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.

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