Category Archives: Caribbean

Anti-Littering Request Draws Blacktip Residents’ Ire

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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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Community Hurricane Prep Meeting Devolves Into Hurricane Party

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The Blacktip Island Taskforce for Emergencies rescheduled its annual hurricane preparation meeting Thursday after a party broke out at Wednesday night’s meeting that left all members incapacitated. (Blacktip Times file photo)

The Blacktip Island Taskforce for Emergencies’ 2019 hurricane season planning meeting was postponed a week after Wednesday evening’s meeting turned into an impromptu hurricane party, taskforce members said.

“We were at the Heritage House, inventorying the island storm supplies and making new emergency lists for island residents,” BITE president Rocky Shore said. “‘Tonio found a bottle of rum left over from last year, we opened it to make sure it hadn’t gone bad, and that’s the last thing I remember.

“Once we recovered Thursday morning, it took us the rest of the day to clean up the liquor bottles, food wrappers and empty water jugs,” Shore said. “Then we rescheduled the meeting for next week. And stipulated it’ll be alcohol free. Until after we adjourn, anyway.”

Some members say the party was exactly what the group needed.

“We’d gotten complacent. Getting trashed like that, it really brought us together as a team,” BITE treasurer Kay Valve said. “Plus, it ensured last year’s supplies were used up. We’re starting this season with fresh, new everything.

“It was also a great run-through for an actual hurricane,” Valve said. “We simulated being out of electricity when Jerrod bumped the lights off and no one could find the switch to turn them back on. And who knew canned ravioli pairs well with dark rum.”

Some in the community were not happy with the taskforce’s actions.

“These are supposed to be the island’s leaders, the ones who’ll guide us in an emergency,” resident Herring Frye said. “And what do they do three days before hurricane season? They get schnockered and blow through all our emergency provisions. It wouldn’t be so bad, but they didn’t think to invite any of us. That hurts.”

Committee members acknowledged their lapse in judgment, but emphasized on the experience gained.

“It’s true, we should have invited everyone,” BITE secretary Jerrod Ephesians said. “We’re already discussing how to turn next year’s prep into an island-wide blow out to kick off the season. We’ll be sending out a memo to everyone on the island in a few days.

“It’ll focus everyone for an actual emergency,” Ephesians said. “The ability to drink hard and still function is an often overlooked part of hurricane preparedness. And you have to know what hangover remedies to have on hand, and how much, ideally for yourself and a neighbor. The process was messy, but we’re in a good place because of it.”

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Blocks Discovered Off Blacktip Island May Be Phoenician Anchors

Phoenician anchors

Blacktip Island Historical Museum curators have already begun building a scale model of a Phoenician trading ship following the discovery of blocks believed to be ancient Phoenician anchors on an island reef. (photo courtesy of Georges Jansoone)

Scuba divers surveying new dive sites on Blacktip Island’s southeast coast Wednesday discovered what they believe to be ancient Phoenician stone anchors on a shallow reef.

“That area doesn’t get dived much because the seas are usually rough,” Eagle Ray Divers divemaster Gage Hoase said. “We’d found some sweet coral stands and were looking for a good spot for a mooring pin, when, WHAM, there were these obviously man-made somethings on the hardpan.

“They were ‘multi-holed and precisely carved,’ just like Wikipedia said Phoenician anchors were, so we’re pretty confident that’s what they are,” Hoase said. “We figure, as rough as it gets along that coast, some ancient explorers got blown off course and their ship sunk right there.”

Experts say the idea isn’t as far-fetched as it sounds.

“We know the Phoenicians were in the Canary Islands, following the same sea route Columbus used,” island historian Smithson Altschul said. “It’s conceivable one or more of their ships found their way to the Caribbean. Plenty of area archeology supports that.

“There are sunken marble ruins off Bimini reminiscent of Phoenician architecture, and the Bimini Road didn’t build itself,” Altschul said. “I would need to get a hands-on look at these things before I commit any further than that, but it’s a tantalizing possibility.”

Some locals were not surprised by the find.

“Always been talk of Ancient Near East ships coming here, whether Phoenician or Cretan or Mesopotamian,” island native Antonio Fletcher said. “Folks pass that off as bar talk, but now we got something to back it up. Phoenician’s most likely, since they were the best shipbuilders and sailors of their day. That’s where Blacktippers get their seafaring skills, y’know.”

Others were more skeptical.

“Gage has two blurry pictures of crusted-over cinder blocks with rope tied to them,” long-time Blacktip resident Frank Maples said. “There’s zero indication anyone was on Blacktip Island before the Vikings raided it back in the 1500s, much less ancient Phoenicians. We need to stick to verifiable facts.”

Island officials plan to confirm the find as soon as possible.

“When the weather calms down, we’ll send out a team to document the blocks in situ, then bring them ashore for further study,” Altschul said. “Ideally, we’ll find lettering on them that will tell us their origin.

“If these anchors prove to be real, they’ll go in the island historical museum,” Altschul said. “They’ll be on display for everyone to see, alongside the Viking sword hilt and the skeleton of St. Dervil’s singing iguana.”

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Blacktip Divers To Attempt Record Underwater Phone Booth Stuffing

underwater phone booth

Diver B.C. Flote makes a preliminary safety inspection Thursday at Ma Bell Reef, the site of Saturday’s underwater phone booth stuffing contest. (Photo courtesy of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife)

Scuba divers on Blacktip Island will attempt to set the world record for underwater telephone booth stuffing Saturday on Ma Bell Reef to raise awareness of the island’s newest dive site, island chamber of commerce officials said.

“Our phone booth gathered dust for years, so we sunk it as an artificial reef,” chamber president Ledford Waite said. “We had all the booths from Tiperon sent over, too, and sunk them. It’s a one-of-a-kind site, but the problem’s getting the word out.

“We figured a 1950s stunt using 1980s technology would be perfect for drawing attention,” Waite said. “The world record’s 25 people, but that was on land and without scuba gear. We got eight divers in a booth in a practice run, and we’re hoping someone can squeeze in 11 or 12.”

Experts expect teams to use a variety of strategies.

“Official attempts have to be in a standard, upright phone booth, but that’s the only constant,” chamber treasurer and Tiperon University-Blacktip engineering chair Sally Port said. “How teams handle mass and volume is key. There’s lots of math involved in wedging the right people in the right order, and jamming their tanks in at just the right angles without dislodging any regulators.

“The ideal stuffee should on the short and skinny side, but that’s up to the load master who’ll stack divers in as he or she thinks best,” Port said. “The good thing about doing this on scuba is we don’t have to worry about the person on the bottom not being able to breathe. Or cracking ribs. That’s what killed the fad back in the 50s.”

Teams have done extensive preparation for the event.

“We punched in everyone’s height, weight and density stats, then ran a bunch of computer simulations to see who fits best where,” Marina DeLow said. “We have a good idea of who we want where, but I can’t say more than that. Other than Lee Helm goes on the bottom. Based on solely on him being a jerk.”

Contest rules allow for part of each stuffed diver to extend from the booth.

“If their torso’s in, we’ll call it good,” Waite said. “It’s OK to have arms and leg sticking out, so long as most of the body’s in the booth. And we’ll have safety divers on hand in case anyone does get their reg yanked out, what with arms and legs getting shoved every which way.”

Photos of the winners will be sent to Guinness Book of World Records.

“Technically, no one’s tried to do this before, so any number will be the record,” safety diver B.C. Flote said. “But we’ll be maxing it out to make sure the Guinness people take us seriously.

“This event’s already drawing the community together, young and old,” Flote said. “It proves doing pointless, dangerous things is ageless and universal.”

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Underwater Marco Polo Proves Popular On Blacktip Island Reefs

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An underwater Marco Polo player (right) spins to avoid being tagged by the ‘it’ player Thursday beneath an Eagle Ray Divers dive boat on Blacktip Island. (photo courtesy of davidhv22)

In an effort to attract more non-divers to scuba, the Blacktip Island Chamber of Commerce this week started underwater sessions of the popular children’s pool game Marco Polo for adults on the Caribbean island’s reefs.

“The inspiration was seeing kids in the pool playing Marco Polo with masks and snorkels,” chamber president Kay Valve said. “There’s lots of non-diving spouses and significant others who don’t dive because they think it’s boring.

“This is the next logical step, and shows people there’s more to do on the dives than just look at fish,” Valve said. “Whoever’s ‘it’ wears a blacked-out mask and shouts ‘Marco’ through their regulator, then all the others shout ‘Polo’ back. You can hear quite clearly underwater.”

Island dive operations have noted an uptick in certification requests.

“We’re slammed certifying people so they can play reef-tag,” Club Scuba Doo dive manager Finn Kiick said. “I don’t get it, but the guests are goofy for it and come back smiling, so it’s all good.”

Participants agreed.

“If I’d known how fun this would be, I’d’ve gotten certified years ago,” Sandy Bottoms Beach Resort guest Earnestine Bass said. “It’s like being a kid again, but not cooped up in some backyard pool.”

Organizers have also created a surface-based version for snorkelers.

“Kids under 10 and anyone else who just doesn’t want to scuba can still have a great time,” Valve said. “We also modified the basic rules for underwater and surface players.

“For divers, there’s a ‘fish out of water’ rule for anyone who climbs on a boat’s swim platform to avoid being tagged,” Valve said. “For snorkelers we added a ‘fish underwater’ rule for players who dive down to escape.”

Some diving guests, however, were not pleased with the new activity.

“I come here to chill and look at fish, not watch a bunch of idiots charge across the reef,” Marlin Bleu said. “All their hollering scares the fish away. And you can hear them two, three dive sites off.

“Worse, I got grabbed twice today by a couple of these jokers,” Bleu said. “I have a dive knife, a big one, and I’m not afraid to use it.”

Dive operators say it’s impossible to completely separate players from other divers.

“We ask players to be respectful, but it’s not practical to take them to different sites,” Eagle Ray Divers dive operations manager Ger Latner said. “Marco Polo players want to go to the most popular dive sites too, and they’re paying the same rates as everyone else.

“In the meantime, our dive boats are full and we’re selling courses like crazy,” Latner said. “And snorkel and scuba gear is flying off the shelves.”

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Drinking Advocates Stage Blacktip Island-Wide Drunk Driving Race

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Both Blacktip Island’s roads will be cleared of non-essential traffic Saturday for the inaugural Rat-Faced Road Rally drunk driving race around the Caribbean island’s coastal road. (photo courtesy of Rosie Blenny/DAMM)

The Blacktip Island Chapter of the drinking-advocacy group Drunks Against Mad Mothers will sponsor the inaugural Rat-Faced Road Rally impaired driving contest Saturday to raise money for multiple community organizations.

“People get drunk and drive no matter what, so why not let them get it out of their systems in a controlled manner?” DAMM president Jack Cobia said. “This makes sure it’s properly supervised, it serves as a cautionary demonstration and raises money for charity at the same time.

“We’ll block both roads to non-participants,” Cobia said. “The only people out there’ll be the drivers, and they’ll be swaddled in bubble wrap. We’ll also have beaters to make sure the roads are clear of iguanas and other wildlife. And spectators.”

Organizers say money raised will go to the island’s Salvation Army and Alcoholics Anonymous.

“People pledge a dollar amount for each mile a driver completes without wrecking their car,” DAMM treasurer Rosie Blenny said. “Off-road mileage, intentional or otherwise, won’t count.

“The winner’ll be the one who completes the most laps around the island and stays conscious,” Blenny said. “There’s also degree-of-difficulty points assigned to each driver, based on estimated alcohol tolerance. Dermott doesn’t even feel his first three beers, and a half case for Gage Hoase is like a six pack for anyone else.”

Participants are eager to compete.

“Celebrates a long-standing Blacktip Island tradition’s what it does,” James Conlee said. “Daddy did it. Granddaddy did it. Great-Granddaddy did on horseback. Now I’m gonna win it.

“I been practicing drinking and driving for weeks now, polishing my skills,” Conlee said. “A little proficiency driving never hurt anyone, you know. Tore up a fender or two, and maybe a tree, but never hurt anyone.”

Island officials say the event will also serve as a public safety demonstration.

“Folks see one of these yahoos slam into a tree, they’ll think twice about drink-driving,” Department of Public Works chief Stoney MacAdam said. “And the money raised will more than offset any damage they do.

“There’ll also be DPW-administered betting grids for how much alcohol each driver consumes versus how much distance they cover,” MacAdam said. “Proceeds from that are earmarked for driving safety courses and reflective road signage.”

Some, however, worry the event sends the wrong message.

“Making light of drunk driving doesn’t help, no matter what lessons are taught or what sort of funds are raised,” island nurse Marissa Bass said. “It encourages it, really. I have a couple of Cessna owners on standby to airlift idiots off island when they drive into ditches or each other.

“I also have $25 on Dermott, but that’s just common sense,” Bass said. “I’m safety conscious, not stupid.”

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