Category Archives: Scuba Diving

Blacktip Island Braces For Weekend Underwater Villanelle Fest

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Several Blacktip Island dive sites and multiple resort swimming pools will host this weekend’s ‘Mad Night’ Underwater Villanelle Festival, sponsored by the Blacktip Island Poetry Society. (photo courtesy of Reg Gurnard)

Blacktip Island’s poetry aficionados will gather at multiple venues this weekend for the third annual, two-day ‘Mad Night’ Underwater Villanelle Festival, organized by the Blacktip Island Poetry Society.

“Every yahoo and their cousin participates in the Easter Poetry Slam. It’s a drunken, free-for-all, anything-goes affair,” festival organizer Doris Blenny said. “We came up with the ‘Mad Night’ concept several years ago after people mistook ‘poetry’ for ‘poultry,’ and all hell broke loose.

“This is a separate event, limited to one poetic form, that really separates the wheat from the chaff talent-wise,” Blenny said. “A villanelle shows your chops, or lack of them. There’ll be no ‘cat sat on the mat’ dreck this weekend. Unless it fits the rhyme scheme and line repetition pattern.

“The name’s a hat tip to Sylvia Plath’s ‘Mad Girl’s Love Song’ and Dylan Thomas’ ‘Do Not Got Gentle Into That Good Night’ villanelles,” Blenny said. “Plus, it pretty well sums up the last two Fests.”

The two-day event will feature underwater readings of published villanelles as well as sessions for local poets to read their own work aloud.

“The underwater aspect helps with crowd control. And author control,” BIPS sergeant-at-arms Peachy Bottoms said. “There’re separate categories for full-face-mask readings and through-the-regulator readings – both beautiful in their own way. There’ll be interpretive swimmers on hand, too, to enhance the experience.

“We’ll have readings on multiple dive sites, in resort pools and in the Heritage House bathtub,” Bottoms said. “There’s also a kids’ session in the Eagle Ray Cove hot tub with snorkels.”

BIPS judges said the form restriction will be strictly enforced.

“If it’s not a villanelle, we’ll cut the mike. All our participants have been warned,” Reg Gurnard said. “We’ll make an exception for the occasional terzanelle, but sonnets are right out. And don’t get me started on sestinas. We’re still repairing the Heritage House after Antonio Fletcher’s x-rated open-mike debacle.”

Some island poets protested the festival’s limitations.

“It’s not fair, excluding people because we don’t use rhyme or a strict structure,” Lee Helm said. “The elitist judges are biased against us. I mean, what’s next, bloody Epic Greek Lyric Fest?

“My gran wrote villanelles. As a schoolgirl. And hated them,” Helm said. “This is the sort of hidebound, Structuralist mindset that’s holding back Blacktip’s poetry community. And creativity in general.”

Blenny defended the festival’s rules.

“We haven’t replaced the Poetry Slam, we’ve simply created a new, different event with a more refined focus,” she said. “If we hadn’t imposed this strict structure, we never would have heard Dermott Bottoms’ interlocking villanelle cycle about inebriation. His ‘Rumward by Booby Flight’ brought the house down. It truly did.”

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New Scuba Periscopes Will Save Blacktip Island Divers’ Egos

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A new Wood Eye scuba periscope takes shape at Bamboo You’s Blacktip Island workshop Thursday afternoon. (photo courtesy of Doc Plank / Bamboo You)

A Blacktip Island entrepreneur has created a new collapsible viewing tube that allows lost scuba divers to locate their dive boat without having to surface, local scuba retailer Bamboo You announced Thursday.

“Divers get lost all the time. They’re embarrassed to surface and find the boat,” inventor and Bamboo You owner Piers ‘Doc’ Plank said. “Everybody sees you, everybody knows you got lost and everybody takes the piss out of you. Our new Wood Eye lets you avoid all that.

“It’s a pocket-sized periscope that zips out to five feet when deployed,” Plank said. “Slip it in your BC pocket and no one knows it’s there. When you get lost, the Wood Eye lets you stay out of sight while you take a look around.”

Scuba guests who tested early models were impressed.

“I get lost a lot, and my wife always makes me prairie-dog up to find the boat,” Blacktip Haven dive guest Buddy Brunnez said. “Man, the grief I get. With the Wood-Eye, though, I can stay underwater, spot the boat and no one’s the wiser. This gizmo’s changed my life.”

Island dive staff liked the device as well.

“It looks like some random piece of bamboo poking up out of the water, if you even notice it,” Eagle Ray Divers divemaster Marina DeLow said. “Our bottom line is if it gets divers back to the boat without us having to search for them or rescue them, we’re all for it.

“And, to be honest, several of our navigationally-challenged dive staff are using Wood Eyes,” DeLow said. “Most guests don’t even notice. Except when Lee Helm’s leading the dive. That idiot’s about as subtle as a punch in the face.”

Island leaders were dubious, but supportive.

“I really don’t see the point, but that describes most scuba gadgets I see,” island mayor Jack Cobia said. “If Doc can get people to give him money for the things, though, good on him.

“Commercially, it’s a win for Blacktip,” Cobia said. “It expands our manufacturing sector, creates jobs and God knows it keeps the beaches clear of bamboo.”

Plank said Wood Eye embraces the company’s all-natural philosophy.

“Along with our bamboo triple-split Diablo fins and our bamboo nitrox snorkels, Wood Eye’s 100 percent green and eco-friendly,” he said. “They come in all kinds of colors so you can coordinate with your scuba gear. They’re available in natural bamboo, as well, for the purists out there.”

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Blacktip Island Lighthouse Vandalized To Shine Bat Signal

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Blacktip Island’s northern lighthouse shines a Batman logo into an overcast sky Thursday evening. The navigational beacon was vandalized earlier in the week to display the signal. (photo courtesy of Simon Scarfe)

Vandals Monday modified Blacktip Island’s northern lighthouse to display the Batman-related Bat Signal, island authorities said.

“Someone got in the housing and blacked in a Batman logo on the lens,” Island Police Constable Rafe Marquette said. “We blamed it on kids, but really, it could have been anyone. It was funny at first, but it’s caused some unforeseen safety issues.

“Passing ships are saying it’s confusing,” Marquette said. “Last night an oil tanker damn-near ran aground. Of course, the captain claimed he was Batman, and was wearing nothing but a black hood and cape, so there were extenuating circumstances.”

Community leaders have opted not to repair the light immediately.

“Our guests love it,” Eagle Ray Cove resort owner Rich Skerritt said. “They bike up to the north point before dinner just to see it. It’s the latest stop on the island tour.

“It’s drawing tourists up where most visitors don’t go, and word’s spreading quick,” Skerritt said. “We’re seeing an uptick in resort bookings the last few days.”

The vandalism has also boosted the island’s dive industry.

“Near as we can tell, the signal’s attracting batfish,” Club Scuba Doo dive manager Finn Kiick said. “They’re super rare, but the north-end reefs are lousy with them this week. We’re hauling divers up there morning, afternoon and night.”

The financial boom has some residents suspicious.

“The Tail Spinner bar up on the point is doing a bang-up business since that so-called prank,” Sally Port said. “I wouldn’t put it past old Harry Wrasse to have done it himself, just to sell more drinks.

“The Skerritts and Bottomses aren’t above pulling a stunt like that, either, to fill their resorts,” Port said. “Of course, it could’ve been Jerrod Ephesians, for a lark. He’s just crazy enough. And he has that tweak-your-nose artsy side to him.”

Others say the attention has ruined Blacktip’s small-island charm.

“The crowds have killed the Spinner’s laid-back vibe,” Gage Hoase said. “It used to be a great place to chill and watch the sunset. Now, it’s packed with 15, 20 tourists at a time. The Spinner, the island can’t handle that kind of crowd.”

Island officials say the light will be repaired by the end of the weekend.

“Batman’s a DC Comics character, and we have a sponsorship contract with Marvel Comics,” island mayor Jack Cobia said. “It’s been fun and games, but now there’s a bunch attorneys involved, and charging by the hour. If the pranksters wanted to bring money to the island, they picked the wrong way to do it.”

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‘Sub-Dudes’ Underwater Casino Skirts Blacktip Island’s Gambling Ban

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A pair of Blacktip Island visitors take a shuttle to the Sub-Dudes underwater casino off the Island’s east coast Wednesday for it’s grand opening. (photo courtesy of Jacques Rougerie Architecte)

Local entrepreneurs are betting their underwater casino, opened Wednesday off Blacktip Island’s east coast, will successfully dodge the Tiperon Island’s strict anti-gambling laws.

“The law clearly states no gambling may take place on Blacktip, or on the seas surrounding it,” said Felicia Skulkin, attorney for the newly-formed Blacktip Island Gaming Association said. “It doesn’t bar gaming under the water, and that’s where the Sub-Dudes Lounge comes in.

“We’re providing a service other business people and the government weren’t able, or wouldn’t take,” Skulkin said. “Sub-Dudes is simply one more place island guests can relax, unwind and blow off some cash . . . I mean, steam.”

The casino is built into the limestone seabed 50 yards offshore.

“It’s a big dome in about 20 feet of water,” financier and Eagle Ray Cove Resort owner Rich Skerritt said. “It’s accessed from shore via a Plexiglas tunnel that lets people watch the sharks and barracudas as they wander down.

“Guests can also access the facility via scuba,” Skerritt said. “Eagle Ray Cove dive boats’ll drop you off, or folks can shore-dive in if they want.”

Critics worry the casino will harm Blacktip long-term.

“Building it underwater is an end-run around a law put in place for good reason,” local resident and retired attorney Frank Maples said. “That casino won’t bring money to Blacktip, it’ll bring money to Rich, period. That’s money that could’ve been sent elsewhere on Blacktip.

“Rich and his cronies only revealed it was a casino at the opening yesterday. That’s textbook consciousness of guilt,” Maples said. “The last thing Blacktip needs is gambling and the organized-crime influence that goes along with it. It’s no secret Vinny Calamari from Tiperon is a big investor in this scheme.”

Local law enforcement questioned the legality of underwater gambling.

“The structure itself may bypass the law, but people coming to Blacktip with the intent to gamble do not,” Island Police Constable Rafe Marquette said. “The same goes for anyone returning to shore with what will be considered illegally-obtained winnings.”

“There’ve also been rumors of casino staff denying air to non-gamblers and big winners,” Marquette said. “In-water or out, that’s extortion.”

Other officials supported the casino.

“I was shocked, simply shocked when I learned Sub-Dudes was a gambling facility,” island mayor Jack Cobia said. “Then Rich Skerritt dropped off that cash for the island’s widows-and-orphans fund, and I realized there was a quite the upside to underwater gaming.

“And I’ve known Vinny Calamari for years. He’s a reputable business investor,” Cobia said. “The only crime organized in all this is people slandering the place and making it sound unsafe.”

Skerritt allayed safety concerns by noting the casino is equipped with multiple hyperbaric options.

“The safety of our guests and their and enjoyment are our prime concerns,” he said. “Sub-Dudes is tricked out with a two-place barometric chamber for folks who let time get away from them. We also have a hyperbaric stretcher to get them to the surface in an emergency.

“Our staff’s well trained and knows denying treatment, or air, to a client is a big no-no,” Skerritt said. “There’s nothing to be afraid of at Sub-Dudes. Come on down. Trust us.”

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Sargassum Scooper To Protect Blacktip Island Beaches

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Sargassum seaweed has covered Blacktip Island’s beaches in recent months, causing many tourists to cut short or cancel their visits. A group of local scientists are testing their ‘Dr. Port’s Sargasstic Super Scooper’ seaweed collector off the island’s west coast in hopes it will alleviate the problem. (photo courtesy of Jonathan Wilkins)

A Blacktip Island civic group has deployed a giant seaweed vacuum device off the Caribbean island’s west coast in an attempt to control the mounds of sargassum seaweed washing up on beaches upwind of the island’s resorts.

“The sea’s choked with sargassum these days,” Blacktip Island Chamber of Commerce president Jay Valve said. “The beaches’re knee-high in rotting seaweed. Tourists can’t get to the water, and the stench’ll gag a maggot.

“It’s so thick in the water it’s even clogging seawater intakes on dive boats,” Valve said. “Blacktip Haven’s Sea Monkey blew an engine overheating from the stuff.”

The device’s inventors have dubbed it the Dr. Port’s Sargasstic Super Scooper.

“It’s basically a smaller version of that machines that’s skimming plastic from the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, just modified for seaweed,” Tiperon University-Blacktip engineering chair Sally Port said. “Giant, floating booms go out 50 feet on either side and funnel the sargassum into a central processing chamber.

“We tweaked the basic design with parts scrounged at the dump,” Port said. “Its heart and soul are a couple of scooter engines, a refrigerator compressor and the drum from a big washing machine. It grinds the seaweed into micro pellets, combines them with salt pulled from the seawater to make them negatively buoyant and shoots them back out into the ocean.”

Island environmentalists worry the Scooper will create more problems than it solves.

“That’s literally tons of detritus they’re releasing into the sea,” Blacktip Island Greenpeace spokesperson Harry Pickett said. “If even a fraction of that settles on the reefs, it could smother the coral and wipe out the underwater ecosystem.

“As stinky as the rotting seaweed is, that’s better for the island and its economy than dead reefs,” Pickett said. “This island lives or dies with the scuba industry. No coral reefs, we’re screwed.”

Scientistss say that worry is unfounded.

“The preliminary models we ran showed the macerated vegetative matter should actually nourish the coral,” marine biology professor Ernesto Mojarra said. “In theory, it should make the reefs healthier than ever.

“Now, all that particulate matter will kill the visibility. No denying that,” Mojarra said. “But the models suggest the increased nutrient levels will attract manta rays, so, long term, Blacktip should benefit from even more scuba-diving guests.”

Island officials say they hope to expand the program soon.

“We’ve deployed the Scooper on a slow sweep upwind of all the resorts to maximize its effect,” island mayor Jack Cobia said. “That protects Blacktip’s major population centers, but it’s short term.

“The next step is to extend the gizmo’s booms far enough to protect the whole west coast,” Cobia said. “If it works well, we plan to export the things, too. Ideally, this could save the entire Caribbean tourism industry.”

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Dive Knife-Throwing Tourney Highlights Blacktip Island Weekend

dive knife throwing

Eagle Ray Cove’s inaugural dive knife-throwing contest Saturday is open to all types of dive knives and all throwing styles. (photo courtesy of Ger Latner)

Blacktip Island’s Eagle Ray Cove resort is capitalizing on the growing popularity of knife throwing by hosting a dive knife-throwing contest Saturday

“People are already chucking knives on the sly on dive boats and behind bars late at night,” Eagle Ray Divers manager Ger Latner said. “Might as well bring it out in the open, make it an official thing. It’s part of scuba culture that’s been hiding in the shadows too long. And our boats are taking a beating.

“It’s open to all types of knives and all throwing styles,” Latner said. “The only restriction is our lawyers say contestants have to wear safety glasses, but a dive mask with tempered glass’ll do.”

Contest organizers were still working out the details of the event Thursday.

“We’ll have wooden targets on the dock at three, 10 and 15 feet,” Blacktip Chamber of Commerce Kay Valve said. “We’re also looking at the possibility of adding an underwater round, to really tie the contest in with its scuba diving roots.

“The grand prize is the coveted Silver Flash Dive Machete,” Valve said. “It’s a 12-inch, chrome-plated, pointed-tip Lloyd Bridges Commemorative Edition. With the handle, it’s as long as your thigh. Everyone’s hot to win that puppy.”

Latner said contestants will be asked not to drink until after the competition has ended.

“Originally, we planned on alcohol being just another variable,” he said. “Historically, knife throwing and drinking go hand in hand, and we really are trying to reconnect to our roots with this.

“Our attorneys put the kibosh on that right quick, though,” Latner said. “We’re taking the safer route, under protest, but, of course, we can’t stop folks from boozing up on the sly.”

Other organizers stressed the weekend is about more that flying knives.

“It’ll be an event that appeals to the whole family,” Christina Mojarra said. “We’ll have knives for sale, knife sharpening booths, and we’ll sell food, t-shirts and other chotskies.

“Also, Gage Hoase’ll be doing coral carving,” Mojarra said. “With a couple of knives and a chunk of coral, he can chisel out little seahorses, turtles, you name it, in no time flat. We’ll have kids activities, too, like the mumbley-peg contest. The younger kiddos will wear close-toed shoes, but the bigger ones will compete barefoot.”

The tournament is sponsored by dive knife manufacturer Wenoka.

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Underwater Scooter-Sharing Comes To Blacktip Island

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Bamboo You founder Piers “Doc” Plank demonstrates one of his D-PEEVE underwater scooters on Blacktip Island’s Jawfish Reef Thursday. The company launched a DPV-sharing service on the Caribbean island this week. (photo courtesy of Marco Busdraghi)

A Blacktip Island entrepreneur is betting underwater scooter sharing will be the next scuba craze by launching a diver-propelled vehicle-sharing service this week on the Caribbean island’s dive sites.

“D-PEEVE is a riff on the bike sharing that’s all the rage now,” said Bamboo You founder Piers “Doc” Plank. “We scattered them across all the popular reefs, along with underwater charging stations that look like coral heads.

“Tap your resort key fob on the payment box, and off you go,” Plank said. “We charge it straight to your room. Each charge gives you 15 minutes of DPV time, then you leave the D-PEEVE wherever you happen to be.”

The unattended scooters surprised some island divers.

“I about spit my reg when I saw a DPV plugged into the coral,” Sandy Bottoms Beach Resort guest Missy Mahi said. “I thought it was a joke and hauled it up to the boat to clean up the reef.

“Everybody laughed at me, but I got even on the next dive,” Mahi said. “I shot through a tunnel full throttle and popped out – FWOOM – like a cannonball. It silted the tunnel so bad the jokers behind me couldn’t see a thing.”

Some scuba professionals are leery of Plank’s new service.

“This scooter crap is eat up with safety issues,” Eagle Ray Divers operation manager Ger Latneer said. “Most divers aren’t trained in DPV use. And if the battery dies, we got divers stranded off who-knows-where.

“The biggest worry’s unless there’s two scooters together, that means guests are solo diving at 10, 12 knots,” Latner said. “Or one diver’s hanging onto his buddy’s fins, getting dragged behind.”

Plank said those worries are unfounded.

“There’s an instruction card on top of each D-PEEVE that explains how to use it,” he said. “And we have GPS trackers, so we can always find the units.

“If someone decides to go off on their own, well, that’s not our fault. Divers are always wandering off anyway,” Plank said. “And with only a 15-minute charge, how far can they really go?”

Plank said Bamboo You plans other, similar gear-sharing programs.

“We’re gonna do entire scuba rig-sharing,” he said. “I’m talking the tank, BC and regulator, the whole shebang. People can swim down, slip into the gear and do a quick reef tour. Then when they’re through, they just float the rig in to shore and we can top off the tank.

“You won’t have to lug your scuba gear with you on vacation anymore,” Plank said.

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