An Eagle Ray Cove dive boat sits idle on its mooring Thursday afternoon after all divers on board were either arrested or unable to dive in the aftermath of a mass nude scuba incident. (photo courtesy of Serge Melki)
Twelve members of a scuba diving club dedicated to nude diving, making their second trip to Blacktip Island, were arrested Thursday afternoon after completing the afternoon dive completely unclothed, island authorities said.
“These are repeat offenders, scofflaws who thumbed their noses at the law,” Island Police Constable Rafe Marquette said. “Warned them last time. Warned them in advance this time. But they wanted to set the record for number of naked folks on one dive and did it anyway. Now they’re in jail. Fully clothed. And’ll be deported in the morning.
“This island, and the Tiperons, aren’t that kind of place,” Marquette said. “Personally, if I could have ignored the transgressions, I would’ve. But we had multiple complaints, including from the dive operator. That forced my hand.”
The dive operator involved said the club’s actions negatively affected their business.
“Most of these folks, well, let’s just say no one wants to see anything they had to show,” Eagle Ray Divers operations manager Ger Latner said. “We had several guests vomit. And not from the waves. Other guests couldn’t eat lunch, or dinner, afterwards.
“Why is it the people who do this crap are the last ones anybody wants to see naked?” Latner said. “No one asked them to strip down. Frankly, we begged them not to. It permanently scarred some kids.”
Club members say they were unfairly targeted.
“We paid for the charter. We have a right to dive any way we want,” club president Willy Moone said. “People don’t like it, they don’t have to look. The cops’re violating our diving rights. And illegally deporting us. TripAdvisor’s getting some nasty reviews because of this.
“Nude diving’s the most natural thing in the world,” Moone said. “Except for the tank and regulator and computer. You don’t think Jacques Cousteau didn’t strip down for a skinny-dive now and then?”
Other members said nude scuba improves their diving skills.
“We’re better divers because of our nakedness,” Phil McKraken said. “You have to watch out for fire coral and hydroids—diving naked, you by-God learn buoyancy quick. We have special buoyancy and situational awareness classes. But if you pass, you can concentrate on just diving, without the distracting chafe of clothing.
Non-club divers disagreed.
“I really don’t see the attraction,” Wanda Goby said. “There’s groupers and moray eels and barracudas down there, just waiting to bite any dangling bits and bobs. There’s jellyfish, too. It’s just asking for trouble, if you ask me. Rafe did them a favor, arresting them like that.”