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Dive Knife-Throwing Tourney Highlights Blacktip Island Weekend

dive knife throwing

Eagle Ray Cove’s inaugural dive knife-throwing contest Saturday is open to all types of dive knives and all throwing styles. (photo courtesy of Ger Latner)

Blacktip Island’s Eagle Ray Cove resort is capitalizing on the growing popularity of knife throwing by hosting a dive knife-throwing contest Saturday

“People are already chucking knives on the sly on dive boats and behind bars late at night,” Eagle Ray Divers manager Ger Latner said. “Might as well bring it out in the open, make it an official thing. It’s part of scuba culture that’s been hiding in the shadows too long. And our boats are taking a beating.

“It’s open to all types of knives and all throwing styles,” Latner said. “The only restriction is our lawyers say contestants have to wear safety glasses, but a dive mask with tempered glass’ll do.”

Contest organizers were still working out the details of the event Thursday.

“We’ll have wooden targets on the dock at three, 10 and 15 feet,” Blacktip Chamber of Commerce Kay Valve said. “We’re also looking at the possibility of adding an underwater round, to really tie the contest in with its scuba diving roots.

“The grand prize is the coveted Silver Flash Dive Machete,” Valve said. “It’s a 12-inch, chrome-plated, pointed-tip Lloyd Bridges Commemorative Edition. With the handle, it’s as long as your thigh. Everyone’s hot to win that puppy.”

Latner said contestants will be asked not to drink until after the competition has ended.

“Originally, we planned on alcohol being just another variable,” he said. “Historically, knife throwing and drinking go hand in hand, and we really are trying to reconnect to our roots with this.

“Our attorneys put the kibosh on that right quick, though,” Latner said. “We’re taking the safer route, under protest, but, of course, we can’t stop folks from boozing up on the sly.”

Other organizers stressed the weekend is about more that flying knives.

“It’ll be an event that appeals to the whole family,” Christina Mojarra said. “We’ll have knives for sale, knife sharpening booths, and we’ll sell food, t-shirts and other chotskies.

“Also, Gage Hoase’ll be doing coral carving,” Mojarra said. “With a couple of knives and a chunk of coral, he can chisel out little seahorses, turtles, you name it, in no time flat. We’ll have kids activities, too, like the mumbley-peg contest. The younger kiddos will wear close-toed shoes, but the bigger ones will compete barefoot.”

The tournament is sponsored by dive knife manufacturer Wenoka.

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Beach Plastic Henge Is Blacktip Island’s Newest Attraction

beachplastic henge

The Beach Plastic Henge, formed from discarded plastic pressed into standing-stone molds, is Blacktip Island’s newest tourist attraction. The henge stands near the small Caribbean island’s airfield. (photo courtesy of Harry Wrasse)

A Blacktip Island civic group Wednesday unveiled what it dubbed the Beach Plastic Henge, modeled after Great Britain’s famous Stonehenge, as an alternative to throwing plastic collected on beach cleanups in the island dump.

“People collect tons of plastic off the beaches, which is great, but the dump’s filling up, and the stuff’s still loose for the wind to blow away,” said Art and Nature Society Of Blacktip president Harry Wrasse. “Shipping it off island’s ungodly expensive, so, using the we figured we’d put the one-big-pile’s-better-than-a-bunch-of-little-piles theory into action.

“We settled on the scale-model henge,” Wrasse said. “Stone Age Blacktippers built henges, so it’s a hat tip to them, and to the island’s heritage. And it’s aligned so the sun shines through it at equinox and solstice. Pretty much. I mean, it shines through part of it, anyway. We hope it’ll become a popular tourist spot for photos and such.”

Island conservationists applauded the structure.

“All that garbage packed inside those chicken-wire frames really drives home how much plastic is out there,” resident Kay Valve said. “It reminds people not to pollute. That it’s also art is just icing on the cake.”

Despite its popularity, the henge is still a work in progress ANSOB members said.

“Even in the frame, and with the sprayed-on coating, the stuff still decays in the sunlight,” Christina Mojarra said. “We have big ceramic flowerpots at the base of each stone to collect any plastic that falls. We’re still working out how to handle microbeads and nanobeads, but this is a start.

“A lot of the maintenance, going forward, will be done by school kids as part of their art class,” _____ said. “Well, school kid. Little Shelly Bottoms so loves to pick at the plastic and nibble the rough edges.”

Some island residents are not pleased with the sculpture.

“It’s not art. It’s an eyesore,” Club Scuba Doo owner Ham Pilchard said. “It’s a big neon sign screaming, ‘Hey, look at our pile of crap!’ And right by the airstrip for everyone to see.

“Harry and them can pat themselves on the backs all they want, but it still doesn’t get the plastic off the island,” Pilchard said. “You don’t want to get downwind of it either. Some of that junk’s been in the ocean a while and had stuff growing on it. The smell’ll make your eyes water.”

Wrasse stressed that no marine life was harmed in making the henge.

“We only collect plastic from above the high-tide mark,” he said. “We’re not taking any living organisms from the sea.

“We have more plastic that we can handle just from that,” Wrasse added. “As more gets collected, we may do other famous world landmarks – the Eiffel Tower, the Great Wall, the Coliseum. We’ll call it the Seven Wonders of Blacktip Island. And sell t-shirts and drinks.”

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Underwater Scooter-Sharing Comes To Blacktip Island

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Bamboo You founder Piers “Doc” Plank demonstrates one of his D-PEEVE underwater scooters on Blacktip Island’s Jawfish Reef Thursday. The company launched a DPV-sharing service on the Caribbean island this week. (photo courtesy of Marco Busdraghi)

A Blacktip Island entrepreneur is betting underwater scooter sharing will be the next scuba craze by launching a diver-propelled vehicle-sharing service this week on the Caribbean island’s dive sites.

“D-PEEVE is a riff on the bike sharing that’s all the rage now,” said Bamboo You founder Piers “Doc” Plank. “We scattered them across all the popular reefs, along with underwater charging stations that look like coral heads.

“Tap your resort key fob on the payment box, and off you go,” Plank said. “We charge it straight to your room. Each charge gives you 15 minutes of DPV time, then you leave the D-PEEVE wherever you happen to be.”

The unattended scooters surprised some island divers.

“I about spit my reg when I saw a DPV plugged into the coral,” Sandy Bottoms Beach Resort guest Missy Mahi said. “I thought it was a joke and hauled it up to the boat to clean up the reef.

“Everybody laughed at me, but I got even on the next dive,” Mahi said. “I shot through a tunnel full throttle and popped out – FWOOM – like a cannonball. It silted the tunnel so bad the jokers behind me couldn’t see a thing.”

Some scuba professionals are leery of Plank’s new service.

“This scooter crap is eat up with safety issues,” Eagle Ray Divers operation manager Ger Latneer said. “Most divers aren’t trained in DPV use. And if the battery dies, we got divers stranded off who-knows-where.

“The biggest worry’s unless there’s two scooters together, that means guests are solo diving at 10, 12 knots,” Latner said. “Or one diver’s hanging onto his buddy’s fins, getting dragged behind.”

Plank said those worries are unfounded.

“There’s an instruction card on top of each D-PEEVE that explains how to use it,” he said. “And we have GPS trackers, so we can always find the units.

“If someone decides to go off on their own, well, that’s not our fault. Divers are always wandering off anyway,” Plank said. “And with only a 15-minute charge, how far can they really go?”

Plank said Bamboo You plans other, similar gear-sharing programs.

“We’re gonna do entire scuba rig-sharing,” he said. “I’m talking the tank, BC and regulator, the whole shebang. People can swim down, slip into the gear and do a quick reef tour. Then when they’re through, they just float the rig in to shore and we can top off the tank.

“You won’t have to lug your scuba gear with you on vacation anymore,” Plank said.

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iChurch Phone App Irks Blacktip Island Religious Leaders

iChurch

Blacktip Island’s non-denominational church stands empty after the launch of iChurch, a mobile application that allows island residents who subscribe to the service to attend church from anywhere on the island. (photo courtesy of the Reverend Pierre Grunt)

Sunday morning will bring the hard launch of iChurch, a mobile application developed by a local theologian, that will allow subscribers to attend religious services wherever they happen to be.

“We’re taking away any excuse for not going to church,” said the former-Reverend Jerrod Ephesians, the app’s developer and chair of the Blacktip Island Ecumenical Council. “Too busy? Socially anxious? Want to avoid that person? Now you don’t have to leave your house. Or your couch.

“Enter a religion or denomination, and voila,” Ephesians said. “We’ve got them all. Well, the biggies, anyway. It gets you in the ballpark. And it does retinal monitoring to see how engaged you are. You start to zone out, iChurch kicks it up a notch to keep you hooked.”

Early adopters were impressed.

“For last Sunday’s beta test, I went to mass without getting out of bed,” said divemaster Marina DeLow. “That was great, because, hell, after Saturday night, I couldn’t even sit up.

“A sim-priest walks you through the Eucharist, and you can use whatever’s on hand for bread and wine,” DeLow said. “Day-old pizza and beer was handy. Afterwards, I felt moved deep inside. That could have been the pizza, though.”

The app drew criticism from some on the island’s religious community.

“This pay-to-pray program makes a mockery of religious faith,” said the Reverend Pierre Grunt, pastor of the island’s non-denominational church. “Jerrod never has said what got him defrocked, but I’ll wager glib grifting had something to do with it.

“And where’s the ‘body of believers’ in Jerrod’s slick little computer church?” Grunt said. “What’s worse, it’s killing real church attendance. A brick-and-mortar church can’t compete. This’s hitting us right in the offering plates.”

Ephesians was quick to fire back.

“If Pierre wasn’t so boring, he wouldn’t have to worry about competition,” Ephesians said. “He needs to focus on improving his product instead of crying and pointing fingers.

“And iChurch does foster a sense of community,” Ephesians said. “We have chat rooms and in-app meetups, even hymn-singing. Right after we collect the Bitcoin offering.”

Others were disappointed by the app’s limited range.

“There’s parts of the island, like down the southeast coast, where there’s no internet signal,” resident Frank Maples said. “We always joked about Mahogany Row being so far off the grid there’s no God there. Now it’s true.”

Ephesians said he had plans to expand the app’s functionality.

“We’re gonna put in some repeaters so we get total coverage,” he said. “iChurch has the capability to compete with the megachurches, and that’s exactly what we mean to do.”

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Underwater Screaming Classes Bring Peace To Blacktip Island

underwater screaming

A green moray eel flees from a primal screaming diver Thursday afternoon during one of Club Scuba Doo’s ‘underwater hollering’ sessions off Blacktip Island’s Diddley’s Landing public pier. (photo courtesy of P. Lindgren)

 

In an effort to reduce stress on Blacktip Island, one local resort this week began offering underwater screaming sessions for its guests and island residents.

“We noticed our divers seemed more stressed than usual lately and decided to do something about it,” said Club Scuba Doo diving manager Finn Kiick. “Everybody’s doing the meditation bit these days, so we decided to take a different tack.

“It’s a throwback to the primal scream craze from the 70s,” Kiick said. “The retro thing is all the rage. We call it ‘submerged hollering’ to avoid legal trouble.”

Organizers say the classes produce immediate results.

“Everything about it’s relaxing,” Club Scuba Doo scuba instructor Rosie Blenny said. “The water’s calming. The fish are calming. And when you let out that first yell, your stress evaporates. Underwater, they can hear you scream. And that’s a good thing.

“After the first scream all the fish disappear, but at least they’re there to set the tone,” Blenny said. “The only hitch is sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference between a participant and a diver in actual trouble, but we’re getting better at sorting that out. Mostly.”

Participants say the formal structure is key.

“I can yell all I want on my own, but it doesn’t do me any good,” Club Scuba Doo guest Marlin Bleu said. “But with this we sit in the sand, like those drum circles men’s groups used to do. Except not in our underwear. We wear shorts. It’s different.

“We give ourselves fish names and scream them through our regs,” Bleu said. “I’m Parrotfish-Who-Nibbles-Earlobes. I was so relaxed at the end of the first class I could barely climb up the dock steps.”

Organizers dodged environmental minefields by staging the sessions outside the marine park.

“It’s Blacktip, so someone’s going to complain to matter what we do, but we nipped the fish-hugger protest in the bud,” Kiick said. “We do classes in the sand out from Diddley’s Landing where there’s no coral to kill.

“The big thing’s not to have sessions when the barge’s coming in,” Kiick added. “That surprised last week. The hull slid over us and blocked out the sun, and the big-ass props were spinning like giant Cuisinarts right above us, it was like the end of the world. People screamed alright, but not in a good way.”

Participants hope the classes continue.

“I laughed at first, then tried it on a dare, and it actually works,” Sand Spit bartender Cori Anders said. “I’m up to three sessions a week now, and my blood pressure’s down a good 20 points. My throat’s raw, but at least I’m not yelling at guests anymore.”

 

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Charity Domino Brawl Sends Five To Blacktip Island Clinic

domino brawl

Most of the furniture in Blacktip Island’s Heritage House was destroyed during Thursday’s drunken melee at a charity domino tournament to benefit the island’s school. (photo courtesy of Carnivalsman)

A brawl at a Blacktip Island charity domino tournament Thursday evening sent five people to the medical clinic and caused extensive damage to the island’s Heritage House, authorities said.

“James Conlee and Mr. Snapper, the schoolmaster, were trash talking before their match, and things got out of hand,” said tournament organizer Kay Valve. “One moment it was insults as usual, the next, punches were flying, tables were crashing and jerked chicken from the food stand was sailing everywhere.

“These matches are powder kegs,” Valve said. “Alcohol was factor, but we can’t ban consumption. That’s an integral part of the sport. We do tell folks to drink in moderation, but that means different things to different people. This is why we can’t have nice tournaments.”

Accounts varied about what provoked the melee.

“That damned Snapper started it,” James Conlee said. “He’s been palming tiles all tourney, you know. Slipping them out when he thinks no one’s looking. Acts all ‘it’s for the kids,’ but he’s a snake.”

Snapper disputed Conlee’s account.

“I was wearing a tank top and shorts. Where would I hide tiles?” he said. “It was James’ fault. He said my scooter was an eyesore, so I said, ‘well, so’s your wife.’ Then out of nowhere he just hit me for no reason. He’s crazy.

“This is the guy who put bird feed in my bug zapper two days ago, just to get inside my head,” Snapper said. “We were raising funds for the school. Now because of him, the kids have to pay for damages instead.”

Island authorities say the brawl escalated quickly.

“Lee Helm got too close, took an elbow to the teeth, then fell across Clete Horn and Antonio Fletcher’s game,” Island Police Constable Rafe Marquette said. “Clete and ‘Tonio started punching anything that moved, and next thing you know, Christina Mojarra was swinging a chair like she was batting cleanup. She laid out a half-dozen people before we could take her down.

Five players were treated for minor injuries. Lee Helm was flown to Bottoms Memorial Medical Center on Tiperon to have domino tiles removed from his nasal cavities and other orifices.

“I don’t know how Lee got hurt to badly. He wasn’t even in the tournament,” Valve said. “Wrong place, wrong time, I suppose. Of course, he’s never been well-liked on the island, so people may have used the opportunity to settle old grudges.

“Bottom line, we’ve banned multiple players for life,” Valve said. “Or until the memory fades. Probably next Thursday.”

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Newly-Discovered Flounder May Mean Hurricanes For Blacktip

yodeling flounder

A screen grab from Casey Piper’s underwater video showing the newly-discovered yodeling flounder voicing its cry on Blacktip Island’s Water Pump Reef Wednesday. (photo courtesy of Casey Piper)

A previously-unknown species of flounder, discovered by a Blacktip Island dive guide Wednesday, has scientists intrigued and some locals worried about the discovery’s impact on the coming hurricane season.

“Divers’ve been hearing a weird wailing sound on the reef for weeks, but no one could suss out what it was,” said Eagle Ray Divers operations manager Ger Latner. “Then one of our divemasters got lucky. In a fish-life sort of way.”

“I heard a weird oooooo-aaaaaaa-oooooh sound, loud, right behind me, looked back and saw this big-ass flounder, with its mouth open, doing a weird flappy, break-dancey thing,” dive guide Casey Piper said. “It sounded like a slow-motion yodel. Sort of.”

Based on Piper’s video, local scientists determined the fish was a long-rumored species of yodeling flounder.

“You hear fishermen’s’ tales about flounderia yodelicus, but no one’s actually seen one,” said Tiperon University-Blacktip marine biology professor Ernesto Mojarra. “They’re the unicorns of the sea. This one seems to change pitch by fluttering its ‘wings’ and waving its top pectoral fin, like playing a theremin. You can hear it from the surface if you’re really quiet.”

Blacktip fishermen, though, say the fish and its yodeling are bad omens.

“Grandpa said that sound was the duppies warning about a bad hurricane season,” Antonio Fletcher said. “If Casey got video of it, well, I guess it’s a duppy fish, then. But storms are still coming.

“Thing is, one year Grandpa was out fishing and heard that moaning. He hooked a big-old flounder and the noise stopped,” Fletcher said. “Fed the family for days. And had no hurricanes that year. That’s no coincidence.”

Some locals see Fletcher’s story as a hint of how to ease storm season.

“Unicorn or not, I say the divers make themselves useful and spear this damn thing so we don’t have any storms,” storekeeper Peachy Bottoms said. “They do it with lionfish. What good’s a marine park if it won’t protect us from hurricanes?”

Blacktip Island Marine Parks officials opposed the suggestion.

“False causality aside, the park is here to protect all marine life,” marine parks spokesperson Val Schrader said. “We’re doubling up on patrols and will arrest anyone with a spear anywhere near the park.”

The scientific community backed Schrader.

“If anyone’s going to kill this flounder, it’ll be us, so we can properly study it,” Mojarra said.

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