Category Archives: Caribbean

Blacktip Island To Become A Medical Tourism Mecca

medical tourism

Blacktip Island business leaders are betting the Caribbean island’s pristine beaches and rustic medical facilities will draw visitors eager for medical adventures in the tropics. (photo by Wendy Beaufort/BTT staff)

Hoping to capitalize on a growing tourism trend in the region, Blacktip Island’s business leaders Thursday approved a plan to market the small Caribbean island as a medical-tourism destination.

“This medical tourism stuff’s all the rage these days,” island mayor Jack Cobia said. “The Bahamas, the Cayman Islands, Cuba, they’ve all got sick and injured folks lining up to pay top dollar for life-saving treatment in the tropical sunshine. We’re hitching our star to that wagon quick as we can.

“It’s the natural extension of our existing tourism product,” Cobia said. “Sure, Blacktip’s a little rustic compared to some of the high-end destinations, but that’s our strength. Why recuperate in the hustle and bustle of Old Havana when you can heal body and soul here on our tranquil beaches?”

Community leaders stressed Blacktip’s medical shortcomings.

“You’re right. We are an island of 120 people, give or take. No way we can compete with five-star locales like Grand Cayman,” Blacktip Island Chamber of Commerce president Rich Skerritt said. “We only have the one little clinic, kinda like your high school nurse’s office. It’s backwater, under equipped and under staffed, but that’s the draw.

“We’ve positioned ourselves as the adventure medical tourism destination to bring in all the young adrenalin junkies,” Skerritt said. “It’s an untapped demographic. Anyone can go to a top-notch facility and get world class treatment. Here, we just have an on-call nurse—who may or may not be able to help you—and basic medical supplies. We don’t even have an x-ray machine. You can go in for a flu shot and come out worse off than when you went it. It’s not for the faint of heart. Literally.”

Some on the island questioned the initiative’s appropriateness.

“It is completely unethical to provide anything but the best care possible,” Tiperon University Blacktip medical school chair Dr. Ernestine Bass said. “To intentionally entice patients to a facility incapable of providing adequate care for serious medical conditions is wrong and potentially criminal.

“We have a serviceable clinic that covers the basic needs of our residents and guests. But that’s all it’s designed to do,” Bass said. “Any medical emergencies, we send patients off island quick as we can. We’ll end up doing that with these medical tourists, too. If there’s a seat on the plane. People will get hurt, or worse. Jack and Rich might as well market this as ‘Darwin Was Wrong Travel’”

Patients, however, raved about the program.

“Medical care’s gotten so stale, so run-of-the-mill lately,” island visitor Buddy Beretta said. “This is more primitive, and so visceral. It gets you in touch with your ancestors and everything they went through just to survive.

“For my colonoscopy, they ran out of anesthesia,” Beretta said. “They gave me a shot of rum, a stick to bite on and away we went. It makes you feel alive. Unless something goes wrong. And recovering in a beach hammock was way better than in a hospital bed.”

Program backers are optimistic about future expansions.

“Right now the clinic’s only got one room and two beds, but if this takes off, we’ll add another room, and maybe get a part-time doctor.” Cobia said. “The nurse’ll get more proficient as she gets more practice, too.

“End of the day, nostalgia plays a huge role in this,” Cobia said. “Our pitch is, ‘In junior high, the school nurse could make everything better. On Blacktip Island you can regain that lost youth.’ Sure, we may lose a few patients, but with an operation this size, you have to expect a few losses.”

Leave a comment

Filed under Caribbean

Blacktip Island Divers To Swim Underwater 5K For Charity

Underwater 5K

The Blacktip Island Running Club will host the inaugural underwater 5K fun dive Saturday morning to raise money for charity. (photo courtesy of Summitandbeach)

Race-minded Blacktip Island scuba divers are slated to swim a five-kilometer underwater course around the Caribbean island’s west coast reefs Saturday morning to raise money for charity, race organizers said.

“It’ll be like any other 5K, just underwater,” Blacktip Island Running Club president Val Schrader said. “We figured since most diving guests kick non-stop and cover that much territory every dive anyway, why not turn that to good and raise money for a much-beloved charitable organization?

“Anybody who’s certified is welcome to join in,” Schrader said. “It’s about participating and having fun for most participants. Only a few are actually fast enough to win, and they’ve been training ever since we announced the race last month. All ages are encouraged, and there’ll be awards for the winners of each age division. We’ll even have an under-10 division snorkeling category.”

Organizers said the logistics were more challenging than with a terrestrial race.

“For a road race you just measure out five kilometers on your car’s odometer and call it good,” club member Clete Horn said. “Underwater, though, distance measurement gets trickier. We had a team out with big tape measures plotting out a course around multiple dive sites. And a second team following behind, double-checking their math.

“We also had to steer the course away from coral as much as possible,” Horn said. “We’ve got 5K of dive reel line held up by stakes in the sand, in a meandering loop from Jawfish Reef to Hammerhead Ledge and back again.”

The race will start and end at Diddley’s Landing public pier.

“Racers’ll line up at the pier’s edge, and when we blow the whistle, they’ll all giant stride in at once,” Schrader said. “It’s about a nine-foot drop, so that entry may be the most exciting part of the race.

“We’ll post judges underwater at each turn to make sure no one cuts corners,” Schrader said. “The first diver to climb back up the steps beside the pier will win the coveted Golden Flipper award. Well, we’re pretty sure it’ll be coveted. Eventually.”

Spectators will be able to watch the race from the pier.

“We threw up some scaffolding in case people want a better view, but we’re really not expecting a huge crowd, what with the race starting at seven in the morning,” Port Authority head Rocky Shore said. “We’ll be serving hot coffee and cold bloody Marys for spectators in need, and after-race divers.”

Participants are using a variety of strategies to prepare for the race.

“Lee Helm’s blabbing about greasing himself up, like for an English Channel swim,” Alison Diesel said. “But, knowing Lee, that’s just an excuse to rub Crisco all over himself and wear his Speedo in public.

“Me, I’ve doing wind sprints on every dive this week, covering as many sites as possible,” Diesel said. “My thighs are screaming, but my cardio’s killer. Carb up big time tonight, and I’ll be taking home that Golden Flipper tomorrow.”

Proceeds from the race will go to the Helping Hands Monkey Hands service-animal providers.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Caribbean, Scuba Diving

Blacktip Island Entrepreneur Releases Seasonal Affective Disorder Panels

SAD panels

Blacktip Island sustainable scuba gear manufacturer Bamboo You is marketing retired restaurant chalk boards as ‘Sol-Less’ reverse-seasonal-affective disorder panels for overstimulated island visitors. (photo courtesy of Scottb211)

Blacktip Island entrepreneur Piers ‘Doc’ Planck Wednesday unveiled a new product line of black matte, light-absorbing panels to help island visitors manage their reverse-seasonal-affective disorders.

“People think of SAD only affecting folks in northern, low-sun latitudes, but the sunlight here can overwhelm newcomers,” Planck said. “Sometimes people need a downer, but they don’t know it. Or want to admit it. And our Sol-Less panels provide that.

“Visitors can get too upbeat and burn themselves out, what with all the sun and the light reflected from the water and the sand,” Planck said. “A lot of people overdose on sun and fun and crash by the third day or so. Next thing you know, they’re going to bed at 8:30.”

Planck associate Christina Mojarra explained how the panels counteract tropical sunlight.

“It’s based on the concept of subtractive lighting, like you’d use in photography,” she said. “Originally, we had test subjects sit inside for a bit, but no one wants to do that on a nice day. And the blacklights just made them hungry.

“Then we noticed people sitting by the blackboard at the Sand Spit bar were way chill, and the lightbulb went on,” Mojarra said. “In trials, overstimulated subjects sat beside our black matte panels for 20 minutes and it calmed them right down. They went from being out carousing and annoying the more low-key guests, to being low key themselves.”

The island’s scientific community is skeptical.

“Whatever Doc and Christina are doing may calm people down, but I’ve seen no causal relationship between sedate individuals and repurposed blackboards,” Tiperon University-Blacktip biology chair Catalina Luxfer said. “I think it’s more than coincidental their original test subjects were sitting at a bar mid-afternoon.”

Others objected to the panels’ marketing.

“Doc’s had some damn-fool ideas before, but this one takes the cake,” island mayor Jack Cobia said. “He wants people to be less happy? How do you pitch ‘less happy’ as a good thing to potential island visitors?

“Tourists plan all year to come down here and get happy,” Cobia said. “It’s great he’s making money, but at what cost to the rest of us? Blacktip’s a 24-7 party, and he’s selling a buzz kill.”

Despite the criticism, end-users praised the panels.

“Sometimes the party, party, party side of a Caribbean scuba vacation can take its toll,” Eagle Ray Divers guest Quinn Blenny said. “The Sol-Less panels don’t squelch your fun, they just dial it back a notch or two. They let you enjoy your vacation in moderation and not need a vacation when you get back home.”

Leave a comment

Filed under Caribbean

Blacktip Island Uses Fin-Kick Technology To Generate Electricity

fin-kick energy

Blacktip Island scuba divers now have the option of generating electricity for the Caribbean island’s power grid by attaching modified wave converters to their fins. (photo courtesy of jqpubliq)

Scuba divers on Blacktip Island this week began generating energy for the Caribbean island’s electric grid with their fin kicks to augment the island’s electrical infrastructure, public works officials said.

“Electricity’s expensive on this little rock, and burning diesel to generate it is hell on the environment,” Department of Public Works chief Stoney MacAdam said. “We’re going green and sustainable by strapping mini wave energy converters to divers’ fins and offloading the power they produce into the power grid.

“We don’t have the funding to launch a large-scale offshore facility, but the dive operations have helped defray the cost of these person-scaled oscillating surge converters,” MacAdam said. “Volunteer divers clip them on their fins, run a wire up their legs, and the energy produced gets stored in a battery pack on their BC. They turn the batteries in to the dive shops, the shops offload the electricity and the divers get discounted diving.”

The program is not without its hitches.

“We’re still in the pilot stage, but it’s been good overall, with only a couple of minor electrocutions” Eagle Ray Divers operations manager Ger Latner said. “Participating guests get a discount on their diving commensurate with how much electricity they generate, and volunteers are lining up despite the occasional zap.

“The big worry was how the batteries would hold up, but they’re doing fine,” Latner said. “With the lithium-ion puppies we’re using, you can slam power into them, then pound it back out without any negative effect. And the battery packs come with a quick-release buckle in case they overheat.”

Island visitors hailed the program.

“We’re helping the environment and getting a discount,” Gina Marlin said. “My husband and I made a game of it. We kick as big as we can, as fast as we can, to create as much power as possible. Then on safety stops, we race around the boat to make sure our batteries are jam packed.

“The only drawback so far is my collector battery drained some, and I didn’t get full credit for all the juice I produced,” Marlin said. “Whether that was a glitch or a bait-and-switch, I didn’t get nearly the credit I should have. Trip Advisor’s getting a smoking review about that.”

Some island dive staff are unhappy with the program.

“Clean energy’s good, but now we have yahoos doing big-ass flutter kicks to get their mondo discounts,” divemaster Alison Diesel said. “The punters are blasting up sand and kicking the crap out of the reef just to save a few bucks. End of the day, this is worse for the coral.

“We beg people to use smaller kicks, to scull, so they don’t silt up the reef” Diesel said. “Now this is electric fin BS has them doing the opposite. What’s next, overweighting everyone so they kill even more coral?”

Officials remained optimistic.

“The scuba hippies can complain about damaged coral all they want, but this is good for the island overall,” MacAdam said. “The upside of this far outweighs some isolated reef damage.”

Leave a comment

Filed under Caribbean, Scuba Diving

Blacktip Island Celebrates Post-Christmas Kickboxing Day

Kickboxing Day II

Winner Clete Horn, left, and defending champion Rocky Shore square off in Thursday evening’s final bout of Blacktip Island’s annual Kickboxing Day festivities. The day-long event celebrates Colonial islanders’ struggles against Caribbean pirates. (Photo courtesy of Rudolph A. Furtado)

Blacktip Island residents Thursday celebrated post-Christmas Kickboxing Day with martial arts contests, children’s games and a cook-off at Diddley’s Landing public pier, sponsored by the Caribbean island’s Seaman’s Society.

“The festival started in Colonial times as a way to practice community defensive techniques,” Blacktip Island historian Smithson Altschul said. “Blacktip’s original settlers developed a unique fighting style to combat the region’s pirates. Every Blacktipper was required to learn to fight on land and at sea.’

“The original Kickboxing Days allowed islanders to celebrate Boxing Day while testing their skills against other settlers,” Altschul said. “Now it’s as much a part of the holidays as tacky Christmas lights, overcooked turkey and third-rate college football.”

This year’s festivities began with traditional island feats of endurance.

“We kicked things off with the 5K underwater pub crawl,” said Blacktip Island Seaman’s Society president Jay Valve. “A combination of oxygen-rich, nitrox-filled scuba cylinders and mimosas at each station help shake off any lingering holiday hangovers.

“After that, the Leftover-Off ran through mid-afternoon,” Valve said. “It’s amazing the variety of delicacies island folks can cobble together from holiday leftovers. Finalists this year included stuffing pancakes with cranberry syrup, frozen green bean casserole pops and deep-fried candied sweet potatoes.”

Some residents focused on the day’s physical contests.

“No K-Day’s complete without the Destruction of the Christmas Playlists,” Eagle Ray Cove divemaster Gage Hoase said. “Nothing makes the season bright quite like copying a holiday playlist to a CD, then flinging it as far as you can across the bay. With this year’s north wind, we had a couple nearly break the record.”

The highlight was the evening’s kickboxing competition. As ever, contestants were encouraged to compete in appropriate seasonal attire.

“This year I fought off Santa, two elves and Jesus,” said winner Clete Horn, who opted for reindeer attire. “One elf was a kick-heavy tang soo do dude. Then, in the finals, Jesus gave me fits with that monkey kung fu of his. But I whomped him in the end.”

Event organizers noted the festivities’ unifying qualities.

“At its heart, Kickboxing Day is a uniquely Blacktip tradition that brings the community together during the holidays,” Valve said. “We had smaller rings where kids could strap on gloves and footpads and just wail on each other. After an afternoon of that, and a shot of brandy, the kiddos sleep like logs.”

Residents agreed Kickboxing Day are an integral part of the island’s holidays.

“It’s the most wonderful time of the year on Blacktip Island,” Ginger Bass said. “It’s cathartic, really. Nothing helps you cast off the old year, and gets you excited about the new one, quite like seeing someone who pissed you off get laid out with a roundhouse kick to the head. I still have one of Lee Helm’s molars from last year’s quarterfinals.”

Leave a comment

Filed under Caribbean, Scuba Diving

Blacktip Islanders Fight Against War on Festivus

war on festivus

A small, but determined, group of Blacktip Island residents is making a concerted effort to focus on Festivus celebrations this holiday season. (photo courtesy of 4marknelson)

A group of Blacktip Island residents Thursday took action against what they perceived as attacks on Festivus traditions on the small Caribbean island.

“Festivus provides an alternative to the commercialization and pressures of the Christmas season, and some Blacktippers have declared war on it,” resident Payne Hanover said. “They’re free to celebrate for religious reasons or commercial reasons or whatever, but we won’t let Festivus be relegated to second-class status.

“We’re taking a stand against the ‘what would Jesus buy’ aspect of the holidays,” Hanover said. “We’ll be displaying our bare poles, loud and proud, for everyone to see. Our response to any holiday greeting will be, ‘Happy Festivus.’”

Some island religious leaders decried the movement.

“Christmas is, by definition, religious,” the Rev. Pierre Grunt said. “This imagined assault on a manufactured holiday is just the latest round of the real war on Christmas. Payne and his cronies are stirring up trouble to ruin everyone else’s holidays. We won’t be browbeaten by some multi-culti sensitivity nonsense.

“It wouldn’t be charitable to tell Payne what he can do with his Festivus pole, but we’ll have plenty of carolers to drown out his nonsense,” Grunt said. “We’ll make sure everyone keeps Jesus front and center, if it’s the last thing we do. If Payne wants a war, we’ll give him one!”

Other residents downplayed the dispute.

“Both sides need to shut up, have some eggnog and enjoy the pretty lights,” Olive Beaugregory said. “Celebrate your choice of holidays any way you want. Or not. But don’t harsh the season when everybody else is having a good time.

“I’m wishing people happy Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanza, and Bodhi Day without batting an eye,” Beaugregory said. “I’m even wishing the Pagans a happy Yuletide. Or Solstice. Whichever one they prefer these days.”

The island’s Ecumenical Council urged forbearance during the holidays.

“Blacktip’s a diverse community, and there’s room for every viewpoint,” BIEC president, former reverend Jerrod Ephesians said. “The goal’s to have peace and goodwill on the island. However briefly. Blacktip’s always been an accommodating community. Antonio Fletcher’s been celebrating Hogswatch on the 24th for years, and no one’s complained.”

Hanover remained steadfast.

“We’re foregrounding the non-religious aspects that make this time of year so dear to our hearts,” he said. “We’ll air our grievances. We’ll perform feats of strength. And we’ll by-God celebrate Festivus miracles. Why, just yesterday I found my scooter keys!”

Leave a comment

Filed under Caribbean

Blacktip Island Christmas Tree Lighting Goes Up In Flames

tree lighting catches fire

Blacktip Islanders are still in shock after a glitch in the lighting ceremony caused the community Christmas tree to go up in flames Wednesday evening. (photo courtesy of Fir0002)

Blacktip Island’s annual Christmas tree lighting ceremony went awry Wednesday night when misunderstood directions resulted in the community tree catching fire and burning down, event organizers said.

“The lights were strung, the kids’ ornaments were hung and the tree was perfect,” chamber of commerce President Kay Valve said. “We were all gathered around the tree, holding hands and singing “I Believe in Father Christmas,” then WHOOSH! We had a Christmas fire-nado.

“Dermott Bottoms had been working on the tree and the holiday bonfire and got confused,” Valve said. “When we said, ‘light the tree,’ he took that literally and held a lighter to it. The rum on his breath acted as an accelerant. For a second he looked like a holiday dragon.”

Onlookers described a chaotic scene.

“The crowd was ducking for cover, and people were rolling on the ground to put out the sparks on their clothes and hair,” Rusty Goby said. “Other palm trees went up, too. The flames got up high in the fronds and spread, well, like wildfire.

“We formed an ad-hoc volunteer fire brigade—basically anyone sober enough to handle a bucket or wield a hose,” Goby said. “Somehow we managed to save the nearby structures. That’s our Christmas miracle this year. The whole community’s still in shock, though.”

Island emergency workers say physical injuries were minimal.

“Little Shelly Bottoms lost an eyebrow,” island nurse Marissa Graysby said. “She’s scheduled for some heavy-duty therapy as soon as the holiday season’s over, but, then, we all are. The only other person injured was Dermott, but his skin’s so tough, he only has first-degree burns. I’m pretty sure he still doesn’t feel anything.”

Some worried about the long-term impact on the community.

“We tried the Whoville thing where we gathered around what’s left of the tree and sang holiday songs, but that fell flat, and people choked on the ashes,” Elena Havens said. “Now we’re moving ahead with an alternative community tree to regain a sense of the holidays.

“We’ll have a Christmas sea grape shrub instead,” Havens said. “It’ll be festive and fire resistant. We’re also taking donations for new strings of lights, and the school kids are in overdrive making replacement ornaments. That’s helping a lot of them work through seeing their other ornaments incinerate.”

Others in the community downplayed the incident.

“It’s Blacktip Island. It’s not the holidays unless something goes horribly wrong,” Clete Horn said. “This year, the catastrophe’s out of the way early. Now we can relax and enjoy the rest of the season in peace.”

Leave a comment

Filed under Caribbean