Tag Archives: Tim W. Jackson

New Boat Marshals Safeguard Blacktip Island Divers

boat marshals

Scuba divers behaving badly on Blacktip Island dive boats have prompted leaders on the small Caribbean island to assign undercover security officers on charter boats. (photo courtesy of Gage Hoase)

In response to increased altercations on Blacktip Island dive boats, island leaders this week deputized multiple, incognito Boat Marshals, based on the Air Marshal program for commercial aviation, to safeguard dive guests.

“There’s been an uptick in verbal and physical confrontations on boats,” island mayor Jack Cobia said. “Whether because of crowded conditions, bad weather, or just people being cranky these days, it was getting out of hand.

“The shouting matches between dives were bad enough,” Cobia said. “But when guests started flinging weight belts at each other because someone silted a swim through, we had to act. There’s only one island constable, and Rafe can only be so many places at once. He needed help.”

The marshals are former constables with arrest powers, randomly assigned to various dive boats.

“There was no choice. We were taking in the shorts on TripAdvisor,” Sandy Bottoms’ Beach Resort owner Sandy Bottoms said. “And our dive staff’s not trained to get physical with guests. Not that way, anyway.

“Now we’re putting trained officers on the boats, in mufti, looking like any other guest,” Bottoms said. “Usually in tacky shirts and shorts. Or not. You never know. But any yahoo steps out of line, they’ll have a marshal on them like a duck on a June bug.”

The island’s dive professionals welcomed the move.

“It makes our job way less stressful, knowing there’s someone to deal with a-holes,” Blacktip Haven boat captain Dusty Blenny said. “Yesterday some dude got up in my grill when I wouldn’t go to Lucifer’s Grotto. Tried to grab the wheel. The marshal du jour thumped him good and locked him in the head.

“They can disarm you of knives, lionfish spears and tank bangers, you name it,” Blenny said. “Today one stopped a snorkel fight before it could start.”

Dive guests appreciate the change.

“It’s reassuring seeing action taken, on the boats and underwater,” Club Scuba Doo guest Donna Requin said. “This morning a knife fight broke out between a photographer hogging an eel and another photographer who shoved her aside.

“We were all in shock when, WHOOSH, in came a marshal who dragged them to the surface,” Requin said. “By the time we surfaced, the two had already been skiffed off to the jail.”

Some officials worry the program may be a victim of its own success,

“There’s so many incidents, and so few marshals, we’re having trouble keeping their identities secret,” Island Police Constable Rafe Marquette said. “We keep disguising them, but they still get recognized because of all the YouTube videos.

“Once word gets out, we’re hoping divers’ll behave themselves so we can phase out the B.M.s,” Marquette said. “At that point we’ll repurpose them for bar security Friday and Saturday nights.”

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Blacktip Island Divemaster Discovers New Fish Species

new fish

Blacktip Island marine biologists say a fish photographed by an island divemaster may be a new species of wrasse. (photo courtesy of Barry Peters)

A Blacktip Island scuba guide diving on his day off Wednesday discovered what scientists say is a previously-unknown reef fish species on the Wrasse Hole Wall dive site.

“Marina dared me to go to 150, and when I got there I saw a weird little fish,” Eagle Ray Divers divemaster Lee Helm said. “I shined my light on it and the eyes jumped out at me. I was gobsmacked.

“Back on the boat, people said I was narked,” Helm said. “I had a photo to prove it, though. I was going to name it after me, but I owed Dermott money and I like my face as-is, so I named it after him instead.”

The fish, tentatively dubbed Wrassius bottomsis, is probably a relative of the common Caribbean hairy wrasse, marine biologists said.

“We can’t say for certain without collecting a specimen, killing it and cutting it up – and we’re sending a team down tomorrow to do just that – but it appears to be part of the wrasse family,” Tiperon University-Blacktip ichthyology chair Ernesto Mojarra said. “We have to be sure, though. Anything Lee’s involved with is usually full of crap. It does look kind of like Dermott, though I’d never say that to his face.”

Island scuba operations wasted no time promoting the find.

“We’re running packed boats out to Wrasse Hole Wall two, three times a day,” Eagle Ray Cove Resort owner Rich Skerritt said. “Sure, the staff’s got its hands full keeping the guests above 100 feet, but that’s why we pay them minimum wage.

“We’re doing Bottoms Wrasse t-shirts, wrasse hats and Speedos, too,” Skerritt said. “And our own Wrasse Wipe sunscreen. Our bookings are already up in just the last to days.”

Dive professionals worry the discovery may encourage unsafe diving.

“If Lee wants to go that deep and get himself bent on his own time, that’s his business,” Eagle Ray Divers operations manager Ger Latner said. “Problem is, all our guests want to get down that deep, too, to see his damn fish.

“There’s only so much control a couple of staff can have over 20 divers,” Latner said. “Before, it was like herding cats. Now it’s pure chaos. We snagged three divers at 140 just this morning. Someone’s gonna get hurt, or worse, before this is all over.”

Other residents were less unconcerned.

“Divers go deep all the time. If they’re strong, they’ll survive,” Dermott Bottoms said. “Important thing is that’s my wrasse everybody’s trying to see. My wrasse’s gonna be all over the internet now, you know.”

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Blacktip Island Hosts Underwater Columbus Day Parade

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The reef off Diddley’s Landing public pier will be the site of Blacktip Island’s inaugural Underwater Columbus Day Parade Monday. The island’s Cultural Society hopes the event will ease holiday tensions. (photo by Wendy Beaufort/staff)

The Blacktip Island Cultural Society Thursday announced its inaugural Underwater Columbus Day Parade, slated for Monday night at the island’s pubic pier, as a way to ease tensions among island residents on the controversial holiday.

“Columbus isn’t the hero here he is in other parts of the Western hemisphere,” island historian Smithson Altschul said. “Here he’s best known for genocide and pillaging. That makes for a good bit of friction between locals and some of the expats.

“Locals shooting expats with red paintball pellets all day releases some of the frustration,” Altschul said. “But it doesn’t address the divisions or heal old wounds.”

The underwater parade aims at bridging that gap, organizers said.

“We’re not celebrating Columbus so much as we are the arrival of scuba tourism,” BICS chair Peachy Bottoms said. “That’s the one thing that truly unites Blacktippers. Scuba is the industry on this little rock. We’re all thankful for that.

“The underwater parade, with divers from all walks of life, from all the resorts, will emphasize how we have more in common than we realize,” Bottoms said. “People can still shoot each other with paintballs until sunset, but the parade will be non-violent, totally inclusive and focused on the positive.”

To engage non-divers, event organizers made the parade spectator friendly.

“Divers’ll wear multicolored marker lights so they’ll be easy to follow,” parade grand marshal Catalina Luxfer said. “And they’ll be diving off Diddley’s Landing, so there’s plenty of room for a crowd.

“We’ve built a scaffolding with bench seats to allow for as many viewers as possible,” Luxfer said. “The divers’ll go in at sunset, after the police collect all the paintball guns, then after the parade there’ll be a big party on the pier.”

The after party will feature the first performance by island supergroup Ragnarok Lobster, made up of members of defunct island-favorite bands.

“From the Social Morays there’s Alison Diesel on lead guitar, and Marina DeLow on bass and backing vocals,” Bottoms said. “From Effing Zeagles there’s Finn Kiick on drums, and from Ivan and the Embolizers they’ve got Gage Hoase on lead vocals and beer cans.”

BICS members hope to cap the evening by burning a scale-model Spanish caravelle as both a celebration and a protest of Columbus’ arrival.

“Everyone was in favor of setting something on fire, for whatever reason,” Luxfer said. “People can interpret the ship burning however they want.

“It’s a no-go unless there’s an offshore breeze, though,” Luxfer said. “We launched a trial ship last week, and the wind pushed it back into the mangroves. We barely got the fire put out before it hit the Tale Spinner lounge. Fire ships are all fun and games until a bar burns.”

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Blacktip Island Braces For Weekend Underwater Villanelle Fest

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Several Blacktip Island dive sites and multiple resort swimming pools will host this weekend’s ‘Mad Night’ Underwater Villanelle Festival, sponsored by the Blacktip Island Poetry Society. (photo courtesy of Reg Gurnard)

Blacktip Island’s poetry aficionados will gather at multiple venues this weekend for the third annual, two-day ‘Mad Night’ Underwater Villanelle Festival, organized by the Blacktip Island Poetry Society.

“Every yahoo and their cousin participates in the Easter Poetry Slam. It’s a drunken, free-for-all, anything-goes affair,” festival organizer Doris Blenny said. “We came up with the ‘Mad Night’ concept several years ago after people mistook ‘poetry’ for ‘poultry,’ and all hell broke loose.

“This is a separate event, limited to one poetic form, that really separates the wheat from the chaff talent-wise,” Blenny said. “A villanelle shows your chops, or lack of them. There’ll be no ‘cat sat on the mat’ dreck this weekend. Unless it fits the rhyme scheme and line repetition pattern.

“The name’s a hat tip to Sylvia Plath’s ‘Mad Girl’s Love Song’ and Dylan Thomas’ ‘Do Not Got Gentle Into That Good Night’ villanelles,” Blenny said. “Plus, it pretty well sums up the last two Fests.”

The two-day event will feature underwater readings of published villanelles as well as sessions for local poets to read their own work aloud.

“The underwater aspect helps with crowd control. And author control,” BIPS sergeant-at-arms Peachy Bottoms said. “There’re separate categories for full-face-mask readings and through-the-regulator readings – both beautiful in their own way. There’ll be interpretive swimmers on hand, too, to enhance the experience.

“We’ll have readings on multiple dive sites, in resort pools and in the Heritage House bathtub,” Bottoms said. “There’s also a kids’ session in the Eagle Ray Cove hot tub with snorkels.”

BIPS judges said the form restriction will be strictly enforced.

“If it’s not a villanelle, we’ll cut the mike. All our participants have been warned,” Reg Gurnard said. “We’ll make an exception for the occasional terzanelle, but sonnets are right out. And don’t get me started on sestinas. We’re still repairing the Heritage House after Antonio Fletcher’s x-rated open-mike debacle.”

Some island poets protested the festival’s limitations.

“It’s not fair, excluding people because we don’t use rhyme or a strict structure,” Lee Helm said. “The elitist judges are biased against us. I mean, what’s next, bloody Epic Greek Lyric Fest?

“My gran wrote villanelles. As a schoolgirl. And hated them,” Helm said. “This is the sort of hidebound, Structuralist mindset that’s holding back Blacktip’s poetry community. And creativity in general.”

Blenny defended the festival’s rules.

“We haven’t replaced the Poetry Slam, we’ve simply created a new, different event with a more refined focus,” she said. “If we hadn’t imposed this strict structure, we never would have heard Dermott Bottoms’ interlocking villanelle cycle about inebriation. His ‘Rumward by Booby Flight’ brought the house down. It truly did.”

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BI-Leaks Turns Friend Against Friend On Blacktip Island

BI Wikileaks

The release Wednesday of the previously-private online communications of Blacktip Island residents has outraged many islanders and destroyed friendships. (photo illustration courtesy of DARPA)

The unexpected release of all Blacktip Island residents’ private online communications Wednesday by an anonymous hacker has angered locals and sent many searching for who posted the information on the Caribbean island’s tourism website.

“Normally you get your island gossip at the Ballyhoo or the Sand Spit, and it’s in bits and pieces,” Val Schrader said. “This is one big info dump, with everyone’s emails, texts, Skype, WhatsApp, you name it, BAM, out there for God and everyone to see.

“These BI-Leaks are devastating,” Schrader said. “The only reason people here get along is we make nice and lie a fair bit. Now, people are ready to tar and feather their friends. And everyone wants to punch Lee Helm, the little two-faced rat Lee Helm.”

Many locals voiced broader concerns about public safety.

“Whenever people try to sort things out, a fight breaks out,” Jessie Catahoula said. “And it’s escalating. Antonio Fletcher got arrested for peeing in the Eagle Ray Cove cistern because Rich Skerritt for called him a nut case.

“There’s talk about burning cars and houses, of people disappearing, you name it,” Catahoula said. “Folks’re making homemade riot gear. The mayor even called in the National Guard to maintain order, but it turns out there isn’t one. It’s gonna get uglier.”

The crisis has stretched the island’s lone constable to the limit.

“This is day three with no sleep, trying to keep a lid on things,” Island Police Constable Rafe Marquette said. “I called over to Tiperon for backup, but nobody over there wants to wade into this crap.”

Many in the community are speculating on the hacker’s identity and motives.

“There’s not many people on Blacktip capable of pulling something like this off, island mayor Jack Cobia said. “Hell, most people on this island can barely turn on a computer, much less hack one.

“My money’s on it being somebody off-island who wants to cause us trouble,” Cobia said. “It’s probably some Tourism Department a-hole on Tiperon trying to siphon our guests over to the big island.”

Others are convinced the dump was an inadvertent technological malfunction.

“Dermott Bottoms and James Conclee were three-sheets drunk Tuesday night, climbing the cell tower on a dare,” Frank Maples said. “My guess is one of them bumped something and scrambled the wireless and cell signals.

“Neither remember anything that happened,” Maples said. “That’s their story, anyway. A couple of drunk idiots makes way more sense than some double-secret hacker.”

A few locals worry the damage from the leaks may be permanent.

“Some folks are betting on this all dying down, like with other gossip,” Clete Horn said. “The way things are now, though, if we let this play itself out, there might not be an island left.”

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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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New Scuba Periscopes Will Save Blacktip Island Divers’ Egos

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A new Wood Eye scuba periscope takes shape at Bamboo You’s Blacktip Island workshop Thursday afternoon. (photo courtesy of Doc Plank / Bamboo You)

A Blacktip Island entrepreneur has created a new collapsible viewing tube that allows lost scuba divers to locate their dive boat without having to surface, local scuba retailer Bamboo You announced Thursday.

“Divers get lost all the time. They’re embarrassed to surface and find the boat,” inventor and Bamboo You owner Piers ‘Doc’ Plank said. “Everybody sees you, everybody knows you got lost and everybody takes the piss out of you. Our new Wood Eye lets you avoid all that.

“It’s a pocket-sized periscope that zips out to five feet when deployed,” Plank said. “Slip it in your BC pocket and no one knows it’s there. When you get lost, the Wood Eye lets you stay out of sight while you take a look around.”

Scuba guests who tested early models were impressed.

“I get lost a lot, and my wife always makes me prairie-dog up to find the boat,” Blacktip Haven dive guest Buddy Brunnez said. “Man, the grief I get. With the Wood-Eye, though, I can stay underwater, spot the boat and no one’s the wiser. This gizmo’s changed my life.”

Island dive staff liked the device as well.

“It looks like some random piece of bamboo poking up out of the water, if you even notice it,” Eagle Ray Divers divemaster Marina DeLow said. “Our bottom line is if it gets divers back to the boat without us having to search for them or rescue them, we’re all for it.

“And, to be honest, several of our navigationally-challenged dive staff are using Wood Eyes,” DeLow said. “Most guests don’t even notice. Except when Lee Helm’s leading the dive. That idiot’s about as subtle as a punch in the face.”

Island leaders were dubious, but supportive.

“I really don’t see the point, but that describes most scuba gadgets I see,” island mayor Jack Cobia said. “If Doc can get people to give him money for the things, though, good on him.

“Commercially, it’s a win for Blacktip,” Cobia said. “It expands our manufacturing sector, creates jobs and God knows it keeps the beaches clear of bamboo.”

Plank said Wood Eye embraces the company’s all-natural philosophy.

“Along with our bamboo triple-split Diablo fins and our bamboo nitrox snorkels, Wood Eye’s 100 percent green and eco-friendly,” he said. “They come in all kinds of colors so you can coordinate with your scuba gear. They’re available in natural bamboo, as well, for the purists out there.”

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