Monday, November 23, 2009

Bait Ball

Yesterday we went for a dive at the house reef at Ocean Encounters West called Alice in Wonderland. We descended to about 50 feet and saw something out in the distance. It was a large school of silvery fish (about 5 inches long) swimming in a tight circle, it's referred to as a "bait ball". The fish swim like this for protection from predators. These bait balls can be seen getting herded herded up towards the surface where dolphin, sharks, larger fish and birds feed on them. We descended down to about 70 feet and went out away from the reef a bit to see it. It was sooo cool! At one point the ball began moving upwards and we found ourselves in the middle of hundreds of swirling fish. Luckily we had our camera and got some great pictures! (see pics dated 11-22-09) We were hoping something large would come to feed on the fish but we didn't see much. One very large silver fish that came and went. It was a really thrilling experience. The pic above was taken from inside the bait ball.

Running in the Mondi

I took my camera out yesterday morning and made a photo journal of my run. I wish I done this in Ft. Lauderdale too where I got to run to the beach and see the sunrise over the ocean. Here, I run into the "mondi" (shrub forest) and see the sunrise over the hills. The mondi is like a desert with reddish soil and lots of cacti. All the plants seem to have thorns of some kind. You have to watch not to let anything brush your face or you'll pay! There are 2 trails I've been on so I ran each a bit to get pictures. One is a mountain bike path that David created for his Westpunt Riders. The other is a dirt road that goes along the coast to Watamula, a point at the tip of the island where there's a very popular dive site you can go to by boat.

There are 2 things I couldn't get pictures of in the mondi. Until this week there were very tiny delicate lavender flowers. It hasn't rained in a couple of weeks but maybe they'll come back out before we go and I'll get a picture. Then there are tiny lavender butterflies that look a lot like the flowers that I couldn't hope to get a picture of. I'm amazed at the amount of life that you see out there in the desert. I've seen lizards, a snake and several rabbits. See pic of the day(3) 11/22/09.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Another week flown by...

Our dive at Porto Marie on Monday was great. We met a few of Sunshine's friends and enjoyed a beautiful reef. One of the people we dove with is a photographer (Stan) so we have a couple really nice pics on our pic of the day(3) and see the pic above! We usually like to stay for lunch at Porto Marie but there was serious construction on the bathrooms going on there and we couldn't deal with noise so we left. Then we got a little turned around finding the main road home and just happened to past this awesome Dutch pancake restaurant called Daniels. We had a great lunch!

This week we studied and then did part 1 of our search and recovery class with Toni. That was actually a lot of fun! We learned to navigate by compass doing specific search patterns and how to raise heavy objects using a lift bag. We then used our new found skills to lift a tire out from under the pier where it had fallen :) Toni found the minuscule baby drum fish in the tire. It was about 3 mm long. Amazing! We also spotted the small seahorse that was just found hanging out just off the pier. He seems so vulnerable just hanging out on the sandy parts but he's been there all week. He's hanging right next a big octopus in a coral rock so I hope he doesn't become dinner one night! We have the second half of the class tomorrow - 2 new search patterns and lifts to conduct.

We took a day off on Wednesday. All the classes had us a bit tired out! We went into town with Sunshine, David and Dave and saw 2012. Then we stopped at a roadside place and got "lumpias". Deep fried spring rolls. Those were delish and not terribly weight watcher friendly I'm afraid. I also had to work on my resume a bit that day. I seem to have completely forgotten that I will be going back to work soon and that having a resume might be a good idea! Thank you Judy for helping me pull it together!

Yesterday we went for a dive on the house reef at OEW. Then we headed to town to grocery shop. I'm making the stuffing for our Thanksgiving dinner so I got the makings for that too. Then there was a barbecue at OEW in the evening so we went and hung out with the gang down there in the evening.

Today is Friday and we are lounging around, planning on diving at Cas Abao today. There is a lovely beach and small cafe/lunch place there. It's crazy busy on the weekends so we're going today. And of course it's Friday so all the fun at Sol Food begins this evening. That means lots of the guests from All West Apartments and the Lodge will be by (people we meet at the dive shop and barbecues) as well as the staff from OEW. The weekends are so much fun here!

So we've been really, really busy! In addition, I've been able to get up early in the morning and go running up in the mondi pretty regularly. I think I'll bring a camera next time and get more pictures. Martin has been mountain biking every Tuesday and Thursday evening and is now able to keep up with some of the smaller boys :) I don't want to even think about the fact that we have only 10 days left!

On a side note: the mechanics fixed the port drive and took Lucky out on a sea trial earlier this week. The port drive exploded. It's destroyed and needs to be replaced. Can you say "defective part"? What more can I say? Hopefully Martin will blog more about it when he's calm enough to address it!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Rescue Divers!

It's Monday already, our time here is half through. I can't believe it! A month sounded like such a long time but it's going by waaay too fast.

We had a great time at Moon Restaurant last Wednesday. Then Thursday Martin and I went diving at Habitat Curacao, a dive resort down the coast a ways. We weren't all that impressed with their house reef, ours (Alice in Wonderland) is much prettier :) We studied more on Thursday and then went to a neighborhood party with Sunshine & David in the evening.

On Friday we began our Diver Rescue Course - see the pic above. Poor Martin got a bit too much sun on his head and had to go for creative solutions :) Dang, but that was a lot more difficult than I had anticipated! Our instructor, Dave, was fantastic. We met on Friday and went through the theory and then took the written exam. We only spent about an hour in the water reviewing self-rescue skills. Saturday we were in the water all day going through 10 exercises. We learned how to bring up an unresponsive diver, how to approach tired and panicked divers and how to tow them all into shore/to a dock. How to do rescue breathing, take off our own and their equipment and get them onto dry land. It's not that easy! On Sunday we worked through 4 simulations or scenarios. They were like our final exam. During one, bringing back an exhausted diver, some divers on the dock didn't realize it was a simulation and one stepped right in to help. I was impressed with the man's calm efficiency. I hope I'm that good now :) He got a chuckle when we explained that we must just be very good actors! Today is Monday and I'm so sore. I had double calf charlie horses last night - that was fun... It just goes to show how physical the class was I think. I learned more in this course than any other that we've taken so far. It really makes you think outside of yourself and gain a different perspective. I'm very, very glad we took the class. I hope we never need to use the skills we learned but we're better divers for knowing them.

As for other classes, we have 2 night dives to finish for our Night Dive Specialty and then Tuesday and Saturday this week we'll do the Search & Recovery class with Toni. It's a very productive month for us!

Today we have to read for class tomorrow and we're going diving at Porto Marie, meeting up with Sunshine and some of her friends. Tomorrow morning we'll have class, I think just for half day.

It's paradise here. We're both extremely happy :)

Lovely Curacao

Let's see, what have we been up to since last Friday! We had a wonderfully social weekend at Sol Food. The dive shop folks come over and we really enjoy hanging out with them and getting to know everyone better. They are such an upbeat, fun group of people! Martin and I have not been going crazy diving but are averaging about 1 a day. We went out on a dive off the beach near the house and I found ANOTHER seahorse. I'm so very proud :) This one was a gorgeous bright yellow. We also had our first night dive (first of 3 for a specialty class). I wore my new hood and was very glad - it's both warm and keeps the little water bugs and nasties out of my hair. Lights under water attract as many little creepy things underwater and out of water. We saw an enormous lobster (easily would have fed 6 ;) and an eel that was hunting. No octopus but we'll be doing a few more night dives so hopefully we'll see one.

I was slowed down a bit Sunday and Monday with headaches. I realized that I forgot my Excedrin Migraine and Naproxen (1st line of defense before the heavy hitters...) so we went to a drug store here. Over-the-counter drugs are behind-the-counter here but psyche - you can get prescription strength Naproxen! Monday was my birthday. That was the day of our night dive and then afterward there was a big group of people that came over for a special spaghetti dinner. (Bryan, manager of the dive shop, has his family visiting for a week.) So we joined them and had a really nice evening and lots of cake! Tuesday was Sunshine's birthday. Since she cooks all the time I made us all burritos (hey, I'm not a culinary star...) and we sat out on the patio and had a wonderfully relaxing evening in the breeze.

Tuesday morning we went diving with Ocean Encounters West on a 2-dive boat dive to the Sponge Forest and Watamula dive sites. There was a really strong current so they were drift dives. I enjoyed them - it's a challenge with the strong current. I'm also taking sudafed for my ears and have found that when I take it I can get down right away - no hovering at 20 feet in ear pain - it's Such a relief. Thank you Sandra for that wonder cure!

Today is Wednesday and we've stayed in studying all day. We have our Rescue Diver Course all day Friday-Sunday and have to do the theory work before then. It was a long study day! We're heading down to Wilhemsted this evening with Sunshine, David and Andreas to have dinner in town. I'm looking forward to it!

Friday, November 6, 2009

Loving Curacao

Life is good, very very good! I just took this picture off of our balcony :)

We arrived in Curacao late Monday night. Sunshine & David greeted us and we talked til late. We had a warm welcome from Meo the cat as well. He slept with us all night. I thought the mosquito netting would bother him but he didn't seem to mind at all! On Tuesday we went for a dive with Sunshine, David and some ladies from the American Women's Club. It was a great dive and I was so psyched - I found a big black sea horse hanging out in some black coral! My training with Sandra in Ft. Lauderdale is showing ;) Tuesday afternoon we went into town and did some grocery shopping. We had to wait on produce though. That arrives by ship on Thursdays so Sunshine picked up our produce for us when she went for her shop on Thursday afternoon. Between availability and the 45 minute drive to town, shopping takes a little more planning than at home.

I went out with David one morning to walk the "pups". (The pups are actually 2 young - huge and lovey fila brasileiros). He showed me the "mondi" (bushland forest) where he's cleared miles of mountain bike trails. The next morning I was able to head out and get a run in up there. I'll have to get some pictures and post them on the pic of the day (3). David has started a non-profit mountain biking group for the local boys here called Westpundt Riders. Martin went out riding with them last night on their weekly ride. I was happy when he returned - walking and not too bloody :)

Yesterday we studied hard and then today went and finished our first specialty class - Enriched Air. Now we can dive with nitrox tanks if we want (more oxygen than air). This gives you more time under water or less of a wait time above water for multiple dives. We won't use nitrox much but it'll be great to be able to when we want it. We've also signed up for the Rescue Divers Course, and both Night Dive and Search & Recovery specialty classes. We're front loading our stay here with classes since the dive shop has a huge group in the end of the month. This will give us time to practice what we learn too.

A major disappointment - the Disco Dive was canceled. And I even had a black sequins jumpsuit to wear over my wetsuit - what a shame! We have so much schedule already - Monday is our first night dive, we're doing a 2 dive boat trip Tuesday morning and then our Rescue class all weekend.

Sol Food opens today for the weekend (Sunshine & David run a restaurant here Friday noon - Sunday evening). It smells great right now. I think a bunch of the people from the dive shop will be coming over for dinner tonight. I'm looking forward to it! It was so nice to see everyone again. It's so unusual to visit twice in only a few months. I'm looking forward to getting to know the dive gang better!

Leaving Fort Lauderdale (oops - delayed post!)

I thought I had posted this but I hadn' better late than never...

Happy Halloween! OMG - November is here!

We've had a great week. Once again we went diving with Sandra and Dan. This time we found a white-nosed pipefish (pretty rare it seems), and a gorgeous flatworm that was reproducing and spliting in half (that pic didn't come out on my camera :( The Ft. Lauderdale Int'l Boat Show on Thursday was Incredible! We went with CJ and Margie and Sandra and Dan met us there too. Holy cow! It's HUGE. We visited several vendors that people wanted to check out. We toured Cronki, Viking, Lazzara, Tiara, Nordhavn, Selene and Grand Banks boats. It was a great day but very, very hot. We lost the gang earlier on from the heat but we couldn't leave! Never having been before, we were enthralled :) The show was also only a mile and half from the hotel so we could walk home afterwards (traffic was an absolute nightmare!). We got to see the new 60 Nordhavn - Wow. Martin and I are thinking that maybe one day, several years from now, we'd like to cruise again and we'd definitely get a trawler and go further afield. The Nordhavn's are more ship than boat and the 55 and 60 foot models are incredible. (The 60 is the exact same boat as the 55 with an additional 5 feet in the cockpit). It was awesome to get to actually see one! I'll put some pics up on "pic of the day 3".

Speaking of boats - since we wrote last week we've come full circle. We had the sea trial the day after I posted and there was a "miracle". Lucky appeared fixed! It seems it was the trim tabs causing the tilting and overheating at full throttle. We were thrilled! Martin was waiting to pay up and get a detailed mechanics account to post about the Lucky saga.

Then we had a very unwelmcomed shock yesterday. We went to the boat to drop off some stuff (we've moved practically everything from Lucky to the hotel so it's time to start moving it back - we leave on Monday). The mechanics were there finishing off the work so we could go pay up and be done. The last check is the oil and *surprise* there was water in the port drive. Don't really have the words for how that felt. Martin was, livid? Jeffrey, the lead mechanic (and owner) has assured Martin that they'll take care of it while we're gone, as well as the cost. This means a haulout, reentry and sea trial - all without Martin there. Yeah, Mart's not thrilled. But we have to do it or there's no chance of Lucky be "fixed" before we head home.

So now on to our next adventure - Curacao! I'm sooo excited to have an entire month to explore and dive there. It's such a good thing that we planned this, it's a perfect way to end the year! We have Wifi there so we'll be on line and continuing to update the blog!