14/May/2012, South of Kralendijk - Bonaire
Another day of brisk trade winds from ESE. Low lying land of the island makes the air turbulent, the wind gusts fiercely for a short while between lulls, the direction changing as the stiff breeze pushes our hull one way, and then the other. Washing hanging on the makeshift lines flaps furiously with each alteration of angle. A new device to aid the chore of wash day has been added to the manual tools of "Trug Bucket" and "Pumping Arms", a wash-board. A Mexican made brand found floating in the harbour in Grenada; no claimants in spite of touring the anchorage so we are putting it to good use aboard Spruce. Everybody had one in the pre-washing machine days so the old methods remain viable.
Chores done and lunch consumed left us free to go diving some more. This time we headed in the opposite direction, southwards, just off the end of the airport runway. As we prepared our equipment a thundering noise engulfed us and we gazed above as the nose of a low flying jet-plane hurtling towards the tarmac beyond our dinghy. So that is why vessels with masts are not allowed on this particular dive buoy at the site called Corporal Meiss. The wind strengthened and the surface of the water whipped into a frenzy of choppy crests, the peaks blowing away in the strong afternoon breeze. Pre-dive checks completed and we rolled into the blue sea, oriented ourselves, signalled OK and ready to descend.
The change in the environment is still quite astounding to us newbies to diving. Air released from our BCDs and we slip gently below the surface. The waves and wind vanish, a new world emerges as we fall slowly to the reef below. An almost imperceptible current drifts us over the sea-bottom-scape; definition hardening through the clear water as we get closer to coral and sponges on the reef edge. Purple tube sponges look strangely other-worldly amongst yellow and rusty looking brain corals, perfectly formed ridges and curls in the patterns of these colonies of polyps; millions of individual clones clustered to form each coral. Distant sounds penetrate: surf breaking on the shore, outboard motors, clicking of sea creatures; an all enveloping series of background noises which are hard to pinpoint.
Once onto the edge of the reef we slowly fin our way down the slope and descend to a depth of 60 feet. The residents of this underwater kingdom react in different ways to the invaders. Some continue munching, little bothered, others rapidly flit away from our path. Moray Eels snake amongst the coral holes and hollows, an occasional peep to check us out. Colourful Parrot Fish gnaw agitatedly at the coral, eyes suspiciously darting glances in our direction, until with a momentary flit of the tail they glide away, their turquoise and red and yellow iridescent bodies shimmering in the filtered light from above. Fleets of Blue Tangs, swimming as pairs and threes in line astern formation; a spread out shoal of perhaps one-hundred fish passing between us without alarm. So nice to be able to savour this beautiful alien environment at our leisure, instead of hastily gulped lung full's through a snorkel.
Photo shows the strange sight of a Queen Parrot Fish with a Trumpet Fish swimming in close company. The trumpet fish seem to spend lot of time trying to look inconspicous by laying alongside other creatures or hanging vertically amongst coral and sponges.
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11/May/2012, Kralendijk - Bonaire
A good start to the day as a dolphin lazily swam past while we were eating our cereal breakfast in the cockpit. The first we have sighted for a long period, apart from a brief night time visitation during Sues's watch on passage from Grenada.
Two dives today. One well to the north, beyond the island's all important de-salination plant, and a long dinghy ride away from Spruce; fine with the brisk trade wind astern for the outward leg but very wet on the homeward slog. Maybe a RIB rather than an inflatable and double the horsepower hanging on the back would make it somewhat easier:-)
The first dive was in search of a reported Seahorse. Six of us teamed up for the hunt, Paul had the insider info from a dive shop. We found it!...we think...maybe... extremely well camouflaged and not very big at all. The photography for a slower time analysis was a failure; more blue cast images enhanced with violent camera shake. After much messing with the camera we ended up deleting the unsatisfactory images as they only served to improve the camouflage dramatically. Sue was particularly miffed as she hadn't realised it was the seahorse location, we saw her peering in the right place and thought she had it...unfortunately she was looking at a nearby Moray Eel snaking amongst the coral and presumed that was what we had all been ogling at. It seems we must now do a return visit next week.
The afternoon dive was just the two. Our first try at a giant stride off the transom of Spruce rather than rolling in backwards from the dinghy. In some ways much simpler than donning scuba equipment in an inflatable dinghy; just important not to catch any tubes or oneself on protuberances back aft. The main objective was focused on getting the photography sorted out. How could we set this camera up for colour compensation. The instructions in the manual, as par for these things, were ambiguous. The third variation of pressing buttons suddenly produced quite orange looking piccies on the camera display, but that was what we needed to compensate for the lack of reds and excess of blue down at 45 feet deep. Hurrah! Some success in getting reasonably coloured images instead of shades of grey/blue/yellow/green was a great step forwards from disappointments so far.
Photo below shows a French Angel Fish pretending it hadn't seen us creeping closer. These are so nicely marked it is hard to believe it is natural and not merely the product of an artist's creative mind.
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10/May/2012, Kralendijk - Bonaire
Expenditure on a new camera for diving today. Not a really expensive model but one that is clipped into a waterproof housing and capable of going much deeper than our other 10m max-depth camera. Just need to try and sort out the various options for balancing colour at depth now. As you move deeper the reds are filtered out so whites begin to look more blue. A simple case of setting the camera up by showing it a white reference at the depth of interest... well, it was simple at the chart table with the manual displayed on the computer screen, pressing buttons with no symbols at 14 metres depth while a decent current attempts to push you past the wreck to be photographed was altogether a different game. If only we had some photos of our antics it would have been quite comical.
So, today's attempts were very blue cast, even a bit of photoshop magic hasn't completely sorted the hues. Now we know which button should have been pressed maybe better luck tomorrow when we head across to Kleine Bonaire for some diving reported to offer excellent corals and many fishes.
Photo shows a photoshop enhanced de-blued version of a Queen Angel Fish, beautiful colouring and so pretty.
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09/May/2012, Kralendijk - Bonaire
A day of continued activities with getting established here in Bonaire. Yesterday's wi-fi connection was short lived, a voucher for 16 hours connection time purchased, about 40 minutes used and the time was shown as expired. "Telbo SurfIT" restored our card to the full 16 hours again so we'll see if it continues to work past tonight's internet access...
Lots of exercise walking around between stores to find a replacement waterproof camera that we can dive with, plus a strobe. Have found various components but not enough bits to put a whole system together. Two more stores and more hiking (don't seem to have buses here) to continue the quest for pictures from beneath the surface of the blue, so blue, and briny sea.
This evening we motored the dinghy a mile or so across the water to the North of the small island located to the West of Bonaire, Kleine Bonaire or Little Bonaire. A chance to check out the area for some diving by snorkeling along the steep edge of the island. A narrow coastal fringe rapidly falls away to the deep just offshore. Lots of fish, including two of the dreaded Lion Fish; voracious incomers from the Pacific Ocean who allegedly have tremendous appetites for devouring local reef fish. We'll report their location tomorrow to the local dive shop, a campaign is underway throughout the Caribbean Sea to exterminate any found before they put the ecology at risk.
Piccie shows a blurred Laughing Gull taking a crisp from Andy's fingers while on the wing. Also shown are fellow cruisers Vicky and Bob from Florida aboard FoxSea, they were also in Grenada but sailed across here about a month ago.
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08/May/2012, Kralendijk - Bonaire
Disturbed sleep. Thunder. Lightening. Rain. Welcome to the island that only has 22 inches of rain per annum. The heavens seemed to be attempting to deposit a fair proportion of that this morning. Up early and off for a hike along the roads surrounding Kralendijk, various jobs dealt with en route. Dive tanks dropped off for filling, wifi access arranged, new dive camera researched and a preliminary excursion into a Dutch style supermarket. So nice to have the change of cuisine to entertain our pallets. Many things we recognise from the Netherlands and a more substantial "Boodschappen" will have to be made at a future date ; until then but a few treats to go along with with. During our trek we found many new birds: a tree full of Yellow Headed Parrots chomping seed pods, an Oriole, Bananaquits and a very yellow chap that looked rather like a Canary sporting a Finch-style beak. A noisy flock of Parakeets sat picking flowers. Their host tree full of blossom was rapidly being pillaged of nectar. Perhaps even helping to pollinate for a future crop of fruit... or maybe just stripping it bare.
Afternoon was time for our first dive in Bonaire. A simple descent from the back of Spruce; onto the reef edge and down to about 60 feet deep for a swim along the reef heading into the slight current. Not as much life as found later in shallower waters but still plenty of fish, non-the-less. Notable sightings included Moray Eel, Snake Eel, Spotted Drum, French Angel Fish, Queen Angel Fish and a large Tarpon about 1.4 metres long lazily swimming past. The deep blue colour looking into the depths was quite beautiful and invoked a wonderful calming sensation.
Dive tanks replenished and we repaired back aboard to sample some of the delights procured at the supermarket ... and to reflect on a great day's activities.
Photo shows how clear the water is right alongside at 20 feet (6 metres) deep, a further 10 metres out of shot the reef tumbles away to a sandy bottom below the slope of coral at about 30 metres (100 feet) deep.
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07/May/2012, Kralendijk - Bonaire
An exciting day starting to explore somewhere new. The local chaps at the customs dock spoke only the local dialect, Papiamento, and Dutch. A chance to practise rusty skills in the local official language, we rapidly found we could stay on the jetty only a short while due to a ferry arriving soon. After much form filling the customs official asked us to return later when the immigration department arrived for work at 8am. Off to find a mooring. Bonaire is all a designated maritime reserve so no anchoring permitted; forty or so moorings are maintained by the local marina at US$10.60 per day. While approaching the mooring area our first surprise as a Manta Ray smoothly glided by, apparently unconcerned by our antics. Local avian creatures include Pelicans, Frigate Birds and Parrots to supplement the gulls boobies and terns. The next surprise was an iguana sunning itself on a small quay, he calmly allowed us close to take a photo, our second pass was greeted by a spectacular leap into the sea and he quickly swam to the bottom. A real treat as we thought such performances were only to be seen in the Galapagos.
Diving permits have been obtained, a nearby dive shop has a multiple tank deal to replenish air in tanks for US$5 per fill, all formalities completed, mooring secured...just the internet to be sorted then we can start enjoying the underwater delights of Bonaire, reputed to be one of the top dive sites in the world. The short snorkel recce today indicates it will have been worth waiting for.
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