Blacktip Island Mossback Club president Jay Valve’s vintage 1961 double-hose regulator at Diddley’s Landing public peir after a recent club shore dive. (photo courtesy of Jay Valve)
A vintage scuba diving club on Blacktip Island came under fire Thursday from dive operators and medical professionals who claim the group’s activities undermine public safety.
“No one’ll let us use our older gear on the dive boats, so we got together to dive on our own,” said Jay Valve, president of the Blacktip Island Mossbacks. “ I’ve been using this reg for 55 years, and it still works great. Why should I ditch it just because some 20-something dive bum tells me it’s out of date?
“I service my kit like clockwork. It’s as safe as any modern rig,” Valve said. “Next thing you know they’ll tell me a have to use a dive computer.”
Dive professionals say the mid-century equipment is inherently dangerous.
“Jay’s regulator’s older than my dad,” said Club Scuba Doo dive manager Finn Kiick. “Makes the same noises Dad does, too. There’s no way we’re letting Jay on our boat. That reg doesn’t even have a pressure gauge.
“Knuckleheads want to go out and drown themselves, they’re welcome to it,” Kiick said. “Just don’t make us fill out any paperwork or talk to lawyers. Blacktip has boats and beaches. Beaches are good for them.”
Public safety officials want the group’s activities banned altogether.
“These are antiquated divers, trudging in from shore with antiquated equipment,” Public Health Director Herring Frye said. “It’s multiple coronaries waiting to happen. We don’t have the staff or infrastructure to handle that kind of thing.
“And what happens when youngsters see them and want to dive like that, too?” Frye said. “The police need to shut this down before someone dies.”
Island police say their hands are tied.
“No law about what kind of scuba equipment you can use, so long as you have a dive flag,” Island Police Constable Rafe Marquette said. “Looks kind of cool, too, all those ‘Sea Hunt’ rigs getting used. Reminds me of my Daddy’s gear.”
Club members, meanwhile, vowed to dive on.
“We’re all in better shape than most of the guests on the dive boats,” Mossback Clete Horn said. “And there’s a simplicity to this older equipment, an authenticity, if you will, that modern gear lacks. We’re not hung up on technology. We just dive.”
One resort, meanwhile, has embraced the club and its philosophy.
“They want authentic, we’ll take ‘em out on that old P.O.S. boat we can’t sell,” Eagle Ray Cove owner Rich Skerritt said. “It’s older than some of those museum pieces they’re diving with.
“If it sinks with them on it, well, that ads to the realism, doesn’t it?” Skerritt said. “We charge an up fee for an adventure dive and write the boat off on insurance.”