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June 2014    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Available to the Public Vol. 29, No. 6   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Goodbye, Cap地 Don

from the June, 2014 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

Last week, we lost one of diving's truly legendary figures, Cap'n Don Stewart, who not only put Bonaire diving on everyone's wish list, but always bucked convention by thumbing his nose at those who wished to control the sport. He insisted we keep diving fun. I loved his attitude.

The good Captain told me that he used to hang out at the "no-name bar" in Sausalito with hordes of other scruffy sailors, actor Sterling Hayden among them. In 1961, he set sail down the California coast, stopping, scuffling and drinking in endless ports, and when he arrived, "hurricane whipped," in Bonaire, he put on his mask, stuck his face in the water, marveled at the reefs and fish and, well, that was that.

Goodbye, Cap'n DonI first dived with Cap'n Don in 1976, when he had a beach shack at the dim Hotel Bonaire, which had been converted from a WWII internment camp. Bruce Bowker was his guide. For guided beach dives, we jumped off cliffs, then used ropes to raise our gear, and ourselves, back up. He wore no depth gauge, just a red ribbon on his BC that turned shades of blue the deeper we went; he knew our depth in five-foot increments. At the end of my diving week, he pointed up the coast, past oil tanks, to where he was someday going to build his "habitat." I wished the dreamer well.

A marvelous character in his day, Don was witty, cantankerous, irreverent, blustery and, for sure, a top-notch and sensitive instructor whose students became first-class divers. In the days when people were breaking off hunks of coral to take home for their mantels, he guarded the reefs as if they were his private gardens. On Bonaire, and in my heart, his legend will live forever.

-- Ben Davison

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