Bonaire, Part Five: Of Ears and Hookers

Filed under: — Anastasia @ 3:09 pm

The Brantleys were game for a couple of early-morning, deep dives on Thursday morning. First, we drove down south to dive the wreck, “Hilma Hooker.” This 200-foot (or so) boat is sunk on its side in 100 feet of water, lying on the sand between the two reefs that comprise the double-reef system to the south of Kralendijk. The “top” of the boat is in about 60 feet of water. We entered directly in front of the middle buoy (there are two more buoys, at the stern and bow of the boat), where Menno had said the easiest entry was. It was still a smidge tricky, due to slimy rocks with urchins hiding in holes and a few large-ish steps down. Luckily, it was a little-to-no surf day (and frankly, “little” surf in Bonaire would count as “no” surf anywhere else), so we were able to take our time getting through the surf zone and easily watch where we stepped.

We followed the slope of the first reef until we spotted a horizontal line rising out in front of us at the edge of our visibility – which turned out to be the edge of the boat’s hull. The Hilma Hooker’s hull faces the beach, so you have to swim over it and then drop down on the other side to see the real structure of the boat. What a great dive! I immediately wished we’d done it earlier in the week, so we could have more opportunities to dive it again, and I was pretty sure Jeff was thinking the same thing.

We stuck around near the bow on this dive, photographing the school of tarpon that hung out in the shade. A southern sting ray gave us a quick swim-by, but didn’t really hang out for pictures. The Brantleys set off towards the stern, and we hooked up with them again on the top of the boat on our way back up to the reef to putter around in the shallows. Lots of fish were nibbling on the algae-ridden hull; it made kind of a funny effect to see the upside-down ship with lots of fish head-down chewing at it.

Our next dive site was “The Lake,” just one site away. Since there was no driving time entailed, we whiled away our surface interval checking out the entry and playing in the ocean. When we started to worry about sunburn, we put our gear back on and headed back in.Our goal on this dive was twofold: check out the double-reef system (at this particular site, the two reefs are separated by a pretty narrow strip of sand), and look for garden eels, which Ben and Kathy hadn’t seen before.The garden eels weren’t obvious when we first hit the sand at 80 feet, but after a few minutes of looking off in the distance we were able to make them out. (Well, three of us were; later, Ben asked us if anyone had spotted the garden thingies we were looking for.)

Garden Eels:

After watching garden eels wave around, we headed over to check out reef number two. From the sand, it rises to about 65 feet and then drops down on the ocean side in a shallow slope. It wasn’t significantly different from the shore-side reef, although it seemed a bit more thick with life.Kathy got my attention when we were just about to head back up to shallower water: Ben’s tank was coming out of his BC. This was the second time on the trip; we started to wonder if he was bothering to tighten them before each dive (he reads this blog, so I’m sure I’ll be hearing all about it soon). The wetter the straps get, the looser they get, so you have to give them a pretty serious tightening after the first dive of the day. There wasn’t really a good sandy spot for him to kneel and fix it himself, so the rest of us pushed and prodded his tank back down into place while trying to steady Ben somewhat. Not the most graceful equipment fix, but hey, whatever works!We took our time cruising back up the shore-side reef, doing our customary shallow-water puttering (and filefish/blenny-hunting).

Back at the Deep Blue View, we met two new arrivals: Ernie and Sally. Sally and I got to talking, and it turns out we both graduated from Pomona! Sally was a Botany major from the class of ’57, and then stuck around Claremont teaching for 30 years before moving to Olympia, Washington. Her daughter actually lives quite close to Jeff and me in Glendale.

Ernie, as it turned out, was Ernie Brooks – of the Brooks Institute in Santa Barbara (a photography and art school founded by his father, where he was president for a while). He’s been a professional underwater photographer, working with all sorts of luminaries along the way. Now he and Sally travel the world, taking pictures and writing articles and poetry. We loved them! The 6 of us had a great time chatting about photography, dive and travel, and Ernie showed us the coffee-table book of his latest exhibition, The Silver Seas. Can you say, WOW?!

We decided to just do a single afternoon dive, since we’d been pushing the nitrogen limits all morning. My pick for the site was Oil Slick Leap, a spot where you giant stride off the cliff edge into water and exit via a ladder. It was a great dive site, full of eels and blennies. Unfortunately, Kathy’s ears started to really bother her. She’d developed a bit of an outer ear infection, which kept her up the night before and hurt more and more on Thursday. I was also experiencing a little ear pain, but didn’t expect it to get too bad.

Boy, was I wrong. Thursday night, I was in exactly the same boat as Kathy had been the night before. I’d forgotten just how bad an outer ear infection can HURT (think back to being a kid, and getting “swimmer’s ear” from too much time in the pool). Nothing for it but alcohol drops to dry out our ears whenever possible, and Advil to kill the pain.

Friday, we were scheduled to dive Salt Pier with Menno at 9am – but Jeff and I really wanted to dive the Hilma Hooker again to take more pictures. We couldn’t do it before 9, both because we probably wouldn’t be able to wake up and because we needed Tim to switch out the camera batteries. So we decided to pull a frowned-upon “reverse profile” and do a shallow dive (Salt Pier) at 9, followed by a deep dive to the Hooker. Hey; the jury is still technically out on the idea!

Salt Pier was fabulous! As I believe I’ve mentioned more than once, I’m a sucker for fish and fish behavior, which really made this a great dive for me. There wasn’t too much in the way of coral, but there were a whole lotta fish. We saw a juvenile french angel in the shallows, and ran into plenty of our old favorites down around the pilings. On the way out, Jeff and I found ourselves in the middle of a huge school of snack-sized fish being herded by some barracuda. We didn’t hang around there too long, just in case!

Kathy opted to skip the Hilma Hooker in favor of some suntan time, so Ben, Jeff and I made it a threesome. To save as much bottom time for the boat as possible, we swam out to the stern buoy on the surface and then dropped straight down onto the boat. We found a part in the middle of the (possibly the wheelhouse?) where it was trivial to swim inside a little bit and then turn around to pose for pictures. At the top of the room was a mirrored surface where many divers’ air bubbles had collected; that’s always a cool effect.

We were really stoked about some of the pics Jeff had nabbed at Salt Pier and the Hilma Hooker, so we dropped by Tim’s on the way to DBV for lunch. Unfortunately – the memory card was unreadable. Jinxed, I say! After a “DiskCheck,” Tim was able to copy the actual files over to disk, but they appear to be garbled beyond repair.


1 Comment

  1. Hey, I’m a Pomona grad, too! I didn’t realize you were a Sagehen. We can chirp underwater… ;)

    Comment by Carol Yin — 12/29/2004 @ 12:44 pm

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