Scuba Duba Do

Many of you know that Matt is a very experienced diver.  He has completed many night and cave dives well before he met me.  For our honeymoon, 12 years ago, we had decided to charter a catamaran (as this was prior to owning Sugar Shack) in the Virgin Islands and Matt wanted to dive the Wreck of the Rhone.  So, it was time for me to get my diving certification.  My best friend and I took classes at Tom’s Dive Shop in Austin and did our first open water dive in Lake Travis which, at the time, was cloudy, murky, and cold.  You could not see your hand in front of your face which was challenging to do your pre-dive safety skills.  But we all passed and Matt and I enjoyed the beauty of the dive on our honeymoon.

We have not had many opportunities to dive since then, but Matt was determined to get back in the deep water.  So, in Curacao, we purchased two dive packages including tanks, BC’s, regulators, and weights.  We had been doing a lot of research on the islands (between Bonaire and Curacao) and found a pretty “decent” deal (after we negotiated a discount for buying two packages) from Scuba and More.  They had a good selection of dive equipment, multiple packages to select from, and very helpful staff.  The manager, Ruud even provided us with a lift back to the dinghy dock as we had walked to his store and there was no way we could carry all this gear back ourselves.

Matt’s small BC on the tank & my XS BC on the left. (funny they think I’m an XS!)

We purchased Mares dive equipment, as the old Dacor that Matt used to use is no longer in business.  Ruud and Tanya walked us through everything and there are a couple of new nifty things that I want to share with you.

The regulator:

  • Has a bubble defecting side exhaust which expels bubbles to the left of your face (not from the bottom center) which minimizes bubble interference
  • Has a large pivoting purge button.
  • Mass centralization to reduce jaw fatigue and is super light

Both the octopus have the same configuration.

WHISTLE

    • There is no external hanging whistle.  They made one of their clasps a whistle.

Whistle at the chest clasp. Super convenient with no extra piece.

POCKETS AND WEIGHTS

  • There seems to be a pocket for everything.  The octopus for your friends can either be clipped on or stowed in pocket (sticking out for easy access) to get it out of your way.
  • The gauge has a pocket to stow its cable and it peaks out at the bottom of the BC for easy access, but out of your way.
  • The weights (which I need 4 lbs on each side) can either go in the side pockets or in the back pockets and have a super nice locking system indicating locked and unlocked

Rear pockets for weights or treasures.

Front pocket weight holders with easy locking detection system.

Since, the water was icky in Curacao where we were anchored, we decide to wait to test all our gear in Bonaire.  Matt was very patient with me and walked me through setting up the new gear, exploring the new pockets, attachments, and placement of everything.

Ready to go into the water.

The bow of the boat is in pretty shallow water about 3-3.5 meters and stern is about 4-5 meters before the ledge which drops to about 50 meters). So we decided to do a giant stride off the sugar scoops.  Matt helped me first as I was really unsteady with the flippers and tank, but off I went.  My previous issue with diving was hearing myself breath like darth vader!  You’d think I’d be happy hearing myself breath, but no – it bothered me.  However, with the new regulator it did not seem to bother me nearly as much.  I did have mask problems which Matt fixed as best as he could in the water, and managed to perform the standard dive skills with the exception of removing / flooding my mask.  Since we “jimmied” the mask strap it was hard for me to take it on and off so we tried to clear the mask by flooding it and for some reason I had issues.  We practiced that a bit until I got more comfortable before hitting the deep water.

We then swam around the boat and admired the beautiful coral farm growing behind and under the boat.  We burned through 1000 PSI and called it a day – until next time.

Little fishy in training.

With all the gear out and the boat in pretty shallow water, Matt decided to do a HUGE zinc replacement project. Our port engine was in dire need of love.  The large zinc and the 3 smaller zincs needed to be replaced (even though they were just replaced in December).  It took Matt several hours to remove the screws, bolts, nuts, blades, and hub all under water.  He managed to remove everything without losing anything!

We would normally not let the zincs get this bad, but we had not been in a clear shallow spot for awhile which made it hard to change it all out.

New large zinc and old zinc.

Then it took him several more hours to clean it all up, remove the barnacles, growth, short hair and make it shiny again.

Clean hub and blades.

Do you remember the hairy version of these blades?

With everything all cleaned up, he put it back together on the boat, put it in order of assembly and headed back under water.  It was a good day with light wind and seas, little current, and clear, shallow water.  My amazing husband managed to completely replace all zincs and put the prop back in working in order in less than 30 minutes.   There is an Invest storm coming our way so we wanted to be ready to evacuate Bonaire for safer waters if need be.

 

A Lighthouse, Shipwrecks, & Dolphins

We got up early the next morning to swim ashore and go exploring before the herds of people arrived.  The water here is gorgeous, clean, clear, and cool.  Underwater we were treated to several flounders, box face puffers, an eel, turtles, and tons of tangs.  They didn’t seem to be bothered by the tons of dead choral and sea fans on the bottom of the ocean. We unknowingly, brought a buffet to Klein as the fish loved the remaining soft algae on the bottom of our boat.  After our swim, we dropped off our snorkel gear ashore and headed toward the lighthouse.

Great sign, but unfortunately it is all in Dutch.

Mermaid Tours makes so much money they invested in “$” rims for their trailer.

The original lighthouse was destroyed in a storm so they built this 2nd lighthouse in 1850.   It used to be a vibrant coral pink lighthouse which is now abandoned with graffiti written surfaces.  The wooden staircase is still in tact and has 5 flights of 11 stairs each that take you to the top.  Below are two rooms that used to house the lighthouse keepers with no natural source of running water, it must have been a desolate place to live and work.

Walk to the lighthouse on Klein Curacao.

Front of the lighthouse.

The windward side of the island is a graveyard for boats.  Looming on the beach is the hulking rusted remains of an oil tanker named Maria Bianca Guidesman, which ran aground in the 1960’s.  She gradually eroded away by the merciless waters and now only half of her stern is left.

Matt walking toward the shipwrecks.

Part of the stern of the tanker.

 

Tanker parts strewn along the windward coast.

More pieces of the tanker dotting the coast line.

Right next to this old wreck is a fairly new wreck of a once beautiful Super Amel.  Not sure what happened, but she has no keel and very little bottom left.

Matt climbed aboard the Super Amel.

By the time we walked back to the other side of the island and retrieved our snorkel gear, the beaches were crowded with visitors so we headed back to the boat. The rest of the day was dedicated to chores.  Matt had a 4200 project from hell (that is a type of glue) which turned into multiple projects and I hit the water line.  Over the last few days, Matt had cleaned the lines, props, anchor chain and barnacles, so I decided it was my turn to clean the water line.  It is not a difficult project, just tiring as there is not much to hold to while you are trying to swim and scrub the side of the boat (while not removing any of the ablative paint) in a fairly strong current.  It was pretty green on the interior hulls which required several scrubbing passes.  In the meantime, we had 6 day charter boats come to the island (Mermaid, Jonalisa To, Breeze, All Boat Charters, Queen Ann, and a sailboat with a crappy sail bag that you couldn’t read). Lucky for us, they all headed back around 4p and left us to our little piece of paradise.

Sugar Shack on anchor at Klein Curacao.

The next day, Matt made breakfast as I battened down the interior in preparation for the bumpy ride back to Bonaire.  We left about 845am, raised the main and pulled the jib with 2 reefs in both and headed out.  Coming around the south side of the island we had gusts up to 25-28 knots and seas at 2-3 meters.  With the engines (1500 RPMs) and sails up we averaged about 4-5 knots, a little slower than we are used to but it made the trip more comfortable and dry.  About 10 miles into our 23 mile motor sail, the waves and wind calmed down a bit allowing us to increase our engines (up to 1800 RPMs) and speed to about 5-6 knots which shaved off 2 hours on our trip.  It was a beautiful day, blue sky, puffy clouds, several birds, but no fish on the hook.  We trolled the entire way and caught nothing, not even a nibble.  We did however, get a huge pod of dolphins which stayed with us for over 20 minutes.

Over 2 dozen dolphins came to play with us.

So cute to watch them surf with our bows.

 


Thoroughly happy with the dolphin sighting, we pulled into Bonaire only to discover there were no moorings available.  Since you cannot anchor anywhere on the island this proved to be a problem.  Matt dropped the dinghy and drove around until he found a temporary mooring.  It is not an “official” mooring, but it will do for a few days until another one opens up.

After checking the mooring and cooling off for a bit we headed in to clear into the country and have a cold one at Karel’s Bar.

Embarking on a New Adventure: Klein Curacao

After 66 days in Curacao, we decided to leave and head back to Bonaire.  We rented a car and did a huge provision run stopping at Best Buy, Cost U Less, Van Den Tweel, Vruegdenhil, Scuba Shop, Luna Market, Kooyman, Building Depot, electrical shop, and a few other places.  Somehow, I managed to get over 28k steps!!!  Needless to say, our little picante car and our dinghy were full to capacity on the way back.

Yes, we use a lot of flour (new 20lb), found some Sprite Zero, Special K bars and lots more!

The shopping and transporting seem easy compared to the storage prep on some occasions. Once we unpack the food we use a sharpie to write the contents and expiration date on the top of every can and bottle. We then rip the label and glue off and out blue tape on the bottom rim for storage. The removal of the label and glue prevent weebles and roaches from  coming onto the boat and thriving and the blue tape prevents the cans from rusting and leaving a ring on our cabinet shelves. Then all cardboard is removed from the boat so anything in cardboard is put in zip locks or Tupperware (avoiding weebles). I know plastic—eek!  But you can’t have glass on a boat and we do reuse as much as possible.

We make a lot of pizza from scratch. Soon we will start making our own sauce too.

It took us several hours to prepare to depart, as Matt wanted to clean, for the 3rd time, the 2nd anchor line, the bridle, and the main anchor chain before bringing them onto the boat – at least try to get another layer of hair, grime, and growth off before stowing everything in the lockers.  As you know from previous blogs, we experienced a lot of growth on everything that was underwater.

Once we were free, several hours later, we swung by the Curacao Yacht Club with the big boat which is next to a small reef and rocks.  Luckily, it was a low wind day and Matt was able to expertly “cat walk” the boat into the dock which is well protected with large A3 fenders.  We needed to get diesel ($0.61/liter) for the big boat, gas ($0.91/liter) for the dinghy, and water ($0.15/liter) for the humans.  We got about 390 liters of diesel, 50 liters of gas, and 388 liters of water all for under $400!  Excellent prices and a super nice attendant too boot!

Curacao Yacht Club before we arrived.

We then had to make a choice, where do we want to stay – Fuik Bay (1 mile away) or Klein Curacao (13 miles away)?  The decision was made to head to Klein Curacao to knock miles off toward Bonaire.  It was only about 13 miles away, but it was a bit into the wind and seas.  We made it with no issues and enjoyed one of the 6 moorings available for visiting yachts.  Luckily, we came at the end of the day so the day charter boats had already left or were in the process of leaving.

Arriving at Klein Curacao with the lighthouse and ship wreck in view.

Klein Curacao is a 1.2 square mile uninhabited island with a lighthouse, several ship wrecks, and some thatch roofed complexes that the day charter boats use to entertain and feed their guests.  This little island used to be very fertile until mainland farmers decided to use it as goat grazing land which turned it barren.  Then from 1871 to 1886 the island was mined for phosphate until it was mined out which caused the level of the island and seabird population to plummet.  The island then played its part in the slave trade as a quarantine location for sick slaves and resting place for those who died.  Then in 1888, the German Navy descended on the island intent on building a naval shipyard until the tropical storms washed it away.  They ran out of money to fund its reconstruction and abandoned the entire idea.  Now, it is a great day stop for avid swimmers, snorkelers, and divers to enjoy pristine, white beaches and beautiful sea life.

Arriving at Klein Curacao. The tall thatch hut is a day stop for the Mermaid Tours.

With a quiet beach, nice calm seas, and a beautiful sunset, we settled into our evening with a pork chop dinner and a cocktail on the lido deck in our bean bag chairs.