Posts Tagged ‘SCUBA’

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.

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!

Fall in Mexico

Saturday, October 16th, 2010
Swimming through pillars of coral

Swimming through pillars of coral

After missing out on vacation last year, Val and I decided to head south for some warm sun and diving.

We did not realize just how low the low season is there.  Apparently September and October are quiet down in Mexico.  We felt like we had the resort to our selves.   Not that was a bad thing!

There were a few other divers, but even the boats were mostly empty.  This gave the resort staff time to work on a few projects, which they did very quietly.  On the other hand, everyone also received personal attention from the outgoing staff.

There have been a few changes since our last visit several years ago.  Damage from the hurricanes that struck the Yucatan is still evident, but there is also a lot of new construction.  The food was great as usual, and yes, I will be dieting for the next few months.

Before we arrived, we heard rumors that the weather had been windy the day before, and boat diving may still be suspended.  While true, this gave us the afternoon to unpack and unwind from the trip.   The next morning Val had the beach to herself, and I boarded the boat with a group of fellow photo enthusiasts.

Jumping into 85 degree water was a bit of a shock.  For me it was too warm.  I’ve never been in water above 80, and am not used to it.   I should have brought my shorty or 1 mil.  However, this temperature the fish were active.  We saw a lot of sharks, turtles, and rays along with schools of other fish.

After a few days, we made a number of new friends, and were able to hook up on dives, and meals.   We discussed travel destinations and dive history.   Places to go and things to see.     Underwater, we kept an eye out for each other, and provided models where needed.

I also had the opportunity to catch up some old friends that still worked in the area.  It was interesting to hear details of the storm damage over the years, as well as the changes to the Island.   The last time I was here, Nitrox was in limited supply.  Now Tech diving and gear / supplies are  available locally.   This would make a great place for Tech checkouts.  The dive sites are just a few hundred feet from shore. The water is warm and clear, and there is lots to see during deco.
Hurricane Paula threatened to head our way, so many of the resorts transported guests to more robust locations.  We felt like refugees walking through town in large groups.  We made it back the next day, just in time to pack for the trip home.   Oh well, one day of lost diving.

A pack of Dogfish on the Bonanza

Saturday, May 23rd, 2009

A few weeks back we headed out to the Bonanza. It’s a low lying wreck in 115 ft of water. Typical of many old wooden wrecks, there’s a chain pile and boiler at one end, and a set of wooden ribs on each side. There’s not much between them on this wreck. The Bonanza is far enough off shore that it’s not hit often, and there are often many lobster.

Terry and Frankie tied us in. Frankie came back with stories of giant lobster getting the better of him. Terry came back with the lobsters. Both described a large school of dogfish above the wreck.

I jumped in with the video camera and a new video light reflector.

To make a long story short, there were lots of Dogfish. We figured 80-100. I’m still editing the video, but here’s a clip to give you an idea.

Fire coral: Beauty and the Burn

Wednesday, February 25th, 2009

My wife and I enjoy identifying the different fish, coals and critters (aka invertebrates) found on the reefs we visit.   I take pictures and video while diving, then in the evening we review them and try to identify any that we do not recognize.    In several video sequences, I captured the action of small fish darting in an out of leafy coral heads.  At the time I believed blades to be some form of encrusting coral.  Little did I know.

On closer inspection, there were small spines protruding from the surface.  This was fire coral!  After years of hearing divers warning me to watch out for fire coral, I finally found out what it looks like.   I assume the small fish I was observing were using the fire coral for protection from predators as they darted in and out between the blades.

Fire coral is not actually coral, but a hydroid (more like a jellyfish).  The sharp calcified spines combined with the stinging cells called nematocysts present double trouble for anyone that comes in contact.   Bushing against fire coral can produce a painful sting which last for days.  Cutting your skin on fire coral can take long time to heal.  Since we strive to avoid contact with any coral, I’ve never been stung.  Hopefully these pictures will help others to avoid the burn.