Blacktip Island Braces For Black Friday Shoppers

Gift World Souvenir Shop

The Eagle Ray Cove resort gift store staff is prepped for day-after-Thanksgiving shoppers during Friday morning’s Blacktip Friday sales event. (photo courtesy of Richie Diesterheft)

Blacktip Island retailers readied their staffs and stores Thursday for the Caribbean island’s post-Thanksgiving ‘Blacktip Friday’ holiday shopping event.

“It’s not quite the Black Friday craziness you see in the U.S.,” said Sandy Bottoms’ Beach Resort general manager Kay Valve, “but it can get wild, in an island sort of way. Everything’s in the gift shop’s marked down. Slightly. And guests are already scoping us out.

“We’re not expecting a massive rush, but we’ll unbar the doors at 4 a.m. just in case,” Valve said. “There’s tons of tourists on island right now, and they really love hunting for the perfect tropical tchotchke to take back as a gift. And a pre-dawn fight for it makes it more of a prize.”

Other resort gift shops made similar preparations.

“There’s not a lot of people at the resort, but our gift shop’s pretty small, so we’ve prepped accordingly,” Blacktip Haven owner Elena Havens said. “There’s been rumblings of a pre-dawn rush, so we have extra stock in a shed out back just in case. And Frederick from the kitchen’ll be on hand with his wooden spoon for security.

“It is Blacktip Island, though, so ‘discount’ doesn’t mean much,” Havens said. “We’ll be handing out free rum punch to shoppers to hopefully get them in a purchasing mood.”

The island’s lone grocery/hardware store is ready for a holiday rush as well.

“After a few breakfast cocktails, folks do like to wander through impulse buying,” store owner Peachy Bottoms said. “We don’t give discounts, of course, but we have marked two items in the store at half price, and shoppers are encouraged to hunt for them. A hint: one of them’s in the canned food section.”

Island bars are prepping as well.

“We’ll be open early, serving bloody Marys and mimosas to anyone who needs them,” Sand Spit bartender Cori Anders said. “We also made a special Blacktip Friday cocktail. It’s basically Long Island iced tea made with Guiness. And you have to drink it outside. We only have the one restroom.”

Many island visitors are planning to get up early for the shopping.

“I can get a Blacktip Island t-shirt any time, but getting up early to buy it is a holiday tradition, really, even if prices aren’t reduced much,” Lacey Pesce said. “Getting out before it’s light and fighting with complete strangers really gets you in the holiday spirit. Nothing says, ‘Happy Holidays’ quite like an elbow to the ribs or a gouged eye.”

Island residents say they plan to enjoy the sales from a distance.

“I’m gonna make some coffee and popcorn, pull up a chair outside Sandy Bottoms’ and watch the mayhem,” Belinda Graysby said. “Nothing there I need. Or want. But it’ll be fun to watch tourists beat the crap out of each other. And see which locals’ll join in.”

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Dive-Share Boat Service Comes To Blacktip Island

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The new Dryft scuba diving rideshare service will allow Blacktip Island shore divers to hail rides to and from the Caribbean island’s dive sites with a computer app. (photo courtesy of Bradley Grillo)

A ridesharing dive boat service, based loosely on the popular Uber and Lyft rideshare programs, launched this week on Blacktip Island to take shore divers to many of the Caribbean island’s dive sites.

“Shore diving can be tough, especially in winter with the heavy seas,” app developer Goldie Goby said. “With Dryft, divers can hail a fishing boat, get picked up at a sheltered spot, and be dropped anywhere around the island. Then at the end of the dive, they surface, hail a ride back and Bob’s your uncle.

“Like with land-based rideshares, you pay according to how far you want to go, and you can rate your captain and tip them,” Goby said. “It lets divers set their own schedule, and local fishermen can make a little money on the side.”

Divers gave the fledgling service mixed reviews.

“It’s great going out when weather makes shore diving impossible, and going to sites you can’t get to from shore,” Harry Blenny said. “But getting back out can be an adventure, depending on how rough the seas are, how long you have to wait and what kind of boat picks you up.

“Trying to get back in a skiff this morning in eight-foot seas was an adventure,” Blenny said. “I passed up my gear and it still took four tries, with Clete Horn finally hauling me up by my wetsuit. I’m still walking funny.”

Local fishermen were divided on the service as well.

“Easy money, taking yahoos out on the sea and chucking them overboard,” James Conlee said. “Getting them back in can be rough, but it’s them who get banged up, not me.”

Others disagreed.

“Divers in the water scare off the fish,” Antonio Fletcher said. “Need fewer divers out there, not more. Plus, divers bobbing at the surface can be hard to see. Don’t want my prop getting dinged up on one of their scuba tanks.”

Island officials questioned the program’s safety.

“If a buddy team gets dropped off late in the day and there’s no boats nearby when they surface, they might never be found,” Island Police Constable Rafe Marquette said. “If they’re off the south end, in a current, the next stop’s Venezuela. Or a shark’s belly.”

App developers say those criticisms are unfounded.

“Divers don’t scare off fish, and ‘Tonio shouldn’t be fishing in the marine park anyway,” Goby said. “And if he can’t see a diver on the surface, he should be driving a skiff.

“Also, we guarantee any diver Dryft drops off will have a ride back,” Goby said. “We ran test dives for months before the official launch, and we never had a single diver complain. We learned our lesson after we lost the first few.”

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Divemaster Reality Show To Film On Blacktip Island

Real DMs of BI

Club Scuba Doo will be the focal point of the upcoming reality television series ‘Real Divemasters of Blacktip Island, which began filming on the small Caribbean island this week. (photo courtesy of André Héroux)

A new scuba-themed reality television show about the daily lives of Caribbean dive staff on Blacktip Island began filming this week, show producers said.

“We were looking for the bat-shit-craziest island in the Caribbean, and Blacktip blew the metrics off the chart,” Leah Shore said. “It’s like this island has a crazy magnet buried somewhere. Professional actors couldn’t have done better.

“We’re calling it ‘Real Divemasters of Blacktip Island,’ and it’ll show on what goes on at a scuba resort when the guests aren’t around,” Shore said. “Or when the staff thinks they’re not around. There’s a huge untapped TV market of scuba geeks who can’t get enough scuba talk and who love drama.”

The show will focus on dive staff at one of the island’s four dive resorts.

“They liked the look of Eagle Ray Cove, but the staff there’s actually pretty decent to each other,” island mayor Jack Cobia said. “It needed the nastiest staff possible to showcase all the behind the scenes griping, backstabbing and sandbagging that goes on after the guests go to their rooms.

“They picked Club Scuba Doo instead,” Cobia said. “We had no idea, but the staff there’re truly vicious to each other. They’re over-the-top passive-aggressive about their divers, too, when guests turn their backs. The first dailies had jaws dropping. It’s great TV.”

Club Scuba Doo dive staff are enjoying the spotlight.

“They’ve got hidden cameras, body cams, Speedo cams, you name it,” Club Scuba Doo dive manager Finn Kiick said. “We had no idea people’d want to watch this stuff. For us it’s just business as usual, only now we’re gonna be semi-famous for it.

“You work at CSD, you’re in the arena. If it’s your day off, the knives come out,” Kiick said. “But then it’s you doing the stabbing when someone else isn’t there. Yeah, we may hack off some customers, but for every guest we scare off, we’ll gain three more.”

Some on the island worry the show will send the wrong message.

“Our business is hospitality, and here’s a program showing staff being as inhospitable as they can be,” Sandy Bottoms Beach Resort general manager Kay Valve said. “It paints a totally unrealistic picture of life in the scuba industry. Snarky divemasters playing it up for the camera will do more harm than good.”

Kiick was quick to belay those concerns.

“If it jams the boats, where’s the down side?” he said. “Sure, the tank-filling scene was harsh, but it’s all for show. Kay’s just chapped they didn’t choose her resort.

“People’ll come here just to meet the jerks they saw on TV,” he said. “We’re celebrities. As long as they pronounce my name right and tip well, I’m good.”

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Proposed Underwater Bar Draws Blacktip Residents’ Ire

underwater bar

Resort owner Sandy Bottoms’ plans for a mobile underwater bar off Blacktip Island’s west coast met opposition from many Blacktip Island residents concerned about the project’s safety and environmental impact. (photo by Charlie Noble/BTT staff)

A Blacktip Island entrepreneur’s plans for an underwater drinking establishment hit an unexpected snag Wednesday when island residents protested the proposed bar.

“The bar scene’s damned competitive on this island, and we’re trying to get ahead of the curve,” Sandy Bottoms’ Beach Resort owner Sandy Bottoms said. “It’ll be the only place in the Caribbean you can dive down, sit in a Plexiglas dome and have a drink. It’ll have little electric servo motors, too, so it can cruise around the reef.

“For safety, we’ll only serve freedivers, not anyone on scuba,” Bottoms said. “And it’ll only be in about six, eight feet of water, so decompression sickness won’t be a factor. It’s only a prototype so far, but we’ve been encouraged. I don’t know what all the fuss’s about.”

Many opponents say those precautions don’t go far enough.

“Sandy’s talking about serving people alcohol at depth, then having them leave the bar underwater and swim back to the surface inebriated,” Sally Port said. “One inhalation, or hiccup, at the wrong time, a bar patron drowns.

“And if you stay down there for multiple drinks, maybe make an afternoon of it, DCS will definitely come into play. People’ll get hurt,” Port said. “He’s chasing a dollar today that’ll cost him multiple dollars tomorrow. That’s a black eye for Blacktip.”

Others questioned the structure itself.

“There’s no way they can build a plastic bar sturdy enough to withstand pressure at depth and a bunch of drunks banging around in it,” Harry Blenny said. “Dermott spends one evening there and the place’ll be demolished.

“Sandy got the idea from him and his buddies taking beers down in wreck wreck and drinking them in an air pocket,” Blenny said said. “There’s a world of difference between a steel hull and a plastic bubble. And how much coral will it destroy into while it’s scooting around the reefs?”

Not all residents opposed the concept.

“It would be lovely to slip down, have a glass of wine and watch the fish go by,” Paloma Fairlead said. “And sunsets would be incredible. You’d just have to drink responsibly.

“And Sandy, or someone, would have no problem coming up with a shuttle of some sort to get people down and back without the danger of drowning,” Fairlead said. “I’ve seen that sort of thing in movies.”

Others said they would avoid the bar.

“Don’t have to worry about me trashing it because there’s no way I’ll go down there,” Dermott Bottoms said. “I’ll go on the sea to fish, but won’t go in it, much less under it. There’s sharks and such. And plenty of rum right here where it’s dry.”

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Charity Pumpkin Carvers Destroy Blacktip Island’s Heritage House

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A screen grab from a pumpkin carver’s phone shows the mayhem at Thursday’s charity pumpkin carving contest that severely damaged the Caribbean island’s Heritage House. (photo courtesy of Ginger Bass)

A Thursday afternoon jack-o-lantern carving contest to raise money for a local charity devolved into a brawl that seriously damaged Blacktip Island’s Heritage House community center, organizers said.

“It was supposed to be a low-key event to raise funds for Habitat for Humanity,” Heritage House director Doris Blenny said. “We shipped in all kinds of pumpkins, provided the necessary carving tools, set out snacks and lemonade and were set for some relaxing Halloween fun.

“Problem was the chocolates,” Blenny said. “Somebody put out booze-filled ones inadvertently and none of the carvers said anything. We knew the chocolates were popular, but didn’t realize something was wrong until it was too late.”

Attendees described a chaotic scene.

“It started off with giggling and shooting pumpkin seeds at each other,” carver Val Schrader said. “It escalated pretty quick to chucking pumpkin guts across the room.

“Things got ugly when Lee Helm put a big jack-o-lantern around Gage Hoase’s head,” Schrader said. “Gage took a swing at Lee, missed, and the carved pumpkin fell on Marina DeLow. From there it was an all-out pumpkin fight. There were pumpkins going through windows, knocking holes in drywall and whacking blades off ceiling fans.”

Organizers say the building might have survived if not for a second wave of violence.

“Some carvers came dressed in costume, it being for Halloween and all,” carver Ginger Bass said. “Jerrod Ephesians was dressed as an angel, and he must’ve gotten into the tequila-filled candy, because the next thing we knew he was shouting he was the Archangel Gabriel.

“He was hollering about ‘smiting’ people, and swinging a big push broom like it was a pole ax,” Bass said. “People were scrambling for the doors and diving out windows. Then he hit Dermott Bottoms, Dermott tackled him and that’s when the structural damage occurred. Rafe Marquette had to take them both down with tranq darts.”

Construction experts say the building is not repairable.

“Dermott’s a big guy. And Jerrod’s crazy-strong when he goes into smiting mode,” Stoney MacAdam said. “They broke half the wall studs and a dozen roof beams. A corner of the roof’s missing, too.

“We can strip it down to the foundation and build new for less than the repairs’d cost,” MacAdam said. “It’s a shame to lose the historic building, but it’s also a blessing in disguise. The place was full of termites, and the electric work’s always been dodgy.”

Habitat for Humanity officials say they will host a Christmas charity event far from any structures to raise funds for a new Heritage House.

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Mayor Launches Blacktip Island Motto Contest

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Blacktip Island leaders hope an island slogan contest, open to all, will give the Caribbena island a competitive advantage in the growing tourism wars. (photo courtesy of Wendy Beaufort/BT staff)

Blacktip Island leaders Friday announced a contest to create a motto for the small Caribbean island to use in promotions in order to stand out among other vacation destinations in the region.

“With so many islands, we get lost in the shuffle,” island mayor Jack Cobia said. “Our resorts have seen a drop in occupancy across the board. Most people get to Tiperon and stop. We’ve got a whizz-bang marketing plan to address that, but it all hinges on a catchy slogan.

“The Bahamas have ‘Life Is Grand.’ Saint Lucia has ‘Simply Beautiful.’ Greater Tiperon has, “Surface With A Smile.’ They’re all eating our lunch, tourism-wise,” Cobia said. “We made a suggestion box for anyone on the island, local or visitor, and as soon as we get enough entries, we’ll pick the best ones and have an island-wide vote.”

Organizers say the contest is off to a spirited start.

“We’ve had more suggestions than expected, and you can tell people are taking the contest to heart, no matter how misguided,” contest chair Kay Valve said. “We’re anticipating more, and more appropriate suggestions this week.

“We’re keeping the process as democratic as possible, within reason,” Valve said. “We’ll disqualify anyone stuffing the box, and anything too malapropos, but at this point we’re letting the public have its say.”

Valve said the leading entries so far are:

  • I’ve Been Drinking and Probably Shouldn’t Say This, But . . .
  • Two Roads To Nowhere
  • Well, I Heard
  • Discover Our Blacktip
  • If It Ain’t Broke, Don’t Fix It
  • Welcome to Blacktip. Leave Your Money and Go Home

Some in the community say the contest is misguided.

“We’re a small island with incredibly limited resources,” environmental advocate Harry Pickett said. “The dump’s overflowing. Resort septic fields are killing the reefs. Blacktip needs to go backward, un-develop, if you will. More tourists mean more infrastructure, more waste, more dying coral.

“Popularizing the island will be the worst disaster since building that electrical power plant,” Pickett said. “We need to be tearing down resorts and sending people away, not encouraging more. The next thing you know, we’ll have paved roads and we’ll have lost our charm.”

Contest backers disagreed.

“Progress doesn’t have reverse gears,” Cobia said. “We’re looking to the future. We can’t afford to fall further behind those Tiperon rat bastards on this one.”

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Illegal Iguana Cullers Injure Dozens On Blacktip Island

iguana culling

An invasive green iguana lurks in the underbrush at Sandy Bottoms’ Beach Resort Thursday. Over-aggressive culling of the non-native species has created a public safety crisis on Blacktip Island. (photo courtesy of Christian Linder)

A rash of mishaps involving over-zealous green-iguana cullers this week has created a groundswell public backlash against unlicensed cullers on Blacktip Island.

“The green iguanas don’t belong here and need to be checked, but things’ve gotten out of hand,” Eagle Ray Cove owner Rich Skerritt said. “Every yahoo and his cousin’s running around with slingshots, golf clubs, cricket bats, lionfish spears, you name it.

“Thank God guns are illegal. And bows and arrows,” Skerritt said. “James Conlee took out a whole row of bar stools—guests still on them—with a croquet mallet at the tiki hut yesterday. Sent five people to the clinic.”

Authorities blamed the rogue hunters on the bounty placed on iguanas.

“It’s only supposed to be a handful of licensed cullers, but with the government paying $5 a lizard, everyone wants in on the fun and profit,” Island Police Constable Rafe Marquette said. “Folks’re throwing common sense out the window trying to kill as many iguanas as they can. And most aren’t trained to cull safely.

“We tried only paying licensed cullers, but they just brought in iguanas their unlicensed buddies killed and split the take with them,” Marquette said. “I’m arresting illegal cullers. And drunk cullers, legal or otherwise. But I only have the one jail cell. To them it’s a laugh. To the rest of us it’s a public safety nightmare.”

Many island residents support the crackdown.

“It’s scary going outside these days, not knowing if you’ll be caught in a culling melee,” Peachy Bottoms said. “Nighttime’s the worst. You don’t dare wander out with all the spears and bats and sand rakes flying. People are whacking first and checking their target afterwards. Our little Shelley caught a stray lionfish spear in the buttocks Wednesday.”

Island nurse Marissa Graysby voiced safety concerns as well.

“The clinic’s in shambles,” she said. “There’s only one of me, and I’m out of medical supplies. We’re not equipped for a dozen injuries a day. Sure, the iguanas are bad, but all these people with cuts and bruises and cracked skulls are worse. It doesn’t help that most of the cullers are three-sheets-to-the-wind drunk, either.”

Many cullers defended their actions.

“Doing a service to the island’s what we’re doing,” longtime resident Dermott Bottoms said. “Jack Cobia and them said green iguanas were bad, so we’re taking care of them, on our own time and at our own expense. We sit in some stupid class, that’s time we could be killing iguanas.

“And alcohol’s a help, not a hindrance,” Bottoms said. “Couple glasses of rum, I start to think like an iguana. That’s where the magic happens. And that third glass, well, that just sharpens my aim.”

Marquette, meanwhile, is focusing his crackdown in the island’s more populated areas.

“I’m concentrating on the resort strip where most of the injuries are occurring,” he said. “Away from the resorts, it’s pretty much a free-for-all, but it’s mostly culler-on-culler injuries. If I can keep the tourists safe, I’ll call it a victory.”

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