By Jean-Marc Claes
Cruisers clean-up scuba dive: September 17th, 2023, The International Clean Up Day.
This date did not go unnoticed by the Cruisers community in Curaçao.
Curaçao is one of the A-B-C islands (Aruba-Bonaire-Curaçao) and nicely positioned outside the hurricane zone in the Caribbean, close to the coastline of South America. The A-B-C-islands are considered a hurricane-safe zone (as well by many boat insurance companies), and so many sailors seek ‘shelter’ in these islands.
One unique thing about Curaçao is the area called ‘The Spanish Water’ (see aerial picture).
It is a 360° protected anchorage in the middle of the island, creating a lagoon/swimming pool-like anchorage. This makes a superb place for passing the hurricane season (or some months of it).
Curaçao offers quality living for sailors, including filled supermarkets at very acceptable prices, a unique free shuttle bus service to get to the supermarket, excellent restaurants surrounding the anchorage and a vibrant cruisers community with an impressive activity listing. Scuba diving, wing-foiling, snorkelling, windsurfing, kids camps, fishing, lionfish hunting, salsa & bachata dance classes, playing dominoes, yoga, noodling, karaoke evenings, hamburger nights, sailors happy hours, captains dinners… The list keeps on going! Sailors can get good marine services provided by several marine supply shops (Budget Marine, Freedom Machine), haul-out services from Curaçao Marine, and even dry storage.
Airplane connections to Curaçao are excellent and price-worthy, especially to Europe, the USA and Canada, with multiple daily flights!
However, this article is not about promoting Curaçao; it is all about the Cruisers at Curaçao and their involvement in the local community and doing something good for the environment.
September 17th was World Clean Up Day, so we, SY Blowing Bubbles, took the initiative to organize an ‘underwater’ clean up at the anchor zone of the Spanish Water. We would clean up the ocean bottom surrounding our boats with fellow cruisers and scuba divers.
Organizing this event was a handful. Not only did we need to get permission from the local government as we would be scuba diving in the navigational waters of the anchorage, controlled by the Harbour Master, but also, the safety of the event is an important issue, so we consulted with the Coastguard about the diving activities. Cleaning up garbage is one thing; keeping it all safe is another.
In preparation for the event, we created a group of cruisers that would be scuba diving and trained these cruisers to be able to safely use lift bags to lift heavy objects from the bottom and fill special recovery balloons with air. This training would also be helpful in their future adventures, for example, when an anchor gets stuck or a heavy object gets lost from the boat. This course in search & recovery was offered for free by ScubaBiz.Help, where our mission is in our name: Helping Scuba Business. For sure, help was needed here to get this project to go from an idea to reality. Check out www.ScubaBiz.Help; you can even download their monthly scuba magazine at no cost.
The cruisers and scuba divers then had a second task in preparing the event! They had to make an inventory of the objects to be recovered in order to prepare all needed gear for the Clean Up day itself.
The inventory list became rather significant and challenging:
- Two sunken dinghies
- One outboard
- Several big boat batteries
- Several truck tires
- Various other items
Several lift bags were gathered to lift all these objects, and multiple dive tanks were needed for inflation. The list of required equipment was handled by us, SY Blowing Bubbles, a specially equipped scuba charter sail yacht also on hurricane ‘break’ in the Spanish Water.
A local dive operator, Curious 2 Dive, gave a special discount on dive tanks and gear so that more people could join in on the Clean Up Day, as smaller trash would also be collected from the bottom.
After about three weeks of preparations, C-day (Clean up day) was approaching, and one day before C-day, marker buoys were attached to the large objects to be airlifted from the bottom. This could only be done one day in advance as the risk of outboards/boats getting entangled in these buoys would be too great.
C-day was a reality. Twenty-nine people showed up at the start of the event. Twenty-nine people bringing dinghies, dive gear, ropes, masks, snorkels and most of all, a lot of positive energy!
Even a team from the Coastguard and the Airport Fire Department came out to help!
During a five-hour clean-up event, a total of 2400 pounds (1200kg) of garbage, rubbish, and litter was collected from the sea bottom. An impressive amount was piled up in front of Uncle J’s restaurant, located next to the Spanish Water. This was not only the perfect place to exit with the heavy objects but also a place where a large container would be placed to ensure all the collected garbage could be taken away to get recycled.
A special moment during this day was the recovery of a large dinghy (15ft/5m) with the help of many sailors pulling it out of the water because of its considerable weight; as you all can imagine, it was filled with sand and water. In addition, we assisted in rescuing an octopus living within the sunken hull of the dinghy. So, no animals were harmed during this clean-up event!
The end of the day, the beautiful moments, the positive energy, and so much more were celebrated with a cold ‘drink’ (read: beer) with all those (18+) involved, BUT don’t get me wrong, as the young cruisers were present as well and took on their share of the Clean Up! They were rewarded with a cold soft drink!
This event was truly a unique example of teamwork, community work and excellent spirit spanning ages, genders and nationalities as ‘only’ 16 nationalities were present during this International Clean Up in Curaçao, making it a truly INTERNATIONAL Cruisers Event! Are you joining us next year?
Count Down to Launch