Joanna Arrives – Sept. 1, 2012

This morning, I set my alarm for six o’clock, as I normally do during the week, as Jay wanted to pick me up at eight o’clock. My intention had been to drop off the sensor at the Yellow Sub at 7:30, but then it donned on me that they don’t open until eight. I called Jay and told him I would meet him at Yellow Sub at eight instead, which made our schedule a bit tighter. Jay had an appointment at 1:30, so we were only able to do two dives in the morning.

(Photos here)

We debated where to dive, and settled on Lighthouse Point. Our first choice had been Chez Hines, but we were unable to find the dive marker, as the Belnam area has been completely built up along the waterfront. If I’m not mistaken, this dive site’s name references Jerome Hines who had a home on the seashore, and frequently visited Bonaire while my parents served here. He was a famous bass singer with the New York Metropolitan Opera. I vividly recall the black-tie events when he and his wife Lucia performed an opera for the entire island free of charge. I also recall one occasion where I was on the beach, and he drove by with the windows down on his van, and I heard him practising his opera at the top of his lungs. He was a very memorable character, and now has had his name immortalized by the Chez Hines dive site. This particular site seems to only be available by boat.

Dive #1: Lighthouse Point

The entry at Lighthouse Point was not too difficult, and we saw a lot of soft corals all the way down to 25 metres. This dive, Jay did not bring his lion-fish hunting gear with him,  so Jay has decided to just go back to taking pictures. The result was he used less air than me on this trip.  We spotted a horse-eye Jack, and the photo turned out well.

It was a very pleasant dive, and we both took quite a few photos. I particularly liked the Christmas Tree Worms that disappear if you get too close. They are actually the gills of a worm that has drilled a tunnel into the rock beneath.

After our first dive, we needed to be out of the water for at least one hour, so we decided to visit the piles of salt next to where we would be diving next.

We were able to drive right up to the huge piles of salt, and I got some good pictures of the large, clear crystals of salt. It looks to be very clean solar salt. They seem to have enough piled up for probably a couple of freighters. There was also a front-end loader dragging a rake along a pan of salt. We speculated that he was breaking up the hardened salt in preparation for harvesting it.

The salt pan right next to it was a dark pink colour, which apparently has to do with the algae that grows in this very warm and extremely salty water.

Dive #2 – Salt Pier

I would say that our dives under the piers of the salt company are some of the best dives I have ever done. For whatever reason, the marine life seems to be very friendly, in particular the queen angel fish. I was able to get some good stills, without them swimming away like they do in other locations. We were also able to spot two turtles swimming along, as well as a couple of tarpons. There were some large groupers and one barracuda. I think a moray eel was also following us for a bit of the dive, which, if I was right, would be most unusual.

One of the distinctive features of the Salt Pier dive was the amount of manmade debris on the bottom. It seems to be a dumping ground for all kinds of metal bars and rubber bumpers and tires which must have been jettisoned off the pier over time. The site is also just covered in discarded fishing line. I decided to put my scissors to good use. Between Jay and myself, we were able to remove quite a bit of fishing line, which we deposited in the fishing-line disposal bin after the dive. It didn’t take me long, though, to realize that I would have to dive the site a hundred times to be able to clean up the entire area!

Another feature of this dive is the thick schools of bait fish that seem to collect in the shadow of the pier. You would see about a hundred fish all within a few feet. Apparently shadows attract fish.

We stayed under water for almost an hour, and again, we both took a lot of photos. We were on the road again just after twelve, which was exactly our intention, with Jay’s schedule.

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On the way home, I called Dave Pedersen and told him I probably wouldn’t be ready to dive until 1:30 as I still had to pick up another tank. Jay offered me his tank, which sped things up, so I was actually able to meet Dave early. We walked through the Plaza Resort and down to the dock where his derelict yacht was moored. It appears this yacht has been abandoned for several years, and will need extensive repairs. My mission was to determine if the hull was still sound. I was somewhat hesitant to dive into the murky seaweed-filled harbour, but jumped in anyway. I swam around the hull, shooting videos twice, and then went back and shot some stills of the rudder, the propeller, and the keel. I also checked the depth under the keel, and the bottom was at 2.7 metres.

This entire harbour had been blasted out with dynamite several years ago. The difficulty is that there is no natural flow of water in and out, and the water seems to be rather stagnant. I found the hull to resemble a reef, with extensive barnacle growth, and the beginnings of a bit of sponge and other corals. But underneath, the hull seemed to be intact, with no delamination or anything on the rudder. Some of the exhaust ports did seem to be heavily overgrown.

I surfaced, and gave my camera to Dave to check the photos out on his iPad. He gave me a paint scraper, and asked me to check out how easily the barnacles were to remove. And so, for the second day in a row, I went to work, cleaning under water. While I certainly had to scrape vigorously, the barnacles and other growth did seem to come off completely. After about ten minutes, I surfaced again, and Dave told me that the photos had shown him what he needed to see. I then swam to the other side of the harbour, and exited onto a small beach, and then walked across the bridge again to where the derelict boat was moored.

Dave reached the conclusion that this boat will require more repair than first expected, but he is still very much interested in making an offer. He is fortunate to have some funds left over from his previous career that will enable him at some point to purchase a sailing boat of some sort.

We went down into the cabin of the boat and looked around. The interior woodwork was in very good shape, so that was encouraging. Over all, it will probably cost three or four times the price of the boat to actually make it seaworthy again. All the rigging and the decking will have to be completely removed and replaced. After my dive, Dave determined that it will have to go into dry dock to be completely cleaned and repainted underneath.

Just then, Mari and the three children showed up, and we were able to have a pleasant picnic lunch on the back deck of the sailing boat. They all seemed very enthusiastic about the possibility of owning their own 38-foot yacht.

I excused myself right after, as I had to get home and shower, and be back at the airport by 3:30 to see if Joanna had caught the earlier flight. I had a great deal of difficulty finding out how the parking arrangements work out at the airport, but eventually made it. I eventually discovered that not only had she not arrived on this earlier flight, but that she would be further delayed. Originally, her flight was to arrive at 9:45 tonight, but has now been delayed to 11:50. It appears the original aircraft has broken down, and had to be replaced by a larger aircraft. Joanna will have to fly from Curaçao to Aruba, and then from Aruba over to Bonaire. I did get a voicemail from her a bit later, confirming that she would be late. So it looks like tonight will be a late night, but such are the joys of travel.

I was able to get a brief nap this afternoon, and am now watching the boys on their scooters rev and do poppy-wheelers beside me.

Earlier on tonight, a car drove by, backfiring extremely noisily. The dogs panicked, thinking it was a gun. I must admit, it was VERY loud! Next thing I knew, the dogs were clawing desperately at the back door to come in and escape what they thought was their doom. I opened the door to go out and comfort them, and they actually forced their way into the house. Having just gotten rid of their fleas, I would have none of this. I grabbed them by the collar, but had a great deal of difficulty forcing them back into the back yard. Then, just like a bunch of children, I sat and comforted them, and got them to calm down. It is difficult to pet four dogs all at once. I then gave them another rawhide chew-toy to keep their mind off of the frightening incident. I promised Joe Barker that we will connect with him on Skype over my cell phone so he can visit with his dogs over video while he is still in the States.

Tonight I went down to the waterfront to participate in what looks like a multi-cultural festival here.

I am now going to walk back to see what is happening back at the festival, and then walk the kilometer or so back to my house. I have tried lately to do more walking, as you see much more than when you are driving a Jeep.

Hopefully, my sister will arrive soon. I will be sure and post a note on Twitter to let everybody know: twitter.com/johnapollos

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