Monthly Archives: October 2017

Ostracods Sexy Dance

Ostracods in Bonaire – a sexy dance while diving.  A few days after the full moon an astounding phenomena happens underwater in Bonaire that is akin to an underwater firework display by tiny creatures called Ostracods!

Our friends on Ad Astra had been talking about this amazing display for weeks and so after the full moon they decided to plan another day out on their big boat, Ad Astra.  Our friends from Element joined us for a total of 10 people (7 divers).  We headed over to Klein Bonaire to a site called Sharon’s Serenity.  The plan was to dive the site during day light hours, then go back and do a second dive at night to try to witness the mating of the Ostracods.

The first dive was pretty amazing.  Matt and I headed out first and explored 23 meters below the surface to find a wide array of sea life.  We saw a small school of Hawaiian Black Triggerfish also called Black Durgon which are actually dark blue with a tad bit of green if you get up close and personal (which they wouldn’t let us).  The white strip is actually silver, but it appears to glow as they swim by.

Image courtesy of Google Images. Not our own

As we were waiting for the other divers, we explored a huge coral that had a large cave or protected area (perfect for lion fish and/or lobsters) so I peered in and to my surprise there were 4 HUGE lion fish – probably 15-18″ in length hovering upside down!  I was so darn impressed and in awe of these stunning creatures that I almost forgot they are destroying the reefs.  I showed Matt and a few of the others the find and eventually swam back to the boat.  Matt and I had a good long dive, over 60 minutes at this site.

We got back on Ad Astra and enjoyed some light snacks and shared stories of what we saw below.  Just after sunset, we put our gear on again and jumped back in the water.  Since the current had picked up a bit, we decided to head to the bow of the boat toward the mooring.  A few of us were armed with flash lights so as we waited for full darkness as we explored the shallows and found several eels and lots of fire worms which are pretty spectacular at night but hurt immensely if you touch them.

Source: Photographer: Phillipe Guillaume

We had a strong current and in an effort to minimize our movement and use less air, we decided to hold on to the mooring line to wait for the Ostracod show to begin.  We had already turned off our lamps and were truly just hanging out in 6.5 meters of water in the darkness.  We did have the moonlight and once your eyes adjusted you could see so it wasn’t total blackness.

The Ostracods (or Seed Shrimp), are tiny creatures (only a few millimeters long) live in shallow water for mating.  They belong to the Crustacea family (shrimp, lobsters, and crabs) and produce a blue glow to attract a partner.

There are many creatures that can glow, especially marine life at greater depths.  This phenomena is called bioluminescence. The glow is produced to attract a partner for mating or for signaling alarm to others. Other sea life that glow underwater are (specific types of) octopus, jellyfish, worms, plankton and deep sea fish.

Cypridinid ostracods are one of the type of Ostracods that can be found around Bonaire, the ones that produce the magnificent bioluminescence show around full moon. On land male fireflies attract mates by producing light patterns with bioluminescence, the same goes for Cypridinid ostracods underwater.

The magical mating show happens two to five days after the full moon. The glow and glitter explosion will take place 45 minutes after the sun has set and before the moon fully rises – and if and only if the Ostracods have NOT been disturbed by any light (dive torch, street light, lights from buildings, etc).

While we were waiting for the Ostracods to start mating we experienced a pretty cool display of bioluminescence ourselves.  We started to wave and clap our hands underwater and were gifted with a dramatic display of something that looks like green fairy dust from Tinkerbell. This came from much smaller (microscopic) animals, a type of plankton, called Dinoflagellates. Dinoflagellates are found around the whole world and mostly seen around the new moon phase.

After the Dinoflagellates showed up,  we slowly saw more and more tiny dots lighting up in the reef, for just a split second. After a few more minutes the dots became strings. The single Ostracods were swimming in a vertical line towards the surface while flashing and signaling the females. The line of bioluminescence was about 50 cm long sometimes and stayed visible for a few seconds. Nature can be just astounding!  The closer we got to the soft coral, the more we saw, surrounding us – it was truly magical and a bit romantic.  Maybe because Matt was holding my hand, but also because we knew we were enjoying a once in a lifetime experience.

We did not bring the GoPro down as we don’t have the proper equipment to shoot at night below the water, but thanks to Google you can find plenty of images online (see below).  Famed photographer Elliot Lowndes who filmef this National Geographic documentary, you can see a different species lighting up the nighttime Caribbean.  This is ont the same species who were in Bonaire, but it gives you an idea of what it is like during this mating ritual.  Check out this video, especially :30-:53 for highlights

Image courtesy of “Sail Away – a travel blog by Curly”

Image courtesy of Scientific American Blog

Above the water, you get a beautiful show as well – we did NOT see anything this spectacular, but we did see vibrant green ostracods floating on the surface of the sea.

Aruba or Bust

Even though Harvey and Irma both threatened to change our friend’s travel plans, Matt and I were determined to head toward Aruba.  After our massive provisioning run we were ready to head to Santa Cruz Bay which is the closest bay to Aruba.  This will shave 25 miles off our trip to Aruba.  Our thoughts were to sail to Santa Cruz Bay and then get up early the next day and sail to Aruba (which is about 50 miles).  We said “good-bye” to our Curacao friends, pulled up anchor and headed out.  It was a beautiful day providing a nice trade wind – perfect for a spinnaker sail.  Matt pulled out Betty, our smaller spinnaker sail and off we went.  We enjoyed an absolutely spectacular sail day – which we had not had since we arrived to Curacao almost 3 months ago!

We arrived at Santa Cruz Bay a little over 3 hours later and there were no other boats around nice.  This is where Captain Good Life has his shop and rents out canoes and kayaks to those who want to visit the Blue Room and Mushroom Forrest.  He also provides guided tours on his boat if you are interested.  It took us a few times to hook the anchor as the ground is very hard with patches of coral.  Once we hooked, we jumped in checked the holding, and snorkeled a bit.

As we were making dinner, I started texting with Sharon, our friend who was to meet us in a few days in Aruba.  Their original flight was out of Houston which was rerouted a week ago to Orlando due to Hurricane Harvey.  Then on Friday (4 days prior to their trip), the airline cancelled their flight.   They were able to reschedule their trip to Aruba for October.  So, we had a decision to make.  Do we stay in Curacao (where we have already spent 2 months), head to Aruba (where it tends to be pricey), or go back to Bonaire?  It did not take long to decide as we both wanted to go back to Bonaire.  The beautiful water, upcoming regatta, and idea of more dive adventures was too alluring for us.  So, instead of getting up early to head to Aruba, we got up early to head to Bonaire which is a beat into the wind and waves.

The alarm went off at 445am, anchor was up by 5am, and we were out of the bay by 515am.  Good start!  We were actually able to raise the sails to one reef with the thought we could shake it out if the winds behaved.  We managed to hold our course, with the sails for about the first 4 hours.  However, several rain storms had a different idea – they kept pushing us off course, further and further North.  When we were -7 VMG and wet from the rain, we decided to drop the sails and motor to course – directly into the wind and waves.  It was not our best day, but also not the worst.  We encountered several more storms that kept the boat wet, rocky and rolly.

Pretty purple sky as we left in the wee hours of the morning

Since we just provisioned, our fridge and freezer are full, and I mean FULL!  But Matt could not resist putting the fishing lines out.  He justified it by not putting out the teasers – (don’t worry that logic did not make sense to me either).  After about 8 hours (2 hours to go), of nothing, we noticed a huge flock of birds circling around movement in the water.  Fish!  We headed in that direction and low and behold, one line went “zing” and then nothing – no pulling or bending of the pole.  Hmmm, As Matt reeled it in, we realized we did have fish on, but it was a little fish.  Even though it was a Mahi, Matt’s favorite, we set her free to grow up big and strong.

Too tiny to keep so we let her go

We got one more bit on the hook, but it was not meant to be.  As we were pulling up to the mooring field, where we were hopeful to find a mooring, we were greeted with a fabulous welcome party.  Manuel, Nadja (and a new friend Sean) from Manado were in their dinghy to help us secure to a mooring, then Thea (from Kattimi) came over in her kayak, Cindy (from tranquility) came by in her SUP, and Susan (from Nomad) swam by while doing her laps.  Of course some of these peeps were just out enjoying a nice calm afternoon – but they ended up swinging by to welcome us back – good to be Sugar Shack!

We tried to clear in to customs and immigration, but they closed early (it was Saturday after all), so we stopped by Illy Coffee for a treat and wifi.  I have to admit that it was really tasty ice cream, but I am partial to Gio’s.  Afterward, we stopped by Karel’s for happy hour (and more wifi) and then headed back.  Before the sun set, we had been invited to a birthday party the next day, another day out on Ad Astra and drinks with friends.

It’s hard to call “Bonaire” a “Bust” especially since we are so happy to be able to return to this beautiful island.

Te Aworo Bonaire

“Goodbye Bonaire”  Our friends, Shawn and Sharon are meeting us in Aruba, so we needed to leave our beloved island of Bonaire to head south west.  Unfortunately, there was no wind (less than 8 knots) so we ended up motoring the entire way from Bonaire toward Klein Curacao.

Sugar Shack leaving Bonaire

On the way over, we ran the little generator, water maker, and washer machine (did you know we have a washer/dryer on board – oh ya!).  Of course, I was just doing my delicates and things that needed to be lined dried so the laundry service could focus on towels, sheets, and other bulky items.  We also had to dry out our dive gear so we could stow it for a few weeks on board.

BC and workout clothes drying

BC and Tanks drying

Some say I have a bikini problem

We happened to leave at the same time as Always Sunday so it was not a surprise to hear them hail us on the VHF.  They talked us into heading to Klein Curacao for the night – they did not have to try very hard as we loved this little island stop and just needed a reason to stop short of Curacao.

When we arrived, we met Ricky and Robin (Always Sunday) for a snorkel where we saw lots of turtles, a few scorpion fish, an eel and lots of other little sea creatures.  They invited us to their boat for tuna and a card game.  They have a beautiful 40’ Lagoon 2013 that is immaculately kept. Robin prepared a lovely tuna dish and taught us a new card game that Matt dutifully won.  Despite the fact that they let me cheat my times,  I still came in last.

Matt & I with Robin and Ricky

Once we arrived in Curacao, we rented a car and ran a bazillion errands: dropped laundry, Budget Marine (pick up Life Seal that we ordered), Scuba and More (fix our regulators), Digicel (update our data plan), customs & immigration, Cost U Less, Best Buy, Vruegedenhill, Van Den Twill, Kooyman, Mangusa Grocery and Centrum Market.  We managed to get back in time for happy hour where we met our friends Steve (Kialoa III), James (Moonrise), Matias and Ulreke (Bella) for a final toddy before we head West.

James, Matt, me, Matias, Ulreke, Steve

The next day, we picked up our clean laundry, repaired regulators, and a swung by few more stores to find some elusive items (diet coke, diet ginger ale, mozzarella, and ribs).  We returned to the boat to unpack and stow all our goodies and headed to The Pier for the weekly captain’s dinner where they were serving dorado which was delicious.  We enjoyed hanging out with our friends and 25 other boater pals of Spanish Waters.