Tag Archives: hurricane season

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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