Saturday, January 22, 2011

Sadder Day

And so, my final post from vacation, from Bonaire.

Despite my late-vacation misgivings, I had a good time for two weeks and I am happy I did this. I'll rationalize my upset as being over my self-indulgence, said indulgence necessary in a time when my mom is heading towards the grave, my job heading towards a car crash, and my mind heading towards, well, who knows?

I worked a lot on my photography and videography, so that's a very good thing. I documented the reefs and will submit a slideshow to the various organizations that I communicate with. I found out the lionfish were a worse problem than I imagined, but not as bad as I feared, and might even have cooked up some strategies for how to deal with it, because clearly what the STINAAPA have on the table, voluntary clean up, simply isn't working.

One idea is to promote a course that trains more eyes and spears in what to look for, expert divers who could be trusted to be careful on the reef while hunting the little buggers. The impression I get is the lionfish has sort of worked out the schedule and by Friday night, goes hiding.

Remember the tool-using wrasse? The clockwork efficiency of the tarpon? There's no reason to believe that a lionfish cannot count sunrises and sunsets. It's very existence depends on it.

I got a tan. Now that might not be the positive I make it out to be, what with my history (and guaranteed future) of skin cancer, but at least I managed not to get sunburned, and I look a damn sight more natural tanned in January than John Boehner looks tanned in August!

I worked on driving a stick shift. For a city boy who drives automatics all year long, that's no small accomplishment. A stick in city traffic, well, you might as well try driving a lollipop.

Mostly, I got to see old friends and become better acquainted with newer ones (one of our group dived the Titanic, which I did not know).

I missed three snowstorms up north that would have taken their toll on me. I'm flying back into the coldest weather of the winter, however, so don't envy me too much. I had to scramble to find something that passes as a sweatshirt down here to bolster my polar fleece jacket.

And I will miss Bonaire, my lovely little island. Te aworo, mi dushi! Te aworo.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Dived Out

I gave up and gave in yesterday and decided that my time could be more productively spent for the balance of this vacation moping about rather than diving.

OK, not the entire truth, to be sure, but there's some element of it in there. I frankly had no desire to dive, for whatever the entire truth turns out to be. The simple fact is, I woke up and had no urge to put fifty pounds of equipment and make the world's easiest dive, much less go off and explore.

I was tired. I still am. Mostly, I napped yesterday, trying to rest up and catch up the insomnia I've been suffering this trip. It did my body a bit of good. My mind, eh, not so much. I do feel self-defeated, still.

Some of you have, in comments and questions, tried to frame or delve deeper into this issue of ebing unable to stick to a plan. I don't have all the answers and so it's possible you're right when you say that there might be an element of denial, that I don't want to think about the whole retirement thing and that's why I avoided looking into it.

But I know me better than that, and that behavior usually happens when I'm farther along in the process, like I've looked at a couple of houses and actually contemplate making a bid for one. Right now, I'm in a very safe zone of not even knowing if this is where I would want to retire, so it's all a very safe "information gathering" phase, something I handle with aplomb.

I usually don't fuck up until later on in the process.

Y'know, my mind wanders to a time last week when I was hoping to shoot a rainbow. It was about 7 in the morning, and I kept urging the sun to rise a little faster to catch up to the storm that was trying to outrun it.

It didn't, but as I stood at the end of the dock, I glanced up and noticed a long pencil, complete with pink eraser and long elegant wings, flying overhead. It was a flamingo.

Who wouldn't want to retire to that?

I've worked hard for something on the order of 35 years, ever since freshman year on college. I think I'm ready to retire and I think this might be the place to do so. What I really need to do is come back down on my own, forget my scuba gear and actually do what I set out to do: rent an apartment or condo and live without diving, without the lure (unless I feel like renting gear one day) and get to this.

Oh...and Murphy's Law. My neighbor was feeding the cat and picked up my phone because it was ringing. It was the nursing home calling about my mom, so she tols them I was on vacation and in turn called me to let me know.

But you know, I'M ON VACATION so I don't carry my phone around with me (the idjit...) and she left a hurried voicemail message which I didn't pick up until 2:30 this morning that got garbled in the ether, so whatever phone number she left was lost, and instead of just letting the machine pick up so the nursing home would know to call my sister instead, she tried to do the right thing and ended up doing exactly the wrong thing.

I emailed my sister and told her what happened. Let's see if I can relax just one more, one last, day on Bonaire.

Other people really really suck.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Ass Wednesday

I'm angry with myself.

I came down to Bonaire with a dual purpose: one was to dive, the other was to learn about the island and to experience what it would be like to live here.

See, I'm getting up there in years. Now, don't get me wrong, I love New York still. It will hurt to have to leave the city I've called home all my life.

But the cold and dark is taking its toll on me. Shoveling snow in my fifties hurts more than I thought it would. My skin is ravaged and painful when first the spring then the fall comes around. I spend half the year applying this lotion or that salve to my face for various incurable conditions, like rosacea and dermatitis.

Putting on an suit depresses me. Putting on an overcoat wraps that depression in a thick layer of gooey oppression.

And I work too hard and have worked too hard for too many years not to need to see an end strategy that makes it all worth it.

I figure the perfect plan is to retire to an island that's not too expensive, not too busy, and has a lot of diving. As with all life's decisions, one should take the time to learn as much about it as possible.

Some of our decisions are snap judgements because they have to be. Some of the most life-altering decisions will make will be in the blink of an eye, usually unintentionally. A wrong road taken, one drink too many, a chance encounter.

Some of those snap decisions become snap decisions simply out of laziness to prepare for them ahead of time. I don't want my retirement to become that. I figure I'll have twenty, maybe thirty years to regret my choice!

My daughter wants to move to Japan, for example. She spent a week there with friends, and soaked up some of the culture. She wants to spend a month there, too, as part of a student exchange.

I confess, I'm not crazy about the idea of her living so far away, but it's her life and, when I look back at my life and realize that I lived the life my parents wished for me, this is a choice she has to make for herself.

Me, I can't even unglue myself from the people around me long enough to do what I want.

This is the first two week vacation I've taken since Reagan was President. That says something about my intentions: I didn't want this to be a dive vacation, I wanted it to be a vacation with diving.

See, making a dive, even a simple one on the house reef, takes an enormous chunk of time out of your day: a half hour preparation, an hour dive, a half hour to break down and wash your gear...that's two hours right there. And if you want to dive off the reservation, so to speak, you can almost double that estimate. If you've got a group going, you can assure yourself at least three hours, and more likely four.

Plan to leave at eleven, in other words, and you're packing a dive bag at ten thirty and unpacking it around 2:00. And now you want lunch and to rest a bit. Did you really want to go into town to shop for food or to talk to realtors about the housing market?

When I planned this trip months ago, the idea was to take an enforced "no dive" day or two, and see the island. There's a donkey sanctuary, which sounds so ridiculous that I had to go see it (it has a webcam, if you don't believe me). There's a butterfly farm, and a flamingo sanctuary...I actually saw one flying in the wild. It's really weird, it looks like a pink pencil with wings...and ancient Arawak Indian cave drawings.

I missed all of that. Again.

I wanted to size up the housing situation. There's been plenty of development around the island and while it's slowed because of the global financial crisis, it hasn't stopped. I want to know where to buy when I do buy. I want to know what it takes to move here, what taxes I'll be asked to pay, what laws and customs I'll have to adapt to that differ from America's.

As a trivial example: you can't buy Benadryl over the counter here, but you don't need a doctor's prescription, the pharmacist can sell it to you.

I blew all that, and I don't understand why, and that's why I'm miffed at myself.

The dive report is minimal today. I dived this unmarked site, shot some photos of the wreck of a tugboat, and bored myself silly cruising back up the reef, possibly because this anger was starting to nag at me. We were all supposed to do a dive in the afternoon, but then one group split off and did another dive so we waited for them to come back (remember that three hours stuff?) and by the time we got in the water, the sun was going down, and so was my mood.

That dive was OK, but my heart's not in it anymore.

Two and a half more days. No way I'm going to be able to salvage much of the original plan at this point, and I took so much heat for taking two weeks off that I probably won't be able to do that again for a few years.

I hate myself for being such a fucking pussy about my life.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Toofus Tuesday

Everyday, some strange shit happens out on a reef. We humans, because of our mortal constraints, can't spend nearly as much time documenting and observing fish behavior as we might like. We can't be all "Gorillas In The Mist" because a) we breathe air and make noise and look pretty silly, and b) wee can't follow fish below certain hard floors of depth.

So divers often observe behavior no one much mentions. Some of it is really pretty intelligent behavior. Some of it is just plain weird.

Yesterday, I made three dives, including one at night. Let me talk about that one first, since it's the easiest to discuss. Nothing unusual happened.

There was a near-full moon high in the sky as I descended around 7 PM. Consequently, I decided to make the dive using as little light as possible. The moon would be my guide for most of this night.

It might sound scary and I confess at times it's a bit unnerving, but it is an experience every diver should try, in an environment where they feel safe and secure in the daytime. They ought to know the reef like the back of their hand. To do otherwise is to take unneeded risks.

Of course, I'm all about that, so I decided that in addition to diving dark, I'd dive solo. That's probably not the smartest decision I'll ever make, but on this reef, someone is always cruising by. SomeoneS, I should say. Still, trouble happens and in the dark without lights, no one can see you scream.

(Nothing happened to me that wouldn't have happened if I took a buddy)

The moon casts a bright light into the shadowy areas, so I felt very safe, very able and aware of my surroundings until I hit about forty feet. The sand patches became fewer. I was truly in the dark. The human mind plays tricks. You start to imagine things. I had to shake off the feeling that I was being stalked, several times.

Until...well, in truth I was stalked. By the local tarpon, whom I like to call Charlie, Dave, and Ed. Tarpon are big, human-sized, with ferocious pouts and are apex predators on this side of Bonaire. The occasional dolphin swims into the inlet, the occasion pod of dolphins, even, and once in a rare while, a shark fin is sighted, but apart from those moments, it's tarpon.

Tarpon seem to be pretty stupid fish, but they are curious and this belies that stupidity. They've worked out that "diver + light = dinner."

Here's what they've observed: a couple of divers drop into the dark and immediately turn on their flashlights, looking at all the pretty fish that are swimming around or sleeping.

All those tasty morsels now blinded by the divers' lights or highlighted like museum pieces, just swaying back and forth in the surge. The tarpon hang back just over and behind the divers until they see something they like, and zoom (literally!) in for the kill.

It's an awesome sight. The tarpon will tilt 45 degrees to the vertical and open its rather impressive maw and try to scoop up the fish. I know this because I almost killed a longsnout butterfly fish while scanning a reef looking for an octopus. The tarpon missed, possibly because I shut my light out when I realized what was going on. The tarpon missed, of course, but then swam right straight up to my mask as if to intimidate me into feeding him next time.

He was intimidating. I was no more than two or three feet from one of the most impressive fish in the ocean. It was hard not to be.

I know I was that close because I had to push him away with my hand.

Last night, it looked like Charlie and Dave were lingering about. I only saw Charlie at first (he's the smallest and has the blandest eyes of the three). He made his presence known by swimming underneath me just as I was experiencing that creepy feeling I mentioned.

Let's just say that I made a small contribution towards global ocean warming at that moment. I looked at him, smiled, and swam to a coral head where I knew a lionfish would be "mooning" itself. I had an idea.

Unfortunately, the crevice between coral heads was too narrow and Charlie hasn't worked out that lionfish can be prey. He didn't rise to the bait, so to speak.

I swam in towards shore a little, trying to see if anybody else was in the water. I came across two of my dive buddies and decided at that point to tag along. Pete and Cathy are both very experienced and accomplished divers. Cathy had her camera rig, complete with modeling light, and so you know Charlie and Dave were salivating.

Errrr, if that was necessary underwater...nothing untoward happened, however. Charlie and Dave got bored on occasion and went off to harass a bunch of other divers who were lit up like a Vegas whorehouse, but they came back to check from time to time, sometimes swimming so close I could feel a tail fin smack me on the tank.

Now for the weirdness.

In two dives during the day, I observed three things that made me wonder if I'd moved to a new planet suddenly.

One I had seen before, twice. In fact once on this trip.

Sergeant majors are common reef fish, identifiable by the yellow markings with five dark bars on their sides. You see them on nearly every reef in the Caribbean. Sometimes, they'll appear bluish or even dark blue.

These are males that are guarding their egg masses, a purplish smear across some surface like rock or metal. They'll swim over them, fanning them to keep fresh water on them, and to post sentry to prevent other fish from eating the eggs. It takes about a week from laying to hatching.

Some are pretty passive in their defense strategies. Some are testosterone-fueled professional wrestlers in roid-rage. I stumbled across the latter yesterday. The little bastard bit my leg. Even now, sixteen hours later, it hurts a little, like a scratch. Not content with that, he started gnawing on my fin like a pit bull on a chew toy.

Think about that for a second: this tiny little fellow, maybe three inches long, was willing to take on a creature 25 times it's length, all because I wandered too close to his nest!

I had to laugh a little.

Other weird stuff happened too. For example, I saw a tarpon exhale.

No. Really. We're all taught that fish extract oxygen from the surrounding water using their gills, which also exchange out the carbon dioxide they're excreting. That means no bubbles since the idea is not to have gas because of the differences in pressure as the fish swims, yadayadayada.

Some fish, however, have a form of primitive lung, a swim bladder, which they can use to regulate their buoyancy. I saw a tarpon...burp! As I watched him swim into more shallow water, a stream of bubbles flowed out of his gill slits.

It was quite disconcerting, seeing a fish essentially exhale.

The weirdest thing, the thing that made me start to think, was tool-using behavior I observed in a yellow-head wrasse (I have pictures). This little wrasse, about an inch and a half long, had found a little snack to eat. The problem is, it was covered in a candy coated shell to think for the wrasse to bite thru.

So it did the next best thing to what I can only presume was either a crab or a baby sea urchin. It picked it up, found the nearest rock and began bashing it against the rock.

Now, we've all heard that tool-using behavior is a sign of higher intelligence: dolphins do it, parrots and crows do it, chimps do it. Fish brains are not supposed to be that developed, certainly nothing beyond identifying prey and predator should stay in that tiny little mass of ganglia.

And yet, I saw this fish bash this thing against a rock, drop it, pick it up and go find another, better rock to bash it against! That's not survival behavior, that's tool use! That's intelligence!

We ought to start taking God's mission to watch over the animals of this planet more seriously, because I think they know who to blame here.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Monday Morning Quarterbacking

First, Go Jets!

Americans really don't get the value of leisure time. We work hard, and we try to shave bits of it here and there, by inventing machines that do some of the tedious and boring work for us: dishwashers, laundry machines, vacuum cleaners. 

Instead of fighting for our right to take time away from work, which eats up a lot more of our lives than tasks around the house.

I say this because I'm heading into week two of my vacation, and I'm dreading the return. One week away from work loads up my desk. Two weeks will probably choke it off. This is intentional on the part of my employer. Yes, I have back up, but my supervisor was pretty pissed that I was taking two weeks off, moreso because it brackets a measly little four days he was taking off in the middle, and his boss, the CEO, alreadt warned about overlapping vacations.

Which I know, because I had to cancel my annual leave last August because his precious idle cruise took two days out of the week my group was scheduled to go away. I didn't know he was going away this month until I had already booked and pad for this trip.

Fuck him.

OK, that's off my chest. Onto diving. Yesterday we gathered as a group and wandered up to a site called Ol' Blue. Two of the women in our collection have really bad knees, so we were hesitant to do any north short sites but we were assured from multiple sources this one would do nicely.

And it did, even if the exit was a little tricky. Ol' Blue (Tolo) is a site that's not dived from boats frequently and because it's near its more famous cousins 1000 Steps (actually 72, which you know individually because you've dragged fifty pounds of dive gear up each and every one of them) and Karpata (which curiously only has twenty steps but has a far tougher entry into the water)., is overlooked as a shore dive.

The trick to Ol' Blue is to enter on a sand patch. The trick to getting to a sand patch is to put yourself off balance as you descend an improvised stairway (five steps, thank god). It's Indiana Jonesque in it's elegance and danger.

Once on, there is plenty to be seen: lots of fan coral and gorgonians, spotted drums, porcupine fish, shrimp by the pound-o-butter full...and the occasional lionfish. Of course.

The weather has been so cooperative for us this vacation that we almost forgot that winds from the south (which usually bring warming breezes) can also bring some pretty nasty swells and waves. On our return, I ended up body surfing on the surface, something that's not as easy as I remember as a kid, but then I wasn't a hunchback...

Monday, January 17, 2011

Sunday Morning Coming Down

There are a few things I've learned to expect on a dive vacation. One is that I sleep less than I normally do, which I have to be careful about because I'm already sleeping so little. Another is sunburn and bug bites, both of which I try to take precautions for and am generally successful in preventing to any serious degree.

The last is that I've found that divers tend to be pretty caring of other divers. Even if you're in a large group, if you see another diver struggling who is not a member of your tribe, you reach out and lend them a hand: carry gear, helped them up a ladder, and so on.

See, we all struggle with the same disabilities: the sudden gain of forty or fifty pounds, the constriction of dive equipment, and those damned webbed feet.

This week's group, so far? Eh, not so much. I get down to the dock to strap on a tank and test out my still camera set up. Two guys are sitting there in civvies, drinking beer. Unfortunately, they're on the bench that's meant for divers gearing up and because of the massive size of their group and the fact the assholes feel they all have to dive at the precise same moment or it's not a dive, the deck is pretty busy.

I ask politely for one to move ("Mind if I take your seat to gear up? Won't be but five minutes.") and grudgingly, he moves, continuing his conversation with both his drinking buddy and their friends that are all around me, gearing up as if the hot sun wasn't boiling the rinse tanks.

This means that people in gear trying to get by, and there were a couple, have to take their laden, wetsuited carcasses and try to mambo around them.

Carry a small barbell on your back and you'll see how difficult that is. Literally, it was like walking through Times Square during tourist season. And forgetting your hunting permit and rifle. Only with a fifth grader tugging you to the windows of the toy store.

OK, but nothing I can't handle, so far. I gear up quickly (I don't wear a wetsuit in the tropics if I can avoid it), grab my rig and head to the ladder.

Where there's a group of snorklers, hanging out on the ladder, chatting to a group of divers hanging at the bottom of the ladder. Now, the resort has a really nice little snorkling entrance just a few yards from the ladder, which has the added attraction of a little shower and a bench all its own.

I call down "excuse me". I call it down a little louder. See, I haven't put my fins on yet (try walking in THOSE on dry land with fifty pounds on your back!) which means I have to put my camera down, put my fins on, and try to back down the ladder.

They make a path of six inches for me to come down. OK, two can play this game. I put my rig down, put my fins on, deliberately swiping them just over the hair of the ass hats sitting there.

They took the hint. I step down a rung or two, and sit back into the water, camera gear cradled and drop down, more because I really didn't feel like dealing with the idiots hanging around the ladder in a small semi-circle. I swim off.

I cruise down to the reef, and find a turtle. I got some great pictures of the turtle. I'm very proud of one of them and once I get it cleaned see, some of these divers had been in already and stirred up the sand might even win an award or two.

Divers. I hate them.

Anyway, as i finish the shoot, I bow to the turtle (always pays to thank your subject), and notice fiuns behind me. Lots of them.

Apparently, the group I dropped in through decided either I needed to be intimidated or that I was a pro and they should follow, since I'd lead them to cool stuff.

I've already found them a turtle, so I'm cringing a little that I didn't check over my shoulder first. I have a good eye for critters on a reef. I could have led them away.

Because damned if half of them don't go chasing the poor little guy, cameras in hand. Now, this turtle is used to divers. He hangs around this reef regularly. I don't know how he handles eight divers zooming after him. We'll see.

OK, so I decided to have a little fun. I cruised very very slowly, and decided I needed to shoot photos of coral and shrimp: you know, the stuff no one photographs because they aren't "cool". Five, maybe ten minutes later, I realize they've all moved on to a nearby wreck, which used to have this ginormous puffer fish living under it, but he was old and sick and I'm sorry to report, dead.

I can still sense a few eyes keeping tabs on me, but I don't care. The stuff I'm shooting, and the really cool fish like the spotted drum, all hang out under coral heads so I can mask the real pleasure of diving by looking bored.

I just thought about my job. Works like a charm.

I get some nice photos, and begin to cruise back to the dock. The snorklers are in the water now, all hovering around the ladder.

There's two octopi under it. With the waves and surge, no one wants to dive behind the ladder, except me and one or two other hardy souls. I got a couple of shots off, and begin to ascend...right into the belly of this overweight eleven year old.

My bad, to be sure. I'm supposed to be looking up as I ascend, but fercrissake, I'm four feet under! Why is the kid snorkeling in an area devoted to divers to let them get up on the dock with their fifty pounds of gear!

OK, octopus, I get it, but someone, let's call him or her a "parent", could have said, "Now, Janie, when a nice man or woman blowing bubbles is down there, please move away so they can get out of the water."

As I write this, it's 7:30. This same group has been up for two hours, it seems, as many of them live in adjoining apartments. The walls are paper thin. I can hear every cough, every fart, every flush and they are not being particularly whispery when they call down the stairs to each other.

Anyway, I come up the ladder and go over to the rinse tank to start soaking my gear in fresh water.

It's filled with snorkeling equipment. The tank is just outside the photo shop, so I turn to the owner and give him a "help me, please" look. He sort of shrugs as if "what can you do?" Finally, one of the adults notices and comes over and takes the gear out.

My god, this is the crap plastic gear they sell at Target for to take to the local swimming pool! Why in the hell is it in a tank to wash life-support equipment!? One of those snorkels gets clogged, you get a straw from the frikkin' restaurant and keep swimming!

OK, I start to get out of my gear, put my rig in the dedicated camera tank (thank god that was empty!) and begin to stow my stuff. I have to pick my way thru yet another crowd of these asshats, because apparently, not only are they flocking, most of them can't dive for shit and end up coming back to the dock after twenty minutes!

I have horrible air consumption but these folks make me look like a world-record free-diver. I elbow my way to my hook. No one's moved my shirt off it, so that much respect for people they have, but I have to lean over three guys gearing up on the floor of the locker to put my stuff away.

Cuz, you know, it's hot out.

This is not going to be a fun week...

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Changing Of The Guard

Saturdays on Bonaire are eventful days. They used to be much more hectic, until the airlines started spacing out their flights.

See, Saturday is the day that the weekly flights from the US and Europe carrying vacationers come to Bonaire. Not exclusively, of course, but most people come on Saturday.

One group makes a ruckus as it sadly packs its things, hoping that still-wet dive gear won't trigger some overweight charge on their flight. In fact, as I typed yesterday's piece at five AM, I was interrupted more than once by people shouting about packing this or forgetting that. The walls are paper thin here.

A few hours of absolute peace and quiet is followed by the clanging noise of people on civilization-time, still carrying the momentum of mechanized living, crashing into the front desk like a tsunami of anxiety: Where's my room? Will my bags be delivered? Can I get a drink at the bar? What time is the dive orientation? Why can't you have it now so I can go diving?

I guess I should explain that last bit a little: each year, by island law, everyone who dives must undergo a "mandatory" (get to that in a minute) orientation with respect to the rules of the road. No gloves on the reef, no touching the reef, no playing with the fish, the protocol for reporting lionfish encounters, and so on. Of course, the resorts all take this as an opportunity to show you around the grounds, especially to places you might spend money.

It's mandatory for everyone except dive professionals who work here. You go thru the orientation because at the end you'll be allowed to purchase a pass that you attach to your BCD (buoyancy control device) that says you're allowed to dive off Bonaire. Believe it or not, I've actually seen this enforced. The STIINAPA (can't be arsed) is pretty vigilant.

And for some reason, me. I was heading down to the orientation when I was told I could give it a miss, just go pay the $25 dollars and they'd give me a tag.

Something to be said, I suppose, for the efficiency of Dutch bureaucracy and the fact that I've been diving this island now 6 of the last seven years. In fact, if I can ever string ten straight years on the island, I can get an ambassadorship.

No! Really! OK, it's not an official ambassadorship with full diplomatic immunity, just a medal from the department of tourism and a free meal. But hey!

Diving yesterday...I made my final dives with my video rig. I've scouted much of the western shore of the island and have found a few unmarked dive sites, sort of nestled in between two other sites. Clearly, they've been dived before, and clearly, the locals prefer I shut up about them.

I did dive one of these sites yesterday and was amazed at how much fun the reef was. Not that diving is never fun. Apart from some crisis, diving usually is. On this reef, however, the fish clearly hadn't seen too many humans and so were swimming right up to our masks. The morays were free swimming, even the groupers were not barking as we passed overhead.

Groupers really do bark and the bigger the grouper, the louder the bark. Google it.

I dived the house reef too, more because with the transition in dive groups on the island, the reef was quiet. Not too many people kicking up crap or harassing the fish. So naturally, I saw things I'd never seen before, like a triggerfish just quietly swimming along, minding its own business. That was an honor, and I got it on tape. The sea does give us gifts, us divers, and this was one.

I'm not sure what today holds in store. It's Sunday, and while I will attend church, it will be the First Church of Our Undersea World. I have to set up my still photography rig (no small task, believe me) and try not to get too annoyed at the newbies doing their orientation dives. I think last week's groups, very large and very young, stressed the resort and the reef out enormously. This week, I'm hoping for a little quiet.