Wednesday, September 8, 2021

Fancy Photos

 I discovered many things during this wonderful trip. One thing I did not anticipate was the varied types of photographic equipment that would be brought by the members of the group. Fancy water-proof cameras and special lights that stick out like some kind of bug antennas. all very weird to the newbie.

The proof is in the results. Sue has just distributed a select set of photos and movies that were taken during the trip. Take a look, they are wonderful

Sue's Photos


Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Trip Wrap Up

Diving is done, I'm reluctantly leaving with the rest of the group tomorrow. Flew in last Wednesday and  flying out this Wednesday. I'm at a loss of words for the experience.

Doug has arranged a trip that is as low effort as possible and as high in the diving experience as possible. Simply board a plane, fly to a diving paradise where boats and staff are waiting to take you on a experience of a lifetime with highly experienced boat captains and dive masters to guide on a diving adventure while keeping you safe.

Just focus on the diving and they will take care of the rest because this is an all inclusive resort. Where the diving, food and (with the drink package) drinks. The resort is just minutes from the airport.

Our dive group consisted of 25 divers, mostly from the New Jersey area and a couple like me from other parts of the country.  Now it's time to return to the states and head back to Los Angeles to prepare for my next travel adventure.

Today's photos


Monday, August 30, 2021

Salt Pier, What an Experience!

Two more wonderful dives to round out the trip. Ever since we arrived, discussions regarding the uniqueness of the salt pier have occurred. 

Bonaire produces sea salt by flooding condenser ponds with sea water and allowing evaporation to occur before further processing. The resulting salt is transported to ships via the pier extending out into the ocean. The pilings that make up the pier provides habitat for a huge assortment of marine life.

The first dive became practice for the pier dive. For reasons that will be explained later, we were required to exit the boat as a group as quickly as possible and meet in deep below before moving as a tight groups while keeping our air consumption as low as possible before returning to the boat at the end of the dive together rather than individually as we typically do. With the practice dive completed, we were briefed on the pier dive.

Because there are no anchorages near the pier, we would be doing drift diving. The boat will was not tied to a buoy but with the motor turned off, it's simply moving with the current. We all quickly exited the boat so that we didn't get strung out and the boat didn't need to be unpowered for a long period of time. As planned we all met at the bottom before heading to the pier.

I'm not sure what I had expected to see, but maybe I had expected to see two rows of pilings in neat rows, but I was surprised to immediately encounter a large number of pilings that I had not been able to see from the surface. Many vertical and many leaning from vertical.  All were heavily encrusted supporting a vast array of sea life. The dive master pointed out all types of sea life as we slowly made our way among the pilings that reached far about us like a redwood forest. The reason for maximizing our air supply was that we need to fully clear the pier so that the boat could pick us up on the far side of the pier. Having to surface before that time would not be practical. So we slowly continued on, as my brother Ed explained, be a tourist, take your time, keep your eyes open to see the sights and keep with the group.

When we were clear of the pier and at the pick-up point, we gathered at the bottom for a while, waiting for the boat to rendezvous with us. The dive master, then signaled for us to surface and sure enough the boat was a short distance away motoring in our direction. It then cut the motor and threw out a line. With the boat now drifting, we all grabbed on to the line and one by one, as quickly as possible made it all on to the board before pulling up the ladder and heading back to the resort. Smiles abounded as we traded traded stories of the experience and what we had seen. I was very pleased to look at my pressure gauge which I monitored during the entire dive to see that I had plenty of air left by the time I had boarded the boat.

Today's Photos


Sunday, August 29, 2021

What happens when it rains?

When it rains while biking you find a roof to stand under and wait for the rain to pass. I discovered today that while diving anyway. A little rain is just a bit more water.

This morning, under overcast conditions we pulled away from the dock and within minutes it started to pour. We hadn't even started to put on our equipment so we all gathered under the bridge as the boat motored on to the first dive stop. By the time we arrived the shower had slowed and we started to don the equipment and as we entered the water the rain picked up again. The sound of rain on water while we were several feet down was an unusual experience. With the overcast sky, the water was not quite as light as previous dives, but as we followed Laurel as our guide, we quickly were gazing at the beautiful wall on our left as we headed south with the wall on our left. The wall looked as if it was populated with huge fungus like coral swarming with small fishes darting in and out of the crevices.

I was paying attention to minimizing the controls of my BC to improve my buoyancy and my breathing so that I could make more efficient use of my air with to increase the time in the water. I noted that I was 1/2 way through my air supply and needed to return to the boat and signaled my buddy Greg and at the some time, Laurel had indicated the we were at the turn around point. To me this indicated that I was getting better at making my breathing and swimming more efficient. 

Today's photos


Saturday, August 28, 2021

Morning Preparations

The morning routine to get ready to depart is starting to become a bit less intimidating. Make sure that I've removed my contacts and are wearing my glasses (my mask has prescription lenses), apply sunblock, bring some fruit (apples and oranges are great) to cleanse my mouth after the first dive. Open the locker and bring the following items to the boat; BC (dunk it in the fresh water tub on the way), the regulator, fins, snorkel, mask, wet suite and mesh gear bag. Finally take off my sneakers and put on the rubber booties.

Once on the boat, check the pressure in the two tanks that I'll be using (the boat staff has already loaded fresh tanks on the boat), mount the BC and connect the regulator and verify the operation. Since it's the same boat that we have used yesterday, verify that the weights are still in the same place as I left them.

Stow the fins under the bench near the air tanks along with the mesh bag with it's equipment that I took from the locker. After we're on our way to the first dive, we have enough time to wiggle into the lower part of the wet-suite.

When the boat is anchored at the dive site and following the briefing, finish putting on the wet-suit, put on your fins (I find it's easier to put on the fins before the BC). While seated on the bench, don the BC (it can be difficult attached to the tanks), and tighten all the straps and partially inflate the BC and put on the mask with snorkel.

Miss any of the above steps and you may not be diving today.

Each diver, in turn, will stand-up (often with help from others) and make their way to the back of the board and do the giant stride into the water.

Two more wonderful dives today. Ed took a bunch of new photos:

Today's Photos


Friday, August 27, 2021

Starting to become more fun

Two additional dives today with a similar routine as yesterday. At breakfast a bit before 7 AM and then back to the room for final preparations to be at the dock by 8 AM to check out the gear and load it on the boat by 8:30. The boat departs the dock at 8:45. It then a short ride of 15 to 20 minutes to the first location and a short dive briefing of where we are, what the conditions below are and what we can expect to see and we're in the water by approximately 9:15.

I've added an additional two pounds to my ballast weight since yesterday I had a tendency to float a bit toward the end of the dive when the tank is getting empty. The additional weight seemed to help. I understand that as I become more experienced I may want to remove a couple of pounds in the future.

It's pretty neat to do a "giant stride" off the back of the boat with you BC inflated while holding your mask and regulator in place and bobbing back to the surface, then paddling away to make room for the divers behind you. To descend, you slowly allow air to escape from your BC to slowly descend vertically, almost as if you were in an elevator. All around you, you can clearly see other divers also in the vertical position also descending in the clear blue water. It's all a very surreal experience.

While on the boat, we had been instructed where to regroup below the surface while waiting for all of the divers to arrive. Divers are always paired with a buddy for safety reasons. Today me and my two brothers were my buddies. It's really pretty comforting to know that we're all together and that my older brother Ed that has over 100 dives at Bonaire is watching.

We leave the shallows and drop off is near by and is a vertical wall where the water changes to a deep blue. As we swim north the craggy wall is on my right and filled with all kinds of sea life and all of it is new to me. It's hard to even identify what I'm seeing simply because I can't compare it to anything I seen before. Also I'm trying to pay attention to keeping my body a position that will reduce the drag as I motor along and pay attention to my tank pressure and my depth.

When my air pressure indicated a bit less that 1/2, I indicated to Ed and Greg that I needed to start the return trip and the three of us reversed direction and head back while the majority of the divers continued on. The return trip the wall was on our left as I lead the trio back. I made an error however and stayed deep along the wall and should have gone to more shallow waters where it would have be pretty easy to spot the board. I ended up shooting past the boat and pretty soon felt Ed's not so gentle thumping on my tank indicating that I had missed the boat.

As we boarded the boat, he had some words with me using a tone that only an older brother can muster telling me that I really needed to watch what I was doing much more closely.

We were able to get some really nifty underwater shots at the link below:

Today's photos


Thursday, August 26, 2021

Here we go!!

 With the correct size BC and additional weights in place, it's time to make my first open water dive. Open water dives are ones made out side a pool. They are performed in various locations. If you are inland, they are often done in rock quarries.  If you are near the ocean, maybe there. In southern California the destination is the pacific, that can be pretty chilly. I'm very fortunate to be here in Bonaire, where the water is warm and the dive locations are just a short boat trip away.


The routine that we'll follow while I'm here is, breakfast starts being served, buffet style, at 6:30. Down to the dock to pull your equipment out of the pier-side locker in time to board the boat by 8:30 and departure at 8:45. We'll have 2 morning dives each day and back into port for lunch with the rest of the day for ourselves.


We have about 25 divers the group split between 3 boats. The I'm on the boat with the 2 other beginners plus 12 other divers. Sue and Doug from Cedar Grove Divers Supply to insure our safety. Each boat also has a boat captain and a dive master. It's the dive master that will lead us on the dive and will guide us to interesting sights.

We head out at 9:45 for a fairly quick run to the first dive location. The first dive is typically the first dive of the day, the second dive it more shallow. We consume a tank for each dive. I'll have more to say on the sights that we see on the dives in later posts. At this time, each dive is so new to me, I'm more focusing on the technical details; buoyancy control, clearing the mask, breathing and my kicking. It's almost like being a beginner snow skier where you spend your time looking at your ski tips and not taking into the beauty that surrounds you. It will be much nicer in the coming dives as things become second nature.

Today's photos


Wednesday, August 25, 2021

Travel Day


Plane departs from Newark Airport with a stop over in Miami at 6:30 AM today. That means leaving Fayson Lakes at 4 AM to get to the airport with margin. For some unknown reason the shuttle doesn't arrive. So at 4:30 plan B is instituted, we pile into the Volvo wagon and head to the airport. After making our way through TSA inspection, we arrive at the gate shortly before the doors close.

Traveling internationally means that we not only have to meet the US traveling requirements but also the Bonaire traveling requirements. This means submitting the correct set of documents to the airlines when checking in and hoping that you have interpenetrated the travel requirements correctly and then arriving at Bonaire and submitting additional set of documents for inspection. Some of the members needed additional COVID rapid tests on arrival. I understand that when we return to the States, there are additional tests and documents necessary as well. The exact set of tests and documents are fluid and seem to change without notice. Who knows, we may just be detained on a tropical island at the end of the vacation. Well there could be worst places.

Arrival and Resort

After submitting our paperwork and picking up our bags we were greeted by mini-bus from the resort. I can quickly see why Doug, the owner of Cedar Grove Diver Supply has been to this resort 43 times previously.  Diving boats, pier, dive lockers, dive shop, spa, swimming pools, 3 restaurants and a casino are all on the beach front property.

But there is no time to delay. Check-in, get to your room, unpack, get into your swim gear and bring all your equipment to the diving pier. Doug wisely wants get everyone in the water to work out the kinks before tomorrow's first day of 2 dives.

For me and two others, it's our first chance to try our gear in a salt water cove that is and larger than a swimming pool. I'm told the water is in the low 80's and very comfortable, but just about everyone puts on their wet-suits anyway. With all the tanks, weights and assorted gear. Movement is rather lumbering as we make our way into the water.

i'm really grateful that we made this initial shakedown, since I discovered that I had snatched my brother's BC (buoyancy compensator) which was too large and the air tank rolled around on my back plus I didn't have enough weights to act against the additional buoyancy of the salt water. So as I mostly remained the surface of the water making unsuccessful attempts to descend, I reluctantly watched as the other divers swam below viewing the local underwater landmarks (or are they seamarks?) and memorials in the cove in front of the resort. I was assured that tomorrow with additional weights, I too would be swimming with the fishes.

With the initial checkout complete, it was time to wash up and head to the terrace dining area for dinner followed by a good night rest. Tomorrow will start early with a buffet breakfast and preparations to be on the boat with all your gear by 8:30 and an 8:45 departure.



Tuesday, August 24, 2021

Final Preparations

 Before each trip, it’s the final set of details that puts me on edge. In this case, flying I during the pandemic adds an additional layer of anxiety to the preparations. In this case it was required to take a COVID test (PCR) prior within 48 hours before the flight. It turns out that many of the testing services only guarantees results within 72 hours. So the days leading up to departure, we're on the phone trying to find out where we can go to take the tests and get the results back in time to make our flight. After hours on the net and trying to reach a person to answer the phone, we resorted to loading in the car and going from testing center to testing center to find a place. After several visits we stumbled into a pharmacy that had signs that indicated COVID vaccines, perhaps they would have testing as well. The pharmacist said no, however a customer that has done some traveling recently pointed us to a location that had returned her results within 24 hours. We swooped over to the location to confirm. We were now 72 hours from departure so we waited one more day and 48 hours out, we arrived back at the urgent care center. Had our noses swabbed and went on with our business. 

24 hours later, Ed and Rose got their negative results and my status was still “pending”. The next day, with 18 hours until departure, I make a call to see if I can hurry them up a bit by explaining the time constraint. With a weak promise that they will check on it, I hang up. However, to my releaf, a ½ hour later, I checked the website and the results were in with a negative status, saying the ai did not have COVID. So after printing our a hard copy, I was good to go.

All that remained was to do the final packing, not to forget anything on the checklist and try to get a couple of hours of sleep before departing for the airport at 4 AM.

Friday, August 20, 2021

Getting Excited

Currently in New Jersey talking a couple of days off before departing to Bonaire next week.  Had a trip briefing at Cedar Grove Divers Supply who is hosting the trip. Good briefing on what to expect once we're at Bonaire was well as the travel details. The COVID restrictions and necessary pre-trip test details were discussed. One of the restrictions is the need for COVID tests shortly prior to the trip. The current CDC guidelines are listed here.

Below is a wonderful video on diving at Bonaire. It's going to be fun!


Monday, August 9, 2021

What have I gotten myself into?

The phone rang several months ago. It was my brother Edward and he simply asked if I would like to join him on a SCUBA trip to Bonaire. He and his family had gone with a local New Jersey dive shop, Cedar Grove Divers Supply, to Bonaire several times in the past years. He also invited my younger brother Greg and his wife Beth as well.

I've never had the time to join them in the past, but I have recently retired and it's a great opportunity to try something new. After all, you can't bike all the time you know. Arrangements needed to be made to get certified. I found a highly regarded dive shop just a couple of miles from my home in California call Ocean Safari. With a couple of conversations and phone calls, it was agreed that I would take the e-learning, classroom instructing and pool sessions with Ocean Safari then take the open water instruction with Cedar Grove Divers Supply in Bonaire. I'm glad that I had a couple of months to get everything in order before the trip. The e-learning took more time that I had anticipated, but I got it all done.

I'm combining the SCUBA trip with a week long bike trip alone the Erie Canal from Buffalo to Albany NY. Check out my Erie Canal Blog.