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Blacktip Island Lighthouse Vandalized To Shine Bat Signal

lighthouse bat_signal

Blacktip Island’s northern lighthouse shines a Batman logo into an overcast sky Thursday evening. The navigational beacon was vandalized earlier in the week to display the signal. (photo courtesy of Simon Scarfe)

Vandals Monday modified Blacktip Island’s northern lighthouse to display the Batman-related Bat Signal, island authorities said.

“Someone got in the housing and blacked in a Batman logo on the lens,” Island Police Constable Rafe Marquette said. “We blamed it on kids, but really, it could have been anyone. It was funny at first, but it’s caused some unforeseen safety issues.

“Passing ships are saying it’s confusing,” Marquette said. “Last night an oil tanker damn-near ran aground. Of course, the captain claimed he was Batman, and was wearing nothing but a black hood and cape, so there were extenuating circumstances.”

Community leaders have opted not to repair the light immediately.

“Our guests love it,” Eagle Ray Cove resort owner Rich Skerritt said. “They bike up to the north point before dinner just to see it. It’s the latest stop on the island tour.

“It’s drawing tourists up where most visitors don’t go, and word’s spreading quick,” Skerritt said. “We’re seeing an uptick in resort bookings the last few days.”

The vandalism has also boosted the island’s dive industry.

“Near as we can tell, the signal’s attracting batfish,” Club Scuba Doo dive manager Finn Kiick said. “They’re super rare, but the north-end reefs are lousy with them this week. We’re hauling divers up there morning, afternoon and night.”

The financial boom has some residents suspicious.

“The Tail Spinner bar up on the point is doing a bang-up business since that so-called prank,” Sally Port said. “I wouldn’t put it past old Harry Wrasse to have done it himself, just to sell more drinks.

“The Skerritts and Bottomses aren’t above pulling a stunt like that, either, to fill their resorts,” Port said. “Of course, it could’ve been Jerrod Ephesians, for a lark. He’s just crazy enough. And he has that tweak-your-nose artsy side to him.”

Others say the attention has ruined Blacktip’s small-island charm.

“The crowds have killed the Spinner’s laid-back vibe,” Gage Hoase said. “It used to be a great place to chill and watch the sunset. Now, it’s packed with 15, 20 tourists at a time. The Spinner, the island can’t handle that kind of crowd.”

Island officials say the light will be repaired by the end of the weekend.

“Batman’s a DC Comics character, and we have a sponsorship contract with Marvel Comics,” island mayor Jack Cobia said. “It’s been fun and games, but now there’s a bunch attorneys involved, and charging by the hour. If the pranksters wanted to bring money to the island, they picked the wrong way to do it.”

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Two-Bike Collision Sends Two To Blacktip Island Clinic

two-bike collision

Lee Helm’s bicycle rests in Blacktip Island’s booby pond after a late-night, head-on collision with cyclist Rusty Goby Wednesday. Both men have been charged with biking while intoxicated. (photo courtesy of gillfoto)

A nighttime, head-on collision between two bicyclists Wednesday night sent two Blacktip Island residents to the island’s medical clinic, filling the facility to capacity.

“Near as I can tell, Rusty Goby was racing north from the Sand Spit, and Lee Helm was headed south from the Tail Spinner,” Island Police Constable Rafe Marquette said. “Neither had any kind of headlamp or flashlight or signaling device, and BAM!

“They smashed into each other on that dark stretch north of Sandy Bottoms where there’s no street lights,” Marquette said. “Rusty was in a hurry to meet friends. Lee was rushing to get to karaoke. God only knows why. They hit so hard one bike flew into the booby pond.”

Medical authorities said both men were knocked unconscious, but escaped more serious injuries.

“They’ve both got some nasty road rash, and are nursing major headaches, but that’s it,” island nurse Marisa Pompano said. “They got lucky. They were both so rat-faced drunk their bones were all rubbery.

“I’m keeping them in the clinic for observation, and poking them every few minutes to make sure they don’t drift off to sleep while they’re concussed,” Pompano said. “We’re lucky no one else was hurt. I’m out of beds. We usually only get single-vehicle accident on Blacktip.”

The men were saved by a passing motorist.

“Antonio Fletcher was driving by, and thankfully he was sober enough to see them in the road in time to stop,” Pompano added. “The accident could have been way messier than it was.

Authorities say both cyclists will be charged with drunken biking, and bicycle safety ordinances will be more strictly enforced.

“A quick look-and-smell told me they had both been biking while intoxicated, so they’ll be charged with BWI,” Marquette said. “There’s been too much of this sort of thing lately. We’ll send a strong message that it won’t be tolerated.

“The bicycle headlamp ordinances on the books’ll be strictly enforced going forward,” Marquette said. “Headlamps and rear reflectors are required, and I’ll be doing regular inspections after hours and at bars.

Both bikes were totaled in the collision.

“I hauled both bikes to the dump so people can strip them for parts,” resident Clete Horn said. “One of the baskets was totally accordioned, but the other one’s salvageable. Both front rims are shot, though.”

Some in the community urged more streetlights for safety, but local officials shot that down.

“There’s no funds for more streetlights,” island mayor Jack Cobia said. “We have lights in the crowded areas, where they’re most needed, and that’s it.

“People on this island need to start taking responsibility for their own actions,” Cobia said. “We start putting lights on every power pole, people with think they’re in New York City.”

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‘Sub-Dudes’ Underwater Casino Skirts Blacktip Island’s Gambling Ban

JACQUES ROUGERIE

A pair of Blacktip Island visitors take a shuttle to the Sub-Dudes underwater casino off the Island’s east coast Wednesday for it’s grand opening. (photo courtesy of Jacques Rougerie Architecte)

Local entrepreneurs are betting their underwater casino, opened Wednesday off Blacktip Island’s east coast, will successfully dodge the Tiperon Island’s strict anti-gambling laws.

“The law clearly states no gambling may take place on Blacktip, or on the seas surrounding it,” said Felicia Skulkin, attorney for the newly-formed Blacktip Island Gaming Association said. “It doesn’t bar gaming under the water, and that’s where the Sub-Dudes Lounge comes in.

“We’re providing a service other business people and the government weren’t able, or wouldn’t take,” Skulkin said. “Sub-Dudes is simply one more place island guests can relax, unwind and blow off some cash . . . I mean, steam.”

The casino is built into the limestone seabed 50 yards offshore.

“It’s a big dome in about 20 feet of water,” financier and Eagle Ray Cove Resort owner Rich Skerritt said. “It’s accessed from shore via a Plexiglas tunnel that lets people watch the sharks and barracudas as they wander down.

“Guests can also access the facility via scuba,” Skerritt said. “Eagle Ray Cove dive boats’ll drop you off, or folks can shore-dive in if they want.”

Critics worry the casino will harm Blacktip long-term.

“Building it underwater is an end-run around a law put in place for good reason,” local resident and retired attorney Frank Maples said. “That casino won’t bring money to Blacktip, it’ll bring money to Rich, period. That’s money that could’ve been sent elsewhere on Blacktip.

“Rich and his cronies only revealed it was a casino at the opening yesterday. That’s textbook consciousness of guilt,” Maples said. “The last thing Blacktip needs is gambling and the organized-crime influence that goes along with it. It’s no secret Vinny Calamari from Tiperon is a big investor in this scheme.”

Local law enforcement questioned the legality of underwater gambling.

“The structure itself may bypass the law, but people coming to Blacktip with the intent to gamble do not,” Island Police Constable Rafe Marquette said. “The same goes for anyone returning to shore with what will be considered illegally-obtained winnings.”

“There’ve also been rumors of casino staff denying air to non-gamblers and big winners,” Marquette said. “In-water or out, that’s extortion.”

Other officials supported the casino.

“I was shocked, simply shocked when I learned Sub-Dudes was a gambling facility,” island mayor Jack Cobia said. “Then Rich Skerritt dropped off that cash for the island’s widows-and-orphans fund, and I realized there was a quite the upside to underwater gaming.

“And I’ve known Vinny Calamari for years. He’s a reputable business investor,” Cobia said. “The only crime organized in all this is people slandering the place and making it sound unsafe.”

Skerritt allayed safety concerns by noting the casino is equipped with multiple hyperbaric options.

“The safety of our guests and their and enjoyment are our prime concerns,” he said. “Sub-Dudes is tricked out with a two-place barometric chamber for folks who let time get away from them. We also have a hyperbaric stretcher to get them to the surface in an emergency.

“Our staff’s well trained and knows denying treatment, or air, to a client is a big no-no,” Skerritt said. “There’s nothing to be afraid of at Sub-Dudes. Come on down. Trust us.”

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Sargassum Scooper To Protect Blacktip Island Beaches

sargassum collector

Sargassum seaweed has covered Blacktip Island’s beaches in recent months, causing many tourists to cut short or cancel their visits. A group of local scientists are testing their ‘Dr. Port’s Sargasstic Super Scooper’ seaweed collector off the island’s west coast in hopes it will alleviate the problem. (photo courtesy of Jonathan Wilkins)

A Blacktip Island civic group has deployed a giant seaweed vacuum device off the Caribbean island’s west coast in an attempt to control the mounds of sargassum seaweed washing up on beaches upwind of the island’s resorts.

“The sea’s choked with sargassum these days,” Blacktip Island Chamber of Commerce president Jay Valve said. “The beaches’re knee-high in rotting seaweed. Tourists can’t get to the water, and the stench’ll gag a maggot.

“It’s so thick in the water it’s even clogging seawater intakes on dive boats,” Valve said. “Blacktip Haven’s Sea Monkey blew an engine overheating from the stuff.”

The device’s inventors have dubbed it the Dr. Port’s Sargasstic Super Scooper.

“It’s basically a smaller version of that machines that’s skimming plastic from the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, just modified for seaweed,” Tiperon University-Blacktip engineering chair Sally Port said. “Giant, floating booms go out 50 feet on either side and funnel the sargassum into a central processing chamber.

“We tweaked the basic design with parts scrounged at the dump,” Port said. “Its heart and soul are a couple of scooter engines, a refrigerator compressor and the drum from a big washing machine. It grinds the seaweed into micro pellets, combines them with salt pulled from the seawater to make them negatively buoyant and shoots them back out into the ocean.”

Island environmentalists worry the Scooper will create more problems than it solves.

“That’s literally tons of detritus they’re releasing into the sea,” Blacktip Island Greenpeace spokesperson Harry Pickett said. “If even a fraction of that settles on the reefs, it could smother the coral and wipe out the underwater ecosystem.

“As stinky as the rotting seaweed is, that’s better for the island and its economy than dead reefs,” Pickett said. “This island lives or dies with the scuba industry. No coral reefs, we’re screwed.”

Scientistss say that worry is unfounded.

“The preliminary models we ran showed the macerated vegetative matter should actually nourish the coral,” marine biology professor Ernesto Mojarra said. “In theory, it should make the reefs healthier than ever.

“Now, all that particulate matter will kill the visibility. No denying that,” Mojarra said. “But the models suggest the increased nutrient levels will attract manta rays, so, long term, Blacktip should benefit from even more scuba-diving guests.”

Island officials say they hope to expand the program soon.

“We’ve deployed the Scooper on a slow sweep upwind of all the resorts to maximize its effect,” island mayor Jack Cobia said. “That protects Blacktip’s major population centers, but it’s short term.

“The next step is to extend the gizmo’s booms far enough to protect the whole west coast,” Cobia said. “If it works well, we plan to export the things, too. Ideally, this could save the entire Caribbean tourism industry.”

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Beach Cleanup Organizers Stiffen BBQ Attendance Rules

beach cleanup

Beach Sweeper president Finny Chub shows off some of the trash he collected by himself on a recent beach cleanup. Poor cleanup turnout has prompted Beach Sweepers to change the rules regarding the post-cleanup picnics. (photo courtesy of Mike Baird)

Blacktip Island’s Beach Sweepers, a volunteer beach cleanup group, has tightened attendance rules for its post-cleanup celebratory barbecue this Saturday at Spider Bight beach, a move that angered many local residents.

“You don’t get food or a beer unless you actually pick up trash off the beach,” cleanup organizer Finny Chub said. “Last month it was just me out in the baking sun for three hours. Then when it was time for the cookout, 50 people showed up. We’re calling BS on that.

“I had a whole pig roasted and three coolers of beer, and folks hit that like a swarm of locusts,” Chub said. “It was all gone before I could have any of it. From now on you’ll have to hand in a full trash bag to get a food voucher. No voucher, no BBQ for you.”

Some in the community backed Chub.

“It’s harsh, but something had to be done,” Beach Sweeper member Christina Mojarra said. “The trash collection has to be substantive, too. No, “here’s my cigarette butt,” like Dermott Bottoms tried last time.

“It’s pretty simple, really,” Mojarra said. “You want a burger? Pick up a burger wrapper. You want a beer? Pick up a bottle or two.”

Most, however, opposed the new rule

“Cleanups are a community event, a community celebration,” Antonio Fletcher said. “That’s when people come together. Finny’s creating division where there wasn’t any. Where there shouldn’t be any.”

“Now, some of us might not be out in the noonday sun physically collecting garbage, but we’re there in spirit,” Fletcher said. “That community spirit is what we’re celebrating. Or were.”

Others objected on cultural grounds.

“They called me a freeloader, and they’re damned right,” Dermott Bottoms said. “Freeloading’s a Blacktip tradition. We’re celebrating our heritage, you know. Honing our foraging skills.

“There’s givers and takers in this world,” Bottoms said. “Blacktip has a long history of taking. We’re proud of that. Mess with that, you mess up the balance that makes the island tick. Finny’s gonna have hell to pay.”

Island authorities have warned residents to keep their disagreements civil.

“There’s been two instances where household waste was dumped on the beach upwind of Mr. Chub’s house,” Island Police Constable Rafe Marquette said. “Anyone caught purposely littering is going to be doing some forced beach cleanup. A lot of forced beach cleanup. With no cookout afterwards.”

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Blacktip Island Readies For Most Boring Person Contest

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Rusty Goby is favored in Saturday’s 17th Annual Most Boring Person on Blacktip Island contest. “Talking to Lee’s like trying to have a conversation with a bunch of sea grass,” one resident said. (photo courtesy of Doris Blenny)

Blacktip Island’s 17th Annual Most Boring Person vote will be announced Saturday afternoon at the Caribbean Island’s Heritage House, with proceeds going to the local Habitat for Humanity.

“Rusty Goby’s won the whole enchilada three years running, and he’s the favorite to win it again,” vote organizer Jerrod Ephesians said. “Rusty’s so boring, I’ve seen people ditch him to watch paint dry.

“You get stuck next to him at the bar, it can make your teeth hurt,” Ephesians said. “He’s the guy you’ll cross the street to avoid in case he tries to start a conversation.”

Contestants are judged by a monetary donations from island residents.

“We charge a dollar a vote, and people can vote as many times as they want,” Heritage House docent Doris Blenny said. “It’s not uncommon for some people to vote multiple times for the same person and treat every dollar as a charitable donation.

“It’s doubly charitable, really, since it raises money for a good cause and publicly identifies a person one should avoid at all costs,” Blenny said. “We think of it as a public service.”

Goby faces stiff competition this year from island newcomer Brandon Schaft and longtime resident Lee Helm.

“Lee’s about the dullest person I’ve ever met,” resident Finn Kiick said. “He’s an ass, too, but that’s a different contest. My money’s on him, hands down.”

Others disagreed.

“Lee’s not so much boring as he is tedious,” Val Schrader said. “You cringe when he shows up at a party, but then you pull up a chair to see how many people he pisses off in how little time. There’s a brute entertainment in that.

“Brandon, now, he could stupefy an ADHD monkey on acid,” Schrader said. “I’m not sure if he can knock off Rusty, but I put in $100 to hopefully put him over the top.”

While many island residents see being nominated as an insult, many old-timers view it as a badge of honor.

“If Blacktip folks say you’re boring, that means they’re not gossiping about you,” Rocky Shore said. “That’s tough to accomplish on this little rock. And if no one’s talking about you, you’re living your life right.”

The winner will be announced at 5 p.m., then promptly ignored.

“We used to give out a t-shirt, but there’s not really any point,” Ephesians said. “We leave the winner at the Heritage House and go out bar hopping without him.”

Rusty Goby could not be reached for comment.

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Feuding Bars Divide Blacktip Island Residents

bar feud

Customers of Blacktip Island’s Last Ballyhoo and Tail Spinner bars are at odds this week after a disagreement about personal cleanliness. (photo courtesy of scottb211)

A dispute between Blacktip Island bar owners evolved into an island-wide feud this week, pitting patrons of The Last Ballyhoo and the Tail Spinner bars against each other.

“It started when Whitey Bottoms put a big bowl of popcorn on the Ballyhoo bar for everyone to snack on,” Ledford Waite said. “Folks were coming back from the restroom and grabbing handfuls of popcorn, and there were some harsh words about whether hands had been washed.

“As a joke, Ginger Bass up at the Tail Spinner made a show of handing out individual cups of popcorn to each drinker there, and Whitey took it personal,” Waite said. “He said anyone who drank at the Spinner wasn’t welcome at the Ballyhoo. Then Ginger banned Ballyhooers from the Spinner and the whole island turned on itself.”

Residents say the feud has many of them afraid to go out.

“It started with practical jokes. Dirt on car hoods, rude messages on windshields, that sort of thing,” Joey Pompano said. “This week, though, it’s really ratcheted up. Three scooters had their tires slashed in the Ballyhoo parking lot just last night.

“It’s all over nothing, but it’s dividing families. It’s dividing dive staffs,” Pompano said. “It could end today if Whitey and Ginger just made up, but everyone’s gone all tribal and no one’s listening to reason.

Bottoms refused pleas to end the strife.

“Ginger called my customers dirty and my bar dirty. Hell, she called me dirty,” he said. “If her people are so almighty sanitary, they can kiss my unwashed butt.

“A couple of them wandered down yesterday, trying to bury the hatchet,” Bottoms said. “I chucked them out the door. Literally. And it’s not my fault their tires got cut up.”

Bass has dug in her heels as well.

“It wasn’t meant as an insult, but Whitey’s got thin skin,” she said. “Now, I wouldn’t put any of his popcorn in my mouth. And I’m not serving any of his regulars, either, unless they wash their hands first. Where I can see them.

“Sure, we’re all Blacktippers, and we should all get along,” Bass said. “But I’m not caving in to that kind of bullying.”

Island authorities are taking steps to curb the violence.

“There’s only one of me, and I’ve had it with this crap,” Island Police Constable Rafe Marquette said. “Dermott Bottoms and James Conlee are in the jail cell right now, and they can rot there. I was set to go on vacation, now this happens.

“And whoever’s calling in the false firearms violations is going in there with them,” Marquette said. “I broke down the Maples’ front door last night, and it was all a prank.”

Other island bars have tried to provide common ground, with varying success.

“We’ve implemented a snack-free bar and declared the resort a judgment-free zone in terms of personal hygiene,” Sandy Bottoms Beach Resort manager Kay Valve said. “So far all it’s got us is beer bottles through a couple of windows, but I think we’re moving in a positive direction.”

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