Post Trip Reflections

I’ve been back now for a few days, and am slowly settling back into normal life. But I had such a good time on the trip, I keep casting my mind back to it.

The Diving

The diving was great. The water was a little murkier than usual, but that’s only in comparison to its usual clarity–by New England standards, it was still awesome. I don’t recall seeing baitballs before this trip, and I saw three of them.

I’m wondering if the boat dives are worth the schedule constraints they place on your day, though. The shore diving is so good, you can see a lot of the same stuff from the shore that you can see from the boat, the one obvious exception being Rappel. When you have a boat dive, you have to be at the dock at a certain time. With shore dives, there’s more flexibility.

My one big regret is not doing Karpata on Tuesday. It’s a site I’ve been wanting to get back to since 2004, but because I was scheduled for Dee Scarr at 2, I felt I would have been cutting things too close. It’s really a marginal call, and I’m not sure I made the right decision. The group ended up getting back by 1:30, which would have been tight, but doable. I thought it would have been later.

I was very obviously overweighted the whole trip. Because I was using 18lbs last trip, and have put on weight (fat) since then, that’s where I started, and by Tuesday, it was very obvious I was carrying too much lead. Because of the way the schedule worked out, I wasn’t able to trade down until Wednesday afternoon, when I dropped two pounds. I was still overweighted, but by the time I realized that it was really too late.

Blogging

I’m glad I kept this blog during this trip, even though it cost me a little over an hour a day. I kept a blog in 2010 also (though not on this site), and in 2004 created a site shortly after the trip. By contrast, I didn’t do anything like that in 2006, and that trip is a lot less distinct in my mind. I would recommend to anyone that they keep some sort of record of their trip, even if it doesn’t wind up on the web. I don’t have any illusions that many people were reading this; but I’ll be able to re-read these posts in a couple of years and remember.

Photography

For this trip, I bought a new camera, a Canon G12, and I’d also gotten a new strobe last summer to replace one I’d flooded. I’m happy to report, that first of all, camera and strobe both survived the trip. Perhaps I transferred my bad luck; both Paul and Jack flooded cameras. I did find out about an additional cause of flooding, at least for polycarbonate housings–if left in the sun, they can get hot, then when they hit the water, they shrink abruptly and can leak.

Overall, I’m happy with the combination. The strobe covers well, and I got a sense fairly early on how much to adjust the power output or ISO to get decent exposure. I did have some issues with the strobe not firing; I suspect a lot had to do with the sync knob getting out of position. The camera still has some shutter lag issues, but not as bad as its predecessor.

I’m still seeing a lot of fish tails in my pictures. Also, I distinctly remember taking lots of pictures of sponges and corals because I thought they were interesting shapes. It turns out, not so much. Also, I thought I was shooting RAW, but wasn’t, so things aren’t as adjustable as I thought they were. I’ll post more pictures once I have then properly adjusted.

One thing I did right was to assemble the entire system before the trip and figure out the correct basic settings, and figure out where the controls I would mostly be using were located. Henri was having trouble with her strobe all week, thinking it was an aiming problem, when actually the sync setting for the strobe was incorrect. We didn’t discover that until Thursday night. Personally, I think the instructor for her class should have spotted this, but he didn’t.

The other thing I sometimes did right was to recognize when I wouldn’t be able make a satisfactory picture with the gear I had, lower the camera, and simply enjoy what I was seeing.

 On the Surface

I greatly enjoyed the drives we took around the island. The northern end is very scenic; it it was good to get out of the resort and look around. I think I could easily spend a day just driving around and taking pictures.

The Trip

On the flight down, we flew just to the east of the Florida coast, and was able to recognize and take a picture of Launch Complex 39

Launch Complex 39

Launch Complex 39. The two pads are near the coast, and you can see the roads leading back to the Vehicle Assembly Building

 

I picked up a neck wallet before the trip. It worked out great–I didn’t have to worry about documents falling out of my pockets when I took something out of them.

One thing I’d do differently is mark my bags better. The big LL Bean bag with my gear was pretty recognizable, but the small suitcase with my clothes was hard to spot. In Atlanta, I saw one set of luggage with dog paws painted all over it. That  was a little over the top, but the basic idea was good.

Paths Not Taken

One of the problems with this trip is that there is so much to do and not enough time to do it in. Things I’d like to have done but didn’t find the time for were a dawn dive, a walk through Kralendijk, Lac Bay, Karpata, a look at the Eastern shore, and more non-resort shore diving. One of these years I’d like to be able to afford to come for two weeks and do more.

 

 

 

Back Home Again

Well, I’m back home again. Barely. My clothes are still in transit. Yesterday was not the airlines’ finest hour.

Daria and Harry’s flight to Miami was cancelled; they had to wait several extra hours to get a flight to Curaçao, and fly back to the UK from there. Our flight from Bonaire to Atlanta was delayed an hour. This turned out to be nearly disastrous.

Customs is Broken

When we got to Atlanta, we had to uncheck all our checked baggage–and remember, we had a plane full of divers, not just us, but several other groups as well, and all with lots of extra stuff, and go through Customs. It was insanity, and we had an hour less time than planned. My bags took forever to come out.

Then we had to go downstairs to go through Customs, and get our forms stamped. And because we came out of the secure area to pick up the backs, we had to be re-screened again.  I just don’t get it. Customs didn’t need to see our bags; they just stamped the forms. And if they needed to see them, couldn’t they have an agent look at them as they were being transferred from plane to plane, instead of making us go through an insecure area? Couldn’t they have had the flight attendants collect the forms in flight, and pull out anyone they needed to see, and send everyone else through a direct connection?

Once we cleared customs, we had to go running back to recheck the bags, and clear security again. Security was a seething mass of frantic people trying to make their flights. They were not willing to accommodate the fact that we had a connecting flight; probably because there were so many people. There was a long long winding line to get through it; Paul was convinced we wouldn’t make it. He made a point of sticking by me though, and I thank him for that.

I felt like I was doing a bit of a strip tease in line– in order to get through as fast as possible, I was pulling off my sweater, taking off my watch, pulling out my wallet, before we got to the scanners. I was traveling with my laptop and cables, so I had to pull all that stuff out. To make things more complicated, after the xray machine, there were three of us with MacBook Pros right in a row, and some idiot decided to put them all in the same bin. Fortunately, mine has a scratched top, so I was able to pick it out. I then shoveled everything back into my carryon, and still in my stocking feet, and with my pants starting to fall, because there was no time to put my belt back on, ran toward the gate. Run, run, run, take the tram, run some more.

We made it, with literally no time to spare. They were closing the plane door as we got there. I was ahead of Paul, and I wasn’t sure at first that he’d make it. Once I was in sight of the gate, I slowed down a little so they could see me, and then see Paul, and hopefully let him on. They did, and then they slammed the door closed.

And then we waited.

While they were not willing to wait for us, they were willing to wait for luggage. Then there were more difficulties with luggage–things were out of balance and had to be adjusted. In the meantime, we found out there were several people (not in our group) who missed the flight.

Delta loses the luggage

Still, finally, we were in the air, and soon we were back in snowy Boston, where we all trudged to the baggage pickup. My dive gear appeared; then there was an announcement that all the stuff was off the plane, and if you were missing something, to file a claim. Obviously, they knew they’d screwed up. Henri was missing a bag, Paul was missing two bags, and each of the couples was missing at least one bag. At least, I have all my expensive stuff in hand, and I’m only missing my laundry. Still, it was not a great ending to an otherwise great trip.

Update 1/22 5:19 PM:

The second bag was just delivered.

Last Dives

Today was the last day of diving for this trip. You have to be done 24 hours before you fly.

This morning, Paul prevailed upon the boat crew to try Rappel, and unlike yesterday, no one swooped in and scooped it on us. We ended up doing both dives of the boat trip on that one site; the first heading north, the second heading south. During the first dive, we saw a green moray eel and a turtle; during the second, a squid. It’s a beautiful site, with lots of texture to it; the southern end has a lot of old broken coral while the northern side is more pristine. The mooring is right next to the shoreline; it’s a sheer cliff (hence the name) with an undercut; there’s lots of neat things to see under the overhang.

Moray Eel

On the way back, the boat captain suddenly made an S-turn; I was wondering why when suddenly I heard someone shouting “Dolphins!” There was a pod of dolphins gamboling around us. The pulled up along side us then fell behind; we stopped and they dropped under the water; then we turned around and they started up again. I tried getting a picture, but they weren’t close enough, and the camera has too much shutter lag.

We got back to the dock, had lunch, and soon it was time for our last dive of the trip. Alec, Natalyia and I headed north from the dock. The camera battery was exhausted, and soon the lens retracted and refused to come out and play again. We saw tarpon on this dive, plus a third bait ball of very small fish spinning around underneath one of the dive boats, plus a school of jacks spinning around underneath them. It was a good end to the diving.

For the end of the day, Paul took us on a tour of the northern end of the island. I switched batteries, and off we went. We went up to the nature preserve, through Rincon, and ended up at an overlook looking over the southern end of the island.

We went out for dinner, and now all that remains is to pack up, settle up, and endure the trip home.

Update: More pictures here.

 

Boat Dives and Pink Beach

While it looked like it had rained overnight, today was warm and dry and sunny. We had our second set of boat dives this morning, and in the afternoon, Henri, Alec, Natalyia and I headed to Pink Beach.

Boat Dives

Paul had been pushing for a very nice dive site called Rappel this morning, so we headed north.

In order to protect the reef from anchor damage, there are a number of boat moorings all around the island. The dive boat ties up to the mooring, and doesn’t  have to drop an anchor on the coral.

We were literally about 100 yards away from the mooring, when a small dive boat from another resort zipped in and scooped it. Paul was utterly beside himself. There was an upside, though— as we headed for the alternate site, we saw a bunch of flying fish zipping along beside us. They pop up and glide about a foot above the surface for about two or three seconds. First there were a couple, then a few more, then suddenly a whole school came up.

We arrived at our dive site, Cali’s Reef, and went in. Almost immediately, I noticed a turtle deep underneath us. Originally, I decided it was too deep, but eventually I went down and got a picture of it.

Turtle at Cali's Reef

Turtle at Cali's Reef

Overall, though, probably because I was dead tired, I felt out of sorts and didn’t see much that got my photographic sense going. I also managed to burn through my air pretty quickly. It felt strange to be the first one back on the boat.

That feeling continued through the second dive too. There wasn’t much big stuff to shoot, so I tried focusing on the small fish. The problem with that is that they move really fast. I did get a really good picture of a fairy basslet, though.

Fairy Basslet

Fairy Basslet

In addition, I was having problems with the strobe not firing. I tried plugging and unplugging the sync cable, and finally realized a dial was mis-set… right before it was time to come out of the water.

Pink Beach

Two years ago, I dove Pink Beach with Ralph Fuller as my last dive of the trip. I was determined to do it again this year. This year, I did it with Henri and Alec and Natalyia. It was almost as good as I remembered (no dolphins or rays this time). The nice thing about Pink Beach is that the sponges and coral are in better health than other sites, so there’s more texture and more variety in the sea floor.

Pink Beach has a very wide sandy area before you start to reach the reef, so we snorkeled out, then dropped down once we started seeing coral. We ranged along the edge of the reef headed south, then turned around. When I thought we’d gone far enough, I popped up long enough to get our position. We were nearly in position, and I took a bearing to get back.

After we were all back and situated, we decided we didn’t want to do another dive right then. Instead, I drove down to the south to take a quick look at the slave huts and saw some kite surfers flying across the water near the southern end of the island.

The No-Camera Dive

Henri wanted to do another dive back at the resort. She likes the variety of sea life there, and, I believe, feels most comfortable getting in and out there. We both decided we wanted to do a dive and just enjoy it as a dive, rather than try to take pictures. It was getting closer to dark, so we both brought lights. Since I wasn’t carrying a camera, I did a giant stride off the dark.

It was a really good dive. We went to the south, and since there was a current running, it was a drift dive for parts of the way out. Because of this we turned around relatively early. As we were coming back in, I felt, rather than saw, something go flying past me. It startled the heck out of me. I then saw it turn on dime, then go flying into a school of small fish.

Update: More pictures here.

Four Dive Day

For me, today was a relatively unscheduled day. With no boat dives or visit to Dee, I was able to do the morning shore dives, and then do a couple of dives on the house reef. Unlike yesterday, the weather today was sunny and warm, with no rain.

Hilma Hooker

The first dive this morning was to the Hilma Hooker, a freighter that sank right off shore to the south of Kralendijk (the capital city). The story is that it showed up deserted one morning off the coast, and when it was boarded, the crew was gone, and the holds were full of marijuana, and then one night, it mysteriously sank right at a handy spot off one of the beaches, where it’s relatively accessible to divers swimming out from the beach. The ship is lying on its starboard side, right at the bottom of the reef drop off, There are mooring lines at the bow and the stern.

Paul and Alec and Henri and I surface swam out to the bow mooring, went over our dive plan, then descended.

It’s about 85 feet to the port side of the ship, and about 100 feet down to the bottom. We went to the edge of the port side at the bow, then traversed to the stern. It’s an awesome dive, since the ship is mostly intact.  We traveled along what is now the side of the wreck, and was originally the deck and wheelhouse, hanging over us. Cargo boom of the Hilma Hooker

You can see the freight booms, the wheelhouse, and at the far end,  the stern railings and propeller. Once we got to the stern, we turned around, and ran along the bottom of the ship.

There were a bunch of sergeant majors there, and I was glad I’d done Dee yesterday, since I was able to recognize the egg masses they were protecting. Once we returned to the bow, we ascended the slope the ship sank against, and returned to shore.

Salt Pier

After the Hilma Hooker, we headed south to Salt Pier. This is a big salt transfer pier from the salt pans on the island. We found out after returning to the resort that it was illegal to dive there, and we could have had our gear confiscated. Fortunately or unfortunately, we didn’t find out until afterwards, because it was an awesome dive. Lots of sponges, lots of fishes, including French Angelfish, Rock Beauties,  and Queen Angelfish feeding on the sponges, and a bunch of tarpon, probably looking to feed on the smaller fish. I spent a lot of time on the angelfish, and boy, are they hard to get– they move fast. The sun beams shining through the pillars of the pier was very pretty.

Rock Beauty

Rock Beauty

We then headed back to the resort, where I reduced the amount of lead I was carrying, had some lunch, checked the news, and then did a pair of dives on the house reef. We had two really good dives. On the first dive, we headed north, and saw an octopus out in the open,

Octopus on the Buddy Dive house reef

Octopus on the Buddy Dive house reef

and a turtle. The dive was so good, we decided to cram in a second dive to the south before dinner. On the second dive, I got some decent pictures of a small yellow fish I’d been trying to get, and we saw another turtle.

I think the two pounds less I was carrying made a difference– it was a little easier to hover, and I could possibly take off more, but I’m leaving in two days.

For dinner, most of us headed out to a small restaurant called Cactus Blue, where Paul knows the owner. The food was good, but everyone was pretty tired, so it was just as well that we finished up pretty early.

Update: More pictures here.

Weber’s Joy and Dee

Today started off clear and dry. Henri was scheduled to do a photography class this morning, so I did the shore dive with Nick and the Hinzes. In the afternoon, Henri and I did Dee Scarr’s Touch the Sea program with the Nolan’s.

Weber’s Joy

Weber’s Joy, AKA Witch’s Hut is along side the road leading north to Oil Slick and Old Blue. There’s an abandoned shack, with a turn in along the road, and steps leading down to the water.  The water’s edge is lined with dead coral cobbles; once in the water, there’s a sandy bottom until you reach the wall. Since Henri was doing her class, I tagged along with Jack and Jane Hinz.

We crossed the sandy area, and descended  the wall to about 80 feet, and swam alongside the wall to the south; gradually getting shallower as we went along. It was a rather quiet section of the reef,  I didn’t take too many pictures, and it looks like Jack wasn’t shooting much video.

We continued to get shallower once we turned around,  and found some more things of interest as we got shallower. After John Wall’s presentation the other night, I started looking more carefully, and found a Flamingo tongue snail on one of them.

Watchamacallit

Watchamacallit on the soft coral... also known as a Flamingo Tongue. It's part of the mollusk family.

Intermission

The timing of the dives was a little inconvenient. I was scheduled to meet Dee at the drive in at the drive in at 2:00; we came out of the water at quarter of eleven. Allowing for an hour’s surface interval, another hour of dive time, plus cleanup, plus drive time back left me very little time to eat, replace my tanks and be ready for Dee. I decided it was cutting it too close and decided to head back, despite the fact the group was going to Karpata, which I’ve been wanting to do. In hindsight, they got back at 1:30; I might have been able to do it, but it would have meant a lot of rushing around, which I hate to do. I hate the time pressure, and it makes mistakes more likely.

Instead, I went back to the resort, had lunch at the restaurant (since I had the time), bumped into Paul, who was taking the morning off, and had a nice chat and relaxed. I then went back to the room, got some chores done and got my gear ready.

Touching The Sea

We spent the afternoon with Dee Scarr, a naturalist friend of Paul’s who is on a first name basis with many of the denizens of the reef, and runs a program called Touch The Sea.

Dee begins by giving a short description of what we’re likely to see underwater. Then everyone gears up, and heads into the water. First we headed for some concrete mooring blocks, where she showed us how the various coral colonies on the blocks were either growing together (in the case of the same species) or killing each other (in the case of different species). Then she showed us a male fish protecting its egg mass. Along the way, a couple of French Angelfish came along, and she fed them. Later, she had Henri feed them, and they immediately took a liking to her. They kept coming back for more.

Henri feeding French Angelfish

Henri feeding French Angelfish

Other things Dee showed us:

  • A razor fish, which dive into the sand.
  • Sponges siphoning water, which she demonstrated by syringing vegetable dive onto them, and watching it be absorbed, then ejected out the top.
  • A pair of lionfish, which Dee tried to dispatch.
  • Cleaner shrimp in some anemones
  • Three (!) squid, which came close enough to look us over, but not close enough for a good shot
  • A moray eel in a rock, which I couldn’t seem to light with my strobe
  • A snake eel. When Dee tried to feed it, the French Angelfish which had been following us swooped in.
  • A scorpion fish
  • A very small eel buried in the sand., which she fed. I got one shot, but the flash didn’t fire. When Dee tried to get it to come back up, the French Angelfish swooped in.
  • A couple of baby French Angelfish, only half an inch or so long.
  • A very small flounder.

Overall, we saw a lot, but I was frustrated with my own performance today. I picked up 18 pounds of weights Saturday, and it was OK then, but the wetsuit has gotten waterlogged, and I’m staying down more easily, so I felt very overweighted. Also, the strobe kept failing, or the camera would time out and shut itself down, and not be ready when I wanted it. Still, I got a few good shots that look like they’ll come up quite nicely.

Night Dive

The last dive of the day was a dusk/night dive with the Hinzes. Jack was using a special black light that he was shining on the corals to make them fluoresce; Jane and I mostly kept our lights off for the better part of the dive. I was using my main light and the modeling light on the strobe. Along the way out, I found a nest of three lionfish. On the way back, the tarpon arrived, and started circling us. Near the end, we ran into a cloud of small minnow like fish, swarming the area around the dock. When we came out, Paul had his spaghetti supper.

Lionfish Den

Lionfish Den

Update: More pictures here.

Monday

When I went down to breakfast this morning, it was cloudy and overcast, and it was obvious it had rained overnight. When I looked out over the ocean, there was a cruise liner standing in to Kralendijk, all its lights glittering in the gloom.

Some of the group did a dawn dive this morning; I decided to wait until later this week since I had to pick up some stuff at the dive shop, and Paul was running a shore dive this morning.

Oil Slick Leap

The first dive this morning was at a location a couple of miles north of the resort called Oil Slick Leap; I have no idea where the “Oil Slick” came from, but it’s definitely a leap. It’s a low cliff of fossilized rock about five feet or so above the water. There’s also a platform, and ladder down to the water; the ladder is the only way out. Most of our group did a giant stride off the cliff; since I had the camera, I climbed down the ladder.

There’s a mooring a short way out; we swam down to it and went down. The mooring is at the edge of the reef, and we spent our time here moving along the wall.

Yellow Fish

Moray Eel

Old Blue

The second dive of the morning was at a beach that used to be called Old Blue, and is now referred to as Tolu, to the north of Oil Slick Leap. It too has a cliff, but it’s only about three feet high, and there’s a notch in it that divers can walk down. At the base of the cliff is a narrow sandy beach. The sand extends out a short way, and then there’s a wall down to the deeper water.

As soon as we got to the wall, we found something special — another bait ball, similar to the one from yesterday, only smaller, and made up of small blue fish, rather than silver fish. We spent quite a bit of time with this bait ball; it was possible to herd it a little. After a little while, they moved away, and I decided not to chase them, and started looking at the other fish. Suddenly the bait ball was back around me again.

Bait ball of blue fish at Old Blue

There was a lot to see at this site; Henri found an eel out and about, and I saw a lionfish nearby. Just as we were turning around, I saw a damselfish chase a parrotfish out of its algae farm; I actually laughed out loud underwater.

Tour

It’s been sprinkling off and on all morning, and the heavens opened up right as we were leaving Old Blue. Paul took us on a scenic tour of the hills at the northern end of the island—cactus lined roads, goats grazing along the sides of the roads, and small shanties. here and there. A very stark contrast with the main town of Kralendijk.

Third Dive

Once we got back to Buddy’s, I had lunch and then spent some time on this post. By 3:30, Henri and I were both ready to get back in the water, so we did a dive off the dock. Buddy’s has a very nice house reef. The southbound longshore current that we’d been experiencing the last couple of dives had abated, so she suggested that we go to the left, ie, to the south. (the resort is on the western shore). It was a very nice dive. The fish were out in droves, and it seemed to be mealtime. I saw lots of black barred sergeant fish (I think that’s the name) lots of jacks, and a moray eel. During the dive, I experimented a bit trying to balance the strobe with ambient light, with mixed results.

Sponge and fish

I realized during this dive that I’m definitely overweighted. I hit the reef a couple of times today. I think while Henri’s doing a class tomorrow, I may take a couple of pounds of lead off and work on my buoyancy.

Once I finish this post, I’ll be heading over to the place next door to see a slideshow by Dee Scarr. I think we’re scheduled to do our dives with her tomorrow.

Random Observations

  • It hasn’t been raining all day here, but we’ve seen rain each day, and when it comes down, boy does it come down.
  • I’m starting to get the hang of a standard shift, but I’m still lurching around a bit.
  • There are tons of geckos around here.
  • I like the breakfast buffet here.
  • Internet access is very spotty here. I’m in a first floor apartment, and it’s generally unavailable. Nick and Paul are in a second floor apartment and have access. It’s generally better out by the pool.

Update: More pictures here

Bait Ball

A very full day today. We started with a dive off the dock here at Buddy Dive, went into town, did two boat dives, saw a slide show by the guy running the photo center, and then went out to dinner.

I used the first dive to test out the new camera housing. With the housing loaded only with tissue paper, I took it out on a dive to make sure there were no leaks. It passed the test, and I was ready to start shooting.

After the dive, Henri and I picked up our rental car and then Paul led us into town to pick up groceries– it’s much cheaper and faster to have lunch in your rooms than it is to get lunch in the restaurant. It was only the second time I’ve driven a standard shift car, and it showed, but everyone survived and I’ll get better.

Paul promised us something special for the boat dive today, and delivered. He took us to see a “bait ball”– a swirling, writhing ball of fish, all frantically swimming in circles, kept intact by hovering predators. I’ve never seen anything like it, and it was totally awesome. We swam through the ball, and then they swept past us, then switched directions and bowled through us. In the middle of it, it was like being in a sandstorm of fish.

Paul Adler in front of the bait ball

Paul Adler in front of the bait ball

The second dive wasn’t as dramatic, but was still good. The dive spot is named “Just a Nice Dive” just off Klein Bonaire and it was nice. Nice coral formations, nice schooling fish, nice eel, and the guide pointed out a not-so-nice looking scorpion fish to me.

So far, I’m pleased with the way the new camera and strobe are working. The camera still has some shutter lag, but not nearly as much as the S70. The strobe generally covers the picture area well, and I’ve gotten a general idea of the power settings to use. I have lost a few shots to mis-fires, but I was using some batteries that weren’t entirely fresh. The bigger issue is learning to be patient, get close, and wait for the fish to settle back down.

At the end of the day, we went over to the restaurant at the resort down the street. It was fun watching Nick and Paul play off each other.

Update: More pictures here.

Greetings From Bonaire

Greetings from Buddy Dive in Bonaire. I’m here for a week of diving as part of a dive trip through East Coast Divers. This will be my fourth time here, and the group is a mix of familiar and new faces.

I don’t know why, but dealing with airports really stresses me out. I worry about filling out forms wrong, going in the wrong direction, holding up the line in security with all the crap you need to take pictures underwater, and losing my papers or passport (I have a talent for making things disappear). In addition, whether it was caused by this worry, or was simply coincidental, I’ve been dealing with acid reflux this week, which lead to chest pains, which led to more worry, which caused things to tighten up even more. leading to more chest pains… I was not pleasant to be around this week, I’m sure. I finally reached the point mid-week when I decided that I had to get it checked out, even though I was pretty sure it was mostly in my head. It was; everything checked out OK, and the antacids are finally doing their job.

Unfortunately, while I was cleared to fly, my dive buddy Ralph is dealing with real medical problems and had to drop out of the trip. I dove with Ralph here two years ago, and off and on in New England, and was looking forward to diving with him again. I’m hoping he’s feeling better soon.

All that worry turned out to be over nothing; unlike two years ago when we had to deal with a cancellation, rebooking, and delay of the Boston to Atlanta leg of the trip, this trip was completely smooth sailing. I got to the airport early enough to go through security without hurrying too much, the flight left on time, arrived early, and getting through the Atlanta airport was pretty painless. This morning’s flight was packed, but uneventful; there are several other groups besides ours here this week.

It was a bit of a zoo at the baggage pickup and again at check in with all the groups trying to check in at once. I’m afraid I snapped at Paul, who was trying to get the dive paperwork done; I’d just finished dealing with baggage and needed a little time to get my act back together.

Finally, round about four, I was able to get to my room, unpack and get my stuff together. Because we’d been here two years ago, my next door neighbor Henri and I were able to skip the orientation, and had time to get a dive in. We went in a little after 5:30, which is a great time to do a dive. The sun is still up, but getting low. You can still see well underwater, but the light level is just low enough so that if you bring a dive light, it brings out the color in things.

The dock at Buddy Dive

The dock at Buddy Dive

It was a great dive. There were a lot of fish out, and they were schooling up and down the reef. To our left, we saw a couple of large tarpon patrolling the deeper water. What we weren’t really aware of, at first, was the stiff longshore current we were swimming against. There’s a wrecked boat a little way to the north of the boat; it’s typically the turn around point of a dive. It took forever to get there, but when we turned around, we practically flew back. Henri saw a very large fish under the boat, but I missed it.

When we got back, Paul had gotten barbecue take out from a restaurant in town, so we all went over to his place for supper.

Tomorrow’s going to be a busy day. In the morning, I want to do a dry run with the new housing, to make sure it’s OK. In the afternoon, Paul says he has a special dive he’s working on for our boat dive.

SOPA

I’m leaving in an hour for Bonaire, and am a jumpy as a cat in a room full of rocking chairs. But before I leave, I wanted to  write to my two senators about the pending Stop Online Piracy Act/ Protect IP Act. These bills would require sites that allegedly host pirated material to be shut down– not to remove the material, but to remove the entire site. My hosting company has weighed in and so have the creators of WordPress. This is what I sent to Senators Kerry and Brown:

Dear Senator,

I have never written to an elected official before, but I feel strongly enough about the Stop Online Privacy Act (SOPA) and the Protect IP Act (PIPA) that I feel I must write to ask you to PLEASE not vote for them.

I have been a web developer for over 10 years, and recently started my own blog (tedohara.net). These acts propose tinkering with the DNS system in the name of blocking theft of intellectual property. We already have tools to deal with IP theft, such as the DMCA. Currently, if an IP owner feels they have a grievance, they can file a request to have the offending resource removed from a site. SOPA would shutter the entire site, without allowing the site owner any recourse or hearing.

Furthermore, to my mind, there’s a LOT of potential for mischief here, especially for sites that allow for user provided content. (Mine does not). Say for example, there was a political site that had message boards, and allowed users to upload content. Someone in opposition to that site could upload some protected content (possibly using a proxy), then have the site shut down for being in violation. In addition, big companies have deeper pockets and can afford to drag on legal proceedings. Small companies and individuals cannot.

As Apple has shown, the way to deal with online piracy is to compete with it. They’ve shown that if you can make it easy to download content legally and at a fair price, most people would rather do that. While I do agree that creators do have the right to protect their rights to their creations, these bills are heavy handed and go far beyond what is necessary.

America is not like this. America is about freedom of expression, not censorship. America is about due process of law, not about taking heavy handed action to shut entities without recourse.

I’m asking you to please stand for freedom.

Thank you,