Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Diving and Snorkelling at Tetamanu Pass (Fakarava)

Greetings!

Today's email is a combined effort ... I will give you the general update, and Max will fill you in on the details of the diving that he did here.

Yesterday morning was an early one for Max ... he left the boat just after 0615 to go diving. Early morning is the dive master's favourite time of day as the light is supposed to be the best. The kids and I had a quiet Sunday morning (I had a moment of "Holy Smokes, it is Sunday again!" and put on my "Sunday Music" playlist. We don't make it to any kind of church, but I play my "soul music" for everyone as often as I remember!) Again, with care of the soul in mind, I left the kids reading, and meditatively cleaned the cabin, enjoying my own company. It was so much more peaceful than nagging them to help, creating angst, and still doing the whole job myself. Even Benjamin cooperated by sleeping on the bunk where the big kids were reading. It was lovely to do the basic chores that tend to get missed when we are coming and going - tidying, sweeping, dishes - and everyone enjoyed the space when I was finished. Breakfast was a Sunday Brunch of corn pancakes.

In the afternoon, we dinghied over to the little beach by the resort where the sharks like to swim. There were four local children swimming and carrying on when we got there. Neither they nor the sharks paid each other any attention. As Max describes below, we took his diving gear, and the kids got a chance to blow some bubbles in the shallow water. It is still rather surreal to be standing waist deep near the beach, then put your face in to watch the sharks swimming around! I was able to join Max under water because the "boss lady" of the resort (the same one who taught us about coconuts the day before) came over (twice) and offered to hold Benjamin for me. On the second time, I said yes! He stayed with her, walking about and watching people for a good 20 min, and only cried when she let someone else hold him (and a bit of baguette fixed that!) As the afternoon wore on, two other kid boats worth of dinghies joined us on the beach, so after a little play and a chat, we all headed back to the anchorage. There are two ways to get there - the long way (following the channel around the reef and into the anchorage from the 'back') and the "short" way (crossing the channel, hugging the beach, and walking the dinghy across the really shallow part). All three families took the "short" way back, and it was quite funny to see everyone walking and towing their dinghy. We used the long way today!

This seems a good spot to inject Max's dive summary ...

***

Diving.

We talked to both dive shops but only Topdive would accept my ACUC card. I received the ACUC certification when I completed the Navy's Ships Diving Officer course many years ago. I do not know if ACUC even still exists. I dove as a Ships Diving Officer for HMCS PRESERVER and while at RNAS Culdrose but have not done a lot of sports diving. Although we carry a set of diving gear and two tanks onboard Fluenta we do not have a compressor so diving is reserved for hull maintenance and anchor retrieval that is too difficult to do free diving unless we are lucky to sailing with a boat with a compressor (miss you guys in SV Sweet Dreams !). {Liz note - ie Max still generally dives for work but not for fun!}

I did three dives over two days in the Tetamanu Pass of Fakarava. All three had elements of drift diving and I saw lots (and lots and lots) of sharks. On the second dive we stayed stationary near a canyon where the current is fairly quick and the sharks stay relatively still over the ground but with good water flow. In these spots you could likely see 50 or more sharks at any one time and there were three waves of sharks. All quite close but they seemed unconcerned with our presence. Biologists were here a few weeks ago and counted 650 sharks in the passage itself. On the last dive we used Nitrox to increase our bottom time at depth. Again, lots of sharks but also large schools of barracuda, some Napoleon fish and one huge triton shell. I took my new toy for the passage, a Go Pro camera, on the dives and took many pictures so some will end up on the blog once we have internet.

Since I dove with the local shop they will fill my dive cylinders for a reasonable cost. However, the tank is not fully empty as I only used a bit of air doing the epoxy "cap" to hold the skeg bolts in place, so copying from SV Nautilus I took the kids diving. We kept it very simple. They used my spare regulator from my tank and we just sat on the bottom two to four feet below the surface and watched the sharks swim around us. Liz had a chance to go with my two and left Benjamin with a Tuamotuan lady ashore for a few minutes to sit on the bottom and check out the sharks. Again, the sharks are most unconcerned with our presence in their domain. I went for a snorkel along the edge of the pass as well and saw another large Napoleon fish.

Today, the kids and I did some drift dives snorkelling along the reef with Liz and Benjamin manning the safety boat as we bounced along towards the ocean. Again, an incredible diversity of fish and lots of black tip sharks. Johnathan went for an extra dive and saw one Napoleon fish in the distance but were unable to swim against the current far enough to get close. Perhaps tomorrow.

***

Back again ... so yes, Benjamin and I manned the safety boat while Max and the big kids swam along the current. It is a bit nerve wracking to follow three members of your family, not get too far away and not run them down when you pick them up, all while paying attention to the movement of the current. It was especially stressful because I am I am out of practice as Johnathan tends to be the one to drive us around these days!

Before going diving, we had a marathon Harry Potter day here today. We watched the third movie last night, and both kids read hundreds of pages in the seventh book today; they finished within 10 min of each other this evening! It was lovely and quiet; they each had one of the Kobos (we bought two in the fall) and there was no argument over whose turn it was with the book the way there is with one copy of a paper book!

Benjamin is a fan of pretty much any flavour. Lunch today was a chili-bean-chicken-corn soup (from cupboard to imagination to pot all in the space of 20 min), to which I had added extra hot sauce to my portion. When Benjamin started making his "I want what you have" sounds, I started giving him one bit on the end of the spoon at a time. He gobbled it up! The funniest part of today, however, had to be dinner time. Dinner tonight was a Wahoo fillet from our previous passage. {Supposedly the fish is good in this atoll, but we have elected not to take chances, as there seems to be some fish from some areas that are not safe. We will fish again when we are on passage.} Since our little "high chair" only mounts on the saloon table, when we eat in the cockpit, we often sit Benjamin beside us on the bench and give him a towel as a mat to make the cleanup easier. He quickly decided that he was done sitting still on the mat beside me, so Max took a turn. We don't have much in the way of recognizable language from him yet ... but the meaning of the loud grunts he makes when he sees food that we haven't yet shared is pretty clear. Max fed him for a minute with his grownup fork, then even that was not enough for Benjamin - he had to have the fork in one hand and fistfuls of rice in the other. He was like a little bird that hadn't been fed in a month! The whole family was laughing, as was Benjamin. It is such a delight to have a new little person in the mix! (And it is times like these when it is nice to be able to turn on the salt water pump and spray the entire eating area to do the cleanup :) )

If we were closer, you wouldn't need all this detail - you would come for dinner and watch Benjamin for yourself! That not being the case, this little note will have to suffice, and allow you to join us for dinner (and diving and living aboard) vicariously :)

Love to you all,
Elizabeth
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At 7/18/2014 4:41 AM (utc) Fluenta's position was 16°20.29'S 145°29.77'W

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