Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas from Bonaire

Warmest Christmas greetings from Bonaire. We had a wonderful Christmas Eve service with our friends at the International Bible Church, and lots of seasonal visitors as well. I took a few pix during the dress rehearsal, because I knew I'd be busy doing the sound system thing during the actual presentation.
Walt and Lynn cooked up some great sets for the various mini drama scenes that were presented, along with narration, and songs by a choir made up of the various IBC singers who lead the worship services.

We finished, as always, by handing out small candles to everyone and singing Silent Night by the glow of candlelight.

White Chirstmas

Sandra is enjoying a white Christmas at Richard and Nancy's new house in Pompton Plains, NJ. It is not all fun and games, however. Sandra is there to do a battery of tests to try to find out what is going on with her epilepsy, which has been seriously acting up for the last two years. I think this is the view from the front porch.
The dogs will surely get jealous if they see this picture of Chloe hanging out in Sandra's bed.

Rich and Nan, taking a break from trimming their first Christmas tree in the new house.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Washington Park Ride

Robin, Joost and I did an early morning bike ride in Washington Park last Saturday. December marks the beginning of the best time of the year for visiting the park because the heat is not so intense. I've taken and posted lots of pictures of Brandaris hill over the years. This one is from a new point of view. The bushes weren't really that purple, but I like the look.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Bonaire Gas Price Up

Gasoline (there's only one kind now) went up in price a week ago. Usually I hear about it and fill the car up ahead of time, but we missed this one. We don't drive much so its not that big a deal.
I checked out the new price today. Gas works out to $4.59 a gallon now. Compared to some places in the world, that's inexpensive. Compared to where I grew up though, its pretty pricy.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Earliest Sunset is History

Yes!! The earliest sunset of 2009 is history, and the evenings are getting longer. According to data from the weather station at the Bonaire airport, the earliest sunset was on Tuesday or Wednesday. The Sun sets a whole second later tonight. Yippie!

It has been hard to squeeze in those after work bike rides before it gets dark, but it will be getting easier starting today. The total daylight hours in each day is still decreasing until the shortest day around Dec. 21. The sunrises are still getting later and later each day and that counters the later sunsets in the evening. The latest sun rise here on Bonaire comes around January 24 or so.

If you live further North (in the northern hemisphere) the earliest sunset occurs closer to the shortest day on Dec. 21. For example, in northern New Jersey, where I lived as a kid, the earliest sunset occurs around Dec. 8, more than two weeks from now.
Believe it or not, I first noticed this phenomenon by chance, many years ago during my daily after work bike rides. My goal has always been to be back home by sunset, and I had a pretty good feel for just how hard I had to ride to get home on time. One year I suddenly noticed that the sun seemed to be setting distinctly later the first week of December than it had in November. That got me curious.

There was no Internet, back in those pre-historic days, so the next year I observed every
sunset that I could (we lived on the sea side back then) and recorded the times on a calendar. Lo and behold, the earliest sunset was indeed in late November here on Bonaire.

The next step was to simulate the sunset on an early computer planetarium program called SkyGlobe. This shareware program came in the mail on a 5 1/4" floppy disk. The simulated sunsets matched well with my observed sunsets. I've since checked this sunset timing thing out on a number of Web sites. One year I even printed up a set of calendars with the sunrise and sunset times for every day of the year. (It doesn't take much to amuse us, here on our little desert island.)

Most of the Web sites round off the sunset and sunrise times to the nearest minute. The US Naval Observatory gives the data to the tenth of a minute, which allows one to interpolate the earliest sunset pretty well. I was really psyched this year, to see the data from Bonaire to the nearest second. Hooray Bonaire.

If you are wondering about the science behind all these musings, check out this brief article at Sky and Telescope. It is talking about summer sunrises, but the underlying principle is the same.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Bonaire FM Fundraising Goal Met

Today we received a check for our new FM transmitter project that has allowed us to reach our goal. We might even be able to purchase a 500W transmitter instead of the 300W one we had originally planned on. (Our license allows us up to 500 Watts.)

Here are pictures of the contenders for the new Voice of Hope transmitter.

About 65% of the contributions to the Bonaire FM transmitter project came from our listeners here on Bonaire, and 35% came from friends in North America. A big Thank You to everyone, who prayed about this need or who contributed to this project.
We hope to have the new transmitter here and installed by the end of this year.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Bonaire Bike Race

Bonaire Wellness Connexions hosted mountain bike races last weekend. Around 14 or so kids from Curacao came over for the Saturday afternoon kids races in the Yato Baku area. This picture show the 8-9 year old group getting some pre-race instructions from Miguel, from Bonaire Wellness. Frank Bohm, of De Freewieler (pictured below) beat me rather soundly in our Masters Class, and then rode an extra lap around the course. I love this picture of Frank because it really sums up how we all felt at the end of the race. The race loop, set in the hills between Seru Largu and Sabadeco, provides a real workout. One lap after work is fun. A multi lap race wears down the whole body, arms and shoulders as much as the legs.
Here's a shot of me exiting the gnarly single track section at the bottom of the course. There was lots of exposed coral to bounce over in this section.

Miguel has some pictures from the race and the class by class race results posted here, and lots more great pictures here. Links to maps and videos of the awesome race course can be found here.

Friday, November 06, 2009

Blast from the Past

Trans World Radio has been blessed over the years, and is still blessed, with the services of some really brainy engineers.

Ron and Sandy Dick are retired now but were just here with us for two months as volunteers. Ron (on the left) fixed all sorts of things at the Studio and Transmitter sites, and kept a watchful eye on the AM and FM transmitters. Ron and Sandy served on Bonaire with Trans World Radio some twenty years ago and worked on the Short Wave switch-bay project.

While Ron and Sandy were here, Arthur Thompson (on the right) came to Bonaire to visit Pastor Baran and Felecia. Art was here with TWR back in the 1960's when the station was first built. He left Bonaire to help begin the TWR stations in Africa around 1969 or so.

Beam Me Up

The contractor has been busy this week putting up the steel parts of the new International Bible Church of Bonaire building. You can see the white painted beams in the background right in the middle of the panorama below. Check out those clouds. We've had scattered rain showers all week and the sky has been fun to watch. Very different than the usual, and clear, in between the clouds. I can easily see Curacao on my early morning bike rides. Here is a crop from the above picture that shows the steel structure a little more clearly. It is to the lower left of the middle of the picture.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

High Tide

The tides aren't very big here on Bonaire, compared to the South Shore in Massachusetts, where my Aunt and Uncle live, for example. But there is a noticeable difference between the highest high tides of the year and the lowest low tides of the year.

Back when we lived on seaside by the Small Wall dive site, and had a small boat on the "beach," we noticed that the highest water levels were in November each year. We could float our boat over the reef in November. The sea water also spills out of the yacht harbor onto the road at this time of the year. These are some puddles you really don't want to drive through, if you plan on keeping your car for more than a year or so.

The lowest low tides seem to come in the springtime. The fire coral that we could float our boat over in November was all sticking out of the water around Easter. At that time of the year, we also found that the water was too shallow at some spots in the bay at Sorobon to windsurf without dragging one's fin. (Dragging the fin hard enough results in a spectacular crash - don't ask me how I know that!)

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Painting Party

The International Bible Church had a painting party a week ago. It was determined that it would be easier to paint the steel work for the new church building before it was assembled. We'll touch up any paint that gets damaged when the structure is erected. In the photo below, which is looking towards the southwest, you can see where the new church building is located with respect to the Maduro & Curiel's bank Hato branch (right behind Pastor Baran) and the brand new Maduro & Curiel's office building (at the left edge of the picture.)
We wire brushed any rusty spots and applied 50/50 primer to the bare metal. Then we rolled on a coat of the same high quality paint that Trans World Radio is using on its radio towers.

There were lots of beams, but we had as many as 20 people working, which allowed us to finish up by around noon.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Divi Divi Plane Ditches off Klein Bonaire

A Divi Divi commuter plane landed in the water about (my best guess) a half mile off the SW corner of Klien Bonaire this morning. Reports say that all eight passengers have been rescued, but we're getting mixed signals about the pilot. Some say that he was trapped in his seat, and others say he got out and swam to Klein Bonaire.

Here are some pictures of the rescue boats, as seem from Donkey Beach / Airport Beach.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Big Bonaire Bike Sale

Miguel, at Bonaire Wellness is having a big sale at his shop on all his cycling clothes, shoes, helmets, camelbaks, and bikes. One bike that caught my eye is the Cannondale Caffeine F2 for NAf 3250. ($1825) A couple of my biking buddies have this bike and really love it. I priced the F2 once in the States and found that even if I were to buy one on sale, by the time I shipped it to Bonaire and paid the import duty, I'd have spent more than Miguel's sale price. That's pretty cool, since most things cost more here.

Speaking of sales, I'm selling my trusty Cannondale mtn. bike for a mere NAF 950, ($533) complete with Deore XT components and two sets of wheels. It is probably about the same weight at the new Cannondale F2, but less than one third the price. Of course, unlike the F2 with its Lefty fork, my bike rides super stiff and will rattle your fillings on our bumpy Bonairian coral trails. But for someone who wants a bike that goes fast both on and off road, it would be a good deal.

Why am I selling my trusty steed you might ask. Well, I bought a new one. A number of bikes have passed through my Bonaire bike stable over the years but I think it has been about 17 years since I've purchased a brand new one. It's a 29er. A 29er has larger wheels than a normal mtn. bike, which is also known as a 26er. The riding position of the new bike is better for a tall rider like me, and the large wheels smooth out the rugged Bonairian trails quite nicely. I am waaaay faster downhill on this bike than on my old one. This means that the good riders only drop me going uphill now, instead of dropping me onthe uphills AND the downhills!
The down side is that the new bike weighs quite a bit more than my old one, but for most of my riding that doesn't matter. I'll try to scrounge up some lighter parts from time to time if I can find them and afford them. For example, I've already bagged a used front wheel and tire on eBay that weighs about a pound less than the one that came with the bike.

The picture shows the size of a 29er wheel compared to one of my 26er wheels. They really do seem huge until I start riding the bike. Then they come into their own as they roll over stuff my old bike used to chatter across. Yippie.

November 1 Bonaire Bike Race

The new Bonaire mtn. bike race loop that I wrote about back in May is going to be the scene of 2009's second mtn. bike race. You can read all about it on the Bonaire Wellness web site. There is even a picture of me on that page. whoo whoo!

Miguel has decided to use the slightly longer version of the loop, which is about 5.1 miles (8.2Km) long and has about 567 feet (173m) of climbing per lap. This trail is about a mile from my house, so I zoom over there and ride this loop quite often. It is a lot of fun because it is more single track in nature than the dirt roads we usually ride on.

I have posted helmet cam video of the whole race loop on Youtube. There are four clips that show the whole route if you watch them in order. The first kilometer of the route is a paved road that seems to go uphill forever. This will spread out the riders so that they don't crash into each other when they hit the single track trail sections where the real fun starts.

Here are links to the four video clips. Parts one and two constitute the mostly uphill first half of the course. Parts three and four make up the mostly downhill second half of the course. The second half is more technical than the first half, but still ok for the average rider.
Part one.
Part two.
Part three.
Part four.
When we were shooting the video, we rode at a recreational pace as opposed to a race pace, because I wanted to be able to try to keep my head as still as possible so as to keep the video from being too jumpy.

You can see the location of the race course on a map of Bonaire on Map My Run dot com. Be sure to click on "Satellite Map" in the drop down box at the top middle of the screen to see the cool picture of Bonaire. This map is a little different than the one in the link of my May post because this is the longer variant of the course and the May link shows the shorter version of the loop.

FM Transmitter project

Our FM transmitter, here on Bonaire, died last December. We obtained parts from as far away as California and Italy and had it back on the air for about a week or so in the spring. When it died again, our engineers recommended that we not put any more time and money into the old transmitter, which has been acting up for quite some time. So we are raising money to buy a new transmitter.

We'll need about ten thousand six hundred guilders ($5955) for the new transmitter, and the various costs and fees to get it here. We've distributed some fliers in English and Papiamentu here on the island, and have some promotional spots on the air as well.

How can we have announcements on the air if our transmitter is dead you ask? Well, the Voice of Bonaire radio station has graciously loaned us their backup transmitter.

So far we have received almost three thousand guilders from our listeners here on Bonaire and I anticipate that we could be about half way to our goal by the end of the year. I think we could actually meet our goal by the end of this year if some of our overseas friends would assist with this project too. You can make a contribution online here at the TWR global Web site.

Water Works

We have a cold water based air conditioning system in the TWR studios here on Bonaire. The noisy compressors and condenser fans are located in an adjacent building which keeps the noise and vibration out of the recording areas, and the cold water that they make is pumped around to the various offices and studios to keep them cool. We've been losing water from the system, and after checking all the zillions of pipes running throughout the site, we think it might be leaking out of the big cement water storage tank that helps even out the day / night loads on the system. So we've borrowed the 1600 gallon plastic tank shown above from WEB, patched it into the system, and have drained the water out of our 7000 gallon main tank so we can look for and repair any leaks. The plastic tank is in the process of being bundled up in pink insulation to help keep the cold water cold.
Adding the temporary tank into the circuit was a plumber's nightmare, complete with stuck valves and broken pipes, but the guys were able to pull it off with a minimum of leakage and a minimum of down time.

Here we see Ron, Ivan, and Benny breathing a big sigh of relief after getting the system back up and operating on the temporary tank. Over the weekend we've noticed that we are still losing some water from the system, arg. We'll clean the sludge out of the main tank and inspect it for leaks, but it might not be the main culprit after all.

Heavy Lifting

Pittsburgh may have its Steelers, but a team on Bonaire moved some serious steel this past weekend. A bunch of us from the International Bible Church moved all the beams for our new church building from behind Amado Felix's house in Hato, where they've been in storage, to the site of the new church building.
The Green Label nursery lent us their heavy duty truck to haul the steel, and the rest of us pitched in like a swarm of ants to move the giant beams.

They say, "many hands make light work" and in this case the results were obvious.

All the steel parts of the building are now laid out on pallets at the construction site. Walt will power wash the beams this week, and we'll wire brush and touch up any rusty areas. We plan to have a big painting party next Saturday.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Rainy Season is Here

September was reasonably windy this year. And unlike what often happens, we did have wind for the 42nd Bonaire Regatta back at the beginning of October. The winds weren't super strong, and varied a lot, but it seems to me that any wind is better than no wind. New records were set for the around Bonaire race, which is pretty cool. I didn't take any boat pictures this year, which might be a record too.

We had a big day of rain at the beginning of the week and another big rainy day on Saturday. Donna measured almost an inch of rain on Saturday. The temperatures have dropped a little bit now, and we get some rain most every morning. So I think we can safely say that rainy season, Bonaire style, is officially here.

Bonaire is looking super green already. We've mowed the weeds in our back yard once so far and it is due for another trimming. Some parts of the yard even look like real grass lawn.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Lounging Loras

Lately, lots of Loras have been lounging around in our Wayaka tree. So after work this afternoon, I did some hanging around too, and got a nice picture of this one.It was pretty windy today, like 20 knots out at the windsurfing spot, so the tree branches, and the birds, were bouncing up and down like crazy. I would have been sea sick for sure.
I set the camera to rapid fire mode hoping that once in a while, an exposure would happen while the bird was stationary at one end of the bounce or the other. This one came out nice and sharp, although when I blew the image up to 100%, I could see that the neck was a little more in focus than the eye, grrrr. The lens was wide open to maximize the shutter speed at ISO 400. Maybe next time I'll try stopping the lens down a bit for more depth of field, and try shooting at ISO 800 to keep the shutter speed up there.

International Bible Church Progress

The International Bible Church of Bonaire (IBCB) is making progress with its building project. We've passed the halfway point in our quest to raise two hundred thousand guilders for the building fund. Construction costs have risen quite a bit since we began the project, so we'll probably need more than NAf 200,000 when all is said and done, but we're still excited to be over the NAf 100,000 mark.

The foundation footings for the new building have been completed and the cement is curing now. As soon as we build up the area with crushed rock, we'll move the steel to the site and start painting it. We hope to raise the structure in a month or so.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

New Rules for the TWR Traffic Circle

There is a road crew out in front of the TWR office building this morning. They are putting up new signs and painting the road at the Hato traffic circle.

The right of way rules have changed, which should make things interesting for a while. Vehicles in the circle now have right of way over vehicles entering the circle. Apparently, the new traffic circle that is being built by Lisa gas will have the same rules.

This is a significant change for the Hato circle, so we are going to have to be super cautious while navigating these Bonaire traffic circles in the days to come.

On the other hand, most visitors to the island have always seemed to assume that the traffic in the circle has the right of way, so the new setup should work well for them. I think the Bonaire traffic circles are now the same as the one in Curacao on the ring road. (near the zoo)

Monday, September 21, 2009

Windmills in place

The wind turbines for the new Bonaire wind farm have all been assembled, as seen from the outside anyway.

I haven't seen any of them spinning yet.

I rode my bike to a spot overlooking Rincon last Friday and got a picture of them. The sky had more haze than I expected, so I processed the picture a fair bit. I'll go back sometime when it is really clear (who knows when that will be...) and try again.

When you are on the ground in Rincon, the hills hide most of the wind turbines from view.

The Rincon Catholic church is midway up the extreme left edge of the picture. The Rincon police station and soccer field is midway up on the right side of the picture. I think that you'll have to click on the thumbnail to see the picture bigger in order to see the wind turbines.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Curious George

Well, actually none of the dogs are named George, but sometimes they remind us of that famous monkey.

When they are outside, they want to be inside, and when they are inside, they are constantly monitoring what is going on outside.

Underwater Fun

Wayaka 2 is a great spot for beginning snorkelers because you can stand in waist deep water and just stick your face down in the water and see lots of colorful fish who'll swim right up to you. When we were in the States last year, we bought an underwater housing for our PowerShot SD870IS pocket camera. The lens port fogged over when Sandra was shooting pictures, but I lucked out and got some clear images.
Our friend, Kellie, saw three or four of these Scorpionfish hanging about.

The Scorpionfish is nestled right in the "V" of the branches in this photo, probably waiting for one of those small bait fish to swim too close.

Wayaka 2

Snorkeling at Wayaka 2 is like being in a giant aquarium. Sometimes the water is clear, sometimes murky. This day it was clear in some areas and murky in others. There were quite a few people enjoying the small beach and the snorkeling that day, but the fish, like this spotted Trunkfish didn't care one bit.
Above is a Chub showing white spots. It is amazing how many fish can quickly change their color or shadings.

There is no problem getting close to the fish, as this full frame shot shows.

There were a couple Chubs patrolling the huge school of small bait fish in the lagoon.

TWR President visits Bonaire

New Trans World Radio president, Lauren Libbey, recently visited Bonaire with his son, Grant, and Tim Klingbeil, TWR director for the Americas region. It was an refreshing and encouraging time for one and all. A life long radio enthusiast, Lauren checked out the TWR facilities, including the view from one of the towers.
He met with the Governor, some local business leaders, and toured the Radio Nederland facilities too.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Bonaire Mtn. Bikers Rule!

Flash! Bonaire Cycling Team members Erik and Rhian won the Men's and Women's Elite Mtb. categories this weekend at the Antillean Cycling Championships in Curacao. Above, Erik and Rhian celebrate their victories. Below we can see that Miguel has really perfected that Bernard Hinault grimace. He crashed on the last lap, but was still able to finish the race.
Below Erik is leading a train of riders. It is a good thing that team tactics don't come into play very much in mtn. biking 'cause Erik was seriously outnumbered there.

Below we see the intrepid Team Bonaire members heading to the start of the races in Curacao.

A big thank you to Miguel and photographers to be named later for these action shots.