Diving With A Deadline

Some time after returning to the hotel last night, M and I sat on the balcony talking over the trip, the passing of a beloved family friend, and life in general, all while contemplating some of the hiccoughs we have encountered. One of the most troublesome for him has been the leaky dive computer. He pulled it out and we looked at it again, and we wiggled at the point where it was leaking. I looked intently at it, wondering why it should wiggle at all. I twisted and the stainless steel connector came free from the computer.

It turns out the connection had been leaking because it had somehow come loose. So we tightened it up (which I swear we had tried before), and this morning stopped at a dive shop where the crusty owner, devoid of a few fingers, quickly finished fixing this along with M’s leaky BCD.

From there, we continued toward the southern end of the island and Margate Bay, a site where kite surfers dance along the cresting waves not far away. As we stood readying our equipment, we ran into one last little speed bump – during the excitement over repairing the dive computer M had forgotten his diving boots. Unlike the missing mask, however, this was not a dive killer. I handed him my water shoes, which we both agreed would substitute ably, and indeed they did.

We strode out past the mangroves, their woody tendrils sipping at the ocean’s edge, and stepped over a rocky ledge into a break between the crashing waves. We double checked our gear and dropped quickly beneath the surface into the hidden world below. We kicked further out, past vast mounds of staghorn coral to where the sea floor fell away away beneath us.

Hopes for turtles once again didn’t materialize, but we did see this eel amongst the many sights here. Even if we didn’t find our desired quarry, still, it was another near perfect dive, with the gentle gait of the reef guiding our course in and out.

At the end of the dive, we rested near the back of our truck and ate a light snack, while this small lizard, with a distorted lump where his tail used to be, darted fearlessly at our falling crumbs.

We headed south then, and east from there, taking the single-lane road around the southern tip of the island to where the shore became rockier and the surf more violent, driven on by the battering power of the trade winds from the east. We drove north from there, turning back inland toward Kralendjik and then beyond our resort to the north.

One more dive. That’s all we had time for, and all we were allowed, as we have to be out of the water 24 hours before tomorrow’s flight. That’s the guidepoint most resorts use anyway, as do many dive computers. It has to do with nitrogen buildup in our tissues and safety of flying at reduced air pressure. I’ve mentioned already that I have two dive computers, and one of them agrees with this very conservative margin of safety, whereas the other would let me dive more today if I wanted. Neither M nor I wishes to push safety margins in this regard, so we will be out of the water by 3:59 today.

Jeff Davis is our last dive here, north of our resort. It involves a precarious climb down to the water. We considered our options in this regard, and rather than don our equipment, we chose to pass our cumbersome tanks down the rugged, unstable steps, to the entry point before hoisting them onto our backs.

On entry there was a marker somewhat to our south, but as usual we didn’t really target that point, but instead headed straight out toward the dropoff. As we did so, a strong northward current became apparent, so we directed our dive southward into the current.

In situations like this, where a dive is likely to tire you out, it is recommended to swim into the current, so that later in the dive you can rest and ride that current back to your entry point. And this is exactly what we did. The diving manuals also suggest moving to deeper water where the currents are often weaker.

The currents at depth weren’t any less potent, however, and we continued to struggle forward. I even used my hands, which I honestly never do while diving. The struggle forward was so intense I wasn’t really able to enjoy the dive or pause to look at much, and just kept thinking to myself, “I can’t wait until we turn around and this becomes a drift dive.”

Finally we were at the halfway point of our air and that was our signal to stop fighting and just enjoy the free ride home. We hitched our way back on the watery jetstream, drifting along the ocean floor looking for things we had missed, the scorpionfish, the corals, the tunicates, and this fireworm. The problem with a drift dive, however, is that one can’t really pause to look at anything for any significant time, as the pace of the oceans continually carries us forward. And so it was today.

They say turtles love these jellyfish, but still none were to be found, so at last we clambered out and back to our truck, bidding a last farewell to the reefs of Bonaire.

We returned to our hotel and began the slow ritual of cleaning and packing, pausing long enough for a casual dinner in town.

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