Off to Bonaire!

And so it begins, our biggest trip of the year (so far) with 44 divers heading to the enchanted isle of Bonaire for a week of fun, great diving and good times.  To help ensure the island and the diving will meet the standards and expectations of the IVS’ers Ray Graff, Amir Stark and I made the sacrifice and headed down a week early, sort of a scouting party if you will.  We gathered at the shop this morning at 3:30 a.m. to begin our journey.  As might be expected I was not fully packed at that moment, ok, to be honest, I had just started!  But heck, set a couple of big Pelican cases  on the floor, and toss in dive gear and a few changes of underwear, and we’re ready!  Oh yeah, don’t forget sweeping every paper and unfinished project off my desk too.  Thank goodness for that five bag, 70 pounds per bag limit that Delta imposes on me, or I’d take even more!

Amir drives us down to Philadelphia International, we park, and shuttle to the terminal.  Beautiful start, no traffic, no rush, and none of that trademark adrenalin rush that I like to kick most trips off with! Bags are checked before you know it we’re on board and winging our way towards Atlanta, our interim stop on the way to Bonaire.  To be honest, the reason we’re going down a week before the rest of the gang is to spend a week on an IAHD-Americas mission, working with our friends from Eels on Wheels and the Gridiron Heroes organization, taking a group of young men, who suffered debilitating spinal injuries while playing high school football, and introducing them to the sport of scuba diving.  You can read about our work with this group on the IAHD-Americas blog by clicking here! [link to be added soon!]

So our flight out of Philadelphia is uneventful and we landed in Atlanta.  With some time to kill between flights, we opted to visit the Delta Crown Room and enjoy some complimentary libations and breakfast treats.  As we sat down, we noticed the fellow sitting across from us was wearing a TDI polo shirt.  Well of course we can’t let that pass, so we engage in conversation, only to discover we are talking to Fleming Elleboe, the chairman of International Training, parent company of SDI, TDI, and ERDI.  Amazingly small world indeed.  So we spend the next hour enjoying some great discussion regarding diver training, the advantages and disadvantages of E-Learning and other techniques.  It was great to compare PADI’s methods to SDI’s and hear some insight from the top!  Finally it was time to board, so we bid adieu and headed to our Bonaire flight.

The views as we pass over the islands is beautiful with azur-hued waters and dark reefs calling our names.  We land and pass quickly through immigration, then the wait for the bags begin.  Here’s the vision:  big airplane, tiny baggage wagon!  So many trips later we are reunited with our bags, and then pass through the doors into Bonaire (yes, there is no inspection at all.  Bring what you want!).  We stroll outside and there are a bunch of stake body trucks being piled high with luggage, and we’re thinking ugh!  But no, our private driver holds up a sign, and the three of us pile into our own nicely appointed air-conditioned van and head over to the Divi Flamingo, our base of operations for week #1 of our adventure.

Timing is key, because as we are completing our check in process (three clerks, three of us, perfect) those stake bodies pull in and the circus begins.  Whew!  Beating that crowd by 5 minutes made all the difference in the world!  We are out of there, and on our way to our rooms.  We put our stuff away and head down to the dive shop to meet with the operations manager Serge, and to get our Park Pass and the official lecture, which qualifies as our check-out dives.  “This is reef, this is sand – know the difference!”.  Got it, we pass the test, pay our $25 and get our annual pass.  Off the list!

And while we are there the afternoon boats are coming in so we meet Chad Dietrich who is the head of the Eels on Wheels organization, our focus for the next seven days.  They have a large group, including us there are 50 people, mostly medical folks from a number of hospitals in the Austin area, but also about nine handicapped divers.  They represent a wide array of adaptive scuba challenges, including Spina Bifida, Down’s Syndrome, Spinal Injuries, Polio, and Fragile X Syndrome.   Right from the get-go we sense this will be a great group to work with, and they have a long history of group trips and visits to Bonaire to draw upon.

Our stays here are all-inclusive, so our first meal is a Saturday night BBQ, Bonaire-style.  Good chance to mingle a bit and get to know some of the folks.  Not quite as outgoing as an IVS crowd, but we’ll work on breaking down barriers and getting to know them all.  After dinner it’s time to get the gear wet, so Amir, Ray & I head down to the dive dock for our first dive.  What’s that PADI rule about diving in a new place?  Oh yeah, lead it off with a night dive!  So dive we must!

We splash, and it is black already.  There is a huge hatching of small krill-like critters in the top 3 ft of the water column, and I watch as Amir and Ray giant stride into their midst and are chewed up like an old cow crossing the Amazon River to attract the piranhas.   Now that the critters were busy I splashed, negative, and dropped right to the bottom, escaping the hungry hordes at the onset of the dive.  We had a really nice dive, viz is probably 200 plus feet, came upon a sleeping turtle, eels, sleeping parrotfish, the usual suspects, and tarpon.  Not little tarpon, huge tarpon.  You know how sometimes you come down to the kitchen at night, stumble through the dark, and open the refrigerator door, to be awarded with that light showing all the good stuff to eat?  Well that is exactly what we were to the tarpon, their little refrigerator lights, shining on the reef fish and showing the tarpon what was on the menu for tonight.  Overall a great dive, max depth 80 ft, 55 minutes of bottom time, and as we headed back in we hoped against hope that the krill-like critters had retired for the night.  Well, nice thought, but no!  As we approached the stairs leading up from the water, we made sure we had our fins off, and were ready to move quickly, cause the little carnivores were all over us as we passed through the top of the water column.   Good news is they just bite a little, no scar, no itch, so it is OK.

Sunday morning came with an early thunderstorm as we awoke, then a bright sky following.  It promised to be passing, though, as the dark clouds from the east were coming across the island towards us. We boarded the boat for a 2-tank trip over to Klein Bonaire, a small uninhabited island about a half mile off the resort.   We did a couple of great dives there, working with the group and assisting where asked as we got to know the folks on the trip.  Conditions were spectacular, cannot say any more, no current, great viz, super-healthy reefs, just that conspicuous lack of fish in the 6 to 12 inch range….think the locals are fishing in the park?

Back for a nice lunch, and out for a 1-tank afternoon dive, again to a site off Klein Bonaire.  This time Ray and I are on a different boat, and we work with three disabled divers, Joe, Kirin and Eric.  Joe suffered a spinal injury after a massive fall while climbing a frozen peak in Northern California, losing his grip and sliding several hundred feet before a tree broke his fall, and his back.  Kirin moved to the U.S. 12 years ago, and suffers from polio.  Finally we have Eric, here with his family, and born with Spina Bifida.  Three very inspirational divers really having a great time with our group.  We enjoy a great afternoon dive, with some frogfish on this one – man, are they tough to spot! Back at the dock, we plan a night dive for the group before dinner.  We splash again around 7’ish, and enjoy a nice night dive on Calabas Reef, the house dive site.  Just a great dive, but a big gaggle of folks to manage, making it at times a bit crowded on the reef.  Dinner was at the Chibi Chibi Restaurant, and we enjoyed some fine food and a few Polar beers as we relished in the days activities.

Monday came and it was indeed a nice day, again an early morning rainstorm as we awoke, but once that was out of the way, it was clear and bright all day.  We did a 2-tank morning dive, first off Klein Bonaire, then they attempted to bring us off the main island, but the viz sucked so we headed back to the smaller island.  More frogfish, and great conditions.  At the very end of the dive I am at around 400 psi and what do I come up upon?  A full-grown Lionfish!   So, lionfish whisperer that I am, I coax him into coming a little closer, and we move under a coral head that allows for ample room for me to work while minimizing his escape options.  Bad news, around 250 psi now, but he mission must be accomplished!  So I work him, and he is bigger than the plastic bag I have brought, so I go to Plan B – the lift bag!  I unfurl the bag, and am this close to working him into the opening, but now the breathing is getting a tad difficult.  Can I back off?  No, must get it done, so I abandon a bit of caution, draw one last good breath, and reach out with bare hand to strongly encourage him to enter the bag.  He has other thoughts, hesitates, turns and nails me twice on my left hand – DANG!   Does that hurt!  Good news is the blood is flowing, hopefully washing away as much of the toxins as possible!  For me, wounded, out of air, frustrated, it is time to surface –  but like the governor says, “I’ll be back”.

Interesting post-trauma study.  Within five minutes the finger is in intense pain, and blackness is evident at the site of the punctures.  I continue to milk the wound to keep the flushing going on, but some of it is inside for sure. Within 10 minutes it is to the main knuckle, and five minutes later to the wrist.  Dang this hurts, and that is an understatement!  But it’s time to dive, and dive we must!  For the second dive the boat is moored in about 250 ft of water, so we make sure our stuff is clipped on, cause no one is going down to get anything that is dropped!  We splash, and as I head down the extra pressure from depth starts to drive me bonkers!  I move my wrist watch from left to right wrist, that’s better.  Now the dive computer…now the slate……the pain is all consuming on this dive so I head shallow for some relief…..still manage to get my 60 minutes in, and by the time it is over, I am deadened to the pain.  My middle finger, where I was hit (is that a sign?) is twice the thickness of that on my right hand, and stiff as a board (great excuse!).  Back of hand is pretty dang sensitive, but nothing has radiated up any further.  I believe our DAN Medical Experiment du jour has peaked.   It is downhill from here, but the score for the year now stands at Dave 7, Lionfish 1.  We’ll keep that at a one if at all possible!  But the important thing is the conclusion, that another deadly sea creature myth has been debunked.  Meanwhile, Ray & Amir are great working with our divers, readily pitching in to help carry them on and off the boat, and providing great assistance getting into and out of the water.  While Eric is not overly mobile on his dives, Kirin and Joe more than make up for him, swimming circles around us, with nary a fin between them.  An utterly amazing day indeed, for all sorts of reasons.

Back for lunch, and we head out for an afternoon dive south of the resort on the main island, actually passing right by Plaza Resort Bonaire, our digs for next week.  Looks pretty good from the water, and our divemaster Nolli used to work there, speaking pretty good of the resort.  We head down almost to the Salt Pier, and make another nice reef dive, coming upon a young turtle that is very actively eating away and is not bother by us watching at all.  I find a very cooperative basket star and show some of the divers how it is really  one single animal  that is very animated – news to them.  We come back in, and after dinner jump back in the water for a night dive.  We spot morays in three flavors, spotted, sharptail, and finally a chain moray – very cool dive!  Also some diver/reef life interaction, playing with some coral shrimp, urchins and the ever-present hungry tarpon.

Post-dive, we gather at the bar and Ray & Amir enjoy some fine cigars as we have a couple of brews to celebrate the days events.  The conversation runs far and wide, and before you know it, Amir educates Ray and I in Scoville Units, the universal measurement of how hot a hot sauce really is.  Who’d of thunk there was an official scientific scale of “hot” but here you have it!  Amazing indeed!

Tuesday is as pretty a day as Monday, and we get out for a morning drop north of the resort at a site called Small Wall, aptly named for an abrupt drop-off right there at the site.  Nice dive, typical sea life surrounds us.  Second site is south of the resort, and another pleasant dive.  This is like living in southern California, the conditions never change!  No current, great viz, lots of life, and a really nice bunch to dive with.  Joe Murphy and I find a great octo at the end of the dive to cap a really nice undersea visit.  Lunch, then back out for an afternoon drop at Monk’s Haven off Klein Bonaire.  Seahorses, turtles, all good stuff, another great dive.  Back in for some dinner, and we drop in for our customary night dive, spending another hour exploring the reef right in front of the resort.

Another glorious dawn greets our eyes as we awake Wednesday morning, and we check our planners for what we have on the books today…..oh yeah…diving!  So dive we must, and we load our gear on board, help our adaptive divers onto the boat, and head out to a morning 2-tank adventure.  The sites visited are Invisibles and Corporal Mice, and we’re greeted by a small school of curious squid as we drop in.  Two more good dives, we get some good depth on these dives, 100 plus feet, and 2 more hours of bottom time….sweet.  Lunch and a run back to Klein Bonaire, to Leonoros Reef, and more turtles playing, another octopus, and a huge seahorse!  Easily 8 inches overall, really nice and photogenic.  Tonight we have our group photo scheduled, so we gussy up upon our return and head down to the appointed photo location, but alas, no one is there.  What’s that noisy crowd over by the pool, we wonder?  well it’s our group, and looks like they’ve been enjoying some frosty libations and other treats for quite some time now.  Hmmmm…..no group photo happening here tonight!   So we hang for a bit, but avoid the festivities cause we have a night dive to make!   So we’re sitting there, laughing and sharing stories and jokes, when I notice someone waving from the promenade along the shore.  Hmmmm…I look around….yes they are waving to me!   I look closer, and holy smokes, it’s Tony & Brenda, IVS-Puerto Rico, right here with us!   How cool is that?  We’re 1,951 miles from home, and we’re running into friends.  They have a group of 18 down for the week and are staying next door!  Small, small world indeed!  So hugs and handshakes all around, and they decide to join us on our night dive.  They go for their gear and we suit up and dive.  Amir and I are on the search for a reported sunken sailboat at 140 feet so we head way down the wall, but after 10 minutes of fruitless searching in the dark, we head back up to re-join Ray and the group at 70 feet.   We end up with another 75 minute dive, finding a playful octopus, chain moray, and hunting eels out and about – good dive!

Ho hun…another perfect morning sky starts Thursday off perfectly!   Two more nice morning dives, another good lunch, and our last afternoon boat dive with the Eels to Wheels gang, as they are flying out early Saturday morning, and heaven forbid, they don’t want to dive the day before flying!  In all seriousness, good caution on their part so we make the afternoon dive a good one, at a site called Cliffs right in front of Buddy Dive Resort.  Very nice dive, more of the same great stuff we’ve enjoyed all week long.  We head in and the talk starts about one last night dive, but the group can’t make up their mind on the time, some want 7 and some want 8.  So Ray, Amir and I agree, we can do a 2-tank night dive tonight and dive with them all!  So, we’re hanging around the Divi dive center a bit, and I walk into the shop, and who is standing there?  Frank Fennell, our Epoque camera rep!  Again, what an amazingly small world!  1,951 miles from home, and here’s another friend!  Well of course we get right into a good banter, and before you know it, we are invited to a birthday party tomorrow night, celebrating Captain Don Stewart, the founder of Captain Don’s Habitat, as he celebrates his 85th birthday!   This is going to be a very special treat for Ray, who rarely gets to go to a party for someone older than him!  And to make it even better, Frank brought a couple of demo systems, so he is coming over to Plaza Resort Bonaire Saturday afternoon to conduct an underwater photography / videography workshop for our group!  Does it get any better than that?

So we head to the water for our 7:00 and 8:00 night dive, planning a 2-tank, 120 minute bottom time dive-a-thon.  The sun is setting nicely and we’ve got a great crowd on the dock with us.  We splash and are joined by Paul, one of our Eels wheelchair divers.  Nice dive, lots of action and things to see, and a great last night dive for Paul for the week.  Once we get him back up on the dock, it’s time for our 8:00 dive, so back in we drop!   This one has a smaller crowd, and we really enjoy a great dive.

Friday morning it’s a little less hectic on the dock as most of the Eels crowd has quit diving for the week, but we still have Kiran, Paul & Howard with us, so Ray, Amir & I stay plenty busy all morning.  Back for lunch, and the obligatory afternoon dive.  That’ll be our last dive with Divi, as we have to gussie up for our birthday party tonight at Habitat.  We grab a taxi down, and head down the road to the resort.  We get there, and the driver doesn’t have change for our bill in US currency, but we tell him we’ll need a ride back, so what does he say?  “Pay me when I take you back”  When is the last time you ever saw that with an American taxi driver?  We confirm our pick up time, walk inside and boy what a great party!   There’s the birthday boy himself, Captain Don Stewart, looking fine with his wooden peg leg (when do you see one of those anymore?) and surrounded by a flock of pretty girls all evening long.  We run into a bunch of other IVS friends, including Dee Scarr, Wildside Larry and his wonderful wife Janice, and of course Frank Fennell and his daughter Christine, who turns out to be enrolled in law school so she and Amir strike it off immediately with law-talk.  The food is great, and served in a non-stop parade by the staff walking through the crowd with silver platters, each one better than the one before.   The bar is serving up some top shelf drinks, and the steel calypso band is the finishing touch for a truly tropical birthday party.  We end up shutting the place down, and sure enough there is our driver spot on time, and we head back to the Divi.  Bill is settled up and we arrange for him to be back at 5:30 a.m. to pick me up for Part II of our island adventure!  The resort is quiet, so we end up being on the receiving end of some excess beer purchases by our friends, and we gladly accommodate them, knowing full well we’ll find a home for them this coming week.

Saturday morning my 4:30 a.m. alarm jars me out of my slumber, and I finish packing to head down to the Plaza Resort Bonaire and greet our first crowd of arriving guests who are landing on the 5:00 a.m. Continental flight.  This wave includes, Dave West, John & Jody Alcott, Tricia & Jeff Mento, Joseph Cox, Jerry Barrick, Jesica Tyre, and Grace Crawford along with her sons Dylan and Austin, plus her multi-talented mom Georgeanne who decided a week in the islands was too good to pass up! I feel a bit like Ricardo Montelban, welcoming our guests to my island; all I am missing is my little friend Tatoo!  We sort the gear in the lobby, get the bathing suits and dive equipment out, and throw the rest of the bags into storage until the rooms become available.  From there it’s breakfast at the Banana Tree restaurant, and over to Toucan Diving for the orientation briefing on Bonaire diving and the marine park rules.  Paperwork completed, marine park passes in hand, we head to the beach and do our first dive right there in front of the pool, at a site called 18th Palm, which is also the house reef.  Great dive to start it off, everyone looks good, and most of us jump right back in for a second dive!

By the time we’re coming back up the second wave is arriving, so here comes Bev & Butch Loggins, Mike & Lin Gusenko, Lynn & Jim Swartley, Tom Brennan, Jeremy Lindsey, Bryan, Mary, Will & Dan Young, Kim Luisi, Mike & Cathy Parzynski, Tricia Arrington, Jack Sandler, Sue Douglass, Joyce & Charles Kichman, Mike & Teresa Swartley, Tracy Meyers, Roy Scherrer,  Brian Laspino, ……………. Same drill, get checked in, orientation at the dive shop, then let’s get wet!  Most of us are diving with our own gear, but for a few it’s a chance to try out some cool resort-quality rental stuff – Mike P, Tricia A, Mike & Teresa S all had some bags missing to kick off the trip.  Good news is they showed up the next day so no horror stories there.

It’s 10:30 now, and we’re sitting at the bar eating a late dinner, and who finally strolls in?  Katie & David Manninen, who enjoyed a four hour delay in the Curacao airport on their way to Bonaire!  But the spirits are good and the excitement is high, so everyone is ready for the morning!  And the staff at the Banana Tree Restaurant – Patricia, Manuela, & Andrew – are top shelf and make us feel very much at home, not only tonight but all week long!

Sunday morning and our last IVS’er arrives, Mark Sperry from Toledo Ohio – all 44 souls accounted for! And it’s time to get serious with the diving! With such a big group and the convenience of shore diving and setting your own schedule, everyone just heads out in small groups to dive the sites which are located up and down the coast of this beautiful island.  Each condo came with an SUV, so transportation was never an issue.  Some of the favorite dive sites during the week were Margate Bay, Oil Slick, Red Beryl, Vista Blue, and Alice in Wonderland, just to name a few.  The routine is simple – toss some tanks in the back of your SUV, grab the map, and head north, or south, along the coast.  Each dive site is marked by a painted yellow rock along the side of the road, so just pull off the road, gear up, and stroll into the usually calm sea (there were a few exceptions at some of the dive sites to that!).  Entries varied from sandy to rocky, so those hard-soled dive booties paid off in spades!

Every road on the island eventually leads to a dive site, but as some of us know, that eventually can be pretty long sometimes!  Lots of winding roads, minimal correlation between the actual roads and what is printed on the map, and not a single compass in any of the cars made each trip a potential touring adventure!   The good news is that the island is beautiful so no matter where we ended up driving in circles, we enjoyed it.

Sunday also saw Teresa Swartley and Dillon Crawford getting the first of their checkout dives in, and what a way to complete your certification!  Both did great and we want to congratulate them on joining the Indian Valley Scuba family of divers!

There is a another gem of an island here, Klein Bonaire, an uninhabited islet about a half mile offshore of the resort. It too is ringed with fantastic dive sites, so how could we not go there to dive?  So we set up a few boat trips with the on site dive operator, Toucan Diving, and they took good care of us.  OK, first we had to work out the details – here’s how they normally do it:  the afternoon trip is a one tank dive, and they moor the boat at a site.  A divemaster jumps in and leads the group along the reef, 20 to 25 minutes in one direction, then they turn back, and you end up under the boat exploring until you surface.  Alright, while that sounds nice, here’s the way we’re gonna do it, IVS-style:  First, we’ll make it a 2 or 3 tank trip.  Second, we won’t moor the boat except to get everyone in the water and organized to begin our descent.  Third, the DM can follow along as our group leads itself, and finally, we aren’t turning around!  And finally we’ll just dive in one direction, through several dive sites, until we eventually surface and the boat can pick us up there!   Gosh, similar to what they do the other 51 weeks of the year, but with a hint of that signature IVS “deliberatley different” flair!

So we ended up doing a bunch of afternoon boat dives, and on our last, we threw enough tanks onto the boat to have the crew drop us off on the way back to the harbor, and we ended up diving our way home back to the resort for our 3rd tank.  Cool!

One of the highlight dives on the island is the Salt Pier, a commercial pier where they load salt onto bulk carriers headed to ports around the world.  It is owned by Cargill and officially closed to the public, but available for diving if you hire a “guide”.  Let’s think about this…..it’s in the ocean, and there’s no fence around it – sounds like “we don’t need no stinking guide!”   And so a bunch of us head on down on Wednesday night, figuring what’s the worst that can happen?  And guess what?   We had a fantastic dive, no one was arrested (or thrown out of the country), and Sue & Joyce even nailed a lionfish, smashing the little omnivore with a rock on the reef – way to go girls!  Great dive, octopus, colorful sponges on the legs of the pier, eagle rays in the shallows, just another great one in the logbook for the week!

And speaking of highlights, you can’t just have a week of perfectly calm seas and gentle entries!  So we headed over to the east coast of the island, which is the windward side, and hooked up with East Coast Bonaire Diving, who recently took over the operation from our friend Wildside Larry.  They run a 30 ft Zodiac inflatable boat with a couple of huge Yamaha outboards on the back and visit some of the dive sites outside the harbor.  We gear up at the dock, including getting on board with our BCD’s on and fins in hand, and as we head out through the rollers, masks are on cause the water is coming over the boat!  It’s a wet and wild ride out to the site, and once we arrive, it’s a military style backroll entry, as they captain throws the boat in reverse and we start dropping off the sides of the boat two by two.  Once we’ve gathered on the surface, we descend and have a great dive on the reef.  Unlike the west side of the island, the fish life here is fantastic, and turtles abound.  On one dive we had no less than 11 turtle in our midst – fantastic!  Add some eagle rays, big tarpon, octopus, and a whole bunch of big green moray eels, and you have the recipe for some phenomenal diving.  We do one dive, head back to the harbor for a little surface interval and to change tanks, then back out to do it again!  Great addition to an already great trip.

The week is drawing to a close, and as Friday unfolds some of the gang are starting to, heaven forbid, rinse and dry their gear for the trip home.  But a few of us still need more….so off we head!  I end up wrapping the week up diving Vista Blue and Red Beryl with Amir, Brian and Joyce, getting dive #59 and #60 in for the trip!  Two last visits to 100 ft for an hour each….perfect!

Friday night is our last dinner on the island so where better to go than to Maiky’s Shack?  It’s a very local eatery located way out in the sticks, down several dirt roads and way off the beaten path.  Let’s just say they don’t see a lot of gringo faces there!  The dinner is superb, home-style servings of goat, grouper and chicken with plenty of sides and some local treats.  And the best part?  The bill is $15 each – amazing!

Since the group did so many individual trips this week, it made writing this blog a bit challenging.  So I passed around a pad and a pen, and asked everyone to share their comments and highlights for the week, and here’s a summary of what was written:

Joyce Kichman –Wild Side diving was all that and more!  First class!  Plus taking a lionfish off the reef with Sue left me feeling pretty darn good!  Joyce & Sue One, Lionfish Zero!  Plus diving with my son Charles!

Jeremy Lindsey – I came for some great diving and was not disappointed at all!  23 great dives on great reefs and a whole bunch of new friends!

Ray Graff – Two weeks is not enough for this island to see it all!  In the words of General McArthur, “ I shall return!”

Amir Stark – 40+ dives with friends is great but busting Brian’s chops for backrolling into the water with no mask is priceless!  Plus, in spite of Brian’s non-stop housewife-ness, I managed to drop my weights to zero!  Very cool!

Brian LaSpino – Having to hump Amir’s tanks because “his back hurts” was only second to having to wash Amir’s gear cause it smelled so bad!  Basically I played housewife all week!

Mary Young – Learning to really become comfortable navigating was huge!  And multiple visits to the Hilma Hooker wreck made me feel like I owned it!  And completing my Advanced Open Water certification.  Finally, discovering fire coral with my bum was a bit more than I had looked forward to!

Kimberly Luisi

  • Mindset June 26th:  I’m not sure about this, I think the diving people may be crazy!
  • Mindset July 2nd:  When can we go diving again?!?

Dan Young – Having my girlfriend pass the ‘Diver’s Test’ – see Kim L above!

Sue Douglass – 44 great friends, one seahorse, and learning to pay no mind at all to Brian Laspino with his dive site reports!

Lin Gusenko – What a hoot, Girls Rule on the “All Chicks” boat dive!

Jim Swartley – Wild Side diving iced the cake, petting the turtles, eagle rays, eels, and more, plus 44 new friends – fantastic!

Charles Kichman – First dive to 100 ft, turtles, really cool reefs – loved it!

Jerry Barrick – Awesome!  Shore diving, boat diving, all great!  Great place to spend a week (or two or more!)  Lot’s of great restaurants too!

Roy Scherrer – Let’s see, what did we do other than dive, dive, dive?  Oh yes, was fortunate enough to be on the dive when Ray G. tried to re-visit solo diving, and also, thanks to our teams great navigational skills, got to see the interior, exterior, and entire coast of the island of Bonaire!

Jodelle Bryan – This trip was a huge confidence booster for me and my diving.  I dropped a ton of weight, improved my buoyancy skills, and just saw an overall improvement in my diving!   Navigation skills are coming more naturally, and seeing octopus and eagle rays was very cool!  Plus spending my birthday with old and new friends really made this a special week for me!

Will Young – Getting to be back in the water after a year in the Iraqi desert was certainly a treat, and to be able to do it with my friends and family was even better!  Sad there was only one wreck to play on, but I was happy, as long as my brother Dan was in the water there was always a tank valve I could turn off!

Dave West – Getting left alone on a night dive was certainly an adrenalin producer!  Other than that, I experienced some of the best diving ever with some of the best people ever – I am smiling ear to ear!

Jesica Tyre – I am going home with 21 new dives in my logbook, and 56 new bug bites on me too!  This trip was amazing!  Great people, great resort, great food, and fantastic diving!

Joseph Cox – Great diving all week, but the highlight was getting narc’d right out of my mind at 144 ft – what a hoot – thank you Dave!  Thank you more for bringing me home!  And thanks even more for getting my Advanced Open Water done!

Jeff Mento – Met some great people, dove some great reefs, wished I saw more seahorses!  Maybe next year!!

Katie Manninen – Dave & I hit dive # 50 in our logbooks and we are thrilled with that!  Saw baby spotted eagle rays feeding, a monster slipper lobster, and a huge turtle, over 5 ft long!  Plus made some great new friends with Tricia and Jeff Mento!

John Alcott – Some great descents, seems the whole ear issue has passed!  Now to remember to put my regulator in my mouth!  I led a great night dive for instructor Butch L and DM Mike G, including a safe return to the same beach our cars were parked at!

Bryon Young – Just a great week being with everyone, re-uniting with the IVS family, and seeing how comfortable my wife Mary got with the whole diving process.  Fantastic!

Lynn Swartley – Seeing lots of seahorses (one on our first dive!), turtles, lots of cool fish, and celebrating 20 years of being married to the most amazing man, my husband Jim! Wait, he wrote his comments above….where’s anything about being married to me????

Jim Swartley (addendum) – Oh did I mention the part about being married for 20 years to my fantastic wife?

Tom Brennan – Good friends, great location, fantastic diving!  Had a great time with the IVS gang as usual!  And lobsters and turtle sightings – oh my!

Tracy Meyers – Wild Side diving baby!   And spending time with Jesica’s sisters!  The covert night dive on the Salt Pier was a hoot, ranking right up there with losing my entire dive team on the same dive!  And of course, Team IVS – can’t imagine diving without them!

Tricia Arrington – So many firsts, where do I begin?  First time with double aluminum  80’s (and second and third time too!),  first sunrise dive, first time diving with my new baby, the Liquivision!  I think I’m in love with my new backplate system!  Sad that my baggage was late in getting here, but glad it arrived a day later!   My ears got a bit messed up and that cost me a few dives, but I still had the most awesome time!   I absolutely love diving with the IVS family, and apparently the bigger the group, the bigger the fun!

Cathy Parzynski – I came down here as a confirmed non-diver, but that darn Sue Douglass took me diving, twice, and now I am thinking I like the taste of this Kool Aid!

David Manninen – Katie and I experienced our fist shore diving and fell in love with it immediately!   Just another great aspect of this sport we love so much!  Katie and I also dove without each other for the first time ever, and it really showed me what a great dive buddy she is!

Jack Sandler – First sunrise dive, multiple night dives (had only one night dive ever before!) Seeing old IVS dive buddies and making new ones, too many Hooker jokes to remember, and getting some darn good use out of that Nitrox certification!

Teresa Swartley – Getting certified!  And when I was not diving, seeing donkeys, flamingos, iguanas and goats all over the place!  And after seeing all those goats, I didn’t eat any at Maiky’s Shack!  I did 11 dives for the week – woo hoo!

Dylan Crawford – OK, OK, the diving!   Cooler than I thought, and a really great group to hang with!  Got my certification done, thanks Dave!  Mom picks good friends, I guess!

Mark Sperry – I do a lot of dive travel and I can say, there’s not a lot of groups that beat Indian Valley Scuba!  What  blast diving with these guys and they really have their act together!  It made for a really comfortable week of diving adventure!  Great people, great weather, great diving – I’ll be back!

Tricia Mento – My darling spouse dominating the shore diving with his broken ankle – he could have easily sat out but he is a super trooper (and knows how sitting out a dive would be been capitalized on in the blog!).  Great bunch of supportive divers made it a really great week – thanks guys for humping his gear down 1,000 Steps!  And of course meeting even more really cool people like we do on every IVS trip – this time we partnered with the Manninem’s which just really made traveling the island and diving all over an even bigger blast!  Thank you Sue!

Mike Parzynski – Island touring with Dave (under the guise of finding the dive site!) was a blast. “Keep the ocean on your right, er I mean left”.  Diving doubles & stage bottles and deco diving in these great waters!  Going deep, really deep (151 in not only  a rum!).  The 2-tank and 3-tank boat drift diving was great, and getting dropped off at the beach even greater!  Only negative was the delay in getting my bags to start it off, but all ended on some great notes!

Mike Swartley – Seeing my daughter get certified with Dave was the highlight of the trip, then diving with her as my buddy!   Also the good new friends we made here, the IVS gang is great!

Grace Crawford – #1 the people!   #2 my son Dylan’s certification, diving with him, and seeing his excitement!  And #3 – the most wonderful dives!  One of my favorites was when I went to Alice in Wonderland with Jack S – as soon as we went deown he was making all sorts of signs and signals and I couldn’t figure them out at all.  Finally he wrote on his slate “I’m a dumbass” – I couldn’t stop laughing for the rest of the dive

Mike GusenkoFirst, WHAT AN AWESOME TRIP!!  I think what I liked the most, (and there were many, many things to like about this trip), is that while still maintaining the “Group IVS” feeling there were a lot of opportunities to go out and explore individually (with my favorite Buddy Lin) or with whomever was going to your favorite dive site.  A great chance to meet new people and share great  experiences whether a night, shore, boat, or “wild side” boat dive (which by the way was VERY cool!)

Dave, I’m very impressed!  The one moment in the trip that I will not forget is at Maikis. There we were all settling in for our wonderful goat stew and dinner when you looked around and noticed there was someone missing from our group that may have missed out on the ride over or wasn’t sure of the dinner plans.  Instead of saying “oh well, too bad” you got in your car and drove back to the resort (alone) to find him, in the dark, with maybe a vague idea of how to get back on those dirt roads.  I was thinking of you while we were enjoying our dinner, and was hoping you’d make it back in time to have your share. Glad you did. THAT is what IVS is about!  THAT is why we have that “family” feel about the IVS group.  We look out for one another.

And that’s another point.  We were helping each other constantly on this trip.  Many thanks go to Butch and Jim Swartley and John Alcott for helping Lin get in and out of some tricky entry points. And of course Bev (Lin’s bff!).  She is such a trouper, a great person and good friend.  We were helping Jody and Lin with gear up and down a thousand steps (and it really felt like a thousand when you do it four times for one dive!)  Jody even likes shore diving over boat diving now…well duhhhh, I would too if someone carried my stuff (LOL!  Love ya Jody!).

And one last thing.  Lin and I have gone to Jamaica for the last six years in a row to our favorite “spot”, and we even have a trip on the books for next year.  We had such a good time on this trip, we will probably be eating the $100 deposit when we cancel that trip to make room for an extra trip with IVS (in addition to Bonaire).

Bottom line – what a fantastic trip!   We’ll be back next summer!

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7 Responses

  1. Scouting party, with emphasis *not* on “scouting.”

  2. Hmmm….nice embellishments Dave. Sue we need your editorial assistance! 😉 great week!

  3. Hey Tracy be thankful the whole “two junior firemen with their hoses on the bridge” scene was not mentioned…ooops…..now it was!

  4. […] chance to further the mission of IAHD-Americas at the same time! Check out all the great fun in the IVS blog! __________________ Indian Valley Scuba – Read about our scuba adventures & more in Dave's […]

  5. […] dives logged during my stay, and still sorry to leave! Read all about the fun and mayhem in our trip report blog! We're already booking our 2011 trip back to the island! __________________ Indian Valley Scuba […]

  6. […] dives logged during my stay, and still sorry to leave! Read all about the fun and mayhem in our trip report blog! We're already booking our 2011 trip back to the island! __________________ Indian Valley Scuba […]

  7. […] a beautiful island, we just spent two weeks there and will be going back late June 2011. Read our blog of the adventures we enjoyed there! Hope to see some of you when we go! __________________ […]

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