Category Archives: Scuba Diving

Blacktip Island Resort Offers Mime Dive Briefings

DSC_0028

Blacktip Haven divemaster Peachy Bottoms takes a break Thursday before briefing a group of resort guests about an upcoming dive on a Blacktip Island reef. (photo courtesy of Christopher Brown)

A Blacktip Island scuba resort began offering silent, mime dive briefings this week to accommodate as diverse an array of divers as possible in the Caribbean island’s competitive scuba market.

“We want to be totally inclusive,” Blacktip Haven owner Elena Havens said. “We already offer briefings in Spanish, French, German and American Signing so it’s really just a matter of adding one more language to serve our growing number of mime divers. Plus, it calms some non-mime guests who aren’t comfortable with spoken briefings or eye contact.

Dive staff say the briefings have proved popular.

“You get the guests’ complete attention when you mime all the fish they’ll see. And all the coral,” Blacktip Haven dive guide Rusty Goby said. “They love it when you do the ‘walking against the current’ bit. And when the invisible box of dive time gets smaller and smaller around us.”

“You don’t need the striped shirt and beret, but they help,” Goby added. “Quinn Blenny has a striped wetsuit that totally rocks. And when he smears white sunscreen all over his face, you’d swear you were on a Parisian street corner. In a good way.”

The briefings are not without their critics.

“Some non-mime guests love the briefings, but others have zero tolerance,” divemaster Peachy Bottoms said. “And, boy, do they take it out on us. We had to put in new safety rules. There’s no dive knives allowed on board now. Or spears. Or pointed sticks.

“Staffing can be tricky, too,” Bottoms said. “Some DMs flat-out refuse to work on a mime boat. It’s . . . well . . . we’ve had a lot of turnover this week.”

Other Blacktip resorts applauded Blacktip Haven’s decision.

“I think it’s a great thing Elena’s doing,” said Eagle Ray Cove owner Rich Skerritt. “ERC’s chock-a-block full right now with Haven guests getting as far away as they can from those damned mimes.

“That kind of thing may play well up there, but the folks we attract won’t stand for it,” Skerritt said. “We’re pushing The Cove as a ‘mime-free zone’ on our website, and the bookings are already piling in.”

Havens shrugged off the criticism, saying she’ll promote the new service aggressively.

“We heard all the jokes and all the scoffing, and we asked ourselves, ‘what would Marcel Marceau say?’” she said. “Long story short, we’re doubling down. We’ll have the best briefing options on the island.

“We’ll have staff offering evening mime classes for guests as well,” Havens added. “We even have two of our scuba instructors working up a Mime Diver specialty course, complete with confined water exercises for practice.”

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Caribbean, Scuba Diving

Blacktip Divemasters To Hone Ring-Finding Skills In Weekend Contest

wedding ring 2

Blacktip Island resident Kay Valve shows off her wedding band, one of the rings found during last year’s inaugural Blacktip Island Lord of the Rings underwater wedding ring-finding contest. (photo courtesy of Steve and Jem Copley)

Local dive staff will compete this weekend in the second annual Blacktip Island Lord of the Rings underwater wedding ring-finding contest to hone their scuba search and recovery skills.

“People losing wedding or engagement rings on dives happens more often than you’d think,” said Eagle Ray Divers operations manager Ger Latner. “This competition’ll provide real-world training for that and keep everyone’s skills sharp.

“There’s been a spike in the number of lost rings lately, which makes these skills even more important,” Latner said. “The speculation’s some rings are getting lost on purpose, but I couldn’t speak to that. Some divers are happier than others to get their rings back, though.”

The two-day, double-elimination contest will take place in multiple rounds on a variety of underwater terrains, including a patch reef, hardpan, bare sand and turtle grass flats.

“To jack up the stakes, we use a real wedding rings, too,” Club Scuba Doo dive manager Finn Kiick said. “We pull names out of a hat to see whose ring gets chucked overboard. Last year, Kay Valve about had kittens for hours until Lee Helm finally found her ring in the third round.

“If there’s a tie, the two finalists’ll be tied together at one ankle, like in a three-legged race, and dropped on Alligator Reef at night,” Kiick said. “That’s some gnarly topography, and if you can find a wedding band there, you’re the mac daddy of S&R diving.”

The contest has few rules.

“You have to find the actual ring that’s tossed in,” said Blacktip Haven resort owner Elena Havens. “You can’t just take a fake ring down with you to faux-find.

“There’s also no metal detectors allowed,” Havens said. “The idea’s to simulate an actual ring being lost on an actual dive, and none of our boats have metal detectors. Using one, well, would defeat the purpose.”

Island dive staff are eager to start the competition.

“It’s a rush, sure, but being able to find an actual wedding ring is a critical professional skill,” Eagle Ray Divers divemaster Gage Hoase said. “Someone loses a ring, it ruins their vacation, and unhappy guests leave unhappy tips.

“The flip side’s if you can find the ring, your grats jump through the roof,” Hoase said. “That’s job security right there.”

As with any island contest, authorities warned anti-gambling ordinances will be strictly enforced.

“These things get cutthroat, and the urge to wager goes hand-in-glove with that,” Island Police Constable Rafe Marquette said. “Anyone placing bets this weekend, even informally, will face the full measure of the law.

“Alison Diesel and Marina DeLow have the sharpest eyes on the island, so we’ll be watching their friends closely,” Marquette said. “If gambling was legal, I’d have $100 on Marina. Theoretically.”

Leave a comment

Filed under Caribbean, Scuba Diving

Underwater Chaucer Will Raise Money For Blacktip Island Library

interpretive dance

Marina DeLow, right, as ‘Nature,’ approaches Alison Diesel, as ‘The Formel,’ during the dress rehearsal of the Blacktip Island Community Players’ underwater interpretive dance, The Parliament of Foules, Thursday afternoon. (photo courtesy of Steve Dunleavy)

The Blacktip Island Community Players will celebrate Geoffrey Chaucer’s birthday Saturday and Sunday with an underwater interpretive dance, in three movements, based on Chaucer’s The Parliament of Foules. The performances will raise funds for a new Blacktip Island Public Library.

“In Chaucer’s day, ‘foule’ could mean either ‘bird’ or ‘fool,’” BICP artistic director Doris Blenny said. “We thought that was quite appropriate for Blacktip. And for our dancer-divers.

“The idea is this new twist on one of Chaucer’s lesser-known works would be perfect to raise money for a new library,” Blenny said. “Sadly, the demise of the old library left a hole in the heart of our community. Two books weren’t returned and the other was destroyed in the kitchen fire.”

Cast members hope the combination of subject and venue will resonate with the audience.

Parliament is one of Chaucer’s early dream poems, so the surreal imagery, described in Middle English, leaves it open to many interpretations,” said diver-dancer Gauge Hoase. “Plus, we’re doing it on Canterbury Reef, on the island’s northern tip, so with the currents up there, you never know what’s going to happen.”

The cast was chosen from among BICP’s most experienced divers, including:

  • Finn Kiick as Geoffrey/The Narrator
  • Marina DeLow as Nature
  • Lee Helm as Osprey 1
  • Hugh Calloway as Osprey 2
  • Alison Diesel as The Formel
  • Gage Hoase as Scippio Africanus the Elder
  • Antonio Fletcher, James Conlee and Dermott Bottoms as Other Foules

Locals civic groups protested certain aspects of the performance.

“Art’s fine, and we all like to watch, but this should be a family-friendly show,” the Reverend Pierre Grunt said. “We could overlook a figurative ‘nether ye’ and ‘scalded towte,’ but we drew the line at the Narrator jumping out of bed ‘al nakkèd.’

“Doris saw the wisdom of that, and last minute changed Gage’s costume to a neutral-toned dive skin,” Grunt said. “Plus, a straw poll showed no one wanted to see Gage in the buff. Especially while drinking.”

No on-site viewing will be permitted due to safety concerns given the area’s strong currents. Instead, performances will be transmitted live to all island bars.

“You get blown off the wall, next stop is Tiperon in 70, 80 miles,” Marina DeLow said. “And if you miss that, hellooo, Cuba. The chase boats had enough of a time collecting divers during rehearsals.”

Organizers say remote viewing will encourage audience participation.

“There’ll be round-table discussions at all the bars afterwards, and a final session at the Heritage House where delegates from all the bars can present their opinions to, hopefully, achieve some sort of island-wide consensus,” Blenny said.

Cast members brushed off criticism that Chaucer’s exact date of birth has never been determined.

“He wrote a lot about April, so this could be his birthday. That’s all that matters,” Finn Kiick said. “At least we know Chaucer was real. Not like that sock puppet Shakespeare.”

Leave a comment

Filed under Caribbean, Scuba Diving

Blacktip Island Nudibranchs Write Limericks In The Sand

nudibranch writing

Scuba divers discovered a purple-line sea goddess nudibranch finishing a line of poetry Wednesday afternoon during a shore dive on Blacktip Island’s Sailfish Reef. (photo courtesy of Steve Childs)

Blacktip Island scuba divers on an afternoon shore dive Wednesday discovered signs the island’s sea goddess nudibranchs may spell words in the sand with their slime trails.

“There was a film of algae on the sand, the light was just right and I could make out a cursive ‘N,’” Emma Dorris said. “I looked closer and there was ‘Nantucket’ spelled out in a flowing, 19th Century script. And at the end of the ‘t’ there was a tiny yellow-and-purple sea slug.

“You could see traces of other words, but divers had kicked too much sand to read them,” Dorris said. “Nudibranchs could be doing this all over the place but no one ever noticed, what with divers and storms stirring up the sand. But the weather’s been good and the sand was undisturbed.”

Longtime local divers were not surprised.

“There’s been stories for years of divers seeing words on the sand,” Rusty Goby said. “‘Pruitt’ and ‘trucker,’ most often. We always passed that off, but now it all makes sense. Near as we can tell, those little suckers get of on writing bawdy limericks.”

The scientific community said more study is needed.

“Assuming these slugs do leave words in their wake, is it something they do by happenstance or is it a conscious act?” Tiperon University-Blacktip marine biology professor Ernesto Mojarra said. “Is it only one species? Do they all slime in the same script? Indications are the gold-line sea goddesses have the best penmanship, while the tasseled nudis’ slime is damn-near illegible, but it’s early yet.

“We’re building big Plexiglas cubes to lower over nudibranchs to protect the sand writing from surge and current and divers,” Mojarra said. “And we have teams scouring the reef looking for all species of nudibranchs. That’s the real hard work.”

Some on the island scoffed at the idea of sea slugs writing poetry.

“Limericks? Not haiku or Italian sonnets?” said Chrissy Graysby. “And they only write in English? This is another crop-circle hoax.

“Ernie and his gang’re piling on as an excuse to get grant money,” Graysby added. “And free diving under the guise of ‘research.’”

Mojarra was unfazed by the criticism.

“This could be the cross-discipline breakthrough of our generation,” he said. “The engineering department worked up some underwater blacklights that really make the letters pop.

“We’re also teaming up with the English department to study how and why these slugs acquired their literary preferences,” Mojarra said. “They’ve done studies that indicate lettuce sea slugs compulsively slime-write the text of T.S. Eliot’s ‘The Wasteland.’ Or as much of it as they can before something eats them.”

Leave a comment

Filed under Caribbean, Scuba Diving

New Blacktip Island Certifying Agency To Train Bad Divers

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

DADI scuba instructor Casey Piper teaches a student to kick coral Thursday at Blacktip Island’s Hammerhead Reef. The new training agency is dedicated to training students to dive as poorly as possible. (photo courtesy of Alexdiver)

A group of Blacktip Island scuba instructors has formed a new certifying agency focused on training scuba students to dive badly, the group announced Friday.

“Most guests dive like they’ve disconnected their brains,” said Eagle Ray Divers instructor Casey Piper. “They don’t check their air pressure before jumping in, they kick the coral, they crowd the boarding ladders. We thought, ‘if they’re going to dive badly, they should do it well.’”

“The agency’s Dumb Ass Dive Instructors,” Piper said. “Our motto is ‘Deep Down, You Want To Be A Dumbass.’ Basic open water’s a three-day course. It can take less time, obviously, but agency standards call for a full three days.”

Industry professionals hailed the agency.

“It’s brilliant,” said Eagle Ray Divers operations manager Ger Latner. “If you’re going to dive poorly, don’t half-ass it. Casey’s people are training guests to dive overweighted, to ignore their buddies and to use zero navigation skills.

“DADI divers are required to frog-hop in without a glance at their gauges,” Latner said. “And they’re warned never to read their dive computer’s instruction manual. Or look at the computer during a dive.”

Resort owners said the agency has been a boon to business.

“If we can’t stop guests from diving like yahoos, we can at least make money off it,” said Eagle Ray Cove owner Rich Skerritt. “With DADI, they’re taught to have as much crap as possible dangling off their BCs. Every D-ring chock-a-block full of crap. Then we sell them all the crap.

“The Harassing Wildlife module’s super popular,” Skerritt said. “We’re teaching folks how to properly chase a stingray, turtle or shark. Then we sell them cameras, and give prizes for blurry photos of the critters’ butts.”

Local dive staff were unimpressed.

“We don’t really see any difference,” Eagle Ray Divers divemaster Alison Diesel said. “It’s job security for us, I guess, keeping them alive.”

Students raved about the course.

“I always felt so guilty not doing everything they told me to do in my open water class,” Suzy Souccup said. “The Dumbass class was liberating. It simplifies diving and lets me just having fun, guilt free.”

“I mean, instead of figuring out my profile, or listening to a boring briefing, I can just hop in with everyone else, then come up with everyone else,” she added.

DADI officials stressed the class doesn’t neglect safety.

“We require all Dumbass-certified divers to carry dive accident insurance,” Piper said. “It gives them, and us, peace of mind. If nothing else, we accomplished that.”

DADI plans to add more Dumbass courses in the future.

“We have plans for an Advanced Dumbass Diving course, and lots of Dumbass specialties,” Piper said. “We were going to do a Dumbass Rescue course, but didn’t really see the point.

“We’re training all our staff to teach the course, too,” Piper said. “We’ll all be proud to say we’re Dumbass instructors.”

Leave a comment

Filed under Caribbean, Scuba Diving

Trained Groupers To Patrol Blacktip Island’s Coast

grouper intel

A Nassau grouper stands guard on Blacktip Island’s Pinnacle Reef Thursday. A plan by the Tiperon Islands Defense Enterprise would surround the island with specially-trained grouper to warn of any impending invasion. (photo courtesy of lowjumpingfrog)

Following last week’s news that a Blacktip Island divemaster had trained a Nassau grouper to add and subtract, the Tiperon Islands Defense Enterprise announced Thursday it plans to train grouper to help guard the Tiperons from possible foreign attacks.

“If this grouper thing checks out, and I think it will, we could have the makings of a offshore early warning system,” TIDE head MacArthur Wrasse said. “They’ll be our eyes and ears on the reef, able to tell us how many bad guys are coming and from what direction.

“We’re calling it our ‘Grouper Wall,’” Wrasse said. “First order of business is getting this Hoase fellow a security clearance. We’ll need clearances for the fish, too, pronto, so we can get the defense system operational asap.”

Grouper training for all the islands will take place on Blacktip, officials said.

“Blacktip’s isolation’ll help keep the training details as under wraps as possible,” TIDE deputy chief Harry Blenny said. “Blacktip’s small, slow-paced and backwards, like most of its residents. Any off-islanders show up and start poking around, we’ll know straight away.”

Island officials welcomed the news.

“We’ll all sleep a little sounder knowing there’s someone on guard,” said island mayor Jack Cobia. “Security on that scale has been sadly lacking for a long time, what with there being no standing military in the Tiperons.

“On Blacktip all we have is the island constable and a volunteer defense force that does occasional patrols, but that’s about it,” Cobia said. “Frankly, the Blacktip Force for Defense is more of an excuse to hang out and drink beer. Groupers don’t drink. That’s a plus right there.”

Not all residents were happy with the idea.

“They’re talking about weaponizing fish. In a marine park,” Blacktip People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals president Harry Pickett said. “Plus, there’s a 2,000-foot wall that drops off 100 yards offshore. How much early warning will the groupers actually give? It’s more like telling us who’s at the door.

“Bigger picture, the program’s a blatant scam for government funding,” Pickett said. “Who, exactly, is going to attack us? There’ve been zero invasions in the island’s history. Unless you count tourists.”

BFD officials called that attitude naïve.

“It only takes one time, you know,” said Antonio Fletcher, BFD sergeant-at-arms. “Not many enemies now, sure, but you can’t be too careful. Cuba’s close by. And Belize. Things change. And The Sight can’t pick up everything.”

“Groupers watching the coast makes good sense – they know the sea better than any of us,” Fletcher said. “Plus, they’re naturally suspicious. They know when something’s fishy or doesn’t smell right.”

Leave a comment

Filed under Caribbean, Scuba Diving

Blacktip Island Divemaster Trains Grouper To Do Math

math grouper

Eagle Ray Divers guest Juanita Cerf poses an arithmetic question to Bernie the Nassau grouper on Blacktip Island’s Hammerhead Reef Thursday. (photo courtesy of Grady Cerf)

A Blacktip Island divemaster has taught a Nassau grouper to do basic arithmetic to entertain dive guests, the Caribbean island’s Eagle Ray Cove resort announced Wednesday.

“Gage Hoase’d been messing with that grouper at Hammerhead Reef for ages. Bernie, the one who likes to be petted,” Eagle Ray Divers operations manager Ger Latner said. “We had no idea what Gage was up to until he had the fish add and subtract for guests during a dive.

“Nassaus are smart, on the fish scale, but this blew us away,” Latner said. “Divers can ask Bernie math questions, and the damn fish’ll answer back. Correctly. Our boats are packed, and we’re diving Hammerhead two, three times a day.”

Hoase said Bernie’s skill came about by chance.

“He’s a friendly fish, always interested in what I was doing,” he said. “One day I was counting divers on my fingers and I noticed him bobbing his head in time with my counting.

“I held up four fingers on each hand and he nodded eight times,” Hoase said. “From there it was a natural jump to writing math problems for him on an underwater slate.”

Dive guests raved about their encounters.

“I asked Bernie what seven plus nine was and that little dickens answered right!” said Eagle Ray Cove guest Kenny Bloate. “He bobs his head for single digits and shakes it side-to-side for larger numbers: one shake and six nods equaled 16! They charge extra for the dive, but it’s worth it.”

Other divers were skeptical at first.

“I thought it was BS, then I put Bernie through his paces,” Juanita Cerf said. “I even gave him a problem with a negative number as the answer and he turned 180 degrees and counted it right out.”

The island’s scientific community remains dubious.

“We dived Hammerhead Reef without any Eagle Ray Dive staff present and found the fish to be curious, but otherwise untalented,” Tiperon University-Blacktip marine biology chair Goby Graysby said. “Our working hypothesis is Mr. Hoase is signaling to the fish.

“That’s not to say Gage’s work isn’t impressive,” Graysby added. “To train a grouper to respond to signals is unusual. But the fish can’t perform arithmetic.”

Hoase rebuffed Graysby’s claim.

“It’s a game for Bernie. If he doesn’t like you, he won’t play,” Hoase said. “And fish learning is more common that you think. A woman on Barbados taught a parrotfish to tell time. And a humphead wrasse in Palau can spell. In Latin and Cryrillic scripts. It’s working on kanji characters, too, but so far is only up to emojis.

“The next step for Bernie is quadratic equations,” Hoase said. “He understands them, but we haven’t worked out a system for him to communicate anything like ‘x=y+2’. It’ll probably involve barrel sponges.”

Leave a comment

Filed under Caribbean, Scuba Diving