Tag Archives: Tim W. Jackson

Illegal Iguana Cullers Injure Dozens On Blacktip Island

iguana culling

An invasive green iguana lurks in the underbrush at Sandy Bottoms’ Beach Resort Thursday. Over-aggressive culling of the non-native species has created a public safety crisis on Blacktip Island. (photo courtesy of Christian Linder)

A rash of mishaps involving over-zealous green-iguana cullers this week has created a groundswell public backlash against unlicensed cullers on Blacktip Island.

“The green iguanas don’t belong here and need to be checked, but things’ve gotten out of hand,” Eagle Ray Cove owner Rich Skerritt said. “Every yahoo and his cousin’s running around with slingshots, golf clubs, cricket bats, lionfish spears, you name it.

“Thank God guns are illegal. And bows and arrows,” Skerritt said. “James Conlee took out a whole row of bar stools—guests still on them—with a croquet mallet at the tiki hut yesterday. Sent five people to the clinic.”

Authorities blamed the rogue hunters on the bounty placed on iguanas.

“It’s only supposed to be a handful of licensed cullers, but with the government paying $5 a lizard, everyone wants in on the fun and profit,” Island Police Constable Rafe Marquette said. “Folks’re throwing common sense out the window trying to kill as many iguanas as they can. And most aren’t trained to cull safely.

“We tried only paying licensed cullers, but they just brought in iguanas their unlicensed buddies killed and split the take with them,” Marquette said. “I’m arresting illegal cullers. And drunk cullers, legal or otherwise. But I only have the one jail cell. To them it’s a laugh. To the rest of us it’s a public safety nightmare.”

Many island residents support the crackdown.

“It’s scary going outside these days, not knowing if you’ll be caught in a culling melee,” Peachy Bottoms said. “Nighttime’s the worst. You don’t dare wander out with all the spears and bats and sand rakes flying. People are whacking first and checking their target afterwards. Our little Shelley caught a stray lionfish spear in the buttocks Wednesday.”

Island nurse Marissa Graysby voiced safety concerns as well.

“The clinic’s in shambles,” she said. “There’s only one of me, and I’m out of medical supplies. We’re not equipped for a dozen injuries a day. Sure, the iguanas are bad, but all these people with cuts and bruises and cracked skulls are worse. It doesn’t help that most of the cullers are three-sheets-to-the-wind drunk, either.”

Many cullers defended their actions.

“Doing a service to the island’s what we’re doing,” longtime resident Dermott Bottoms said. “Jack Cobia and them said green iguanas were bad, so we’re taking care of them, on our own time and at our own expense. We sit in some stupid class, that’s time we could be killing iguanas.

“And alcohol’s a help, not a hindrance,” Bottoms said. “Couple glasses of rum, I start to think like an iguana. That’s where the magic happens. And that third glass, well, that just sharpens my aim.”

Marquette, meanwhile, is focusing his crackdown in the island’s more populated areas.

“I’m concentrating on the resort strip where most of the injuries are occurring,” he said. “Away from the resorts, it’s pretty much a free-for-all, but it’s mostly culler-on-culler injuries. If I can keep the tourists safe, I’ll call it a victory.”

Leave a comment

Filed under Caribbean

Blacktip Island Resorts Stage Underwater Hide-And-Seek Contest

Scuba hide-and-seek

A group of Blacktip Island scuba-diving guests have a practice session Wednesday afternoon in preparation for the Caribbean island’s inaugural underwater hide-and-seek contest. (photo by Paloma Fairlead/Blacktip Times)

Blacktip Island’s scuba charter companies will join forces Sunday afternoon to host the inaugural Where’s Waldo underwater hide-and-seek contest on and around the island’s Hammerhead Hole dive site, the Blacktip Island Tourism Department announced Thursday.

“It started with us joking about how dive staff are constantly searching for lost dive guests underwater,” Eagle Ray Divers operations manager Ger Latner said. “From there it morphed into a monthly staff training exercise, the guests got a kick out of it, so we made it a game.

“The staff still gets to sharpen their skills,” Latner said. “If anything, it’s even better training when the guests are trying to get lost. And to raise the bar more, we invited back some of our most navigationally-challenged guests as all-star hiders.”

Organizers say the rules are hide-and-seek standard, with a few twists.

“Everyone has five minutes to hide after they jump off the dive boats,” contest judge Jay Valve said. “We expect people to scatter like minnows once they hit the water. Open-circuit scuba bubbles are a dead giveaway, and rebreathers are banned, so we’re expecting more swimming away than crouching and hiding. Guests do it naturally.

“Hiders are limited to one 80-cubic-foot cylinder, and we’ll be frisking everyone for hidden pony bottles,” Valve said. “If you’re not ‘found,’ but you’re low on air and surface, you’re automatically ‘out.’ And we’ll have spotters, and drones, keeping watch.”

Some worried the contest presents significant safety issues.

“The temptation’s to suck your tank down to the last breath,” island nurse Marissa Goby said. “That’s potentially problematic, decompression sickness-wise, if you’ve been down a while. Or forget to exhale on your way up. There’ll be chase boats, and I’ll have a helper with first-aid training on hand, but it still creates a lot of risk.

“Also, the safety crews have to cover a ton of territory—people can go a long way with 3000 psi,” Goby said. “They’ll have GPS trackers on everyone to keep track of where they are, or where to recover the bodies, but GPS only works on the surface. We’re expecting lots of skip breathing, too, so we’ll have ibuprofen on hand for those vicious carbon-dioxide headaches.”

Others say the safety concerns are overstated.

“Bird dogging goofballs across three dive sites? That’s just a normal workday for us,” divemaster Alison Diesel said. “Honestly, I can’t tell the difference between divers trying to get lost and divers trying not to get lost. Bottom line, they can swim, but it’s not our first cat herding.”

Leave a comment

Filed under Caribbean, Scuba Diving

Theosophy Society Takes Over Blacktip Island Church

church repurposed

A stained-glass panel in the newly-renamed Blacktip Polyagnostic Sanctuary is a reminder of its former life as the Blacktip Island Interdenominational Church. (photo courtesy of Ernestine Bass)

Faced with declining attendance and increasing expenses, the Blacktip Island Interdenominational Church shuttered its doors Thursday and handed the keys to the Blacktip Island Theosophy Society, church leaders said, setting off a war of words in the small Caribbean island’s spiritual community.

“I hated to do it, but I couldn’t cover the electric bills or afford repairs,” the Rev. Pierre Grunt said. “Congregation members either lost faith or were lured away by Our Lady of Blacktip. The church was the island’s heart and soul. Now it’s been sold off.

“The theosophists were the only ones who showed any interest, and that’s one hell of a coincidence,” Grunt said. “They’re in cahoots with that damned ecumenical council and pulled off a hostile takeover, pure and simple. They’ve always held a grudge against us. Both groups have.”

Ecumenical council members denied any hostility.

“We’re deeply committed to faith and enlightenment on Blacktip,” said the former-Rev. Jerrod Ephesians, Blacktip Island Ecumenical Council president. “But Pierre shot himself in the foot, repeatedly, by constantly preaching against the sins of drinking and smoking and carrying on. You’ve got to know your audience.

“His droning on and on and on in that monotone didn’t help, either,” Ephesians said. “The theosophy society had been looking for someplace permanent to meet for a while, so the council stepped in and helped make that happen. They’re already drawing bigger crowds than Pierre ever did.”

Theosophy society members hope to appeal to a broad swath of Blacktip residents.

“The building’s still a church, we’re just about seeking God through each individual’s direct, intuitive steps, not in some narrowly-defined sectarian tropes,” BITS president Ernestine Bass said. “We’ve renamed it the Blacktip Polyagnostic Sanctuary to emphasize that. And for our first meeting, the place was nearly full.”

Community members backed the change.

“It’s a lot more fun now that Reverend Grunt’s gone,” Ginger Bass said. “There’s less emphasis on sin and damnation and more on forgiveness and being happy. Plus, they’re OK with us bringing drinks in with us.”

The Rev. Grunt will continue to conduct itinerant services at various island locations.

“I’ll be preaching this Sunday at Diddley’s Landing public pier, weather permitting,” he said. “I’ll be doing baptisms right there on those concrete steps, too. There’s plenty on this island could use something like that. Communion’s out, though, after Dermott Bottoms got into the Communion wine last week. All the wine.”

Our Lady of Blacktip cathedral will continue to be open for any who prefer not to attend Rev. Grunt’s services or theosophy meetings.

Leave a comment

Filed under Caribbean

Tie-Dye Festival To Aid Blacktip Island’s Dying Reefs

tie-dying championship

A freshly tie-dyed shirt waits to be unbound Thursday afternoon in amateur dyer Wendy Beaufort’s workshop. Beaufort was practicing for this weekend’s Coral Reef Dye-Off craft competition to benefit the Caribbean island’s coral reefs. (photo courtesy of Johann H. Addicks)

Blacktip Island fabric artists will gather at the Blacktip Haven resort this weekend for the inaugural, two-day Coral Reef Dye-Off tie-dye competition to draw attention to the Caribbean island’s ailing coral reefs.

“Our coral’s nowhere near as healthy as it was ten years ago,” Blacktip Haven owner Elena Havens said. “Whether from warmer water, acidic seas, development runoff or a combination, our reefs and our livelihoods are taking a hit.

“This combination juried dying competition and craft show will help combat that,” Havens said. “The competition will draw attention to how hard the coral is fighting to survive, and the proceeds will go to reef preservation efforts. And the shirts, shorts and whatnot are guaranteed to be groovy.”

Some worried the event will do more harm than good.

“Making people aware of the coral’s plight is great, but what happens when all this dye hits the reef? Or the aquifer?” environmental watchdog Wade Soote said. “There’s no telling what the ash and urea that makes the colors bond to fabrics will do once they hit the water table.

“At the very least, there should be an environmental impact study before there’s dozens of people dumping who-knows-what down the drain,” Soote said. “Pretty colors are all well and good, but what if they wipe out the marine park? Elena should know better.”

Organizers say those concerns are unfounded.

“All the used dye will go into a big vat and be neutralized before it’s dumped,” local dyemaster Harry Blenny said. “Also, though store-bought dyes are allowed, we’re encouraging everyone to use all-natural, locally-produced dyes, or even to make their own.

“There’s an art just in making the dyes out of local ingredients,” Blenny said. “Booby poop gives a really bright green you can’t get with a commercial mix. And ground up land crab mixed with balsamic vinegar gives a unique, vivid red.”

Local dye artists are eager to test their techniques against each other.

“You’re never sure exactly how good you are until you go head-to-head against another dyer under time constraints,” Wendy Beaufort said. “There’s lots of unknowns, and the competition should get pretty intense. The non-stop Grateful Dead in the background’ll take some of the edge off that, but still.

“The real challenge will be choice of medium,” Beaufort said. “Most people are sticking with tried-and-true cotton, but a few of us are experimenting with silk. Elena made a whole separate category for that, since the technique’s so different.”

All dyed items will be sold on site, with the winner serving as auctioneer, Havens said.

“We’ll have an auction Sunday evening to raise as much money as we can,” she said. “Hopefully the cash will cover the cost of a new coral nursery. Or snacks for our volunteers.”

Leave a comment

Filed under Caribbean

Blacktip Islanders Rally To Strengthen Earth’s Magnetic Field

earth's magnetic field

Two Blacktip Island residents have asked other locals to bring refrigerator magnets to the Caribbean island’s Heritage House Friday in hopes of boosting the planet’s magnetic field. (photo courtesy of Dermott Bottoms)

Blacktip Island residents, concerned by reports the Earth’s magnetic field is weakening, have organized a magnet-collection drive this Friday night at the island’s Heritage House in an attempt to strengthen the field.

“Magnetic field weakens too much, cosmic rays’ll get through and kill us all,” handyman Dermott Bottoms said. “We got to take action now, before it’s too late. We’re a small island, but we can do our part.

“We’re asking folks to bring any magnets they have to the Heritage House so we can concentrate all the magnetism in one spot,” Bottoms said. “The House’s in the center of the island, and there’s two power lines that cross there, so that’ll help, too.”

Other organizers stressed the need for community involvement.

“We were gonna order more magnets, but that’d create an imbalance someplace else, and cost money, so we’ll go with what we have,” James Conlee said. “There’s plenty of fridge magnets on the island, people just need to bring ‘em. And resort gift shops have a bunch they can loan out, too.

“Gonna string wires around the magnets and connect ‘em to a generator to give ‘em a boost, too,” Conlee said. “Sure, we’re low on the globe, but this’ll help build a base folks in more northern climes can build on to boost the magnetism up to the North Pole.”

Some in the community scoffed at the effort.

“Dermott’s switched from drinking rum to drinking booby pond water to come up with tis idea,” Tiperon University-Blacktip professor Ernesto Mojarra said. “Refrigerator magnets have nothing to do with, and no effect on the Earth’s magnetic field. This is just another excuse for him and his buddies to drink and pass out. I’m stunned there’s so many people talking about participating in this nonsense.”

Many locals plan to attend, and donate, whether the plan works or not.

“It’s Blacktip. People get bored, and this is something different to do,” Alison Diesel said. “Doesn’t matter if it works or not. It’s something to do on a Friday evening. And if everyone else is there, it’d be way antisocial not to go.”

Others were optimistic.

“Listening to Dermott and James, then looking things up on the internet, if there’s a change this’ll work, we have to try,” Dusty Goby said. “We’ll all be wearing non-ferrous clothing and jewelry so it doesn’t detract from the effect. We’ll know if it’s working if we don’t see the aurora borealis.”

Leave a comment

Filed under Caribbean

White Smoke At Blacktip Island Dump Signals New Honorary Pope

P6251016.JPG

A plume of white smoke rising from the Blacktip Island landfill Thursday afternoon signaled the election of a new Honorary Island Pope, the Blacktip Ecumenical Council officials said. (photo courtesy of Jerrod Ephesians/BEC)

White smoke rising from the Blacktip Island landfill Thursday afternoon signaled the election of a new Honorary Island Pope for the small Caribbean island, Blacktip Ecumenical Council officials said.

“Honorary Island Pope started years ago, when there was white smoke at the dump on Easter,” said the former-Reverend Jerrod Ephesians, the council’s presiding officer. “Someone made a joke about a new pope and everyone had good luck for the next few months, so we kept it up. Who’s eligible changes daily depending on the combination of date, day, month, and year.

“Thursday, Elena Havens’ name was up,” Ephesians said. “There’s no real duties and really doesn’t take much of anyone’s time. Most people forget about it after a few weeks. But you get to wear the outfit on formal occasions, so that’s a perk.”

Outgoing Honorary Island Pope Jay Valve was happy to pass the mitre to Havens.

“A year and a half’s a long time to serve. It’s time to move on,” he said. “Elena’ll do fine, and’ll look great in the hat. There was a robe, too, but I’m not sure what I did with it.”

Havens was honored by the unexpected election.

“I’ll be encouraging religious inclusion, even among the island’s atheists,” she said. “Blacktippers tend to twist teachings, religious and otherwise, into whatever they want to hear, and I won’t stand in the way of that tradition.

Not all residents were happy with the announcement.

“The very concept is offensive, and the Ecumenical Council should know better,” the Reverend Pierre Grunt said. “It’s blasphemous, making light of a two-thousand year old pillar of Christianity by handing some randomly-chosen layperson a hat made from a bar napkin.”

Havens downplayed Grunt’s concerns.

“The title’s really more sacrilegious than blasphemous. On Blacktip, that’s progress,” she said. “And the reef is my church. Anybody desecrates it, they’ll face the wrath of me. “That includes the Reverend and his out-of-season fishing and lobster poaching. I’ve smacked that fish-killer before, and I’ll do it again.”

Council officials noted not all island residents are eligible for the honorary papacy.

“Dermott Bottoms lost his eligibility permanently after a brief stint in office,” Ephesians said. “ The pope can’t be falling-down drunk every night. And urine is not Holy Water.”

Leave a comment

Filed under Caribbean

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.

Leave a comment

Filed under Caribbean