Blacktip Island Celebrates Post-Christmas Kickboxing Day

Kickboxing Day II

Winner Clete Horn, left, and defending champion Rocky Shore square off in Thursday evening’s final bout of Blacktip Island’s annual Kickboxing Day festivities. The day-long event celebrates Colonial islanders’ struggles against Caribbean pirates. (Photo courtesy of Rudolph A. Furtado)

Blacktip Island residents Thursday celebrated post-Christmas Kickboxing Day with martial arts contests, children’s games and a cook-off at Diddley’s Landing public pier, sponsored by the Caribbean island’s Seaman’s Society.

“The festival started in Colonial times as a way to practice community defensive techniques,” Blacktip Island historian Smithson Altschul said. “Blacktip’s original settlers developed a unique fighting style to combat the region’s pirates. Every Blacktipper was required to learn to fight on land and at sea.’

“The original Kickboxing Days allowed islanders to celebrate Boxing Day while testing their skills against other settlers,” Altschul said. “Now it’s as much a part of the holidays as tacky Christmas lights, overcooked turkey and third-rate college football.”

This year’s festivities began with traditional island feats of endurance.

“We kicked things off with the 5K underwater pub crawl,” said Blacktip Island Seaman’s Society president Jay Valve. “A combination of oxygen-rich, nitrox-filled scuba cylinders and mimosas at each station help shake off any lingering holiday hangovers.

“After that, the Leftover-Off ran through mid-afternoon,” Valve said. “It’s amazing the variety of delicacies island folks can cobble together from holiday leftovers. Finalists this year included stuffing pancakes with cranberry syrup, frozen green bean casserole pops and deep-fried candied sweet potatoes.”

Some residents focused on the day’s physical contests.

“No K-Day’s complete without the Destruction of the Christmas Playlists,” Eagle Ray Cove divemaster Gage Hoase said. “Nothing makes the season bright quite like copying a holiday playlist to a CD, then flinging it as far as you can across the bay. With this year’s north wind, we had a couple nearly break the record.”

The highlight was the evening’s kickboxing competition. As ever, contestants were encouraged to compete in appropriate seasonal attire.

“This year I fought off Santa, two elves and Jesus,” said winner Clete Horn, who opted for reindeer attire. “One elf was a kick-heavy tang soo do dude. Then, in the finals, Jesus gave me fits with that monkey kung fu of his. But I whomped him in the end.”

Event organizers noted the festivities’ unifying qualities.

“At its heart, Kickboxing Day is a uniquely Blacktip tradition that brings the community together during the holidays,” Valve said. “We had smaller rings where kids could strap on gloves and footpads and just wail on each other. After an afternoon of that, and a shot of brandy, the kiddos sleep like logs.”

Residents agreed Kickboxing Day are an integral part of the island’s holidays.

“It’s the most wonderful time of the year on Blacktip Island,” Ginger Bass said. “It’s cathartic, really. Nothing helps you cast off the old year, and gets you excited about the new one, quite like seeing someone who pissed you off get laid out with a roundhouse kick to the head. I still have one of Lee Helm’s molars from last year’s quarterfinals.”

Leave a comment

Filed under Caribbean, Scuba Diving

Blacktip Islanders Fight Against War on Festivus

war on festivus

A small, but determined, group of Blacktip Island residents is making a concerted effort to focus on Festivus celebrations this holiday season. (photo courtesy of 4marknelson)

A group of Blacktip Island residents Thursday took action against what they perceived as attacks on Festivus traditions on the small Caribbean island.

“Festivus provides an alternative to the commercialization and pressures of the Christmas season, and some Blacktippers have declared war on it,” resident Payne Hanover said. “They’re free to celebrate for religious reasons or commercial reasons or whatever, but we won’t let Festivus be relegated to second-class status.

“We’re taking a stand against the ‘what would Jesus buy’ aspect of the holidays,” Hanover said. “We’ll be displaying our bare poles, loud and proud, for everyone to see. Our response to any holiday greeting will be, ‘Happy Festivus.’”

Some island religious leaders decried the movement.

“Christmas is, by definition, religious,” the Rev. Pierre Grunt said. “This imagined assault on a manufactured holiday is just the latest round of the real war on Christmas. Payne and his cronies are stirring up trouble to ruin everyone else’s holidays. We won’t be browbeaten by some multi-culti sensitivity nonsense.

“It wouldn’t be charitable to tell Payne what he can do with his Festivus pole, but we’ll have plenty of carolers to drown out his nonsense,” Grunt said. “We’ll make sure everyone keeps Jesus front and center, if it’s the last thing we do. If Payne wants a war, we’ll give him one!”

Other residents downplayed the dispute.

“Both sides need to shut up, have some eggnog and enjoy the pretty lights,” Olive Beaugregory said. “Celebrate your choice of holidays any way you want. Or not. But don’t harsh the season when everybody else is having a good time.

“I’m wishing people happy Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanza, and Bodhi Day without batting an eye,” Beaugregory said. “I’m even wishing the Pagans a happy Yuletide. Or Solstice. Whichever one they prefer these days.”

The island’s Ecumenical Council urged forbearance during the holidays.

“Blacktip’s a diverse community, and there’s room for every viewpoint,” BIEC president, former reverend Jerrod Ephesians said. “The goal’s to have peace and goodwill on the island. However briefly. Blacktip’s always been an accommodating community. Antonio Fletcher’s been celebrating Hogswatch on the 24th for years, and no one’s complained.”

Hanover remained steadfast.

“We’re foregrounding the non-religious aspects that make this time of year so dear to our hearts,” he said. “We’ll air our grievances. We’ll perform feats of strength. And we’ll by-God celebrate Festivus miracles. Why, just yesterday I found my scooter keys!”

Leave a comment

Filed under Caribbean

Blacktip Island Christmas Tree Lighting Goes Up In Flames

tree lighting catches fire

Blacktip Islanders are still in shock after a glitch in the lighting ceremony caused the community Christmas tree to go up in flames Wednesday evening. (photo courtesy of Fir0002)

Blacktip Island’s annual Christmas tree lighting ceremony went awry Wednesday night when misunderstood directions resulted in the community tree catching fire and burning down, event organizers said.

“The lights were strung, the kids’ ornaments were hung and the tree was perfect,” chamber of commerce President Kay Valve said. “We were all gathered around the tree, holding hands and singing “I Believe in Father Christmas,” then WHOOSH! We had a Christmas fire-nado.

“Dermott Bottoms had been working on the tree and the holiday bonfire and got confused,” Valve said. “When we said, ‘light the tree,’ he took that literally and held a lighter to it. The rum on his breath acted as an accelerant. For a second he looked like a holiday dragon.”

Onlookers described a chaotic scene.

“The crowd was ducking for cover, and people were rolling on the ground to put out the sparks on their clothes and hair,” Rusty Goby said. “Other palm trees went up, too. The flames got up high in the fronds and spread, well, like wildfire.

“We formed an ad-hoc volunteer fire brigade—basically anyone sober enough to handle a bucket or wield a hose,” Goby said. “Somehow we managed to save the nearby structures. That’s our Christmas miracle this year. The whole community’s still in shock, though.”

Island emergency workers say physical injuries were minimal.

“Little Shelly Bottoms lost an eyebrow,” island nurse Marissa Graysby said. “She’s scheduled for some heavy-duty therapy as soon as the holiday season’s over, but, then, we all are. The only other person injured was Dermott, but his skin’s so tough, he only has first-degree burns. I’m pretty sure he still doesn’t feel anything.”

Some worried about the long-term impact on the community.

“We tried the Whoville thing where we gathered around what’s left of the tree and sang holiday songs, but that fell flat, and people choked on the ashes,” Elena Havens said. “Now we’re moving ahead with an alternative community tree to regain a sense of the holidays.

“We’ll have a Christmas sea grape shrub instead,” Havens said. “It’ll be festive and fire resistant. We’re also taking donations for new strings of lights, and the school kids are in overdrive making replacement ornaments. That’s helping a lot of them work through seeing their other ornaments incinerate.”

Others in the community downplayed the incident.

“It’s Blacktip Island. It’s not the holidays unless something goes horribly wrong,” Clete Horn said. “This year, the catastrophe’s out of the way early. Now we can relax and enjoy the rest of the season in peace.”

Leave a comment

Filed under Caribbean

Blacktip Island Players Stage Dueling Christmas Plays

Dueling Xmas

Blacktip Island Community Players cast members try on various costumes Thursday at the BICP’s holiday play dress rehearsals. The BICP will perform Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and a Nativity play simultaneously to address a secular-vs.-religious divide among island residents. (photo courtesy of istolethetv).

Debate over the appropriate theme for Blacktip Island’s annual Christmas play has resulted in the Blacktip Island Community Players staging two different holiday plays simultaneously at the Caribbean island’s Heritage House, BICP representatives said Thursday.

“When we started planning things, there was a vocal contingent that wanted the play to focus on Jesus’ birth,” BICP director Doris Blenny said. “Others wanted a more lighthearted performance. We tried to incorporate both viewpoints, but that was a hot mess. The solution was to stage two plays.

“We’ll have a traditional Nativity play in a scale-model, turn-of-the-millennium Judean manger on the lawn, and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer inside,” Blenny said. “We’re staging them simultaneously so people can choose which to watch.”

Some community leaders opposed the two-play solution.

“Jesus is the reason for the season. If we don’t keep that in focus, who will?” said the Rev. Pierre Grunt. “Religion is the heart of this community. Or should be. The Santa-and-reindeer play is misguided, and we’re encouraging folks to boycott it. And they don’t, well, they’ll have to walk past our manger scene to get inside.”

Others supported the dueling plays.

“We kicked around a bunch of inclusive options, but this was the only practical one,” said the former Rev. Jerrod Ephesians, chair of the Blacktip Island Ecumenical Council. “The runner up was a Baby Jesus vs. Santa cage match, and we axed that pretty quick. Our bottom line is whatever gets people out and involved is, by definition, good for the community. And people really enjoyed last year’s ‘Grinch’ production.”

Actors say the two-play option has stretched the island’s thespian community thin.

“Staging two plays simultaneously showcases new talent, but it has us reaching deep into the pool of performers,” BICP member Elena Havens said. “Actors chose which play to participate in based on their beliefs, or lack thereof, though we did ask the tone-deaf actors to opt for the non-musical Nativity play.

“The downside is we had to reduce the number of parts in both performances,” Havens said. “There’ll only be one shepherd in the manger, and it’s impossible to find a Wise Man on this island, so we axed that role entirely.”

Casts of the two plays include:

Rudolph

  • Payne Hanover as Rudolph
  • Cori Anders as Clarice
  • Finn Kiick as Hermey the Elf
  • Elena Havens as Santa
  • Jessie Catahoula as Yukon Jack
  • James Conlee as The Abominable Snow Monster of the North

Nativity

  • Kay Valve as Baby Jesus
  • Lee Helm as Mary
  • Marina DeLow as Joseph
  • Alison Diesel as The Shepherd
  • Dermott Bottoms as The Camel

Some cast members see the two-play solution as a growth opportunity.

“It really gives us a chance to stretch our abilities as actors,” Marina DeLow said. “So far the only real gaffe was during dress rehearsals the arrival of the shepherd outside was interrupted by Payne Hanover inside yelling, ‘She thinks I’m cuuuuuute!’ over and over.”

Many residents see the two plays as a holiday blessing.

“We get two plays instead of one,” Chrissy Graysby said. “We’re taking the kiddos to Rudolph Saturday, then the Nativity Sunday. Then we’ll celebrate Kwanza right after Christmas.”

The plays will be performed at 7 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays through December 22.

Leave a comment

Filed under Caribbean

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.”

Leave a comment

Filed under Caribbean, Scuba Diving

Dive-Share Boat Service Comes To Blacktip Island

uber dive boats

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.”

Leave a comment

Filed under Caribbean, Scuba Diving

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.”

1 Comment

Filed under Caribbean, Scuba Diving