Monthly Archives: July 2020

Blacktip Island Scuba Divers Create Underwater Sharks-and-Minnows League

uw sharks and minnows

Scuba diver “minnows” Gage Hoase (left) and Ginger Bass race for the safety of a nearby coral head Thursday afternoon during a game of “sharks and minnows.” (photo courtesy of Diego Delso)

Blacktip Island’s scuba-diving residents, deprived of tourists and other island visitors since March, this week created an underwater sharks-and-minnows league to add variety to their diving activities.

“We’re all doing lots of recreational diving these days to stave off boredom, but diving the same sites was getting pretty stale,” Gage Hoase said. “For a laugh one day, Jerrod tried to keep Joey Pompano from getting to the boat’s boarding ladder. Other people laughed and joined in and it turned into an impromptu keep-away game.

“Next day, everybody started playing tag underwater, so we formalized some rules and voila, we had a thing,” Hoase said. “It’s the same rules as above water, or in a pool. Mostly. Divers try to get from one coral head to the next, with the ‘shark’ in between. When the shark bangs his tank it’s ‘shark attack’ time, and the minnows have to get past him without getting tagged.”

Players say the action can get intense.

“It gets damned competitive down there,” Ginger Bass said. “People you’d never suspect of being gamers get super aggressive. And there’s always arguments about whether somebody was actually tagged. It’s hard to tell, sometimes, when you’re wearing a wetsuit. A couple of times we had to end the game so people could go to the surface and argue over who did, or didn’t get tagged.”

Some on the small Caribbean island raised safety concerns.

“These people are grabbing and clawing at one another 30 feet underwater. Eventually someone’ll get hurt,” island nurse Marissa Graysby said. “Somebody accidentally snags a regulator hose or bumps someone’s tank valve while they’re playing grab-ass, that could mean serious trouble.

“The only medical infrastructure on this little island are me and the clinic, and we have no way to evacuate anyone off island, Grasby said. “Blacktip is not the place you want to get hurt. Especially now, and for such a silly reason.”

Others said the nurse’s fears were unfounded.

“People get into the game, sure, but we’re all careful not to be stupid,” Jay Valve said. “If a reg comes out, all action stops until the diver gets it back. And we do air checks between each round.

“The real medical issue is what would happen if we all didn’t play this game,” Valve said. “it’s social interaction that doesn’t involve drinking, and folks blow off a ton of steam with this.  Marissa’s not trained to deal with the mental health issues if we all sat around doing nothing. Or diving the same old sites the same old way.”

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Blacktip Island’s Stargazers Launch Island’s First Astronomy Club

BI astronomy society

The Milky Way’s galactic arm stretches across Blacktip Island’s Eagle Ray Cove Wednesday night. A group of amateur astronomers has banded together to form the island’s first astronomy club. (photo of Kristian Pikner)

An informal group of astronomy enthusiasts this week joined forces to form the small Caribbean island’s first official astronomy club to alleviate boredom while tourism is derailed due to COVID-related border closings.

“Everybody was sitting around, just staring into space one night after the Ballyhoo closed, and the idea hit us,” Blacktip Island Astronomy Society president Cal Batten said. “We figured we might as well watch stars together since we were doing it anyway after the bars close.

“There’s too many lights around buildings, though, so we meet out on the airstrip,” Batten said. “Everybody brings a folding lounge chair and their beverage of choice and we stay up most of the night watching the stars, hoping for a comet, that sort of thing.”

Society members say the club is a way to better themselves.

“I was going to learn a language, but this is less stressful and more useful,” Cori Anders said. “Plus, you can drink while you do it. It’s encouraged, actually. And it’s an opportunity to learn something new.

“Like, I know I’m a Sagittarius, but wasn’t sure what that meant,” Anders said. “So hopefully this’ll give me some insight into that.”

Others echoed Anders’ sentiments.

“I’m never sure which stars are which, or what people are talking about,” Lee Helm said. “But I do like laying on my back and watching the stars spin. You feel safe in a group. Unless the constable shows up.”

Island authorities are tolerant of the group’s activities, to a point.

“Club members are free to use the landing strip, provided they police all garbage when they leave,” Island Police Constable Rafe Marquette said. “They also have to be gone at first light so they don’t interfere with arriving aircraft. Anyone laying on the runway at dawn will be arrested, be they conscious or otherwise. And they have been. Not to mention anyone by name, but his initials are Dermott Bottoms.”

Club officers include: Cal Batten, president; Marina DeLow, vice president; Peachy Bottoms, secretary; and Reg Gurnard, bartender.

The club’s informal structure is its greatest strength, members said.

“Folks who know about stars and stuff teach the rest of us,” Alison Diesel. “The other night, Cal brought out his big telescope to give us all cool views of Jupiter, Saturn and Venus. And James Conlee, he swears he saw Uranus.”

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Blacktip Island Scuba Operation Touts Underwater COVID Cure

swim platform

Club Scuba Doo dive manager Finn Kiick claims his mix of exotic breathing gas and deep dives has eradicated the COVID19 virus on the small Caribbean island. (photo courtesy of Rusty Goby)

A Blacktip Island scuba company Wednesday began administering what it calls prophylactic COVID19 treatments to island residents via compressed gas combined with hyperbaric activity.

“We use a special breathing mix that zaps the virus,” Club Scuba Doo dive manager Finn Kiick said. “Then we take you down to around 120 feet, and the pressure squeezes what’s left of it out of your body.

“We charge extra for the charter, but it’s well worth it,” Kiick said. “University tests prove this works, and so far we have a 100 percent success rate.”

Some in the island’s scientific community disputed Kiick’s claims.

“There’s no test from any university in the world that supports Finn’s snake-oil treatment,” said Tiperon University-Blacktip biology chair Ernesto Mojarra. “He’s giving people who-knows-what to breathe, then taking them down deeper than he’d ever take a dive guest. He’s going to get people hurt. Or worse.”

Other contested Kiick’s success rate.

“He’s claiming a perfect cure rate after he’s tried his boondoggle on what, four, five people?” Elena Havens said. “That’s an awfully small sampling. Oh, and no one on Blacktip’s tested positive for the virus. Pretty easy to claim success when there’s no virus on the island to begin with. It’s like me saying snapping my fingers keeps tigers away.”

Kiick defended his claims

“Elena’s right: there is no virus on Blacktip,” he said. “That just proves the treatment works. We’re keeping the island virus free. And there’s been no complaints, so that says we’re doing something right.”

Most treatment recipients were pleased with the results.

“I could feel the gas working right away,” Rusty Goby said. “A couple of breaths and I got all lightheaded. Then Finn took me down deep and all the colors brightened and swirled and held me close. I could feel the dead virus oozing out of my pores. Or something oozing out, anyway.

“And I’ve felt great ever since,” Goby said. “I went back for three more treatments, just like Finn prescribed. Whatever’s in that breathing mix really works. I may make it a weekly thing.”

Others questioned the treatment efficacy.

“Finn talks about the gas mix being a trade secret, but I think he just shoots a little flavored oxygen in the nitrox,” Alison Diesel said. “Then he charges triple the rack rate for a one-tank dive. I mean, I was goofed and all, but I can’t say I feel any different than before. Except I have weird dreams now. And that was after just one session.”

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Blacktip Island Foil Man Race Will Social Distance Runners


Eagle Ray Cove will be the site of the first leg of Saturday’s delayed Blacktip Island Tin Man mini-triathlon. (photo courtesy of Christina Mojarra)

Blacktip Island’s annual Foil Man mini-triathlon, postponed due to COVID19 quarantine orders in May, will take place Saturday morning with social-distance protocols in place, organizers said.

“Racers are eager to compete, but we had to find a way to do it safely,” Rum Runners athletic club president Kay Valve said. “We were going to do it remote on Zoom, but that seemed pretty hollow. What we’re doing instead is having one individual start every five minutes. This way racers can sort of see each other, but not get too close.

“We’ll also have marshals all along the course to make sure racers maintain their distancing throughout the race,” Valve said. “The big concern is one racer getting in another’s slipstream and getting a snootful of any kind of germs that person’s carrying.”

Racers had mixed emotions about the protocols.

“It’s not ideal, but at least we can still have the race in person,” Rocky Shore said. “We’re still racing against each other, just not neck-and-neck. The only other option was to cancel an island tradition. And at this point, we all really need a pick-me-up.”

As ever, the race will feature a swim across Eagle Ray Cove, a bike ride from Club Scuba Doo to Diddley’s Landing public pier, then a run to the Sandy Bottoms’ Beach Resort bar.

“We’re trying to keep things as normal as possible, or as normal as things get on this little rock,” race marshal Ernestine Bass said. “We’ll have GPS trackers on all contestants to ensure distancing, and proctors on motorcycles will be able to zip to the site of any distancing issues. If someone starts to overtake, they’ll have to run in place, with their personal timer stopped, to re-establish a safe distance.

“There won’t be any big, dramatic finish, but there will be adrawn-ourt award ceremony that’ll build lots of tension before the winners are announced,” Bass said. “We’ll set the trophies out by the pool and let the winners go get their own when their name’s called.”

Organizers said there are also protocols in place to protect spectators.

“There’s giant fans installed on parts of the course where people are likely to gather or where trees grow close to the road,” proctor Christina Mojarra said. “Any place where there’s a potential for low air movement, we’ll create our own wind to diffuse any potential airborne virus hot spots.”

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Plague Romance Highlights Blacktip Island’s Summer Theater Season


Gage Hoase takes center stage Thursday during rehearsals of the Blacktip Island Community Players’ production of The Horseman on the Roof. (photo courtesy of Craig Sunter)

The Blacktip Island Community Players will stage an English-language version the plague-themed French classic The Horseman on the Roof Saturday and Sunday to mark the start of its summer theater season, BICP members said.

“We needed something topical, with everyone so focused on this virus outbreak,” BICP director Doris Blenny said. “A play about cholera is just the thing to boost peoples’ spirits and get their minds off their problems.

“We decided on doing the play in English, too, since no one had time to learn French. And no one would understand it anyway,” Blenny said. “Plus, no one knows what a ‘hussard’ is. And ‘sur le toit’ sounds quite dodgy in English.”

BICP members said the play will also help residents socially distance.

“We’re staging the play literally on the roof of the Heritage House,” cast member Jessie Catahoula said. “The audience’ll sit outside, with chairs spaced out all around so people can see the play from every angle.

“There’s a few little platforms installed for important scenes and staging, but most of the action’ll be smack on the tin sheeting,” Catahoula said. “It adds an element of danger to the performance we think the audience will love.”

The cast includes:

Marina DeLow as Pauline

Gage Hoase as Angelo

Elena Havens as Monsieur Peyrolle

Alison Diesel as The Doctor

Lee Helm as Maggionari

Jessie Catahoula as Giuseppe

Jerrod Ephesians as The French Army

Payne Hanover as Various Angry Mobs

Cast members struggled to perform on the tilted surface.

“We surrounded the house with mattresses during rehearsals, so many people were falling off,” Alison Diesel said. “Most got the hang of it, but we’re leaving the mattresses deployed for the show, just in case. If it rains, that metal gets slick as snot.

“At one point, Lee Helm slipped was hanging on by just his fingers in the rain gutter,” Diesel said. “There was some debate about whether we should save him or just let him fall. We ended up having Dermott add an extra mattress and letting gravity take its course.”

Some in the community questioned the choice of subject matter.

“Doris and them are making light of a serious public health situation,” Frank Maples said. “This isn’t what we need right now. Some light opera would’ve been nice to take our minds off this constant pandemic nonsense. The island needs diversion, not depression.”

Others embraced the play.

“We just love watching them rehearse every evening,” Chrissy Grasby said. “They wanted to practice in private, but it’s on the roof, so they couldn’t really stop us from gawking. It gives the little ones something to do outside, and they just love when actors fall.”

Blenny has high hopes for opening night.

“It won’t be much of a surprise, with everyone having seen rehearsals, but the show will still go on,” she said. “We just hope folks’ll all come back and see the show sober. But what are the odds? Of the sober part.”

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