Blacktip Island history buffs will take to the sea Saturday for the 23rd Annual Battle of Salamis Reenactment benefiting the Tiperon Island Retired Seaman’s Guild.
The event celebrates the pivotal Greek naval victory over the Persian fleet in 480 B.C.E. The battle will be staged off Diddley’s Landing public pier to facilitate viewing and crowd control.
“People get excited about this one,” event organizer Jay Valve said. “They work all year on their boats, their uniforms and their spoken Greek and Persian. It really draws the community together.”
Participants recreate trireme warships from whatever materials they can find onshore or in the dump. Winners are named Honorary Seamen for the coming year.
“We try to keep things as accurate as a small island allows,” Valve said. “We allow water cannons, water balloons and the like,” Valve said. “Last year the Persian team used giant slings to fling land crabs at the Greeks. For close combat, brooms and hand bags are still the weapons of choice.”
The reenactment is personal for many participants.
“We’re a seafaring nation, you know,” Persian partisan Dermott Bottoms said. “This’s not just a drunken free-for-all. Granddaddy was a seaman. So was Daddy. This’s my way to honor them.”
Though the Greeks won the original battle, the reenactment’s outcome can go either way.
“Won the last three years in a row,” Persian captain James Conlee said. “One crab broadside, and they’ll all jump in the sea again.”
Greek reenactors, however, like their chances.
“We got Lee Helm with an underwater auger bit,” Bottoms said. “They can’t hit us with crabs if all their boats sink. And worst case, I still get to whack James upside the head with a broom.”
Island authorities, meanwhile, are bracing for on-shore rowdiness.
“The crowd really gets behind their teams,” Island Police Constable Rafe Marquette said. “It’s rare when the sea battle doesn’t spill over into the stands.
“We put up barricades to separate the two sides last year, but they just broke the partitions and used the wood as shields and swords,” Marquette said. “I’m expecting a full jail again: hoplites in one cell, zhayedan in the other.”
Organizers insist the money earned for pensioners more than offsets any hooliganism.
“The funds we raise are crucial to the former sailors in our community struggling to make ends meet,” Valve said. “We care deeply about our seamen. We’re all seamen at heart.”