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Sandy Bottoms to Host Divemaster Decathlon

Scuba cylinders at Sandy Bottoms’ Beach Resort stand ready for this weekend’s Divemaster Decathlon sponsored by Assmonkey Ale.

Scuba cylinders at Sandy Bottoms’ Beach Resort stand ready for this weekend’s Divemaster Decathlon sponsored by Assmonkey Ale.

Blacktip Island’s top divemasters will converge on Sandy Bottoms’ Beach Resort this weekend for the Assmonkey Ale Divemaster Decathalon. The winner will go on to compete in the Caribbean Regional in July.

“We’ve been training like scalded rats,” Eagle Ray Divers divemaster Gage Hoase said. “Marina, there, can swap over six fill-whips in five seconds flat.”

“The dark horses are the DMs from Blacktip Haven,” divemaster Marina DeLow said. “They’re cagey, they’re wiry and, with the resort sequestered in the interior as it is, we’ve no idea what sort of training regimen they’re using or what times they’re recording.”

As per the International Divemaster Decathlon rules, half the events will be conducted on a rocking dive boat moored offshore and half on the resort’s pier.

On-boat events include:

  • switching three Zeagle BCDs with 20 pounds of integrated weights from one cylinder to another,
  • running a slalom course through a rack of peed-in wetsuits while carrying four dive bags,
  • fishing a hat from the water with a boat hook,
  • unclogging the boat’s marine toilet (simulated feces provided by the Peter Paul candy company), and
  • dodging a variety of weight belts and weight pouches thrown at their bare feet.

Dockside events include:

  • filling one round of scuba cylinders and switching the fill whips to fresh tanks,
  • pounding 10 backed-out dock nails back into place using a scuba cylinder,
  • bandaging three toes with duct tape, and
  • answering a stupid question from a randomly-chosen dive guest.

“Last year Finn Kiick clinched the win on, ‘What does coconut rum taste like?’” Sandy Bottoms’ divemaster Joey Pompano said. “Without batting an eye, Finn said, ‘Chicken.’”

In place of the final floor exercises, each contestant will have 60 seconds to look as cool as possible. Degree of difficulty will be factored in as judges deem fit.

All competitors will be required to consume one 12-ounce beer between each event.

“Competition’s getting tougher, and younger, every year,” Eagle Ray Divers’ Hoase said. “The top scores from 10 years ago wouldn’t even qualify today. And this is just the sub-regional.”

All contestants will receive Assmonkey Ale t-shirts. Runners-up will receive a case of Assmonkey and discount coupons for back surgery and liver transplants.

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Blacktip Navy Repels Cuban Invasion

Blacktip Island shore batteries fire on attacking naval vessels.

Blacktip Island shore batteries fire on attacking naval vessels.

The Blacktip Island naval militia has repelled an attempted nighttime invasion by elements of the Cuban Navy, Island officials reported Friday.

“They sent their pocket frigates in under the new moon, but we were ready,” said Jack Cobia, Scuba Tourism Director and commander of Blacktip’s defenses. “We showed them there’s more to this little island than drunks and scuba hippies.

“Fidel’s had his sights on us for a long time. We’re just a hop, skip and a jump for him.”

“It was utter chaos at sea, battling in total darkness,” said Sgt. Major (ret.) Beaugregory Damsil, captain of the island’s fleet. “Vessels from both sides were firing flare guns, launching beer bottles, swinging sticks at anything that moved. It was hand-to-hand amongst our own crews at the end. They did themselves proud.”

Some island residents questioned the official account.

“There was an offshore kerfuffle, yes, but there’s no evidence Cuba was involved,” longtime resident and de facto mayor Frank Maples said. “And with Mr. Cobia standing for mayor next month, frankly, it smacks of a political straw man.”

“They were definitely Cubans,” Sgt. Major (ret.) Damsil said. “We’re quite certain of that. Well, reasonably certain. They all spoke quite strangely, at any rate.”

The battle was clearly visible from shore.

“It was lovely, really,” Club Scuba Doo manager Polly Parrett said. “We thought it was practice for next month’s Queen’s Birthday celebration, what with the rockets and starbursts and shouting. Our guests were thrilled.”

Cuban authorities have filed an official protest, claiming Blacktip fishermen attacked several boats of refugees fleeing to Central America.

Blacktip officials cited damage to their own fleet.

“We lost some good skiffs in the battle,” Cobia said. “The upside is we gained some great new wreck dives. In the space of an evening Blacktip Island became the premier wreck diving destination in the Caribbean.

“We issued strict orders: Draw them into the shallows, don’t fire until you see the rivets on their hulls, and shoot for the waterlines. A wreck in 6,000 feet of water does no one any good. We’re not just defending the island, we’re creating jobs!”

Cobia would not comment on the exact number, or sizes, of the sunken warships, nor on the possible existence of Cuban prisoners.

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Rum and Sand Flies Fuel Seaweed Sculpting Contest

A Mount Rushmore-inspired Bangles homage in its early stages on the Eagle Ray Cove beach.

A Mount Rushmore-inspired Bangles homage in its early stages on the Eagle Ray Cove beach.

May’s southwest winds have piled turtle grass high on Blacktip Island’s western beaches, heralding the Turtle Grass Sculpting Contest at Eagle Ray Cove resort.

“The wind and the currents mound the seaweed up at The Cove like no place else on the island,” resort manager Mickey Smarr said. “There’s tons of it. Literally. Last year we hauled away 6,800 pounds in May alone.

“We decided to turn lemons into lemonade, so to speak, make it a social event for the whole community. Plus, it helps with cleanup.”

Four-person teams have half a day to create their most imaginative sculptures before the grass rots.

“You have to work it pretty quick,” sculptor Alison Diesel said. “It gets damn rank after a few hours in the sun, and they banned respirators a couple years back. And the sand flies – oi!”

Past winning entries have included a scale model of the Kremlin, a linear depiction of the Battle of Waterloo and a couchant fuzzy bunny rabbit.

This season’s entries are equally impressive.

“We’re finishing a Mount Rushmore-inspired sculpture of the Bangles,” Eagle Ray Divers divemaster Lee Helm said. “We’ve got Vicki, Debbi and Michael down brilliantly. We’re having a bugger of a time getting Susanna’s eyes and nose done proper, though. Right now she looks more like Robert De Niro.”

As with any island competition, emotions run high.

“There’s extra security on hand after last year’s seaweed fight,” Eagle Ray Cove’s Mickey Smarr said.

“Had no idea there was washed up Portuguese man-o-wars in that grass we was flinging,” sculptor Jesse Conlee said. “Hell, stung our hands, too. But no one talks about that. Just those kids got caught in the crossfire. A little rum and they were fine.”

“Rum does play a big role in the contest. No denying that,” Diesel said. “I’m not sure it’s a definite cause-and-effect thing, but the team that drinks the most while sculpting usually wins. And feels the sand flies less.”

Contest winners receive bottles of Flor de Caña rum and tubes of cortisone cream.

Losers are required to haul away the turtle grass afterwards.

All contestants receive complimentary tetanus shots.

Spectators are advised not to stand downwind of the sculpture area. Tiperon Airways is providing airsickness bags for those who ignore the warning.


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Blacktip Derby Aims To Polish Its Tarnished Image

Krabb Kakes, the 7-5 favorite in this year’s Blacktip Land Crab Derby, in his Blacktip Downs stable.

Krabb Kakes, the 7-5 favorite in this year’s Blacktip Land Crab Derby, in his Blacktip Downs stable.

Sunday marks the 39th annual Blacktip Land Crab Derby, featuring three-year-old thoroughbred crabs from every stable on Blacktip Island as well as international crab farms.

The Derby is the final race in land crabbing’s unofficial Triple Crown.

Organizers of this year’s Run For the Sea Grapes have instituted sweeping changes to restore the race’s image, sullied in years past by allegations of crab-doping, extortion and race fixing.

“It was mooks from the big island muscling in,” Derby chairperson Ledford Waite said. “Popping crabs with phenylbutazone. Rattling trainers with vats of drawn butter.

“This year we’ve sprung for extra muscle. Banned known gamers from the venue. Upped our drug and cholesterol testing to guarantee a clean race. Takes a while to rebuild a reputation, though.”

Island police have stepped up their presence as well.

“Wagering on the Derby won’t be tolerated,” Island Police Constable Rafe Marquette said. “We’ve loads of plainclothes officers in the crowd this weekend. If you place a bet, odds are you’ll be caught.”

Off-track and internet betting has proved impossible to stamp out.

Krabb Kakes is this year’s favorite with 7-5 odds, but will face stiff competition from Scuttlebutt, winner of last month’s Breeder’s Cup, at 8-1, and Fanny Wigglesworth, the Tiperon Stakes winner, at 9-1.

As ever, each crab is required to carry a cockroach jockey affixed to its carapace.

“Last year, Up Yer Address had a record time, but was disqualified for finishing without his rider,” trainer Marina DeLow said. “We suspected foul play, but nothing could be proven. That flypaper was awfully dry, though.”

Trainers with brooms will line the racetrack to ensure all crabs stay on the course.

“Your heart races hearing the scuttle of all those exoskeleton feet on the asphalt oval,” said racing enthusiast Wendy Beaufort. “There’s no other event quite like this. Anywhere.”

A crowd of several dozen is expected to pack the infield and lawn chair seating, traditionally dressed in their finest cargo shorts and sleeved t-shirts.

“Folks dress to the nines for this,” Ledford Waite said. “It’s the first gala fête of the season. Last year some folks even showed up in shirts with collars and buttons.”

Traditional Derby mojitos will be served throughout the day.

The post-race dinner will feature a Caribbean crab rundown, crab Rangoon and fresh crab legs courtesy of the losing crabs, Waite said.

“Losers provide the food? Hell, the losers are the food.”

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Scuba Fashion Week Comes to Blacktip Island

Designer wetsuits hang ready for Blacktip Island’s Underwater Fashion Week.

Designer wetsuits hang ready for Blacktip Island’s Underwater Fashion Week.

Underwater Fashion Week returns to Blacktip Island this weekend, with top local and international fashion designers showcasing their latest collections.

Underwater runway models have been chosen from local dive staffs following last year’s near-drownings.

“Blacktip has always been at the cutting edge of Caribbean dive fashion,” event organizer Georgio Pompano said. “This year’s designers have pushed that edge to put us at the absolute fringe of the submerged fashion map.”

“‘Retro, sassy and fun’ is the touchstone this season,” said local designer Kitty Smarr. “Your grandpa’s black is the new black. It contrasts phenomenally with our models’ sun-bleached hair”

“We’ve done some daring things with board shorts,” local designer and Sand Spit bartender Corry Anders said. “We’re using mole fur and alligator skin to enhance the sensory experience before, during and after the dive. And all our shorts are edible, of course.”

As ever, the wetsuit is at the heart of Blacktip’s sub-aquatic haute couture.

“We’ve re-imagined warmth protection to transform cliché into major pizzazz,” Pompano said. “Our suits are not your quotidian, urine-soaked farmer john-and-jackets.”

“Beaver tails are back, with a mid-60s retro vengeance,” Anders said. “And French-cut women’s shorties. It gives divers a definite ‘Dr. No’ vibe.

“Throwback dive knives are hip, too. We’ve taken the Sea Hunt-standard dive machete and updated it with a faux black coral handle, sheath and matching sunglasses.”

“The showstopper is our Chanel-inspired mid-thigh hooded vest with a chinchilla fur-rimmed hood and duct tape accents,” Pompano said. “When is a hooded vest not a hooded vest? When it expands into a hoodie-mini! Hello!”

“Makeup is the biggest challenge,” Kitty Smarr said. “All our divemaster models have brown noses and white eye sockets. We have to mask that. And the makeup has to hold up under water.

“This year we’re mixing all our bases and mascaras with a neutral-tinted axle grease to make sure they stay on during the grueling runway presentation and any backstage scuffles that may break out.”

The runway finale will be podcast live to Sand Spit bar during next Friday’s happy hour. Free hors d’oeuvres will be served.

“We’ll have all-you-can-eat popcorn and cocktail weenies,” Anders said. “Plus the full cash bar menu, of course.”

A second television will feature the first round of the NBA playoffs.

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Island Landfill Preps For Holiday Gift Dump

Blacktip Island Ecumenical Council volunteers ready the pit for Saturday’s gift return.

Blacktip Island Ecumenical Council volunteers ready the pit for Saturday’s gift return.

Blacktip Island residents have their unwanted Christmas gifts bundled for Saturday evening’s Easter Eve gift dump at the island’s landfill. The event was introduced more than two decades ago to foster goodwill among the Caribbean Island’s small population.

“Everybody gets crap they don’t want during the holidays,” said the former-Reverend Jerrod Ephesians, head of the island’s Ecumenical Council. “In the real word, you can return the stuff, sell it or just throw it away. This island’s nothing like the real world, though.

“Returns aren’t an option. If you sell or re-gift, word gets around. Throw it away? People pick through that dump all the time. That’s when things go to hell.”

“Back in ’91 or so it got so bad half the island nearly killed the other half,” longtime resident Reg Gurnard said. “I didn’t go outside until May Day.”

“Started with Dermott Bottoms giving Billy Ray a pink mermaid table lamp cut from a scuba cylinder,” Eagle Ray Divers operations manager Ger Latner said. “God-awful thing. Billy’s wife, Lucille, chucked it. Clete Horn spied it in the dump, had seen Dermott with a lamp just like it before Christmas, and tried to sell it to Dermott, thinking Dermott’d want a matching set.

“Dermott beat the tar out of Clete for thieving, then beat the tar out of Billy for being an SOB. Then Lucille beat king hell out of Dermott. Friends and family got involved, and by the end of the week the clinic was out of bandages and sutures. Had to send the Home Guard over from Tiperon to stop the feuding.”

As a solution, the island’s Ecumenical Council instituted an Easter Eve no-questions-asked, blind gift-dump.

“We dig a big pit at the edge of the landfill,” the former-Reverend Ephesians said. “As soon as it’s full dark, people are free to throw their unwanted holiday gifts in. Then, just before first light, we have blindfolded volunteers backfill the pit with bulldozers so no one ever knows what all was buried.

“It’s done in the spirit of forgiveness and atonement,” Ephesians said. “It really binds the community together. Plus, it gives folks a four-month cooling-off period to make sure they really don’t like a gift.”

“The gift dump makes Easter morning a joyous time for everyone, whether they’re religious or not,” Reg Gurnard said. “Soon as those diesel engines crank to life and dirt starts tumbling, all the guilt and remorse of the past three months just evaporates. You feel reborn.”

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Pirate Festival Revelers Burn Supply Barge

The remains of Blacktip Island’s supply barge rests on shore of the Caribbean island.

The remains of Blacktip Island’s supply barge rests on shore of the Caribbean island.

Blacktip Island’s Pirate Festival celebrations turned ugly Wednesday when festival-goers accidentally burned the island’s only supply barge.

“One minute we’re drinking rum and shooting flare guns at each other,” resident Dermott Bottoms said. “The next, KABOOM!”

“Dermott did shoot a squib, didn’t quite clear that barge,” Bottoms’ friend Jesse Conlee said. “No idea they hadn’t offloaded all that gasoline.”

No one was injured in the blast.

“It does put us in a bind,” local businessman Rich Skerritt said. “That’s the only boat that hauls essential supplies like food, fuel and beer.”

The Tiperon Heritage Society, sponsors of the Pirate Festival, has mobilized a grassroots provisioning effort and is using the accident as a teaching opportunity.

“We’re demonstrating all the old crafts we used back before there was a supply barge,” Heritage Society president Doris Blenny said. “We’ve transformed the area around the wreckage into a hands-on teaching exhibit, showing folks how to braid rope, weave cloth and hijack passing ships.

“The Tiperons, and Blacktip in particular, have a rich history of piracy. We’re simply shifting the Festival’s emphasis from pretend-piracy to real-life piracy. This isn’t some ‘Captain Philips’ Hollywood show. No, no. This is authentic, parrot-on-your-shoulder stuff.

“There’s boats out as we speak, raiding relief convoys bound for Haiti,” Blenny said. “Sure, it’d be easier to just fly stuff in, but this lets us reconnect with our roots. And it’s way more fun.”

“We got the Youth Scouts involved,” Scout leader Samson Post said. “They’re fearless in their little sailboats. And with their cutlasses. They can get right up close to a supply ship without anyone getting too worried – they’re just kids dressed up like pirates, after all.

“They’re slated to make a raid tomorrow, give them the chance to earn merit badges in Sailing, Cannoneering, Cursing and Scallywagging.”

In related news, officials are asking for volunteer scuba divers to help recover any undamaged goods from the barge that may have sunk due to the explosion.

“There’s probably 50 cases of beer got blown all over the reef,” salvage coordinator Ger Latner said. “We’re hauling up lots of bottles. Problem is, after being in salt water, those bottle caps are all rusting off. We’re having to drink the beer quick as we can before it goes flat. We need volunteers for that, too.”

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Island Startup Launches Line of Bamboo Scuba Gear

Bamboo logs slated to become Bamboo You scuba fins.

Bamboo logs slated to become Bamboo You scuba fins.

Blacktip Island entrepreneur Piers “Doc” Plank has launched Bamboo You, an island-based manufacturer of scuba equipment made completely of bamboo.

“Bamboo’s the ultimate renewable resource,” Plank said. “We’re as green as it gets. And when your kit wears out, send it back for recycling and a discount on new kit.

“Our materials are all locally sourced. The stuff washes up on shore by the ton. Our supply chain’s a combination of beach cleanup and power walking.”

“Snorkels were the obvious starting point,” said Bamboo You sales manager Christina Mojarra. “Then fins and slates. But we quickly expanded our line to include bamboo mask frames, regulator housings and BCDs woven from bamboo fiber.

“We’ve also patented Bambooprene wetsuits, made from thin layers of cross-cut young bamboo,” Mojarra said. “It insulates better than neoprene, and it’s not nearly as buoyant. We’re beta-testing our Big Bamboo dive knife, as well. Our goal is to outfit divers completely in bamboo, from hood to fin tips.”

“First stage regulators have been a challenge,” Plank said. “The trick is getting the stuff to stand up to 3000 psi. The 150-psi IP in the second stages is a cakewalk, but we’re still picking splinters of our first-stage prototype out of the walls. And Christina’s eyebrows.”

“Bamboo You’s a shot in the arm for the local economy,” Blacktip Island Chamber of Commerce president Sandy Bottoms said. “Ol’ Doc’s created jobs where there weren’t any, splinters be damned. I don’t know what half the stuff he makes does, but, by God, folks are buying it.”

“Our experience is the more useless the gizmo, the better it sells,” Plank said. “That’s the guiding principle behind our bamboo tank bangers, octo holders and clip-on D-rings.

“Our pièces de résistance, though, are the bamboo weights. Anti-weights, really. They come in quarter-pound increments and can be positioned anywhere on your body to trim you out perfectly. They’re stupid. Maybe the stupidest thing we’ve come up with. But we can’t keep them in stock – there’s two months of back-orders right now.”

“Satisfaction’s guaranteed,” Mojarra said. “Any problem with a Bamboo You product, return it and we’ll send your money back. No questions asked. We don’t want our customers feeling bamboozled.”

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Mersquatch Surfaces On Blacktip Island

The Blacktip Island mersquatch, photographed by island resident Molly Miller.

The Blacktip Island mersquatch, photographed by island resident Molly Miller.

A photograph of Blacktip Island’s rumored mersquatch surfaced Thursday, confirming the existence of the legendary creature.

Island resident Molly Miller captured the image behind her house, where road crews have been clearing land.

“The dog was the first to notice it,” Miller said. “I was hanging laundry when Rufus started barking and carrying on. Then I caught a big, fishy smell, like a barra’ left in an ice chest overnight. And there he was at the edge of the trees, eyeballing me. I thought it was Jesse Conlee at first, but Jesse doesn’t smell like that.”

Miller said she ran inside for her camera and was able to take one photo before the creature disappeared.

“Soon as I made eye contact, he high-tailed it,” Miller said.

“It makes sense now, all the strange goings on. The howling.  The rocks and sticks raining down on the house late nights. Things going missing: bread cooling on the sill, beer from the ‘fridge, my frilly yellow sundress.”

An aquatic relative of the more-famous sasquatch and yeti, the mersquatch has been rumored to live on Blacktip Island and the surrounding reefs, but there has been no proof until now.

“People are always seeing big, hairy creatures,” Island Police Constable Rafe Marquette said. “Usually Friday and Saturday nights, late, around the Sand Spit and Last Ballyhoo bars. But that could be anyone on the island. And underwater sightings by scuba divers, well, that’s textbook nitrogen narcosis.

“I wouldn’t call this photo proof positive, but the eyewitness testimony combined with the photographic evidence is certainly compelling. This isn’t some rum-soaked tourist reporting it. It’s a rum-soaked local. With a camera.”

Hair and algae samples from behind Miller’s house have been sent to the FBI forensics laboratory in Quantico, Va. for DNA testing.

The island’s academic community is excited about the photo as well.

“Blacktip has several known Denisovan sites,” Tiperon University at Blacktip anthropologist Nelson Pilchard said, referring to the Paleolithic hominid species recently discovered in Siberia’s Denisova Cave. “This could be the last living vestige of early proto-humans we thought long extinct, who’ve adapted to an aquatic environment.

“The bluff is riddled with caves leading to flooded sinkholes and on out to the sea. A mersquatch could come and go up there without anyone noticing.”

Authorities are urging caution from island residents and visitors.

“We don’t know what this creature was doing in plain sight, or how many more are out there,” IPC Marquette said. “If there’s a population, the cooler weather may be bringing them out. They may come into town looking for food. Or mates.”

“I’m keeping both eyes peeled, I can tell you that,” Miller said. “I got fresh bread and cold beer out back of my place. He was kind of cute, in a rugged sort of way.”

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Island To Be Paved For Mosquito Control

Construction equipment stands ready to pave Blacktip Island.

Construction equipment stands ready to pave Blacktip Island.

Public health officials announced Thursday all of Blacktip Island will be paved to combat the growing mosquito menace threatening the small Caribbean island.

“The mosquitoes are out of control,” Tiperon Islands Public Health chief Ferris Skerritt said. “Residents are complaining. Resort guests are complaining. The potential for malaria, dengue fever, yellow fever, ugly red welts, it’s hurting tourism, and that’s the hand that feeds us all.

“Standing water’s the issue. That’s where they breed. Get rid of the water, you get rid of the mosquitoes. Problem’s always been getting to all the pools on the island, and keeping them drained. Covering the island completely in a protective sheath of asphalt and concrete will solve those problems.”

Not all island residents are happy with the decision.

“With no ponds, there’ll be no bird habitat,” longtime resident and Blacktip Audubon Society president Nelson Seagroves said. “That, by itself, will kill tourism. Birders flock to Blacktip this time of year for the flyway migrations. It’s a stopover point for birds going between North and South America.”

Other locals are concerned about the project impacting their more basic needs.

“We rely on groundwater for drinking, cleaning, everything,” said resident Hugh Calloway. “If the island’s paved, where will we get water to survive?”

Public Works spokesperson Stoney MacAdam allayed those concerns.

“We’ll be building a state-of-the-art water desalinization plant as part of this project,” MacAdam said. “There’ll be more water, cleaner water than ever before. Residents will be able to purchase as much as they need.

“As for the birds, they draw feral cats, another public health threat. Bird flu’s a concern as well. Also, these migratory birds are non-native. They can’t be allowed to slow progress in this country.”

The first area slated for paving is the nature preserve adjacent to Eagle Ray Cove.

“It’ll be unsightly for a while, sure,” Eagle Ray Cove owner Rich Skerritt said. “But we’ll pretty it up with a new block of rooms and a swimming pool to maximize our guests’ vacation experience.”

The contract for the project has been awarded to Skerritt Construction and MacAdam Paving, raising concerns about possible conflicts of interest. Both the Skerritts and MacAdam brushed aside those concerns.

“This is about public health. Period,” Ferris Skerritt said. “And the economy.”

“For the good of the community, Blacktip Island needs to be paved,” MacAdam said. “And I’m just the man to do it.”

“This isn’t over,” the Audubon Society’s Seagroves said. “We’re going to fight beak and claw. This one’s for the birds.”

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