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DiverWire Profile: Meet Bonaire dive pro Al Cataflumo

(DiverWire) Being a Bonaire resident brings DiverWire contributor Brenda Yorke into contact with some interesting diving figures on the island. She recently met up with Al Cataflumo, a veteran diver with 40 years of stories and experiences on the island. Here’s her DiverWire profile.

Al Catalfumo, (who was originally employed as a child actor in New York when he was just 12) started scuba diving when he was 17 years old in 1959. His first experiences of scuba were in Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn, New York. There, a retired navy seal named Bob introduced Al and a few of his friends to Scuba near the piers in the area. They would spend days diving and getting their air fills at Harvey’s on Emmett Avenue in Brooklyn. Al says “that if they were able to get a fill of 1600 PSI – they were very happy guys!”

Al later served in the US Army and was lucky enough as his first posting to get a position as a lifeguard before serving in other departments over his 3 years of service. He says “that was the best job ever, sitting at the pool watching the pretty girls all day.”

At 27 years old Al then became a PADI Pro – this was 1969 and his PADI Instructor number is 984.

He first started working with Divers Cove in Lawrence Harbour, New Jersey.  Most dives that were made from this shop were wreck dives off the coast, this sparked a desire to seek treasure while diving. Al became very active teaching students from both Rutgers and Monmouth Colleges where most of the dives were made in Willow Springs, now known at Dutch Springs, Pennsylvania.

Al eventually became an owner of a dive shop in New Jersey as his career progressed. He was then able to travel extensively – bringing dive groups to various dive destinations. One place he visited regularly in the early 70’s was Bonaire, now part of the Dutch Caribbean. While there he started to build strong friendships and experience on it’s reefs. Bonaire is magical, in that the island and it’s people seem to draw you in – once you have come here for a visit you always seem to return again.

One evening as Al was closing shop in New Jersey he got a phone call from a man called Ady Everts., Ady lived in Bonaire and was an employee of Captain Don Stewart at the time.  Ady worked at the Dive operation at Bonaire Sunset beach Resort,  he delivered the news that Captain Don was closing his dive operation at that resort and starting his own resort down the road. The current owners of the Sunset Beach Resort were looking for a new dive operator and Ady knew who that guy should be.

During that call Al initially decided that the time was not right for him to lift stakes and said “No” to Ady’s offer.

Al felt that it was time for him to slow down, rather than start all over again. Within 10 hours of having the conversation on the phone with Ady Everts Al said to himself “How can I say No to Bonaire?”

Al contacted Ady reconsidered said “Yes”, lets look into this opportunity. Within weeks Al moved a shipping container next to his dive shop in New Jersey and proceeded to pack the whole shop (including the 2 boats which were disassembled) and get it ready for the move to Bonaire.

Al was ready to open the new Bonaire Scuba Center along with his partners, Ady Everta and Eddie Statia in 1980.

Once the container finally arrived in Bonaire and was being opened  Al’s partner Eddie said “It’s really going to happen.”  After seeing the contents of the container Al says Captain Don Stewart commented “ I have never seen so many things in a container – you even have every nut and bolt.” Every one helped where they could, Erwin Mueller helped rebuild the 2 boats and get them ready for the sea. The Bonaire Scuba Center opened in 1980 and remained open for 10 years.

During this time Al also bought property in Hato, just north of Bonaire Scuba Center. When the dive operation closed in 1990 Al decided to semi-retire. He then built The Black Durgon Inn, which has it’s own small dive operation.

The Black Durgon has been in operation since 1990 and is a small self-contained dive resort.

Al Says “98% of the clientele are return visitors and they range from 20 to 85 years of age”. “They come as a customer and leave as a friend.” The Black Durgon can be described as a Low-Key, Non-commercialized atmosphere where you will find Al everyday assisting his guests.

Al who is still actively teaching students describes his teaching style as laid back and unhurried. He especially likes to assist students who are new to the water and may be uneasy with the new environment. When asked about his life philosophy Al states “this is a lifestyle not a business.” When Al does have free time he likes to spend time as a horse hobbyist ( he owns 3 horses) and his dogs.

Hats off to a dive professional with over 40 years and counting in the dive industry!

For more details about Al’s current venture, visit www.blackdurgon.com

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