Monthly Archives: June 2020

Blacktip Island Church Reopens For Silent Services


The Blacktip Island interdenominational church will open its doors Sunday to worshipers for the first time since the small Caribbean island was placed under COVID quarantine in March. (Photo courtesy of Pierre Grunt)

Blacktip Island’s non-denominational church Thursday announced it will reopen and conduct silent services starting Sunday, in keeping with the Tiperon Islands’ COVID-19 prevention guidelines, church leaders said.

“The worry is any kind of vocal activity can aerosolize the virus, even if you’re wearing a mask,” the Rev. Pierre Grunt said. “Now that we’re allowed to hold in-person services, we have a duty to make them as safe as possible. That means no one’ll be allowed to talk. Even me.

“We did a trial run where I did a Power Point sermon, but that put people right to sleep,” Grunt said. “I settled on acting out my sermon. Folks are already used to silent prayers, and the congregation’ll hum the hymns. With any luck, the loudest noise during the service’ll be cash hitting the offering plate.”

Churchgoers praised the idea.

“It’s been ages since we’ve been to church, what with the lockdown and everything,” Sally Port said. “Reverend Grunt’s divinely inspired to come up with this solution. Everyone on island’s tested negative, but you can’t be too safe. There’s so many stories of false negatives.

“Some people suggested using American Sign Language, but turns out no one knows ASL,” Port said. “Reverend Grunt’s pretty good at getting his point across with gestures and glares, even before this. And it’s not like his sermons vary too much anyhow.”

Church officials stressed other safety precautions in place to encourage attendance.

“The pews are cordoned off in six-foot gaps with blue painter’s tape,” church deacon Goldie Gobie said. “And masks, of whatever nature, will be required. We’ve also instituted a do-it-yourself Communion where congregants bring their own bread and wine and administer it to themselves. We’re calling it a ‘BYO Eucharist.’

“With the distancing, though, anybody needing baptizing’s out of luck,” Goby said. “The Our Lady of Blacktip Catholic church’s doing drive-through blessings with Holy Water spray bottles, So that may be an option, undignified as it is.”

Some residents said they would not attend, despite the precautions.

“To me, it’s probably best to avoid church altogether,” Reg Gurnard said. “I’ve been doing that for years and I’ve been damned healthy. If it ain’t broke, I’m not about to fix it.”

Others are opting for alternative worship services.

“I’m having an all-inclusive, ecumenical service Saturday, underwater on Jawfish Reef,” the former Rev. Jerrod Ephesians said. “Anyone of any faith, or lack thereof, can come sit in the sand with me and get in tune with the universe. And I set up a GoFundMe page for offerings.”

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Road Rage Spikes After Blacktip Island Confinement Lifted

road rage

Gage Hoase’s car rests in a ditch beside Blacktip Island’s booby pond following the second road rage incident Wednesday, the small Caribbean island’s first day of deconfinement. (staff photo by Wendy Beaufort)

The end of Blacktip Island residents’ COVID-19-related stay-at-home order Wednesday was marked by a steep uptick in road rage incidents, community leaders said.

“Everyone’s on edge, being cooped up for so long,” said Kay Valve, Sandy Bottoms’ Beach Resort general manager. “It was the first chance people had to get out and drive around, and, well, some of them got a little over enthusiatic. If confinement brought out the best in people, deconfinement brought out the worst in some.

“It started with B.C. Flote and Doc Plank yelling at each other after they nearly crashed vehicles in the car park,” Valve said. “Then B.C. started waving a machete and things turned ugly. Nothing would’ve come of it, but it happened right outside the lobby, where God-and-everyone could see it.”

Authorities were quick to de-escalate the situation.

“I took away B.C.’s machete, then made them drive off—slowly—in opposite directions,” Island Police Constable Rafe Marquette said. “Gave them both official citations, too, so they’ll have to explain themselves in court. Everyone needs to know we won’t stand for this kind of hooliganism. I’m clamping down, hard, before it gets out of control.

“I was still cautioning them when word came about ‘Tonio Fletcher and Gage Hoase going at it at the east coast intersection,” Marquette said. “Two roads on the island, and only a handful of cars out, and those two knuckleheads managed to have a wreck and a fistfight. They’ll be going to court, too. They’re lucky they’re not in the jail.”

Witnesses say the second incident also resulted from a traffic gaffe.

“Gage rolled the stop sign and cut ‘Tonio off,” Jessie Catahoula said. “‘Tonio chased him down and ran him into the booby pond. It was actually pretty funny to watch, especially them going at it hammer and tongs in the bushes after. Rafe didn’t think so, though.

“I guess for two months people haven’t really had access to cars, so their skills slipped,” Catahoula said. “Or they couldn’t wait to make up for lost time. We’re all happy to be able to drive again. Hell, everyone’s speeding and joy riding.”

Many residents questioned the constable’s get-tough response.

“I get why Rafe wants to stop this stuff before it gets out of hand, but this’s Blacktip. Things work themselves out,” Lucille Ray said. “Once people blow off some steam, things’ll go back to normal. Or as normal as it gets on this island.

“Rafe citing people left and right’ll just make things worse,” Ray said. “Thing is, with a citation issued, they have to go to court over on Tiperon, but we’re still not allowed to leave the island. Gut feeling is Rafe’ll drop charges when travel opens back up. He’s just blowing of some post-confinement steam, too.”

Marquette would neither confirm nor deny Ray’s theory, though he did issue citations to the Blacktip Times reporter and photographer covering this story.

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Anti-Police Violence Protest Erupts on Blacktip Island

anti-police protest

Blacktip Island’s police office and jail has been the scene of three days of anti-police violence protests by several island residents. (photo courtesy of 3wisemen)

A crowd of several Blacktip Island residents protested police violence outside the small Caribbean island’s police office and jail for the third day Thursday, authorities said.

“It started with Harry Pickett and Angela Fisher shouting and such outside the jail,” Customs officer Noddy Bolin said. “Next thing, two more folks joined in. Near as we can tell they’re protesting violence in general. I don’t think there’s ever been a case of police violence on Blacktip.

“The jail’s pretty out of the way, so I don’t think anyone has any problem with it. Or notices,” Bolin said. “The signs are funny, though. One says something about ‘stoop violence.’ And Harry’s been waving one that says ‘know peas’ or some such nonsense.”

Police officials say there are no plans to disrupt the protest.

“I’m not at the office much, so they don’t really interfere with me doing my job,” Island Police Constable Rafe Marquette said. “I was kinda surprised to see them there again this morning. There was talk of a curfew, but that seems like a lot of trouble if they’re not tearing anything up. Folks want to let off steam, that’s their right.”

“It doesn’t seem to be about me anyway, they just want to be part of what’s happening elsewhere,” Marquette said. “I’m the lightning rod, I guess. Worst incident I’ve been mixed up in was when I used a wheelbarrow to get Dermott out of the Sand Spit after he broke in, drank all their rum and passed out. I scraped his knuckles pretty good, but there was no other way to move that much bulk.”

Protestors agreed their anger was not aimed at Marquette.

“It’s nothing personal toward Rafe,” Fisher said. “There’s just so much police violence in the world, we felt like we had to do something. And since we can’t leave the island, well, the jail seemed like the best place to protest.

“Honestly, we were hoping for a bigger turnout,” Fisher said. “There’s still time for a few more people to join in — we’re here for as long as it takes to, well, do whatever.”

Long-time residents dismissed the protest.

“Closest we ever had to a riot was when the barge couldn’t dock for a month and all the bars ran out of hootch,” Elena Havens said. “That wasn’t pretty, but Rafe de-escalated it right quick. Threatened to call James Conlee’s mom, and that was the end of it.

“Rafe did get semi-physical when Jerrod busted into the Ballyhoo with a cast-iron frying pan, yelling about smiting sinners or some such,” Havens added. “But all Rafe did was block Jerrod’s path and tell him God wanted him to put down the pan.”

The island’s store owner, however, is taking matters more seriously.

“This island’s going crazy, and I’m more than prepared for any looting,” store owner Peachy Bottoms said. “I’m standing guard outside the door with my broom, and I won’t hesitate to whack anybody who looks like they might act up.

“Locked up all the spray paint and matches, too,” Bottoms said. “Eggs are being doled out two at a time. And if things get out of hand, I may not have pepper spray, but I do have a bunch of jalapeno juice.”

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Blacktip Island Bans Visitors To Enforce Social Distancing


Blacktip Island authorities took steps this week to ensure the small Caribbean island’s beaches remain empty by banning residents and visitors alike from landing on the island. (Blacktip Times staff photo by Wendy Beaufort)

Blacktip Island authorities Thursday announced a ban on all visitors to the small Caribbean island to ensure compliance with current social distancing guidelines.

“The island was getting too crowded,” de facto mayor Jack Cobia said. “Folks have to stay 10 feet apart, and for the most part they are, but if we get too many more bodies on this little rock, people’re gonna have to start standing in the sea. With the current rate of arrivals, that’s just a day or two away.

“We’re nipping this in the bud,” Cobia said. “Some folks are upset, but that’s beside the point. This’s a public health issue. We’re not about to have a situation where folks are hanging out offshore in skiffs or on pool floaties. That’s not dignified. Or healthy.”

Residents say the influx is due to the Tiperon Island government allowing access to the island after several months of quarantine.

“When quarantine lifted, a lot of year-round residents who got stuck off island came flooding back,” Rosie Bottoms said. “Wasn’t a big deal at first, but the folks kept coming. Staying 10 feet apart’s tough enough with just a few people around.

“Then all the second-home owners started coming back, too,” Bottoms said. “That’s when we realized it was a no-win situation. We’re already seeing lots of folks with wet feet from walking in the surf to keep their distance.”

Authorities said the ban will be strictly enforced.

“I greet every inbound flight to make sure nobody gets off,” Island Police Constable Rafe Marquette said. “We got limited real estate on Blacktip. The only way somebody can deplane is if somebody else boards and they swap places.

“It’s an unfortunate necessity,” Marquette said. “Tried spray painting big circles on the ground, but everyone ignored them. I got a list of everyone on-island right now. You’re on the island and not on the list, you get cited. Two offenses, you get to socially distance in the jail cell.”

Some on the island complained the new rule is unfairly restrictive.

“Rafe and Jack, they got no right to say who comes and goes. They’re taking away our freedoms,” Harry Blenny said. “Ain’t seen Christa Goby for months, since she’s stuck over on Tiperon. And end of the day, I just want to go outside, have a beer and holler at my neighbors. Now I can’t.

“All Rafe’s talk on enforcing, I think he’s just bored,” Blenny said. “Or putting on a show for the bosses. He always did like paperwork. Only person happy about this’s ol’ Doc Tang, and that’s just because his wife’s stuck on Tiperon and he ain’t seen her since March.”

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