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Battle of the Bands Rocks Blacktip Island

Blacktip Island’s Battle of the Bands  will feature the Caribbean island’s top musical acts.

Blacktip Island’s Battle of the Bands will feature the Caribbean island’s top musical acts.

Eagle Ray Cove scuba resort will celebrate the end of summer with Blacktip Island’s 9th annual Battle of the Bands this weekend. The three-day music festival will showcase the island’s top musicians, with the winner earning a contract with Island Records.

“This year’s acts are as diverse as the island’s population,” festival organizer Jay Valve said. “From traditional island country-western to death metal, there’ll be something for everyone.”

The lineup of bands includes:

  • The Social Morays
  • TURTLE!!!
  • Effing Zeagles
  • Ivan the Embolizer
  • Red Über Red
  • Young Jacques and the Double Hose
  • See You Next Tuesday
  • Duck on a Junebug

“We built a stage out over the water,” Eagle Ray Cove manager Mickey Smarr said. “It’ll limit access to the musicians and cut down on folks rushing the stage, like spoiled the last few Battles.

“There’ll be a few drunks who try, sure, but they’ll have to swim. And we’ve been chumming the water to draw in the sharks. It’s way cheaper than hiring security.”

The festival will kick off with local favorite Young Jacques and the Double Hose performing Black Sabbath covers on steel drums.

“You haven’t heard ‘War Pigs’ until you’ve heard it banged on pans,” double-tenor pannist Cori Anders said. “We’re redefining ‘heavy metal’ for a new generation.”

Other bands have taken similarly creative approaches.

“We do lounge-punk,” Effing Zeagle guitarist Casey Piper said. “Think Green Day does Sinatra – ‘I’ve got you under my skin,’ if you take my meaning. And I think you do.”

A newcomer to this year’s competition, Red Über Red will play German techno on dog whistles.

“You can’t really hear anything, but, man damn, does it get people dancing,” said pennywhistler Marina DeLow. “And when we play our recordings underwater for divers, it morphs into ‘Eine kleine Nachtmusik.’”

The festival will also feature traditional quadrille dancing and cloggers between musical acts.

“We’ve gone out of our way to make the festival family friendly,” Valve said. “We’re even have non-alcoholic beer for the kids.”

Proceeds from the concert go to the Blacktip Island Institute of Noetic Sciences.

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Cross-Island Canal Sparks War Between Scuba Resorts

A new canal, created to shorten ride time to the Caribbean island’s scuba diving sites, has cut Blacktip Island in two geographically and culturally.

A new canal, created to shorten ride time to the Caribbean island’s scuba diving sites, has cut Blacktip Island in two geographically and culturally.

A cross-island canal dug to facilitate access to Blacktip Island’s eastern dive sites has sparked a conflict between scuba resorts over who has priority at the island’s most popular dive sites.

“It’s always been first come, first serve out there,” Sandy Bottoms Beach Resort owner Sandy Bottoms said. “It’s not our fault we’re closer to the sites and have faster boats. Digging this canal, that’s playing dirty pool.”

“We cut the canal to help everyone,” Eagle Ray Cove resort owner Rich Skerritt said. “Sandy and the other yahoos up north are free to use it. When they’re finished sucking on their sour grapes.”

Bottoms and other resort owners from Blacktip’s north refuse to back down.

“Rich wants two islands? Fine,” Club Scuba Doo owner Nelson Pilchard said. “The dive sites north of his canal are technically in our territorial waters. The southerners think they can dive up here, they have another thing coming.”

“Some of the Caribbean’s best wreck dives are off our north coast,” Bottoms said. “Rich brings his divers up here, the island’ll have a few more wrecks to dive.”

The split echoes a deeper divide in the small Caribbean island community.

“It’s a Pond versus Bluff thing that’s been simmering for generations,” Bottoms said. “The southerners sit up there in the breeze, looking down at us like they’re something special.”

“We have better sense than to live by those stinky bird ponds,” Skerritt said. “We give our dive guests gas masks for the boat ride when the east wind’s blowing. This canal lets us bypass the stench altogether.”

An island council meeting has been scheduled to settle the issue. However, neither side can agree on where to meet.

“I’m not setting foot up there,” Skerritt said. “It smells like bird poop. I might catch something.”

“Crossing to their so-called island acknowledges its right to exist,” Bottoms said. “We go down there, we’ll probably end up as hostages.”

Island authorities are taking steps to bridge the divide.

“We have the police launch standing by so all parties can confer mid-canal,” Island Police Constable Rafe Marquette said. “If neither side’s amenable to that, we’ll have them stand on either side of the canal and yell back and forth at each other.”

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Island Scofflaws Face Running of the Iguanas

Blacktip Island rock iguanas will chase petty criminals to honor St. Dervil, the island’s patron saint of scuba diving and iguana husbandry.

Blacktip Island rock iguanas will chase petty criminals to honor St. Dervil, the island’s patron saint of scuba diving and iguana husbandry.

Saturday marks Blacktip Island’s 433nd Running of the Iguanas, recreating St. Dervil’s original herding of rock iguanas to his Caribbean island monastery and converting them to Christianity in 1544.

“Dervil shared a one-room shack with dozens of those suckers,” island historian Smithson Altschul said. “Called them ‘monks.’ Taught them Gregorian chants. Records say they sang like the dickens.”

“To get the iguanas inside, Dervil’d run in front of the them with handfuls of fruit,” Altschul said. “Got people into church that way, too.

“After he died, islanders kept up the run, with folks racing in front of the iguanas, trying to make it to the kraal without getting mauled.”

The modern-day Running serves a more practical purpose.

“The runners are all residents convicted of minor crimes,” said Island Police Constable Rafe Marquette. “It’s the only way we can get through to some of these people. If they finish the run, their debt to society’s paid.

“We smear all the shoplifters, deadbeats and drink-drivers with fresh fruit, then turn the lizards loose,” I.P.C. Marquette said. “Bystanders are encouraged to throw fruit and vegetables as they pass.”

Runners are dressed in traditional white shirt and trousers, with a red waistband and neckerchief for easy identification.

“We set up barricades to keep the runners on course,” event organizer Jay Valve said, “but with just the one road, it’s more to keep the iguanas from running off into the bushes. The crowd sings a quick benediction, we shoot a skyrocket, and off they go.

“We had a couple of nasty clawings last year,” Valve said. “You have to expect that, though. You trip and fall, you’re gonna pay the price. But these are adjudicated criminals we’re dealing with here.”

“The Running also lets transgressors atone for their sins,” said the former-Reverend Jerrod Ephesians, head of the island’s Interfaith Committee. “Last year’s Running was cathartic. The slashing I got was way more rehabilitative than any week in jail.

“We’ve also revived the traditional baptism of the iguanas afterward,” Ephesian said. “We try to get the iguanas to sing along with the benediction, too, but so far’ve only gotten a couple to hum.”

Island animal rights activists decry the Running.

“It’s barbaric penning wild animals, then forcing them to harm people,” said island PETA representative Harry Pickett. “This isn’t natural behavior. And iguanas are being baptized willy-nilly, regardless of any stated religious affiliation.”

Event organizers downplayed those concerns.

“No iguanas are harmed in the Running,” Jay Valve said. “It’s not like we’re staging iguana fights later. The iguanas get fed. Then saved.

“Do people get hurt? Sure. But they have it coming.”

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Blacktip Derby Aims To Polish Its Tarnished Image

Krabb Kakes, the 7-5 favorite in this year’s Blacktip Land Crab Derby, in his Blacktip Downs stable.

Krabb Kakes, the 7-5 favorite in this year’s Blacktip Land Crab Derby, in his Blacktip Downs stable.

Sunday marks the 39th annual Blacktip Land Crab Derby, featuring three-year-old thoroughbred crabs from every stable on Blacktip Island as well as international crab farms.

The Derby is the final race in land crabbing’s unofficial Triple Crown.

Organizers of this year’s Run For the Sea Grapes have instituted sweeping changes to restore the race’s image, sullied in years past by allegations of crab-doping, extortion and race fixing.

“It was mooks from the big island muscling in,” Derby chairperson Ledford Waite said. “Popping crabs with phenylbutazone. Rattling trainers with vats of drawn butter.

“This year we’ve sprung for extra muscle. Banned known gamers from the venue. Upped our drug and cholesterol testing to guarantee a clean race. Takes a while to rebuild a reputation, though.”

Island police have stepped up their presence as well.

“Wagering on the Derby won’t be tolerated,” Island Police Constable Rafe Marquette said. “We’ve loads of plainclothes officers in the crowd this weekend. If you place a bet, odds are you’ll be caught.”

Off-track and internet betting has proved impossible to stamp out.

Krabb Kakes is this year’s favorite with 7-5 odds, but will face stiff competition from Scuttlebutt, winner of last month’s Breeder’s Cup, at 8-1, and Fanny Wigglesworth, the Tiperon Stakes winner, at 9-1.

As ever, each crab is required to carry a cockroach jockey affixed to its carapace.

“Last year, Up Yer Address had a record time, but was disqualified for finishing without his rider,” trainer Marina DeLow said. “We suspected foul play, but nothing could be proven. That flypaper was awfully dry, though.”

Trainers with brooms will line the racetrack to ensure all crabs stay on the course.

“Your heart races hearing the scuttle of all those exoskeleton feet on the asphalt oval,” said racing enthusiast Wendy Beaufort. “There’s no other event quite like this. Anywhere.”

A crowd of several dozen is expected to pack the infield and lawn chair seating, traditionally dressed in their finest cargo shorts and sleeved t-shirts.

“Folks dress to the nines for this,” Ledford Waite said. “It’s the first gala fête of the season. Last year some folks even showed up in shirts with collars and buttons.”

Traditional Derby mojitos will be served throughout the day.

The post-race dinner will feature a Caribbean crab rundown, crab Rangoon and fresh crab legs courtesy of the losing crabs, Waite said.

“Losers provide the food? Hell, the losers are the food.”

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New Megastore Threatens Blacktip Landfill

Blacktip Island visitor Chrissy Graysby browses the landfill’s home appliance section.

Blacktip Island visitor Chrissy Graysby browses the landfill’s home appliance section.

Blacktip Island residents turned out in dozens Thursday to protest plans for a Lowest Depot do-it-yourself superstore slated for the island’s northern tip.

“We have the dump for all our DIY needs,” said protestor Palometa Fischer. “If they build this monstrosity, it’s the beginning of the end. Next we’ll have fast food, a cinema, hell, even a golf course. People move here to get away from those things.”

“It’s part of the island’s charm,” resident Piers Plank said. “I’d rather pick through my neighbours’ leavings than patronize some corporate monolith. If the landfill doesn’t have it, you don’t need it.”

Not all residents agreed.

“I think it’s brilliant,” said newcomer Ginger Bass. “Charm is charm, but not when your freezer dies or you want to build a festive patio out back. Then you need a proper bricolage.”

Lowest Depot spokesperson Sheena Goode belayed the protestors concerns.

“We have no desire to ruin Blacktip Island’s unique character,” Goode said. “We don’t see it as merely selling appliances and building supplies. Our goal is to bring ease and convenience and quality of life to Blacktip Island. At our usual low, low prices, of course.”

Some residents worry the new store will destroy the sense of community the landfill fosters.

“We have no parks or piazzas or any sort of public space here,” Blacktip Haven resort owner Elena Havens said. “The dump is our de facto piazza, where people from all walks of life can gather. It’s a very nurturing place. Losing that would be tragic.”

Other residents echoed Havens’ sentiments.

“Making a dump run is family time,” Olive Beaugregory said. “We let the kids pick out something special for themselves while we hunt for any sundries we might need. Then we break out juice and sandwiches, cheer on the dump chickens and throw rocks at the rats. It’s affordable family fun. No megastore can offer that.”

“We need to reuse, repurpose and recycle the junk we have rather than import more,” Club Scuba Doo’s general manager Polly Parrett said. “Our dive boats are built 100% from parts and pieces salvaged from the landfill. We used to hand craft all our scuba rental gear from repurposed landfill items, too, but that became problematic. Our attorney still won’t return our calls.”

Lowest Depot’s Goode said land clearing for the new store is scheduled to begin Monday.

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Island To Be Paved For Mosquito Control

Construction equipment stands ready to pave Blacktip Island.

Construction equipment stands ready to pave Blacktip Island.

Public health officials announced Thursday all of Blacktip Island will be paved to combat the growing mosquito menace threatening the small Caribbean island.

“The mosquitoes are out of control,” Tiperon Islands Public Health chief Ferris Skerritt said. “Residents are complaining. Resort guests are complaining. The potential for malaria, dengue fever, yellow fever, ugly red welts, it’s hurting tourism, and that’s the hand that feeds us all.

“Standing water’s the issue. That’s where they breed. Get rid of the water, you get rid of the mosquitoes. Problem’s always been getting to all the pools on the island, and keeping them drained. Covering the island completely in a protective sheath of asphalt and concrete will solve those problems.”

Not all island residents are happy with the decision.

“With no ponds, there’ll be no bird habitat,” longtime resident and Blacktip Audubon Society president Nelson Seagroves said. “That, by itself, will kill tourism. Birders flock to Blacktip this time of year for the flyway migrations. It’s a stopover point for birds going between North and South America.”

Other locals are concerned about the project impacting their more basic needs.

“We rely on groundwater for drinking, cleaning, everything,” said resident Hugh Calloway. “If the island’s paved, where will we get water to survive?”

Public Works spokesperson Stoney MacAdam allayed those concerns.

“We’ll be building a state-of-the-art water desalinization plant as part of this project,” MacAdam said. “There’ll be more water, cleaner water than ever before. Residents will be able to purchase as much as they need.

“As for the birds, they draw feral cats, another public health threat. Bird flu’s a concern as well. Also, these migratory birds are non-native. They can’t be allowed to slow progress in this country.”

The first area slated for paving is the nature preserve adjacent to Eagle Ray Cove.

“It’ll be unsightly for a while, sure,” Eagle Ray Cove owner Rich Skerritt said. “But we’ll pretty it up with a new block of rooms and a swimming pool to maximize our guests’ vacation experience.”

The contract for the project has been awarded to Skerritt Construction and MacAdam Paving, raising concerns about possible conflicts of interest. Both the Skerritts and MacAdam brushed aside those concerns.

“This is about public health. Period,” Ferris Skerritt said. “And the economy.”

“For the good of the community, Blacktip Island needs to be paved,” MacAdam said. “And I’m just the man to do it.”

“This isn’t over,” the Audubon Society’s Seagroves said. “We’re going to fight beak and claw. This one’s for the birds.”

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Divemasters Prohibitive Underdogs in Fish Bowl

The Divemasters will battle the Anglers in Sunday’s Fish Bowl grudge match, coinciding with the American Super Bowl.

The Divemasters will battle the Anglers in Sunday’s Fish Bowl grudge match, coinciding with the Super Bowl.

Blacktip Island sports fans are primed for Sunday’s Fish Bowl, pitting island dive staff against local fishermen in a game of American football.

“It’s a long-standing feud,” Anglers captain Jack Cobia said. “Divers think fish are just something to look at. We fishermen actually do something useful with them. The fish, not the divemasters. There’s nothing useful you can do with a divemaster.”

As ever, the Divemasters are prohibitive underdogs, with the Anglers winning all 17 past meetings.

“We’d love to beat the fish killers, but we’ll consider it a moral victory if we can finish the game,” Divemasters’ coach Ger Latner said.

“It’s hard to find enough dive staff sober enough to stand, much less catch a football. Three of them broke their noses in practice just trying.”

The Divemasters outscored the Anglers in last year’s match, but were disqualified for using performance-enhancing substances when large amounts of Red Bull and Midol were found in their water cooler.

As ever, smoking will be permitted on both sidelines.

“The NFL has oxygen tents. We have smoking benches,” Cobia said. “Coolers of beer, too. It makes timeouts more productive. Plus, it’s the only way we can get enough players to turn out.”

The Anglers are expected to run their usual I-Formation offense, with a brutal running game setting up play-action passes.

The Divemasters will experiment with a 1930s-era single-wing attack.

“We call it the ‘Wing-And-A-Prayer,’” Latner said. “We can’t throw. We can’t catch. We can’t block. But we can run like hell. In short bursts, anyway. Especially when someone’s chasing us.”

“The game’s great fun,” Divemaster fan Alison Diesel said. “It’s like one of those old electric football games where you’d flip the switch and the field would vibrate and the players would bash into each other until you switched it off again.”

Mascots will be banned from the sidelines after last year’s towel fight between Fisherman Freddy and Ben the Grouper that spread into the stands.

“That was unfortunate,” Cobia said. “It detracted from the game. The attention should be on the on-field fistfights, not on a couple of costumed yahoos.”

“Ben won fair and square,” Latner said. “And our fans beat the hell out of theirs. This mascot banning nonsense is just a red herring.”

The unofficial over/under line on how many minutes of game time elapse before the first player passes out is 7 ½ minutes.

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Blacktip Island To Break Free From Base

Winter waves threaten to break Blacktip Island from its base

Winter waves threaten to break Blacktip Island from its base

Scientists Thursday confirmed Blacktip Island will soon break free of its deep-sea base following recent winter storms.

“A combination of ocean acidification and deep ocean waves have been gnawing away at the island for years,” Tiperon University at Blacktip marine geologist Ernesto Mojarra said. “This is soft limestone. It doesn’t hold up.

“The erosion’s most noticeable around the 100-foot depth. If you took a cross-section of the island all the way up from the sea floor, the exposed land would look like a lollipop on a needle-thin stick. It’s only a matter of time, a very short time, geologically speaking, before that sucker breaks off,” Mojarra said.

“What happens then is anyone’s guess. The island could sink, what, 6,000 feet straight down. Or, given that it’s porous limestone with lots of air pockets, it could very well float. There’s no precedent.”

Island residents have feared this prognosis for some time.

“The water level’s been rising for months, you know,” Doris Blenny said. “Now university tests proved it.

“We’re not a bunch of Chicken Littles yelling, ‘The sky is falling.’ Far from it. We’re yelling, ‘The island’s sinking.’ It’s different.”

Government plans to chain the island to its base proved impractical. Instead, authorities have stitched together a giant sail, to be raised on the cell tower at the island’s center, and are submerging a warehouse door to act as a rudder at the island’s northern tip.

Blenny and other residents are stuffing island sinkholes with Styrofoam and boat fenders to increase the island’s buoyancy.

And if the island sinks?

“We all have skiffs lashed to our roofs,” Blenny said. “We just climb up, cut ourselves free. I, myself, sleep in my skiff, machete in hand. Just in case.”

Meanwhile, island scuba operators have been taking advantage of the geological anomaly.

“Tourists ask all the time how deep you have to go to see under the island,” Eagle Ray Divers divemaster Gage Hoase said. “Now we can tell them. Ninety-three feet. Then we take them down and show them.”

“We’re selling Under-Island Diving specialty courses like crazy,” Club Scuba Doo dive operations manager Finn Kiick said. “This is the only place on Earth you can be certified to look at the bottom of an island. We charge accordingly, of course.”

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Island Braces For Underwater Cage Chess Tourney

Blacktip Island’s Underwater Cage Chess Championship will be fought offshore from the Sand Spit bar.

Blacktip Island’s Underwater Cage Chess Championship will be fought offshore from the Sand Spit bar.

Underwater chess aficionados are flooding Blacktip Island for Saturday’s Seventh Annual Underwater Cage Chess Championship.

“Blacktip’s one of the top producers of underwater chess grand masters,” said island native and event founder Rocky Shores. “It’s also home to some tough SOBs. Having the tournament here was a no brainer.”

The world’s top Underwater Cage Chess masters will compete this year, including defending champion Cassia Nimzovitch, Jacques ‘Boom-Boom’ Fisher, Sea Itch Anand and local favorite Shores. Competitors will square off in 30 feet of water offshore from the Sand Spit bar.

“Think of it as scuba diving meets mixed martial arts meets blitz chess,” tournament director Roy Lopez said. “It’s the ancient fight for survival in the primordial goo, with the winner crawling onto dry land victorious.

“Sure, you can say ‘knight takes pawn on E7,’ but in UCC, that knight’s in for a fight. In past tourneys we’ve seen well-trained pawns take down knights, rooks, even a queen,” Lopez said.

Divers playing the Sicilian dragon defense usually employ some variation of sea dragon kung fu. French defense aficionados often opt for subaqueous savate.

“Last year’s winner used a deadly combination of the Albin Counter Gambit and a bite to her opponent’s regulator hose,” Lopez said. “The action was so thick all you could see was a cloud of bubbles and the odd fin or bishop flashing free.”

“For training, I watch a lot of Aquaman cartoons,” said Shores, last year’s runner-up. “Old Sea Hunt episodes are good, too.”

“It’s not for the faint of heart,” Lopez added. “Some poor patzer last year opened with an old-school Giuoco Piano and a double-hose regulator.  We hauled up what was left of him after six moves.”

Matches last until checkmate, resignation or one competitor runs out of air.

“If your tank runs dry, you forfeit as soon as you tap out or pass out,” Lopez said. “Stalemate’s rarely an option.”

All matches will be shown live at the Sand Spit on closed-circuit television. The tournament champion will receive the coveted Golden Queen Triggerfish Belt and a $50 gift certificate redeemable at the Sand Spit.

“It is wonderful to see the younger generation get involved,” defending champion Nimzovitch said. “End of the day, we do this for the kids. Diving just now, I saw two children trying to drown each other on their safety stop. It was heartwarming.”


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Pygmy Sharks Return to Blacktip Island

One of the pygmy sharks (Carcharhinus pygmius) swarming Blacktip Island’s beaches.

One of the pygmy sharks (Carcharhinus pygmius) swarming Blacktip Island’s beaches.

The first wave of pygmy sharks has returned to Blacktip Island, signaling the unofficial end of hurricane season and the beginning of Shark Days pranks.

“It may be an old wives tale, but it holds true,” Sandy Bottoms, owner of Sandy Bottoms Beach Resort said. “We’ve had nasty blows after the official December 1 end-of-hurricane-season date, but never after the sharks show up.

“They’re a month late, but we’re happy to see them. Everyone can let our hair down and have some fun now that storm season’s past.”

The diminutive sharks (Carcharhinus pygmius) migrate past the Tiperon Island chain on their way to winter breeding grounds off coast of Central America.

Scientists speculate the end of storm season coinciding with the pygmy sharks’ return is due to seasonal weather patterns bringing cooler water to Blacktip Island, and the sharks along with it.

The sharks’ arrival is greeted with parties along island beaches.

“We bring the kids and make a day of it,” resident Edwin Chub said. “It truly brings the community together. No better way to welcome the New Year than with these little fellows . . . and some good-natured jokes.”

The sharks, trickster figures in island lore, also bring a time of island-wide practical joking.

“It’s a way to blow off steam without any long-term repercussions,” Chub said. “An island this small, neighbors have to get along. You can’t go having a confrontation every time there’s a disagreement – you do that you lose a friend, and quite possibly the help you need in the next storm. These pranks let us vent our frustrations in healthy, productive ways so we can all live happily together.”

“A couple years back, someone filled Payne Hanover’s place with live land crabs,” resident Nelson Pilchard said. “Big ones. Took Payne forever to get them all out. They tore up two oven mitts and a baseball glove before he was through. And he was days cleaning up the crab poop.”

“Last year someone left a pair of lacey red panties in Mickey Smarr’s glove box, with a note saying, ‘thanks for the good time,’” Bottoms said. “When Mickey’s wife found them, she beat him near-senseless. Only thing saved him was it was Shark Days. They’re still married, and Mickey’s scars are healing nicely. No one knows who did it. Could have been anyone – Mickey has a way of pissing people off. ‘The sharks got him,’ as we say.”

Island authorities could not confirm whether last night’s fire at the Customs house was related to a Shark Days prank.

“We’re lucky Shark Days only last a few weeks,” Chub said, “otherwise the celebrations might get out of hand.”

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