Possibilities – Aug. 17, 2012

Tonight I’m a little bit late dictating the blog on my cell phone. It is about 10:30 at night, and rather than go straight home from movie night at the Pedersens, I decided to head further south and look at the stars. I’m sitting on the beach, immediately across from the gates to our transmitter site. I brought my dive light with me and a lawn chair. I’m sitting looking toward the south over the water and the beautiful waves that lap at my feet. To my left, about 20 miles away, there’s a thunder cloud that intermittently flashes lightning and lights up the sky. Immediately in front of me, I just saw a shooting star streaking towards the water. To my right, I see the lights of a tanker ship heading toward Bopec or somewhere. Just to the left of the ship lights, I see a glow on the horizon, which must be Curaçao.

Photos here

I wish Brad Swanson was here with me, as he is an avid star gazer. He could probably point out most of the stars, and tell me what constellation they are in. All I know is that it is a spectacular scene! I am away from the city lights, and there is no moon out tonight, so the visibility is great. Just overhead and stretching towards the south, it looks a bit like a band of clouds, but I believe that is the Milky Way.

Today started with packing the scuba gear into the jeep and heading to work. I’m beginning to get into the routine of going scuba diving immediately after work.

During devotions, a couple of us prayed about some of the roadblocks I described yesterday in our website development. Then, later in the morning, I dropped by Brad’s office to discuss some of the details… and I suggested an idea that may be able to work.  So, I have put together a document to be reviewed by the decision-makers and we’ll wait and see what happens!  We hope to hear something on this (online streaming) issue within the next year.  Keep praying!

By the way, I just saw another shooting star zipping towards the south above the salt-loading pier.

At noon, I went over to the Wannadive Shop beside Eden Beach and registered with them, and picked up a Nitrox tank. They have the best rates I’ve yet found, being $8 for local residents, which I currently am. This compares to $18 for an air tank with the $10 Nitrox upgrade from Divi Dive, which is across from my house. Wannadive also has a door code so you can access or drop off the tanks any time, day or night. They also have two filling stations, one of which is near the airport. I had lunch at the small restaurant on the beach beside Wannadive.

Back at work, I tweaked a few areas on the website, and reported some more issues to Laura. At this point, we are still waiting for the Tech Support Team in the U.S. to fix most of these issues.

In the afternoon, I continued working on the photo sorting. It was interesting to see some of the photos from 1999 and 2000 when they raised the new towers. My problem is, I am unable to identify most of the people in the pictures, but that can be done later. Altogether, it was a much more upbeat day than yesterday.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

At 5:00 o’clock, I left promptly, and headed across the road to Jay’s place where we loaded up his pickup truck with our scuba tanks.

I said, “So where are we going?” He said, “I’m going to take you to something special.” And I thought, Well, that’s very nice. I wonder what dive site that is? There must be something special under there. I wondered why he wasn’t telling me the name of the dive site.

We drove past the yacht harbour and took the first road towards the coastal road. Instead of turning left, he turned right into the dead end, and parked right beside a huge condo complex.

I said, “So what’s the name of this dive sight?” He said, “It’s called SOMETHING SPECIAL.” Then I got it.


We suited up, and Jay included his lion fish hunting gear. He had a long, multi-pronged spear-type of tool, a guard over his hand and forearm, and he strapped a large barbecue knife onto his leg, as well as a bucket to contain the lion fish he hoped to get.

Right after we submerged, he started pointing to something over the sand. I couldn’t see what he was indicating, so I grabbed my writing slate and handed it to him. He explained that there were three tiny fish that had just emerged from the holes about 10 feet in front of us. I peered, and was barely able to make them out. They were just over an inch long.

The next thing I saw looked like some type of sea snake. It didn’t seem to mind our presence at all, and continued poking around in the sand, not four feet from where I was filming it.

Jay decided to go deep, so we went to 30 metres, and cruised along at that depth for about 20 minutes. Nitrox allows you more bottom time, but limits your depth to not much more than 30 metres. Jay was just in front of me when I passed a lobster, looking out with his tentacles from under a rock ledge. I grabbed my noise maker and gave it a shake to rattle the ball bearings inside, and Jay turned around. I got in close for a couple of pictures.

Not 20 feet further, Jay spotted his first lion fish. It was a juvenile, but he managed to spear it. He then took his knife out and pierced it. Then he swam back the way we had come, and handed the dead lion fish over to the lobster! He gently pushed it up right in front of the lobster’s mouth. The lobster moved forward gingerly, and started to eat it. The video is a bit murky, but not bad.

At 30 metres, there was mostly sand below us, stretching out to the undersea horizon, with the rock slope going up to our right. After the turn-around, we swam at about 24 metres on the way back. My 50-bar low air pressure warning had just gone off when Jay spotted a large lion fish. He moved in very carefully, and then jabbed with his spear, but the lion fish saw him coming, and darted back into his hole, out of reach. It would have been big enough to make good eating.

I showed Jay my dive computer display, and I motioned to Jay that it was time to head back up.

All during the dive, Jay pointed out interesting sights, and he is probably better than any dive master I have been with. In fact, he is a qualified dive master, which makes me a very lucky guy.

I surfaced with about 25 bar left in my tank.

During the dive, we had heard various boats go overhead. Jay told me that if it sounds as loud as a motorcycle, you need to get down and hug the bottom, as a motor boat can be fatal to a surfacing diver.

Just as we broke the water, I saw kids playing on a surfboard, and having lots of fun in the water. By their tans, I’m guessing they play half the day in the water every day.

I noticed Jay swam the last little bit on the surface, while I stayed underneath, as it is easier to swim that way. Apparently his tank had run dry. In actual fact, he carries what is called a pony tank strapped to the back of his large tank. It actually has its own regulator and pressure gauge, and holds 13 cubic feet of air. This would be about 10 or 15 minutes’ worth. It serves as a back-up if he dives solo, since he wouldn’t have a partner to act as a back-up. Occasionally he dives solo, although this is not his preference. Apparently, many underwater photographers also dive solo, so it is a lot more common these days than it used to be.

After we came up, he swung by the Yellow Submarine Shop, not three blocks away, to drop off his tank and rinse off his gear. It was closed, but Jay works there, so that was very convenient. I rinsed my gear as well. Then it was back to Jay’s house where I loaded the stuff back into my car, changed my clothes, and then headed home. After quickly feeding the dogs, it was back in the car and off to Pedersens for pizza and movie night. I got the usual warm welcome from the kids, and the fight about who would sit next to me. I must say, they spoil me. Best of all, we watched the second Star Wars movie, “Attack of the Clones,” on their big-screen TV. Life doesn’t get much better.

The time is now 10:53, so I should get going, as I have a dive planned at ten in the morning. I’m looking forward to this dive, as it will be my training dive to work with the Sea Monitor Foundation.

The stars still blanket the sky, and I’m reluctant to leave this magical place!

Challenges – Aug. 16, 2012

Today was the most challenging day at work so far.  My guess is that we are making progress for the Lord’s kingdom, and the devil has taken note.

I am reminded of the opposition Nehemiah faced when the wall was about halfway completed. In Nehemiah 3 you read about all the amazing progress the Jews had made restoring the wall around Jerusalem. In my first two weeks here, we have made great progress building our website. Today I discovered that the staff here actually had a website at twrbonaire.com in 2002, but it was taken down about 6-7 years ago.  Only now have they had available staff to once again entertain the idea of maintaining a website.

In the next chapter of Nehemiah, the opposition to the rebuilding began. I believe we have just experienced much the same thing here.

 Photos here

It seems there were several roadblocks thrown in our way today with respect to the website development, so I would ask for prayer that we can overcome these challenges and move ahead.

It appears that streaming a live audio feed is a more involved process than I originally thought.  I’m amazed at the amount of legal compliance that is required when it comes to IPR (intellectual property rights) issues!  To comply with all the regulations would be a bit too involved to pursue at this time, so we are tabling the issue for now.

However, TWR is currently developing some amazing online resources that can stream audio content.  This new system can handle providing great content (in hundreds of languages) to listeners all over the world.  TWR Bonaire plans to use this tool once it becomes available.  This tool is called “LinguaDMS,” or LinguaBlast.  Please be in prayer for the development of this project!

Most of my day was spent on editing the photos.  I find it somewhat difficult when I don’t really know what I’m looking at, as these photos are ten (or more) years old, and taken when I was not here.  I labelled them and tagged them as best I could.

I also took a fair bit of time to document the process I was using to sort the photos.

At noon, I strolled down towards the yacht harbour, and had a very nice lunch at the Bistro de Paris.  It was interesting sitting beside these beautiful yachts floating at their docks only a few feet away.  Beside the café is Village Harbour, a fairly new development that seems to have been well executed.  It looks a bit like a Spanish villa, and is well maintained.

After lunch, I went back to editing and sorting photos.

In regards to the website development, we are waiting to hear back from our Tech Support Stateside.  Until they can make repairs to our software, we cannot do much further development, hence my work on photo sorting instead.

So please pray that I will be able to be patient and understanding, while at the same time knocking on doors to see if they may open.  Please pray that the Lord will give me wisdom as we address issues concerning the website. After all, Nehemiah’s people held a weapon in one hand and a trowel in the other hand and still got the wall built. I believe the Lord sent me down here to get the website built.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Today I left in good time to meet my dive instructor at the south end of the island for my final deep-dive test.  Regardless of the challenges of the day, I can always look forward to slipping underneath the waves into another world.

I picked up my tank at Bruce’s dive shop, changed, and put the equipment in my car, and continued south past the transmitter site, and just past the salt pier to a sight called INVISIBLES.

As I drove past the Cargil Salt Company, I could see the front-end loaders scraping up the salt on one of the salt pans.  It seems the solar salt business is still booming.


Ebby arrived in his pickup truck shortly after I did, and we suited up and entered the water.  The entry was quite easy, and we snorkelled out to the marker buoy in about 30 feet of water.

We then blew off our BC’s and sank below the waves, and headed out to sea.  One of the first things I noticed at a depth of 30 feet was some garden eels in the sand.  What was remarkable is they didn’t seem frightened at our presence.  These are the same garden eels that you see a hundred feet down that you can never get close to before they disappear in their little holes.  But these tiny, slender eels continued waving with the current, occasionally snapping at invisible bits of plankton.  I didn’t have time to stop and take pictures as we were headed for deeper waters.  Today was a teaching dive, and not strictly a fun dive.

We proceeded down the slope and across a bit of sand and up onto a second reef.  It is this second reef that is invisible from the shore, hence the name.  It runs from about 80 feet down to 120 feet.  My depth gauge registers in metres, and we went down to 32 metres, or just over a hundred feet.  We swam slowly along the reef, and then across another sand flats to a different reef.  On these sand flats, you could see the garden eels waving in the current in the distance, but directly below us there were only tiny holes where they had disappeared.

After 15 minutes, we began our slow ascent to the surface, spending most of our time around 60 feet deep.  At one point, Ebby pointed into the deeper water towards the surface where what looked like a big tarpan was cruising by.  It appeared to be over six feet long, but quickly disappeared back into the haze.  I also noticed that there seems to be a fair bit of sediment in the water here.  You can see little bits of material floating everywhere in front of your mask.

I had Ebby take a couple pictures of me while I was down there.  Typically, I don’t have a dive instructor all to myself, so I don’t usually have this opportunity.

At one point, I noticed soft corals that looked a lot like a combination of a fern and a bush that seemed to grow everywhere.  Near the end of one branch, I noticed all the branches were tied in a tight knot.  I grabbed Ebby’s fin, and then pointed to the ball of soft coral branches, and motioned as to what that might be.  He reached into his BC pocket and pulled out a notepad, and wrote that it was a star fish that would come out at night.  Apparently it had wrapped a little blanket around itself while it slept during the day.

I also noticed several of the parrot fish darting quickly back and forth.  I’m not sure if the twilight had sent them into an elevated activity, but typically parrot fish move slowly along the reef as they graze with their beaks on dead patches of coral.

Closer to shore, I noticed a large puffer fish.  They have the cutest, huge, saucer-like eyes, and are fairly slow swimmers.  You can see the spines tucked in along their skin which would extend if they were to inflate into a round ball shape, should they be attacked.  But we were just more tourists coming through, so he just ignored us and swam along.

The second one I noticed was near a bald patch in the sand that seemed to have been dug out.  Once we surfaced, I asked Ebby what that was.  He said that was a spot where an eagle ray most likely had been feeding.  I had shot a video of that about a week ago.  Apparently they root in the sand, looking for conch shells to feed on.  Ebby said that if you come on a night dive, you can see the conch shells come out of the sand to feed.  I’m amazed at how many new things you learn on each dive!

After we exited the water and dried off a bit, I filled out my log book and had Ebby sign it, along with his instructor number.  I will now scan this in and email it back to Groundhog Divers where I took the in-class portion of my Deep Diver Speciality Course with SSI.  Once that is processed, I will officially be certified as a deep diver.  That will allow me to be able to dive on wrecks without any hassle from dive masters, wanting to know if I was qualified to do those kind of dives.  In actual fact, though, because deep dives involve less bottom time, I don’t expect I’ll actually be doing that many of them.  Most of the scenery is good up until 80 or 100 feet.  More than a hundred feet, it tends to thin out, due to the lack of sunlight   So unless there is a wreck that interests you, there is not often a good reason to go any deeper.

After Ebby left, I met a few tourists from Florida, and we took each other’s photos.  We chatted for a while, and they seemed enthralled with the beauty of the reefs on Bonaire.  Apparently in 2010, some scuba organization rated the Bonairian reefs as the best in all of the Caribbean.  But as I explained to them, the reefs are not quite as good as they were 30 years ago.  However, to be honest, I try not to notice the damage, but just concentrate on the beauty, of which there is still plenty.

Right after work tomorrow, I’m hooking up with Jay for a dive.  We meet at his house at five.  It is wonderful to finally be in the routine of work, and then a dive immediately after.

Signing off until tomorrow.

Sea Monitor – Aug. 15, 2012

Today was another busy day at the office.  I started the photo sorting exercise, and am writing out procedural guidelines as to how I tag and rename the various photo files.  This project will likely take at least a couple weeks to complete, as there are some 10,000 photos to go through.

At lunch, I took Donna, the lady in charge of finances, out for dinner.  Donna told me a bit about her background.  She has been on Bonaire for some time, and could tell me quite a bit about various aspects of the island. She is the lady that told me about Captain Don’s appearances. It is nice to have a local person’s help to edit my blog.

In the afternoon, I received a response from one large radio network regarding my inquiry about the cost of streaming audio.  While I can’t get into the details, TWR has an existing relationship with an online streaming service.  In short, much of what I learned was very encouraging news, but will warrant further investigation.

I now have a key and the alarm code to the TWR-Bonaire office, which allows me extra freedom in my work schedule.  I find that Brad is a very helpful person.  He also wears many hats, including computer repair for Donna.

It is nice to have Dick Veldman working in the office again.  His second oldest son dropped by the office today to see his father.  The Veldmans seem to have a very nice family.  I spoke to Dick about the possibility of us going scuba diving together, and it should likely happen after his two oldest children return to Holland next week.  I enjoy practicing my Dutch with Dick.

I was also able to help Donna translate some Dutch on an Internet form that she was working on, and then showed her how to use translate.google.com.  I must make more Dutch friends around the island so that I can practice my Dutch even more.  It has gotten a little more rusty than I would like.

Immediately after work, I drove to the downtown area right across from where the former fish market used to be.  It now is a vegetable market that is used by the banana boats from Venezuela.  I took a couple of pictures, but I won’t put them up until tomorrow.

I then walked across the street to the City Café where I met Albert Bianculli who is the head of the Sea Monitor Foundation Bonaire.  I was there to be interviewed for the position of Volunteer Data Collector for some of the floating sea monitoring sites along the coastline.

Albert Bianculli of the Sea Monitor Foundation Bonaire

Albert is a retired advertising executive from the States, and seems to be an avid environmentalist.  He founded the Sea Monitor Foundation, which provides scientific readings of the health of our ocean over a ten-year period.  They have already been monitoring for six years, with four more to go.  They are completely independent of any government organizations, and are funded by volunteer workers and donations from local scuba divers.  One nice thing is that I will get free air fills when I’m doing a dive for the Sea Monitor Foundation.

Below is some information about the Sea Monitor Foundation:

“The goal of operating the sensors is to measure biological productivity and nutrient load that may be caused by runoff or seepages from the coastal septic tanks.  The Sea Monitor’s sensor approach seeks to use a chlorophyll sensor which uses low-cost materials.  Phase I has deployed 14 sensors along the leeward coast of Bonaire.  Each sensor array is on an independent mooring line.  There are three optical sensors–one white, one blue, and one green–at a depth of 5 metres, 12 metres, and 20 metres, for a total of nine per array.  Each sensor uses its advanced optics and temperature readings to collect data every 8 minutes.  The raw data is later transmitted to a U.S. lab where it is analysed and posted as public information.”

Albert explained that the data extraction from the sensors is magnetically activated.  The diver approaches the sensor that’s suspended on a line from an anchor on the bottom, and uses a rag to wipe the algae off of the sensor.  Then the probe is inserted over top of the sensor, and the magnetic trigger is activated to begin the data transfer, using optics.  The transfer takes about 11 seconds, which gives the diver time to wipe off the other sensor right beside it.  After doing all three sensors, the diver move up to the next level and take three more readings, and then up to the 5-metre level for the final set of readings.  They provide a rag for wiping off the algae.  The last step is to go to the surface and clean off the floater bottles.  The entire process takes about 15 minutes. Readings are taken once a week.  The diver is free to use the rest of the air to do a regular dive at his leisure.  I intend to take full advantage of these weekly dives to explore the reef.

The sensor I will be monitoring is located at the FRONT PORCH dive site, otherwise known as Ebby Beach.  My generation may still know it as HOTEL BONAIRE, although that is no longer there.  In fact, I noticed the Sea Monitor line extending up from the wreck of the tugboat when I dove that exact site on Monday.  The fellow that normally takes care of those sensors is away on vacation in the U.S.

On Saturday, I am to meet Albert at the shore at 10:00 am, and he will get me trained as to how to take the readings.  He is bringing the air tank with him.  Afterwards, we will return the tank to the Hamlet Dive Shop, which is just beyond Captain Don’s Habitat on the water plant side.  This is actually a satellite shop for the Yellow Submarine Dive Shop.  Yellow Submarine actually has four different dive shops around the island.  I am amazed at what must be about 30 different dive shops that dot the coastline.

Albert said he was very happy to have me on board, and then excused himself to go back to his friends in the restaurant.  The City Café is actually a bar and grill where many local Dutch people gather for a few friendly drinks.

I ordered the special of the day, and just relaxed and watched people chat.  When I was finished, it happened that Albert was finished with his friends as well, so I called him over to my table.  I was able to keep him talking for close to an hour.  He is one of the most interesting fellows I have yet met on the island.

Albert has been living on Bonaire off and on since 1970.  He explained the various ventures which he is involved in, including sea turtle conservation, and the removal of fish lines from the reef.  He told me that three turtles had drowned after they had been caught in discarded fishing line tangled in the reef.  There are actually little containers mounted at many of the dive sites where divers can deposit fishing line they have retrieved from the reef.  He encourages divers to carry a set of surgical scissors with them so they can trim off any fishing line they find and remove it.  I intend to buy one of these sets of scissors at my first opportunity.

Albert is also a contributor to the island newspaper called the Bonaire Reporter.  He wrote an article a few years ago called “The Diver’s Benefit.”  Without going into detail, his theory is that one hour of diving extends your life by one earth-day on land.  The idea is that just as a person sleeping gets a rest benefit by being horizontal, allowing his internal organs to rest and repair themselves, a diver exists in a weightless environment, getting much of the same benefit.  There is also the added benefit of a completely stress-free environment most divers experience when exploring a reef.  I must say, Albert does seem to be in good shape.  He has logged over 9,000 dives, which is the most I have ever heard of.

On the way home, I dropped by the Dutch supermarket just before they closed at eight o’clock.  Then it was off to feed my four hungry dogs, and sit down to work on my blog.

Tomorrow after work is my last deep-dive test down at the south end of the island.

I want to thank the many people who have emailed me or messaged me on Skype that they have been reading my blog.  Feel free to click the “Comment” button at the bottom of each blog, and leave a comment about what you have read.  Denny Hogan left a comment a couple of days ago about the Diving Dawn Till Dusk blog.  Comments are meant to add interesting insights on the contents of the blog.

Thanks for all your prayers and encouragement.

Ham Antenna – Aug. 14, 2012

Today was a busy day at the office with a lot of decisions being made about the website.  During the morning, I worked at filling in the remaining pages I was responsible for with content.  Quite often we have no existing content, so I am copying and pasting from the global website at twr.org.  For instance, our listener stories came from the international website.  We can update them with new listener stories from this region as they become available.

 Photos here

One of the things that I was wrestling with today is what content should be made public, and what content should remain private.  There are plans and other internal communications that would be inappropriate to post online.  I am discovering how important it is that we be very careful with what information is made public.  This prevents unnecessary political headaches for TWR down the road, and is an important aspect of any global ministry. Pray for me as I try to adjust my way of thinking to comply with these necessary policies.

We decided to pare down the number of pages that we make visible online, and leave only those which we currently have content for.  Later on, as new content is generated, those pages will become active, and will be visible to the general public.  So far, there are roughly 25 pages that will make up our website.

For lunch, I drove up just past the Sand Dollar condominium complex and had lunch at Eddy’s Bar and Grill.  It was a very tropical-looking restaurant, and the catch of the day, Wahoo, was very delicious.  There was even a swimming pool immediately adjacent to the restaurant where guests could go swimming.

Back at work, I began a few tentative inquiries about the cost for streaming audio, as I have begun researching what it would take to launch a “listen-live” feature.

The next item on the agenda is the catologing of archive photos.  This project will take some serious concentration and attention to detail.  Although we’ve looked into several different ways of handling this, it looks like it’s going to come down to some old-fashioned work!

I was given permission to leave an hour early in order to help Dave Pedersen raise his ham radio antenna at his home.  We got there just after 4:30, and I received the usual boisterous welcome from his two dogs and three children.

When I went outside, I discovered that Dave had done a great deal of planning to get the antenna ready to raise back up to the vertical.  He had guy wires tied in the appropriate places, as well as kitty litter buckets full of water tied to the other end to counterbalance it.  He had a steel beam attached horizontally to the side of the house on which we pivoted the tower until it stood vertical. Dave’s very energetic daughter took pictures of the process.

Once we had released the appropriate lines, Dave and I pulled on the bottom of the tower and swung it into the vertical position.  It worked flawlessly.  We then moved the bottom around until it was exactly perpendicular.  Once we had it exactly right, Dave and I pounded two three-foot long steel spikes into the ground to anchor it.  We then bolted it to the horizontal beam, and it was secured in place.

The next step was to string the feed-line cables, of which there were four, around to the back of the house and into his ham radio room.  This room is actually beside the old wash house.  Last year, TWR built an addition onto the side of the former Roswell house, and so there is an entire living room and kitchen where the driveway used to be in front of the wash house.

Just like Dad, Dave tied up all his cables with plastic cable ties.  We  had to add an extension to a couple of cables in order for them to reach his ham radio transmitter.

The kids then asked if I would stay for supper, and, of course, being a bachelor, I readily agreed.  We had rice and kidney beans, and some pasta, and watermelon for dessert.  It was all very good.

After supper, I imported the pictures to my iPad, and we reviewed them on the big screen, using the Air Display app.  This is the handy app that transmits the display to a big-screen TV with no wires.  It turned out that Dave’s daughter did fairly well with her photo shoot, and I encouraged her to possibly take up photography in the future.

We also watched my video of the sea turtle from Sunday, and Dave’s youngest daughter insisted she was going to go out right away and become a scuba diver.  When I explained that you don’t get a tank-fill if you’re not certified, she said she would just go without the tank!

After we watched a few more videos from the family, Dave pulled up a YouTube video of The Forgetful Waiter by Steve Martin.  It was hilarious.

On the way home, I stopped by the beach road near the airport, and sat on a bench, looking up at the stars. The wonderful thing is that there are probably double the amount of stars visible in the Caribbean than we see from Canada. I called Brad Swanson to see if he had gone out star-gazing, as he had planned to.  Apparently there were too many clouds tonight, so that trip was cancelled.

By the time I got home, the dogs were more than a little excited to see me.  After I fed them, they all stood around sniffing the scents of the Pedersens’ dogs on my pants.

And so ends another interesting day on Bonaire.

My Tourist Guide – Aug. 13, 2012

Today I had to be out of the door in good time as I had to load all my scuba gear and pick up a tank and still get to work by eight o’clock.  When I went over to Bruce’s dive shop at quarter to eight to grab my tank, I found that they were still closed.  Almost without exception, all dive shops here operate from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.  I ended up having to go next door to the Divi Dive Shop tank locker and grab a tank from there, even though it cost $5 more. All you need at the Divi tank locker is the door code, so it is accessible 24/7.

 Photos here

This morning during devotions, almost the entire staff was present.  Dick Veldman, our Dutch engineer, was back from his vacation.  It is good to be able to practice my Dutch with him.

Brad led the devotions, and then we all went around the circle and prayed for the various needs on Bonaire and the other mission fields.

Afterwards I then spoke to Ivan, the very friendly Bonairian staff member whose profile I was going to post on the staff page of our website.  First, we went back to the shop and got some pictures of him in action, pretending to cut a piece of wood on the table saw.  Then we went outside and took some shots in front of the building.  After, we sat down with my iPad in the lobby, and I interviewed him for about 20 minutes.  It was very interesting to hear how he was saved at the age of 13, and then later on came to work for Trans World Radio.  He feels that the Lord led him to this job, when he could have been diverted to a secular career.

Ivan is now the longest serving Bonairian staff member, having started in 1975.  Apparently a friend told him about the job opportunity, so he dropped by the studio, and was interviewed by Tom Lowell.  Apparently it went very well, and he was told to report to work the next day.  I typed up the interview, and sent it on to Brandon to massage a bit further.  I’ll be posting it in the morning.

Next, I sat down with Laura on a Skype call to our IT support guy, Benjamin Tangeman, in the U.S.  We went over the list of “bugs” on the website software, one item at a time.  I felt it was a good discussion overall, and we hope to continue moving forward on these web-related items.

I also kidded Benjamin about his email being “Bonaire MK.”  I told him that I had seniority to that, and we both laughed.

Next I went downstairs to interview Dick Veldman.  It was fun to be able to interview him in the Dutch language.  I find that my Dutch is not as good now as I would like it, and every now and then I stumble on a word that I can no longer remember, and have to revert back to English.

Dick Veldman is the Technical Director and heads up the Maintenance Department.  He also has six children, two of whom are just entering college and university, so this is an intersting time in his life.  He seems like a very passionate man for getting the Word of God through radio to the world.

Berni Lusse also dropped by the studio to say good bye to everyone.  We gave her a little card as a going-away gift.

At five o’clock, I rounded up my scuba gear, and was at Jay’s place shortly after five.  We drove about a block or two to the site of the former Hotel Bonaire.  You could still see piles of rubble where it was demolished years ago.

Front Porch dive (Eden Beach)

Jay told me that there was a sunken tug boat about a hundred feet down, so we decided to check it out.  The bottom time at 110 feet is only 15 minutes.  We didn’t have to go far to find the wreck, which was about 70 feet long.  There were a couple of lion fish hovering in its shadow, as well as some sergeant major fish with egg patches on the hull that they were guarding.  The interesting thing is that they actually change to a darker colour when they are protecting their patch of purple eggs.  They alternately go from rubbing the eggs with the side of their body, to charging any nearby intruders.

We then explored a little further down the slope and went down to about 120 feet.  This is the sand plain where you see the grass eels.  These are the most bizarre creatures which live their entire lives in a vertical shaft about half an inch wide.  As you approach, you can see them gently waving in the current about two feet above their burrows, with their tails still down under the sand.  They apparently are fishing for plankton.  They are no bigger around than your baby finger, but are probably about three feet or more long.  I have actually never seen them all the way out of their hole.  As you approach, they slowly withdraw into their hole, until they disappear altogether when you’re within ten feet.  Twenty feet out, you see them about six inches out of their holes, and thirty feet out, they are a foot out of their holes.  How they all co-ordinate how far to extend out of the hole, according to your proximity, I’ll never know.

We then returned to the wreck, and started along the slope.  At that point, we had hit 14 minutes bottom time, so I motioned to Jay that we needed to start to slowly ascend.  We worked our way slowly up the slope, and ended up spending most of our time around 60 feet deep.

One of the strangest sights I saw was a pale, grey type of worm extending out from under a coral head.  The first one I discovered was sticking out about two feet long, and the next one I saw was close to three feet out from under the coral head.  They are almost as big around as your wrist, and don’t seem to move at all.  I wonder how long they are when they are completely out on the sand?  I also saw a sea cucumber up at the shallower depth.

We saw a large fish that looks a bit like a tuna.  I believe it is called a jack.

I did notice during the dive that I had a bit of a stiff neck, which may be a result of the way I have my weights positioned in my integrated weight belt.  I may look at putting some weight on the back of my tank instead of in my BC to balance out.  At the moment, I seem to be straining my neck upwards all the time, while the BC wants me face-down all the time.

Once we had exited the water and stored our gear in Jay’s truck, he took me next-door to the Wannadive Shop.  The tank locker is at the beginning of the condominium complex, with the actual dive shop back near the water.  Apparently, they only charge $8 for a tank, so I may have to register with them tomorrow.  The only drawback is that it is not 24-hour access like it is at the Divi Dive Shop.

I thought it was wonderful to have my own tourist guide, showing me all the highlights of the facility.  This is exactly the kind of generous spirit that I’ve been looking for in a local contact.  Jay delights in showing me things on the reef and on land, which is a real blessing.

Tonight I’m a little tired, so I didn’t go out for supper, but just ate the sandwich I had brought with me.  I’m now sitting in my comfy living room, with the fan going full blast on me to keep me cool.

Tomorrow I’m helping Dave raise a ham radio antenna.

On Wednesday, I’m meeting with Albert Bianculli from the Sea Monitor Foundation.  Jay introduced me to him, and I was able to finally make contact with him tonight.  It involves divers going out to two different underwater sensors, and attaching a computerized reader to it to extract the readings.  They measure water temperature, pollution levels, algae, and that kind of thing.  The diver also has to clean off the sensors, as they quickly become coated with marine growth.  He also said that if I get my air fills from a certain dive shop, it is free of charge when going out to service the sensors.

On Thursday, I’m doing my final deep-dive test with Ebby.  We will be diving the “Invisible” dive spot that is just past the salt pier. That should allow me to obtain the Deep Dive Specialty Course from SSI (Scuba Schools International).

My ex-wife, Lori, messaged me on Skype today and asked how things were going.  I summed it up by saying it was going better than expected. She wished me well, which was nice. And so ends another stimulating day on Bonaire.

Scuba Buddy – Aug. 12, 2012

On the way to church today, I actually had to wear my raincoat.  This is the semi-desert island of Bonaire, but it was pouring cats and dogs!  In fact, it was raining a bit on the inside of my Jeep as well, as the roof has been patched and is not 100% leak-proof.  I actually took a picture of the rain, so people would believe it.  I do think that the island gets more rainfall than when we used to live here.  Apparently, the rainy season has officially begun!

 Photos here

I was again at the International Bible Church (bonaireibc.org).  Sandra Swanson was at church, having just returned from the States where she was caring for her aging mother.  It was good to finally see her back with Brad.

The local pastor, Toto Baran, had also returned from vacation, but it was another lay minister who actually delivered the sermon.  Apparently this was his first sermon in English in five years.  I find the services very warm and genuine, and they seem to share together as one big family.  While the services are in English, half of the congregation are Bonairians, with the other half being the English-speaking residents and TWR staff.

Berni Lusse was also present in the service.  She was visiting from Germany where she and her husband, Udo, have recently retired.  Berni and Udo served with TWR during the time that I lived on Bonaire.  I think Udo was the fellow who interacted with me most from the staff.  He held craft-making classes at the local community centre where we learned to make jewelry out of ordinary materials from around the island.  My mother still wears a cross-section of a cow bone that was polished to look like ivory.

One of the wonderful things that happens when you join a local Christian fellowship is that you are able to network with the local people.  The way I’ve been accepted and introduced to others make me feel like I’ve been on the island for years.  Bob Lassiter contacted a local diver by the name of Jay Silverstein.  We had communicated by email, and I was to phone him using my local cell phone immediately after the service.  We ended up arranging to meet at his house, which is almost directly across the road at the Sand Dollar condos.

Jay does not belong to the church, but is a retired Jewish doctor from New York.  He is a very enthusiastic diver who was in need of a dive buddy, as his girlfriend is not interested in diving any more.  She apparently lived on a sailboat with her ex-husband for 17 years, and could go diving anywhere, at any time.

Jay suggested we go to the exact site I have been hoping to dive called La Dania’s Leap.  This is on the northern Tourist Road, one dive spot before Karpata, the last dive spot before Bopec.  I had interviewed Bruce Bowker the day before and also his dive master, and they both indicated that their personal favourite dive site was La Dania’s Leap!

Most of the local divers here drive pickup trucks with a wooden rack in the back for the tanks, and this is exactly what Jay drives.  Jay had told me not to bother bringing a tank, as he had one for me.  Unfortunately when we got there, he had a problem with the valve, so we drove down to the Yellow Submarine Dive Shop, about a four-minute drive, to get it fixed.  Jay is a casual dive master for this shop, and so has the free run of the place, as well as free air fills.  He was able to repair his valve in a matter of minutes, and we also picked up an additional tank.  We were on our way in five minutes.  That is one of the features of most of the dive shops here – easily accessible tanks.

The drive up the north end took about 20 minutes.  It is a two-way road until just before Radio Nederlands, after which it becomes a one-way road.  The plan was to drop the gear at La Dania’s Leap, and drive the truck up to the end point at Karpata, and walk back.

As we walked back to our entry point, which was about an 8-minute walk away, it began to rain.  By the time we hit the water, it was pouring, but this would make the islanders happy, as apparently they have been in great need of rain for a while now.

The entry on this dive was an actual leap from about three feet above the water from a stone ledge.  With my new fins, I wear a rubber booty, which, in this case, was essential for walking to the dive site.  They are kind of like rubber shoes, but they are needed to be able to fit the fin onto your foot.

As soon as we hit the water, Jay started pointing to a large staghorn coral.  The reason he was so excited by this perfect specimen, about 15 feet wide, is that staghorn and elkhorn coral were almost all destroyed five years ago during a near  miss by a hurricane.  The entire west coast, which is normally the sheltered side, suffered punishing waves for a day-and-a-half, which destroyed the entire fringe reef up to a depth of 30 feet.  Most of the staghorn and elkhorn coral are no more than one or two feet in size at this point.  This specimen was the lone survivor.

Another interesting habit of Jay’s is that he likes to touch the creatures (not coral) on the reef.  Conventional wisdom is that you are not to touch anything for fear of harming it.  However, Jay subscribes to an ideology promoted by author Dee Scarr, who wrote the book called “Touch the Sea.”  She still leaves here on Bonaire.  Jay actually gave me an autographed copy of her book when we got home that evening.  I am about to start reading it now, but the idea is that you can pet the fish, and get up close and personal with the sea life.

The first thing Jay did was point under a coral head at what looked like a patch of white lace.  To my surprise, he reached in and grabbed it, and it turned out to be a sea slug.  I had previously thought it was an interesting form of coral.  After we rolled it around in our hands and took a photo, Jay carefully placed it back in the exact spot that he had taken it from.

Of all the dives I have done to date, I would say that La Dania’s Leap is in the most pristine shape of any of the dive sites around Bonaire.  The landscape features gorgeous, rolling hills and valleys, and it almost feels like you are swimming in an aquarium, as there is so much fish life around you.  Also, when you look down the sea slope, there is no bottom.  Typically you see a sand bottom at about 120 feet, but here it just goes down, I believe, for close to a mile deep.

About five minutes into the dive, Jay started pointing furiously at something about 20 feet away in the water.  There were two squids slowly swimming along.  They were about 18 inches long, with their legs trailing out behind them.  Just above the legs were two saucer-shaped eyes staring back at us, with the rest of the body being a kind of torpedo-shaped thing.  I tried getting closer, but they kept their distance, and I don’t think the shot I took turned out very well.  I’ve been waiting to see a squid since I got here.  My next goal is to spot the tiny little sea horses that are here.

I also got a nice video of a sea turtle swimming nearby.  I find the way they swim through the water to be just majestic!  Their flippers make a wide arc, almost like a bird’s wings.  It is fascinating how unconcerned they are with the need to eventually surface to get more air.

We also saw a massive, midnight-blue parrot fish which probably weighed about 40 pounds.  It was jet black with indigo-blue markings on the front.

This time the exit at Karpata was much easier, as there was not the wave action that I had the previous Saturday.  My knuckles are almost healed from that incident.

When we got back to the truck, Jay handed me a bottle of water so that I could rinse my hair, as we were nowhere near town.  Being a veteran diver, he has all these little details worked out.

Next, the tourist guide in Jay came out.  He veered off the road through Rincon up to the mountain top to a lookout over the City of Rincon.  In all the time that I lived on Bonaire, I never knew this little lookout existed.  The road to get there is actually extremely rough, and you almost need a Jeep or a pickup truck to make it.  They actually have stone ‘sofas’ built into the hillside.  I took my dive camera out of its case, and got some good shots of the city.  There was almost no wind, and we could hear all the sounds coming from the city below.

We then drove back to his home, and he asked me if I had plans for supper. I said, “None at all,” so they invited me to come back, after I changed, for a spaghetti dinner.  The meal they provided could have been right from one of the posh restaurants.  They served appetizers, and then copious amounts of meat sauce and spaghetti, as well as salad, and a wonderful dessert.

I brought out my iPad and imported the shots we had just taken, and showed his girlfriend the one of the turtle.  She loved it.  I do find the iPad ideal for reviewing photos.  She started suggesting that they needed to buy an iPad next!  We gabbed for over an hour, and I found them very interesting company.  We then made arrangements for the next day to go diving immediately after work, and then I hit the road.

I believe I have finally the dive buddy that I’ve been looking for since I arrived here — yet another blessing from my Lord!

Bruce Bowker – Aug. 11, 2012

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

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

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

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

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

  Photos here

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

Morning Dive at ANGEL CITY

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

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

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

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

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

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


Afternoon Dive at MONTE’S DIVI, Klein Bonaire

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By the way, the trade winds are back.

Bonarian Staff – Aug. 10_2012

Today began with the usual duties of cooking breakfast, feeding the dogs, and getting to work by eight. The interesting thing is that when I set my place at the table, I have to wipe off the table with a cloth every day. I’m always amazed how much brown dust comes off the table onto my washcloth. In fact, every day everything it is coated with a very, very fine layer of brown dust that comes in through the open windows. I now understand why many people employ maids here. It is impossible to keep up with this fine layer of dust that settles everywhere in your house. I generally just clean the areas that I’m eating from. I also wear slippers around the house, or else my feet would be completely black in a minute.

Photos here

Today, immediately after devotions, I photographed and interviewed Benny Saragosa. I had mentioned to the three Bonairian workers yesterday that I would be interviewing them and taking their photo for the Staff page of our new website. I noticed that they all came in this morning with their nice TWR T-shirts on. I think they are all very flattered that we are featuring them on the website.

Benny is a 26-year veteran of the local staff. Benny is the supervisor of maintenance, and also one of the antenna riggers. He is a wonderful Christian gentleman, with a very refreshing attitude. He always seems to have a smile on his face. He is one of those guys that people just like to be around. He puts his many talents to use as part of the team here, and shares in broadcasting the Gospel to millions in the region.

Today he showed me around in the maintenance department. He also showed me some of the tool boards in the maintenance room. I’m wondering if Dad set those peg boards up. There is a wall where everything has a time when it is scheduled for maintenance.

Benny and the maintenance crew are currently working on a house renovation project in addition to all their other duties.  Man, these are some busy guys!

Once I fired about a million photos, I took Benny back to the lunchroom where I brought out my iPad and typed up the first draft of his bio. I then emailed that to Brandon, who massaged it a bit. It is now on the Staff page of our temporary website.

Next I went around and took a few shots of Brad Swanson. He is one of the most capable people here, and very humble. He runs the most popular blog for TWR on Bonaire, but there isn’t a single shot of him on his own website. I took a picture of him using Adobe Audition, as he was reviewing the programs scheduled to be broadcast later that night. Brad has continually amazed me with how much technical skill he has. He runs the local network for us, and seems capable of solving any problem we hand to him.

Laura worked remotely today, so I worked on my own most of the day. I completed the Ministry Partners page, Staff page, and the Contact page, as well as did some work on a few other pages.

I spent time today working on the photo sorting project.  We haven’t quite determined the best way to handle this yet.  But, we’ll get back to it on Monday and figure out a solution.

At lunch, I went across the road to the Seaside Restaurant. Unfortunately the sign on the door said CLOSED until further notice. Apparently about three major restaurants have closed within the last few months. While I was there, I took some photos of the dock area, and the Sand Dollar Condominium complex next door. It was this beach where I first learned to scuba dive from. Formerly, this is where Hotel Bonaire was situated, but it has since been torn down.

As usual on Friday night, I went over for pizza and a movie with the Pedersen family who live in the Belnem area. I told them I would be there between six and 6:30. When I pulled up about 10 after six, I discovered the kids waiting for me at the front gate. Apparently they had been making bets about how many cars would pass before I arrived. I guess I’ll have to nail down an exact time next time so I don’t wear these kids out. As usual, they wanted to play with my electronic gadgets, and all piled on top of me on the sofa.

After pizza, we watched the Star Wars movie, “Phantom Menace.” I’m an avid Star Wars fan, and he had it on a big-screen TV from a Blue Ray disc. It was spectacular!

Movie night wrapped up just a bit after nine, and I went home in order to get to bed in good time, as tomorrow I will be diving. My ear problem has cleared up, and I’m good to go!

I’m actually dictating this blog from the Divi Flamingo Casino and Resort, which is directly across from my home. They have better WiFi than I get from my neighbour, Brandon, so I have started to hang out here in my off-time. It’s nice having the run of a resort without having to pay the resort prices. I think with my Tilley hat and so on, I fit right in with the tourists here, but I do spend a fair bit of money at the dive shop, so it’s all good!

The Call of the Sea – Aug. 9, 2012

Today was another fairly uneventful day that began with me cooking breakfast on the gas stove. When I went to feed the dogs at 7:30, I took a few minutes to do some stooping and scooping. When we wrote up my TO DO LIST a few days ago, Brandon put at the bottom, Other duties as assigned. I guess that is part of my other duties.

(Not many photos, so there isn’t a web album for today)

As I dictate this on my cell phone for my mother to transcribe, I’m sitting at the end of the dock at Bruce Bowker’s Carib Inn, which is about a block away from my house. It had been my intention to join in on a scuba video night here, but apparently I got my wires crossed, and there is nothing happening here tonight.

It is now almost eight o’clock, and I can see the boats all around me, tethered to the mooring buoys. I just had a nice conversation with a diver from San Francisco. He told me that Bruce has the highest return rate of all the dive shops on Bonaire. One of the reasons is that he lets the divers be self supervised with respect to how long they want to stay down. These days, with dive computers, you get a credit for time spent at a shallower depth. So if you spend 25 minutes at 60 feet, without a computer you would have to figure on a total bottom time of 50 minutes. But if you return to 30 feet on the way back to the boat, the computer gives you credit for that and lets you stay down for perhaps 70 minutes. People like not being baby sat when they’ve been diving for decades, like this gentleman has.

To my right is the town harbour, and the two local heavy tugs have just left port. They are heading south for who knows where. Out on the horizon about five miles away is what looks like the lights of a super tanker that apparently just left the Bopec Oil Terminal on the north of the island. My guess is it is heading empty back to Venezuela.

To my far left, just beyond the airport lights are the four towers of Trans World Radio. Immediately to my right moored to the dock is a high-powered speed boat they use for diving here. My guess is that Bruce sometimes goes to the east side of the island in this boat. I plan to do at least a few dives with Bruce before too long.

Today’s work began with me making a comprehensive list of all the bugs I’ve discovered in the new website software. As usual, Brandon assisted me with putting out last night’s blog. He is a great help, making sure I have all my facts correct. We usually get the blog online by ten o’clock.

I also replaced the TWR Bonaire logo in my website banner with a Bonairian flamingo I discovered in the vast store of photos here. So now my banner features a flamingo and the Bonairian flag, which I think looks a little better. We are currently waiting for the graphics department in the US to design our TWR Bonaire logo.

After lunch, Laura came to work, as her son Benjamin was in school. We sat down and went over our ‘bug list’ in great detail, and actually were able to solve a couple of the problems, but we added a few more. We ended up with about 23 points that we need tech support on from the U.S. IT Team. That is now in their hands, and we will have to wait to see when they get back to us.

We then divided up the site map, with each of us taking a page that we would be updating. We have roughly divided it in half. I’ve also tried to prioritize which pages I will be begin working on first. The first one I’m going to tackle is the staff page. Tomorrow I have to take pictures of our Bonairian full-time workers, and also interview them to create a bio. I think the Bonairian workers are quite flattered with the attention.

Sometime in the afternoon, Benny, the Bonairian foreman, came in and asked for a DVD copy of the video that he was featured in, so I made a copy for him and left it with Brandon. These guys are wonderful Christian men who are very helpful and friendly.

The next thing that Laura and I discussed was the organization of the almost 10,000 photos we have on file. It was my thought that we need to figure out a way of making them searchable by first tagging all the pictures. Right now we are investigating what software would be able to stamp each picture’s meta data with the tags we want. For example, each picture will be stamped, “Copyrighted TWR Bonaire.” Next we would add other tags. For a picture of a tower, the tag would be “Tower,” and then we could label it for the year. So let’s say you are looking for a tower from 2003, you would type in “2003 Tower,” and up would come a list of all the pictures of the towers at that time.

Laura agreed that Picasa, the free photo-editing software from Google, would likely be the best choice. We will dive into learning that software, and see if it will be what we need.

The next step is to document exactly how we process the pictures, so that the staff can continue to tag the pictures as they take them in the future.

The end result, we hope, will be a local, searchable data base of photos. Due to security concerns, it is against TWR policy to publish photos in the public domain without approval. Some photos may be published in conjunction with the 50th Anniversary and at a later date.

After work, I decided to drive through Antriol and see if I could stock up on my ear-cleaning solution. I still have half a bottle left, but I don’t want to run out. It is an alcohol-based solution that removes the water from your ear after a dive. It takes getting used to, as it kind of bubbles in your ear for a couple of minutes. Unfortunately, the drugstore didn’t have anything of the kind. I’ll have to check with a few of the dive shops.

Next I decided to try a local Chinese restaurant called The Peking Restaurant and Bar. It is just down the hill from the old theatre in Antriol. I thought I would like to see some of the local people, so I sat down for a meal. I ordered the nasi goreng special, and ended up with way too much to eat. It was an interesting cultural experience and I didn’t leave hungry.

I really enjoyed talking with the local people that I met at the restaurant. To hear and see things from their point of view brings an interesting perspective.

Then it was off home to feed the dogs, and head over to where I am now.

I still find the smell and the sounds of the sea an irresistible draw. I don’t think I ever got over not having the ocean nearby after I left Bonaire. I can’t tell you how refreshing it is to be back here by the ocean.

The stars are out. The breeze is gentle, and the mosquitoes aren’t very bad, so it is a wonderful evening all the way around.

Time to read a bit more in the book about my namesake, Sir John A. Macdonald: Nation Maker.

Lookout Mountain – Wed. Aug. 8/12

Today was a fairly uneventful day, going to work by eight, and working on website-related issues all day.

 Photos here

It rained a fair bit on the north end during the last 24 hours, and things are still damp.  The island seems to be a bit more green than when we lived on Bonaire (perhaps 10% greener), and there are some people that actually have lawn mowers!!

The website is starting to take shape, and we were able to set up various options.  I was working on inserting audio samples, and writing up a list of the bugs in the program that remain.  As usual, I brought sandwiches with me, and worked a bit on my blog during my lunch.

In the afternoon, Laura arrived, and we worked together on the website.  We are connected via Skype, even though we are only 30 feet away in different offices.  Whenever we have questions, we run over to the other person’s office and try to sort them out.  I am very lucky that Laura knows the principles of webmastering very well, and we seem to be on a more or less even playing field that way.  If anything, she is a little quicker than I am.

When five o’clock came, I packed up and decided to drive to the hardware store in Antriol.  I picked up a soap holder for the shower in the guesthouse, as the existing one was badly rusted.  I keep having to pick out bits of rust from my soap bar each morning.  I quickly found what I needed, and also grabbed a higher wattage light bulb for the bathroom.  I bought a fold-up lawn chair as well, and that’s what I’m sitting on (which I’ll leave behind when I return to Canada).

I then decided to go across the road and see what the Kentucky Fried Chicken was like.  It is rather a novelty that they have exactly the same thing as we do back home in Canada.  From the ads to the food, everything was exactly as it is in all KFC’s around the world.  One interesting thing was that they charge a 6% sales tax if it is eat-in.  Six per cent is not as bad as our 13% in Ontario.

I headed up to Lookout Mountain to take some photos. The actual name is Seru Largu, and is located here:12.19409, -68.27314 (Copy and past this into the search bar of maps.google.com.) I didn’t have my regular Canon camera with me, but used the iPad’s built-in camera.  It seems to take decent pictures.  There was a mockingbird that came to visit, and a few goats dropped by as well.

I’m dictating this just before 7:00 p.m., and the lights are beginning to come on below me in Kralendijk.  On the mountain ridge to my right, there is a complete subdivision built up that wasn’t there 30 years ago.  The tanks from the water plant are still there, but now there are about a hundred homes beside them.

The water plant that is by the shore in the distance, opposite Klein Bonaire, only does water desalination.  The power plants are located elsewhere around the island.

I understand that Trans World Radio broadcasts from an FM transmitter up on this mountain as well, which I intend to visit at some point.  This is a local FM transmitter just for the island of Bonaire.  Like our main transmitter in the south, it is remotely operated and fully automated.

As I sit here dictating my blog, the birds are singing, and it is just such a peaceful scene altogether.  I’m not diving today, as my left ear is still bothering me somewhat, although it seems to be getting a bit better.

I’ll sign off for now, and go back to reading my book about Sir John A. Macdonald on my iPad.