Cruise — As told to Diane M. Byrne
— April 2003
The Time of Their Lives, Part III
However, our most incredible diving experience was the night dive that we took off the back of Askari. We were overcome by excitement the minute we dropped into the water. As we assembled our dive gear and floated cautiously in the pitch-black water, we felt like corks bobbing helplesly in a giant inkpot. A small flashlight provided our only source of light, and it quickly became our only means of comfort. Descending into pure darkness was a little frightening, but the diverse nightlife made our fears vanish as we kicked our way along the reef, watching nocturnal creatures hunt for prey. Overjoyed with our first night dive, we eagerly awaited an opportunity to embark on another moonlight adventure at the Salt Pier.
The Salt Pier is connected to a huge piece of property used for manufacturing salt. Large machines pump water from the ocean into a manmade pond, where the water sits until a good amount of its contents evaporate. Once a large portion of the water evaporates, the remains are pumped into another pond for further evaporation. Once the separation process is complete, the salt is scooped up by huge bulldozers and made into massive piles of salt, which are later loaded onto carts. The carts are then transported across the pier and loaded onto ships, which distribute the salt to various parts of the world. Although the process seems quite simple, it is disturbing to think that slaves once performed these difficult tasks by hand in the scorching heat, solely finding shelter in tiny slave houses near the Salt Ponds. Fortunately, the only residents in the area today are the wild flamingoes that drink the highly salted water and feed on the small shrimp in the ponds.
The Salt Ponds and Salt Pier, interesting and spectacular by day, display an even more intriguing tale at night. We dove under the pier one evening and were instantly captivated by the vast amount of sea life under this giant platform. The coral formations and humongous sponges living upon the massive pillars appeared to support this enormous structure. Although we were not as fortunate to see a large variety of different fish at this dive site, we did observe an eagle ray flidign effortlessly on its chosen path. All in all, this dive was definitely unique and beautiful.
Aside from our spectacular diving adventures, we also had the opportunity to visit Jibe City, Bonaire’s most famous windsurfing lagoon, where we learned how to surf. We drove two beat-up Jeeps across the island to an area called Sorobon Beach, where we met Peter, our windsurfing instructor for the day. We first practiced on a “simulator,” a surfboard and sail sitting on the beach, and mastered the basic skills before venturing out into the shallow, smooth, clear lagoon. Once in the water, we practiced balancing on our boards before pulling up the sail. After many falls and failed attempts, we were eventually all successful in saling wherever the wind took us. Even though my final destination usually ended up being in the middle of the shallow, grassy beds, I did learn how to surf. With all that training behind me, I’m a regular windsurfer now.
Special thanks to Fraser Yachts. To charter Askari, contact Debra Blackburn (954) 463-0600. www.fraseryachts.com.
This article originally appeared in the March 2003 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.