Tag Archives: sea life

Underwater Sanctuary

Lockdown was extended for another 2 weeks.  A real disappointment, but not a surprise as delta ravages French Polynesia.  Just means we have to get more creative to fill our time.  Clarification around the restrictions for cruisers were released and we are now allowed to swim and do water sports within 1 kilometer of our boat.  Sweet.  So, we discover an underwater sanctuary right behind Sugar Shack.

Deborah heads back to the states after spending a week with us on Sugar Shack.  Once we drop her off at the ferry dock, we move Sugar Shack to a new to us anchorage on the south side of Vaiare Bay.  It is super lovely, and after 24 hours we are the only boat here.

Vaiare Bay, Mo'orea

Vaiare Bay, Mo’orea

We miss the sunset from here, but we still get magnificent fiery skies.

And one more with an orange sky

We are anchored in 2.5 meters of beautiful, clear turquoise water.  We have lots of happy hour guests the love to hang out with our green light.

Underwater Sanctuary

Rumor has it that the reef behind us hosts an underwater sanctuary for loads of fish and pretty corals.  Let me tell you, it did not disappoint.  We explore the reef over several days and love getting a glimpse of the underwater sea dwellers.

Underwater Sanctuary

Underwater Sanctuary

The above photo was taken at the surface looking at the marker (top), looking back at Sugar Shack (way in the distance) and Wayne striking a pose.

Lots and lots of purple coral in this area.  It was as if the coral was telling us we were amongst underwater royalty.

This very large coral head topped the surface and created a super cool reflection off the water (top).  The bottom photo is me at the edge of the drop off.  You can see it goes way deep (dark water upper right) with the light beckoning me to come explore.

Life Abounds

These underwater gardens were teaming with life.  We played with a huge variety of fish that were all curious to see the new visitors to their underwater kingdom.  A beautiful little turtle decided his shallow sanctuary was too close for comfort and headed toward the deep.

It was amazing to see such a variety of fish enjoying this piece of paradise.  Loads of butterfly fish, triggers, bat fish, neon fish, and angels.

And we swam through a school of fish trying to glean some information about their underwater education.

It always amazes me how much beauty is underwater, just a stone throws away from our boat.  It is like visiting your favorite TV series each day, but in person.

The three musketeers

Thank you for spending lockdown with us Wayne!  Even though it was not ideal, we had a great time hanging out with you.

Our new GoPro 9 took the underwater photos.  Thank you Dad!!!!

We introduce Air head Sally in our next blog..  In our last blog, we try to entertain Wayne and Deborah during lockdown.

Events from this blog post occurred during the third week of August, 2021.  Our blog posts run 10-12 weeks behind our adventures.

Dive Buoyant

Buoyancy An Art or Skill?

Buoyancy is something you have to constantly practice and perfect while diving.  It is not something you learn once and then move on as there are so many different variables.  The water depth, tank weight, BCD, weights, and your breathing all impact your buoyancy.

Diver buoyancy

Photo Courtesy of Diving Frontiers

Matt has it mastered and can literally site Indian style in the water, gently moving up and down with each breath.  Sign of a skilled and controlled diver and flexible yogi.

My new BCD has helped tremendously.  The original BCD was a unisex BCD which did not fit me correctly.  The torso was too long and it sat below my hips and was overall just too big.  I sold it and bought a female Aqua Lung Pearl which fits much better and gives me far more control.

I am pretty flat (or neutral) while I am diving.  But I do tend to struggle when I want to stay in one place to take a photo, look at a critter, or wait for other divers.

Work needed to be done so I jumped at the chance when Eric on “Ad Astra offered to do buoyancy skills with a few of us.  Eric is a dive instructor and has over a dozen certifications (rescue, first aid, deep, technical, side mount, etc…) and is the perfect person to teach us new techniques.

Me diving.

Me, before I learned my new skills, pretty neutral.

Jane from “Cheetah II,” Daryl and Janet from “Maple” joined me at “Ad Astra’s” mooring where Eric had rigged a little skills course.  He put up a diagonal line creating a space that got smaller as the line met the sea bed on opposite side.

Eric had us practice fin kicks where you leave the tips of your fins on the floor and raise your body up with an inhale and down with an exhale.  After we “mastered” this exercise, he showed us different fin kicks.  Most people do the flutter kick which tends to kick up sand and can disturb the sea life so we were learning alternative kicks that are less disruptive to the animals.

Types of Kicks:
  • Flutter kick
  • Modified Flutter kick
  • Frog Kick
  • Helicopter turn

After displaying our new skills, we used the modified flutter kick to get under the line, then helicopter around and swim back under the line without touching the line or the ground.

Next, we used the same kick to swim barely over the line, then we headed straight down (perpendicular to the ground, head first), then swam under the line belly up (tank closest to the ground).  Of course, I looked at him in disbelief when he demonstrated it and indicated I might not be able to do it, but to my surprise, I killed it!

The next skill I had heard about and swore I would never do – but here I am preparing to do it in front of 5 other people.  You swim slowly, just above the floor (18″), up to a spoon that has been buried in the sand (the top part of the spoon showing).  As you slowly approach the spoon, you gently nudge it with your regulator, then slowly and calmly remove your regulator, grab the spoon with your mouth, look at Eric, and then replace your regulator.  I am not sure what the spoon’s problem was but it kept evading my mouth or jumping out of my mouth- it was comedic for everyone but me. Goin in, miss, goin in again, miss, spoon flops on sand – try the entire move again.  Eventually, I got it, but man it was irritating.

For the last skill we slowly swam up to the mooring, 18″ off the floor, hovered at the mooring for 5 seconds.  We then used our breath to raise up over the mooring then headed upside down, holding for 5 count (basically doing a “U” around the mooring.

Mooring Block

Mooring Block – Not Eric’s, but similar.

When we came up to the surface, we were all surprised to learn that we had been down for 90 minutes!  It was an incredibly educational and useful session that we are all very grateful to have received.  It certainly should be included in the basic Open Water or at least in Advanced training – which it is not.

None the less I feel much more equipped to handle my buoyancy and look forward to putting my new skills to work while diving.

Matt upside down

Matt pretending to be a trunk fish – upside down.

Salt Pier dive

Me at the Salt Pier.

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.