Blacktip Island divers on their safety stops are now able to buy prepared sandwiches and other snacks from the Dive-In Snack Shack, the brainchild of local entrepreneur Piers “Doc” Plank. (photo courtesy of jeffreyw)
A Blacktip Island business startup this week introduced what the owner calls ‘dive-through dining’ on the small Caribbean island’s reefs, allowing scuba divers to purchase food underwater for consumption on dive boats later.
“We tried a food boat, but it never really took off,” Piers “Doc” Plank said. “Then we had this ‘Dive-In Snack Shack’ idea, and it sounded crazy enough to work. We set up a station in the sand on Wahoo Reef and divers can buy food to eat when they’re back on their boat later—during their surface interval or after their last dive. Instead of ‘take out,’ it’s ‘take up.’
“We catch divers at the end of the dive, when they’re feeling their hungriest,” Plank said. “They have their choice of shrink-wrapped sandwiches, pizza by the slice and tacos. We’re working on soup in little squeeze bags, too, so people can eat while they’re underwater. Novelty sells. We charge twice what we’d charge on shore, and divers line up to pay.”
Servers say the setup is simpler than it sounds.
“We lower weighted food bins mid-dive, so we’re ready when the divers start their safety stops,” Christina Mojarra said. “Then we lift-bag it back up afterwards. Divers pay by scanning their resort room key card.
“To keep staff from taking on too much nitrogen, we only have staff underwater for that 10 to 15 minutes divers are actually under the dive boats,” Mojarra said. “And we rotate staff, so no one gets too nitrogen saturated. So far it’s worked great. Diver are fed and none of us have been bent.”
The Dive-In is not without its critics.
“If they’re in the sand and not damaging coral, it’s legal, but just barely,” Tiperon Marine Parks spokesperson Val Schrader said. “They’re turning the marine park into a circus. There’s also the issue of what happens to all those plastic wrappers. Do they wind up back on the reef? There needs to be less plastic out there, not more.
“A bigger concern is what happens when some joker decides to feed some of this food to the fish,” Schrader said. “That is a violation of the law. The first time there’s any sign of fish-feeding, we’re cracking down hard on Doc and his gang. Never mind the safety implications of divers concentrating on food, not their gauges.”
Plank downplayed those concerns. “We require divers to do an air check before every purchase,” he said. “And we have signs underwater asking all our customers to eat responsibly. All the dive boat crews are good at impressing their guests with the importance of putting all food waste in onboard refuse bins. It’s a foolproof system that benefits everyone. Val needs to lighten up and come have an underwater fish taco.”