Thursday, June 24, 2004

Passage to Tahiti

The one problem with everyone being stuck on the boat waiting for weather is that once it clears EVERYONE goes on the move to their next destination. In this case Billabong, Emerald, Stardust, Solstice, Magmell, and Ascension all headed for Tahiti (Bobulona, Waking Dream and Island Sonata left a day earlier and had rough swell left over from the blow), Freebird went to Taou while the two remaining boats went to the south anchorage.  Three boats entering from Kauehi immediately filled the vacancies as we crossed paths near the entrance to the atoll.

Passage from Tuamotus to Tahiti

We had planned on about a one and a half day passage with the wind just barely allowing us to go down wind on the track to Tahiti.  For some reason (maybe our whisker pole), we where able to steer right on course while everyone else was about 10 degrees below us. They were still within VHF range but not in our faces.  A couple of times I looked at the pack below us; it looked like a highway.  Even as the boats started to spread out they still were in packs of three (too much for me).  It is nice to have boats around for safety in numbers, but we had an incident with Stardust that makes me want to stay away from the pack.  They had jibed and were going to cross our path so they got out their camera.  We talked on the VHF and both took pictures as the boats got closer, and closer, and closer.  I had the right of way but was getting uncomfortable letting the autopilot steer in such close quarters.  I took the helm, and headed us down to get out of their way (they are a 43’ Hans Christian Ketch and weigh twice as much as us). Just as they were crossing our stern about 20 feet behind us, we got stuck in the trough of a wave and they surfed down the front of another and they got within about 10 feet of our arch with their bowsprit.  Our fishing line got caught on their bow as it rode DOWN their bobstay to their bow.. YIKES.. KT was a little upset.  No more close mid-ocean sailing for us.

We realized we would be a little early if we kept up our speed, so as the wind shifted behind us we dropped the main and sailed only with the poled out Genoa.  It was kind of funny watching all the boats jibe back and forth across our path at 45 degrees like little mosquitoes.  Everyone was worried that the wind might die, so they tried to keep up their speed strategizing what the best course/trim was.  I guess most people thought that using their whisker pole was too much work (too heavy or too big).  The funny thing was that we just kept our course trucking on slowly but STRAIGHT towards Tahiti, and made it there before all of the other boats accept one and we did less work (if you can call it that), which is my key to a successful cruising life.  As we approached Tahiti, the shipping center of the south pacific islands, the increase in ship traffic was noticeable.  We all kept a good watch on the radar for Emerald (who lost their radar in the Marquesas), but would lose track of who was who within all the other boats.  We did an occasional flash of lights to synchronize locations and entered into the lee of Tahiti at sunrise without incident.

I was down below double-checking the charts and radar when I heard this REALLY loud noise.  I had been up since 11:00 pm (it was my choice because KT looked so peaceful when I went to wake her up and I wasn’t tired); my senses weren’t exactly spot on.  At first I thought that we were just about to be run over by a huge freighter… but wait I would see them on radar …or maybe they are too close for the radar… no, that doesn’t make sense.  Ok not a freighter!!!  Maybe it was a HUGE rogue wave like the Perfect Storm, reaching up to swallow us whole; mind you all this ran through my mind in about 5 seconds. As I bolted up on deck I realized it was a 747 on final approach to Papeete airport.  Come on you must be able to understand my confusion; I hadn’t heard a plane of that size in at least six months.  It would be the beginning of our strange re-integration into civilization.  I know most of you wouldn’t consider Tahiti/Papeete a city or anything that required “adjustment” (unless it was a native drink), but we were used to one-shop towns of a couple of hundred people max with flown/shipped in vegetables that everyone gobbles up in two minutes.  Tahiti would be a big change for us.

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Monday, June 21, 2004

Fakarava Snorkeling Tale

May 28th - June 21st

I had heard that snorkeling and diving in the Tuamotos was going to be great, but never could I have imagined the potential that existed.  After Chris’s dive in Kauehi, I was extremely jealous, I felt as though I had missed out on something … worse, not being certified I felt that I would never have a similar experience.  Outside of an aquarium I had never seen a (live) shark … and I was longing to see them first hand.

When we arrived in the Southern anchorage of Fakarava, Emerald came by, reporting on the great snorkeling in the pass and the huge quantities of sharks.  I was psyched, I couldn’t wait to go.  They picked us up the next morning and off we went.  The water was crystal blue and the visibility the best I’ve ever been in.  The quantities and variations of fish and coral were amazing.  Rick pointed out a sleeping gray at the bottom (about 60 feet away).  I was instantly thrilled … this it!  We’re going to see some sharks!  In the first few minutes of being in the water we saw two or three grays swimming around, but they felt pretty far away, and part of me couldn’t help thinking, where are the mass quantities I heard about? It was at about that moment that Corbie popped her head out and said, “Are you guys seeing this?”  I quickly swam over to her and looked down, tons of gray sharks were circling below us, like 747’s in a holding pattern over LAX.  Wow!  Wow!  Wow!  That was pretty much all I could think.  We had the video camera, so I instantly started filming (as Chris said the film/pictures just don’t do it justice).  Rick also had his camera and would free dive down to get closer shots.  I’m not very good at free diving, especially in a wetsuit, so Chris eventually took the camera to get some closer shots.

It was hard to pull myself away from the grays to move down the reef, I could’ve watched them all morning.  We came across a few white tips as well; they reminded me of typical shark-movie sharks (only smaller).  They were so graceful and swift.  They would also come a bit closer, which left me with mixed feelings … on one hand disturbed to think I was swimming so close to them, on the other elated that I could get a closer view!

We slowly moved into the shallow coral area, where hundreds of fish reside, including the large Napolean Chris talks about.  I couldn’t believe how big he was.  Then came the black-tips.  I never realized that sharks swam in such shallow waters.  And they were everywhere; there wasn’t a direction you could look that you wouldn’t see at least three of them.  It felt unreal to watch them swimming all around you.  For the most part they just ignored us, going about there own business.  I was also shocked to find that the other fish didn’t run and hide when a shark came by … I guess they know when it’s feeding time or not!

I was pumped up when we finally got out of the water.  I couldn’t stop talking, smiling, and laughing.  My first question was, “when is the next slack tide?”  We easily saw two hundred sharks that morning!  We snorkeled nearly every day (sometimes twice a day) after that, and while the water clarity or number of sharks was never has good as the first day, ever time I was still in awe.  I felt as though I had jumped into the Monterey aquarium.

The more times we got in the water with the sharks, the more I began to relax and realize that they really didn’t seem to care that I was there.  Of course there is always the exception, which I realized on day five!

We had started actually doing more drift snorkeling (rather than hitting the pass at exact slack), which would push us through the pass and around, almost to where our boats where anchored.  It is an amazing feeling to be pushed through the water while watching the underwater world zoom by you.  It seems that the sharks on the ‘other-side’ of the pass were a bit more curious.  They would actually swim towards us, and then turn after a quick investigatory glance.  On the drift it wasn’t always so easy to stay in the group, you were fighting the current as it was.  It so happened that a cute, small black tip was nearby, and I followed him for a bit, not noticing that I was no longer with the group.

Let me get a visual going for you … imagine this … you are snorkeling (therefore lying, if you will, horizontally on top of the water), looking down at a small black-tip shark who is swimming away from you (ie no threat), when into your view, directly below you, from behind, swims in a six foot shark!  This shark is longer than you, perfectly parallel and right below you, and so close you could easily reach down and touch it!  First I was a bit shocked (as I’m sure you could imagine).  I had periodically been looking around and behind me, and had not spotted this white-tip shark anywhere. Where had this guy come from? And why was he so close?  I was also quite excited, thinking, Wow this is so cool, I wish I had the camera!   The shark swam out a few feet ahead of me, then turned, heading straight back in my direction.  At this point in time I was still running on excitement thinking that it was great that he was so close, and cursing myself for giving the camera to Chris.  The excitement lasted for about five minutes, as the shark continued to come towards me, turn away, and then circle back.  Sometimes he would circle under me, coming up before retreating back down, other times he would head out in front (or side) then circle back.  EVERYTIME he came just a bit closer. It was about then that my thoughts turned on me … Why was he so interested in me?  Shouldn’t his curiosity have died by now?  Doesn’t he realize I’m bigger and he should be afraid (like the other sharks)?  Time continued to go by … I’m not afraid.  Can you smell fear underwater?  It doesn’t mater I’m not afraid.  I’m not afraid. I’m not afraid.  It’s just a shark.  Shit, it’s a shark!  I want to say that perhaps ten minutes has now gone by, I’m swimming vertically, always sure to face this shark that I’m now convinced is frowning, scowling at me.  I started doing quick surface checks looking for Chris and the dinghy.  It felt as though they were miles away.  I was trying to swim towards them, but did not want to turn my back to this shark, and therefore was not making very good progress towards the dinghy.  Rather I was just spinning circles in the same spot.  I wish I had the camera … it would make a good weapon.  Should I take my fin off so that I have something in my hand to hit it with if he comes too close?  Should I make a fast movement towards him to scare him, or will he fight instead of fright?  Should I just turn and “run”?  Finally I saw Chris (and everyone) getting into the dinghies, but they were still far away.  With my head underwater (watching the shark), I started waving my arm in what I intended to be a “get over here” motion.  Apparently nobody noticed.  When I popped my head up again Chris yelled, “KT come on”.  “Come and get me,” I shouted.  “What?”  “COME AND GET ME”.  I guess they didn’t hear the panic in my voice because they took their sweet time in coming.  The shark continued to circle and come towards me the entire time … more than half the time he came within easy reach!  Finally, after what felt like hours, they were close, I yelled out “I’m being chased!”  “What?”  “Get me in the dinghy a SHARK is following me!”  I took one last glance down as the dinghy approached; the shark made one more turn towards me, but quickly turned away when the dinghy came into site.

As I pulled myself into the dinghy, adrenaline coursed through me.  I couldn’t believe that a shark had just followed me for more than fifteen minutes!  At first I was pumped up, any fright I had had in the water quickly dissipated.  About an hour or two later the fright returned, and I vowed to never separate from the group again!  Oh, and the next time we snorkeled I took along a poking stick … just in case!  Later on I borrowed a fish book from Emerald where, under white-tip reef shark, I read, “Aggressive and Dangerous”.  I’m glad I didn’t have that bit of information before!

Curious what it might be like to have a white tip interested in you?

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Fakarava, Tuamotos

June 6th – June 21st, 2004

By Chris


Fakarava is the second largest atoll in the Tuamotu’s with two passes, one on the north and a smaller one on the south. We entered the northern one and motored sailed to the village in the North East corner. The village was much bigger than the one on Kauehi, with two “stores” and a bakery. We anchored in front of the church (the bakery was right next door) and met up with Island Sonata who we hadn’t seen in a while.

They had two friends from Toau (the neighboring atoll) onboard, who they had met while staying there. They are both younger fishermen who sell their catch in Fakarava every week. Ciguatera is a toxin that gets stored in reef fish and works its way up the food chain, it can cause sever pains and nervous system problems in humans so you have to be VERY careful. I guess most of Fakarava had a problem but Toau didn’t, so these guys had quite a good deal going. They played local music on a ukulele, while MJ tried to play with them on her keyboard. It was funny to hear songs that we knew with French words. We went out to our first dinner in a while, and enjoyed catching up with old friends. The dinner wasn’t bad, steak and fries for $10, but the steak was a little chewy to say the least. Hey, beggars can’t be choosers.

The next day I paddled in at 6:30 and got us some fresh baguettes hot out of the oven. The other specialties like croissants, plain and chocolate, were already gone. I guess you have to get there right when they open at 5:30 for those (which I did for the rest of our stay). We did a little provisioning and got some phone cards at the post office (which was in an outhouse size building). We met up with Renaissance 2000 and went to the local black pearl farm for a tour. I didn’t realize how complicated a process making a black pearl is, I thought it was like a regular pearl (maybe that’s why I didn’t find one in Kauehi). In this case, to make them black, they actually take some shell membrane from another one and cut it into little pieces. This is the membrane that causes the inside of the shell to grow colored (green, blue, champagne and mostly black). They take a seed (actually a round rock from the Mississippi), and place it in a sack in the oyster. Then the small slice of membrane has to be inserted with the shell side touching the seed, so that when the oyster (more like a scallop) coats the seed it uses the genetic material from the shell coating. I got to dive in a fish park to get the two shells we would open. He showed us the entire process of seeding and then the removal of the pearl. They seed when the oyster is young and then wait about a year and a half before the pearl is ready. During this time they hang them in the water from buoys with nets/baskets and have to clean the shells every month or so. This farm was rather small but still made about 10,000 pearls a year. Most of them are imperfect, with small bumps or color changes. We got to look through his bags of cheaper pearls as well as his REALLY nice jewelry. I thought I was “safe” because KT said she didn’t really like pearls but once we got there she sure liked some of the more expensive stuff. Luckily the pearl we got from our shell was worth about $100, which wasn’t bad considering we paid $17 for the tour.

We then walked about six miles to a hotel in the beating mid-day sun to get to the only Internet place on the island. It was pretty expense ($16 an hour) with a French keyboard and no I/O devices. Oh well I guess our Internet connections in the South Pacific were going as well as planned. Most people have email on board, but I didn’t think we could justify the cost (I’d need a new radio $1500 and modem $1000). I didn’t realize that they also keep track of your position, and have easy access to weather data, which is VERY handy (Maybe in NZ). We decided we deserved some ice cream, but the place was closed!! The next day we rented bikes and went with Bobulona and Waking Dream on a tour of the island, it was rather strange being on paved roads with not much around (must be nice to have the French government picking up the tab). Waking Dream used these motorized skateboard things that got quite a stare from the locals. We stopped for lunch (hamburgers and fries) before returning for some well deserved ice cream (our legs were screaming from the abuse we gave them).

South Anchorage

The next day we decided to move to the south anchorage where the snorkeling/diving was supposed to be unmatched. We motor sailed the entire way, arriving late afternoon and played a game of Canasta with Island Sonata (hey you’ve got to do something out here). We went snorkeling the next morning in the pass,.. it was soooo amazing, there were sharks everywhere. I (black box man) brought a Bahaman sling spear in case they got too close. The visibility was over 100 feet and you could see the gray reef sharks on the bottom in 60 feet. There were 100’s of them. The white tip reef sharks stayed between the bottom and about ten feet while the black tip sharks stayed on top of the reef down to about ten feet. They were so amazing to watch. We must have hit the pass at perfect slack tide because for the next couple of days we could drift with the current back to the anchorage.

When the current is moving the gray sharks tend to school in certain areas, the divers would actually drift right through the packs. Rick had learned a Fijian shark call, which would literally turn them right towards you. We got some good pictures and video but nothing will ever do it justice, the energy/excitement in the water was electrifying.  (View short video clips to get an idea of how many sharks there were:  clip 1,  clip 2 (if the video does not start automatically go here for help). There was some amazing tropical fish near the reef including a huge Napolean fish that was as big as us and would stare at you with his big beady eye no matter where you were. It was literally like he had eyes in the back of his head. KT dropped my spear into 60 feet and I had to free dive to get it .. I almost didn’t make it back up (lost a few black box points on that one). She also had an exciting incident a few days later where she was “followed” closely by a six foot white tip for about fifteen minutes. She had wandered off on her own (more points lost) and the white tip took interest, we found if you hang with a group of divers they don’t bother you.  (Read about KT's shark experience here, additional link at bottom of this page).

The rest of the time was spent doing the typical cruisers stuff, more snorkeling, playing Canasta, watching movies, and drinks on other people’s boats (usually with deep conversations). We reviewed the video footage that Rick had shot in the pass, the funniest part was a big trigger fish that fell in love with his reflection in the lens and started kissing it. He could make some money off America Funniest Home Videos (see part of this clip here ... if the video does not start automatically click here for help). We paddled over to the other side of the pass and discovered a whole different landscape, small motus with shallow light blue water, and multiple passages out to the reef. The outside of the reef looked like a lunar landscape, harsh jagged coral grayed by the sun. On the inside there were lots of palm trees and more than one perfect postcard picture of the sandy beach with the palm tree bent out over the water. There was even a pink beach. We decided to have another potluck on the beach over there to get some other boats over to experience it. We started it around 2:00 so people could head back across the reef to the anchorage before dark. Of course no one did and we all swapped “well that was the stupidest thing I’ve ever done” stories the next morning. We had six people in one dingy with some pretty good size waves coming over the bow. Gordon (from Ascension) was our wave deflector, KT our bailer, and the rest of us just hung on for dear life. We “only” ended up on the reef twice.

You’d think we would have learned. The next day we kayaked over to Island Sonata, who had moved their boat for the party. It was getting dark but we thought we could make it back easily in the dark. On the way over we had played with some very small reef sharks (one foot). On the way back the tide was out and we kept running aground, we didn’t have any shoes on so we couldn’t get out and walk across the reef. Every once in a while you’d here a pretty big slash and we’d shine our flashlight into the water and see a black tip sticking out, must have been the babies mothers/fathers. Then we had to paddle against the current back to the anchorage, which was rather scary at times. The view of the stars was incredible; you could almost guide yourself by the starlight.

The next day a few of us decided to dive the outside of the atoll so we headed out in two dingys to a place just east of the pass. As we slowed down to have Rick look at our location underwater, the tube he was sitting on exploded. We were right behind them and I thought that someone had dropped their wetsuit in the water because it looked like they were dragging it behind. It turns out that a shark attacked the dingy; he was going for the propeller but got the back end of the tube. We didn’t discover this until AFTER our dive, right in the same waters; Yikes!!! It must have been a pretty big one because the bite mark was about 9-12 inches in diameter; he “only” got half his jaws on it. We all had a new found respect for the creatures we had just spent a week playing with. KT spent a couple of hours diving with Rick. They started out in shallow water, but ended up going to 60 feet because KT was so comfortable. She loved it and may look at getting certified in Tahiti or Bora Bora. While KT dove I hung out with the locals and fed the sharks and Napolean fish. Magmell spent their entire stay hanging out with them and learned how to fish, gather coconuts, and weave baskets in the traditional way. We ended our southern pass anchorage stay with a steak dinner on Emerald (oh to have a freezer), we brought chocolate fondue and we all slept like babies in our food induced comas.

North Again

There was supposed to be northerly winds coming, so we moved back to the north anchorage (with only one mile of fetch instead of 28). The wind came from the north for the first night but then shifted back to the southwest/south for two days. With 20 to 30 knot winds, we had some pretty big swell in the anchorage; sometimes our transom was half under water and we buried the bow about once an hour. I had to constantly be on the lookout for chafe on our anchor snubber lines, it got so bad that people were making fun of me. At first they would see me go out and check (once every fifteen minutes or so), and they would follow suit. Finally they realized that I was having problems and stepped it back a notch. They all joked at dinner that every time they went out, they’d look over and there I was. The snubber takes the shock load of the swells as the rope stretches, instead of passing it directly to the chain. Because my line stretches so much, it moves in the chocks that guide it cleanly over board. These chocks have the designer’s logo in a raised casting EXACTLY in the spot where the snubber rubs when it is fully loaded up (nice job guys). I burned through 2 sets of hose, a new thin set within ten minutes. A couple boats snapped their snubbers, it was pretty touch and go because they were sitting about 50 feet from a bunch of huge coral heads. It was VERY uncomfortable and we couldn’t get off the boat for two days. Of course we celebrated our “release” by having another steak and fries dinner with an ice cream chaser. After the blow we all dove on our anchors to find them completely wrapped around coral head … ours was like a figure 8, with our anchor and boat at the bottom and a huge coral head at the top. It took Rick from Emerald, suited up in full dive gear, to get everyone’s anchor up before we left for Tahiti.

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Thursday, June 10, 2004

Sharks + More: Underwater Fakarava Video

The diving and snorkeling in Fakarava is top-notch. The coral and fish were fantastic, but it was the abundance of sharks that kept us coming back.

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Saturday, June 05, 2004

Kauehi, Tuamotos

May 28th – June 5th , 2004

After entering the pass, we hosted our sails and SAILED eight miles across the atoll to the village. Yeah that’s right we sailed. The cruising fleet had all discussed their fears of coral heads reaching out of the depths and ending their trip and I added my Murphy’s attitude on top of that, so the last thing I expected to be doing was sailing across the atoll. However the people already anchored had done it, and there were two boats ahead of us acting as coral bombie locators, AND I was standing in the rat lines (webbing tied 5-6 feet in the rigging to get a better viewing angle) just to double check that they didn’t somehow just barely miss one that we would then smack into. Of course we made it across the atoll without incident and anchored in front of the little village.

Now this was paradise!!! The water was the most incredible azure blue that I have ever seen. This was surrounded palm trees, coral reefs and a very “cute” church at the center of the village. We anchored in 35’ of water and could watch the anchor hit the bottom (turns out that this was not even the best visibility). The difference between the Marquesas was like night and day. The Marquesas were awe inspiring because of the amazingly green landscape and mountainous volcanic creations unlike anything we have ever seen.

The Tuamotus were exactly what you would expect to find in a south pacific postcard. The black volcanic sand of the Marquesas was replaced with white or pink coral sand, and the temperature/humidity was much more acceptable.  We spent a couple of days exploring the village area, which literally sat just above sea level. Our first nights sleep was the deepest we have EVER had, dead flat calm, cool breeze and no bugs. On our first day, we relaxed and enjoyed our tranquil anchorage and did a little snorkeling off an abandoned pearl farm. I actually found a couple of shells (more like scallops than oysters) but there were no pearls inside. Our friends following us arrived just at dark and had to spend the night hove-to in the lee of the atoll. On Sunday we paddled to the village and enjoyed a quick walk around the little village, the one store had a couple of shelves with really no provisions (no beer or bread). The church was made out of coral blocks sealed with coral limestone and was, as usual, the centerpiece of the village.

I really wish we had learned French prior to our arrival. Our French friend Fran├žois has such a different experience. He camps in the villages, usually in someone’s yard and becomes part of the village and part of a family. Luckily we have our kayaks, which seem to be a huge hit with the kids. We spent a couple of hours playing with the kids using the universal language of laughter and smiles to make our basic connections. It is so much fun to watch the interactions between all the kids, our function was to make sure that everyone got an equal chance (including the little ones and the girls). We met a younger Dutch couple on Max who had left Holland in October and had already sailed 10,000 miles on a boat they had bought just before they left. We pulled out some canned Gouda cheese from Holland (that we bought at Sam’s Club in Mexico!!) to share and found out they are giving themselves two years to sail around the world. They had been diving in the same spot and had found three black pearls in four shells… I was determined to find my own pearls the next day.

KT and I swam back over to the area, where I was sure that I would find my pearl. I must have spent three hours looking, opening shells, and finding nothing. KT gave up on me and went back to the boat, when I arrived I was so water logged I must have looked like a 90 year old man (with no pearls). Ugggghhhh! Our friends had settled into an anchorage on the southern end of the atoll where there was no village, so we decided to join them and sailed back across the lagoon (a different way than before).

It was blowing a good 20-25 so I was up in the ratlines the entire time, even though the chart showed there were no hazards on our course. We had the music going enjoying the sail, when I happened to look down at the exact moment the knot to the ratline I was standing on started to undo. I stepped over to the mast just as it gave way, KT and I stared at each other with the “wow that was close” look. I re-attached it; leaving a little more tail this time, and re-assumed my position. I took a look forward with the monocular, and noticed a huge uncharted coral head just off our starboard side. It rose straight from 100 feet deep to inches below the surface, I was thankful we ignored everyone’s advice that there were no worries and you didn’t need a lookout (a few more “black box” points for Billabong).

The southern end of the lagoon was like a Hollywood set of an uncharted island. There were three other boats (Emerald, Bobulona, and Waking Dream) anchored off of four small motus (little islands), we could each have our own private island if we wanted. The water clarity was amazing and we went ashore for some snorkeling in a beautiful coral area that felt like we were diving in a fish bowl. Ben from Waking Dream got out his Hooka hose and KT and I both got to take a turn. Even though the water was shallow (15 feet) it still made a difference for KT because she gets to stay down on the bottom and enjoy everything in more detail. She’s a natural underwater and the divers are all suggesting she take it up.

Afterwards we all gathered on the beach and enjoyed eating some coconuts and playing with the hermit crabs, the beach was literally covered with them.  I have a new found respect for the coconut, what an amazing feat of natural engineering. They carry their own water, food stores and protection (another tough fiber coating that covers the nut) on board, yet still float to remote places. Everywhere we looked there were coconuts floating in the water and seeding on the beach. We enjoyed eating the green, mature, and germinating coconuts. The green coconuts have an amazing juice that seems to have a sparkling essence to it and the flesh is soft and gelatin like. The mature coconuts are like the ones you get in the states, harder meat and milkier liquid. I used one of these to make coconut cream for a curry dish that night. You grate the flesh (inner meat) of a mature coconut and then add warm water. You kneed the mixture for a while and then squeeze it through cheesecloth (ps. It’s easier to buy the cans). The germinating coconut has the liquid inside replaced with a soft foamy ball known as a coconut apple. It has a light coconut flavor to it, which I enjoyed but others didn’t (mostly a texture thing). We all made coconut spears to break through the outer husk using the techniques we learned from Daniel in the Marquesas. The divers were planning a pass dive for the next day and invited me along. It had been about 10 years since I dove so I wanted to make sure it would be a relatively easy.

The next day we set out on Bobulona towards the pass entrance. There was a good breeze blowing and the fetch across the atoll made the swell uncomfortable enough that Dennis decided not to anchor the boat for the dive (he stayed aboard). Dennis brought Bobulona through the pass and we got KT and Lisa loaded into the dingy as diver pickup people. When I first looked into the water I couldn’t believe my eyes. From the edge of the reef on the surface it dropped down at about an 80-degree angle to about 150 feet deep, where it dropped off like a sheer cliff to 3000 feet. The visibility was easily 200 feet, and at first I was disoriented because I didn’t recognize that I was actually seeing Rick and Corbie from Emerald clearly at around 75 feet. The quantity of sea life was incredible, we saw hundreds of small tropical fish close to the reef, with a spotted eagle ray suspended at about 50 feet not even moving his “wings”, followed by a huge school of barracuda that were being “worked” by a couple of sharks. I can’t describe how small I felt around all the sea life, like I was part of the world’s largest fish bowl. We dropped to 90 feet where we ran into more sharks. Then the current started sucking us back into the lagoon at 3-4 knots. We go sucked up to 30 feet and then pushed back down to 90 feet again by the current. Shari from Bobulona broke hear ear drum, got vertigo, lost her sense of direction and had to be helped to the surface by Ben. I stayed down with Rick and Corbie as sharks in the murky water surrounded us. It was kind of strange because I have always been afraid of them, but I was in awe as they swam around to check us out. Corbie was funny because she was pointing out one or two in front of her and I had to tap her to get her to see the 5 or 6 behind her. We took a long time rising to the surface and the sharks kept circling. When we finally broke free we were in 4 – 5 foot standing waves caused by the current against the wind. After we were done Rick said that it was the most dangerous dive he had ever done in 30 years of diving. I reminded him that he told me it would be easy and would let me get back into diving slowly, He just smirked and smiled.

We spent the next day kayaking around the motus near the anchorage. I tried to “hunt and gather” for us and realized we would probably die in about a week after being stranded on a dessert island, because I needed another coconut to recover the fluids I lost to sweat trying to open the first one. Oh well, glad we had the boat, refrigerator and water-maker.

The next day Waking Dream organized a beach potluck, complete with a small quiet generator that provided music and Christmas tree lights for the trees. We all brought in chairs, hung out around the bonfire playing various musical instruments. It was a great night as we celebrated our private paradise and the adventures we had experienced getting here. On Saturday I did some boat maintenance, while KT recovered from the festivities. We left early the next morning for Fakarava, about a six-hour motor sail away. We took advantage of the extra power to rip my CD collection into mp3s and KT worked on journal entries/picture organization

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