Monday, January 5. 2009
Clear skies and a calm sea greeted sixty-six sleepy swimmers as they awoke to prepare for the 8th Annual Bonaire Eco Swim. Ambling towards Captain Don’s for their race number markings, participants happily swilled java and water and exchanged warm, slightly nervous greetings. People from all over the world—Venezuela, Canada, as well as Alaska, California, New York, and many places in-between—gathered together in an air of anticipation and bonhomie for the 10k, 5k, 3k and 1k races. The stellar water—famous for its amazing clarity, and beauty—waited in its 82F splendor. The colors ranged from a brilliant turquoise to rich cobalt, known locally as “the deep blue”.
Not without a touch of awe swimmers jumped in for the water start, just as the clouds kindly rolled in just in time to shade the fair-skinned swimmers. Boat support, generously provided the Bonaire Marine Park and Captain Don’s, were already in place, as were the dedicated kayak support team. The air was a comfortable 83F as the countdown began. As swimmers started off towards their respective buoys, the race was occasionally interrupted by excited shouts of “turtle!” drawing swimmers off-course for a closer look. Sea turtles, giant blue parrotfish, great barracuda, and moray eels were some of the many exotic (at least to the non-locals) species that were encountered during the event. Bonaire, famous for it’s exceptional sea life and coral reefs, also thankfully has very little in the way of nasty critters, making for an idyllic swim.
Jimmy Wellborn, winner of the 10k swim, was rewarded with a frosty Polar as soon as his hand left the finish buoy. As swimmers left the dock, they gathered at Rumrunners for icy refreshment and to await the award ceremony. Afterwards, an impromptu dance party broke out, spurred on by the Venezuelans. Cave tours, a huge school of dolphin, groups swims (one to Klein Bonaire), eagle rays, a sunset snorkel aboard the very special Siamese junk Samur, octopus, seahorses, the famous flamingos—these were all part of the swimmers’ experience of Bonaire. Shared laughter while watching for the green flash at sunset cemented many an old and new friendship, as swimmers vowed to return to paradise next year. And maybe stay a bit longer next time….