PADI Published my Blog Post!

Becoming a PADI Divemaster on the Other Side of 60

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Written by Shelly Craig

My husband and I started diving in the 90’s. We took some advanced training back then as we wanted to dive together off of our 18’ Boston Whaler, “Kokolishi” in the waters of Bonaire, a small Dutch Island in the Caribbean.

We got our PADI cards for Advanced Open Water and Rescue. My husband, Richard went on to divemaster and then instructor. I chose the fun path of 5+ specialties and earned the Master Scuba Diver rating and thought that would be as far as I would ever go. I shot loads of slide film and enjoyed underwater photography for many years.

A few years ago, my hub & dive buddy Richard, decided to retire from diving and enjoy being a PADI Alum. I stopped diving as frequently and took up other interests. Recently, I decided that I was not ready to just sit on the bench. I wanted to stay in the game and keep on diving. The grandkiddos will soon be old enough to make bubbles and I would like to go along for the ride. However, I felt that I needed to improve my skills and techniques so that I would be a better diver and able to assist others.

I remembered the confidence I gained in PADI’s progressive training system as I worked my way through those early courses many years ago. I saw the Divemaster course as a perfect opportunity to move toward the standard of personal diving that I aspire to. My friends had varied reactions toward my quest and mostly they said, “Go for it”. I already knew that being on the other side of 60 would make this a challenging undertaking for me both mentally and physically.

The dive operation I chose was “Great Adventures Bonaire” (GAB) as it is a PADI Five Star Instructor Development Center and one of the best on Bonaire. I decided to do as much as possible ahead of time and checked these items off the list in advance: Online coursework for PADI Divemaster and PADI Dive Theory. I enlisted a swimming coach to help get me in shape for the water endurance (timed) tests. I took (CPR and First Aid) training within the past 24 months. Medical forms here completed and signed by my physician.

 

When I arrived at the dive shop, I was paired with my buddy (a terrific gal from D.C.) which made the weeks in the water a lot more fun. Our “Rescue scenario #7″ was believable enough that 2 vacationing doctors appeared on the scene and offered to help! My new dive buddy and I pulled each other through our strengths and weaknesses, endured stress and enjoyed lots of laughter. Forever friends I dare say.

Each day got harder and each day we got better. Perhaps by design? Otherwise PADI might have a terrible drop out rate! I have a lot of respect for the diving profession now that I have had a peek behind the curtain. It takes a lot of effort to focus on others and help prevent problems that may occur instead of just being concerned with yourself. It was truly a life enriching experience! I cried like a baby when I completed the course. It seemed impossible…..until it was done.

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I feel fortunate and I am forever grateful. We had the most wonderful instructor on the planet, Christine Ball, GAB Course Director and her terrific dive staff team. They all shared priceless tips and offered unwavering support.

It’s hard to express how meaningful this experience was for me. I wanted to share with anyone that has a desire to expand their underwater horizons later in life, that we can become more capable and self-reliant divers by gaining insight and developing our skills.

Going into the course I wasn’t sure I could complete it, but I believed that IF I could get through it, I would gain a great deal from it. My expectations were greatly exceeded.

I thought I would become a better, safer and more confident diver and in the end I not only accomplished that, I also became a better person.

Top 10 things that I otherwise wouldn’t have learned:

1) To know my equipment inside and out. Off and on. Underwater and above.

2) That I can swim a long way underwater without my mask.

3) To exchange all my gear underwater with my buddy while sharing air. OMG!

4) Appearing calm scores big points.

5) Having a student changes how you feel and relate toward them.

6) I can eat a lot of brownies and not gain weight.

7) Guiding a dive boat of guests is harder than it looks.

8) To perfect that effortless Buddha hover….still perfecting.

9) I wanted it…..more than I was afraid.

10) Life IS better on the other side of Divemaster at 60 plus.

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Photo Credits: Courtney Menges, Jessica Gonzales/Harbour Village

Link to PADI artical:  http://www2.padi.com/blog/2018/01/16/becoming-a-padi-divemaster-on-the-other-side-of-60

Learn more about the PADI Divemaster course here.

“Coralpalooza” 2017

“Coralpalooza” 2017, an event organized by STINAPA Coral Restoration Foundation Bonaire took place yesterday, June 3rd.  Volunteers helped clean the various coral nurseries on Bonaire and Klein.  This video features the Harbour Village site and we were lucky to have the STINAPA Bonaire Junior Rangers participate!  Thanks to GAB dive shop crew and manager Christine Ball.

Shrimp Manicure Anyone?

The Pederson cleaner shrimp is most often spotted living in a Caribbean Anemone.  They are found in the Western part of the tropical Atlantic and Caribbean oceans. They have a clear translucent body with beautiful purple and blue markings. Their front claws are very large and are also adorned with the same purple and blue patterns.

These shrimp also act as cleaner shrimp. They lure fish into their surroundings using their large antennae. Many fish will allow them to clean the inside of their mouths referred to by divers as a “cleaning station”.  If they are not busy, you can gently move your hand near their antennae and receive a complimentary manicure.

Reproduction:

After the male cleaner shrimp fertilizes her eggs the female then carries them in her pleopod. She then releases the young into the water column, which produces a pelagic larval form. After the young planktonic shrimp develops it immediately finds its host anemone.  If you look closely, you can see the fertilized eggs in the first two images.

Photos by Shelly Craig, Bonaire Netherlands Caribbean

 

Queen Angelfish Portrait

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They are shy fish, found often alone unlike the French Angelfish often found in pairs in the warm waters of the Caribbean and western Atlantic. Fairly large for reef-dwellers, they can grow up to 18 inches (45 centimeters) in length with a lifespan of 15 years. They have rounded heads and a bird-like mouth, and their long upper and lower fins stream dramatically behind them.

Queen angelfish get their royal title from the speckled, blue-ringed dark spot on their heads that resembles a crown.  Next week a watercolor image showing her crown.

Decked out with electric blue bodies, yellow hashtags, blazing yellow tails, and light purple and orange highlights, Queen angels are among the most strikingly colorful of all reef fishes. Their adornments seem shockingly conspicuous, but they blend well when hiding amid the exotic reef colors.

The Queen Angelfish is one of my favorite fish to photograph.  If I get a glimpse of one, and capture a portrait, it’s a great dive!

Sources: National Geographic

Photo by: Shelly Craig 1st place EPIC Underwater Photographic Image Competition

Nikon 150 Lens, Sea and Sea Housing, Duo YS Strobes

Fun Facts about Jellyfish

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Jellyfish watercolour and ink

Fun Facts:

Some jellyfish are bigger than a human and others are as small as a pinhead.

People in some countries eat jellyfish.

Jellyfish have been on Earth for millions of years, even before dinosaurs.

Jellyfish have no brain but some kinds have eyes.

Jellyfish are mainly made up of water and protein.

A group of jellyfish is called a smack or bloom.

Jellyfish are found in every ocean, from the surface to the deep sea.

Sources: National Geographic, Smithsonian

Art rendering: by S. Craig

Lionfish Hunter

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The first Lionfish was spotted on Bonaire in October, 2009.  They reproduce rapidly and aggressively prey on small fish and invertebrates.  The venom of the lionfish, delivered via an array of up to 18 needle-like dorsal fins is extremely painful to humans and can cause nausea and breathing difficulties, but is rarely fatal. Their feeding consumption poses a major threat to reef ecological systems all throughout the Caribbean.

Jim Morris, “The Lion Fish Guy,” says it’s our fault. Pretty, frilly fins made the fish a favored pet and lured aquarists and aquarium dealers into a false sense of security. We simply didn’t see how dangerous these charismatic fish were—dangerous not for their venom, but for their beauty. We have trouble killing beautiful things, so instead we choose to release them into the wild, believing somehow that this is a better option when, in actuality, it’s the worst thing we can do.”  (Slate News-Christie Wilcox)

Native to the Indio-Pacific, it is now believed aquarium owners first dumped lionfish off the coast of Florida in the mid-1980s. Since the fish don’t have any natural predators here, they have the chance to multiply quickly, overtaking and killing native species, which results in a huge danger for the local environment and aquatic life on Bonaire. 

The current management philosophy is to kill ‘em and eat ‘em. 

It is legal to hunt lionfish on Bonaire through a dive operator but only when using marine park authorized spears. The Lionfish Hunter Specialty consists of a knowledge development session, practice using the hunting tools and two training dives actually hunting lionfish. You will receive a PADI Lion Fish Hunter specialty card recognized by STINAPA Bonaire (National Park Foundation Bonaire) and you will contribute to keeping our reefs healthy.

To further educate and eradicate these predators STINAPA Bonaire has organized events such as the “Malicious & Delicious Derby” to spotlight the problem and encourage the removal of the invasive lionfish.

National Geographic /Ocean service.noaa.gov/STINAPA Bonaire/Slate News

“Vitamin Sea” coursework project  “Jane Davenport Art School” http://www.janedavenport.com

Art Image:  S. Craig, Watercolor and ink

Fly your colors

flag

The flag of Bonaire was adopted on December 11, 1981, and consists of a large blue triangle in the lower right corner and a smaller yellow triangle in the upper left corner. They are separated by a white strip containing a black compass and red six-pointed star.

The blue and yellow triangles represent the sea and sun, respectively, while the white represents the sky. The black compass symbolizes the population of Bonaire who come from the four corners of the world, and the red six-pointed star symbolizes the original six villages of Bonaire – Antriol, Nikiboko, Nort Saliña, Playa, Rincon and Tera Korá. The red, white and blue colors are also a display of loyalty towards the Kingdom of the Netherlands.