Bonaire, Mar 14 - 21. Questions

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stuartv

stuartv

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The way things went:

There were 7 in my group with CCRs. 4 rEvos and 3 Megs. I made arrangements with Mr G at Buddy Dive ahead of time, for myself. One of the other guys made arrangements for all 3 Megs. The other rEvo folks made their own arrangements directly with Mr G as well.

We arrived on Monday afternoon. By the time we got to our resort and checked in, it was after 5, when Buddy closes. So, I arrived at Buddy at 8am on Tue. I had to wait on CCR cylinders to get filled, so it was almost 10am before I got out of there and could go finish putting my rEvo together and go diving.

Apparently, it was not communicated to Mr G that 3 of our people had Megs, so he had to scramble to get together cylinders for them (normal valves vs inline valves). Apparently, that also meant that the Meg divers were supposed to drop their cylinders off at Buddy every day before 5 in order for them to be filled and ready the next morning. In contrast, as far as I know, Mr G had enough rEvo cylinders that I understood that I could just come by when they were open and swap for filled cylinders. That happened once or twice, but other times I was there waiting on cylinders to get filled.

For Thursday, 2 of us planned to do a dive to 250 feet. So, on Wed afternoon, I talked to Mr G and requested the dil fills and BO cylinders that we would want to use, for Thu morning. I showed up at 8am on Thu to pick them up and the BO cylinders were ready to go, but no dil cylinders were filled, so I had to wait on that. Again, it ended up being 9:30 or later before I got out of Buddy to go finish prepping to dive. My computer says we finally splashed at Karpata at 11:03am.

On Thu afternoon, Mr G told me that his days off are Fri and Sat, so he would not be there, but he introduced me to Luke (IIRC), who would handle our needs on his days off.

At that time, I told Mr G that 3 of us planned to do a deep dive (350) on Saturday, and explained what gases we wanted for that day. I showed up at 8am on Saturday morning to get all our cylinders. All the BO cylinders and the dil cylinders were there, laid out and ready. But, no O2 cylinders. And no Luke.

One of the Meg divers walked down to the main dive shop at Buddy to see if someone could come get us the O2 cylinders we needed. They told him sorry, you should have dropped off your cylinders by 5 yesterday. So, for the whole day of Saturday, we could not get any fills at Buddy.

I ended up taking the air dil and O2 cylinders I had (from Friday's night dive) to TDS and getting them filled there. By the time I got done with all that, I was no longer "feeling" doing the deep dive that day, so I ended up not diving at all on Saturday.

I did the deep dive on Sun, from the boat, and then took all the cylinders back to Mr G that afternoon. He asked me then if I could come back Mon morning to settle up my bill, which I did.

In making arrangements ahead of time, one of the things I specifically asked Mr G was if the CCR support package would allow me to get 2 or 3 fills/top-ups per day. He said 2 was okay, but 3 would be pushing it. He said one fill per day was usually enough for most CCR divers. My thought was that I might do 2 dives in the morning, 2 in the afternoon, and a night dive, and that might mean needing top-ups at lunch and again late in the afternoon. So, even if we had all left all our cylinders at the shop on Fri before 5 (thus, not being able to do the night dive on Fri), I still would not have been able to do a full menu of diving on Saturday, because of no way to get fills at all.

In short, for our OC divers, doing 5 or even 6 dives per day was no problem for anyone that wanted to. But, I don't see how that would be possible if diving CCR and using Buddy for support. For me, by the time we got back from the boat dive each afternoon, I was not able to get cylinders over to Buddy by 5 - even if I wasn't doing a night dive. And then I spent at least an hour in the mornings, at Buddy (which opens at 8am), waiting for fills. So, at best, I could do 1 dive in the morning, then 2 in the afternoon. At which point, maybe or maybe not have enough gas left to do a night dive.

Which brings me back to mentioning TDS again. I got fills there on Sat. A guy named Roger did the fills but he said Zack is the owner and Roger didn't know what to charge us, so could I come back Sun or Mon and settle up with Zack. Sure! No problem. So, he filled our (my and 1 buddy's) CCR cylinders (with air and O2) and sent us on our way, completely on the honor system. I went by Mon morning and met Zack, the owner, and settled up. He was super nice and we ended up chatting about why I had needed to get fills there at all. Zack said that if I use him next time, he would give me his phone number. He only lives 10 minutes from the shop and if I ever needed anything and he wasn't there, I could just call and he or his wife would pop up there and take care of me. Zack is a TDI Trimix and CCR instructor and it looked like he was a smaller shop, but still had everything a CCR diver would need for support.

Walking through the property at Buddy Dive, it looked like a really nice place to stay. But, walking through a little bit of Captain Don's Habitat, it also looked pretty nice. If I were going back, I think my first choice would be to try and stay at Capt Don's, which would make using TDS even easier.


All that said, I don't know that I will ever try and go to Bonaire again. If I did, I'm not sure I would bother to take my CCR. It was a great place for being able to get in and build hours (assuming your CCR support permits that much dive time per day), and it was great for getting in some deep dives - which I wanted to do, to build experience in preparation for eventually diving some deep wrecks. But, for what *I* like, I thought the diving itself was fairly boring. In terms of seeing cool stuff, I have enjoyed more Cozumel and Turks & Caicos. I did like Bonaire much more than Utila, though.
 

azstinger11

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Thank you for detailed response! Sounds both fun and not so fun. The car issue sucks, we bumped into problems as well, just logistically as well. Traveling with CCRs just is so new to us and still figuring out the logistics of what to ship, what to carry on, what to pack, and how to pack it all regardless of where it goes. Really appreciate the insights. I'm wondering if there would be a way to rig the trekking poles to your BO bottle in a non intrusive/safe way.
 

drrich2

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Thanks for reporting. Got a few questions in follow up (from my perspective as a rec. diver with no tec. training):

1.) If you went back to Bonaire using Buddy Dive services, do you think changing what you communicated in advance (whether verbally, e-mail, etc...) with explicit plans (informed by what was lacking this time) would result in a substantially better experience? Just wondering to what extent the situation you describe is fixable via communication vs. 'It is what it is.'

2.) Did you main go the rebreather route to dive deeper terrain, do longer dives than OC makes practical, or what?

3.) Roughly how many dives/day do you tend to plan for rebreather diving on a trip like this? I ask because I tend to associate rebreathers with lengthy dive times, and wonder how many dives/day people tend to aim for with them.
In short, for our OC divers, doing 5 or even 6 dives per day was no problem for anyone that wanted to. But, I don't see how that would be possible if diving CCR and using Buddy for support.
4.) Can you describe (maybe photo or two) what you saw on dives well below recreational limits in Bonaire? Just curious what the terrain and view looks like.
For Thursday, 2 of us planned to do a dive to 250 feet.

At that time, I told Mr G that 3 of us planned to do a deep dive (350) on Saturday
5.) Tell us more about what you like and look for in your diving, that Bonaire seemed to be lacking. Hardly any dive destination is optimal for everyone.
 
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stuartv

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Thank you for detailed response! Sounds both fun and not so fun. The car issue sucks, we bumped into problems as well, just logistically as well. Traveling with CCRs just is so new to us and still figuring out the logistics of what to ship, what to carry on, what to pack, and how to pack it all regardless of where it goes. Really appreciate the insights. I'm wondering if there would be a way to rig the trekking poles to your BO bottle in a non intrusive/safe way.

I think it would be very feasible to rig up something to allow you to stow a trekking pole on your BO cylinder. I wish I had thought of that! All I ever thought about was trying to rig it to stow on the CCR, or on my harness. I never occurred to me to stow it on my BO, but I think that could be done to work really well. Doh!! LOL!

I packed my rEvo in a suitcase I have for it, with the breathing loop/BOV and the controller and NERD removed and packed separately. That weighed 45# and I checked it. Another bag had my fins, non-essential dive gear, and couple of items of clothing and toiletries, and some less expensive parts of my camera rig. That was also just under 50# and checked.

I carried on a rollaboard that had my "essential" dive gear, like 3 BO reg sets and BO rigging, and more of my camera gear. And then I also carried on a backpack that had my actual camera body in its housing, more camera gear, laptop, iPad, CCR controller and NERD.

2 checked bags on Delta was $70, each way.
 

tursiops

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@stuartv Sorry I missed you. When you were there Tues around 8am we were the big group out on the dock loading the Big Buddy for a 2-tank morning dive.

One problem you had was that Mr G's prime assistant was off island for 2 weeks, so you were disadvantaged.
 
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stuartv

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Thanks for reporting. Got a few questions in follow up (from my perspective as a rec. diver with no tec. training):

1.) If you went back to Bonaire using Buddy Dive services, do you think changing what you communicated in advance (whether verbally, e-mail, etc...) with explicit plans (informed by what was lacking this time) would result in a substantially better experience? Just wondering to what extent the situation you describe is fixable via communication vs. 'It is what it is.'

2.) Did you main go the rebreather route to dive deeper terrain, do longer dives than OC makes practical, or what?

3.) Roughly how many dives/day do you tend to plan for rebreather diving on a trip like this? I ask because I tend to associate rebreathers with lengthy dive times, and wonder how many dives/day people tend to aim for with them.

4.) Can you describe (maybe photo or two) what you saw on dives well below recreational limits in Bonaire? Just curious what the terrain and view looks like.



5.) Tell us more about what you like and look for in your diving, that Bonaire seemed to be lacking. Hardly any dive destination is optimal for everyone.

I think my communication in advance and in person was clear. I don't think I could have done anything differently to change how it went. EXCEPT, I will say that MAYBE the issue with the Meg divers not being clear to Mr G in advance, that they were diving Megs may have had a side effect on me. Maybe some of the difficulty in supporting them without having really an adequate supply of Meg cylinders MIGHT have taken up some of Mr G's time in a way that resulted in impact to me.

However, I don't think anything made any difference to the fact that he is off on Sat and Sun, and Luke wasn't there (didn't show up to work? I don't know) on Saturday.

I took my CCR for 2 purposes. One, I wanted to do (at least some of the time) one long (2 to maybe 3 hours) dive in the mornings and one long dive in the afternoons. And, two, I wanted to do some deep technical dives for the purpose of building my experience with that, so that when I do future dives at those depths in more challenging conditions, I will be better prepared. I had never before been deeper than just over 300 feet. Now, I have been to 350. And I feel like I did learn a few valuable things in that effort. That alone made it worth taking my CCR.

So, to your #3, I was hoping for 2 long dives per day, or one deep dive. And then a few night dives. However, I was also open to going with other people in the group on OC and diving with them on their schedule. So, potentially 2 dives in the morning (up to an hour-ish each), 2 in the afternoon, and sometimes a night dive. So, at most 5 dives per day.

What I saw while deeper than recreational limits was sand and coral. Nothing that was worth doing the dive just to see. In other words, I didn't see anything worth going deep for. But, I wasn't diving deep for the purpose of seeing anything....

I understand that everyone has different experiences, so I don't mean to suggest that what I saw (or didn't see) is the same as what everyone else sees or has seen in Bonaire. This is just my personal experience, from 1 week of diving in Bonaire. What *I* saw, if I try to quantify it in some way, would be to say that I saw some kind of cool critter maybe one time per every 2 or 3 dives. Like, in a day, I might have seen 1 turtle or 1 manta ray or whatever. In contrast, in places I have enjoyed more, I feel like I have seen 2 or 3 cool critters on every dive. The reef itself seemed quite vibrant. But, pretty coral alone gets boring (to me!) after a while.

I did 2 night dives in Bonaire. One, at the Cliff, from just before sunset, for 77 minutes. I saw a Tarpon and a few Lionfish. And that was it. I did another night dive at the Salt Pier. Again, from just before sunset, for 73 minutes. I saw a Tarpon (repeatedly), a small turtle, a Scorpionfish (I think is what it was), and a Porcupine fish.

In other places in the Caribbean, on a night dive, I have normally seen much more in the way of stuff like reef squid, octopi, turtles, eels out hunting, etc..
 
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stuartv

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@stuartv Sorry I missed you. When you were there Tues around 8am we were the big group out on the dock loading the Big Buddy for a 2-tank morning dive.

One problem you had was that Mr G's prime assistant was off island for 2 weeks, so you were disadvantaged.

I am sorry to have missed you as well. For some reason, I didn't think you were arriving until Wed. By Thu, I was feeling sufficiently stressed about trying to go diving more that I lost my will to spend more time at Buddy trying to find you. :)

That is good to know, regarding Mr G's assistant. That makes me feel better than going to him in the future might result in a bit better experience. He was certainly very nice and generally very accommodating.
 

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I am sorry to have missed you as well. For some reason, I didn't think you were arriving until Wed. By Thu, I was feeling sufficiently stressed about trying to go diving more that I lost my will to spend more time at Buddy trying to find you. :)

That is good to know, regarding Mr G's assistant. That makes me feel better than going to him in the future might result in a bit better experience. He was certainly very nice and generally very accommodating.
There may have been some other things going on as well -Buddy Dive was packed, couple groups, some staff were sick (head cold kind of stuff), boats were breaking down, staff were doing lessons and check out dives galore. What a cluster. Even saw Mr G doing OW pool lessons.
 

drrich2

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All that said, I don't know that I will ever try and go to Bonaire again. If I did, I'm not sure I would bother to take my CCR.
One of the main selling points of Bonaire is shore diving freedom. It has good reef (I think the far southern sites such as Margate Bay, Red Beryl, Vista Blue and Sweet Dreams are particularly good, with lush gorgonian growth shallow and middle depths), and is decently 'fishy,' but if it were solely a boat diving destinations, I wouldn't have gone 10 times.

What was the meaningfulness/value of shore diving freedom (dive where and when you want without having to follow or be supervised by anyone) to you?

Do you think it's different for rebreather divers? I don't know why it would be, but I'm unfamiliar with the practical workflow of that type of diving, which is why I ask.
 
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stuartv

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One of the main selling points of Bonaire is shore diving freedom. It has good reef (I think the far southern sites such as Margate Bay, Red Beryl, Vista Blue and Sweet Dreams are particularly good, with lush gorgonian growth shallow and middle depths), and is decently 'fishy,' but if it were solely a boat diving destinations, I wouldn't have gone 10 times.

What was the meaningfulness/value of shore diving freedom (dive where and when you want without having to follow or be supervised by anyone) to you?

Do you think it's different for rebreather divers? I don't know why it would be, but I'm unfamiliar with the practical workflow of that type of diving, which is why I ask.

I think - for ME, and on this trip - the value of shore diving freedom was pretty much zero. But, I think there is a lot of that that is a result of the time logistics of getting fills combined with the schedule that was an inherent result of having a boat dive scheduled for every afternoon (which I could have skipped, but didn't want to).

I think it's only really different for rebreather dives because of the difference in logistics of getting fills. Single tank divers could roll up at any time, swap tanks for full ones, and be on their way again in 5 minutes. With Wanna Dive (the operation at Eden Beach Resort), they even had multiple locations, so you could go south, dive, and then swap for new tanks at their southern location. Also, they could get extra tanks to be prepared for a night dive or a sunrise dive.

In contrast, I was generally not able to just roll up, swap tanks, and be gone in 60 seconds. And, I am not aware of having an option to take an extra set of cylinders so that I could do a night dive and/or a sunrise dive.

But, maybe it would be different at Buddy, if they didn't have the various challenges going on that some posters have mentioned. I also got the impression from Zack, at TDS, that I could probably do something like I just described, if I were using him for CCR support.

I like boat diving much more than shore diving. Especially in places like Bonaire with short boat rides. But, were I to go back, I think I would not schedule a boat dive for every single day. If I had had days where there was no boat scheduled, then I would not have been concerned to be done diving and back at the resort by 2, which would certainly change the planning for the day's diving.
 

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