Champagne Reef

Ivo at Champagne Reef, Dominica

Ivo at Champagne Reef, Dominica

Not far from the biggest city and capital of Dominica, Roseau, there is a place called Champagne Reef. It became our very favorite snorkeling spot.

Mira at Champagne Reef, Dominica

Mira at Champagne Reef, Dominica

We sail from the Portsmouth anchorage to Roseau and drop anchor in Roseau harbor which is so deep we are just a few feet from the houses, almost on shore. We are the only boat at anchor in the bay; everyone else is on mooring balls, paying per night. Ivo and Maya dive to makes sure the anchor is holding well and we are ready to explore.
The city is nice with a big farmers’ market and lots of old buildings, shops and restaurants. We have lunch at a local fast-food joint together with our Aussi friends Mel and Caryn: fried and spicy chicken and beef patties, and we are ready for some champagne for desert.

En route to Champagne Reef

En route to Champagne Reef

With Mel and Caryn s/v Passages and Tina and Mark s/v Rainbow, we pile up on a local bus and for a couple of EC$ we get to a small dive shop near the beach. The spot everyone is talking about.

Maya and Mira, Champagne Reef, Dominica

Maya and Mira, Champagne Reef, Dominica

Champagne Reef is a famous diving and snorkeling destination unique in the entire Caribbean region.

Maya at Champagne Reef, Dominica

Maya at Champagne Reef, Dominica

A submarine volcanic activity near the shores creates beautiful hissing hot bubbles between the corals and the rocks of the reefs in deliciously clear water.

.

.

Small fishes of all colors, seahorses, spotted sea snakes, and schools of squid swim around the bubbles. It must be DisneyWorld for them! It’s beautiful.

Champagne Reef, Dminic

Champagne Reef, Dminica

The water here is shallow and warmer due to the geothermal gases escaping the earth’s crust. We enjoy it as much as the fishes, maybe even more.

Champagne Reef, Dominica

Champagne Reef, Dominica

The bubbles tickle us as we snorkel above them and bump into our goggles. We can also hear them underwater. The reef sounds and looks exactly like champagne and we are as happy and excited as drunk people underwater.

Mel and Caryn at Champagne Reef, Dominica

Mel and Caryn at Champagne Reef, Dominica

At some point Ivo gives instructions to the rest of us to get out and wait for him on the beach. Why, we want to know, is he kicking us out of the champagne? Well, because he is taking off his swim shorts to use them as gloves and protect his hands from a giant spiky lobster while chasing it around the reef butt naked. I am tempted to go back in the water and surprise Ivo with the GoPro…

Ivo ???!!!

Ivo ???!!!

The lobster escapes.

 

Champagne Reef, Dominica

Champagne Reef, Dominica

Maya at Champagne Reef, Dominica

Maya at Champagne Reef, Dominica

 

Share

Thunderball Grotto Images

Ivo

Ivo

Staniel Cay is a small island, about 1 square mile, in the center of the Exumas island chain with a settlement of about 80 permanent residents. It offers the basic needs locals, cruisers and tourists might need. There is a school, a church, library, post office, three small retail stores and two bars and restaurants, as well as various small and secluded beaches. It became one of our favorite places in the Bahamas.

We stop here for a while because a friend, Joey, told us to go check it out and jump in the Thunderball cave nearby. Turns out, the Thunderball Grotto, an underwater cave, is a big deal, it is on the cover of our Cruising Guide and if you Google it you will find out that it is the most exciting snorkeling destinations in the Bahamas and that one of the James Bond movies was filmed here in 1983, Never Say Never Again.

.

.

We jump in as we would never say never to an adventure like this one! It is truly amazing, an unforgettable experience (one can feel Sean Connery’s presence everywhere in the underwater cave).

Maya

Maya

The cave is beneath a small hollow island just next to Staniel Cay, a dark chamber carved by the sea under the rock.

Inside the grotto

Inside the grotto

We go at high tide, even though everyone recommends to go at low tide, and so we have to dive to access the grotto through one of three small passages between the boulders (at low tide the passages are exposed and you don’t have to dive).

Viktor

Viktor

We are welcomed by hundreds of fishes who are not at all afraid of us, as they know very well that here they are protected by law.The Fish doesn’t think because the Fish knows, everything.

.

.

 Inside the grotto, the high ceiling above the pool of crystal clear water is pierced by holes and sunlight sends illuminated beams, like spotlights, beautiful underwater. I suppose, one can climb the hill from outside all the way to the top and jump in the pool of the cave from the big hole in the center. Joey, is that what you meant when you said „jump in the cave“? We were considering it, but we didn’t do it…

Mira

Mira

We all loved the experience, especially Maya who has become a snorkeling addict and Viktor who had fun filming with the small underwater camera. The pictures, not the best quality, are stills from the film.

Maya

Maya

 

Viktor

Viktor (smoking seaweed)

 

Ivo

Ivo

 

.

.

 

.

.

 

Arizona Dream- This Is A Film (lyrics)

This is a film about a man and a fish
This is a film about dramatic relationship between man and fish
The man stands between life and death
The man thinks
The horse thinks
The sheep thinks
The cow thinks
The dog thinks
The fish doesn’t think
The fish is mute, expressionless
The fish doesn’t think because the fish knows everything
The fish knows everything

 

Share

Me And My Bubbles

This job is the deadliest job in the world. More than soldiers or astronauts. Combat soldiers will back down. We never back down. We are trained better than soldiers. Astronauts’ only problem is drifting out in space. Zero gravity is their major issue. We train astronauts. We are commercial deepwater divers. We go to the depth, do the work, we go to the decompression chamber.

.

.

There is the thing. Working underwater is deadly. Most guys who have been diving for a long time don’t want to know the names of the new divers because they are most likely to die. One-time divers. We know that.

When you work as commercial diver you do deepwater work on the oil rig. Welding, repairs. You also pick up side jobs inland. Anything that is not ocean diving. I’ve done both jobs.  Once, I was in deep shit. Literally. Had to do a repair inside a sewage treatment plant. I agreed to do the job. I signed up for it. I didn’t care if I am covered in poop or radiation. I had to do the job. I had to. I was trained to do it. That’s me.

.

.

The working ratio is 3:1. Anything you do for 1 hour on land equals 3 hours underwater. Whether it is striking a hummer of breathing. Breathing underwater is hard.

I loved it. “Send me deep! Send me deep! Send me deep! Send me deep!, I would beg. Please, send me deep!” You know why? Deeper you go more money you get. But mostly I wanted honor. I was young. My deepest dive was 311 feet. I spent four and a half hours in decompression but when I came out I was smiling.

Fuck decompression, you keep going. Never wanted to return. My happiness was underwater. It was me and my bubbles. It was romantic.

.

.

A few years ago, Richard Michael Jaworski, commercial deepwater haz-mat diver, got hit in the head by a forklift as he was preparing for a dive. Half of his face went missing. In the hospital he died three times but the doctors saved him. He had to undergo hundreds of facial reconstructive operations. They took a piece of his skull to replace his missing right cheekbone. He doesn’t look the same now.

Richard survived the accident. Thanks to science, he says, he doesn’t believe in God or miracles.

We met Rich in Key West Florida and became friends. He lives in a fishing boat out in 3D Boatyard, not far from where our boat was hauled out.

The day after we launch Fata Morgana we receive a part we have ordered a month ago. A part that costs hundreds of dollars. It is called a traveler and controls the boom and the main sail. Without it we cannot sail. Ivo is happy to finally get it. But, as he is about to install it, the thing slips and falls in the water, at the muddy bottom near the docks, some thirty feet below.

We experience a miniature death.

The water here is dirty, full of all sorts of rusty debris and it become thick with mud at only about ten-fifteen feet. Jumping after the traveler and finding it at the bottom is not an option for Ivo. We need a professional diver. We need Rich.

He arrives in his full diving gear, black as the wet feathers of cormorants. We begin hoping.

Very calm, he sits at the edge of the dock, smokes a cigarette, and tells us not to worry, he will get it for us for sure. There is a strange change in his eyes, something I haven’t noticed before. They are almost transparent and white. Like water or like ice.

He disappears in the water. We become silent. We hold our breath and stare in the direction where he vanished. Bubbles emerge. A huge one followed by millions of tiny ones swishing like champagne foam does. A minute passes, or just a few seconds. He reappears holding the traveler above his head, so that it is the first thing we see coming out of the water. A truly epic moment.

Richar Michaels Jawarski
photo by Richard

Share