Motivating Children – Aug. 27, 2012

Tonight I got chased out of my favourite blogging spot, which is always somewhere by the seaside, as it started to rain.  I got home and checked my GPS, and, yes, I’m still on Bonaire!  I guess this is the beginning of the rainy season, so I am dictating this from my couch, with the fans going full blast.

 Photos from Aug. 26 & 27 here

After breakfast, I went on the hunt for my scuba mask, but the scuba shop where I thought I left it didn’t open until eight o’clock, so I returned there just after devotions at the studio.  Thank goodness, they had put my mask in the lost and found.

This is a new dive shop called Bonaire Dive & Adventures, which is the closest one to the studio.  I asked André Nahr, the owner, if they had any night dives.  He said, yes, they had a specialty dive called blue light night diving.  Apparently this is diving with special orange goggles on and blue light, which highlights some of the marine life that is not normally visible to the naked eye.  Apparently it is becoming quite popular, so I will book that in the morning.  I plan to go Wednesday night.

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This morning I had a conversation with Brandon about what would become of the web pages that will not be made public right away.  We decided that we should document what our reasoning was regarding these dormant pages, and if there were any tasks or technical support that would be needed in order to have a page become active in the future.

Once again I went through the entire site, and made notes on each page, jotting down what I thought the action items might be down the road, perhaps after I leave.

I also took my Jeep into the shop for a tune-up, as apparently it was due.  I picked the Jeep up just after 1:30 when they reopened after siesta.  Most places take siesta from 12:00 noon to 1:30.

In speaking with Dick in the morning, it appears that the local school children start school at 7:30 in the morning, and are off at 12:30, so he generally comes into work a bit early each day, after he drops off the kids.  One of his sons has a part-time job at the new Dutch supermarket.

In the afternoon, I again went at the photo sorting, but will have to get some help identifying the people.  Brad Swanson agreed to sit down with me to help me with the faces.

Please pray as I meet Tuesday morning with Brandon about the future development of the website past the launch date.

As I was walking out the door, Dave Pedersen asked me if I had any plans.  This was the one night when I didn’t have any dive scheduled, so he invited me over for supper.

After I fed and dusted the dogs with flea powder, I headed over to my home away from home at the Pedersens’.  The children were still working on a few of their chores, with the older girl doing her exercises.  She didn’t seem particularly enthused about her workout, so I offered her my blue tooth stereo headset, and tuned in her favourite Internet radio station.  Then the problem was getting her to stop exercising, as that meant the headsets would come off!  The other two kids competed for my iPad and Android cell phone.

Dave’s wife, Mari, wanted to know about Joanna, so I filled her in on my sister’s exploits.  I must say, it is easy to brag about my very cool sister.

Supper was Dagwood-style hamburgers, which were a challenge to get my jaws around, but I managed.  After supper, the older girl helped her father do the dishes, while the other kids went back to their video games.  The younger girl wanted to see my daughter Rebekah’s photo album from Disneyworld in Florida that I had taken five years ago.

After the chores were done, the kids wanted to see my scuba gear, which I had with me in the car.  With their help, I attached the BC to the tank, and then hooked up the regulator.  I let the kids do all the work, with careful supervision.  Then I gave them the spare regulator to try breathing with, and they thought it was very cool.  Next, they had to wear the scuba mask and breathe out of the regulator.  Then the older girl had to try on my wet suit and the mask and the regulator!  Not satisfied with that, she wanted to put the tank on her back, and see if she could manage.  At this point, I got Dave’s help, as the weight was almost more than she could hold.  She pretended she was swimming, as she stumbled around with the tank on her back.

My goal had been to inspire the kids to one day take up scuba diving.  I think we may have made some headway in that area.  Particularly their son, with his difficulty in walking, would greatly benefit from the weightless environment of scuba diving.  Dave is seriously considering getting him into this type of thing down the road.

As the older girl is only eleven, I told her she should wait until she is at least fourteen.

Finally, it was 8:30, and I decided it was time to clear out and allow Dave to put them to bed.  Mari had left to visit a widow friend of hers whose husband used to be the interim pastor for the International Bible Church.  I feel very fortunate to have connected with this loving family.

Don’t Touch! – Aug. 26, 2012

The beach I am dictating this blog from is called Bachelor’s Beach, although I think that may be a bit of a misnomer.  I figured it would be appropriate for me to come here, being a bachelor, but I’m still looking for the beach!  I’m sitting on a rock cliff about ten feet above the water, and the coastline is slightly undercut, with the waves thudding in beneath me.  While there is a bit of sand when the waves wash out, it is basically all under water.

To my right, I can see all the lights of Kralendijk, as my location is around the corner of the island.  Tonight it is hazy and overcast, with a half moon, so the stars are not that remarkable.

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This morning I woke up just after six, despite not having turned the alarm on.  I decided to try to get up to one of the dive shops to book an afternoon boat dive, so headed out in good time.  First, I wanted to grab some breakfast at my new favourite breakfast spot, but by the time that was finished, I had to postpone my trip to the dive shop.

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Today’s Sunday service was led by Brandon Neal, my boss, who is actually an ordained minister.  He led the singing, and Pastor Toto gave the sermon.  I told everyone that my sister was coming this Saturday, and they all seemed very excited for me.  I must admit, the closer Joanna’s visit gets, the more I’m looking forward to it.

After the service, we had time for cookies and drinks, and then the adult Sunday School began.  Brad Swanson was going to launch a DVD series on apologetics by the Ravi Zacharias group.  Unfortunately, the DVD player decided to die, so Brad ran home to get his own DVD player.  Then we couldn’t get the DVD out of the old player, so we actually had to get a screwdriver and take it out manually.  Unfortunately, this resulted in a scratch on the DVD, and the presentation ended five minutes before it was supposed to.

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After the service, I drove up to Buddy Dive, which is just before Captain Don’s Habitat.  My impression was that it is a large American-run outfit with a fast-paced, expensive dive operation.  They were asking $55 for a boat dive compared to Bruce Bowker’s $35.  I said Thanks anyway, and drove off to Bruce’s.  Luckily, he still had room on his 1:30 boat ride, and so I signed up.  I went home for a quick lunch, grabbed my gear, and headed out.  However, it appears I have misplaced my mask, so I had to rent one from Bruce.

Dive spot:  Knife (Klein Bonaire)

Our dive master was an American lady by the name of Linda, who seemed to be a lot of fun, and rather outspoken.  The problem was that she doesn’t seem to have read Dee Scar’s book Touch the Sea.  I have been reading a chapter every lunch hour, and have begun to experiment with some of her ideas.  I saw a colourful nudibranch worm on one of the corals, and picked it up, as Jay had showed me to do.  Before I knew it, Linda tapped me on the shoulder, and wagged her finger at me.  Of course I couldn’t explain that I was being very gentle and not harming it, but she didn’t seem to get the point underwater.  I carefully put it back where I had found it, and waited for it to grab onto the rock.

By the time we had surfaced, I forgot to suggest to her that “Do not touch” is a quick way for divers to get burned out, and stop appreciating the reef.

Dee Scar’s idea is to, with great care and patience, engage the sea creatures and interact with them.  She will pick up a sea urchin and place it on her hand where its tiny suction feet will hold on, and she can actually turn it upside down.  She has learned to pet eagle rays, and stroke moray eels.  These last two are beyond what I’m prepared to do.  But a little inch-long nudibranch worm, I can handle, but apparently not while diving with Linda.

I greatly enjoyed the boat ride, and even though it was far more expensive than shore diving, it gave me an opportunity to see Klein Bonaire.  The place we dove was called KNIFE, but I didn’t find any of the sea horses that I have been looking for since I arrived.  What we did find was a frog fish that was completely disguised, sitting in the middle of a yellow tube sponge.  It was exactly the same yellow colour as the tube sponge, and I would have swum right by it, if she didn’t point it out.  It was only about five inches long, and didn’t move a muscle, even though there were six divers hovering around it.

This was my 40th dive since re-certification last year, and my 27th since I arrived on Bonaire.  I seem to be averaging about one dive a day, which is just the way I like it!

On the way back, we had to avoid some kite surfers.  Apparently, a few of these kite surfers have the habit of surfing right into the shore, almost up to the sand, before they turn around and head back to sea at high speed.  The problem is that a surfacing diver could get his head taken off by these surf boards, as there is no warning without there being a motor.  Nonetheless, their spectacular moves and agility still impress me.

There were also a number of Sunfish Sailing Boats out on the water, as well as the water taxi which takes people over to Klein Bonaire.

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After the dive, I took time to relax at the beach front, and then headed down to where I thought I might have dropped my mask yesterday.  It was nowhere to be found, so I will have to look elsewhere.  Then it was over to Wannadive to grab a new tank, and head home for a shower

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Tonight I decided to try one of the oldest restaurants on the island called Zee Zicht.  They actually had conch on the menu.  Even though it was way too expensive, I decided to try it.  It wasn’t bad, although I found it a bit rubbery.

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I had originally thought about sitting at the downtown waterfront to do my blog, but it seems the seaside road has become a cruising strip for all the guys and their boom-box type cars.  I’m glad I moved to a more secluded spot where I can collect my thoughts a little more easily.

Time to head back to my hot spot at home and get this uploaded.

Dive All Day! – Aug. 25, 2012

I am writing the blog a day later, while sitting at Bachelor’s Beach on a ten-foot ledge above the water.  There are stairs that go down to the water.  Quite a few waves are washing in.  I can see the lights of the town to my right, as I’m around the bend in the island.

 Photo here

The weekend has been too filled with activity to be able to spare even a moment to blog.  I was up late both Friday and Saturday, but tonight, things are more relaxed.

Saturday began with dropping off the reader to Yellow Submarine just after eight o’clock when they opened.  Then I went next door to drop off my empty tank and pick up two more from Wannadive.  While I was in that end of town, I stopped by the new breakfast spot that Dave Pedersen had suggested, called Between 2 Buns, and found it to be quite good.  Then I had to hustle off home to meet Jay at 9:30.  He actually got there a bit later, but Saturdays I run on Bonaire time.

First Dive:  South of Red Slave

Jay likes to try to head as far south as the waves will permit, as there tend to be more lion fish in these more remote dive sites.  After checking the wave action in a few spots, we decided that we could enter just between the lighthouse and the radar tower, which was the most southerly point I have dived yet.  The entry wasn’t too bad, although the exit was considerably more difficult.

The dive itself was spectacular!  Dave went straight down to 30 metres where the reef meets the sand, and immediately found a few large lion fish.  Further on, he found a little rock outcropping in the sand, and was able to bag three from that location alone.  We ended up with seven lion fish, five of which were a good eating size.  Because we were fairly deep, the dive lasted only 35 minutes.

Across from the dive site were some flamingos feeding right near the road, and I was able to get a few decent shots.  I didn’t have my full-size camera with me, and I wished I had.  Jay was looking for a way to keep the fish fresh, so we drove back to my place and put them in a bag inside my crisper.

The rule of thumb is to take at least an hour off between dives.

Second Dive:  Tori’s Reef

We headed back south and stopped at Tory’s Reef.  This dive site is next to the run-off stream from the salt pans.  This entry was the most difficult of all, and we almost turned around to find a different site, but eventually did make it in.  While not as spectacular as the first dive, it was very nice.  I was able to get a video of a turtle up close.  From what I learned the other night at the turtle conservation lecture, this was a Hawksbill turtle.  Apparently they feed mostly on sponges, so their flesh can be toxic if eaten.

He is continuing to experiment with his spear, and, unfortunately, about half the lion fish do get away.  One of the lion fish didn’t get away, but we were not able to take it home!  Some greedy yellow-tailed snappers grabbed it right off of Jay’s spear.  Jay had turned it over, and they were able to hit the belly of the lion fish, and within seconds, two of them had torn it to pieces.  One made a huge gulp and swallowed the whole thing.  I don’t understand how they can wolf it down without being hit by the venomous spines.  Jay gave me the thumbs up, indicating that that was a good way after all to dispose of an under-sized lion fish.

One of the things Jay does between dives, which I have to catch onto, is we have some granola bars to keep up our energy.

After the dive, we stopped in at Port Bonaire and rinsed our equipment.  By this time, it was nearly three-thirty, and we had to meet the boat for our evening cruise at 4:40.

Jay pointed out another tank that was a good foot-and-a-half taller than the ones we were diving.  This was a 120 cubic foot aluminum tank that Jay’s friend, Walt Bensen, dives.  Jay is very interesting in getting a similar tank, as he breathes a lot more air when he is hunting, as opposed to just sightseeing.  I’ve heard these things cost well over $500.  That may be prohibitive, but it would solve Jay’s problem of air consumption during a hunt.

Just as we left the dive shop, Jay realized that he had a flat.  We jacked the car up, and he put the spare on, and as I was letting the car back down, we realized the tire had no air.  Doesn’t it seem that these things always happen when you’re in a hurry?

Just then, one of Jay’s friends from the Dive Friends Dive Shop stopped by and asked if we needed help.  I said, “Yes, I should go get my car and bring it back to pick up Jay.”  He was a friendly Dutch fellow who took me back to my place, where I jumped in my car and headed back.  I was halfway back when Jay flagged me down, going the other way.  Apparently he had found his pump, and was able to pump the tire up.

By this time, it was four o’clock, and we had skipped lunch.  Jay said, “Come on over to my place, and my girlfriend will give us lunch in a big hurry.”  So that is what we did, and we were able to wolf down a proper chicken dinner in ten minutes!  Jay and his girlfriend have been the most hospitable people I have met here on the island, next to the Pedersens.

Third Dive: Sharon’s Serenity (Klein Bonaire)          

We arrived at the yacht harbour just in time, and discovered that there were only four of us on the cruise.  The outing was billed as a “Lion Fish Cull,” although myself and the other lady were not armed with spears, but only our cameras.  It was a fairly large diesel-powered boat, and I was surprised that we still went out with only four people.  The operator’s name was Menno, who operates another dive shop called La Tina Divers.

We headed to the north-west side of Klein Bonaire, and tethered at the yellow mooring buoy that always indicate a dive site.  The other couple were Italians that have been travelling for the last seven years.  The way the husband put it, he could smell the recession coming away back then, and decided to get out before things got really bad.  They have spent time working as freelance videographers, as well as doing other work related to the marine environment.  He is actually a marine biologist, and his wife seems to be a qualified videographer.  The camera she was using had two lights mounted on it, and ran video.

The dive was very nice, and Jay and the Italian couple were able to bag about four more lion fish each.  Our group went one way up the shore, while the owner of the boat, Menno, decided to go deep and look for lion fish down close to 40 metres.  He was breathing a reduced Nitrox mixture of only 27% in order to avoid oxygen toxicity at that depth.  (Other than Bruce’s shop, all the dive shops use more Nitrox than air these days.  I myself dive exclusively Nitrox now that I’ve found a cheap source at Wannadive.)

After we came up, he had a hot shower available on the boat to rinse the salt out of our hair, and were offered some hot tea, cup cakes and other snacks.  The idea was to wait for at least an hour for it to get dark before hitting the water for our night dive.

It was interesting when I commented about the tanker that was on the horizon, that Menno said you can’t take a sunset photo any more without getting a tanker in the shot.  As I’m writing this blog, I see two tankers out at sea, as well as another jet approaching the airport. No boats are allowed to drop anchor on Bonaire, so the ships just sit a few miles off of the coast until the pier is open.

Fourth Dive:  Southwest Corner (Klein Bonaire)

The night dive was a bit of a treat for me, and I found my flashlight more than adequate.  Jay had a helmet-mounted light as well as three other lights.  At night, you see things that are not out during the day, such as moray eels completely out of their holes, on the prowl.  In one situation, Jay backed off targeting a lion fish because there was a moray eel right next to it.  The Italian gentleman didn’t notice the eel, and came in and got the kill.

One of the most unique things of this dive was that a large tarpon, which is almost the size of a tuna, started circling us, and began ‘fishing’ by our dive lights.  It is a completely silver fish, and can open its mouth really large when grabbing its prey.  He has learned that our dive lights sometimes stun the little bait fish that are always around us, and they temporarily lose their way.  He flashes in and gobbles up these fish.  He stayed with us for a good 20 minutes.  At first, it was a bit unnerving, having this hunter grabbing fish not ten feet away from us, but then I began to get a kick out of it.  It wasn’t until after we surfaced, that the lady videographer said that he had struck her camera, which is right between the two lights, thinking it was a fish.  She didn’t seem very upset, but did say it startled her.  I would have been more frightened than that.

On this dive, we only went to about 20 metres, as it was our fourth dive of the day, and we were carrying a significant nitrogen load.

Another fascinating thing about night dives is how certain corals extend their polyps far out into the water.  One in particular, a yellow type of coral, had little multi-fingered hand-like orange projections from the reef, a good inch into the water.  I’ve been trying to figure out what it looks like during the daytime, but can’t make the connection.  About a third of the corals blossom at night, while the others seem to be more or less the same as they are during the daytime.

Another interesting feature was a sea star type of creature that resembles a bundle of tentacle-like branches that all seem to be quivering and moving at once.  It’s like a living knot.  During the day, you see them bunched up on the fern-type corals, but tonight, I saw them feeding on some of the tube sponges.  It was an almost alien-like creature to see in action.

On the way back, the captain had turned on the light underneath the boat so we could spot our exit point.

The tarpon was basically with us the entire second half of the dive, and was probably sad to see us exit the water.  Menno seemed to dislike the tarpon’s presence.  In fact, he had instructed us on the way out that even if we speared a small lion fish that wasn’t worth keeping, that we were to take it with us so that the sea life doesn’t start to associate divers with food sources.  Apparently a few weeks ago, a moray eel that had been fed once too often approached a diver “looking for a meal,” and scared him halfway out of his wits.

On the way back to port, I marvelled at the beauty of being out on a boat in these warm Caribbean waters.  I’d say diving all day is the life for me!

First Solo Dive – Aug 24, 2012

Good news this morning! Not a pest in sight! I think I may have done a bit of overkill in fogging the house with pesticide yesterday, but I’m not sorry. There is no indication of any unwelcome critters anywhere in my house. The dogs also seem to be benefitting from the flea-powder treatment, as well as the treatment of the yard. As Brandon put it, things rarely go according to schedule on Bonaire, or anytime in ministry for that matter. I’m hoping that this distraction from our normal work schedule is now over.

 Photos here

At work, I read a little devotion that my Dad had written up for me the previous day, which was about the opportunity that tribulation can afford. I think Dad is right. One has to completely change your perspective when problems arise. There is often a hidden opportunity that comes with the problems. For example, I was able to get to know the Swansons a bit better, which wouldn’t have occurred otherwise. I also had a bit of fun with my Darth Vader impression, as I fogged my house in scuba gear.

Even the loss of my cell phone allowed me to gift the mission with a better phone that future volunteer missionaries will be able to use. So thanks, Dad, for those words of wisdom gleaned from the pages of scripture.

Most of my time this morning was spent doing an overview of the website and doing various edits that Brandon and I had come up with. We still plan to launch the website very soon. Brandon has made the executive decision, which I agree with, that we will launch with a limited number of pages. These web pages are the ones that are not currently under construction or still have challenges to overcome. As it looks now, we will have over a dozen pages that will most likely go live, with probably just as many pages still pending. Please pray that we can continue working and hit the target!

During lunch hour, I drove up to the Hamlet Dive Shop and picked up a free tank of air for my evening Sea Monitor dive. This satellite station of the Dive Friends Bonaire is still under construction, so everything is new. They close at 4:30, so I had to get the tank during my noon hour.

Then I dropped by Bon Photo and picked up a Sea Turtle Conservation T-shirt, which gives them a donation at the same time. It is a rather nice green cotton shirt, which I am wearing as I dictate this blog. LeAnne was the clerk who I met on my first week at the International Bible Church. She is a very friendly American girl. I was impressed with the operation at Bon Photo. They seem to be into all kinds of endeavours, almost all related to conservation efforts on the island. They have some YouTube footage as well, which is quite interesting.

In the afternoon, I continued the photo sorting, and am getting a little quicker at it. Some of the newer photo albums appear to have already been sorted but not tagged.

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Front Porch Dive

After work, I went to the Front Porch dive site, which is only a block away from the studio. I decided that it was time I tried a solo dive. Some dive spots frown on diving alone, but it is becoming an increasingly common practise in the dive industry. The trick to a solo dive is not to go deeper than you can safely surface from, which I determined to be 20 metres maximum.

As I entered the water and headed down the slope towards the ship, I found that the water was very murky. This dive site often has a lot of either sediment or plant material in the water, limiting visibility to only about 100 feet. As I descended the slope, I could not spot the tug on which the sensors were moored. I had already got to 25 metres, and still no ship.

I turned left, ascended to 20 metres, and swam along, scanning down the slope for the sunken tug. After a few minutes, I still couldn’t find the tug. I must admit at this point, being disoriented while on a solo dive was somewhat disconcerting. I debated whether to carry on or turn around and go back. I decided to go back, and headed north along the slope. Then I saw a large shape loom out of the mist, and thought I had found it, but this was just a large anchor point for another mooring spot.

So I carried on further along the slope. All of a sudden, the tug materialized out of the haze, and I saw the mooring line. Since I was already at 20 metres, I started on the bottom sensors.

My first task was to attach a new sensor to replace the one that had malfunctioned during my training dive last week. Albert had already cut it off, but he had left part of the zip tie inside the rope so that I would know exactly where  to attach it. The mooring line is a three-strand nylon rope, and the idea is to attach the sensor to one strand. Care must be taken that the sensor ends up sticking out horizontally from the rope, right side up. The bottom of the sensor has a groove so that you cannot put the reader on upside down. After a bit of a struggle, I got the new twist-tie in the rope, and then pulled out the old one. Then I cinched it up to just the right length, and got my new scissors out and cut off the excess. I put the scrap in my BC pocket. As an environmentalist, I don’t intend to pollute here.

I got out my Scotchguard rag and scrubbed the bottom sensor vigorously, and then pulled out my reader, snapped it on, and pressed the trigger. The middle yellow light began flashing, indicating the data transfer had begun. The sensor is attached to the shoulder strap of my BC with a flexible cord, so I was able to let go of it and begin cleaning the top sensor. About ten seconds later, the indicator light had turned to green “OK,” and I pulled it off and turned the reader off.

Next, it was up to the sensor I had just replaced, took another reading, and resumed cleaning the algae off the rope, and then the top sensor, and on up to the 12-metre level.

I was amazed at the amount of algae growth that had taken place during the week since we had been to this site. While I also cleaned the rope, it was impossible to get all the algae off, so I just gave it a scrubbing on the way up.

With the mid-level sensors done, I carried on to the top single sensor at about the six or seven-metre range. This one had the most algae growth. As I ascended each level, I adjusted my buoyancy as the air inside my BC expands as my depth decreases.

I stowed the reader, and began to clean the three two-litre Coke bottles that were attached to the top of the mooring line. They required quite a bit of work, but after a total of about 15 or 20 minutes, the job was done. Success! I am now officially a Sea Monitor!

I then intended to head to the shore, but suddenly realized I could see nothing except dark blue water all around me. Even the wreck, 20 metres below me, had disappeared. I felt I knew which way to go, but without a compass, I couldn’t be sure. Note to self: Buy a compass.

I debated what to do, and again, the disconcerting feeling of being alone crept back. One, I could descend to the tug, from which I knew I could see the slope, but that was below my 20-metre personal limit. Or I could strike out for what I thought to be the shore, and end up swimming halfway to Klein Bonaire! Typically, divers don’t like surfacing, but, in this case, I decided that was my best course of action. It turned out I was correct on the direction of the shoreline, so I re-submerged to make the swimming easier, and headed out into the blue, again losing sight of anything but the murky water in front of me. A minute later, I caught sight of the shoreline.

I then decided to take some very good landmarks, and found a cable running down the length of the slope towards the wreck. There was also a large jumble of discarded beams, presumably from the old Hotel Bonaire, that were strewn across the sea floor at about the eight-metre level. It turned out that I should have gone slightly more to the right than I did when I first entered the water. Next time, I won’t have any trouble with the navigation.

Now I wanted to try out something that you can’t do while diving with a buddy. I’ve been reading the book called “Touch The Sea,” and one of the things that Dee Scar said was if you stay still, the reef life that you have just disturbed by your presence, will soon settle back into their routines. I wanted to observe the actual behaviour rather than just the shape and colour of the various creatures on the reef. In buddy diving, you seem to be always in a rush to keep up with your buddy, which does not allow time to just hover and observe.

Good fortune had it that I soon spotted a queen angel fish feeding on some dead coral, like the parrot fish do. I figured out that although smaller, the beak of the queen angel fish has much the same function as that of the parrot fish, which is to chew off the algae that covers all dead coral. He was busily bouncing up and down on the coral, a bite at a time. I got within maybe four metres, and then stopped. Although my camera operates better within two metres, I didn’t want to spook the little fellow. Sure enough, he turned around and spotted me, but then realized I wasn’t moving any closer, and resumed his supper. I was able to get a good minute or minute-and-a-half video of this little fish going about his daily routine undisturbed. I think I’m on to something here in being able to observe behaviours by making no sudden movements!

While I stayed around the 10-metre level for the remainder of the dive, my tank pressure soon approached 50 bar, and so I returned to the shore. As I exited the water, I felt a great sense of accomplishment, that not only had I successfully completed my Sea Monitor duties, but I had also made my first solo dive, which, for me, in a strange sort of way, is a kind of coming of age exercise. I have become very confident and relaxed in my scuba diving skills, which was why I decided to make this dive solo. At the same time, I also realized that I definitely prefer diving with a buddy, as I am much more relaxed that way. I doubt I’ll do that many solo dives in the future.

I then returned my scuba tank to the Yellow Submarine Shop on the waterfront, as they don’t care which of the Dive Friends Shops that you return your tank to. This also gave me the opportunity to rinse my gear out in their fresh-water tanks.

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Then it was home for a quick shower.

(As I’m recording this from my front porch, six parakeets just flew by!)

Next I hurried off to the Pedersens for pizza and movie night.

The Pedersens had some Spanish guests over that they knew from the International Church. Tonight was Episode III of Star Wars where Anikin goes to the dark side. The scene was a little bit darker compared to the other episodes, and the children thought it looked a bit too real. Sometimes it’s hard for kids to determine the difference between made-up movie scenes and real life.

The guests also had an iPhone, and we were able to hook up on the Zello network. This allowed us to use our cell phones as walkie-talkies, regardless of how far apart we are in the world. The only requirement is that you have to be online, which, in the case of Bonaire, means in a hot spot – or subscribed to the local phone company’s 4G network… but that doesn’t make much sense for just a few weeks.

By the time I got home, it was well after ten, so I didn’t actually dictate this blog until Sunday morning. My apologies if people have been checking the site without seeing any updates. But a fellow must have priorities, and mine is to be doing things whenever possible rather than always blogging at the expense of the doing. I hope you guys will understand.

War on the Pests! – Aug. 23, 2012

Tonight I’m sitting once more on the waterfront, but this time I’m between the two public piers.  There is a nice cobblestone public walkway that goes most of the distance between the two. 

  Photos here

(My dive buddy Jay Silverstein’s photo gallery is here)

In front of me are two low-lying container barges, with the superstructure at only one end of the vessel.  They would be maybe 300 feet long at the most.  The one closest to me holds three containers lengthwise, by four wide, for a total of twelve containers.

To my right it looks something like a garbage barge, but I’m not sure what it is.  It is intermittently banging on the dock as the waves come in and out.

Further to my right, also on the public dock, is the Dutch warship that arrived three days ago.  It looks like an ultra-modern surveillance-type of vessel with scopes and antennas and ball-like radar stations on the superstructure.  It has only one offensive weapon that I can see, which is a canon on the front bow.  I’m guessing it is no more than five or ten years old.

Overhead, we are getting a bit of a light show, with sheet lightning flashing across the southern sky.  The wind has changed direction, and is now coming from the west or northwest, which is most unusual.  Hurricane Isaac is stirring in the northern Caribbean.

The boats at anchor have floated closer to shore on their moorings due to the change of the wind direction, which again is most remarkable.  I noticed a lot of smaller vessels heading to harbour this afternoon while we were diving.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

This morning I got up bright and early. It had donned on me overnight that I needed to retrieve the SIM card in my submerged cell phone.  The SIM card is basically a computer chip that is virtually indestructible, and contains the identity of my phone, and therefore the minutes I had purchased, and the phone number.

(As I am speaking, one of the container ships has revved up, and is pulling away from the dock. My guess is that it is heading toward Curaçao.  It is belching out a great deal of diesel smoke as it pulls away.  Its structure reminds me of a flatbed truck.)

While I was getting prepared, I noticed that one flea had survived yesterday’s onslaught with the flea powder.  These critters are amazingly hardy.

I arrived at Captain Don’s about quarter after seven, and went down to the dock where I had dropped the cell phone from.  There was no ladder there, so I went to the dock next to it where I could climb up the ladder to exit the water afterward.  In a short swim around the dock, looking at the bottom, sure enough, about ten feet down, was my cell phone, exactly where I had dropped it.  After I had retrieved it, I swam back to the swimming dock where some divers were just entering the water.  I held my soggy cell phone to my ear and said, “Hello!  Hello!” and then complained loudly that these stupid cell phones never seem to work!

After a shower, I stopped by Captain Don’s buffet restaurant for a quick breakfast, and then hurried off to work.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Today most of the staff was off on different duties, and so there were only four of us at devotions.

I was able to talk with Brad later on, and he said that he would not be over to spray the back yard as it was threatening rain.  He did agree with my plan to go buy a whole lot of Baygon spray bottles and fumigate the house again.  We also agreed that I should replace my phone as soon as possible, so I left work and headed for the cell phone store.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

I was able to pick up an older model of a Samsung Smart Phone for a fairly reasonable price.  At the store next door, I  purchased a phone holder that you strap onto your belt  as well as a small Micro SD card.  I topped up the card with another $20 out of my own pocket (this is a TWR phone).  It costs 26 cents per minute to use a cell phone here. The SIM card worked just fine.

Next I went to the old supermarket where we used to shop when I lived here.  It is now called Top Supermarket, but doesn’t seem to be as modern as the new Dutch store I have been used to frequenting since arriving.  They only had two cans of Baygon, but a whole shelf full of some other type of insect killer.  I purchased five cans, 600 ml each, and went home.

I stripped off the bed linen and hid it in the closet, closed all the windows, and donned my scuba gear once more.  This time, I hit them with both barrels, and filled the entire house with a thick layer of toxic fog!  I emptied all five bottles in the house, and then quickly exited, and shut the door.  By that time, I was sweating so much inside my mask that sweat was beginning to collect around my nose.

Since I needed a shower by that point, I went across the road and dove into the ocean to get cleaned off.  When I looked at my feet, lo and behold, I was wearing flippers!  So, I decided to make the most of it, and did a bit of snorkelling.  I was able to get down to about seven or eight metres.  I used to be able to dive to 20 metres when I was a teenager.

After drying off, I changed in their washroom, and had lunch there.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Back at work once more, I continued to work on website issues, and handled a few website requests from Brandon. I was able to implement some of them right away, but the others took some additional work.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

After my pest-shortened workday, I headed out immediately at five o’clock to meet Albert at the Yellow Submarine Dive Shop where he works part-time.  He had a young Dutch fellow with him whose mother is stationed here as a KLM stewardess.  As usual, he was geared up for lion-fish hunting.  We drove about three blocks further down the street, and parked in the Venezuelan Embassy parking lot, right by the ocean.

We snorkelled out to the drop off, and then dropped straight to 30 metres, which is where Albert likes to hunt for lion fish.  Instead of 200 bar, I started with 178 bar, as I had used some air this morning in the war with the bugs.

Albert and his young helper were each armed with lion-hunting spears, and were fairly successful, catching about six of them.  It does seem, though, that the lion fish are becoming more wary of their vulnerability with humans.  I am optimistic that the vigour with which the diving population is attacking these invaders may actually be able to save Bonaire’s reef.  I also used my newly acquired diving scissors to cut away some fishing line.  Since this was a deep dive, we only stayed down for about half an hour before we headed back to the surface.

On the swim through the shallow end, we spotted a green moray eel in about six feet of water.  Our Dutch friend almost ran into him.  I vigorously shook my noise maker to alert him.  I was able to get a half decent video.

I then picked up two new tanks from Wannadive for my dives on Saturday.  This dive shop also has a key-lock system, which is extremely convenient.

Then I headed home, opened up all the windows, turned on all the fans, and fed the dogs.  The smell of the Baygon was still strong in the house, so I left to eat out.
I found a very nice restaurant just across from the secondary pier.  They had barracuda on the menu, which I had never had before, so I gave it a try. It tastes like a typical white fish, and was very well prepared.  I must admit, I’m getting a little spoiled here.

Hopefully tomorrow, there won’t be any distractions, and I’ll be able to get a full work day in.

Sea Turtles – Aug. 22, 2012

Tonight I’m sitting on the dock of Captain Don’s Habitat.  Overlooking the water is a beautiful restaurant with a great number of people in it, some of whom are part of the Wounded Warriors’ Project who have been here for a week or so now.  These are mostly U.S. soldiers wounded in battle.

(No photos today)

The restaurant is built on undercut rock so that the waves create a thudding sound as they hit underneath, and often spray back.  There are lots of lights around here, so the star-viewing is not the best, but the reason I came is for the Sea Turtle Conservation Bonaire presentation that happens twice monthly.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Today the battle against the fleas continued.  I got ready in good time, and spread special flea powder all around the house to rid the fabrics, such as the sofa and bed, of fleas that the dogs had brought in with them last week.  I used a can and-a-half, and sprinkled it on mattresses and carpets, couches and chairs, and on the floor.  I left it sit during the day, and went to work.  I hadn’t imagined I would be doing this on my holidays.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

At work, I spent a fair bit of time reviewing listener prayer letters, and was able to select a favorite from the ones sent from RTM Brazil.  I also did some work on the website.

In the afternoon, Brad Swanson dropped by around two o’clock, and said that he had found a chemical spray to kill the fleas in the dirt in the back yard, and asked me to accompany him back home.  We got there around three o’clock, and Brad and his wife, Sandra, pitched in to help me fight these pests.  Brad mixed up the solution in a hand-pump sprayer, and spent over an hour spraying the yard bit by bit.  He eventually ran out of solution, and so we will have to go back at it tomorrow to complete the job.

Sandra treated the animals with powder outside before bringing them into the house to keep them out of the way of Brad’s spraying operation.  She then continued to spread a bit more powder on them inside, and then brushed them out.  You can tell that Sandra loves dogs, and has a special way with them.  I spent the time sweeping up the flea powder, and vacuuming off the couches and beds.  I was also doing the laundry to clean all the bedding as well.  It was after five by the time they left, and I was very grateful for their having come to my rescue.

For supper, I drove just a short ways down to the Casa Blanca Hotel where they were serving yellow snapper.  It was the melt-in-your-mouth kind of fish, and was very good.  The young man who was the waiter was interested in my new Android Cell Phone, the Samsung Gallaxy S3.  Apparently it is not yet available here, much to his chagrin.  While I was showing him my iPad, the calendar function sounded the alarm for the turtle event coming up at eight o’clock.  This was very fortunate, as I had rather forgotten about this.

On the second and fourth Wednesday of each month, Sea Turtle Conservation Bonaire ( makes a presentation here at Captain Don’s Habitat.  When I arrived at ten to eight, the doors were still locked, but the speaker did manage to show up just before eight o’clock.  Leo was a Dutch fellow, who gave a great presentation in English.  You could tell that he was very passionate about what he does, and went into great detail.

The five types of sea turtles sighted here are now all protected on Bonaire.  It seems this foundation is very active in cleaning the beaches up before nesting season, as well as running various educational and monitoring services.  Not only do they count turtles, but they tag them, and sometimes even place transmitters on them to track their migration around theCaribbean.  Some turtles migrate up to 3500 kilometres away. But when their matting season comes, usually every three years, the return to exactly the same spot where they hatched, often to within 50 metres of the exact spot.

One of the main things people can do to assist is to remove fishing line from the reef, which can trap turtles under the water.  In fact, yesterday, I was able to pick up a pair of scissors for just that purpose.  I hope to spend much of my last four weeks here helping to clean up the reef. I’m also going to pick up a sea turtle t-shirt at BonPhoto next door, where Leo works, to help them raise funds for the turtle research.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Just before I started to record this, I made an amazing discovery. Cell phones can’t swim! I had just sat down on the dock, and while taking my Android cell phone out of my pocket, managed to dislodge the other local cell phone. It made a rather distinctive “plooop” as it splashed into the water under the dock.  I’ll have to replace that tomorrow.

It’s getting late, so it is time to drive down the coastline towards my own habitat!

No Sand – Aug. 21, 2012

I’m starting to get into the habit of finding new and interesting locations from which to dictate my blog each evening.  Tonight I am about a mile from the most southern tip of Bonaire at a place we used to call Far Beach.  Now it is called White Beach, but I would have to disagree with the term beach.  In fact, I’m sitting surrounded by the Caribbean equivalent of a gravel pit.  As far as my flashlight can show me, there are mounds upon mounds of pieces of sun-bleached coral.

 Photos here

Bonaire has never had a reputation for long, sandy beaches, but this used to be the exception.  If I’m not mistaken, this beach was destroyed years ago during a storm.  However, I still have very fond memories of camping out here with my brother and sister when the sandy beach used to be about 20 feet wide.  Now I believe all the sand is under the water.  I came here tonight to scout out the area for when my sister arrives in less than two weeks, as we plan to go camping somewhere in this vicinity.  I’m guessing we will have to get air mattresses in order to cope.

Tonight there is a quarter moon out.  The moonbeams are coming right up to my feet, as I sit three feet from the water’s edge.  The sky is almost completely clear, and there is a pleasant breeze coming from behind me.  To my right, at about the two o’clock position, are the lights of two different oil tankers.  Between them and the beam of moonlight is the glow of Curacao.  To my far right are the towers of Trans World Radio, about two miles to the north.  And to my left, there are only the stars.  In fact, I have driven past all civilization.

What draws me to the beach are the stars.  I know I have mentioned this before, but I never cease to be thrilled by looking into the heavens at God’s handiwork.  I remember going to sleep on the beach as a teenager, staring up at the stars, and trying to see just one more reveal itself, if I stared hard enough.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

This morning I did my impression of Darth Vader, and attacked the insects and fleas in my house.  First, I went around the house and closed every single window.  I still had a bit of air left in my scuba tank from Sunday, so I attached the tank to my BC, hooked up the regulator, got my scuba mask, and turned the tank on.  I had purchased a can of Baygon, which is a heavy-duty insect killer they don’t even sell in Canada.  I started in my bedroom and sprayed everywhere I could think of, all the while breathing out of my regulator.

Next I went to the room where the dogs had been kept for a couple of days during the construction of the back fence, and then proceeded to go through the rest of the house, spraying as I went.

Just as I got to the front door, the Baygon ran out, but I think I was able to do a fairly decent job.  I locked the door, and then removed my gear.  Hopefully, there weren’t any neighbours watching!  As I wasn’t sure whether I would go diving tonight or not, I brought my scuba gear with me to work.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

At TWR, I had devotions, and then sat down to check email and get to work.  I had been meaning to have a sit-down with Brandon for a few days now, and asked him before we began work when would be a good time to sit and chat.  He said he would love to talk, and would let me know as soon as he was free.  Unfortunately, Brandon says he often experiences death by meetings, and today was no different.  He is constantly being called out to meetings at different points on the island and with other staff members.

In the meantime, I started to document the questions I had for him, and ended up with a list three pages long.  I was also able to further refine our discussion paper on the listen-live proposal.

I had brought sandwiches for lunch, as I wanted to get down to the Dive Friends’ Retail Store on the main street before they closed for siesta.  Sure enough, they had exactly the scissors I needed for cutting away fishing line from the reef.  And here is the problem with going shopping:  You never walk away with just the one thing you came in for.  I ended up buying two plastic fish charts that I can bring with me on a dive, two T-shirts and a ball cap.  I charged it to my Visa card, which is the first Visa purchase I’ve made, as I am trying to avoid their service fees.

Next, I dropped down to Wannadive and dropped off my two empty tanks and picked up a full one.  I then let the people at the front desk know that I had a tank.  I love the honour system at all the dive shops down here.

(While sitting here, I saw another shooting star streak towards the horizon, just to the right of the moon.)

After lunch, I answered a few emails, and read up some documentation on compliance issues on the Internet.  Finally around two o’clock, Brandon said he could meet with me, so we went into the conference room, which also functions as the director’s office.  I was thankful that I had things written out, as it allowed me to clearly express my ideas and concerns.  Number one on my list was setting a firm target date for the launch of the website.  After a lengthy discussion, it was agreed that should certain areas of the website not be ready by the end of the month, we would simply de-activate them, and still go live by September 1st.  This was a real answer to prayer, as previously the plan was to launch sometime by the end of this year, after I had left.  Praise the Lord.  My main concern was answered.

We continued going through various topics, including which staff members would be assisting on different pages on the website, as well as when I would be training the staff to take over for me.  We were able to agree on all points.  I actually was able to bring my iPad in so Brandon could go through the site as we discussed each page.  Brandon is working with me to ensure that the site is ready for launch.  We set some goals, and are feverishly working to complete them.  In short, my meeting with Brandon was a real answer to prayer.

(As I continue to dictate, the waves are pounding steadily at my feet, while the Milky Way stretches to the horizon from above my head to about the eleven o’clock position.  I just heard the first car in the last half hour go by.)

After work, the Pedersens invited me over for supper since they were going to provide me with some flea treatment powder for the furniture in the house.  I will be giving all the mattresses and couches a fine coating of flea powder dust before I leave for work in the morning, just in case the Baygon didn’t get all of them.

On the way out, having fed the dogs before leaving, I dropped by the City Café to ask Albert a question.  Since I’ll be doing my first sensor data collection this Friday night, I wasn’t sure how to pass the reader onto the next diver, as the Yellow Submarine Shop will be closed by the time I leave the water.  The solution was easy.  I simply turn it in the following morning.  I also got the contact information of the lady who does the readings Saturday afternoon, and spoke with her on the phone briefly so that we can avoid any missed connections.  I will only have the opportunity to take the readings on four different Fridays.  Once again, Albert was very helpful and enthusiastic.  He seems to be a natural-born leader in these environmental endeavours.

I arrived at the Pedersens by 6:30.  Their son was very excited to show me a new iPad game called Eden.  I decided to buy my own version for 99 cents, which absolutely thrilled the children.  The problem was that the youngest got so excited, that she didn’t want to come to supper.  Mari cooked a lovely supper of rice, chicken thighs, and also chicken in some type of broth, as well as a Chinese vegetable mix with some teriyaki sauce in it.  I told her she should start her own franchise.  The kids took turns telling funny stories from when they were younger.

After supper, Dave called me into his “man cave,” where he showed me the various computer models of radio signal propagation.  Apparently there is a whole series of ham operators who have a secondary hobby of operating VHF receiving stations.  He was able to bring up a website that tracked all the ships on the ocean, as they are all required to have a VHF transmitter on board.  The receiver he showed me was off the Maldives on the east coast of Africa, and it showed the position and track of all the ships in that area.  The VHF receivers these fellows own privately are plugged into the Internet, and together they form this amazing network.  What I find difficult to understand is that these guys do this all for free, in spite of the cost of the equipment.

Dave then went on to show me his own private website where he has posted some of his scientific papers on radio signal propagation through the atmosphere.  Apparently the ionosphere, high up in the atmosphere,  deflects radio waves.   Under the right weather conditions, it can send a ham signal 3,000 miles away or more.   I didn’t realize how much weather affects radio signals.

Dave has been fascinated by radios since he was a child.  It is wonderful how the Lord has called him into the exact ministry where his radio engineering skills can be used for the Lord by Trans World Radio.  Pray for Dave and the other engineer, Dick Veldman, as they do the design on a couple of projects which are still in the pipeline.

(Another shooting star at about “ten o’clock” to my left!)

By the time we came out of Dave’s “cave,” it was eight o’clock, and I could tell that the children were getting a little tired, so I decided to leave and let the parents get them tucked in.

As happened last Friday, instead of heading back north to my home, I headed south to where I am sitting now.

I’m still overwhelmed with how much I have to be thankful for!


Pests – Aug. 20, 2012

Yesterday I got my first confirmation that the pests were beginning to move into the house!

(Not enough photos to post today)

I went to remove yesterday’s towel from the towel rack, and found a cockroach clinging to the far side of it.  It dropped to the floor, and I quickly stomped on it in my slippers.  Cockroaches make a nice “pop” when you step on them properly.

This morning, I noticed a small black speck on my foot, and when I went to investigate it, it disappeared.  It was a flea!  Last week, the dogs were kept in the house a couple of times while they repaired the back wall.  They apparently left some fleas in my house.

At 7:30, I went out to feed and water the dogs, and just as I was filling the water bowl, I noticed a couple of fleas on my white socks.  I quickly brushed them off, but then decided not to stick around and pet the dogs as I usually do.  I had noticed that the dogs had been constantly scratching, and surmised that they had a few ticks as well.  Today, I got confirmation of that.  So, now we will give the dogs a flea treatment, spray a flea treatment on the yard, and  fumigate the house.

I bought a can of Baygon today, and I’m going to use my scuba tank and regulator for an air supply.  Tuesday, I have to shut all the windows, and then spray until each room is full of insect killer.  I will then leave the house and go to work.  By the time I get home, the nasty pests should be dead.

Speaking of pests, there seems to be a great number of stray dogs roaming the island.  Tonight when I went to the supermarket, there was a dog waiting at the front door.  I don’t know if he had lost his master, or was hoping for a handout.  They are not very mangy critters, but seem to be well-bred dogs that are just loose.

Bonaire also has a multitude of donkeys that freely roam the island.  A couple days ago, I saw a donkey at the back of the Wannadive Shop, tearing apart the garbage bags.  When I have been out driving at night, I often see them at the edges of the roadway, grazing. I sometimes hear them braying in the night.

Apparently some time ago, when the slaves on Bonaire were emancipated… so were all the donkeys!  Now, on Bonaire, you cannot cage or tie up a donkey.

The goats seem to be at about the same number as when my family lived here, and they also freely roam the island.  A herd of them went through the studio site a few days ago.  Most goats actually belong to somebody, but I’m not sure how that works.

Some of the nice creatures are the parakeets that you often see flying around, with their peculiar screech.  I’ve never had my camera in hand when they land in a tree, but they do seem to be very plentiful.  When I used to live on Bonaire, we had one as a pet that had become entangled in a barbwire fence when it was young.  While it was missing one toe, it had a rather impressive vocabulary.  We called him Shadrack, and he would repeat his entire vocabulary every morning as soon as the sun came up.

I’ve also seen a lot of little yellow and black sugarbirds, a few orange and black troepials (orioles), and a great many grey mockingbirds.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

This morning at the office, I worked on removing our test documents from the website in order to get it ready for a public launch.  Many of the pages were filled with test-test, and so on.  I also briefly chatted with Benjamin at head office, and he said that his boss is back from holidays today, and so they will begin to address some of the fixes that are needed.

At noon, I ate a few sandwiches that I had brought with me while I drove into town to see if I could get some surgical scissors to cut fishing line with.  You may have noticed the last photo in yesterday’s album was with Jay holding a whole ball of fishing line which he had removed from the reef.  The scissors come with a nice Velcro holder, which I want to get as well.  Unfortunately, the dive shop I went to didn’t have them.  Next, I went to the Yellow Submarine Dive Shop, but they didn’t have them either.  They referred me to a retail store in the downtown area.  But then the lady stopped herself, and said, “Wait a minute.  They’re on siesta now until 1:30.”  So much for that idea.

Next, I went to the Macho Rental Shop for scooters, to price them for my sister, Joanna.  It seems that if you rent for more than three days, it works out to $18.50 a day for a single-seat scooter.  My concern is whether helmets will be available, as they are not mandatory on Bonaire.  I’m not sure I would like to drive a scooter without a helmet.

After lunch, I went back to sorting photos.  I found a great many duplicate photos, which helped speed up the process somewhat.  I have also found a way of renaming and tagging them in batches, which again speeds things up.

Just as I was going home, I received an email from RTM Brazil, Radio Trans Mundial.  This is TWR’s ministry partner in Brazil.  They answered my inquiry about listener stories, and supplied me with many stories from TWR listeners.  I now have a whole lot of them to choose from!  I ran them through the Google Translator, and saved them into a Word document.  This will be a great help.  I wrote them a response, translated it into Portuguese, and sent it back to them.  It seems their office has over 20 people working in it, so they can be a good resource for us.

Earlier in the day, I felt somewhat tired, and grabbed a second coffee.  Apparently I overdid it on the weekend.  But when quitting time came, I forgot it was five o’clock and worked past it a bit as I was “in the groove.”

As usual, I drove the seaside road on the way home, doing about 30 kilometres the whole way.  I never tire of watching the activity in the ocean.  There are always people snorkelling, swimming, sailing little boats, and people generally just congregating by the seaside.  I again noticed how many Dutch people are here now.

Then it was time to feed the dogs, get some groceries, and head out for supper.  Tonight I ate at the Rumba Café, which is two doors down from the Zee Zicht Restaurant of years ago.  It is amazing that the restaurant is still in business, after all these years, but I didn’t like the special they were offering.  The various restaurants compete for customers by putting little billboards on the sidewalk, advertising the special of the day.  They are quite good, and very reasonable.

After supper, I wandered down the boulevard towards the old fish market.  It is now used as a produce-selling stand for the Venezuelan banana boats.  As I dictate this blog, I’m sitting on the seaside-facing steps, about four feet from the water’s edge.  While I’ve been here, two huge tugs docked to my left, followed a few minutes later by a pilot boat.  My guess is that they brought in yet another super tanker from Venezuela.

There is a series of smaller docks down the coast, and I’ve noticed security guards stationed at various buildings, docks, and condos.  Even Jay’s condo has a security guard.

While there were a few no-see-ums nipping at my legs while I was at the restaurant, the mosquitoes don’t seem to bother me at the water’s edge.

I decided not to go diving today as Jay was unavailable, and my right knee is still bothering me a little bit.

Despite my blog from Saturday, I do occasionally stay above water for more than 24 hours!

Now I’ll go back to reading the book about my namesake, Sir John A. Macdonald, called “Nation Builder.”

A Lion Hunter – Aug. 19, 2012

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

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

 Photos here

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

Back to the dive at PUNT VIERKANT:

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

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

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

Always Wet Suit – Aug. 18, 2012

Oh, the trials I face here on Bonaire! It seems my wet suit is always wet! I hang it up to dry overnight, but by the time I’m ready for my next dive, it’s still damp. I know you are supposed to dry your clothes after you wash them, so the same must be true for my wet suit. But with my dive schedule, it’s impossible to get it completely dry. Whatever am I to do?

 Photos here

It’s going to smell before long, and I’ll have to wash it out in salt water again, which is, of course, why I go diving every day. After all, you can’t have it smelling. What would the neighbours think? So I’ll just have to persevere with my ‘always wet suit.’

But, wait. Do I hear someone say, Why not just stop diving for a couple of days? Now, don’t be ridiculous. Haven’t you seen the license plates down here? They read, Diver’s Paradise! I have no choice. I’m a diver. What can I do? Not dive every day? Perish the thought.

Oh my . . . moving on.

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Tonight I’m dictating my blog from one of the lawn chairs on the dock at Divi Flamingo Beach Club. In front of me is yet another aircraft approaching from the direction of Curaçao.

On our way back from our dive this afternoon, we noticed lines of cars parked at the end of the runway by the airport, so I asked Jay to pull over as well. I wanted to check out what people do for fun down here. Sure enough, there was the huge, three-engine KLM jet on approach. I was able to whip out my camera and shoot a video of it roaring overhead. How exciting!

You would think with the airport being the lifeblood of this island, flights would be a little more frequent. It seems they are mostly on Friday and Saturday. In fact, for the last while, direct flights are less common, and getting a flight to Bonaire can be somewhat difficult.

1st Dive:  FRONT PORCH

This morning started with meeting Albert at the FRONT PORCH dive site. When I got there, I discovered that he had some Dutch people with him, one of which was going to accompany us on our dive. This was to be my training dive to become a volunteer for the Sea Monitor Foundation Bonaire.

Albert was very thorough, and described in detail what is involved. First, I was issued my official piece of Scotch-brite (a green, nylon scrub pad).

He demonstrated the data collector. He had a scrap sensor which he inserted into the slot in the reader. You then press a little lever (which contains a magnet) onto the casing, which turns the unit on, and the middle yellow light starts to blink, which says Transfer. The transfer takes about ten or more seconds while it downloads the last week’s data. Then the green OK light turns on, and you remove the sensor. Then you press the OFF button on the data collector.

Before you do any of this, of course, you have to clean the sensor off with your scrub pad. Even though we visit the monitoring sites weekly, there is actually a fair amount of algae that grows on it every week. The green algae is easy to remove, but the white algae is more difficult. Apparently the white algae is the precursor to fire coral. The fire coral takes root on the base that the white algae provides. Sometimes I have to use my knife to scrape it off.

Each sensor records the water quality reading every 60 seconds. Each reader is capable of storing 16 days’ worth of information. The battery is able to last for up to two years.

Once the data has been collected, it is downloaded to Albert’s computer, and given a quick assessment. If the data is all correct, it is then uploaded to a university in the United States.

The floater bottles are located at a depth of five metres. This was the agreement with the harbour master, as any ship can pass over it without getting caught in the mooring line. We also did not want boats tying off on our sensor lines. The first sensor is just below at about five metres, and is a single, full-spectrum sensor. The next stop has three sensors at 12 metres. The top sensor has a green filter over the optical input. The second sensor has a blue light filter, and the bottom sensor is clear.

Down further at 20 metres, this pattern of three sensors repeats.

We donned our gear and headed out to the sunken tug that I had dove to on Monday. Albert was going to demonstrate the first sensor, so I watched him as he vigorously scrubbed the two upside-down Coke bottles. They are attached to the rope by a zip tie. There was a fair bit of white algae on the bottles, so Albert took out his diving tool (knife) and vigorously scraped most of it off. He then ran his hand down the line, and started cleaning the first sensor. It, too, needed a bit of help from his knife.

He snapped the sensor into the data reader, and with me watching, clicked the ON button. Sure enough, the yellow transfer light began flashing, and then switched to OK. He removed the data collector, and turned it off.

Down the rope we went to 12 metres, where I took over, and began cleaning the first sensor. While I was doing this, Albert clipped the safety line of the reader to my BC. I then inserted the sensor, and collected the data. The next two sensors went just fine.

Next, it was on to the bottom sensors at 20 metres. By this time, I guess Albert figured I had a handle on it, and he swam off further down to the wreck where our Dutch friend had already arrived.

After I finished, I joined them, and tried to find the name of the wreck on the side. It is something … State… The wreck is at about a hundred feet, so after a few minutes, we headed back up the slope to about 60 feet.

We had just started swimming along for about three minutes when Albert said he had to go in the other direction, but we were to stay where we were. He swam off into the mist, holding his scissors. It was then that I realized he had forgotten to remove a defective sensor and replace it. He was back in about five minutes.

I did not bring my camera on this dive as I wanted to concentrate on the training session. As we got to shallower water around six metres, I discovered a sea cucumber, and picked it off the bottom and handed it to our Dutch friend. They are rather rubbery, but have tiny, sticky feet on the bottom. I made sure to replace it exactly where I had found it.

As we neared the shore, Albert started pointing up. It was the mother and what I thought was the sister of our Dutch diver. They seemed very happy to see us. I still had about 80 bar left on my tank, so I decided to see if they wanted to try breathing out of a regulator. I surfaced, and they were eager to try it out. At first, the young lady couldn’t get the hang of it, so her mother showed her how it’s done. You actually have to exhale with a bit of force to make the regulator work. I had forgotten all about this. I extended my arm, which she grabbed, so she wouldn’t float away past the end of my spare regulator on the longer yellow hose. We swam around for about three minutes, and then separated, and went to shore.

When I got there, I could see Albert had just barely got out of the water, so I asked her if she would like to try submerging while still breathing. I simply blew off my BC and sank to the bottom, but she had a hard time submerging, as she had no weights on. She was able to grab a stone and stay under for about a minute. She seemed very excited about the whole experience.

Once I got to shore and had removed my equipment, I discovered that she was actually the Dutch diver’s girlfriend and not his sister. It was a bit awkward, but at least I think I may have encouraged her to take up diving some day.

Next, it was off to the Hamlet Dive Shop to be introduced to the staff there. I registered my scuba card so that I can pick up free tanks of air when I go diving to service the sensors. I plan to go next Friday.

One thing I’ve noticed about Bonaire is that there are dive shops all over the place. This particular one looked to be no more than a year old, and the owner was busy painting something.

To the south, we could see a rain storm by the transmitter site, and Albert said he wasn’t sure my afternoon dive down there would be a good idea. He then waved goodbye to me, and said, “Welcome aboard!” It seems I have passed his training course, and am now part of the Sea Monitor Foundation Bonaire.

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After a quick lunch and a pickup of two Nitrox tanks at Wannadive, I headed over to Jay’s, and we loaded things in his truck. He said he wanted to try to dive RED SLAVE, which was almost at the south end of the island. As we were passing my house, I dropped my car there, and we carried on in his truck. When he got to RED SLAVE, he said he wanted to look further south to see if it was calm there as well. We went to the radar tower and checked, but he didn’t like the breakers out at sea. We went even further to the lighthouse, where he again got out and checked the sea, but there were too many rolling breakers there as well.

We returned to halfway between the radar tower and the RED SLAVE dive spot, where the breakers were only coming in one at a time, so off we went.

2nd Dive: RED SLAVE

Shore entries can be sometimes tricky. Jay said to watch the waves, as a big one hits every seventh wave. Once we were in the water, we put our mask on and then our fins, and then swam on our back to conserve air on our way out to the drop-off. I’ve discovered that most experienced divers don’t use a snorkel as it is cumbersome once you are submerged.

This dive site had a great deal of mature staghorn coral. In fact, it is the best site on Bonaire for this formerly common coral species. Jay was very excited to see that one area of the reef had survived the devastation of five years ago.

Once we got out to about 30 feet deep, we submerged and headed down the slope. Jay wanted to go to 30 metres, as that is where the lion fish tend to hide.

The first lion fish he almost had with his spear, but it managed to escape. The second one also disappeared beneath a rock. We did discover two lobsters under a rock ledge. The next time, he was successful, and was able to place a medium-sized lion fish in his carrying bag.

The fourth lion fish was also a medium-sized one, but when he put it in his bag, the spearhead fell off and ended up in the bag along with the lion fish. There was no way he could retrieve it without getting hurt, so that was the end of our hunt. We then turned around, and headed back in the direction we came from.

At the end of the dive, I was pleased that I had a fair bit more air left over than Jay did. It seems I have gotten used to moderating my breathing, as all professional divers do.

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This was a two-tank dive, but we needed an hour’s surface interval between them, so we went to the kite surfing spot about a kilometre up the road. I was able to shoot some good videos of this amazing sport. It is especially impressive when they catch about ten feet of air on their turn-around. Jay said that he has been trying to learn it, but has only gotten out of the water once so far. I’m just going to stick to scuba diving.

We drove further up the road, and got out at the salt pier. Jay laid out the underwater geography. There are about eight mooring points for the large freighters that pick up the solar salt. There were no ships at the dock today.

3rd Dive: SALT PIER

This entry was very easy, although you had to watch your step on some slippery spots. Since this was the third dive of the day for both of us, we stayed fairly shallow, only going down about 15 or 16 metres.

Under the dock, I found a trio of queen angel fish which appeared to be fairly young and remarkably tame. In my estimation, queen angel fish are the most beautiful of all fish. They seem to have a sapphire jewel mounted on their forehead, along with bright blue and yellow colours. I got a few good shots and even a video of them.

As we came out to the front of the dock, we noticed a great deal of debris strewn across the bottom that had apparently been thrown off the dock at some point.

We spotted a large barracuda down deeper, and as we rounded the side of the dock, we saw a five-foot long tarpon. The tarpon are fished here to service the restaurant business.

I saw numerous schools of fish sheltering in the shadow of the dock. I also noticed some blue tangs feeding in a group of about 20, all in one spot.

Over all, the beauty of this reef was in the decorated pilings going down into the sand to support the dock. Nature can take over artificial objects and do a remarkable job of beautifying them.

After we exited the water, Jay drove to Bonaire Port, which is the new cut-out into the land where they have built a luxury-home development. This is where the road used to go straight along the coastline toward the airport, but you now have to drive all the way around the development. Jay did not know that this entire harbour area was man made. This dive shop also belonged to Yellow Submarine, and we were able to rinse our gear there.

This part of the development near the shore seems to be quite well done. However, in some of the back bay areas, construction has stalled.

After Jay dropped me off, I sorted my photos, and then headed over to the Divi Flamingo for supper.

As I said to Jay, I’m starting to fall in love with this lifestyle, and may be loathe to go home on September 15. Thanks to Paul Wagler for choosing a shift for me that starts with a Monday off.