Lu and I cleaned coral trees at Harbour Village Resort; next to the marina. The resort has a coral growing programme under Bonaire’s umbrella organisation, Reef Renewal. Reef Renewal itself was a branch of another coral-growing organisation which started in the Florida Keys. No pun intended. A few years ago, it became independent and works now only in the Dutch Antilles.
Harbour Village is a different location to the other, main coral-growing location – at Buddy Dive. Lu and I did our Reef Renewal speciality at Buddy’s. Buddy’s isn’t far away either, perhaps less than a kilometre down the coast. But it is a totally different place.
Buddy’s is full of coral reef. Harbour Village meanwhile, it borders the marina entrance, which itself borders the salt lagoon. A lot of effluent comes out of the marina then and turns right past Harbour Village.
What you get is still a drop-off, but a sort of sandy, gloomy one. Harbour Village is still trying to grow coral. The fast-growing elkhorn and staghorn corals. Amazingly, they are having some success too. I think this may be partly due to the stubborn dedication of its staff. And by this I mean Bonnie.
Bonnie’s from Maryland. Chesapeake Bay Maryland. My heart rose when I discovered this. I know this area, from growing up nearby and loving it. The Chesapeake Bay is a vast and beautiful waterway on the Eastern Seaboard. It has historically tough and charismatic people living on its shores. Fishermen and farmers.
Bonnie used to be a critical care nurse. She explained to me when I met her that she had a change of direction in her late 50’s – and became a full-time dive instructor. Now she is growing coral. Because of her background, I’d say doing it in challenging conditions is probably pretty normal for her. I have a feeling Bonnie’s fought for things.
To be honest, cleaning the nursery trees on Bonnie’s site is proving to be my favourite place to clean coral. Buddy’s may be easier in terms of growing conditions – and resources. Reef Renewal’s headquarters are here and they have nice equipment. Somehow it’s more patchy though.
Perhaps this doesn’t matter. Perhaps coral grows despite considerable algal build-up. Perhaps this situation is at least partly due to the pandemic. I think Buddy’s relied mostly on student volunteers before.
Bonnie, she writes us lovely thank you notes. We can talk about the Chesapeake. Our health. Coral’s potential future. It’s all noted and looked after at Harbour Village. And funnily enough the coral is too.
You get big barracudas at Harbour Village. They sit right under the coral trees, which are placed deeper in the water than at Buddy’s. They quiver quietly, flexing their teeth. And you clean coral within sight of a shipwreck. It lies in about twenty metres, just beyond the reef slope.
The vessel is Our Confidence, originally a Danish fishing boat, then a transport ship for WWII refugees and finally an inter-island freighter for the Caribbean. It sank with no loss of life, but accidentally in the marina. It was later towed to Harbour Village Beach Club. You can make out its bare ribs cleaning the coral trees.