Our equipment was all set up – my BCD was strapped to the tank, my regulator was ready to go, and I held my fins and camera in my hand when M asked, “Where’s my mask?”
We searched the “truck” thoroughly, peeking into every nook in which it could conceivably be – in the bed, under the seats, in a bag, or buried under a towel, but it wasn’t to be found. A number of things can throw wrenches in the plan, but the loss of a mask is an absolute dive killer, so we undid all of our preparations and headed back to our previous dive site. M suspected he had placed it on the railing of the bed there, and that was our best bet. Alas, we returned to the hotel with two full tanks of air.
The morning had been more successful. It began with a boat dive to the Hilma Hooker, one of the few wrecks here that recreational divers can visit. We could have also done this as a shore dive, but given the depth we decided a boat dive made more sense for us.
The Hilma Hooker was a smuggling ship that showed up one morning in Bonaire with engine trouble. It was found to contain 25,000 lbs of marijuana. Unclaimed, it was eventually towed out of port and anchored where it remained until it took on water, flooded and sank. The authorities knew it was going to sink so chose a location where recreational divers, such as M and I, are able access it.
M hasn’t dived a shipwreck before, so this was on my list for him. I love diving shipwrecks. There’s something special about witnessing the sea reclaiming the carcass of the hull, and this was no different.
We took an early lunch and headed to the Salt Pier, which everybody swears by. Salt is one of the industries here, made from evaporated seawater, and this is where the salt is loaded onto ships. We have tried twice already to dive this site, without success, and when we arrived today there were signs up directing divers away. We just can’t seem to catch a break on this site.
So we sat in the truck debating alternate sites, when one of the workers walked by saying a brief “Hello.” M responded in kind, and then mentioned that we couldn’t dive. The workman stated, “Oh I’m done now – go on in.” So we had caught our break.
It was a great dive with numerous barracuda.
And while there are plenty of stoplight parrotfish everywhere in the Caribbean, they are usually darting away just as I prepare to shoot a photo. This one finally posed for me.
As did this French angelfish, although an octopus I found hiding in a tiny niche of coral wouldn’t come out to play.
As we were cleaning and packing up after the dive, another diver emerged from the ocean, talking about the young sea turtles she had just seen. Somehow we missed them. Arrgh. She also mentioned seeing turtles and rays down at Red Slave, a site near the southern end of the island. We headed down that way, and this was where we discovered the missing mask.
As we returned to our resort, I spendt most of the drive trying to make M feel better about it. Apparently the lost mask wasn’t entirely comfortable, so I emphasized that. By the time we had arrived, he was ready to go to the dive shop and see what they had to offer. They offered to let him try one of their masks, and he used it to dive the house reef with me.
This became a dusk dive and it was perfect, marked by multiple interesting sightings, including two lobsters (of which M hadn’t seen any yet).
I caught the tail end of this spotted sea snake.
And M found this moray.
By the end M was almost euphoric. The dive was fantastic, as was the mask. And we are ready for tomorrow.