Kona, February 2009: Part Three

Filed under: — Anastasia @ 4:59 pm

On Friday, we headed down south for a few dives with one of Jack’s ‘advanced’ trips.  These are fun trips to sign up for, as you may get to some more difficult or interesting dive sites – and even if you don’t, you’re on a boat with a bunch of other moderately experienced divers, and no classes.

We dropped in first at Driftwood, a site with a large coral ridge running down the slope.  Parallel to the ridge is a pretty roomy lava tube; a swim through it usually starts your dive here.  It’s a good place to look for slipper lobsters, cowries, and other critters that like the dark.

Once you make it back out into daylight, this site is all about the fish.  Jeff actually managed to spot a Flame Angelfish, one of the rare fish that we were told to be on the lookout for here.

There’s lots of whip coral at this dive site – and where there’s whip coral, you can find whip coral gobies!

Whip Coral Gobies:

It’s a nice enough dive – but I was more excited by dive #2, at The Dome.  As the name implies, The Dome has a nifty lava tube structure that includes a large, dome-shaped area big enough for everyone to be floating around in at once. It also tends to be full of neat little critters like the blue dragon nudibranch.

Blue Dragon Nudibranch:

No major excitement today – in between dives we motored around in search of dolphins, but none were in the mood to play.  I think we’re kind of spoiled after a few years of having big animal encounters in between dives, because we found this pretty disappointing!

There was one bit of good news, though: after we raved to the dive shop about the awesomness of their Pelagic Magic dive, they set up another one for us Sunday night!  They usually only schedule one a week, but Matthew was available and there were a couple other crew guys who were happy to go.  We were both glad to have another chance to try to photograph all those little critters!

Saturday we did the normal Jack’s boat dive, which meant a slightly larger crowd and slightly less exotic dive sites.  On the bright side, our divemaster was Elaine, who we know from the Kona Classic.   Not to put down any of Jack’s other fabulous DMs, but Elaine remains our favorite!

This is what we call “diver hair:”

Dive #1 was at Pyramid Pinnacles.  I found lots of yellowtail coris and rockmover wrasses to chase after with the video camera, and there were a few photogenic lava tubes as well.

Looking through a lava tube:

The highlight here was when Jeff spotted some Heller’s Barracuda up in the shallows.

Heller’s Barracuda:

No luck in between dives today, either – it was just too windy and choppy to go out to sea in search of whales.

But our second dive was back at our old favorite: Eel Cove.  And today, the raccoon butterflyfish were there!  This pretty much made my day, if not my trip.  Ever since our first Kona Classic, when I first saw these guys in action, I’ve been dying to have another crack at it.

Raccoon Butterflyfish clip – 24 seconds, 10 MB

We also found a grumpy-looking devil scorpionfish.  I think I spotted this one while he was swimming – the backs of their fins are bright red and black.  But once they stop moving, they blend into the coral rubble pretty well!

Devil Scorpionfish:

Saturday night, we treated ourselves to dinner at the Royal Kona Resort, where we’ve stayed on most of our visits.  We did the tacky tourist thing and made the waiter photograph us with our tropical drinks:


Then it was off to bed, to get a full night’s sleep before our last day of diving…


A Girl and her Sloth

Filed under: — Anastasia @ 10:08 pm

We interrupt this Hawaii trip report to bring you the best picture EVER of me with a giant ground sloth:


Courtesy of the George C. Page Museum at the La Brea Tar Pits, which I’m pleased to report has barely changed since I first went there over 25 years ago.

Kona, February 2009: Part Two

Filed under: — Anastasia @ 4:45 pm

On Thursday, we had a special treat planned.  Several weeks before our trip, I’d contacted the local underwater photography club to see if anyone wanted to dive with us while we were in town.  One of our offers was not just to go beach diving – but to go out with someone on their boat!  Adding to the treat was the fact that said someone (henceforth Boat Dude or BD to protect him from random other divers pestering him for dive trips) is an experienced videographer; of course we jumped at the offer.

We met BD at Honokohau Harbor at 7am on Thursday to launch the boat, which is just big enough for three divers with photo gear.

Launching the boat

BD used to live in Southern California, but has retired to Hawaii and definitely has the laid-back Hawaiian attitude going on; I felt totally welcome even though he’d never dived with us before and couldn’t have known if we would be good company or difficult passengers!

Dive sites today were on request, so we asked to hit Turtle Pinnacles first in search of turtle cleaning stations.  We’ve had good luck at this site before, and were excited to have the chance to dive it without a ton of other divers nearby.

One reason BD may have been glad for company, even unknown company, is that it’s probably impossible to moor a boat if you’re the only one on it.  There’s no anchor-dropping at the dive sites in Kona; instead, each one has a mooring with a buoy attached to it which floats 5 to 15 feet under the surface of the water.  GPS coordinates will get you close; then you motor back and forth while peering down in search of the submerged buoy.  Once you’re on it, someone needs to dive off the boat with a rope to run through the loop on the mooring – and since BD was driving the boat, that someone today was Jeff, who nailed it on the first try.

Alas, the turtles were not to be found today.  Maybe they just hadn’t gotten out of bed yet!  We cruised around for a while seeing nothing special, but just enjoying a relaxing dive.

Of course, as soon as we climbed back onto the boat turtles started popping up out of the water all around us.  Figures!

Our second request was another old favorite of ours, a site where I always find something fun to look at: Eel Cove.  It’s exactly what it sounds like: a small cove with lots of little coral heads where eels are usually found hiding out.  Around the north and south corners of the cove you can often see one of my favorite fish behaviors: attacking raccoon butterflyfish.  Seargant majors nest in the large boulders in this area, and usually chase the hungry butterflyfish away from their eggs.  But when divers pass nearby the nests, the seargant majors hide – and the raccoon butterflyfish, not at all deterred by the divers’ presence, dive in for a free buffet.  It makes for a pretty good show, but you need to be careful not to linger too long near any of the nests, so that they aren’t totally decimated!

But, like the turtles, the swarming butterflyfish were not to be found.  There were plenty of eels though, including one or two out on the prowl.  And I managed to get in some quality time with yellowtail coris as they moved rocks around in search of food.

Whitemouth moray eel

Back at the harbor, we unloaded the boat and watched as BD gave it a good rinse at the boat-rinsing station (one of the perks of Honokohau Harbor, for a modest annual use fee).  We grabbed lunch at a restaurant right on the harbor, where I decided to have another go at local fish.  I was told they were out of fish and chips, so the waitress gave me a few minutes to look over the menu and decide on a second choice.  By the time she came back, she had an announcement: they had fish and chips again!  Guess it really was fresh off the boat!

Thursday night was another special dive: Jack’s “Pelagic Magic” black-water night dive.

It’s pretty much just what the name implies – a dive at night in the open ocean in search of bizarre pelagic critters.  We had an hour-long orientation at the shop to go over diving procedures, as well as look through a photo book of some of the common pelagic animals we might see.  Our guide for the night was Matthew d’Avella.  We first met him years ago at the Kona Classic, where he’d screened video from “black water” night dives he’d started running; we were excited to have the chance to do this dive with him at last. Only three divers were signed up: us, and a guy who’d actually never made a night dive before and had intended to sign up for the manta dive.  (Luckily, he turned out to do just fine.)

Along with Jeff Leicher (owner of Jack’s), the five of us hopped onto the roomy Nai’a Nui and headed out into the darkness.  We motored straight offshore about 3 miles, where the water is probably about 7000 feet deep (yes, more than a mile).  The boat’s motor is cut, and a parachute deployed into the water to help drag the boat along through the current.  Three lines were hung over the side of the boat; each had a small weight attached to the end to weigh it down, and ended about 45′ under the surface.  As each one of us approached the swim step, we hooked ourselves into another, shorter line that would attach us to one of those lines while letting us move up and down freely.

And so we splashed into the dark ocean a few miles offshore, and let ourselves dangle under the boat for an hour.

I can definitely say this is one of the coolest dives I’ve ever done.

Most of what you see is teeny.  As in, super duper teeny tiny.  Larval crustaceans zip around in the water or attach themselves to slightly larger gelatinous critters and enjoy the ride.  They look like children’s drawings of crabs and shrimp: tiny colorful outlines against a black background, like little neon signs.   Some creatures just sort of slowly float by you; others will circle around your lights and investigate you until they pass on in the current.  Most are translucent and hard to see unless you shine your light at just the right angle; others generate their own light shows as they sail through the dark.

I attempted to shoot video, but didn’t expect to come away with any watchable footage – it’s hard to focus on small, moving, translucent objects in the dark.  I did manage a few shots that make for semi-decent screen grabs, though:

Comb Jelly
Comb Jelly

Larval crustacean on jellyfish
Larval crab on jellyfish

Jeff had an even harder time, since the focus light on his camera isn’t very bright.  He managed to take pictures of a clump of critters near the beginning of the dive:

Shrimp on some sort of jelly – eating it or just taking a ride?
Shrimp on some sort of jelly - eating it or just taking a ride?

After that, he never did manage to focus and basically gave up.  He was a little task loaded on this dive, between futzing with the camera and worrying about buoyancy control in the dark.  We probably should have skipped the cameras, but since this dive usually only goes out once a week we figured it was our only chance.

Still, I thought this dive was totally worth it – we saw creatures most people never get a chance to observe.  It was just really darned cool, and I’d recommend it to anyone.


Kona, February 2009: Part One

Filed under: — Anastasia @ 10:17 pm

This was my eighth visit to Hawaii, and Jeff’s fifth.

On our long weekend there last year, I wasn’t able to dive – so it had been two years since I’d dived around Kona, which is two years too long.  I was SO READY for this visit.  And Jeff was equally excited to dive someplace with clear, warm(ish) water; a nice change from our California diving.

I landed a few days before Jeff (work meeting).  The work part was productive, and the staying-in-Hawaii part was nice as always, but I was counting down the hours until the vacation part began!

Before I picked Jeff up from the airport, I went to settle into our house.  By “our house,” I mean a house belonging to some friends of ours who are getting ready to retire to Hawaii.  I’d hoped we’d be in Kona at the same time as them so we could dive together, but being allowed to stay in their wonderful home while they were back in the mainland was pretty nice too!  It’s just up the hill from the airport, a convenient distance from Kona and Honokohau Harbor, and it’s absolutely gorgeous. Our friends have done a fantastic job with the place – every part of the house is lovely, but homey at the same time.    It helps that they’re divers, so the decorations are sort of “diver chic” – lots of underwater photography on the walls and ocean-related accents, and places to rinse and hang gear after a day of diving.

Best of all, it has a lanai (balcony). This is the view:


We were also excited to discover gekkoes clambering about on the lanai, as well as one in the bathroom.  I was a little less excited to discover the tar-like substance that is gekko poo on the floor the next day, though!  At least they eat bugs (not that we saw any in the house).

I picked Jeff up Hawaii-style, meeting him at the gate with a tacky lei which I neglected to photograph.

That was Tuesday night, and our first dive wasn’t until Wednesday evening – which meant we had a morning to sleep in (unusual on dive trips).  We woke up to the distinctive sounds of morning in Hawaii: wind in the palm trees and the chatter of local birds. And fresh Kona coffee just down the street.  Life was good.

Jack’s Diving Locker has been our dive shop on every other trip to Kona, and we stuck with them this time.  After checking in at the shop, we met the evening boat leaving out of the harbor to go on the manta ray night dive.

Which is where Jeff noticed he was missing his BC.

I found this funny for two reasons.  First, he’d been gloating about how light his dive bag was compared to mine at the airport counters (42 pounds versus my 47).  Second, he’d JUST UNPACKED all his dive gear that afternoon at the house to swap it into the Jack’s mesh bags, and hadn’t noticed then either.

After a few jokes about his brain being left in California, we got him set up with a rental BC; no big deal.  And we were off!

Right outside the harbor we were swarmed by spinner dolphins leaping and twirling around the boat.  I have learned over the years that there’s no point in whipping out the camera – that’s a sure way to get them to stop.  So now I just enjoy the show!

The manta dive this year was a little different from before: we headed down south near Keahou, instead of the usual spot north of the harbor.    Our twilight dive was at a spot called Casa Caves, which does have a nice cave to swim through.  That was pretty much the highlight of the dive, though – if you can call getting wedged in a lava tube on your way out a ‘highlight’.

Luckily, the manta dive totally delivered.

Mantas feed on krill, which is attracted to lights; so a bunch of divers with bright lights make for an excellent manta party.  This was our 5th manta dive, and we only had zero mantas once.  That was last year, so the memory was fresh; I was a little apprehensive as we entered the water.  Would we be skunked again?

But as soon as Jeff and I dropped down, we saw manta rays swooping over the divers already on the bottom.  We took our stations and spent the next 50 minutes watching the rays cruise over and around all the divers.


It’s completely surreal: the lights from divers and cameramen light up the water with yellow and blue spotlights, and through it all are these enormous creatures slowly circling, twirling, and coming really, really close to your head as they scoop up their krill snacks.

Words really can’t do it justice – so how about a quick video clip?

Clip from Manta Ray Dive (0:36; 3.3 MB)

The manta rays seemed especially friendly tonight; I’ve never had to duck so often!  The manta show was going on quite close to our boat, which made for an interesting safety stop on our way back.  Divers are supposed to stay on the bottom when mantas are nearby, so that we don’t bump into them.  But as we hovered at fifteen feet under the boat, a couple of rays came over to check us out, leaving the main circle of light where the other divers were. It’s actually a bit unnerving to have a 500 pound critter playing chicken with your dive lights!

Jeff and I were the last ones on the boat, cursing the fifty-minute time limit; I would have quite happily stayed down there until my tank was dry!


A Day at the Office

Filed under: — Anastasia @ 1:00 pm

2009 has gotten off to a rocky start.

I’ve been sick for the last two weeks. A2 left (both the office and the country). And there are some major upheavals happening at work – not the “my job is in peril” kind of upheavals, but definitely the “my job will be stressful for a while” kind.

So it was a welcome bit of good news when I was invited to work on my favorite dive boat again.

I crewed for the first time last December, and I guess I didn’t embarrass myself too badly, because the captain made it sound like he’d ask me back.

And he did! I got to go out last Saturday – ironically, the charter was for Hollywood Divers, the shop I got my DM with and will hopefully get to work for once classes pick up again. We spent a gorgeous day out on the oil rigs. The nice thing about the rigs is that it’s almost as fun to stay topside as to dive, especially when it’s sunny and flat out like it was on Saturday, and the sea lions are all going crazy playing around the rigs.

Keeping an eye on the air fills:


For those of you who ask: “what do you do if you’re not diving?”, I give you a list of boat crew duties:

  • Prepare paperwork for the divers, check certification cards and nag them to fill out forms
  • Untie the boat (and tie back up at the end of the day). I’m having to learn a few knots, and the particular ways that the existing crew like things to be tied/stowed.
  • Keep the snack bowls filled
  • Be prepared to unplug the marine head. I haven’t had to do this yet, but I plan on thinking of it as another good learning opportunity when it inevitably happens.
  • Fill tanks. This is actually kind of fun. The basic concepts are simple, but the exact details of which knobs to turn in what order and which gauges to watch requires more attention than you’d think.
  • Help tech divers gear up – attach stage bottles under their arms if they can’t reach the clips, help them stand up from the bench, etc.
  • Deal with anchoring the boat (and sometimes tying off the other end to a rock). This can actually be a workout. When diving at Catalina in Dec, the main crew guy (the poor man who’s stuck teaching me everything) would swim a line out to a rock and tie it off. At the end of the dive, he’d go out and untie it – and then I have to haul him in on that line as quickly as possible, before the boat drifts into anything. Hauling a fully-grown man through the water at high speed really puts your shoulder muscles to the test.
  • If diving the oil rigs, throw a line to the divers to haul them away from the rigs for pickup. I sucked at this. So I practiced a bunch. Now I suck slightly less.
  • Usher divers off the boat and hand down cameras or scooters as necessary.
  • Help divers back ON to the boat (hand up cameras, stage bottles, scooters; pull off fins).
  • While divers are under, stare at the surface of the water for a solid hour in case someone surfaces in a panic. I need to remember sunglasses next time.
  • At the end of the day, wash the boat. So far I’ve only worked on “rinse days”, when we hose everything down with fresh water and also scrub the deck with dish soap (actually kind of fun in bare feet). Once or twice a month they do a full-scale cleaning, which I imagine is a little less fun.
  • Keep an eye on divers in between dives in case anyone starts acting weird. By weird, I mean “having symptoms of decompression sickness.”

If everything goes well (ie, no rescues), it’s actually not that physically demanding a job – I’m getting  to spend a day out on the water, hanging out with a bunch of divers. It can be a little hard to watch them all jump in while I have to stay dry, but it helps to remind myself that what I earn can go towards my next dive!

Hopefully I’m learning fast enough to be useful; I would love to keep working with these guys.  It’s a wonderful boat with a terrific crew, and I’m extremely proud to have the opportunity to be part of it.


Still Here

Filed under: — Anastasia @ 2:25 pm

Hi!  How are you?

I’m still around.  Not much has changed in my life.  I’m still fat – but for the first time, I’m actually okay with being fat. (Well, maybe about 90% okay, but I’ll get there).

It’s interesting – once I really gave myself permission to be the size that I am, I started to realize just how much of my brainpower I’ve wasted over the years berating myself for being heavy, for not doing enough to be thin, or dreaming of all the ways life would be better once I got thin.  Finally giving myself a break has been a relief in a lot of ways.  (And, I admit, NOT a relief in other ways that aren’t really blog material.)

So here are my new year’s non-resolutions:

  • Not step on the scale.  It’s just a number, and I don’t need to know it.  I know what size clothes I wear, and I know how I feel, and those are what matter.
  • Not diet.  I will not count calories or attempt to restrict my food intake in any way.  I will try to incorporate more healthy foods into my diet and eat in more often, but with the goal of exactly that: eating healthier, not getting thinner.

Although I am nearly-ok with the fat thing, I’m less okay with having let myself get rather out of shape.  For a variety of stupid reasons I stopped my gym routine back in September.  But I eased back into it over the holidays, and was on the track at 6am this morning, and it felt great.

Once I get over the hump of adjusting my schedule to accommodate the workouts, I really do enjoy the excercise.  Plus it more than pays off in the diving department.  But again: if this does not make me thinner, so what?  It’ll make me healthier.  At this point in my life, I am ready to accept “fat but fit” instead of “a thin person who just needs a little help to come out.”

I will buy clothes that look good on me, not just clothes that make me look thinner.  I will not begrudge myself dessert when I feel like it (or vegetables when I feel like it).  I will be grateful for the body I have and the things I can do, instead of hating myself for not having the “willpower” to change it.

Those of you who are thinking “what the hell – she clearly needs to try harder to lose weight!”… see here, here, here.

And that’s pretty much all I have to say on the subject.  I promise future posts will be more about fun things like diving.

2009 will be good.


Pumpkin Carving

Filed under: — Anastasia @ 4:55 pm

Last night, Jeff and I attended a pumpking carving party hosted by my officemate.  In the 8 years we’ve been together, I don’t believe Jeff and I have ever carved pumpkins.  The last time I tried was in college.  Neither of us has even tried to get much fancier than your typical eyes/nose/toothy-mouth pumpkin.  But this year we decided to have a crack at doing the more three-dimensional kind of pumpkin, where you carve into the flesh but not all the way through (at least, not everywhere) for a textured, “fancy” look.

Except mine ended up looking kind of like, oh, NOTHING, and so I hacked out most of the pieces in the end after all.

Here is my pumpkin:


Is it:

a) A tiki mask?
b) A skeleton with acne?
c) a screaming SCUBA diver?

Jeff brought a printout of the shark “Bruce” from Finding Nemo, and declared he was going to sculpt a Bruce pumpkin.  I fully expected his pumpkin to just be a hacked-up blob.

Turns out I’m married to the Pumpkin Whisperer:


Luckily, mine looks somewhat better when placed next to Jeff’s for context:


In case you don’t believe that’s actually a pumpkin, here’s how it looks in normal lighting:


One of our friends brought her 4-year old son.  He instantly recognized “Bruce,” and then completely cracked me up by saying – in a tone of genuine wonder – “I’ve never seen an actual shark before!”   You still haven’t, kid.  But I can’t blame you for being fooled.


Just a note

Filed under: — Anastasia @ 11:00 am

My blog has moved to anastasialaity.com.  If you browse to the old address, it should forward you over here.

If you use RSS to read my blog, I’m pretty sure you’ll have to edit your feed to get it to work.  To sign up for the new feed, go here:

RSS Feed


Has my life gotten that dull?

Filed under: — Anastasia @ 3:23 pm

Wow, two months without a blog entry.

I have nothing to add at the moment, but if you want to look at pretty photos and video clips, check out:

New photo alums: Catalina in July, Farnsworth in August

Video clips: Baitball at Catalina, Torpedo Ray at Farnsworth Bank

I’ll try to get my brain back into blogging mode.  I don’t know if anyone misses reading it, but I do miss writing it.


Bonaire: Last Day

Filed under: — Anastasia @ 4:20 pm

Saturday was our last day in Bonaire. Scuba divers call this the “surface interval day,” as you need to allow at least 24 hours between your last dive and flying – so, you have to come up with something other to do than dive!

We piled into one of the trucks and began a day-long loop around the island to see some of the topside sights. It was sunny and gorgeous as usual, with just enough wind to keep it comfortable.

Our first stops were at some dive sites along the coast north of town, just to get some photos of the sites with our cameras outside of their clunky underwater housings. We checked out 1000 Steps (there aren’t actually a thousand, but I’m sure it feels like it when you’re in full gear), and then went back to Karpata. Karpata has a nifty little snack shack right at the top of the stairs now, though it was never open while we were there.

Next we headed east along the southern edge of Washington Slagbaii Park. You drive past a lake which is home to most of the island’s resident flamingos, but there were only a few in evidence today. The big excitement came just past the park, where a few little farms were set up. A sow and her furry little piglets went dashing by the truck, and then we spotted a donkey in the road just up ahead. Naturally, we insisted that Jeff stop the car and roll down the window so we could photograph it.

He came a little closer than we expected!


We followed the road back through Rincon to Kralendijk, and then headed east to Lac Bay, a big windsurfing spot. It’s a huge shallow area, only a few feet deep, protected by a large sandbar. We could see enormous waves crashing at the edge of the bay, but inside the water was flat and calm – except, of course, for all the windsurfers swirling around on it.

There’s a terrific little beachside bar there, so we grabbed lunch and enjoyed the view. And by “the view,” I don’t just mean the gorgeous beach and the windsurfers – I’m also referring to all the European guests in various states of undress. There’s a popular nudist resort at Lac Bay, and although it’s shut off from public view, the laid-back attitude towards clothing doesn’t stop at the borders of the resort! (No pictures of naked, sunburned people – sorry.)

As we drove south along the eastern coastline, we were absolutely amazed at the size of the surf pounding on the shore. On the west (diveable) side, you might occasionally see a wave up to your knees. Over here, with the full brunt of winds slamming into the island, the waves were constant and powerful, sending enormous sprays thirty feet hight.

There were also lots of these driftwood piles – I guess you could call them art. People had stacked up wood in different formations, with various bits of trash attached as decorations.


At the southern tip of Bonaire, we stopped to look at the lighthouse. Sadly, you’re no longer allowed to climb up inside.


There was a neat little crumbling building there which we were able to clamber around in, though. I think my favorite part was this “shoe room”:


On the southwest part of the island are several clusters of old slave huts. They’re exactly what they sound like: huts that were used to house slaves brought here for the salt trade. Even I had to crouch down to get inside these tiny concrete structures, and I couldn’t stand upright once I was in. I’d like to say we pondered the bleak history of these places and took a moment to reflect on all the suffering that people had experienced there… but frankly, they’re gorgeous photo opportunities, so we were mostly thinking about that!



Up next was one of our favorite Bonaire sights: enormous piles of salt! We’d gotten a pretty good glimpse already on our southern dives, but now we were here to photograph. There are some really amazing color contrasts by the salt piles: brilliant white salt, crystal blue water, and bright pink salt pans in between.


Sadly, there are big signs warning you that it’s a crime to crawl up the salt piles, or we’d have even cooler photos.

By this time we were all pretty tired and sweaty, so we decided to stop in town for some ice cream and shopping. The ice cream was better than the shopping. But, we all found the various knick-knacks we needed for ourselves and friends back home, so we were happy enough.

More topside photos from Jeff here.

Back at the condo, we all retreated into our rooms to get started packing. No small chore when everyone has camera gear and all the associated trinkets to keep track of! Carol officially wins the prize for slowest packer, though; the rest of us were all packed up and lazing around (or napping) while she was still laying things out into neat piles. And I thought I went crazy organizing while on travel!

We polished off our day with dinner at La Guernica, a tapas restaurant, where we consumed a frightening amount of food and booze. Then it was time for bed… in preparation for a painfully early rising the next day: 3am in order to get to our 6am flight.

I get up pretty early for diving sometimes – 5am is not uncommon, and 4:30 has been known to happen. But anything before 4am just feels like the middle of the night to me. 3am? That was just ridiculous. We all trudged down to the trucks with our bags, and managed not to drive off the road on the way to the airport.

Carol and I were dropped off with our bags while the menfolk went to return the cars to the rental agency – which had mysteriously moved from its on-airport location in the previous week, and was now across the street.

When Jeff finally showed up, he was in a foul mood – apparently, the rental folks wouldn’t check in his car until 4am. They were checking in cars for another, earlier flight, but not our flight. Jeff grumpily left the keys on the counter, said maybe he’d come back later, and joined me for the airline check-in.

So, after the painfully slow crawl through the line to get our boarding passes and pay our departure tax, Michael and I went back to the car place to check in. We got there around 3:55, and our counter wasn’t open. But there was a crowd of employees who’d just gotten off a shift, sitting around drinking beer and smoking. They waved us over and offered us drinks from the (closed) bar, on the house. We thought this was a fine way to start the morning: free beer at 4am on a Caribbean island.

Pleasantly buzzed, we finished off the check-in process that Jeff had aborted with no further problems. (In fact, they waived a fee for our returning a truck with a half-empty gas tank, because of the issues we’d had with the battery.) We rejoined Carol and Jeff at the airport, who seemed pretty bemused at our tipsiness.

So that was how we finished off our trip – sleepy and slightly drunk. The ride home was long but uneventful; I’m officially a fan of Continental’s new Bonaire schedule. Hopefully I’ll have the chance to take advantage of it again soon!

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