Bruce Bowker – Aug. 11, 2012

Saturday I was up bright and early again. There is no time for sleeping in when you’re on such a wonderful island as this. Adventure awaits! Besides, my body never lets me sleep in anyway.

Immediately after breakfast, I put my BC and my dive bag on my back, and walked six doors down to the Carib Inn, which is Bruce Bowker’s villa and dive shop.

Bruce was the fellow that my brother and sister and me used to dive with every time we came down to Bonaire to visit Mom and Dad at Christmas when they were still working here, and we had moved back to Canada to live with our aunt and uncle. Bruce is a very friendly gentleman, and hasn’t changed much since I knew him before.

I checked in and registered my credit card, and told him I would be going on the morning boat dive. Bruce’s operation is rather unique on Bonaire in several respects. First of all, he has the highest repeat business of any dive shop on the island. Secondly, his dive boat will only accommodate 12 people, so you are not bumping into other divers on the reef all the time. It is also a speed boat, which is better for going longer distances. Also, as I mentioned yesterday, his dive masters don’t rush people to get in and out of the water on an exact schedule. They trust us as experienced divers to know how to time out our own dives.

One of the surprises was that Bruce would not be my dive master. As Bruce is now approaching retirement age, he says that all of his time is required to manage the 10-room villa and the dive business. Besides, he wants to give his dive masters as much bottom time as possible. But I’m used to Bruce being in the boat, leading me around the reef. Maybe I can talk him into going under water at some point, just for old time’s sake.

  Photos here

I bought some more Auro-Dri to clean out the water from my ears after each dive. I also bought a T-shirt and a little plastic chart for the names of the different fish. Bruce also took a $10 deposit on a padlock, which gives me my own locker. In fact, that’s where I ended up leaving my wet suit and my BC. The best part is that he has the cheapest air fills on the island. The first fill is $13, and the subsequent fills are $6. This compares to $18 each fill at the other dive shops. The only drawback is that he does not offer Nitrox. But for me, it doesn’t really matter as Nitrox was an additional $10 to use, and so I’ve only done two Nitrox dives here. I know where I’ll be getting the remainder of my tank fills from now on.

Morning Dive at ANGEL CITY

My dive master was a guy by the name of Ralph, who is from Germany. He seems a bit like a surfer dude, with blonde hair and a very relaxed manner. He has around 5,000 dives to his credit, and said that he has stopped logging them now. The way they determine what site they’re going to is by a vote from the passengers. The two guys from Toronto who were on our boat wanted to go to ANGEL CITY which is next-door to The Hilma Hooker by the TWR transmitter site. I agreed, as the reef is a double reef there, which is rather nice. Basically you swim down the face of one reef, then up over a hill on another reef, and down the other side, if you wish.

We hit the water just before nine o’clock, and I followed the couple around, as they had said that they like to take their time. Basically, I’ve found there are two types of divers: There are the survey kind of divers that dive a bit, hover about 15 feet off of the reef and just look for big fish. And then there is my type of diver who gets within inches of the coral, and try to spot all the delicate and minute sea creatures that live within the reef. These kind of divers tend to stay in one spot and take a lot of pictures, which is just my style.

One interesting thing was that this couple said that a normal dive for them is 100 minutes. Up until now, the most I’ve had was an hour. The basic difference is that they spend the second half of their dive above 30 feet, so this doesn’t really count for bottom time. I breathed as slowly as I could, but I got down to 50 bar at about 63 minutes, and I signalled them that I had to leave. He pointed the direction back to the boat, and I swam back and exited. Sure enough, they did spend a hundred minutes, so I just swam around with my flippers, and enjoyed the salt water while we waited.

One of the interesting things we saw was an ocean trigger fish. This was a silver-looking fish with large fins top and bottom.

Another nice thing about boat diving is that you don’t have to deal with the sand, or a difficult exit, but the boat portion cost me an extra $22, so I can’t do that all the time.

When we got back to shore, I rinsed my equipment, and walked next door to the Divi Flamingo for a fish lunch. By the way, I did take a shot of Bruce and myself and put it up on my Twitter account at:

Twitter.com/johnapollos

Afternoon Dive at MONTE’S DIVI, Klein Bonaire

The afternoon trip left at 1:30, and we headed over to MONTE’S DIVI, the Klein Bonaire stop right next to ROCK PILE where I had been previously. Klein Bonaire dives are still a little bit nicer than dives from the coastline here on Bonaire.

One of the really cool things I saw was what I think were cleaner shrimp which approached my hand when I put it near them. They were sitting in amongst an anemone, and were only about ¾’s of an inch long. They were so tiny and flimsy, they looked like a swish of my hand would destroy them. I believe these are the cleaner shrimp that clean the other fish’s teeth. Although one of them didn’t actually sit on my hand, it got very close to doing so. Perhaps I’ll have to be more patient next time. I remember reading about an experienced diver for the National Geographic who actually had one of these cleaner shrimp snip off a little wart on his finger.

We saw several morays, and I got a few nice shots of some very colourful fish.

I also got a couple videos: one of a lion fish, and another one of a little box fish. I find it funny how clumsily a box fish swims with its tiny little fins and square body.

On the way back to the mainland from Klein Bonaire, I got talking to a 12-year old boy sitting beside me. He was in the “Discover Diving” program that is for kids as young as eight years old. This was his second dive, and they are limited to forty feet. He had stayed down for an hour, which is unusual for a novice. Apparently his parents don’t even scuba dive, and were busy elsewhere today. Hopefully they will join him in the underwater garden that is Bonaire.

When we got back to shore, I decided it was too nice a day to head back home immediately, so I went for a dip in their swimming pool.

I got talking to Bruce, and he told me he had been in business on Bonaire since 1980. Originally he had worked for Captain Don in his dive shop. He told me that there are some months when every single tourist is a repeat customer at his Carib Inn. I find the atmosphere even between the tourists more friendly as it is a smaller group setting. I think I will recommend that Joanna does her refresher course at Bruce’s place when she gets here.

For supper, I decided to check out the restaurant over at the Divi, as I just didn’t feel like starting my car today. They had an all-you-can-eat barbecue with ribs, chicken, fish and beef. I definitely didn’t go away hungry.

While I was sitting at the table, I watched a gentleman swimming out towards his catamaran with a little plastic storage bin floating in front of him. Apparently he was bringing something from the shore to his catamaran, and didn’t have a dinghy to make the trip. A short while later, I heard a splash, and saw him pushing the storage bin in front of him back to shore. He has a house on the island, and this was simply the easiest way to get to and from his yacht. He also owns the two-mast single-hull yacht that is to my right. It sure would be nice if I could hook up with one of these yacht owners and go for a sail.

As I sit here under the palm trees, I am again overwhelmed with how much the Lord has blessed me. I would ask, though, that my supporters pray that we will make significant headway on our website project in this coming week.

By the way, the trade winds are back.

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