Knuku Man – Sept. 6, 2012

Today I’m recording yesterday’s blog from the back yard of the guest house at 43 J.A. Abraham Blvd. Three of the four dogs are sitting around me. The back yard faces the east side of the house, which is where the breeze comes from. Under the awning, it is quite comfortable.

 Photos here

My sister is having a nap in her bedroom, so maybe I’ve tired her out.

Around me, the yard is dug up in several spots where the dogs feel they must dig out a little bed for themselves. I’m glad I don’t own this house, as the yard is a mess now.

Thursday morning began with coffee on the porch, which is my sister’s favourite way to start the day, surrounded by birdsong.

We then had breakfast, and headed out to meet Jon Hilgers, our former gym teacher when we were in high school here. He remains one of our favourite teachers from those formative years. He is the only one that is still on the island, that I am aware of. The others have either passed away or gone back to Holland.

Nowadays, Mijneer Hilgers, as we used to call him, refers to himself as the knuku man. That is because he has moved out to the country on the east side of the island, not too far from Lagun. Knuku is the Bonairian name for farm, although it is drastically different from what we consider a farm.

We met him on the road to Nikiboko at the More for Less Supermarket. We then followed him off the end of the paved road and into the mundi, or what is known as the outback here. He stopped to tell us to make sure we trailed exactly in his path, as it was extremely rough going. We followed the blue rocks on the right side at the various intersections, which indicated the way to the golf course, which is apparently next door to his property. When we finally arrived at his 3-1/2 acre farm, we were met by his dog and black cat.

The kitchen sink was outside by the right fence in order to discourage pests from entering the house.

On the first corner of his square, red-coloured, two-storey home was a huge water storage tank to collect rain water from the eave troughs.

Near the other corner of the house were two very large water containers that were hooked by pipeline to the outside of his yard where the WEB Utility can come and fill them up with fresh water, without having to enter the yard. Behind the house was more water storage, altogether probably thousands of litres of water.

In the far corner of the yard was his fire pit, and to the left of that was the old shipping container that he actually managed to live in for four years while he was rebuilding the house. In between that and the house was a more modern garden shed, which he now regrets buying, as it probably won’t last that long. Inside that shed is his son’s inflatable boat which he is reluctantly storing for him, as his son lives in an apartment on Bonaire.

When we entered the home, it was a bit like entering the basement of the home, as Jon lives most of the time on the second floor. There was a kitchen and bathroom, as well as lots of books and photos.

The back bedroom is somewhat like a sealed bunker, with air conditioning in it from his solar air conditioner. While the air conditioner works about two hours at the beginning of the evening, it is not able to last throughout the night, so Jon sleeps in a hammock on the second floor.

The most remarkable thing was the three electrical panels on the wall that came from the rooftop solar panels. He has eleven panels and some batteries which supply the power for his house. Jon lives completely off the grid, except for the occasional fresh-water delivery. The panels included two inverters and a control panel.

The windows in the lower level of the house are of the Italian design, which let the wind in but not the rain.

Then we went up through a near vertical staircase and through a hatch onto his second floor. We entered his music studio, where he records albums all by himself. The former band he was in has broken up, and he now has a very nice setup to record all the instruments and vocals himself. Later on, we were able to listen to some of his music. It is jazz-style music, sung all in English, as apparently that is easier to write for than the Dutch language.

Next, we entered onto his rooftop veranda, which is an “L” shape around the entire perimeter of the house. There are special U-V rated bug screens surrounding the entire patio, which, with the breeze coming across up on the second floor, makes it very comfortable.

He has a living room, a dining room, and the far corner is where he has strung his hammock for sleeping.

Just beyond that is the roof where he showed us the tubes for the solar air conditioner. We walked out onto the roof to have a closer look. There were fifteen gas-filled tubes. The gas would expand and power the air conditioner in the bedroom below. I wasn’t exactly sure how the science worked. There were about eight batteries underneath this array, but I’m not sure if they were connected to it or to the solar panels on the roof.

I find this type of self-sufficient living very intriguing!

The view from his veranda is very nice, with a moveable panel at the far corner. I almost had a mishap when that panel got knocked over with the wind, but no damage was done.

We sat around the table, discussing his various building projects around the property, and how he managed to live at virtually no cost. Taxes are very cheap, as his property is the furthest away from Kralendijk.

Then I asked him what the potted plants were along the wall, and he said they were the Moringa tree, otherwise known as the miracle tree. It is a tree formerly only known in Africa and northwestern India, whose leaves are edible, and contain a high level of protein. The seeds can be used to purify water. Eating the leaves has very positive medicinal benefits. He is very excited about these trees, and plans to start a plantation of them, and eventually sell the by-products. I think he may do very well, as it is a wonderful tree to grow. He was able to locate these trees on a few private properties on the island, and is not sure when they were imported.

Towards noon, Jon brought out some split-pea soup with bits of asparagus and other vegetables in it. Jon is a vegan. I must say, the soup was delicious!

After lunch, Jon launched into his favourite topic, which is the Raja Yoga religion that he now is a member of. It was a very interesting discussion, with Jon explaining the 84 different reincarnations, and a bit about our essence being an eternal soul that would move from one body to the next.

On the other hand, I believe the Bible’s position that we only get to live our life once, and there most certainly is an eternal soul that lives on after the death of the body.

My sister holds the position that there is no such thing as a soul, and that death means the end of our consciousness.

We batted it back and forth until one o’clock, when we had to leave in order to meet Dick for the afternoon dive. All in all, it was an interesting visit, and we were both very pleased to get reacquainted with Mijneer Hilgers.

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After lunch, Dick picked me up, along with his son, Rick. Joanna had decided she wanted to go cruising on her moped, and explore our former neighbourhoods, so there was just the three of us.

Our first stop was Bruce’s to pick up some air, but Dick did not have his credit card on him, so we turned around and went to Wannadive, where I picked up some air for them. I was able to introduce them to the staff at Wannadive, and they will register with them shortly, as Wannadive has the best prices on the island for refills.

Dive:  Windsock

We then drove back past my house to Windsock Dive Site, which is right off the end of the airport runway. As we were suiting up, I noticed that the borrowed gear that Dick had was a rather ancient looking BC, and the typical rental analog depth gauge and pressure gauge. I mentioned to him that if he wanted to keep diving, a dive computer would be a very good investment.

We walked down to the beach, and had an easy entry. After rinsing out our masks, we submerged, and started heading slowly towards the drop-off.

Dick has only had five dives, and at this point is limited to 18 metres maximum. We levelled off around 15 metres, but I noticed that Dick was swimming vertically, as opposed to the typical horizontal position. We later discovered that his tank had been mounted too low on his back, and the weights as well may need to be repositioned to make him more level. He was also swimming far out from the reef, where you can’t see the creatures in detail.

Rick and I spotted a tarpon swimming by, but I’m not sure Dick saw it. We took a few pictures of each of us, but I later discovered that there was condensation inside of my camera. I have now, hopefully, dried that out with the fan in my air conditioned bedroom.

Rather soon, Dick indicated that he was at half a tank. As happens with all new divers, they breathe much more rapidly, and work too hard to maintain their buoyancy, and so use up the air at twice the rate of an experienced diver. Both Rick and me ended the dive with almost half a tank left over.

After the turn-around, we noticed a spotted eagle ray up in the shallows, so Rick grabbed the camera and pursued it for a few photos.

No sooner had he returned, when we noticed an extremely dense school of fish at about 20 feet deep, numbering in the thousands. As I approached them, it was like approaching a living wall of fish. After I had turned back to the rest of the group, I noticed a barracuda hovering nearby. Apparently this is why they were exhibiting the tight formation schooling behaviour.

As we approached the shore, I noticed Dick was swimming head down, which indicated he was under-weighted. I grabbed my slate, and told him to surface, and we discussed what was happening. I decided that we would try to exhaust most of the air from his BC and have him work on his buoyancy. We then went back down to about 12 feet deep where he practised hovering without moving at all. His feet kept going down, as I mentioned before, but otherwise he seemed to get the hang of it after a few minutes.

We then exited the water, and I decided to drop by Dive Friends Port Bonaire on the way by to find out what they charge for air. The lady wasn’t particularly helpful, and said that they charge $18, with no local rate available. So Dick will be getting his air from Wannadive.

We then stopped at Bruce Bowker’s Carib Inn to get Rick’s inflater hose fixed. The valve that attaches to the pressure hose had been seized, and on the previous dive, it had auto inflated, which can be a problem. Within five minutes, Bruce had it fixed good as new! This was the dive shop that the Bonaire director, Joe Barker, had recommended to Dick, so I was glad I was able to make the introduction.

In terms of equipment, service, and overall friendliness, Bruce remains the best dive operator on the island.

We then dropped by my place where I dumped my gear and jumped in the car and followed them back to Wannadive. We dropped off the tanks, and I picked up a new tank for the next day. Dick was very thankful for the assistance, and said he had a most enjoyable experience, which made me happy.

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I then went home, where Joanna made a wonderful skillet meal of cubed pork chops and tons of vegetables. I am continually amazed at Joanna’s prowess in the kitchen!

After a delicious supper, we ended up in a lengthy debate about spiritual matters. It was a very intense discussion, but an honest and open one. By the end of it, I felt I was able to understand a bit of her journey.

I then tried to edit the photos from the previous day, but found I was completely exhausted, so went to bed early at around 9:15. It was a very fun-filled but tiring day.

Amado and Sue – Sept. 5, 2012

As I am dictating this blog from the dock at the Divi Flamingo, I am watching a jet approaching from the direction of Curaçao.

 Photos here

I had to apply some more bug spray to get rid of the mosquitoes, but this time I am determined to stay outdoors and listen to the crash of the waves behind me. With only a week-and-a-half left in this little piece of paradise, I’m already thinking about how much I’ll miss the ocean.

As I was saying to Joanna this afternoon while we floated in the warm sea water, there is just something magical about the ocean that I will sorely miss when back in land-locked Ontario.

This morning, Joanna was able to get a few photos of a hummingbird, as well as some other birds, while we were having breakfast on our front porch. Joanna is a great help with photography and photo editing, although I don’t think blogging is her thing.

She was once again able to call home, using my Skype line, and seems to enjoy being able to keep in touch.

I am trying to adjust my schedule to Joanna’s desire to not have our calendar overly scheduled. She would much rather just relax and take it a day at a time, so that is what I am trying to do as much as possible. However, today we are to meet Sue and Amado Felix at 9:30 at their office.

First, however, Joanna drove her scooter ahead of me to the studio where she was able to settle up her account with Donna, the TWR financial lady, for the rent of the guest house.

Amado’s business is located on the road towards Nikiboko. He operates several businesses, including school bus, tour bus, moving business, a storage business, tourist guide business, as well as an importing business, and property management. Sue and Amado have been fixtures on the island ever since we were here in the 1970s. Amado is Bonairian, of Lebanese ancestry, while Sue is an American from Pennsylvania.

I was amazed how much time they were able to give us. We chatted for over an hour-and-a-half in Amado’s office. Of all the people who we have interviewed on Bonaire, Sue and Amado gave us the most enlightening information.

The burning question on our minds was, Have the political changes over the past few years been a positive or negative thing for Bonaire?

His answer was that the jury is still out. After five years, in 2015, there will be another referendum to see whether Bonaire remains a special municipality of Holland. Their prediction is that the referendum will maintain this new nation, which is part of the BES Islands. BES stands for Bonaire, St. Eustatius, and Saba.

Joanna wanted to try some windsurfing today, so we had to tear ourselves away after a tour of their facility, and further tourist information from Sue. We have made a dinner engagement with them for Sunday after church.

While Joanna went off to Lac Bay to windsurf, I returned to the studio to finish up with Donna. As she had stepped out, I decided to do a bit of work on the computer on some personal business. It appears my iPad is not capable of doing everything I need online.

Brandon also was able to send an inquiry to the U.S. Tech Support Team to inquire on the status of our website requests.

As I’m sitting here on the dock, I can see some lights under the surface as a couple of divers enjoy a night dive. Joanna said she wants to hold off on a night dive until she becomes more comfortable, likely next week.

After a quick lunch at the Divi Flamingo, Joanna and I headed out to Bachelor’s Beach for an afternoon dive. This time we double-checked to make sure we had full tanks!

Dive: Bachelor’s Beach

The entry was down a steel stair case, but was not too difficult.

One of the first things we noticed was three file fish, which seemed to be in some kind of a dance. One of them kept raising the file-like fin on his forehead, which is a threatening gesture. I have let Joanna run the camera most of the time now while we are diving, and she has managed to get some good photos. However, today, some are fuzzy, and we’re not sure why.

We also saw a spotted moray eel, as well as a very unusual worm sticking out from under a rock ledge. Apparently it is called a Tiger Tail Sea Cucumber. I’ve seen this type of worm on several occasions, and Jay described it as a type of vacuum cleaner, with a mouth on one end, and an exhaust port on the other!  The strange thing is, I’ve never seen the entire worm out from under a coral, but have only seen the eating end extending some two or three feet out from under the coral. This time, I decided to see what it felt like. It was like very soft rubber. It immediately started to shrink and retract back under the rock.

Joanna is taking several pictures in order to identify them later from the book that she has been studying on reef life. She then labels them during breakfast on my photo gallery:


This has been an immense help, as I have not previously had time to add captions to my online photo gallery.

Joanna also discovered a fairly large clam about six inches across. When I got too close, it clammed up!

Toward the end of the dive, we saw a puffer fish, which was about a foot-and-a-half long. They have large, docile-looking eyes, but seem to be rather shy.

We also spotted a peacock flounder, and a cow fish. There were also about three dozen dark blue surgeon fish in a schooling formation, vigorously feeding on something we couldn’t spot. They looked like a flock of starlings–lighting in a location, feeding feverishly, and then moving on to repeat it again.

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After the dive, I asked Joanna if she would like to go for a drive around the south end, rather than going straight home, to which she readily agreed.

When we drove past the salt pier, there was a large ship that had just docked, and was preparing to load. The strange thing was that it had three very large cranes on its deck, so this must have been more than just a salt freighter.

We were also able to spot several flamingos near the roadway.

The next stop was the kite surfing beach, which is just south of the Red Slave Huts. I was wondering if Joanna would prefer kite surfing over wind surfing, but Joanna said she could only concentrate on one thing at a time. Nonetheless, we stood on the shore and watched their acrobatic manoeuvres, and then were able to interview a few of the teachers. Apparently you need about three days of three-hour classes at about $600 before you can do hardly anything. Although he claims it is safer than wind surfing, it requires supervision for safety. In the end, both Joanna and I decided that it was beyond us at this point.

After we had showered and changed, we decided to head over to the Hilltop Restaurant back up on the north road for supper. The strange thing was that the resort seemed almost abandoned, and we were the only people in the restaurant. There was also a cute little kitten that came begging for some fish. Don’t tell the waitress, but I happened to drop a couple pieces!

And so, a pleasant ending to a pleasant day. I sure wish I was already retired, and that I could stay here permanently!

Northern Tour – Sept. 4, 2012

Tonight I am catching up on a couple days’ blogs, as life has been very full with my sister being here. Right now, I’m sitting on the dive dock at the Divi Flamingo while Joanna is at home reading a book, most likely. It’s a beautiful evening, although the lights from the resort ruin the star gazing. The water in front of me is so clear. I can see the little minnows darting back and forth. A few minutes ago, a tarpon came cruising by. I also heard a large splash as he hunted. To the south, there is the occasional flash of sheet lightning from a storm off the Venezuelan coast.

 Photos here

Tomorrow is Flag Day on Bonaire, which is a national holiday. The studio and many other businesses will be closed while they celebrate the Bonarian flag. We’ll be meeting Jon Hilgers at nine in the morning (one of our former teachers), and then going diving with Dick Veldman at 2:30.

Joanna was able to do a Skype call with her partner back in Canada. It was surprising that the Internet connection allowed for video. It did work quite well, even if she had to reconnect a couple of times.

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In the morning, we decided to go for a drive up the northern Tourist Road, as we used to call it, and see Rincon and the wind turbines on the east coast. Our first stop was at the Tourist Bureau, right at the beginning of the one-way downtown section. The staff was very helpful, and gave us several pamphlets and directions to the various sites. When we left, we noticed a statue of Simón Bolivar immediately behind the Tourist Bureau. He was the liberator of much of South America and parts of the Caribbean, including Bonaire. The statue was donated by Venezuela back in the eighties.

We dropped off our scuba tanks at Wannadive, and continued north on the Tourist Road. It now has a U-shaped curve around a new housing development, which includes the STINAPA office on the far side.


Joanna said the old caves we used to explore were right beside the office, but we couldn’t figure out where exactly, so we dropped into the office and asked. Sure enough, it was in the scrub brush, not a hundred yards behind STINAPA’s building. The area is marked with a 5-metre tall black and white pyramid.

We walked down the stone stairs into the cave (that we used to explore with our flashlights), and it looked much the same. There was a stone pedestal, ready for an inscription to be installed, but there was nothing there.

After the cave, we went across the road to the resort that includes one of the Buddy Dive shops. The staff was Dutch, and quite helpful. We wandered around a bit, and took some photos of the lovely landscaping that they have there.

Then it was on up the Tourist Road, and along the narrow road by the rock ledges.

Radio Nederlands:

I decided to stop at Radio Nederlands, and took several photos of their large shortwave curtain antennas. Their last broadcast will be on October 31st, after which the entire station will be dismantled and sold to the highest bidder.

I guess the bottom line is that this huge radio network, that rivalled that of the BBC, is now considered cost prohibitive as the listening audience to shortwave (SW) broadcasts has steadily dropped over the past decade in this part of the world. With online streaming audio and other forms of news media available, SW radio in the West is quickly becoming a thing of the past. Nonetheless, I was saddened to see these magnificent structures that will soon be dismantled.

Goto Meer:

Our next stop was Goto Meer, and I must say the outlook was as beautiful as ever. We got a few shots of parakeets on the nearby cactus, as well as an iguana up in a tree.

Further down the road towards Rincon, right at the edge of Goto Meer, we saw a huge iguana crossing the road.

A little further, we came across the strangest sight–two flamingos doing what appeared to be a mating dance. They were prancing around in the shallow water, splashing their beaks into the water, and then quickly withdrawing them. We got a good video of this rather bizarre behaviour.

Dos Pos:

The next stop was Dos Pos, which is a small oasis powered by an ancient windmill. It was there we discovered that honey bees had come to Bonaire! A pickup truck stopped and began filling two 55-gallon drums with water, so we struck up a conversation. Apparently this gentleman has been living in Holland for the past 22 years, but had now returned to his homeland of Bonaire. He said the bees most likely came from a bee keeper that had died a few years ago at a nearby farm. The Bonairians aren’t sure what to make of these new insects, which apparently were imported from Curacao in the eighties.


By the time we reached Rincon, we were ready for lunch, so stopped at the Rose Inn. This was a delightful local restaurant, with the tables under spreading vines and large trees. Joanna had goat stew, while I had some fish. They served some funchi, a corn-meal based paté.  It ended up being one of the best meals we’ve had on the island, and at a very reasonable price!

We then drove around Rincon, and found a statue of Julio A. Abraham. Apparently, he was the president of the Democratic Party on Bonaire. The street the guest house I am being housed in is named after him.

There was also a monument to what appeared to be a large rock. We still don’t know what the significance of that was. Further up, there was another rock on a pedestal.

Museum: Mangasina di Rei:

We then started heading south out of Rincon, and came across a museum up on a bit of a knoll. Neither of us had ever been inside, so we decided to check it out. While it was interesting, our two-hour stop was a bit longer than I had figured on. The entry fee was $10 each, and the staff was very friendly and helpful.

We first toured an old storage house from the slave era, and then had a drink of tamarack juice and lamoonchi (lime) juice. They showed us how to erect a cactus fence. This was followed by a lesson in local music, which included a little ratchet device, and lids of tin cans you shook, as well as blowing on a conch shell. The gentleman who gave the music lesson was extremely chatty, and ended up being hurried by his staff for the next exhibit. The facility was attractively landscaped. Although the pace was a bit slow for my taste, it was still a very interesting experience.

Boca Onima and Windmills:

We headed further south, and could see several windmills in the distance, but had to go more than a kilometre down an extremely rough road to reach them. Before we got there, we stopped at Boca Onima, which is an inlet. We strolled out over the lava rock, and were again impressed how jagged these wave-splattered rocks are. There were actually two fishing boats out on the rolling waves.

I wanted to go further and actually touch the base of the windmills, but Joanna didn’t think we could make it. However, I won out, and we ended up standing right at the base of these giant wind turbines.

As we got out of the car, we could hear the swishing-whistling sound of the huge blades turning overhead. I’ve had a lifelong fascination with windmills as a source of endless power. The blades were actually turning very fast, and we got several good pictures.

There were also some donkeys wandering around in amongst the windmills, and one actually came up and sniffed my hand. Joanna’s comment was that they seem to have been very well treated, and used to human contact. We have noticed that the donkey population seems to have exploded on the island, so they must be under some kind of protection now.

Indian Inscriptions, Boca Onima:

The next stop was the Indian inscriptions near Boca Onima, which were also quite interesting. Apparently the Indians used to be able to use the stars to track various calendar events.

Fontein Plantation:

We tried to visit the Fontein Plantation, but found that it is now in private hands, and has been for some years. Both of us were rather disappointed, as this natural spring that comes out of the caves had been the focus of a few school trips for us.

Seroe Largo (Lookout Mountain):

As we headed further south toward Antriol, we took the road to Seroe Largo, or Lookout Mountain, as I call it. I must say, while the road was paved, it was still very rough. We ended up stopping at the large cross structure at the top of the mountain that seems to be about 12 years old. I tried taking some 360° photos, and we’ll see if I can stitch them together when I get home. The view is not as good as the old Lookout spot where we used to have Easter sunrise services with Trans World Radio.

By the time we got home, there was not enough time to go scuba diving, so instead, we went for a short swim in the pool at the Divi Flamingo. Then it was time to shower and get changed before Jon Hilgers picked us up.

When Jon arrived, I was surprised to see him driving a full-sized Dodge Ram pickup truck. We told him that he could pick the restaurant where he wanted to go, and he chose the Bistro de Paris. It appears Jon suffers from some leg ailment, which has swollen one of his legs to over twice its normal size. As a result, he is not nearly as active as he used to be.

It seemed that everyone in the restaurant knew Mr. Hilgers, or Mijneer Hilgers, as we used to call him when he was our gym teacher in high school. While he was actually born in Holland, he has spent his entire life on either Aruba or Bonaire. In fact, he was one of our favourite teachers when we were in the HAVO high school system down here.

We were both rather surprised to find out that he is now practising some form of Eastern Yoga. Apparently he adopted this new faith about twelve years ago, and spoke for almost two hours on the subject. We had pressed him for his opinion on the recent political changes, but his interest was more in his new spiritual awakening. Then it was time to go home and recharge our batteries.

And so ends a very full and interesting day!

Buddy Breathing – Sept. 3, 2012

Tonight we are blogging from the living room as the mosquitoes have chased Joanna and me indoors. It appears the Bonairian mosquitoes have defied our fancy little Off Insect Shield! So here we are, with all the fans going full blast. My sister beside me is reading a book, Reef Creature Identification, which the financial lady, Donna, loaned me.

 Photos Here

Today was very busy and fun-filled. The first order of business was to rent a scooter for Joanna. We ended up getting one from Macho Scooter Rentals, which is owned by a Dutch fellow. Joanna seems quite pleased, buzzing around on her two-stroke engine. The scooters go a distance of about 90 kilometres on a tank of gas, and require engine oil every two tanks.

Next we went shopping downtown. Joanna picked up sunglasses and something else. I also picked up a very nice polo shirt with a dive emblem on it, and a Bonaire beach towel. Then it was time to go meet Albert Bisculli from the Sea Monitor Foundation Bonaire. The laboratory he does his work in is called CIEE, which stands for Centre for International Environmental Education, funded by a variety of U.S. universities, mainly in marine biology. I was able to record our interview, but have not been able to edit it yet for publication.

Albert is one of these fascinating people that once you get them talking, you learn a great deal. For instance, in 1999, a huge hurricane sideswiped the island, resulting in five-metre waves pounding the shore for 16 hours. No shallow corals survived the onslaught, although the reef below thirty feet was unharmed.

The main goal of the Sea Monitor Foundation is to establish scientific data for water quality and temperature over a ten-year span. They are now in year six of their monitoring program. Bonaire passed legislation a few years ago to install sewer systems for all homes and businesses within 500 metres of the shoreline. The problem is sewage seepage from the septic tank systems into the ocean, which results in algae growth. We have actually seen a fair bit of algae growth on the reef, and the overall living corals are declining.

Joseph works with a professor from a university in Los Angeles who receives his data upload each week and analyzes it.

The interesting thing is that the Sea Monitor Foundation is completely funded by private donations from the local scuba diving population. The result is that the Sea Monitor Foundation actually owns the data instead of it being owned by any government entity.

Albert showed us how he extracted the data, and how he looks at the graphs that resulted. Primarily they plot temperature and light on different spectrums–light levels at 12 metres and 20 metres, with the five-metre sensor being a base line. Of the three sensors, two have light filters to monitor a different spectrum. The result is they can monitor the organic index of the water, or, in other words, the amount of light-filtering pollutants that result from septic tank seepage. The resulting algae growth can smother a reef.

We actually had to excuse ourselves at quarter to twelve, as TWR was hosting a luncheon in my honour at the studio. When we arrived, they had the Chinese food all laid out for us. We sat around the conference table in the former recording studio where we used to have concerts on occasion.

It was a fairly informal luncheon, where everybody just dug in and chatted between themselves.

The highlight was the tour afterwards that Brad Swanson gave my sister Joanna. Joanna quite likes Brad, who has a wealth of knowledge in terms of the history of the island. He was able to explain some of the steps that led to the current automation that TWR-Bonaire enjoys. There are triple redundant systems for almost every system, as the staff level on Bonaire consists of only about ten people.

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After the tour, Dave Pedersen said he had to get to the transmitter site, and I asked him if I could give Joanna a tour at the same time, to which he readily agreed. We then arranged for Joanna to meet us there on her scooter, and I gave Dave a drive so his wife wouldn’t have as far to go to pick him up at night. Believe it or not, Joanna actually beat us there!

While I had seen the transmitter before, it was still quite interesting. The heart of the transmitter is the 100,000 watt Nautel transmitter, with the larger phasing unit beside it. Outside of the main room, the rest of the transmitter site has seen better days. One interesting thing was the plans that Dave showed us for future expansion in the back area.

I gave Joanna a tour of the outside, and we had a look around where TWR’s former generators were located. Joanna wasn’t interested in walking out into the tower field.

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Afterwards, instead of diving right away, we went shopping in the huge Dutch supermarket. It looks similar to a nice Zehrs store. We were able to find everything we wanted. Joanna didn’t buy any produce there as she wanted to get it at the Venezuelan banana boat. We went downtown to the dock to the former fish market, and got limes, mangoes, watermelon, cucumber, and a plantain. Then it was home to gather our gear, and head to the Windsock Dive Site, which is right beside the airport.

Dive: Windsock

We parked at the side of the road, and geared up and got in the water. It was a very easy entry.

And then Joanna tapped me on the shoulder at about ten feet deep, and showed me her pressure gauge. She had less than a thousand psi, or, in other words, only about enough air for a 25-minute dive at most. Apparently the dive shop had left an empty tank in amongst the full ones. I now realize that I have to measure the air pressure on each tank before I take it home.

We surfaced, and discussed what to do, and Joanna suggested that we simply dive for about ten minutes, and make the most of it. I then said that I had a full tank, and if she didn’t mind breathing off my regulator, we could buddy-breathe for the first part of the dive. As you may know, each regulator system now has two mouthpieces on it. Surprisingly, even though it was only Joanna’s second dive, she agreed to do buddy-breathing. In retrospect, Joanna said it was a good confidence-building exercise, as she now feels very comfortable doing buddy breathing. Basically, it involved me holding onto her tank, with her using the longer hose of my spare regulator to breathe with. I found it rather odd listening to the air coming out of my tank when I wasn’t actually breathing.

We limited ourselves to a depth of forty feet so that we would use less air.

Joanna actually spent about 15 minutes on my air, all the while snapping photos, as we steered around the reef in tandem. She managed to get lots of good pictures, and we had a rather enjoyable, if a rather odd, dive. After about 15 minutes, Joanna decided to go back on her own air, and we went up to about 30 feet, and continued our dive for another 15 or 20 minutes. All told, we were under the water for 37 minutes, and Joanna still finished with just under 500 psi, which is the normal exit tank pressure.

It was such a lovely evening that we decided to hang around the beach and watch the sunset. I put my camera on a rock ledge, and Joanna fired off several shots of the sun sinking into the ocean. At this vantage point, you can see the arc of the island and the entire waterfront of Kralendijk, which is rather interesting.

We had planned to go home and cook something on the skillet, but Joanna said to me that after diving, she was simply too hungry to go home and start cooking. With a big smile, I said to her, “Ah, you see my dilemma.” At least, that’s what I’ve always said was my excuse for eating out all the time. My holidays will soon be over, and I’ll have to go back to cooking for myself.

We went home and showered up, and then drove down to the Rumba Café. This has become my favourite evening restaurant where they have reasonably priced and delicious specials. While we were sitting waiting for our order, LeAnn from Bon Photo dropped by, and we had a very pleasant conversation. She seems like a very self-confident, bubbly and friendly girl who hails from Texas.

After supper, we edited our dive photos, and reviewed the blog from yesterday. We had decided to walk down the beach to blog, but as the mosquitoes were out in full force, we decided to try our front porch, only to be driven inside by the mosquitoes.

And so ends our second day in tandem, of what promises to be a wonderful two weeks together.

Like Riding a Bike – Sept. 2, 2012

After writing Saturday’s blog, I ended up going back to the airport last night at 11:15, the time Joanna understood she would arrive, even though the travel agent said she would arrive at 11:50. Unfortunately, when I got to the airport, no one was there except the security staff. They told me that Flight 800 would not arrive until 1:00 a.m., which was an hour-and-a-half away. I decided to go back home and go to bed. I managed to get about a half hour’s sleep. Then at 20 to 1:00, the alarm went off, and I headed back to the airport once more. Just as I arrived, I heard the scream of the jet engines as the plane landed. About ten minutes later, my wonderful sister walked in, and said, “Wake up, John!” I was very happy to see her, and I finally got her home.

 Photos here

I had her bed made up in my air-conditioned room, but she said she wanted to sleep in the spare bedroom with a lot of fans and the Bonaire night air. Joanna ended up sleeping in my room. There was enough space in the master bedroom for two beds. I turned off the alarms.

So altogether, Joanna had gotten up at 2:00 a.m. on Saturday, drove from Kingston to Toronto, and 24 hours later, finally arrived at my home on Bonaire. What a day for my sister!

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This morning I woke up just before seven, and tiptoed out of the room, as Joanna was still sleeping. We had decided that she wouldn’t come to church, as she was too exhausted. Apparently the previous week in Joanna’s practise was one of the worst she has had to date, with a good friend of hers near death with cancer.

On top of that, having the plane break down, and then being diverted to Aruba without being informed by the airline, made for one exasperating day. Joanna did wake up just before I left, and stayed up for the rest of the day.

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At church, I looked at the back of the bulletin, and there was my picture, and a note saying I was happy my sister was coming. I do remember last week I got up and told everybody that my sister was coming next week. Bob Lassiter, the man who does the bulletin, apparently took a picture.

As usual, the church service was very good, and dealt with the passage when David defeated Goliath, and David said that the battle was the Lord’s. I feel I’m getting to know the people in the congregation, and they seem to be getting to know me. Amado Felix left me his phone number, so I’ll call him on Monday, and we’ll drop by at some point. Amado and his wife Sue want to see Joanna.

After the service, we enjoyed cookies and juice. A little boy, who I didn’t know, asked to play my iPad. Of course, I gave it to him, and he was playing on the flight simulator. I didn’t stay for Sunday School, which is after the service, as I wanted to get back to Joanna.

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When I got home, Joanna was in high gear, and had begun to reorganize my house. The side door was opened for a cross-breeze. She watered the plants, swept the walk and the front porch. I was told that I wasn’t allowed to eat my breakfast in the house! I had to eat it out on the front porch. It’s amazing I survived this long.

She had even put out a bowl with sugar in it for the sugarbirds. They haven’t discovered it yet.

For lunch, we walked across the street and had a very nice meal for a reasonable price at the Chibi Chibi Restaurant. We met Tom, an Antillean man, with his family, who attend the International Bible Church. His wife’s brother was in my HAVO class, and ended up marrying a Dutch girl, and is living in Holland. We were able to practise our Dutch a bit with them. Joanna doesn’t seem to have forgotten much.

Then we walked a few doors down to Bruce Bowker’s Carib Inn, and Joanna registered with them. Then we rented equipment, and I showed Joanna the dock. Up until now, Joanna said she was too tired to go diving, but as soon as she saw the water, she said, “We should go now!” Of course, I didn’t argue.

So we went home, grabbed our scuba tanks, returned to the Carib Inn and dove off the end of the dock. Joanna elected not to go for a checkout dive with her dive master as she said I was a good enough teacher.

We started by checking her buoyancy, and soon found that she needed some more weights. Fortunately, we had put some lead weights at the top of the ladder, and she was able to get slightly negative with those. Next, I checked if she could clear her mask, and she did just fine. Before I knew it, she pointed to the deeper water, and wanted to proceed with a regular dive.

When we sat by the pool before lunch, we had discussed her objectives. I agreed that the primary task was to make sure she was comfortable. I had learned during the deep-dive course I had just completed that it was best to work up gradually to the deeper depths in order to maintain your comfort level. In my case, I am finding out that I don’t deal as well as I used to by jumping straight into things, but I do soon adapt, and I wanted Joanna to have the same gradual experience.

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Tonight, Joanna and I are blogging together:

Joanna: John and I are sitting here at Far Beach, listening to the waves, hearing the wind blow through the palm trees, and looking out at the night sky, enjoying the Milky Way as the moon rises behind us. It’s very odd for me, looking at the waves—the biggest problem being that there is no sand at Far Beach! This is actually quite disappointing, as the fine white sand that used to be at Far Beach was always one of my favourite memories, in fact, I think it has always been one of the favourite places in my mind. I’m hopeful that over the years the beach will slowly repair itself. But until then, there’s a little bit of sadness.

That having been said, the night air is warm, and there’s a strong breeze, and there’s the usual, wonderful sound of waves lapping on the shore. The other thing that is unusual, though, is that there are palm trees out here! I remember them from previous trips to Bonaire years ago, and I remember just kind of giggling to myself, thinking that it was such a silly idea, and that they would never last. But here they are, alive and well, and significantly taller, so I presume somebody is watering them.

Dive at the Carib Inn:

So today was my first dive! As John commented, it was a little bit like getting back on a bicycle, hence the title. It really felt quite wonderful! I said to John, “For me, I really think of it more like walking.” It’s one of those activities that may seem awkward and difficult at first, but once you get it, it’s so natural that you forget that there is any skill involved at all, and you just move about and enjoy your environment.

There are a few changes that I’m adjusting to–one is my new fins–which are ridiculously long, and I kept tapping either John or the coral with them. But other than that, it was a fairly natural experience, and I thoroughly enjoyed getting right up close and personal with the reef again!

I was surprised at how many things we encountered that I would have considered fairly rare and unique, the kind of thing that you see one of in a dive, but there seemed to be a number of them. Maybe that just indicates how long I’ve been away from the reef, and it’s changed. Well, I think the last time I was here was 13 years ago in 1999. Some of those ‘things’ include lion fish, which I don’t think existed on Bonaire when I was here. John had blogged about the lion fish, but I don’t think I realized what they look like, so when I came across them, they were just quite miraculous. They look like fish with feathers sticking out at all angles, feathers that are black and white! Really quite an unbelievable sight, and I took quite a few photos with John’s camera.

(John read me the riot act today because I didn’t have my essential electronic gear on me, meaning I didn’t have my phone, camera/mini computer in my pocket. I pointed out to John, Why would I bother when I have him? He then proceeded to pull out two varieties of phones, and I’m not sure what else.)

Other things I encountered on the dive were these wonderful little sort of soft worms. The back of them looks like the front of a tuxedo, with all these little frilly, almost lace-like ribbons on them that are pale blue and iridescent. Again I think you will see them among John’s photos. They are called a lettuce sea slug. We also came across a sea cucumber, but it was different than how I remember sea cucumbers. This one, instead of being just solid grey, was tan coloured with black dots on it, and not a variety I had seen before. John picked it up and put it on my hand, and it proceeded to attach quite firmly with hundreds of little ‘suction-cup’ feet. Some of them remained adhered to my hand when I pulled it off, so I don’t think I’ll do that again, for its sake.

There were many, many shrimps—the beautiful little blue and white, tiny, delicate shrimps that are called cleaner shrimps. John was trying to teach me how to hold my hand in the right posture that they would recognize as a submissive cleaning posture. I didn’t quite understand what he was pointing out at the time, but, nevertheless, I did get my fingertips cleaned by these things. Besides being a fascination in itself, because they generally hang out amongst the anemones (the tips of the anemones are sticky like Scotch Tape), but besides just the experience of putting my hand in there, there was also the challenge of trying to maintain a stationary position while being pushed by the current, and just adjusting to that. At the same time, you are being pushed up and down by inhalations and exhalations, which cause you to become more or less buoyant. So that was a really fascinating experience!

The other thing that I had never seen but had heard of was a grouper having the inside of its mouth cleaned by a larger banded cleaner shrimp. The grouper was sitting there with its tail down, its mouth wide open, and this shrimp was reaching right inside its mouth! I happened to have John’s camera at the time and took a picture, so that should be visible as well. But I think the flash kind of ended the cleaning experience, because the shrimp pulled out and the grouper closed its mouth. Something to remember!

Anyways, all in all, it was a really wonderful dive, and I thoroughly enjoyed it!

John: After our dive, we relaxed in Bruce’s swimming pool for a little while, and Joanna also bought a log book to start to record her dives. It also helps avoid hassles when registering at dive shops, as you prove your experience. She realizes now that the new science of diving involves logging everything, and so now she does.

We reviewed the photos on my iPad, and Joanna was quite pleased with how most of them turned out.

We went home and changed into normal clothes, and hung up our wet suits, and then headed down to Wannadive to pick up a new set of tanks.

Then we decided to go for a drive up to your home near the water plant, and had a look around that neighbourhood. We noticed that the whole subdivision has expanded for several blocks. They all seem like very nice homes.

We tried to head up the mountain to the neighbourhood near the water tanks, but that road seems to be closed.

Instead, we drove by our old home in Antriol. Joanna noticed that the oleander bushes that mom planted in the front are still there, but everything else seems to have disappeared. Our neighbour’s guava tree seems to be alive and well, and quite tall. We drove through a bit of Antriol, and then back to the seashore for a very nice fish supper. Joanna had wahoo, and I had some Dorado.
Joanna: We were thinking of Dad, and thinking of how much he would love to join us for that meal! I’m surprised how much John likes fish.

John: Obviously we haven’t seen enough of each other, because I’ve liked fish for some time. In fact, I like anything that I haven’t tried before.

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Then I asked Joanna if she would mind tagging along while I did my blog out in some secluded spot, and so far she seems quite happy. She suggested Far Beach, and so that’s how we ended up here.

Joanna: The moon is rising behind us–it’s about a three-quarter moon.

John lit our way down the beach with the flashlight app on his phone, but we certainly won’t need that on the way back. I’m waiting for him to pull a barbecue or something out of this phone! He certainly seems to have every other gadget on it.

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John: I must say that Joanna and I seemed to reconnect almost immediately. In fact, even our hand signals under water seemed to be understood instantly, which is a lot different than trying to communicate with other divers. Joanna has lots of plans for touring the island and camping out, and I am very much looking forward to these next two weeks together.

It is time to head home, as we are both a bit sleep deprived.

So begins my last two weeks with my most favourite person in the whole wide world–Joanna!

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:

Slow Dive – Aug. 31, 2012

Tonight I am back at the former fish market, now the fruit market, on the waterfront. There is some kind of cultural festival taking place, with the stage and band set up, and loudspeakers that you can hear from a kilometre away. It is in the square right beside the Governor’s House. I am just far enough away that I can dictate my blog and still be understood.

(Photos here)

Having just wandered through the various booths, it is remarkable how easygoing and happy everyone seems to be. Like everywhere on Bonaire, liquor is sold openly, with no apparent restrictions. Nonetheless, no one seems to be drunk or creating a disturbance. Children run around on their own, without any fear. It’s just another example of the easygoing, friendly attitude the Bonairian people have.

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Friday was my last full day at work for the next two weeks. As I explained earlier, my Internet project has gone as far as it can until some changes are made by the IT Department in Cary. I got a firm quote today from The A Group to effect two changes to the software which I would most like to see. In particular, these requested changes would allow unique titles for each page to be created, and also introduce a dropdown menu so you can gain an overview of the entire site with a quick mouse-over, instead of clicking on each link.  We are awaiting approval from the IT Department to see whether or not these changes will be made.

(While I have been sitting here, several high-powered street bikes drove by, revving their engines to the max, creating so much noise that I had to stop dictating for a few minutes. I often hear the sound of revving motorcycles throughout the night. I much prefer hearing a donkey braying instead.)

Back to the office.

I was also able to meet with Brad Swanson, and had one of the most productive meetings to date. While I have not been able to work with Brad extensively, this past week, that changed. On Wednesday, he helped me identify the names of the people in the photos. Today I was able to teach him how to create a photo gallery for the new website. Brad is the photography guy on Bonaire, which is why you don’t often see him in photos, as he is the one behind the lens.

I had previously taken the photos of the 2007 Bonaire Alumni Reunion and organized them into folders. I walked Brad through the process as he uploaded the files and labelled each picture.

Next I had Brad help me rewrite the proposal document for live streaming audio. This has been my pet project since I arrived. Once we had it worded properly, we exported it from Google Docs into Word. Brad wisely suggested that it would not be productive to present this to decision-makers right now, as it would simply get lost in hundreds of other emails. A better timing would be to wait until right before the ministry team meetings where this item will be discussed.  So, that’s the plan!

I was also able to finalize the instructions for photo sorting. While this project remains incomplete, I got the hardest part of the work done by sorting a few thousand files from 2000 to 2007.

They are not pressed for time on the remaining projects related to Bonaire’s 2014 50th anniversary, as that event is still two years away. This was one of the reasons that Brandon made the decision to allow me to take the next two weeks off to be with my sister.

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Eden Beach Dive:

Immediately at five o’clock, I grabbed my scuba gear and went to Eden Beach to service the Sea Monitoring sensors. Once again, I did a solo dive, but it was vastly different from the previous week. I was able to go straight to the wreck, and started at the flotation bottles at five metres. As I was vigorously scrubbing the algae and the beginnings of fire coral, I thought to myself, If I have to be doing cleaning, this is the best environment to do it in!

At five metres, the wreck is still far below, the shore is almost invisible, and it is just you and the work right in front of you, and deep blue water all around. I was completely relaxed, and really enjoyed the experience.

I then went down to the 12-metre level and serviced the three sensors there, and then down to the 20-metre level.

As I was cleaning the second-from-the-last sensor, my dive knife came loose from its housing and went twirling down to the wreck. I chased it down and retrieved it, which forced me to go to 26 metres. Not a big deal, but rather annoying.

I finished up the sensors, and headed to shore, and turned left to go north along the slope. I did this dive at about 15 metres, and was able to take my time. I took a good three-minute video of some very unafraid French angel fish, as well as a couple of cleaner shrimp. I’m not sure if the presence of only a single diver disturbs the marine life less, or if it was my slow pace, but I found all the marine life busily going about their own chores rather than swimming away from me. I find this type of diving where you are not so much just spotting the various forms of life, but rather observing their behaviour, a very pleasant change of pace.

I watched a trumpet fish shadowing a parrot fish in order to sneak up on its prey. It’s interesting to watch how they flank the parrot fish within less than an inch so that the other small fish can’t see them coming. Altogether, I was under water for almost an hour. I found this to be one of the most enjoyable dives I’ve been on.

I also came across a blue cow fish. It had exactly the same colouring as I noticed on a cow fish a couple of weeks before. I knew there had to be another male in the vicinity, but I wasn’t immediately able to spot it. But a couple minutes later, about 15 metres away, there it was, a rival male also coloured blue.

I’m fascinated by the great number of fish that can change their colour to blend in: The trumpet fish, the file fish, the sergeant fish, the jacks, and the octopi. They can all change their colour to suit their environment or activity. It seems to be a much more common ability under water than on land.

When I exited the water, I quickly stowed my gear went home for a quick shower, and headed over to the Pedersens’. Once again, they made me feel extremely welcome. Tonight was Episode IV, which was actually the first Star Wars released. I recall watching a DVD of this as a teen when I lived on Bonaire. I still think it is an all-time classic, although the acting wasn’t as good as on the other episodes. Nonetheless, this is what launched one of the most popular movie series of all time.

Dave also asked me to accompany him Saturday afternoon to a yacht that he is considering purchasing, so that I can dive underneath and take pictures for him of the condition of the hull.

I headed home and went straight to bed, as I hope to have an early dive Saturday morning. I’m looking forward to meeting my sister!

Small Steps – Aug. 30, 2012

Tonight I am sitting by the seaside road.  In front of me and to my right, there are several yachts tied up.  Each one has a little light on its mast, so the masts tend to look a bit like street lights.  The catamaran in front of me has a large-screen TV on the go, and seems to be a pleasant home on the water.

(No photos today)

To the far south, I see the occasional flash of lightning, and I’m not sure but that it might be off the coast of Venezuela, South America.

Just like at home, people have a strip where they tend to drive their modified cars, with huge stereos blaring. Here, it is the seaside road where I’m sitting.

This morning I got to the studio a bit early in order to place a Skype call to Joanna.  She is attempting to book an earlier flight from Curaçao to Bonaire, but at this point, she hasn’t been able to complete that.  Hopefully she will get hold of an island telephone and give me a call if her plans change.  As it stands, I’ll be going to the airport at 3:30 to pick her up on Saturday.  We are both excited.

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After devotions, I was able to talk to Brad and Brandon about how we might get the technical issues sorted out on the new website.  After a long discussion, we seem to have come up with a plan to get The A Group to make the changes.  However, this is pending the approval from headquarters, which won’t be forthcoming until next week.

I also decided to get a second opinion on my technical assessment of our website issues.  I called Gary Roebbelen, who is the Canadian webmaster for TWR Canada.  My question to him was, Should we delay the launch in order to get our technical issues sorted out, or go ahead and launch with them still malfunctioning?   His answer was very insightful.  He said the thing that is most important is to get the website actually launched.  He has dealt with other websites that have been continuously tweaked for sometimes years, and never do end up going live because they never will be perfect.  So I have consented to launching it within the next two weeks, regardless of whether everything is functioning to my satisfaction.  In the meantime, we intend to make our best effort to have the changes made by The A Group.

I spent much of the morning and afternoon documenting everything that needed to be done, and also verifying some of the changes that had been made.  Several of the requested changes remain outstanding.  I guess I have to be thankful for the small steps that we did manage to make today.

Brandon invited the staff to a Monday luncheon to celebrate my contribution here.  Friday will actually be my last day in the office, as they want me to be able to spend time with my sister, for which I’m very thankful.  Basically, while waiting for the website changes to be completed, I have no other significant projects to work on, so Brandon made the decision to allow me to have the next two weeks off to spend with my sister. Having my sister present for this little celebration will be the icing on the cake!

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After work, I stopped by a few different supermarkets looking for some flea powder, and finally found the last can at the Top Supermarket.  I also picked up some flea treatment for the back yard, and bought some rawhide chew sticks for the dogs to enjoy.  When I did get home, they were immensely grateful for their little presents.

Tonight I decided to take a break from diving and get the place cleaned up to some extent.  I did the stoop and scoop in the back yard for about half an hour.  Then I swept all the floors in the house.  It rather looks like you are sweeping the back yard, as there is so much dust on the floor.  It is different from the house dust in Canada, as here it is mostly very, very fine dirt that blows in off the landscape and through the open louvres.  It is amazing how much dust can collect in just one week. I could probably grow a plant with the dirt I’ve swept up since I’ve been here.

I then went out and picked up two more tanks of Nitrox for my dives on Saturday with Jay.  Tomorrow I will have to pick up my free tank from the Hamlet Dive Shop for when I do the sensor reading Friday evening.  I also hope to make contact again with the Canadian dive master from last night, as he is interested in becoming an ocean monitor.  I know Albert can use all the help he can get in keeping up with the underwater monitoring program.

Tonight is movie night at the Pedersen’s, and then I’m diving with Jay at 8:00 am on Saturday. Depending on when my sister arrives, I may not have time to put up a blog until perhaps Sunday. But I’ll do my best. I feel very fortunate to have had my mother transcribe all my audio blogs. Otherwise I most likely wouldn’t have been able to stay current for the last month. Thanks mom.

Here is an idea for missionary supporters back home. Ask your missionaries if they would benefit from having someone transcribe audio blogs sent to them in mp3. For me it takes about twenty minutes to dictate, and 10 minutes to review and post the next morning. If I have a lot of photos, that takes me about another 10 minutes to go through and delete the blurry ones. Then I just upload the entire series from that day. So total time out of my day to keep my supporters up to date: between 30 to 40 minutes. If I had to type it myself, I’d likely be at it for an hour and a half. Typing also requires a desk, where you can do dictation from anywhere. So if you are a typist, you may want to conisder a transcription ministry.

So, just two more sleeps until my sister arrives!

Blue Light Night Dive – Aug. 29, 2012

Tonight I’m blogging from the end of the dock of Dive & Adventure Bonaire.  This is the fourth dive shop that I’ve registered with, as I like to hunt for bargains and check out the various operations.  It is a full moon tonight, with calm seas and a gentle breeze.  In a word, perfect!

 Photos here

Today at work I was able to meet withBrandon, and we had some further discussions about getting our issues addressed on the software we are using for the website.

Brandon asked me if we should go ahead and launch with it not having all the features and functionality that I would like to see.  I said that I would prefer to address certain issues first – and then launch.  I originally expected to launch before this Friday, but this now seems unlikely.  The launch may be delayed for a week or two.  I am a bit frustrated by these delays, but I guess that’s ministry!  Please pray that God will give me patience, that He will work out the details and remove obstacles, and allow us to launch soon!

During the morning, I kept busy sorting the photos.  Then I took Donna, the lady who takes care of the finances, out for lunch to my new favourite restaurant, Between 2 Buns.  While there, Captain Don’s wife walked in, who Donna knew quite well.  Apparently they own a kunucu somewhere near the donkey sanctuary.  I had always envisioned Captain Don living on the seashore all his life, but apparently that is no longer the case.

After lunch, Brad came in, and we spent the majority of the afternoon going through probably a couple thousand different pictures, and he was able to identify a great many of the people in them.  We also came across a 2007 reunion where many of the former missionaries which my parents and I knew were pictured.  For Brad, it was a bit of an exercise in reminiscing, and I think he rather enjoyed it.  Brad is an easy-going guy to work with, and it made for an enjoyable afternoon.

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After work, I tried to locate some more flea treatment for the yard, but was not able to find it.  I then had supper at a small Chinese restaurant in the downtown, which has been there for over 25 years.  Then it was time to pack up my gear and head for Dive Adventure Bonaire, which is just to the right of Eden Beach.

Dive: Barrie’s Reef

The dive master was a Canadian by the name of Sean from Calgary, who was a very likable fellow, and an excellent dive master.

The science behind blue light night diving is that coral lives in a symbiotic relationship with algae, which usually includes some type of natural phosphorescence.  The naked eye cannot perceive these wavelengths, and so we wear a set of yellow goggles in front of our scuba mask.  Our dive lights are actually blue lights, and so, in a way, you’re diving in the dark, similar to using black light.  The result is that about half the corals light up like a Christmas tree when you shine the blue light on them.  The predominant colour I see was bright yellow, but there was also a brown coral that has bright orange dots, almost like gold dust, all over it.  We found a sea serpent that looked to be glowing white and yellow.  Some of the sponges had a rich red glow, almost like they had an internal heat source.

On the way out, we encountered a few anemones, which were just spectacular in the blue light.  I had forgotten to bring an extra cover for my camera, and so didn’t get a picture of these.  Later in the dive, I decided to try it anyway, and but they turned out mostly blue.

We only went to about 15 or 18 metres, and cruised along.  For some strange reason, my sinuses were bothering me, and the first half of the dive wasn’t entirely comfortable.  Sean said this may have been due to the extra strap we were wearing for the goggles, as he had the same problem.

Before diving, I had mentioned to Sean about the Touch the Sea book I am just finishing reading, and he said he is quite happy to handle eels.  We did see several eels, as they are out of their holes and swimming around at night.  The first one was a sea serpent of some type, and he grabbed it, but it slithered away rather quickly.  Later on he tried to touch an eel, but the eel didn’t want to play.  While it looks amazing, I don’t think I’m ready to pet an eel just yet!!

As Sean had predicted, we were accompanied for a good part of the dive by a tarpon.  This is the large predator, about four to five feet long, that tries to hunt by our dive lights.  However, in this case, the blue light didn’t seem to immobilize the fish around us, and so he ended up being a disappointed hunter.  I didn’t notice him towards the second half of the dive.

On the way out, I also noticed three other night divers up in shallower waters.  We had also met two night divers coming in as we were heading out.  This is one of the new things on Bonaire that I have noticed.  You quite often meet other divers under water, which hardly ever occurred when I was a kid.

I also saw a couple of sea cucumbers on the way back, which are an 18” long by 5” wide caterpillar-shaped creatures, that move almost imperceptibly across the bottom.

Just as we were exiting, a little needle fish got extremely excited and attracted to Sean’s light, and came right up and started poking at it.  He actually jumped out of the water in pursuit of Sean’s light.  I’ve never seen anything quite like it!

After we had rinsed our gear, Sean said he couldn’t locate the extra visor that he had loaned me for my camera.  In the confusion, I’m not sure where I left it, but Sean said they will sort that out in the morning.  I guess there were too many new things going on tonight.  Nonetheless, this was a spectacular new adventure that I hope I can share with my sister.  However, I would recommend that people get comfortable first with night diving with the regular white light before they attempt blue light night diving.

So, another day, another new experience.  A dive is the best way to end any day, in my books!

Goal in Sight – Aug. 28, 2012

Tonight I’m blogging from a small pier between the public pier and the Divi Flamingo.  It is a typical balmy night, and the sea is very calm.  We have a three-quarter moon out, which allows me to see down to the bottom, ten feet below me, like I’m looking into glass.  As I was driving home tonight along the seaside road, the driving was very slow, which I never seem to mind.  I noticed quite a few Bonairians sitting and chatting along the seashore.

This morning, the south end of the island experienced a power outage.  My power went off around 6:30.  I decided to leave the refrigerator closed and eat out for breakfast, so I quickly fed the dogs, and went up to my favourite lunch spot near the studio.

The transmitter site also lost power, which meant about two hours of programming was not able to be broadcast.  Please pray that TWR-Bonaire will have reliable power so that the broadcasts can continue uninterrupted.

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This morning I met with Brandon, and we went over the final layout of the website.  The good news is that the goal is in sight, and pending the furloughing director’s approval, we will be going live on Friday, August 31st.  I felt I was able to communicate well with Brandon, and we came to an agreement about the priorities.

Partway through our meeting, Jay Silverstein dropped by on a surprise visit.  He wanted to go diving tonight, which, of course, I agreed to.  I’ll give him the full tour of the studio at a later date, as I had to return to my meeting with Brandon.

The majority of today involved sorting photos.

During the noon hour, I was able to convince Ivan to have his lunch with me in my office, and help me identify the people in the photos.  He was able to identify 80 or 90% of everyone he saw, which was just amazing.  So far, I am up to the year 2006 in the photo sorting.  The goal is to finish before my sister arrives on Saturday.

After further discussion with Brandon, he expressed his concern that any additional projects beyond the website setup and the photo sorting would jeopardize my time with my sister.  He feels that the value of some other miscellaneous projects does not outweigh the importance of my relationship with my sister.  So the goal now is to try to wrap up my work by this Friday, and take most of the next two weeks off to get reacquainted with my sister.

Do pray that her visit will go well, as we have very little contact with each other back home due to the long-distance drive it takes to reach her in Kingston.

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Dive:  Weber’s Joy

Right at five o’clock, I got changed and headed across the street to Jay’s house where I found him loading his pickup truck with his dive gear.  Within a couple of minutes, we were on the road north to dive Weber’s Joy.  This is just before the road becomes a one-way.

Weber’s Reef is also one of the sensor sites that Jay services, so I asked him if he wouldn’t mind pointing it out to me.  We didn’t go particularly deep, only about 25 metres.  Jay managed to snag two lion fish, one of which was a juvenile.

I did notice a significant amount of red algae on the bottom.  I am also finding that either I am becoming more familiar with the reef, or there wasn’t anything new here.  I’m not taking as many photos as I used to.

The current was fairly strong, and as we were swimming towards the sensor which was with the current, we ended up going right past it.  When we did turn around and go into the shallows, Jay wasn’t sure exactly how far he had to go, so after about ten minutes, we decided to surface.  Sure enough, we had gone quite a distance past.  By this time, Jay was running low on air, so he decided to swim backwards on the surface.

Since there are never any surface markers, these sensor buoys can be particularly difficult to find.  In this case, there was a large tree right on the edge of a small cliff on the water’s edge that marks the spot.  From here you go out about 100 metres and look for an old pillar from a previous dock mooring that is resting on the bottom at a slight angle to the shore.  Making note of the way it’s lying, you follow that direction out about another 100 metres, until you are out in approximately 40 metres of water, and the bottom has disappeared.  Then you see the three Coke bottles materialize about five metres down.  Jay said they were attached to the mooring column that had broken off years ago some 30 metres down.  All the sensors are attached to artificial objects rather than the reef itself, in order to minimize damage.  I could not see what it was attached to, so I decided to submerge, and went down to about 18 metres where I could finally see the top of the pillar that it was attached to.  Jay has to replace all these sensors on Thursday, as for some mysterious reason, they have all malfunctioned.

We then headed back to shore, and, as usual, clambered awkwardly out of the water.  I always find the exit onto these coral-strewn shores somewhat difficult, but it sure beats the price of a boat.

On the way home, I picked up a new tank at Wannadive, and got back around 7:30, fed the dogs, and ran a load of laundry.

Tonight I dropped by one of the busiest restaurants on the waterfront called At Sea.  I decided to try the yellowtail snapper again, and it was very good.  However, it seems a little too upscale for me, if that makes any sense.

Tonight the stars are out, although there is some cloud cover, and, as usual, I see the yellow lights of a tanker on the horizon.  While I’ve been blogging, there have been at least three airplanes land and take off at the airport.

And so ends another pleasant day on Bonaire.