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Blacktip Island Microbrewery Opens Its Taps

BI microbrewery

The newly-opened Bottoms Up Brewery unveiled its inaugural craft beer Thursday afternoon with a public tasting in the brewery courtyard. (photo courtesy of Poppy Bottoms)

Blacktip Island beer enthusiasts Thursday launched the Caribbean island’s first locally-produced beer, aiming to capitalize on the burgeoning micro-brewing trend, company founders said.

“Island visitors want local products, and this is about as local as it gets,” Bottoms Up Brewery brew master Poppy Bottoms said. “It’s Granddaddy’s recipe, the stuff he cooked up back when you couldn’t get beer here. We’re calling it Slap Ya Bottom Ale.

“Our brackish water gives it its unique taste,” Bottoms said. “If people’ll drink that IPA crap, they’ll love this. It makes your face pucker like nobody’s business. Makes your butt pucker, too.”

Bottoms Up Brewery staff were tight-lipped about the ale’s brewing process.

“All I can say is it’s a bottom-fermented spring ale made from coconut meat. And husks,” Bottoms Brewery president Peachy Bottoms said. “There’s no grain to speak of on Blacktip, so we didn’t have much choice there. As for the hops . . . Sure, let’s call them hops.”

Visitors who tasted the ale Thursday noted its intense flavor profile.

“It has a peaty, almost fishy nose, and there’s a real wang to that first sip,” Eagle Ray Cove guest Jenny Porgy said. “There’s a salty aftertaste, too, that’s perfect after a morning of diving. Or a night of drinking.”

Locals were positive as well.

“It tastes like being a kid,” James Conlee said. “The grown ups’d drink coconut hooch. Us little uns would drink this. Healthier than island water, you know. Got to get used to the taste, but once you’re hooked, you can’t get enough.”

Public health officials remained skeptical.

“We asked Peachy and them to hold off on releasing this stuff to the public until we could make sure it’s safe,” public health chief Herring Frye said. “We have no idea what’s in it or what, exactly, the production process is. All we know is its alcohol content’s up in the double digits. When we can get a steady reading.”

Island business leaders downplayed those concerns.

“Poppy and Peachy’re bringing jobs and income and tourists to Blacktip. Where’s the down side to that?” island chamber of commerce president Whitey Bottoms said. “And there’s no proof those three cases of temporary blindness are related to their beer.”

Brewery executives hope to expand their offerings in the near future.

“If Slap Ya Bottom proves popular, we’ll branch out with a Black Bottom stout and a Booby Pond hefeweizen. Well, sort of a hefeweizen,” Poppy Bottoms said. “They’ll all be available in bottles, cans and old pickle jar growlers. Tourists love that.”

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Blacktip Island Community Players To Stage Underwater ‘Reef of Dreams’

reef of dreams

Finn Kiick, as scuba-diving pioneer Émile Gagnan, swims above Sand Spit Reef Thursday during the dress rehearsal of The Blacktip Island Community Players spring play, Reef of Dreams. (photo courtesy of Mudasir Zainuddin)

The Blacktip Island Community Players will stage their annual spring play this Saturday and Sunday underwater near the Sand Spit bar to raise money for island charities.

Reef of Dreams is a tropical re-imagining of Field of Dreams,” director Doris Blenny said. “Lee Helm got a wild hair up his butt and rewrote the screenplay at the bar one night. We were dubious at first, but Lee was adamant.

“‘When the primal forces of nature tell you to do something, you do it,’ is how he put it,” Blenny said. “Lee’s take is a dive resort owner hears a voice and builds an underwater dive shop, hoping Émile Gagnan will pay him a visit.”

Actors will perform offshore at Sand Spit Reef using full-face masks and hydrophones.

“It’s set on a reef, and we had to have some way to speak our lines,” BICP member Alison Diesel said. “We schmoozed the manufacturer to donate the masks. They really add to the dramatic feel. ‘Ever hold a wet wetsuit to your face?’ just doesn’t have the same punch on the surface.

“The underwater speakers give a way-eerier feel to The Voice, too,” Diesel said. “The first time Elena whispered ‘Oui, he will come,’ it totally freaked us out.”

The play’s cast includes:

  • Lee Helm as Ray Kinsella
  • Alison Diesel as Annie Kinsella
  • Hugh Calloway as Jacques Cousteau
  • Finn Kiick as Émile Gagnan
  • Gage Hoase as Sir John Haldane
  • Elena Havens as The Voice

Helm stressed the BICP have gone to great lengths to keep the performance from seeming derivative.

“It captures the film’s spirit without copying its trappings,” he said. “It’s set on a reef, not in a cornfield. There’s no crops of any kind. Or ball-related sports. And in the end, it turns out the voice was talking about Sir John Haldane all along.

“There’s minimal props, so a lot of it’s open to interpretation,” Helm said. “All the acting’s in mid-water, too, so the stage doesn’t get all silted. And we recruited about 40 resort guests as extras to make a long line of dive lights at the end, all coming to the underwater shop.”

The performance will be transmitted to the Sand Spit and the Heritage House, where non-scuba divers can view the show for an additional fee.

“We’ll have five different camera angles, so no one misses any of the action,” Blenny said. “You can really see the tension build on all the actors’ faces when it looks like Ray will lose his resort.

“The show stopper’s when Gage asks, ‘is this heaven?’ and Lee says, ‘no, it’s Blacktip Island,’” she said. “In rehearsals, it brought the house down. Several performers nearly drowned.”

Proceeds from the performances will go to Blacktip Island Habitat for Humanity.

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New Record Set For Shortest-Held Drivers License on Blacktip Island

shortest-held license

Utility workers quickly restored a key Blacktip Island power pole damaged by Dermott Bottoms, who rammed into the pole less than a minute after having his drivers license re-instated. (photo courtesy of W. Carter)

Blacktip Island resident Dermott Bottoms Wednesday set a new record for shortest-held drivers license after losing his driving privileges less than a minute after having them re-instated, island officials said.

“Dermott walked out of the government office with his new license, got in his car and backed straight into a power pole,” public works director Stoney MacAdam said. “We didn’t have a timer going or anything, but judging by the time stamp on the computer, it was right at 37 seconds between getting the license and hitting the pole. The plastic license was still warm.

“Technically it took 42 minutes for Rafe Marquette to get there and officially seize the license,” MacAdam said. “Dermott beat James Conlee, the former record holder, by a good 31 hours. Either way, it’s not a record that’ll be broken anytime soon.”

Witnesses described a chaotic scene.

“Dermott was so excited not to have to bum rides anymore,” Catalina Luxfer said. “He jumped in the car, stomped on the gas and BLAM into the power pole. We all saw the look in his eyes and scattered to get out of his way. I think he was a surprised as anyone.”

Officials say the incident might have been overlooked if not for complicating factors.

“If Dermott had hit any other pole, then gone about his business, no one would have noticed,” Island Police Constable Rafe Marquette said. “Problem was, that particular pole was key to power to at store. And the bank. And the airfield. And internet island-wide. There were power and fiber optic lines everywhere.

“There’s the driving under the influence issue as well,” Marquette said. “Normally we could overlook that, but not this time. Dermott also became the first person on island to have his license revoked four times. He pulled off a traffic double-double.”

Bottoms contested the charges.

“I lost my touch, not driving for a year,” he said. “Needs to be a grace period to ease back into things. Not my fault my skills slipped. And folks can do without food and money and email for a little bit. Blacktippers, we’re resilient, you know.

“And I wasn’t under any influence,” he said. “Only had two shots of rum, to calm my nerves, before I got the license. Damage could’ve been worse.”

Officials rejected Bottoms’ request for a plaque commemorating his license loss.

“Celebrating Dermott’s dubious achievement would only make things worse,” Marquette said. “Next thing you know people would be out trying to break the record. Hell, Dermott would try to break his own record. And would probably succeed.”

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Underwater Sleep Gym Comes To Blacktip Island

sleep gym

Blacktip Haven scuba divers prepare to descend for a Dive-N-Nap session off Blacktip Island’s sheltered West coast Thursday. (photo courtesy of Jacek Lesniowski)

A Blacktip Island resort is capitalizing on the current sleep gym craze by starting an underwater napping program on the Caribbean island’s west coast sand flats this week.

“It’s a twist on the napercise fad everyone’s into, except it’s underwater,” Blacktip Haven owner Elena Havens said. “We’ve found it’s more calming, with fewer distractions, than the on-land napercise sessions we do. We’re calling it Dive-N-Nap.

“Big rubber bands keep the regulator in your mouth, and big weight belts keep you stuck to the sand,” Havens said. “There’s such a stigma attached to napping. Dive-N-Nap lets you say ‘I’m going diving’ and spares you the embarrassment of saying you’re napping.”

Participants say the sessions are more restful than regular napping.

“You feel like you’re really part of the ocean,” Dusty Blenny said. “Turtles wedge themselves under ledges to sleep all the time, so this is kind of the same thing. Instead of swimming around the reef for 45 minutes, you can lie down and have a bit of sleep.

“You get in whatever sleep position is comfortable, then they weight you down,” Blenny said. “There’s soothing music the whole time – yesterday was Miles Davis, today it was Enya – then bang a gong at the end of the session.”

Organizers countered worries the classes are unsafe or harm the environment.

“We’ve always got two dive staff in the water,” Blacktip Haven divemaster Booger Bottoms said. “Anything goes wrong, they’re there to help, Johnny on the spot. Usually to fetch pillows.

“And it’s in the sand off Diddley’s Landing, where the barge comes in,” Bottoms said. “Nothing lives there. We learned to schedule sessions for when the barge isn’t coming in after that first incident.”

Some on the island questioned the need for the activity.

“Why pay to sleep underwater when you can just nap at home or at work?” bartender Cori Anders said. “Or on your favorite dive site? It’s something different, and I’m gld Elena’s making money with it, but I don’t see it lasting.”

Havens brushed such concerns aside.

“Dive-N-Nap has a strong social draw,” Havens said. “Most participate to be part of something bigger than themselves. And our staff monitors everyone’s air use to make sure there are no nasty surprises.”

“It’s so much more relaxing than terrestrial napping,” Havens said. “That’s desperately needed on this island. People here are far too stressed.”

Dive-N-Nap staff cautioned the activity is not without its drawbacks.

“Most people need a thicker wetsuit, since you lose body heat more quickly when you’re just laying there,” Bottoms said. “The up side’s the shivering burns calories, so it’s great for weight loss.

“Divers are welcome to just chill without falling asleep, too,” Bottoms said. “The only complaint we’ve had is Dive-N-Nap doesn’t help with a hangover. Even on nitrox.”

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Coq Au Vin Cook Off Strikes At Blacktip Island Roosters

coq au vin cookoff

A burgeoning rooster population on Blacktip Island has caused community leaders to sponsor a coq au vin cooking contest this weekend as part of an effort to reduce island wild chicken numbers. (photo courtesy of Alan Schmierer)

In response to Blacktip Island’s burgeoning feral rooster population, island leaders have organized an all-day coq au vin cook off at the Blacktip Island Heritage House Saturday.

“The rooster numbers have gone bonkers this year,” mayor Jack Cobia said. “They’re overrunning the island. They crow 24 hours a day. It’s driving guests bug-nutty. We’re getting killed on TripAdvisor.

“Our goal’s to kill two birds with one stone, so to speak,” Cobia said. “Contestants have to make coq au vin with island roosters. It’ll reduce the number of roosters and give tourists a reason to come back to Blacktip. We’re calling it the Coq Au Vin Cock Off.”

Event organizers say the event is a natural for Blacktip.

“We got the idea from the lionfish culls, where we kill the bad guys, then eat them,” Cock Off chair Clete Horn said. “It’s also a shout out to the French pirates who were some of Blacktip’s earliest settlers. Every household here has it’s own take on coq au vin.

“The only rules are you have to use a local rooster, and it has to be cooked on site the day of the contest,” Horn said. “Some are doing a classic rooster stew, some are doing a jerk chicken, and there’s one contestant going with mango and scotch bonnet peppers.”

Island residents have embraced the contest.

“I’m behind anything that gets rid of these damn roosters,” resident Ginger Bass said. “I can’t sleep with them crowing non stop, and they’re crapping on everything. Being able to eat them is karma in action. And cooking at the Heritage House, where the roosters are thickest, hopefully some of them will take the hint.”

Others were uneasy with the idea.

“Roosters are a problem, sure, but butchering, braising and consuming them is a barbaric fix, no matter how yummy,” Blacktip People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals president Harry Pickett said. “We presented a plan for corralling them in a free-range habitat at the south end of the island, complete with games and fitness trails, but the island council shut us out.”

Others were concerned about the event’s long-term impact.

“Removing that many chickens so quickly will cause the island insect population to skyrocket,” Department of Environmental Health head Rosie Blenny said. “People may may get more sleep tomorrow night, but we’ll be overrun with roaches and ants down the road. It’s a delicate balance we’re toying with here.

“There’s also the concern that the roosters being culled will be the slow, stupid ones,” Blenny said. “Long term, we’re strengthening the species. Frankly, we’re worried that may be the chickens’ long game.”

Most locals, however, are eager to taste the results.

“People’ve been testing out recipes all week, and the island smells great,” divemaster Lee Helm said. “I hope the stuff at the cook off is better, though. None of the cocoa van recipes I’ve tried so far tasted anything like chocolate.”

The winner will receive a cast-iron Dutch oven and the coveted Coq d’Or trophy.

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Vandals Declare War On Blacktip Island Tank Bangers

tank banger

A stainless steel pointer stick, clipped to a buoyancy compensator in the Blacktip Haven resort drying shed, is the only underwater noisemaker left on Blacktip Island following a spate of vandalism and thefts of noisemaking devices on the small Caribbean island. (photo courtesy of Leah Shore)

Blacktip Island scuba resorts were on alert Friday following a rash of vandalism to underwater noise-making devices. The incidents have been blamed on divers angered at excessive noise on the Caribbean island’s reefs.

“It started with tank bangers – the rubber straps with the plastic balls people put around their tanks,” Eagle Ray Divers operations manager Ger Latner said. “We went out to the boats one morning and every rubber strap had been cut, and the bangers left on the deck. The ones on BCs in the drying shed, too. And unattended dive bags.

“Over the next few days other noisemakers started disappearing,” Latner said. “Rattlers, quackers, caribeeners, metal pokey sticks, everything. Guests are scared to tap on their tanks with a dive light for fear someone’ll steal the light.”

Dive professionals are divided over who the culprit might be and his or her motivation.

“It’s gotta be some drunk doing it on a dare,” Blacktip Haven divemaster Leah Shore said. “It is kind of funny, all these annoying things going away and no one having a clue why. My guess is a cranky divemaster who’s fed up with the noise.”

Others suspect more sinister motives.

“We got a note claiming responsibility from an organization calling itself the Silent World Alliance,” Club Scuba Doo owner Ham Pilchard said. “They say they’re striking back against underwater noise pollution, and that people with noise makers are stressing the fish.

“That’s an aggressive act,” Pilchard said. “And leaving cut bangers on the deck? What’s that if not a threat? Someone’s targeting our dive guests with violence. If the police won’t step in, well, we have web cams and lionfish spears that’ll solve the problem.”

Island authorities downplayed the incidents.

“It’s minor vandalism to items with little or no value. Or usefulness,” Island Police Constable Rafe Marquette said. “There’s nothing to investigate. Or any action to take aside from telling people to safeguard their noisemakers.”

“There’s also zero credible evidence the perpetrator is a terrorist organization,” Marquette said. “And even if there was, there’s no statute outlawing silliness. If there was, I’d have to arrest most of the island.”

Island guests took the matter more seriously.

“My tank banger was a wedding gift. Now it’s ruined,” Kenny Chromis said. “If this is the sort of thing one can expect on this island, and the sort of lack of response from the police, we won’t be back.”

Many dive professionals remained unconcerned.

“Banging on tanks was way out of hand,” Club Scuba Doo dive manager Finn Kiick said. “People go diving to ditch uncool loud noises, not to hear a bunch of banging and clattering and rattling every time someone sees a barracuda.

“Damaging equipment’s not OK, but diving’s been a lot more chill this week,” Kiick said. “Whether a joke or aggro, whoever’s doing it deserves a medal. You bang a tank, it better be for something major.”

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Blacktip Island Drinkers Launch Duck Duck Goose League

Duckduckgoose

The logo for the new Blacktip Island Duck Duck Goose League, launched this week by the Caribbean island’s domino players. (graphic courtesy of SeizureDog)

A group of Blacktip Island dominoes enthusiasts this week launched the Blacktip Island Duck Duck Goose League, the Caribbean’s first ongoing duck duck goose competition, based on the popular children’s game, organizers said.

“Bunch of us sitting around, you know, two playing dominoes and six watching, and we wanted to do something different,” James Conlee said. “Turns out, duck duck goose is a perfect drinking game. Everyone can play.

“Got simple rules and checks how drunk you are,” Conlee said. “Everybody sits in a circle, facing in, and one player walks behind them tapping each ‘duck’s’ head until he picks a ‘goose.’ Then the goose chases the picker to keep from being the next picker.”

Players say the game is more challenging than it seems.

“Gets harder when more people’re playing, ‘cause you got to run farther,” Peachy Bottoms said. “And if you’re the goose a bunch, you can get sick from all the running. It’s not a kids game anymore. We made it a sport.

“Drinking’s required, just like in dominoes, and each player has to take a drink between rounds,” Bottoms said. “Only other rule is you can’t run with your drink. We had too many spilled drinks and fights breaking out over that.”

Players say game strategy is constantly evolving.

“It’s a game of wits, more than anything,” Clete Horn said. “Antonio’s unholy hell. It’s like he knows you’re going to ‘goose’ him. And Lee Helm’s slow on the uptake, but he’s fast. He’ll catch you every time. There’s a trick to beating them, but I’m not sharing.

“Then after dark, there’s a bonfire in the center of the ring that complicates things,” Horn said. “Makes it hard to tell who’s who, especially when the booze kicks in. I’ve picked more than one goose I wished was a duck late in the evenings.”

Island authorities were ambivalent about the league.

“Anything that keeps that crew occupied, not fighting and off the road is a blessing,” Island Police Constable Rafe Marquette said. “The game’s popular, so I know right where to find the troublemakers.

“On the other hand, people are wagering on who’ll win,” Marquette said. “There’s a lot of illegal money changing hands. I’ve had to arrest three people already for gambling, and the jail only has the one cell.”

The game has proved popular with island visitors as well.

“We stumbled across it exploring the island,” Sandy Bottoms Beach Resort guest Louise Limpet said. “We wandered behind the store and there were grown ups chasing each other around a circle.

“After a while, a couple of us joined in,” Limpet said. “It’s like being in kindergarten again. But with beer.”

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