Tag Archives: hurricane season

Blacktip Islanders Hope Jawfish Doesn’t See Her Shadow

jawfish day

Blacktip Island’s famous ‘Blacktip Babette’ the yellow-headed jawfish will peek out of her hole on Jawfish Day today. Island residents hope she won’t see her shadow, thus ensuring a storm-free hurricane season. (photo courtesy of National Marine Sanctuaries)

Blacktip Island residents will be closely watching webcams today to see if Blacktip Babette, the famed yellow-headed jawfish, will see her shadow and retreat into her hole, signaling a busy hurricane season this year.

“It’s a bit like Punxsutawney Phil the groundhog, only underwater and without fur,” Payne Hanover said. “If Babette sees her shadow, things’ll get ugly, weather-wise, this summer and fall. We’re pretty sure Jacques Cousteau was the first to notice Babette and how predictive she was when he’d hang out here back in the 60s.

“We banned pretty much all diving in the area after a few incidents in years past,” Hanover said. “Five years ago, Booger Bottoms’ camera strobes scared Babette, and we had one of our worst hurricane seasons ever. Then last year, Alison Diesel slid a plastic slate over the hole so Babette couldn’t go back in, and a barracuda nearly got her. Babette, not Alison.”

Island residents said Jawfish Day is a generations-old tradition.

“Been watching Babette for as long as I can remember,” Rosie Blenny said. “And now it’s so much comfier—we can sit in the bar and watch instead of having to go out on a boat and jump in the water. We’ll all be at the Tail Spinner watching the live feed and praying for a cloudy day. Babette’s been so accurate for all these years. And who knew jawfish lived so long?”

Some on the small Caribbean island scoffed at the tradition.

“There is zero correlation between this jawfish, or any jawfish, seeing its shadow and hurricanes striking the island,” local meteorologist Rayne Doppler said. “We ran the numbers going back 30 years and there’s less than a 20 percent connection between the jawfish retreating and hurricane activity. That’s essentially a random occurrence. Assuming it’s even the same fish. My hunch is the Chamber of Commerce dreamed this up to draw tourists to the island during the slow season.”

Others objected to the event on religious grounds.

“This, like Groundhog Day, purposely coincides with Candlemas,” the Reverend Pierre Grunt said. “By extension, this is celebrating an ancient pagan holiday. I’m urging my congregation, and any others who’ll listen, to avoid this like they’d avoid any other events and holidays that coincide with former heathen celebrations.”

Not all residents wished Babette well.

“I hate that damn fish,” Rusty Goby said “She stayed out of her hole two years ago. I believed her and didn’t re-up my hurricane insurance. Come September, Hurricane Lulu leveled my place. BLAM! Like a big hand just smooshed it flat. If I had my way, I’d wipe out every jawfish on that reef, just to get even. Tried to, too, but the Marine Parks folks keep stopping me.”

Island mayor Jack Cobia will preside underwater on-site, from a respectful distance so as not to spook Babette, to make the ceremony official. Local weather forecasts call for scattered clouds today.

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‘Hurricane Crabs’ Have Blacktip Islanders Fearing Storms

land crab plague

Juvenile land crabs have overrun Blacktip Island this week, raising concerns about a major hurricane hitting the small Caribbean island. (photo courtesy of Sudzie)

Thousands of juvenile land crabs inundated Blacktip Island this week, exasperating residents and raising fears of a major hurricane striking the Caribbean island, locals said.

“Overnight, it seems, they all hatched out and are swarming over everything,” Goldie Goby said. “They’re all over the roads, clogging downspouts, filling cisterns and getting into all our cabinets. You can’t even walk anywhere without them crunching underfoot. It’s like a Biblical plague.

“Bigger worry, though, is old-timers say this always happens right before a big hurricane,” Goby said. “They call them ‘hurricane crabs’ because they mean a big storm’s coming. I’m battening down everything. And going to church twice a week.”

Long-time island residents concurred.

“Baby crabs flooding the island all at once, hurricane’s coming for sure. Everybody knows that,” Antonio Fletcher said. “Happened in ’04, then again in ’08. Blacktip was two islands then, storm surge was that high.

“I got water and food stashed in a cave, ready to weather it out,” Fletcher said. “Doubled the insurance on my house, too. Folks calling me ‘Chicken Little’ are in for a rude wake up. Sky really is falling. Or fixing to.”

Other locals were also busy with hurricane preparations.

“Me, I got my boat filled with supplies, and lashed to my roof,” Dermott Bottoms said. “Hurricane comes through, I just cut the cords and ride out the waves. Simple as that. Thanks to them crabs, I got enough warning to get that all set up.”

Scientists questioned the link between the crabs and storms.

“This mass hatching likely has more to do with rising water tables, or temperature change, than with future weather events,” island meteorologist Rayne Doppler said. “And I’ve found zero correlation between occasional island-wide hatching events like this and hurricanes. The only constant is these crabs hatch en masse every six or seven years. The last time this happened, we had no storms at all.”

Some residents voiced more immediate concerns.

“The roads are red from cars running over them—the stink’ll about knock you out,” Marina DeLow said. And they’ve taken over my underwear drawer. I kind of hope a hurricane does come along and blasts these damn things away.”

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Blacktip Island ‘Rat Race’ Resort Bike Rally Celebrates Shutdown

resort bike race

Ill-tended, one-speed resort bicycles in the Blacktip Haven bike racks await riders for Blacktip Island’s annual Rat Race bicycle race around the small Caribbean island Saturday. (photo courtesy of Jessie Catahoula)

The 17th Annual Island Rat Race resort bicycle rally around Blacktip Island is slated for Saturday afternoon, starting at the Blacktip Haven resort, to mark the Caribbean island’s hotels and dive operators shutting down for the height of hurricane season.

“It started it as a joke, but it proved quite popular,” Blacktip Haven owner Elena Havens said. “We named it after a guest who came face-to-face with a big dumpster rat and bolted on a resort bike, yelling bloody murder. The guy ended up broken down and bug bit down by Spider Bight.

“Contestants have to ride rusty, one-speed loaner bikes, and have to finish with the bike, or most of it,” Havens said. “These bikes are so abused, most won’t make it all the way around the island. Pedals break. Chains fall off. Handlebars come loose. It’s great fun to watch.”

Race organizers pair riders and bikes randomly.

“Riders draw numbers from a hat, and the number corresponds to a slot in the Haven bike rack,” Blacktip Haven staffer Jessie Catahoula said. “The best riders can get total junk bikes, and vice versa. And no maintenance is done, or is even allowed, prior to the race.”

“Most years it’s a victory just to finish,” Catahoula said. “These bikes aren’t up to an unpaved, 18-mile loop. Plus, down the east coast, where there’s no one watching, racers get nasty—kicking other riders, shoving branches in their spokes, that sort of thing. That’s part of what makes it a sport.”

Participants say the race is not for the faint hearted.

“It’s more a survival challenge than a race,” Club Scuba Doo divemaster Finn Kiick said. “You’re fighting your bike and the other riders taking whacks at you and your bike. Back in the day you had to finish on a functioning bike, but that wasn’t realistic.

“Last year Gage Hoase won carrying his bike across his shoulders,” Kiick said. “Well, most of the bike. Enough of it for it to count. Chase cars trail the racers to collect all the trashed bikes and beat-to-hell riders.”

Emergency personnel are stretched thin preparing for the race.

“Everyone raves about how fun the Rat Race is, but I have to bring up the rear with a pick up full of medical supplies to tend all the injured contestants,” island nurse Marissa Blenny said. “I treat more people during this damn race than I do the rest of the year. Locals, tourists, they all bleed the same. Last year I ran out of bandages and splints.”

As ever, judges will be stationed at both island intersections to make sure no one takes a short cut across the island.

The winner receives a ‘King Rat’ t-shirt, a beer and free medical attention, if required.

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Community Hurricane Prep Meeting Devolves Into Hurricane Party

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The Blacktip Island Taskforce for Emergencies rescheduled its annual hurricane preparation meeting Thursday after a party broke out at Wednesday night’s meeting that left all members incapacitated. (Blacktip Times file photo)

The Blacktip Island Taskforce for Emergencies’ 2019 hurricane season planning meeting was postponed a week after Wednesday evening’s meeting turned into an impromptu hurricane party, taskforce members said.

“We were at the Heritage House, inventorying the island storm supplies and making new emergency lists for island residents,” BITE president Rocky Shore said. “‘Tonio found a bottle of rum left over from last year, we opened it to make sure it hadn’t gone bad, and that’s the last thing I remember.

“Once we recovered Thursday morning, it took us the rest of the day to clean up the liquor bottles, food wrappers and empty water jugs,” Shore said. “Then we rescheduled the meeting for next week. And stipulated it’ll be alcohol free. Until after we adjourn, anyway.”

Some members say the party was exactly what the group needed.

“We’d gotten complacent. Getting trashed like that, it really brought us together as a team,” BITE treasurer Kay Valve said. “Plus, it ensured last year’s supplies were used up. We’re starting this season with fresh, new everything.

“It was also a great run-through for an actual hurricane,” Valve said. “We simulated being out of electricity when Jerrod bumped the lights off and no one could find the switch to turn them back on. And who knew canned ravioli pairs well with dark rum.”

Some in the community were not happy with the taskforce’s actions.

“These are supposed to be the island’s leaders, the ones who’ll guide us in an emergency,” resident Herring Frye said. “And what do they do three days before hurricane season? They get schnockered and blow through all our emergency provisions. It wouldn’t be so bad, but they didn’t think to invite any of us. That hurts.”

Committee members acknowledged their lapse in judgment, but emphasized on the experience gained.

“It’s true, we should have invited everyone,” BITE secretary Jerrod Ephesians said. “We’re already discussing how to turn next year’s prep into an island-wide blow out to kick off the season. We’ll be sending out a memo to everyone on the island in a few days.

“It’ll focus everyone for an actual emergency,” Ephesians said. “The ability to drink hard and still function is an often overlooked part of hurricane preparedness. And you have to know what hangover remedies to have on hand, and how much, ideally for yourself and a neighbor. The process was messy, but we’re in a good place because of it.”

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Blacktip Islanders Face Off For Boobies-Vs-Frigate Melee

boobies and frigates

Frigates and red-footed boobies share a stand of mangroves on Blacktip Island Thursday afternoon. This weekend’s Boobies Vs. Frigates competition will feature island residents recreating the two species’ aerial battles for food. (photo courtesy of Forest and Kim Starr)

Blacktip Island residents will draw straws today to determine their roles in Saturday’s annual Boobies Vs. Frigates competition celebrating the height of hurricane season.

“It was a storm-relief debacle that morphed into a community-wide event several years back,” organizer Wendy Beaufort said. “The contest mimics the in-air fights between the booby birds and the frigate birds. The Booby team has to get supplies from Diddley’s Landing to the air strip. The Frigates try to stop them any way they can and steal their goods.

“It teaches teamwork and working together during the hard times post-hurricane,” Beaufort said. “After a storm, you’re never sure who’ll be on your side or who you’ll need help from. The teams are totally random each year, so you see friend against friend, family against family. It’s like a full-contact holiday dinner.”

Residents say the competition eases the tensions of hurricane season.

“Watching the satellite weather, prepping the house, dreading that next big storm, it takes its toll on your nerves,” Jerrod Ephesians said. “Whacking a Booby trying to get past you and stealing his back pack, it’s a great stress reliever.

“Everyone joins in, unless they’re totally physically unable,” Ephesians said. “You should’ve seen Helen Maples last year, smacking Frigates with her cane and kicking them with that ankle boot, broken foot be damned.”

The event has few, but strict, rules to ensure contestants accurately mimic the battling seabirds they represent.

“Boobies have one arm tied behind them so they’re at a disadvantage, like in real life,” event co-chair Christina Mojarra said. “Frigates, they can do anything they want, and it’s usually mean and nasty.

“There’s all sorts of strategies,” Mojarra said. “Usually, the Boobies cluster up in one big wedge and try to bull their way through. Others’ll try an end-run, solo, while that’s happening. It’s a free for all, really. The nurse gets paid double-time for the next few days.”

The contest ends when all the supplies have been either transported to the airfield or seized by the Frigates.

“As soon as that last bag’s secured, the party starts,” Beaufort said. “As ever, Sandy Bottoms’ Beach Resorts hosts, what with it being right there, but the party always spills over all up and down the coast.

“A lot of people stay in character all night,” Beaufort said. “You’ll see Frigates at the bar trying to steal money from Boobies, and Boobies squawking about spilled beer and running down the road trying to get a moment to take a drink.

“Sure, some Boobies overindulge and end up barfing in the bushes, but that just adds to the realism,” Beaufort said.


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