Monthly Archives: September 2017

Sea Donkey Takes us to Vista Blue

With over 87 dive sites on Bonaire it is really tough to hit each and every one of them during our short stay – so we are trying to focus on the places that other people feel are the best of the islands.  Our friend, Erik on Ad Astra, introduced us to Captain David Gunn from Sea Donkey Bespoke Diving Services.  David and his wife Tracey started this new business in Bonaire which takes divers on a three tank dive expeditions at their own pace all over Bonaire.  On David’s afternoon off, he offered to take us diving on the southern tip of Bonaire to his favorite dive site, Vista Blue.  We loaded all of our gear into Sweet N Low and met Ad Astra (Erik, Kyle, and Max) at the marina where we were to unload our gear from the dinghies and load them into David’s truck.  Luckily, there is a bag for everything and lots of men around.

After a short drive through town, we headed along the coast, past the salt flats and to a pretty but rocky shore line.  David backed his truck up to the boulder where we could assemble our gear and then we walked to the shoreline. This will be my first shore dive and I was not 100% sure I would like it as I have a really difficult time balancing, walking and handling my gear outside of the water.  Matt was nice enough to carry my weights as I lumbered to the shore line with my mask and fins in hand and my BC/tank on my back.  The shore was supposed to be sandy, but what I did not know was that it has lots of ridges, so one foot could be 1-1.5 meters lower than the other which made it really hard to walk into the waves. I was knocked down several times and made a great show of being uncomfortable and unable to walk.  After some pretty embarrassing face plants, I was able to get my mask and fins on and then Matt loaded me up with my weights.  I could not wait to be swimming and away from the crashing waves and uneven surface.  It was a quick descent and immediately we were hit with the most beautiful topography I have ever seen.  There were tons of sea grass, sea fans, and soft corals all dancing  under water. It was mesmerizing and I just wanted to stop and stare – but our group was moving ahead.

There was a pretty strong current, so we headed into it which proved to be a bit challenging and tiring  The lower we got the easier it was, but it was slow going for me at first.  Matt has the camera and has been sucking down air pretty fast so we would turn around at his half tank mark.  David and the Ad Astra crew are really experienced divers and consume very little air.  As a woman, I tend to consume very little air as well so that leaves Matt as the air hog – but then again he is doing all sorts of acrobats underwater to capture the cool video footage.

Being that David is an under water tour guide and this is his favorite spot he was able to point some amazing fish and corals.  As we were coming around a pretty large coral he casually points underneath it where a large green moray eel was spitting mad as the intrusion of his home.  We hovered, admired, and took video of this magnificent creature before moving on.

After about 30-35 minutes, Matt indicated that he was at half tank so I alerted David and the others and we turned back. What we did not take into account was the current and how fast it would return us back to our starting place.  We probably could have stayed out another 10-15 minutes as the current rushed us back in about half the time it took us to get there.

Getting out of the water was another $hit show for me.  Everyone else made it look easy and almost elegant, but I could not get my feet up and under me.  Matt had to literally take my hand and hold me up to get me out of the water.  I’d show you video but I’d hate for you to pee your pants from laughing so hard.

All I all one of my favorite dive spots- if we could only get here by boat!

Bon Bini Bonaire

BON BINI BONAIRE – Hello Bonaire

It’s wonderful being back in Bonaire again as it is so amazing to be able to jump off the back of your boat into your very own aqua blue aquarium filled with coral, fish, and amazing sea life.  Bonaire’s reefs team with various sea creatures such as seahorses, banded coral shrimps and sea cucumbers as well as tons of reef fish including parrot fish, angelfish, and puffer fish.  In addition, three of the world’s endangered marine turtles can be found in Bonaire’s waters: Green turtle, Hawksbill turtle, and the Loggerhead turtle.  We continue to keep our eye out for these rare sightings.

During our first few diving expeditions, right off the boat in 3-6 meters of water, we discovered a moray eel, three huge porcupine puffers, several giant parrot fish, powder blue tangs, angel fish and oh so much more!

Little turtle eating about 10 meters down.

Gorgeous Queen Angel

Didn’t seem to mind having us in his hood

The Ramsar Convention is an international treaty that protects the wetlands of great global importance, with emphasis on the significance of waterfowl.  In Bonaire, there are five Ramsar protected sites which tells you just how important their waters are to the locals and the world.

The terrain on Bonaire is managed by the marine parks and is mostly flat with scant vegetation, tons of cacti and salt.  You will find the Caribbean Flamingo, green iguana’s (which are born green and gradually fade in color as they age), and Bonaire Anole’s which live in the trees and camouflage easily into the brown branches.

Bonaire has a population of about 19,000 inhabitants which is a 20% increase from 2011. This 112-square mile island has been seized and ruled by the Spanish, Dutch, and English several times.  The Spanish were the first settlers, but they didn’t care for Bonaire, Aruba, or Curacao and deemed all to be “Islas Inutilas” or Useless Islands.  However, they used the natives as slaves to raise goats, sheep, pigs, and donkeys.

In 1636 the Dutch conquered Aruba, Bonaire, and Curacao and found great use for the islands by mining the salt flats. Over the course of the next several centuries, the Spanish, English, and French tried to fain control over the island.  But the Dutch fought to defend and maintain control.

There is a lot of history crammed into this little island which can be found at the Terramar Museum and other local museums.

We look forward to sharing our experiences as we discover more about Bonaire.

Typical Bonaire sunset

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.


    • 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.


  • 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.