Dive #21 - Rich Torkington's Dive Log
Copyright 2010 Rich Torkington Mesa, Arizona

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Bottom Time to Date:

14h
52m


Dive Info:

Dive Start:
11:00AM

Bottom Time:
55 minutes

Maximum Depth:
100 feet

Safety Stop:
3 minutes

Beginning Air:
3200 psi

Ending Air:
1200 psi

Weather Conditions:
Sunny 85F

Surface Conditions:
Calm

Surface Water Temperature:
80F

Bottom Water Temperature:
78F

Visibility:
60 feet
21
TITLE
* * * *
July 7,
1998
HILMA HOOKER
BONAIRE, N.A.
WRECK DIVE
 
Linda, Mercedes, and Myron (buddies)
Rich
Mercedes exploring the reef
Photograph by Myron Johnson in Bonaire 1998 
Dive Journal: I enjoy a good night's sleep, and particularly savor the fact that we aren't rising too early to catch a morning dive boat. It seems that my serious fatigue of late is primarily jet lag, but the effect of absorbed N2 seems to be contributory, and I'm still playing catch up. My ears are feeling a little better, but still afflicted by that curious "ringing" and noticeable loss of hearing.

The Johnsons are already up, and we enjoy a pickup breakfast of coffee and donuts. In the next couple of hours, we ready all our dive equipment, stow it in the van, and load 8 air tanks into the rear as well. We are planning some serious shore diving today! At the Sand Dollar dive desk, we also sign up for a dive at Munk's Haven tomorrow morning and we work on gathering information for diving at the Town Pier tomorrow night.

The four of us travel south again, retracing Myron and my route from yesterday. We stop first at a place called Happy Holiday Rentals, a collection of bungalows south of Kralendijk. Linda and Mercedes chat with the proprietor for a while and learn that the prices are excellent, about 1/3 that of Captain Don's or the Sand Dollar. The accommodations are commensurately so-so and there are no dive operations.

We continue on past the airport and donkey sanctuary, finally pulling off the road to a dive site known as Hilma Hooker. The Hilma Hooker is a 1000-ton 236-foot long freighter that lies on her side offshore. The boat was sunk in 1984 when marijuana was found onboard, and her crew abruptly vanished. Myron surveys the site and we see that there are 3 mooring buoys tied to the Hooker about 150 yards out from the beach.

We park the van and begin suiting up. We've read that in order to discourage thieves while shore diving, it's best to bring a minimum of unneeded gear, then simply leave the van wide open while on the dive itself. We do so, and leave the doors partially ajar, abandoning only a few cheap items and the spare Sand Dollar tanks.

Just emerging from the water is a diving foursome. We chat for a while with them and learn that they are from Jackson, TN, not far from our old stomping grounds in Memphis! They are very pleasant folks and we exchange dive information and learn a few specifics about this site.

The Hilma Hooker represents a special dive to Linda and me for several reasons. It is our very first wreck dive. It is also our very first shore dive from a beach (the dives off Captain Don's pier did not seem to count towards this goal). And, as it turns out, it is also the deepest dive we have accomplished to date.

It's about 11AM and there are a few minor surface waves and a few rocks upon entry but nothing too difficult. It is a long surface swim out to the mooring line. When we get there, we quickly get negative and descend hand over hand down the line, following each other. The shape of the boat's hull rapidly materializes, and under water the boat looks tremendously huge! The hull faces skyward at an angle and the ship lies parallel to the shore. We descend onto the hull where a few soft rope corals have begun to grow. We then descend around the gunwale and underneath the ship's deck to the sandy flats below it.

What an impressive structure! There are numerous features on deck, various holds, doors, and metal structures. Beneath the ship there is a school of a dozen or more horse-eye jacks, who seem skittish and they peer uncomfortably at us with their big eyes, not wanting to move. I take a look at my dive computer and notice that, while hovering above the sand bottom, my computer reads 95 feet. Oh, it's too tempting. I grab my computer on its tether, invert myself, and lower it to the sandy bottom. It blinks at me: "99" "99" then finally "100". Cool! I swim back to Linda, holding the computer, grinning through the regulator mouthpiece, showing her the max depth reading. Linda then turns and attempts to repeat the feat, but repeatedly buries her computer into the sandy bottom for a reading of 99.

Myron leads us north along the gunwale and we even swim through one of the metal structures of the boat. Myron and Mercedes then swim back up over the boat to around 65 feet, finally out of sight over the crest of the hull. Linda and I remain exploring the underside for a while. Linda then gets a signal from Myron to meet on top of the hull. We hold a meeting there and, by use of hand signals we agree to leave the wreck and explore the adjacent reef instead. Seems that Mercedes is not a big fan of wreck dives and would rather check out the marine critters.

It is a good decision. In the adjacent reef areas, we observe our first Caribbean reef squid shyly moving through the water. At one spot we see a beautiful scorpionfish, who spreads fantastic pinkish pectoral fins when disturbed from his perch. There is also a gorgeous shell-less snail called a lettuce sea slug. This guy has a feathery whitish-green ruffle over his body that resembles ornamental kale, used to increase his oxygen absorption. Very neat!

As we explore the reef, we slowly make our way back to the beach, and so we have eliminated the need for a long return surface swim. It's been a great dive, with a bottom time of 55 minutes and maximum depth of 100 feet (yes!). Although shore dive exits are sometimes tricky (diver fatigue is a main culprit), we have no trouble here. The mild waves and smallish rocks turn out to be a good novice/intermediate exercise for us diving rookies (Linda and me).

More
Dive
Info:
Fins:
Mares Avanti Quattro
Computer:
U S Divers Matrix
Tank:
80 ft3 Al
BCD:
SeaQuest Spectrum 4
Dive Type:
SHORE WRECK
Body of Water:
Caribbean
Mask:
U S Divers
Protection:
3mm shorty
Regulator:
SeaQuest
Spectrum XR2
plus Oceanic
Slimline octopus
Weight:
8 lb
Water Type:
Salt
Video Equipment:
None