Eagle Ray Cove divemaster Gage Hoase was named Blacktip Island’s scuba ambassador this week (photo courtesy of Marina DeLow)
The Blacktip Island Tourism Society Thursday announced Eagle Ray Cove resort divemaster Gage Hoase is the island’s first dive ambassador. The title is part of a larger effort to raise the small Caribbean island’s visibility among scuba divers worldwide.
“Our borders are closed because of COVID, but once they open up, we need to make up for lost time. Pronto,” de facto island mayor Jack Cobia said. “We need tourists champing at the bit to come here. Other islands have dive ambassadors. Why not Blacktip?
“Gage isn’t the sharpest ax in the shed, but he has that homespun cheerfulness folks respond to,” Cobia said. “The Society—and Chamber of Commerce—voted him the least-objectionable candidate. He was the least dirtbaggy-looking DM on the island. That’ll play well in photos.”
Hoase said he was both surprised and pleased by the honor.
“I’d never heard of a dive ambassador, now I am one,” he said. “There’s not much to it and it shouldn’t take much of my time. Mostly having my picture taken and signing stuff. And free beer.
“They want me to do a podcast or some such, too, but somebody’ll have to walk me through that,” Hoase said. “They were gonna gimme a shirt and a nametag, but that would’ve cost money, so they eighty-sixed the idea.”
Some residents were skeptical of the title.
“What’s the point? Tourists can’t come here now, and once they can, we don’t need a promotion—they’ll come flocking back anyways,” Val Schrader said. “I guess the vote did give people something to do. Now they can go back to drinking and fighting.
“Honestly, someone named Cousteau would have been better,” Schrader said. “But Gage was the best we could come up with. He was the only candidate no one hated.”
Others criticized the choice.
“It’s not fair, just forming a committee and taking a secret vote like that,” divemaster Lee Helm said. “Other deserving candidates weren’t notified. We weren’t given time to present our qualifications or campaign.
“People always liked Gage more than me,” Helm said. “It wasn’t an honest vote. We need a recount. And non-dive community members’ votes shouldn’t count.”
Others in the dive community dismissed Helm’s allegations.
“Lee needs to shut the hell up,” Club Scuba Doo owner Ham Pilchard said. “The only votes he got were from non-scuba folks. People at the resorts, who know him, all hate his guts.”
Eagle Ray Cove, meanwhile, is making the most of Hoase’s new status.
“With Gage being the new face of Blacktip Island, that means more exposure for us,” Eagle Ray Cove resort owner Rich Skerritt said. “We won’t pay him any extra, of course, but his fame’ll make up for that. We’re gonna put a life-sized cutout of him at the airstrip, with a sign saying, ‘Eagle Ray Cove: home of the Scuba Ambassador.’”