Category Archives: Scuba Diving
Sunday, February 5, 2023
Precipitation: On the way
Blacktip Island’s famous ‘Blacktip Babette’ the yellow-headed jawfish will peek out of her hole on Jawfish Day today. Island residents hope she won’t see her shadow, thus ensuring a storm-free hurricane season. (photo courtesy of National Marine Sanctuaries)
Blacktip Island residents will be closely watching webcams today to see if Blacktip Babette, the famed yellow-headed jawfish, will see her shadow and retreat into her hole, signaling a busy hurricane season this year.
“It’s a bit like Punxsutawney Phil the groundhog, only underwater and without fur,” Payne Hanover said. “If Babette sees her shadow, things’ll get ugly, weather-wise, this summer and fall. We’re pretty sure Jacques Cousteau was the first to notice Babette and how predictive she was when he’d hang out here back in the 60s.
“We banned pretty much all diving in the area after a few incidents in years past,” Hanover said. “Five years ago, Booger Bottoms’ camera strobes scared Babette, and we had one of our worst hurricane seasons ever. Then last year, Alison Diesel slid a plastic slate over the hole so Babette couldn’t go back in, and a barracuda nearly got her. Babette, not Alison.”
Island residents said Jawfish Day is a generations-old tradition.
“Been watching Babette for as long as I can remember,” Rosie Blenny said. “And now it’s so much comfier—we can sit in the bar and watch instead of having to go out on a boat and jump in the water. We’ll all be at the Tail Spinner watching the live feed and praying for a cloudy day. Babette’s been so accurate for all these years. And who knew jawfish lived so long?”
Some on the small Caribbean island scoffed at the tradition.
“There is zero correlation between this jawfish, or any jawfish, seeing its shadow and hurricanes striking the island,” local meteorologist Rayne Doppler said. “We ran the numbers going back 30 years and there’s less than a 20 percent connection between the jawfish retreating and hurricane activity. That’s essentially a random occurrence. Assuming it’s even the same fish. My hunch is the Chamber of Commerce dreamed this up to draw tourists to the island during the slow season.”
Others objected to the event on religious grounds.
“This, like Groundhog Day, purposely coincides with Candlemas,” the Reverend Pierre Grunt said. “By extension, this is celebrating an ancient pagan holiday. I’m urging my congregation, and any others who’ll listen, to avoid this like they’d avoid any other events and holidays that coincide with former heathen celebrations.”
Not all residents wished Babette well.
“I hate that damn fish,” Rusty Goby said “She stayed out of her hole two years ago. I believed her and didn’t re-up my hurricane insurance. Come September, Hurricane Lulu leveled my place. BLAM! Like a big hand just smooshed it flat. If I had my way, I’d wipe out every jawfish on that reef, just to get even. Tried to, too, but the Marine Parks folks keep stopping me.”
Island mayor Jack Cobia will preside underwater on-site, from a respectful distance so as not to spook Babette, to make the ceremony official. Local weather forecasts call for scattered clouds today.
Sunday, January 29, 2023
Precipitation: Not a chance
Armored knights will face off with scooters as steeds this weekend at the Blacktip Island Society for Creative Anachronism’s annual Tournament of Chivalry. (photo courtesy of Jay Valve)
The Blacktip Island’s chapter of the Society for Creative Anachronism, a global living history group devoted to the Middle Ages, will feature members jousting on motor scooters at their 17th annual Tournament of Chivalry at the small Caribbean island’s Heritage House this weekend.
“We’ve had declining spectator numbers the last few years, so we had to do something to spice things up,” SCA island shire Seneschal Catalina Luxfer said. “Jousting was the logical next step, but there’s no horses, or even donkeys, on the island. And two people with broomsticks running at each other was pretty lame.
“That’s when Finn Kiick, our Knight Marshal, came up with the idea of using motor scooters as mounts and boat hooks as lances,” Luxfer said. “A Vespa’ll approximate a horse’s speed, and when the combatants collide, it shows how effective Medieval cavalry charges could be. We sent three knights to the clinic during practice. The tournament’s set up in multiple, single-elimination rounds, with the winner being named Lord or Lady of the Island for a year and a day.”
Kiick, overseeing the jousting, downplayed the activity’s danger.
“Safety’s our number one goal,” he said. “Jousters have to wear period-appropriate armor and helmets, mostly built from stuff at the dump, and’re allowed a top scooter speed of 15 miles per hour. And once they’re unhorsed, they can continue to fight with Wiffle-bat swords and toilet-plunger maces.
“We’ve banned lances to the head, too,” Kiick said. “Any jouster who rams another’s helmet’ll be chucked from the tournament and banished from the shire. “Course, Nurse Marissa, our chapter Chirurgeon, will be standing by to treat any injuries, and a mechanic’ll be there to mend any damaged steeds.”
Locals are eager to see the new sport.
“These SCA festivals had turned into lame cosplay, so it’ll be good to see folks go real-life Medieval on each other,” Chrissy Graysby said. “People are talking up Jerrod Ephesians as the odds-on favorite, but my money’s on Rosie Bottoms. She’s got that killer instinct. Not that I’m betting, since that’s illegal, but her at 8:1. . . that’s a gimme.”
The tournament will also feature grog and turkey leg booths, machete-throwing contests and an arena for wooden sword fighting among the children attending.
“It truly is an exciting event for the whole family,” chapter Webminister Jay Valve said. “There’ll also be a Bring Out Your Dead body stacking contest, a pit with mud and spoiled vegetables for people to fling at each other, a pox-painting booth and Jessie Catahoula, dressed as a hag, casting random curses on people.”
“We’re also thrilled the monks from St. Dervil’s monastery will bring their iguana choir to sing Gregorian chants between jousts,” Valve said. “They’ll also be selling their coconut mead, made only at their monastery, which’ll be a rare treat.”
Illuminated parchment admission tickets may be purchased at the Heritage House. All proceeds will go the SCA jousters’ medical bills and to Tiperon University-Blacktip’s Medieval studies department.
Sunday, January 22, 2023
Precipitation: Not today
Blacktip Island scuba divers can be competitive on dives now thanks to the new ‘conchhole’ underwater weight-toss game developed by a local divemaster. (photo courtesy of Gage Hoase)
A Blacktip Island divemaster disassembling weight belts on a resort dock this week created an underwater version of the popular ‘cornhole’ bag toss game for scuba divers wanting competitive activity on dives.
“I was stripping weights off belts at the end of the week, and chucking them in the bins, like always, when it hit me,” Eagle Ray Divers’ Gage Hoase said. “Resort guests play cornhole all the time. It’s all the rage. Now they can play underwater, right here in the lagoon. I’m calling it ‘conchhole.’
“You use the same slanted boards with holes in them, but toss dive weights instead of bean bags,” Hoase said. “The added heft lets them travel through the water. We’re experimenting with which weights work best. Consensus is three-pounders, though some prefer the twos. Of course, crazy-ass Finn from Club Scuba Doo likes the curved sixes.”
Players say the game’s mechanics are slightly different underwater.
“You have to wear a ton of weight to stay down and to give the tosses momentum,” Jessie Catahoula said. “Lee Helm tried wearing a pair of weighted boots from a hard-hat diving outfit. He got stuck in the sand, no one would help him and he damn-near drowned. It was Lee, so we all got a good laugh before we helped him.
“The tricky part’s compensating for whatever current there is,” Catahoula said. “It can switch mid-game, too, so you have to be alert for that. Things can also get interesting when visibility drops. Jerky Bottoms got knocked out yesterday when Alison Diesel launched a weight without being able to see where she was throwing and whacked him on the head.”
Island resorts say the game is already proving popular.
“We got divers lining up to play, even folks from other resorts,” Eagle Ray Cove resort owner Rich Skerritt said. “We’re already selling ‘Underwater Cornholer’ shirts and caps, and we should have rash guards in later this week. And we’re also putting in underwater lights so folks can play at night.”
Other resorts are joining the craze.
“Got us our own boards and weights, set up off Diddley’s Landing where the water’s clearer and there’s less current,” Blacktip Haven dive operations manager Booger Bottoms said. “Launched a new Underwater Cornhole specialty course, too, teach folks how to play safely and responsibly. For a modest fee.”
Hoase predicts the game’s popularity will explode.
“Divers’re always trying to come up with ways to make scuba competitive,” he said. “Now, with conchhole, they can. Diving’s not a Type B personality activity anymore, and people love it.”