Archive for the ‘Dive Travel’ Category

Back to Bonaire (April 2012)

Monday, April 16th, 2012
Click for Slideshow

Click for Slideshow

Val and I joined our local dive shop on a trip to Bonaire.  This was my third visit and Val’s fourth.  We stayed with Buddy Dive again, and as usual had a great time.  Augusto and his dive staff took great care of us.

On previous trips we were there in February.  This trip was scheduled for April.  While I’m not sure how much difference that makes, it was obvious that there was more cloud cover, and it even rained once or twice.  It’s my understanding that April starts the rainy season in the Carribean.  To be fair, the rain only lasted a few minutes, and was usually at night, or early morning.  It soon passed, and the trade winds quickly dried everything off.  The only real issue was my dive gear drying on the porch.   No charge for the fresh water rinse.

Click for Slideshow

Click for Slideshow

This year I brought my KISS GEM rebreather.  The unit is Passive Semi-closed circuit.  Perfect for Bonaire diving.  It attaches to a standard Nitrox cylinder, and extends the gas supply by up to three times.   So, I was doing dives over 3 hours on a single tank.   I always say that the most difficult part of diving is donning / doffing gear as well as entry and exit.  This unit allows me to reduce those issues.   Normally I’d do four to 5 dives a day with total dive time of 5-6 hours.  Now I can do two dives with the same bottom time.  Given the complications of dragging camera gear along, this is a real boon.

This trip was my first time with the GEM in warm water.  Up in New Jersey, we dive drysuits year round.  Now I get to dive in 80 degree water with a new wetsuit.   I also broke down and brought my “real” camera.  I’ve had a housing for my Nikon SLR for years, but this was the first time I packed it for a Carribean trip.   What a difference!   I love my Sea&Sea 2G, but it just can not compare to an SLR.

With all the new gear, the first few dives were just to get my act straight.   It took a few mods to get my weights adjusted for proper trim.  I regretted leaving my backplate at home.   It would have made this much easier.  The new wetsuit also caused a few adjustments.  During this process I spent time on the Buddy Dive reef.  Fortunately, it’s a nice reef with some interesting fish life.

I found out from the staff that Buddy Dive has a project to seed the reef.  They are working with the Bonaire community to help cultivate the staghorn coral and acropora in the shallow areas damaged by storms.  There were several areas that were being used to study the coral’s growth.  One large staghorn cropping was just off the dock.  It was naturally seeded and was growing very well.

This time I brough the camera!

Friday, September 23rd, 2011
Nuidbanch

Nuidbanch

Too often, I’ve had some fantastic diving experiences but can only share them with words.  California is one of those experiences.  I have sworn to myself that I will never again dive without a camera.

Here on the east coast our shore is composed of white sandy beaches.  Great for sunbathers, but not much to look at for divers.  Other coasts have rocky shores.  On rocky shores, fish have places to hide, plants have places to take root.

The west coast enjoys these rocky shores.  Kelp anchors to the seabed, and a variety of sea life thrives in it’s shelter.  While east coast diving is all about shipwrecks, west coast divers can simply drop in the water and enjoy diving the kelp beds.

Last week I had another opportunity to dive California’s underwater forests.  On my first trip to CA, my 35 mm film camera failed me, and I came home with only memories.  My last trip, I was involved in  some intensive training, and did not bring the camera.  This time, I was taking pictures one way or another.

The reason for the trip revolved around training, again.   This time I was working on an instructor cert on the new KISS GEM pSCR.   After diving the unit for many weeks in our local quarry, I felt comfortable in it’s operation.  Now I had to teach others.  My IT set up the class that involved system operation, buildup, pool and open water.  The first portions went quickly, and we were soon discussing open water.

Point Lobos

In the Monterey area, there are many options for open water dives.  After a few discussions, the decision was on Point Lobos, a small peninsula south of Carmel.  The area is mostly state park with some fantastic vistas.  Shore entry is in a small lagoon with a facility for divers.  Upon arrival we were greeted by local divers, and quickly discussed conditions prior to their second dive.  Our entry was uneventful, and we were soon swimming through the kelp beds.  There is no comparable feeling in Northeast diving.

The next day Alan borrowed a friends boat, and we headed to the Monterey marina breakwater.  I’m sure there are better placed to dive, but on my last visit we saw many Rainbow Nudibranchs close to the breakwater.  We have no such creatures here in the Northeast, so I expressed my fascination, and desire for a picture.

While preparing the boat and gearing up, we observed a number of large red jellyfish floating near the surface.  I gathered as many photos as I could on the surface, and anticipated seeing them in the water.  After a quick boat trip and back roll entry, we headed down to find the anchor a few inches from a line Alan placed a few years earlier.  Over on the breakwater we heard the Sea Lions barking above us and the shrimp crackling in the rocks.  Between drills and sea lion fly byes, Alan helped me snap a few shots of the abundant flora and fauna.

After the class, I spent my preflight surface interval photographing the topside environment.  Seals, sea lions, pelicans, … all posing for the tourist.  It was a great trip with lots of things to learn.  If you ever have the opportunity to visit, I highly recommend getting wet.

Spring in the Pool

Saturday, June 25th, 2011
OW Class

OW Class

When our local shop asked if I could lend a hand with classes this spring, I had no idea what I was in for.

Lately, I’ve only been teaching technical and CCR classes.  These students usually have many dives under their belt, and are looking to take the next step beyond recreational diving by honing their skills, learning new ones and expanding their dive planning and preparation.

It was fun working with newer students that were just learning their dive skills.  Since I was assisting where needed, I had the opportunity to work with a number of classes; Open Water, Advanced, Specialties, Rescue…  Then, to top it all off, the shop had nine Diver Master Candidates this spring.

I must admit, to having a lot more fun than expected.  There are always some new students that struggle with simple skills like mask clearing and U/W gear donning.  However, they’ve never done it.  We all struggled with those skills.  Once we learned how it’s done, and had some time to practice, our fear faded.  That’s when we can relax and enjoy the adventure of diving.  This is exciting to see and be around.

Technical diving involves more complicated skills that are much more demanding.  Some of my Tech students joke that I enjoy torturing them.  Not so.  The skills are required by the standards.  Once learned and practiced they become second nature, and can get you out of a bad situation.  Again, that’s when we can really enjoy the adventure.

To all those students that kept me in the pool and up at Dutch, dive safe, practice your skills, and look me up when you need a dive buddy!  Now I’m off to go diving!

CDT Fourcault promo

Wednesday, June 15th, 2011
CDT Fourcault

A while back, I spent some time on the CDT Fourcault diving shipwrecks of the North Sea. The trip was a blast, and I met some really wonderful divers. There were groups from Belgium, UK, USA, and Italy (actually only one diver from Italy). All were fine divers, and many great sea stories were told over the dinner table.

Since that time some of us have kept in touch, and exchanged photos and videos of the trip, and other dive events. The latest was a promotional video made for the vessel CDT Fourcault. There are clips from our trip, and even a shots of me.

Diving Bonaire

Saturday, February 5th, 2011
Flamingo snail

Flamingo snail

After a few weekends of being snowed in, I had the opportunity to work through my piles of photos and relate some memories (and pictures) of past trips.Val and I visited Bonaire on two separate trips. I’ve attached some shots of resort (Buddy Dive), and added a new gallery.

For those of you unfamiliar with Bonaire, it is 50 miles north of South America (Venezuela to be exact). The island part of the Nether Antilles. This location of the Caribbean is constantly swept by easterly trade winds. The east side of the island is subject to rough waves and the shoreline is rocky. The western side of the island is protected in the lea. Here is some of the best diving of the Caribbean.

Sunset over Kline

Sunset over Kline

The shore diving really is about as easy as it gets. The dock at Buddy Dive is only a few feet from the dive shop, and the reef is only a few fin strokes away. I spent the first day draining tank after tank poking around the reef. I was working with a new still camera, and practicing with the video housing. Surface intervals were only a quick stop for fresh tanks, batteries, or tape. The top of the reef is about 20 ft deep An Al 80 lasts quite a while at this depth, and decompression is impossible, especially on Nitrox. After 6 tanks, my wife dragged me out of the water for dinner.

The next day we got a map of the island and headed out in our pickup truck (provided with the suite). The west side of the island is rimed with a seemingly continuous reef. In some places it is a double reef with sand in between. On the shore, there are areas where you can park a your truck, gear up, and make an entrance. Some areas have docks and with ladders to facilitate access. These entrance sites have names, which are both on the map, and written on yellow stones along the side of the road.

xxx

Clearner shrimp on a butterfly

Our package included boat a few boat dives. These were mostly spent visiting Kline Bonaire. This is an uninhabited island to the west of Bonaire, also protected from the trade winds. Many of these dives were deeper as the slope to Kline was much steeper.

Many sections of the reef hold different microcosm and wild life. There are many web sites describing, so I’ll just point out some of the highlights. The Hilma Hooker is a shipwreck in the sand between a double reef. It’s a nice dive, and if you’re one of the first there, you will find a few large Tarpon hiding in the holds.

Salt Pier is where the dried sea salt is loaded onto ships. The structure of the pier seems to attract schools of fish, and event the shallows are full of life.

Fish to look for:

Eels: this is the one of the first times I’ve seen eels out hunting during the day.

Frog Fish: Another first for me. They are hard to spot, as their camouflage is nearly perfect.
Tarpon: They are huge, and will follow you on a night dive.

Sea horses: Ask your Dive Master where to find them.

School of fish: There are so many fish, that sometimes you feel like one of the crowd

Spotted Eagle Rays: These majestic rays swim effortless and leave you breathless if you try to follow.

Dolphins: I’m not sure how often these appear, but on one day we got snorkel with them on the surface interval.