Second Constable To Help Ease Blacktip Island Traffic Woes

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A motorcycle approaches Blacktip Island’s troublesome western intersection Thursday morning. The small Caribbean island has been assigned a new police constable responsible for directing traffic in the intersection during peak times. (photo by Wendy Beaufort/Blacktip Times staff)

Blacktip Island Wednesday welcomed its second island police constable, tasked with directing traffic on the small Caribbean island.

“There’s too many close calls at the intersection,” island mayor Jack Cobia said. “It’s a dangerous mix of speeding vehicles and tourists on wobbly resort bikes. Last week a drunk Lee Helm took out three Scuba Doo guests with his scooter.

“It’s worst around lunch time and when the bars open,” Cobia said. “Right before the liquor store closes, too.”

Island residents say the additional constable is past due.

“Public safety demands it,” said Helen Maples. “Yes, we’re a small island with only two roads, but that intersection is a nightmare. Just yesterday a Skerritt Construction truck ran the stop sign and nearly put me in the sea grapes.

“The constable’s not needed all day, you understand, only in the high-traffic times,” Maples said. “Club Scuba Doo donated a big beach umbrella for a shelter when he’s not on the roadway, and Sandy Bottoms’ donated a pool chair.”

The new constable has embraced her new duties.

“Over on Tiperon, you hear horror stories of the traffic on Blacktip,” Island Police Constable Catalina Luxfer said. “That’s going to stop. There’s a new sheriff in town. Motorists will respect my authority.”

The new constable is already a hit with island visitors.

“We didn’t think she was real at first,” Missy Marlin said. “I mean, a traffic cop on a tiny island? Then she moved, and nearly scared us to death. In a good way.

“It’s like the guards at Buckingham Palace,” Marlin said. “When no cars were coming, she posed in the middle of the road and let us take pictures with her.”

Not all residents were happy with the new constable.

“He can talk all he wants about safety, but Jack’s not fooling anyone,” Joey Pompano said. “It’s the first step down an ugly road. First it’s a traffic cop. Then another. The next thing you know, there’s more police than residents.

“Jack’s always been power hungry. This is just his way to take control on the sly,” Pompano said. “He wants a police state, but this is Blacktip. We self-police just fine.”

The island’s other police constable downplayed those fears.

“No one’s taking control of anything,” Island Police Constable Rafe Marquette said. “Hell, if someone could figure out a way to control anything on this little rock, they’d be up for a Nobel prize.”

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Blacktip Island Resort Launches Underwater Taxidermy Course

underwater taxidermy

Two rufous-spotted grouper, stuffed by underwater taxidermy students at Blacktip Island’s Eagle Ray Cove, are on display in the Caribbean island’s Last Ballyhoo bar. (photo courtesy of Jacklee)

A Blacktip Island scuba instructor launched a new underwater taxidermy specialty course this week to the delight of students and the dismay of several local civic groups.

“Sport fishermen always want to mount trophy fish, but fish are tough to stuff,” Eagle Ray Divers instructor Gage Hoase said. “You lose the colors in minutes and the skin degrades as you work it. People usually take a cast of the fish, then pour a copy in resin. Underwater taxidermy looks more real than that.

“Taxidermy underwater keeps the skin fresh and malleable,” Hoase said. “We stretch skin over a mold, cure it on the pier, then touch it up with paint. Students start on yellowtail snappers and damselfish, then work up to bigger stuff.”

Students raved about the classes.

“I couldn’t believe how realistic the parrotfish I mounted was,” said Kitty Mitchell. “There’s no comparison to a resin casting. It has a stronger smell to it, but that just lets you know it’s real. And adds to the value.

“Gage walked us through how to use the knives and curved needles and hide stretchers,” Mitchell said. “And we make the molds from washed-up turtle grass, so it helps with beach cleanup, too.”

Others noted the hazards of underwater taxidermy.

“You’d think the biggest worry would be sharks, but it’s really those swarms of little snappers. They bite chunks out of your fingers when they go after the skin you’re working,” Palometa Fischer said. “Sharks are a concern, sure, but we have spotters to keep them away. Those snappers are vicious.”

The course drew unexpected ire Thursday afternoon when two groups picketed Eagle Ray Resort, in an effort to cancel future classes.

“Blacktip’s famous for its marine park, for protecting its marine life, and now Gage is teaching a class on how to skin fish and stick them on the wall?” People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals president and treasurer Harry Pickett said. “People come here to swim with live fish, not make grotesques. This runs counter to the island’s ethos, and we’ll be protesting roadside until it stops.”

A second group of picketers launched a separate protest nearby.

“Gage and them’re solving a problem that doesn’t exist,” said protest organizer Dermott Bottoms. “Blacktip don’t need taxis, you know. Don’t have a car, or your bike breaks, someone’ll give you a ride. Taxis’ll destroy Blacktip. What’s next after that, buses? Trolley cars?”

Hoase was quick to defend the course.

“Sport fishing is just as much a part of Blacktip as scuba diving,” he said. “We only stuff fish caught outside the marine park. And we do the taxidermy outside it, too.

“Harry’s fine with drinking a beer under the mounted marlins at the Ballyhoo, but he’s protesting how those marlins get made? That’s hypocrisy. And as for Dermott, I have no idea what he’s talking about. But that’s nothing new.”

Hoase also addressed the students’ safety concerns.

“We’re working on building a walled-off taxidermy pool by the dock that keeps other fish out,” he said. “We tried protective netting, but a couple of barracuda managed to get through the mush and things got ugly.”

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Blacktip Island Resort Offers Mime Dive Briefings

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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.”

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Blacktip Divemasters To Hone Ring-Finding Skills In Weekend Contest

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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.”

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Blacktip Island Braces For Visiting Proctologist

Manas Medical Clinic reopens after $15,000 in upgrades made

The Blacktip Island medical clinic will host a proctologist next week as part of the small Caribbean island’s visiting physician program. (photo courtesy Nathan Bevier)

Blacktip Island residents are busy cataloguing their medical woes this week in anticipation of the arrival of the Caribbean island’s first visiting physician of the year.

“There’s not enough people on Blacktip for us to have a full-time doctor,” island mayor Jack Cobia said. “The good news is there’s a regular circuit of traveling docs willing to swap a few days in the island clinic for free lodging and diving.

“We get about three itinerant doctors a year,” Cobia said. “Last year we had a cardiologist, a GP and a dentist. We had a chiropractor, too, but we only covered half her lodging, and none of her diving. Next week, we get our first proctologist.”

Community leaders were busy spreading the word about the upcoming visit.

“A proctologist might seem a bit offbeat, but it’s an M.D. willing to come here, so we can’t be choosy,” longtime resident Frank Maples said. “Truth be told, we’ve actually quite the need for a proctologist. You wouldn’t believe the issues we have with a-holes.”

The doctor was equally upbeat about his visit.

“I can’t wait to probe into the islanders’ medical issues,” Dr. Buddy Pucker said. “A tropical island that small and that isolated, there’s no telling what I’ll root out. That’s the draw. With luck, I’ll discover something previously unknown that they’ll name after me.”

Not all residents were happy with the physician’s visit.

“Don’t need some stranger poking and prodding us,” resident Antonio Fletcher said. “Blacktip folks self-medicate just fine.

“We’re naturally healthy, you know,” Fletcher said. “If we get sick, or hurt, well, we just suck it up. And apply the appropriate alcohol, externally and internally.”

Others were more antagonistic.

“So-called Western medicine leaves a lot to be desired,” said Clete Horn. “Daddy went to see a visiting doctor once. Died ten years later. There’s a lesson there.

“People wanna see some off-island quack, that’s their business,” Horn said. “But you can get better results just drinking pond water. And ‘Tonio’s home brew’ll cure most ailments, without him chucking pills at you.”

Dr. Pucker will have clinic hours Monday, Wednesday and Thursday afternoons, weather dependent.

“If the seas lay down and the vis is good, I may have to cancel an afternoon here and there,” he said. “But I’ll make it up with Tuesday and Friday office hours. By appointment. Or teleconference. If possible.”

The island council released a tentative schedule of future visiting doctors.

“Between now and Christmas we’ll also have a hepatologist, cardiologist and, with luck, a psychiatrist,” Cobia said. “That covers the Big Four of Blacktip Island demons.”

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Underwater Chaucer Will Raise Money For Blacktip Island Library

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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.”

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Beer Tap Repairman Earns Blacktip’s Order of the Iguana

beer tap hero

The beer taps at Blacktip Island’s Last Ballyhoo bar, and all other island taps, are fully operational thank to the quick actions of a visiting scuba diving guest. Buddy Swill was awarded the Island’s Order of the Iguana, the highest citation available to a non-citizen. (Photo courtesy of abruellmann)

A Blacktip Island tourist was named a Tiperon Islands national hero Wednesday after he voluntarily repaired numerous broken beer taps at the small Caribbean island’s four bars.

“The salt air’s horrible on anything metal here,” said Sand Spit bartender Cori Anders. “Every beer tap but one on the island had corroded shut or gummed up. The Tale Spinner was the only place you could get draft beer, and that was some manky wheatgrass-and-lime lager crap.

“We’d order parts, but they’d get waylaid on Tiperon,” Anders said. “And the repair people said it wasn’t worth their time to come over from the big island. We were on our own.”

Community leaders had declared an island-wide emergency.

“Folks were getting desperate,” mayor Jack Cobia said. “They were drinking bottled beer. Canned beer. N.A. beer. Anything they could get.

“Beer-related scuffles were breaking out all over creation,” Cobia said. “And what with the big spring haiku tournament coming up, we’d reached crisis point. Things were about to get really ugly.”

Help came from an unlikely source.

“One of the guests up at Blacktip Haven owned a brew pub in the U.S.,” Last Ballyhoo bar owner Ferris Skerritt said. “He happened to have a tap in his bag. And a faucet wrench to swap it out.

“Then, on his own dime, he overnighted a bunch of taps down as ‘plumbing supplies,’ and everybody was back in business,” Skerritt said. “As far as I’m concerned, he can drink free for life at the Ballyhoo. With a reasonable daily limit, of course.”

The guest denied he was a hero.

“I just did what any beer lover would do,” Buddy Swill said. “Thankfully, I always travel with a spare tap and wrench. It’s bailed me out a bunch of times in the past.

“As for swapping out all the taps on the island, well, it was just the right thing to do,” Swill said. “I mean, if I hadn’t stepped in, how would I have been able to sleep at night?”

After a unanimous vote, officials scrambled to find a physical Order of the Iguana medal-and-ribbon for Swill.

“We don’t give out many of those things,” Cobia said. “Last time was the septic tank debacle back in ’03. I managed to find a dusty medal in the archives and we gave that to Buddy.

“The commendation reads: ‘His timely intervention averted widespread riots and preserved public peace,’” Cobia said. “Whether he likes it or not, Buddy’s a member of the realm now, with all the rights, honors and whatsits that go with it.”

To celebrate the award, and the return of draft beer, the island council is sponsoring a Drain the Keg island-wide festival for Friday night. All work is cancelled on Saturday.

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