A Lion Hunter – Aug. 19, 2012

Tonight I am dictating my blog while sitting in the middle of the road!

This is the coastal highway that goes from Kralendijk out to the Flamingo Airport.  In actual fact, my feet are hanging over a six-foot drop-off where the road was summarily cut off when they dynamited a new harbour into the interior of the island, probably 25 or so years ago.  It is now called Port Bonaire, with the airport across the road from it.  I am looking across the water at the Dive Friends’ Bonaire Shop, which is one of the Yellow Submarine outlets.  That is where we rinsed our gear after our dives this afternoon.

 Photos here

To my right, just past the entrance to the harbour, I see a small oil tanker docked at the jetty, immediately in front of the runway.  Bonaire now has a small oil terminal for jet fuel, which allows for direct flights from Europe and the U.S.

Behind me is the Plaza Resort Bonaire where I just had supper, a made-to-order stir-fry.  I had to wait in line half an hour in order to get my meal.  I won’t be doing that again.

The layout of this hotel reminds me of the large hotel in Cuba where I stayed last year for my vacation.  It is a series of three-storey bungalows, surrounding large pools and an outdoor disco.  I have now walked out through the other side of the hotel and followed the old road to the edge of the new canal.

The harbour entrance is fairly narrow, with only a small space where the yachts can fit in.  The mouth of the new development seems to be well done, but the back end of the harbour is filled with abandoned buildings.

Today being Sunday, I again attended the International Bible Church on Bonaire.  The service begins at 9:00 a.m., and, as usual, I got a very warm welcome from everyone there.  They are in the habit of passing a wireless microphone around in case anyone wants to give a testimony or a praise item or a prayer item.

Pastor Toto delivered a very good sermon on the verse in I Samuel 16:7 that says, “For man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”  I find these services more moving than I am used to.  I’m not sure if the Lord is doing a work on my heart or not.

After the service, Brad Swanson got up and said that they would be having open session for our first week of Sunday School.  Here Sunday School follows the morning service rather than preceding it.  This past Monday, all the school children on Bonaire returned to school from their six-week summer break, so Sunday School is starting up here as well.  After Brad’s announcement, a series of Sunday School teachers introduced their classes to the congregation.  Brandon Neal is in charge of the young people (12 and up), and will be running a series on apologetics.  There is also an adult Sunday School class, and I believe they will also have a 12-week series on apologetics.

I have found the congregation to be a very pleasant mix of Dutch people, Bonairian people, some from Suriname, and, of course, some from Trans World Radio.  The project manager for construction of the new Sunday School rooms is Walt Bentsen.  Apparently they are over halfway to the goal for the fund-raising project.

Walt’s wife, Lynne, had a diving accident about a year ago in which she got badly bent.  Apparently it was due to some new medication that she was on that caused her body to react differently to the nitrogen absorption.  Immediately after the dive, she felt a stabbing pain in the middle of her back, which turned out to be an air embolism in her spinal column.  She was confined to a wheelchair for a few months, but now seems to be fine.  Her diving is restricted to one atmosphere, or 33 feet.  I spoke with her, and she said she longs to go deeper, and will gradually start to do so.  I forgot to ask her if she was diving Nitrox, as that is a fair bit safer.  I have begun diving exclusively Nitrox, as Wannadive makes it available as a free upgrade.

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After church, I drove over to Wannadive and picked up a couple new Nitrox tanks and dropped off the two tanks from yesterday.  At $8 a fill, it gives me virtually unlimited diving here.  Competition is wonderful!

I then had lunch at the Flamingo, and gave Jay a call, who picked me up at 1:30.  We dropped by Bruce’s to pick up his spare regulator which Bruce had just repaired.  Bruce seems to be the foremost scuba-gear repairman on the island.  If there is not any significant repair made, he doesn’t even charge.  I bought another bottle of Auro-Dri for my ears while I was there.  I also found out that the refresher half-day course for PADI scuba diving that my sister may want to take is $55.  Joanna will be here in two weeks, and I can hardly wait!

We then discussed where we wanted to go, and he said there was an unnamed site just after LARRY’S LAIR and before JEANNIE’S GLORY.  This is just short of the salt pier.

Much of the coastline here out past the transmitter seems to have been eroded, with small tidal pools between the road and the higher bit of coral right at the shoreline.

 

Dive 1:  LARRY’S LAIR

There was a slight ledge at the water’s edge, and then we were off.  On this dive, I decided to take my snorkel so that I could be face-down while snorkelling out to the drop-off.  It was our intention to drop straight to 30 metres so that my lion-hunter friend, Jay, could begin hunting his prey.  Just before I submerged, I detached the snorkel, and stowed it in the pocket of my BC.  This seemed to work out very well.

Under water, Jay looks like he is quite the warrior, with his lion fish spear, his collection bag, the knife on his leg, and a couple of scissors attached to his shoulder straps.

We dropped straight to 30 metres, and began our search.  The first lion fish, he missed, as well as the second one.  I spotted some fishing line strung between two coral heads, and motioned to Jay to lend me his scissors.  I cut the line in several pieces and discarded it—-my good deed for the day.  Jay also collected a bunch of fishing line, but he wound it up and took it with him. I must try to pick up a pair of scissors of my own on Monday.

The next lion fish was successfully speared and inserted into his collection bag.  Then we saw a large one, but he missed that.  The following medium-sized one was successfully deposited in his collection bag.

On our exit to the shore, I almost stumbled when climbing over the ledge.  I’m carrying about 70 pounds of gear on my back, and it can be a bit awkward at times.  My right knee is bothering me now ever so slightly, so I probably strained it just a bit, but it’s nothing serious.

The unfortunate part is, as we neared the shore, Jay turned around and started to fiddle with his bag.  It was only then that we realized that the side zipper had become undone, and the lion fish had escaped!  No filet of lion fish tonight.

During the dive, Jay had shown me his pressure gauge, which had been fluctuating about 300 psi, which indicates a malfunction.  When we took the regulator off, he found that the filter was covered in what looked like salt, but we later decided it was aluminum oxide.  My guess is that his air tank was dirty on the inside.

Since we had an hour between dives, as usual, we decided to drive back to see Bruce to get his opinion.  Bruce briefly took the regulator apart, and agreed that it was probably an issue inside the tank.  Since this was a Nitrox tank, it will have to be oxygen cleaned before it can be used for Nitrox again, should we have to remove the valve.  Since it was due to be hydrostatically checked in four months, Jay decided that he will remove the valve to see what the situation is.  An oxygen-cleaned tank means that it has been scrubbed from all impurities, like trace amounts of carbon.  Since we breathe 50% more than the normal level of oxygen, there is a slight risk of combustion, should there be combustible materials in the tank, even if they are only trace amounts.  You cannot use a Nitrox tank interchangeably with air.

 

Dive 2:  PUNT VIERKANT

For our second dive, we had planned to go a bit further south, but I spotted the dive site called PUNT VIERKANT (meaning Four Corners).  Jay had actually never dove this site, which was surprising. Again the entrance was through some tidal pools, which I don’t recall being there before.  We drove through what looked like an abandoned construction site to get to the shore.  This is a rather sad looking, four-storey building, that was only halfway finished, and now seems to have been completely abandoned.  It reminds me of the Sorobon Hotel on the east coast that we found abandoned when we used to live here some thirty years ago.

When we entered the water, I immediately spotted a lobster.  We found a few more lobsters further down.  There was a fairly significant current coming from our left, so we did the first part of the dive into the current, facing left.

(As I’m sitting here dictating tonight, I can see another prop plane preparing for take-off.  I believe it is the same aircraft I came to the island in with Insel Air.)

Back to the dive at PUNT VIERKANT:

On the way back from our dive, we basically floated all the way to the exit point.  As we were swimming a long distance underwater to shore, I felt we were off-heading, so we surfaced.  Sure enough, we were a few hundred metres off course.  It didn’t look like it was very far, but it was actually a hard go as we had to fight the current the whole way.  I probably had to swim harder than I’ve done on any dive since I’ve been here.

Over all, the beauty of the coral and the soft corals, as well as the abundant fish life, made it one of the best reefs we have seen so far.  There is even some elkhorn coral here.  However, we only spotted a tiny lion fish that managed to get away.  My guess is that the lion fish avoid the high-current areas.  On the way back, we rinsed our gear at the Port Bonaire Dive Shop.

After a shower, I decided to walk further south to where I am sitting now to do this dictation.  As usual, it is a balmy night, with a nice breeze—-just perfect!

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