deployed to determine which section’s cheering loudest.

“The official game board’ll be the classic setup of Lizzie the purple hippo, Henry the orange hippo, Homer the green hippo and Harry the yellow one, though candidates can prep with any version,” Shore said. “Hippos will be assigned to candidates at random to avoid any allegations of game tampering.”

Candidates are taking different approaches to prepare for the election.

“I’ve been doing wrist exercises to increase my stamina,” Cobia said. “This hippo game ends in ties a bunch, so I’m prepping for multiple games. Like most things, it’s all in how fast you can whack that lever.”

Others employed different techniques.

“I meditate while resort guests play the game beside me, focusing on the flow of the play,” Havens said. “A mindful, steady rhythm works far better than Jack’s rabbit-on-Adderall approach.”

Officials have waived no-alcohol election day rules to allow multiple beer stalls at the game site.

“We want as many people as possible participating in this election,” Soote said. “If beer gets people to buy into the process, so be it. And alcohol’s considered a performance-enhancing drug in competitive Hungry, Hungry Hippos circles, so we’re hopeful it’ll help the candidates, too.”

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Anti-Littering Request Draws Blacktip Residents’ Ire

beer bottles in cars

Blacktip Island’s police constable hopes his request to keep empty beer bottles in cars will reduce the number of empties littering the island’s roadways. (photo courtesy of Santeri Viimanäki)

A public plea from Blacktip Island’s police constable asking motorists to refrain from throwing empty beer bottles out their car windows brought angry responses from many residents of the small Caribbean island Thursday.

“Community leaders were unhappy about all the discarded bottles along Blacktip’s roads,” Marquette said. “Tourists were mentioning it on the internet, so the Chamber of Commerce asked me to step in. It’s a simple request at this point.

Some residents complained the constable’s plea sent the wrong message.

“This is the police giving the green light to anyone who wants to drive under the influence,” resident Bill Fischer said. “Like Blacktip drivers need any encouragement. Rafe just threw gas on a bonfire.”

Marquette defended his request.

“Sure, I’d love to crack down on drinking and driving, but you have to be realistic,” he said. “This is Blacktip. I can’t arrest the entire island. Keep your car out of the pond and don’t run into anything or anyone, and there’s wiggle room.”

Other residents say the plea is too shortsighted.

“Where do beer cans fall in all this?” Jessie Catahoula said. “Why just bottles? A ban on all litter on the roads would accomplish a lot more. And how does Rafe know he can’t arrest everyone on the island if he hasn’t tried?”

Blacktip motorists bristled at the constable’s request.

“Rafe’s got no right telling us what to keep in our cars,” Antonio Fletcher said. “You don’t throw the empties out, they clatter around and drown out the music.

“And besides, bottles along the road makes driving safer,” Fletcher said. “Headlights hit those bottles, it makes a glow, like runway lights. Keeps you out of the ditches. Mostly.”

Island officials, however, praised the plan.

“This makes the island more idyllic for visitors,” Blacktip Island mayor Jack Cobia said. “Safety comes later. We’re taking baby steps here.

“And keeping bottles in cars does enhance safety. It keeps people from being hit by them,” Cobia said. “Last Saturday Dermott chucked a bottle that broke on my head. Later he said it was a mistake, but he sure did laugh at the time.”

Marquette stressed the program is voluntary.

“Folks need to work with me on this,” he said. “If the problem persists, the next step will be issuing littering citations. After that, we may have send for more constables from the big island, and they won’t be so understanding of Blacktip ways. It’ll rain DWIs.”

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Blacktip Island Summer Musical To Honor Jacques Cousteau

Cousteau musical

A coral-encrusted motor scooter serves as the wreck of the Imperial Japanese Navy ship Fujikawa Maru on Blacktip Island’s Heritage House stage during Thursday night’s dress rehearsal of “Death Lagoon,” the Blacktip Island Community Players’ 2019 Summer Musical. (photo courtesy of Aquaimages)

The Blacktip Island Community Players will kick off their 2019 Summer Musical season Saturday evening with the first performance of ‘Death Lagoon,’ a punk rock-themed homage to scuba diving pioneer Jacques Cousteau. The play will be performed Saturday evenings June 8 – July 6 at the Caribbean island’s Heritage House.

“People are making musicals about every other damn-fool thing, so why not a punked-up Cousteau?” said BICP artistic director Doris Blenny. “We’re recreating his most famous episode, ‘Lagoon of Lost Ships,’ where he and his team explored the Imperial Japanese Navy warships sunk in Truk Lagoon during World War Two.

“Blacktip would be a backwater nothing without scuba tourism, and Cousteau was the first to popularize recreational diving,” Blenny said. “It’s an homage, really, showing our collective respect and appreciation for Cousteau and his team. And Payne Hanover’s been on a Stooges jag lately, so it all came together quite naturally.”

The musical features Alison Diesel and Jacques Cousteau, Payne Hanover as Philippe Cousteau, and Lee Helm, Elena Havens and Jessie Catahoula as Calypso crew members.

The staging proved challenging for the BICP props team.

“Creating a realistic underwater scene was tough, but we have some incredibly inventive stage hands,” props master Marina DeLow said. “We scrounged a half-dozen trashed scooters from the dump to use as sunken warships, and we built a suspended fly system to make the actors and fish look like they’re swimming.

“We tried just hanging people from the rafters with dock lines, but it looked way too cheesy,” DeLow said. “It was fun watching Lee Helm swing back and forth, though, yelling for us to cut him down. Which we did. After lunch.”

Original songs include:

  • Sink and Run
  • Yamato and Musashi Buggered Off
  • I’m So Bored With the IJN
  • Hailstone Riot
  • Up Your Fujikawa Maru

The performance will conclude with a Sex Pistols-inspired version of John Denver’s ‘Calypso,’ celebrating Cousteau’s famous ship, Blenny said.

“The finale brings a tear to everyone’s eyes every time we rehearse it,” she said. “When those 15, 20 people in the audience hear it, there won’t be enough Kleenex on the island.”

Theater-goers are reminded of the BICP’s standing no-alcohol policy in the Heritage House, instituted after the infamous ‘Lawrence of Arabia’ incident of 2013. Purses, backpacks and pant legs will be checked at the door.

Proceeds from the performances will go to Big Brothers/Big Sisters of Blacktip Island.

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