A cross-island canal dug to facilitate access to Blacktip Island’s eastern dive sites has sparked a conflict between scuba resorts over who has priority at the island’s most popular dive sites.
“It’s always been first come, first serve out there,” Sandy Bottoms Beach Resort owner Sandy Bottoms said. “It’s not our fault we’re closer to the sites and have faster boats. Digging this canal, that’s playing dirty pool.”
“We cut the canal to help everyone,” Eagle Ray Cove resort owner Rich Skerritt said. “Sandy and the other yahoos up north are free to use it. When they’re finished sucking on their sour grapes.”
Bottoms and other resort owners from Blacktip’s north refuse to back down.
“Rich wants two islands? Fine,” Club Scuba Doo owner Nelson Pilchard said. “The dive sites north of his canal are technically in our territorial waters. The southerners think they can dive up here, they have another thing coming.”
“Some of the Caribbean’s best wreck dives are off our north coast,” Bottoms said. “Rich brings his divers up here, the island’ll have a few more wrecks to dive.”
The split echoes a deeper divide in the small Caribbean island community.
“It’s a Pond versus Bluff thing that’s been simmering for generations,” Bottoms said. “The southerners sit up there in the breeze, looking down at us like they’re something special.”
“We have better sense than to live by those stinky bird ponds,” Skerritt said. “We give our dive guests gas masks for the boat ride when the east wind’s blowing. This canal lets us bypass the stench altogether.”
An island council meeting has been scheduled to settle the issue. However, neither side can agree on where to meet.
“I’m not setting foot up there,” Skerritt said. “It smells like bird poop. I might catch something.”
“Crossing to their so-called island acknowledges its right to exist,” Bottoms said. “We go down there, we’ll probably end up as hostages.”
Island authorities are taking steps to bridge the divide.
“We have the police launch standing by so all parties can confer mid-canal,” Island Police Constable Rafe Marquette said. “If neither side’s amenable to that, we’ll have them stand on either side of the canal and yell back and forth at each other.”