Shore Diving

We had no boat dives booked today, so today was shore diving day.

The initial plan was to go to Salt Pier in the morning, do one dive there, and another dive also at the southern end of the island, and then figure out what to do in the afternoon. Mike and I were talking about doing Karpata, despite the fact that Paul had mentioned doing it Thursday morning.

The plans went out the window when Salt Pier came into view, and there was a ship moored there. Cargill owns the pier, and they’re pretty good about giving divers access to it, but they can’t permit divers around when there’s actually a ship there; it isn’t safe.

So we went to Plan B. Plan B called for a shore dive in the neighborhood, plus a return to Salt Pier Thursday morning. Since Paul was now talking about Salt Pier for Thursday, Mike and I decided to do Karpata in the afternoon. So we chose a site called Aquarius just up the road from Salt Pier. It has a nice easy entrance, albeit with a bit of a surface swim. We did this dive with the entire group. It was a nice dive.

French Angelfish at Aquarius

French Angelfish at Aquarius

For the second dive, we split up. Ralph, Paul and the women went back to the resort, while Mike and Joe and I went down to Pink Beach. I’ve had some nice experiences at Pink Beach; it’s a little bit of a surface swim, plus it’s kind of out-of-the-way, so it’s less popular than some of the other dive sites, meaning the coral is in cleaner shape.

Basket Sponge at Pink Beach

Basket Sponge at Pink Beach

We had a nice dive, Joe did a great job of finding the boat mooring we used as a landmark, and then taking us straight in to the break in the shore where we entered.

When we got out of the water, we could see some kite surfers in the distance, so we drove to the southern end of the island to check it out. Curiosity satisfied, we headed back to the resort. Unfortunately, I took a wrong turn coming out of Kralendijk, and started heading up toward the hills and Rincon. Eventually, we found our way back and had lunch, and the final change of plan.

Paul found out that Salt Pier will still be closed tomorrow; either the ship will still be there, or they need to do some work without divers around. Secondly, the dive shop firmly discouraged us from heading north this afternoon. It’s too windy and choppy, and entrances and exits would not be easy, or safe. Since Salt Pier is off the docket for tomorrow, Karpata is back on the schedule for tomorrow morning. So Mike and I ended up doing one last dive on the house reef; we headed south, (normally people head north on the house reef) and had a leisurely hour-long dive along the wall there.

Schoolmaster Snapper on the Buddy Dive reef

Schoolmaster Snapper on the Buddy Dive reef

Neither of us was in much mood for a fourth dive today. Paul had planned pizza night for tonight, so the timing would have been tight, plus we’re both tired. I also wanted to get caught up on posting here. So I went through my pictures, downloaded my dive data, wrote one post before dinner, and here I sit, after dinner, getting caught up. Just a couple of pictures to add, then I’m off to bed.

I Shot the Moray (But I Did Not Shoot the Octopus)

Tuesday was a big boat day for us. We had a two tank boat dive for our group in the morning, and for the afternoon, several of us signed up for the afternoon boat dive.

We started with a visit to the southern side of Klein Bonaire, a small uninhabited island off the western side of Bonaire. This is a site that can only be accessed via boat. It was a pretty site. I was busy taking pictures, and noticed Ken, then Jack, peeking into a hole. I didn’t want to glom onto their discovery, and Jack looked like he was pretty busy with it, so I let it go. I shouldn’t have; there was an octopus in the hole.

I did make a discovery that’s helped me out though; at one point I got deep enough that I could use the modeling light on the strobe, and found that it wasn’t aimed quite right. Once I re-aimed it, I started getting better coverage from it, and better exposures as well. I also put the diffuser on it, and that seems to have helped as well.

Parrot Fish

Parrot Fish

I burned through my air on that dive, and was one of the first ones back on the boat that dive. Once the others got back onboard, I found that I’d not only missed an octopus, but a  sea-horse as well. I’m just not good at picking animals out of their hiding places.

For the second dive, we did Small Wall, a small vertical wall just off the Black Durgon resort. The Durgon looks like a pit, but I rather liked Small Wall. In terms of photography, it’s easier (and more productive) to be shooting along a wall.

Four Eye Butterfly Fish

Four Eye Butterfly Fish

For the afternoon dive, several of us signed up for a one tank boat dive. The captain asked for suggestions, and Ralph asked for Old Blue, also known as Tolu. This site can also be done as a shore dive, but there is a mooring there, just off the cliffs to the north of the beach. I was cruising along the downslope of the reef, when I saw people beckoning and pointing at a crevice. I moved over, and saw nothing, until either Joe or Mike grabbed me and pointed the big green moray out to me.

Green Moray Eel

Green Moray Eel

One of the issues I’ve been having with the group dives is that I tend to burn through my air faster than the others; I compensate by staying shallower so that I don’t go through my air so fast. And yet, I wanted to go deeper. There’s less interference from ambient light deeper, and, at least at the Buddy house reef, the deeper parts of the reef are more vertical. I decided I wanted to do a dive by myself; I deliberately planned it for 30 minutes rather an hour, so that I could splurge on going down to 70 – 80 feet and take pictures along the wall. I felt that the conditions were well within my capabilities, and that if I planned it carefully, it wouldn’t be a problem.

I really enjoyed it. I was able to go at my own pace, without worrying about losing the group. I got down to 75 feet, noting that at that depth, I had 30 minutes of no decompression time. I stayed at that depth for about 3 -4 minutes, then gradually started getting shallower. As I got shallower, the no-decompression time got longer, of course. I went out along the south, where we generally don’t go, and had a great time shooting. The reef is nearly vertical there, and I was able to get some good pictures without worrying about bumping into anything.

Black Bar Soldierfish

Black Bar Soldierfish

I more or less followed my plan, adding about ten minutes at the end in the shallows since I had extra air and enough no-decompression overhead. When I came up, I was treated to a marvelous sunset.

We went out to dinner last night, and as it happens, had the same waitress we’d had Joe’s Place the night before. She was telling us she was from Sint Maarten, and had lost everything from Hurricane Irma. She’d been evacuated to Bonaire, with nothing, and now was working two jobs, and had started her own bed and breakfast. And she was indomitable! A remarkable woman.