Monday, 30 June 2014

Biscuits and Mantas and Sharks, oh my!


Sometime just before 7am this morning, a little voice said that she had been awake since 6:17, and could she please mix up some biscuits? So started our day. Victoria mixed up a double batch of biscuits, which we cooked in a bed of oats in the pressure cooker (I use this rather than the frying pan in the hope that releasing steam will make them less gooey). Combined with the pamplemousse that Johnathan cut up and some fried eggs, we had a yummy start to a good day :)

Our friends on Estrelita had told us that it is sometimes possible see Manta Rays in the north pass. The idea of a pass dive is to dingy towards the mouth of the pass during the slack water or with the newly rising tide, and then jump in and swim into the lagoon on the tidal current; the distance is short enough that it can be done several times.

Slack tide has moved to mid morning (very civilized!) so we arrived at the pass while the tide was still ebbing. This meant that we got to see the last of the current-meeting-swell waves, which (compared to a dingy) seemed quite big. Somewhat daunted, we began on the far side, and were impressed by the variety and quantity of fish, even if there were no manta rays. As the incoming current took hold, and the waves calmed down, we crossed back to the other side, and there, playing in the eddy and interface zones (ie where the fast water met the lagoon water) were probably a half-dozen manta rays. We had hit the jackpot! We positioned our dingy to drift near them, and then Max and both kids jumped in. We had lines dragging from the dingy for them to hold onto. Manta rays are huge (5+ feet across), graceful (but in my opinion, funny looking) creatures, that were not bothered by our presence at all. We were within a few feet of them - close enough for the kids to notice that each of the manta rays had a few fish swimming right under its belly. We figured that these fish had found a good place to not get eaten! As much as I loved the snorkelling, I also loved the conversations in the dingy afterwards - I am constantly amazed by how many different fish the kids can identify by name. The clarity of the water was extraordinary; we were probably in 30+ feet of water, and could easily see the coral and fish along the bottom...

.. the water was also clear enough that we could see sharks swimming along the bottom! Several times during our swim, the grownup would say "into the boat!" and the kids would quickly scramble aboard. Eventually, we got used to them (black-tipped reef sharks about 3-6 feet long) being near us, especially as it was apparent that they were going about their business, and were not at all interested in us. [We still keep a very careful eye on them for any change in behaviour and a bit like bears back home, give them a very wide berth] It is still a rather heart-stopping moment when we first see them! On our way back to our anchorage, we stopped at a little sand beach (a dingy with kids aboard pulled up just ahead of us, so we obviously had to see who it was) and in the ankle-deep water there were even more sharks. These were smaller (closer to three feet long) and again, were just swimming around, ignoring us. The dingy turned out to to be our Belgian friends from Nuku Hiva, so the kids had a great reunion (especially their daughter with Benjamin!) Benjamin finally got to sit on white sand at the edge of gently lapping waves with three big children doting on him. He was very keen to chew on the pieces of tumbled coral that make up the beach. It will be funny to look back on where he learned to crawl, and what he used for baby toys!

Our friends are in the next anchorage along from us (also nearer to the pass), which seems to be more open (read fewer coral heads), so we are planning to move there tomorrow, and possibly go together to the South end of the atoll the following day (in preparation for the winds to shift).

[Maintenance update: pulled the old gaskets off the window in the kid's cabin and glued in a new one. Since the gasket material normally lives buried way under the v-berth bunk it made sense to also replace the gasket material on the propane hatch as I suspected it was failing as well. Max]

Photos to follow when we have (lots of) wifi ... this won't be for a few weeks ...

Love to everyone,

At 6/26/2014 8:30 AM (utc) Fluenta's position was 16°52.00'S 144°40.00'W
At 6/26/2014 8:30 AM (utc) Fluenta's position was 16°52.00'S 144°40.00'W

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