A Day out with Ad Astra

What do you get when you mix Germans, Norwegians, Canadians, American and Dutch folks?  A fantastic day of exploration, diving, laughing and celebrating.  Our new friends on Ad Astra (a 45′ Lagoon whose name means “to the stars”) invited 25 people on to their boat for a dive trip to Klein Bonaire.

The islet, which sits within the rough crescent formed by the main island, is 6 square kilometers (1,483 acres) and extremely flat, rising no more than two meters above the sea. The only structures on the island are some ruins of slave huts (small, single-room structures dating to the region’s period of slavery), and a small open shelter on the beach facing Bonaire.  During the period from 1868 to 1999, when Klein Bonaire was in private hands, it was stripped of its native trees resulting in a scrub growth across the island.  Several attempts were made to develop the island but where never successful.  Concerned locals formed The Foundation for the Preservation of Klein Bonaire (FPKB) and then they partnered with other concerned parties and government to successfully purchase it for 9 million Netherlands Antillean guilder (US$5 million). Klein Bonaire is now part of the Bonaire National Marine Park.[1] Long-term plans include reintroduction of the native vegetation.

From the mooring field, you can take your dinghy to Klein Bonaire but you will almost always encounter a bumpy, wet, and uncomfortable ride back to the mother ship.  So, having a large boat to travel in comfort among friends was a huge treat!  Eric, Kate and their two boys Kyle and Max were the perfect hosts providing a wide array of snacks, food, and beverages throughout the day.  There well equipped boat has an air compressor on it so we were even able to fill up our dive tanks to do my first two tank dive in Bonaire!

Ad Astra at her mooring

We had everyone bring their dinghy to Sugar Shack since we are moored right next to Ad Astra.  It sure looked like we were having a huge party with 6 dinks and a kayak tied off our stern – except the lights were out and nobody was home.

Our crew consisted of our friends from Kattami (Thea, Ragnar, Veslemay, & Hedda from Norway), Element (Shawn, Sherri, Paige, & Jordan from Canada), Kokopelli (Mizzy & Brian, U.S.), Manado (Manuel & Nadja from Germany), Always Sunday (Ricky & Robin, U.S.), Ad Astra crew (Erik, Kate, Kyle, & Max, U.S.), new friends on Cape Grace (Howard, Andrea, & Brian, U.S.) and of course the Sugar Shack crew.

It was a quick motor over to Klein Bonaire where we found a mooring on our desired dive spot, Mi Dushi.  Seventeen of the 25 people were planning on diving, so Matt and I decided to wait until most had hopped in the water.  With so much gear on board, we stowed ours at the bow with everyone else.  So, Matt was kind enough to set up my tank and drop it in the water for me so I could easily put it on (with the weight of the tank, extra 8 lbs of weight in my BC and the BC I have a really hard time putting it on outside of the water).

Unfortunately, we did not bring the GoPro since we had so much stuff already, so I cannot share any of the sightings with you, but it was a beautiful reef populated with many beautiful sea creatures.   We had heard that it is a good site to spot sea horses, but they eluded all of us.

After we all emerged from our underwater trip, we enjoyed some hearty snacks before heading to our next stop which is the furthest dive spot on Bonaire called Karpata just east of the no dive zone.  We motored around the south side of Klein Bonaire to reach Karpata.  As we were heading that way, we all marveled how it felt like a wonderful charter expedition as it was so nice being on someone else’s boat!  As Matt said to our new friends, “the only thing missing are the dolphins” and low and behold they appeared!  It was a spectacular showing with even a baby dolphin.  It was a sight to behold for sure.

We arrived happily to our dive spot, which appeared radically shallow, but we were able to expertly tie off to our mooring with no incident.  Fewer divers were going for the second tank dive so Matt, Brian (our new dive friend on Cape Grace) and I were the 2nd group to jump in the water.   Brian is a very experienced diver and had all the latest technology and gear.  It was pretty amazing to see how minimal his BC was compared to our bulky ones.   The topography was unbelievable offering what I would describe as a wall wave where you can swim in and out of crevices along the huge sea wall.  Lots of beautiful coral, fish, and sites to behold.  As we were swimming by, Matt made a confusing hand signal between a turtle and a lion fish and after I deciphered  it, I realized he was pointing to a beautiful, mid-sized turtle sleeping on a rock on the side of the wall covered by a beautiful, vibrant elk horn coral (not sure if that was the real identification of the coral but that is what it looked like to me).  As we were admiring this turtle, 8 others divers from our boat came by to admire this pretty turtle.

Matt also found this beautiful spotted drum fish under a piece of coral – this is not my photo, but courtesy of Google

I have to admit that it gave me fright every time we came to an Inlet as there was no end in sight – just a giant abyss down below.  It is so deep you cannot even see the bottom, it seems endless and dark and foreboding.    During these moments, I just kept my eyes on the wall and tried to find my sea horse.  Matt and I do not have a dive computer (yet) so we were not sure how long we were down, but it had been awhile.  And at one point, I turned around and realized our group was no longer following us, so we decided to turn around at half tank.  There was a bit of a current so we knew it would not take us as long to get back to the boat as it did to swim out to where we were.  We headed back, slowly allowing the current to take our bodies along the wall – it was magic being transported effortlessly once you gave in to it and stopped fighting the urge to control your movement.  We quickly emerged and realized we had been under for over an hour – long dive for me.  Our deepest moment was 20 meters (60′).

After more snacks and cold beverages, we headed back to the mooring so we could clean up and head to Taste of Bonaire.   Many of our friends attended this fun event and had even secured a great sitting area by the shore.  Matt and I headed to the Indonesian place he ate at last time and settled in for a long wait in line.  Luckily, it was not as bad as the last time, only took about 30-35 minutes to get our scrumptious food.

Tired and well fed, we chatted for a bit and headed back to the boat – well past sailor’s midnight!  It was actually 11pm.


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