Return to Tugboat

Thursday, November 9th, 2017

Today it was time for a dive trip with the Dive Bus! But not until the afternoon, so in the morning we had time for breakfast at the beach restaurant, AzZuro. It was nice to sit there, watch the ocean and the people, and listen to some Caribbean music. Especially since there is construction work going on next to our villa, which means we don’t have much quiet time in the house during the morning and daytime. Having breakfast at the beach gave us a little bit of relief, peace and quiet.

We considered renting dive gear from Blue Bay for the remainder of our trip, but the price difference was small. So instead we picked up our Dive Bus rental gear from the dive shop, since we had it stored in their guest locker.

Today’s dives would be what’s called “Discover Scuba” for Rosario, since he still isn’t technically certified. It costs a bit more than the regular guided dives, and there can’t be as many people per divemaster either. Rosario is also not allowed to go deeper than 12 meters. But it’s great that this way we’re at least able to go diving together! And he has signed up for an open water course this weekend, so he’ll soon be certified for real.

I drove us to the dive center in Willemstad and we arrived just before 1 o’clock. We packed all our stuff into the Dive Bus (well, in this case a pickup truck) and headed towards Caracas Baai with Kelly Dananay (a.k.a. “Special K” to distinguish her from our Kelly 😉 ) as our driver and guide for the day.

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Pre-dive photo shoot with the Dive Bus’s dog – Buddy!

This is where we went today:

We were diving at Tugboat, which is a little beach in Caracas Baai (baai = bay in English) with a pier and an enormous ship anchored right there. A sleepy looking security guard, who must have one of the least eventful jobs on the planet, was sitting on the pier and made sure no one would go near the ship (it was fenced off and it’s not like anyone tried). There’s also the Tugboat bar, which had a few cats but not a large amount of customers.

For our first dive, we went out to explore the reef, and it was also the deeper of the dives; I hit 13.3 meters. As soon as we dropped down, we saw a squad of squids and a porcupine pufferfish. Seeing amazing creatures like that the first thing on a dive, makes you wonder if it’s all downhill from there or if there’ll be more interesting stuff to come ;).



There was definitely more to come, and we have lots of videos of this dive! Other interesting sightings were three French angelfish swimming below me in a neat little row, two banded coralshrimp inside a bright purple vase sponge, a couple of flamingo tongues (I was so proud finding those, since they are very difficult to spot) and a whole sea of sea urchins in one area. And of course, the tugboat itself which gives this dive spot its name! The story is that the tugboat was maneuvering a tanker into the bay, when the captain accidentally dropped anchor on the tugboat and sank it. Whether that’s true or if it was sunk on purpose, I don’t know, but it’s now covered in marine life and a very popular snorkeling and diving spot. We came upon the tugboat at the end of our dive. While going into shore, we followed a beautiful, fluttering peacock flounder, and then ran into a bunch of squids – again! I can’t believe how lucky we were with that!






Rosario, Kelly and I at the Tugboat Rosario, Kelly and I at the Tugboat

For our second dive, we went shallower and dove under the pier, with the big ship anchored on the side of it. We were absolutely not allowed to go underneath the ship. We did however go in and out between the pillars of the pier, and that is a quite challenging test of your buoyancy. Kelly “Special K” determined that we could handle it; Rosario is doing very well with controlling his buoyancy, especially considering that he hasn’t done so many dives yet. It was definitely fun to dive under the pier, and we got to see some different things. The most extraordinary was – a SEAHORSE! They are so rare, that the divemasters know exactly which two live under the pier: an orange one and a black and white one. And we saw the orange seahorse! Kelly “Special K” then searched the area for a really long time to find the other one, but without any luck. We were extremely happy anyway, as we also saw a very big lionfish, several arrow crabs and banded coralshrimp, juvenile angelfish and juvenile spotted drum (“juvenile” means baby ones; they are so cute!).



Rosario posing with the seahorse – look closely!

An orange seahorse




On the way back to the shore, Kelly got my attention and took me back to a rock. There were two very large porcupinefish there; porcupinefish are normally very shy but not these two – because they were having a big fight! They couldn’t care less about us stupid people with our silly camera, they were in the midst of a territorial battle. It was amazing to watch!

And then, as a splendid finish to one of my best days of diving ever, we ran into a bunch of squid again. It was really an amazing day.

As soon as we got out of the water, Special K turned up the tempo. We had to hurry back to the dive shop before they close, and we were late. There was also traffic on the way back. Apparently there’s almost always traffic, because although the population of Curaçao is only 160 000 people, they are all in the same place going somewhere at the same time… We kept giving Special K cookies to keep her in a good mood while sitting in a line of cars ;).

Some other people were hanging out outside the dive shop and drinking beer, and we joined them when we were done with our chores (rinsing and putting away equipment). It was Zoe and Bor, both from the Dive Bus, and Brenda and Kevin, a Canadian couple who are returning customers of the Dive Bus. We were sitting around for a while just enjoying a (few) beers and some relaxed conversation.

We drove home a couple of hours later. It was completely dark, but at least we missed the traffic and had an easy drive back to Blue Bay.

If you’re wondering about the title of the blog post, Kelly and I dove at Tugboat on our last trip to Curaçao, two years ago!

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Off to a flying start!

Wednesday, November 8th, 2017

What a day! Kelly and I did three dives today! But let’s start from the beginning.

I grabbed a quick snack and a cup of tea in the morning, and then we all walked down to the dive shop at the beach at Blue Bay. Kelly and I brought our dive gear that we rented from the Dive Bus, so all we needed was two tanks. You’re not allowed to dive at Blue Bay unless you rent tanks from the dive shop here. Rosario talked to the staff about his problems with the certification. They said that if he can’t be found in the PADI system, then he’s simply not certified. Even if they believe him, there’s no way to prove that he has the certification. So he’ll have to take the whole course all over again, theory and everything. There are no possible shortcuts for him. So Rosario went back to the house to start studying the eLearning theory part…

In the meantime, Kelly and I went on our first dive by ourselves on this trip. We haven’t done that many dives together without company/guides, but it felt like a great place to start, since we’re familiar with the area after a lot of snorkeling here. We went east, to an area called Blue Bay Gardens. It was a good dive, and we saw a lot of nice things. To mention the best of them: two very large porcupine puffers, a very healthy, bright purple sea anemone with a beautiful shrimp in it, a spotted drum and a barracuda.

LinneaAndKellyPreDive

We went back to the villa to eat “breakfast” – at this point is was noon. We wrote dive logs and looked at videos that Kelly recorded with the GoPro. It takes a lot of time to go through the videos, to work with them and upload them. Kelly and I went down to the beach for our second dive at around 4 o’clock in the afternoon, which gave us a long surface interval of almost 5 hours.

We headed west for our second dive, and dove the reef along a slope that turns into the Blue Bay Wall further out. The Wall is “a vertical wall from about 10 meters till below 30 meters. Very impressive and very worthwhile to explore.” (Curaçao Shore Diving) We didn’t make it that far; the Blue Bay Wall is generally considered a boat dive because it’s a long swim there. We did see a lot of coral and other marine life on this dive as well: a sea anemone with a very colorful shrimp and three baby shrimp living in it, some other kind of anemone, a spotted drum, a juvenile spotted drum, filefish of different kinds and a sharptail eel rummaging around holes for food. We also saw an amazing queen angelfish with really intense colors, hanging out in the same area as two large French angelfish.

This is our video of the angelfish; unfortunately it’s a bit green and doesn’t do the colors justice. It was so beautiful!

This is more what the colors should look like:

Colorful queen angelfish

Here is the sharptail eel:

Back at the dive shop, I started talking to Lucy, a divemaster there. She told us that she was taking some people out for a night dive this evening, and asked if we wanted to join. I signed us up, to Kelly’s surprise! The one and only time that I’ve been on a night dive was in Thailand, when we were both doing our Advanced Open Water certifications. That time, we went out on a boat, in pitch black darkness. We jumped into the water, in pitch black darkness. We descended, in pitch black darkness. Of course we had flashlights, but the visibility was so bad that the only thing I could see in my little beam of light, was the colorful stripes of the fins of the person in front of me. So I knew that if I lost sight of those stripes, it would just be me and pitch black darkness. It was a bit of a stressful experience. But hey, I thought it would be good to do a night dive here in Blue Bay, where I’ve already been diving, and with good visibility. Maybe after that I’ll have more positive connotations to night diving.

We went back to the villa to eat dinner before heading back out. When we came to the house, we met Rosario in the door. He was on his way to go snorkeling, which he was supposed to do “in a few minutes” when we left to go on our second dive, but instead he’d been in the house for two hours! It’s hard to keep track of time here… He went for a quick swim, and when he returned he cooked a very tasty pumpkin pasta for us for dinner.

Kelly and I went to the dive shop at 19:30. We met Lucy, who would be our guide, her husband Dave and an Open Water diver from Switzerland named Anthony. We geared up and went in the water, towards the west just like on our second dive earlier. It was amazing! We had good visibility so it was nothing like the experience I had in Thailand. We started out by seeing an octopus out hunting! It had a beautiful, green-bluish coloring and looked a little bit like this:

poulpe

After that, we came upon the craziest looking thing I’ve ever seen. It looked like some kind of pre-historic, enormous crustacean, and if I would have been closer to it when I saw it, I would have been seriously freaked out. Afterwards, I was told that is was a pretty normal (but very large) lobster and not some kind of terror out of a scary movie. I’m just telling it how I experienced it… Apparently it’s a Caribbean Spiny Lobster, and it looks something like this (but it had its tail tucked in in a big roll):

spinylobstergpscrop

And the size is about this (seriously, it looked even bigger under water):

We also saw something that no one knew what it was, until we were able to look it up in a book. It was a sculptured slipper lobster:

sculpturedslippergps

There were so many pretty and amazing things, that I can’t write about them all. At one point, Kelly signaled to me that I should cover my light, so it got dark. Then he started swirling the water around, and there was bioluminescence in the plankton, and when he moved it around, it glowed. So it was like stars, swirling around us. It was quite magical.

Night_Diving_00_Acapulco_Mexico

Refresher dive with The Dive Bus

Tuesday, November 7th, 2017

We went for a morning swim and some snorkeling at Blue Bay beach a little after 8 o’clock. It was so calm and empty of people at that time in the morning. What a great way to start the day! We saw a sea anemone with a little crab living in it, and a school of tangs hanging out under a boat, and a large school of some tiny little blue fish, shimmering in the morning light. Back at the beach, as we were drying off and getting our things, Rosario came upon a crab digging a hole in the sand. The crab was just working away, when he suddenly decided to snatch a smaller crab and drag him into his hole! Kelly caught the action on film:

UPDATE: Here’s a short clip of our morning snorkeling 🙂

We went back to the house and the guys cooked a filling lunch – chicken boiled in spices and then shredded, with eggs and toast and vegetables. Healthy and yummie :).

Lunch in progress

Then it was time to test the waters, literally. After having a bad cold for a week and a half, I wasn’t sure if I was fit for diving. But there’s only one way to find out…

For all non-divers, I should maybe explain that when you dive, the pressure around you increases as you go deeper. Therefore you must be able to equalize the spaces in your body that are filled with air, such as sinuses and ears. Otherwise the pressure builds up and it’ll get uncomfortable at best, or hurt a lot if you’re unlucky. It’s similar to flying, but much more dramatic of a change when you go under water. And if you’re congested, it’s difficult to equalize the pressure. That’s why I was worried about being able to dive.

We arrived at the Dive Bus at 1 o’clock in the afternoon, when we were scheduled to do our refresher dives. A refresher dive means that you review some knowledge together with an instructor/guide, if you haven’t been diving for a while. Rosario just got certified this summer, and I haven’t been diving since I went to Curaçao two years ago. Kelly is a very experienced diver with more dives than he can count, so he doesn’t really need a refresher course. But he was going with us anyway.

Kelly and I dove with the Dive Bus on our last vacation here two years ago. As returning customers, we felt very welcome 🙂

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Happy to be back! And Zoe Osborn looks happy to have us back too ;p

Unfortunately Rosario didn’t have his certification with him (his card is in Italy), and they weren’t able to find his certification online. This meant some extra paperwork for him to fill out, and a more thorough review of the basics from our instructor and guide for the day, Kelly Dananay. She was the perfect person to do our refresher, very calm and easy-going, friendly and fun!

Getting ready for diving

Equipment setup station

Pre-dive briefing with Kelly Dananay

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Kelly Dananay, Kelly Hubble, me and Rosario 🙂

We dove at Pierbaai reef, which is the Dive Bus’s home reef and located just across the street. The most dangerous part of the dive is having to cross the busy street with all your dive gear on… We practiced some basic skills and buoyancy in the shallow area before we headed out to the reef. I was so relieved to discover that I didn’t have any problems equalizing! And Rosario did great, with a good control of his buoyancy, which meant we could all just have a great time underwater and enjoy the reef. The others saw a squid, but I missed it. I did however spot an octopus, hiding in its den. We also saw a small goldentail moray eel, a beautiful French angelfish that swam really close to us, and a sharptail eel, which looks like this:

Bildresultat för sharptail eel

Sharptail Eel

We spent an hour diving, and then it was time to go back to the Dive Bus, disassemble our gear and write our logs. Kelly and I rented our full gear to take with us, but Rosario could only get boots and fins (for snorkeling) because they must first verify his certification somehow before they can rent him any diving gear.

We drove home at around 5 o’clock, which is apparently high traffic time. I assume people are going home from work, because it was very busy on the roads. It doesn’t get any easier when it seems that it’s completely normal to start going across an intersection when the light has already turned red, then get stuck there in the middle of the intersection, and stopping up all the oncoming traffic who are now having a green light. The result is that not many cars get anywhere… I have to toot my own horn a bit here, and say that I think I did a good job driving even though the style of driving here is, let’s just say, a bit different than at home. Turn signals are very optional it seems, the one who moves first or fastest has the right of way, and so on. I thought “island style” meant people take it easy!

We stopped to get groceries on our way to the resort, and Rosario started making dinner not long after we got home. Steaks and veggies on the George Foreman Grill was today’s menu. Both Rosario and Kelly kinda crashed directly after dinner. At 9 o’clock, the only ones still up were me and the darn mosquitoes.

Hanging out with an octopus

Monday, November 6th, 2017

I woke up at 5 in the morning and went to the bathroom. As I’m sitting there, in the dark, a mosquito flew into my mouth. I normally don’t care much about mosquitoes, but first of all I don’t like them to fly into my mouth (what a strange thing to do), and secondly, I care a lot more about the little bastards when they potentially carry dengue, chikungunya or zika virus, which they can do here in Curaçao. So we use mosquito repellent and sleep under nets, but I still have a few bites. No dengue fever so far though… The last time Kelly and I were here, we weren’t bothered with any mosquitoes at all, but I guess it’s because we were staying in a hotel in the city, which is quite different from a house in a golf resort in the countryside.

Apart from the mosquito incident, I slept well, probably mostly thanks to the air conditioning. We have it in the bedroom but not in the rest of the house, which makes sense, since the rest of the house opens up to the outside. It’s good to be able to sleep well though. I got up around 7, and as usual, Kelly was already up. Rosario cooked breakfast for us this morning: bacon, eggs, tomatoes, and I cut up some apples.

We were taking it easy today as I wasn’t feeling 100 %, and Rosario seemed tired. Kelly just wants to go diving, but I cannot dive because of my sinuses and nose. To give some context, both Kelly and I were home the whole of last week with a cold or flu. I was a bit worse than Kelly, and am still taking some drugs to ease the symptoms. I had a bad headache yesterday after we went snorkeling, and my ear got stuffed up somehow so that I basically lost hearing in one ear. It felt better today though.

Kelly spent the morning working on videos from the GoPro camera, from our snorkeling yesterday, and I was writing on this blog. We went down to the beach in the early afternoon, while Rosario stayed in the villa. We went snorkeling and it was better for me today than yesterday. No headache, but the same thing happened with my ear. I will however attempt to dive tomorrow, because it seems I’m able to equalize by blowing my nose.

We had a great time snorkeling today as well :). Kelly saw nudibranchs, which are “a group of soft-bodied, marine gastropod molluscs which shed their shells after their larval stage. They are noted for their often extraordinary colors and striking forms” (Wikipedia). We also saw a sea anemone! Plus a lot of the same as yesterday (parrotfish, trunkfish, and many others). The big surprise today, however, was that Kelly found an octopus! We spent a veeeeeeery long time watching the octopus, waiting for it to come out of its hole and do something. Our patience was rewarded. The octopus had a scuffle with an intrusive fireworm (first by blowing a jet of water on it and then by smacking it with his tentacles), eventually left his hole, showed us his magic color-shifting camouflage abilities, then grabbed a late lunch and retreated back to his hole to devour it. It was pretty darn cool to watch!

UPDATE: Here’s another video of our snorkeling that Kelly put together later. It’s a bit more action-y 😉 . As always, I recommend watching it in full screen mode.

A school of blue tangs and a queen parrotfish

Sunday, November 5th, 2017

Here are some more videos from our snorkeling in Blue Bay 🙂

First out, a school of blue tangs swimming by. Look closely and you’ll see that they have a hitchhiker – a trumpetfish is trying to blend in!

The second video is a queen parrotfish munching on the rocks and showing us his pretty side…

Blue Bay Beach Snorkeling

Sunday, November 5th, 2017

We headed down to the beach in the afternoon. It’s only a short walk from our house.

We went snorkeling twice, the first time near the beach, and the second time a bit to the west in an area called Blue Bay Gardens. Kelly filmed for the first time using our new GoPro Hero6 – here are some of his first videos 🙂

We saw hard corals such as elkhorn and brain corals, as well as sun polyps. We also saw sea fans, feather dusters, basket sponges and different color tube sponges. There were also lots of fish, most notably beautiful, big queen parrotfish, scorpionfish, flying gurnard, young palometas that were swimming circles around us, a few spotted trunkfish, a filefish, honeycomb cowfish and many others.

UPDATE: Here’s a 1 minute film from our snorkeling that Kelly put together 🙂 . I recommend clicking on full screen view!

First morning

Sunday, November 5th, 2017

Thanks to the jet lag, we woke up early. It felt like I “slept in”, but it was only around 6:30ish when I eventually got out of bed. Kelly was already up. He was sitting and reading out on the patio, and it looked very picturesque. The only noise at this time of day was the birds’ song.

There are many birds around the house. There are flamingos and pelicans in the pond that we see from our patio. It’s part of the golf course. Kelly saw hummingbirds in the bushes right outside the railing, and there were also some birds that look familiar to me, but I don’t know their name. Maybe they are kept as pets in Sweden? Some kind of small parrot, perhaps?

The golf course seen from our patio. Two flamingos in the water, barely visible in the photo.

Pretty flowers next to the patio

We needed food, badly. I’m actually quite amazed at how many hours we went without any food at all, especially considering the company ;). Rosario usually won’t let absence of food go unnoticed. So, we got in the car and headed to the nearest supermarket. It was well stocked and we managed to get everything we needed – even a special toothpaste that I buy in Sweden and would never expect to find here. It had text written on it in Swedish!

After spending a ton on groceries, we had to solve the situation of getting cash to tip the guy who packed our bags and even took them to the car for us. Neither one of us is used to the tipping culture, and to make things even worse, at home we live in a pretty much cashless society, which means we don’t even think about carrying cash around. It causes issues for us sometimes, when we aren’t prepared for these kinds of situations. It’s not really optional either; for example, of course we are capable of packing our own bags (I’ve never come across a bag packer in Sweden), but that’s not how it works here.

Back at the house, the guys prepared an awesome breakfast: eggs, bacon, tomatoes, toast, coffee and tea. And then someone came and fixed our internet – wohoo! 🙂