Tag Archives: shore diving

Dive-Share Boat Service Comes To Blacktip Island

uber dive boats

The new Dryft scuba diving rideshare service will allow Blacktip Island shore divers to hail rides to and from the Caribbean island’s dive sites with a computer app. (photo courtesy of Bradley Grillo)

A ridesharing dive boat service, based loosely on the popular Uber and Lyft rideshare programs, launched this week on Blacktip Island to take shore divers to many of the Caribbean island’s dive sites.

“Shore diving can be tough, especially in winter with the heavy seas,” app developer Goldie Goby said. “With Dryft, divers can hail a fishing boat, get picked up at a sheltered spot, and be dropped anywhere around the island. Then at the end of the dive, they surface, hail a ride back and Bob’s your uncle.

“Like with land-based rideshares, you pay according to how far you want to go, and you can rate your captain and tip them,” Goby said. “It lets divers set their own schedule, and local fishermen can make a little money on the side.”

Divers gave the fledgling service mixed reviews.

“It’s great going out when weather makes shore diving impossible, and going to sites you can’t get to from shore,” Harry Blenny said. “But getting back out can be an adventure, depending on how rough the seas are, how long you have to wait and what kind of boat picks you up.

“Trying to get back in a skiff this morning in eight-foot seas was an adventure,” Blenny said. “I passed up my gear and it still took four tries, with Clete Horn finally hauling me up by my wetsuit. I’m still walking funny.”

Local fishermen were divided on the service as well.

“Easy money, taking yahoos out on the sea and chucking them overboard,” James Conlee said. “Getting them back in can be rough, but it’s them who get banged up, not me.”

Others disagreed.

“Divers in the water scare off the fish,” Antonio Fletcher said. “Need fewer divers out there, not more. Plus, divers bobbing at the surface can be hard to see. Don’t want my prop getting dinged up on one of their scuba tanks.”

Island officials questioned the program’s safety.

“If a buddy team gets dropped off late in the day and there’s no boats nearby when they surface, they might never be found,” Island Police Constable Rafe Marquette said. “If they’re off the south end, in a current, the next stop’s Venezuela. Or a shark’s belly.”

App developers say those criticisms are unfounded.

“Divers don’t scare off fish, and ‘Tonio shouldn’t be fishing in the marine park anyway,” Goby said. “And if he can’t see a diver on the surface, he should be driving a skiff.

“Also, we guarantee any diver Dryft drops off will have a ride back,” Goby said. “We ran test dives for months before the official launch, and we never had a single diver complain. We learned our lesson after we lost the first few.”

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Filed under Caribbean, Scuba Diving

Public Works to Launch Shore Divers From Quarry

A sinkhole at Blacktip Island’s limestone quarry has been converted into a state of the art shore diving entry point.

A sinkhole at Blacktip Island’s limestone quarry has been converted into a state of the art shore diving entry point.

A setback at Blacktip Island’s limestone quarry has yielded unexpected benefits for scuba divers after a local entrepreneur converted a sinkhole into a shore diving entry site.

“That hole opened up when we were blasting,” said Department of Public Works chief Dusty Rhodes. “I mean, BOOM! And water spewed up like Old Faithful. Flooded the quarry. Sunk three gravel trucks.”

“Damned if we didn’t tap into a flue that runs out to the sea,” Rhodes said. “Whole site was a total write off until ol’ Doc Plank stepped in.”

“This limestone chute’s a stroke of luck,” Bamboo You dive equipment founder Piers ‘Doc’ Plank said. “Too often rough seas make beach entries and exits impossible for scuba divers. With this tunnel starting a quarter mile inland and coming out 40 feet deep on the wall, shore divers can get in and out safely 365 days a year.”

The tunnel was modified to further ensure diver safety.

“We’ve rigged a hydraulic piston to whoosh divers out the chute to eliminate the danger of a half-mile cave dive,” Plank said. “To bring divers back in, we just reverse the process.”

Island divemasters volunteered to test the launch and retrieval system.

“First time, I shot out like a torpedo,” divemaster Alison Diesel said. “Scared the bejesus out of a reef shark, and I’m still trying to get the inside of my wetsuit clean.”

“When they suck you back, you pop out that chute like a cork from a champagne bottle,” divemaster Gage Hoase said. “This morning Lee Helm did a double gainer before he dropped back in. It was beautiful to watch. From a distance.”

Bamboo You has produced a variety of chute-specific bamboo diving accessories including helmets, neck braces and body armor. They will also offer a cleaning service for soiled wetsuits.

Plank and Rhodes said divers who don’t wish to dive in the ocean are welcome.

“Most people learn to scuba in a quarry, then come dive in the warm Caribbean,” Plank said. “Well, here you can learn in the ocean, then dive in a quarry. For a fee, of course.”

“We’re stocking the place with carp and catfish,” Rhodes said. “And we got a line on an old school bus and a couple-three lawn mowers we’ll add to the sunken gravel trucks to enhance the quarry experience.”

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Filed under Caribbean, Scuba Diving