15 Days at Fakarava Atoll…..

Dear F&F,
August 1-4, 2009

We have sort of lost track of our time here (that\’s a good thing) so I looked it up: half a month on this atoll & we could stay another week. Here\’s what\’s happened the past 4 days:

August 1
Fun dive with Jill, Dan, Marc and several hundred gray reef sharks. I do not have words to describe it. You\’ll just have to wait for the video. This afternoon we moved \”Beach House\” to the anchorage on the north side of the pass which saves us about 15 minutes in dinghy ride time to get to the dive site. We have no way to get more gas for the dinghy, so are trying to use it sparingly now.

Our anchor & chain are fouled up on some coral & Scott was unable to dive it free easily. He\’ll have to try again when we have more hours of daylight to do the job. It is impossible to see the coral from the surface except with good overhead sun. Any wind also makes it hard to see below. I hated to separate from David & Mary, but there hopefully David will dive with our group tomorrow morning. I invited them for lunch tomorrow. I sure hope they will come for one last social event before we part ways. I was encouraged to hear David say they that their plans may include spending a second winter in New Zealand. In which case we may catch up to them again December 2010. That would be loads of fun.

August 2
It probably sounds like the long goodbye and in a way it has been. We had our farewell luncheon with David & Mary today. She gave me a shell to remember her by. It was a thoughtful memento & I will never forget it is from her since it is the color of her hair, a lovely copper red. She\’s been collecting shells from beaches wherever they go & sewing them into decorations on fabric. David brought their IPOD to play Fado music from Portugal for us. It is Spanish style guitar, a banjo type instrument & a woman singer. Portuguese sounds like no other language. Although not a word was understood, you could feel the drama & angst in the ballads. Some of it was up tempo with African rhythms, very nice. After music & lentils we took them into our bedroom (amidst much joking that we have been waiting for this moment all this time…) to show today\’s diving video. We got split into 2 groups today. Jill, Dan, Scott & I with the owner of the dive shop, who is a local guy whose name sounds like Sunny but spelled Sane. Marc the French dive master took 3 from \”E.T.G.\” & David. We all saw the parade of sharks, fish, coral & had a fabulous dive. It was nice to share it with Mary, who snorkels but does not scuba dive.

Tears were on the brim, but I was very brave & did not sob on David\’s shoulder when he gave me a final bear hug. I feel so blessed that we have shared the past 6 weeks with them.

We confirmed with Marc that it is ok to tie up to the mooring that is right next to where we are anchored. Scott dove on the anchor & used inflatable lift bags to get our chain & anchor off the reef so I could raise it with the windlass. When we are ready, it will make it much easier to leave here this way. It was so nice to have only the 5 minute dinghy ride this morning. And I am thrilled that every day the first dive will start 30 minutes later, so the mornings won\’t be so early & rushed.

We are really enjoying Jill & Dan\’s company. The 3 Texans anchored next to us went diving with Marc once too. Scott & Marc have been swapping photo tips. He emails us when we leave shore & are on \”Beach House\” since we don\’t have a cell phone & he does not have a radio. He writes us in French & English to help us learn. Terrific guy. It is bit lonely out here since his last French girlfriend got bored & left. You\’d really have to be into diving to want to live here. Even so, it is just a strip of sand with a few palm trees where only (including Marc), six people live. I think after another 6 weeks of these atolls it will be refreshing to arrive in Tahiti & enjoy the benefits of civilization plus the \”Society Islands\” are high islands, so more hiking opportunities. But I am being where my atoll is & doing just fine right now. Better than fine. Really happy & I feel soooo lucky. It feels like this is my reward for all the not fun parts.

August 3
Marc the dive master just swam from his house on shore to our boat. Scott is sharing underwater video & photos with him, a kindred spirit. I braided my hair in 2 braids like Jill today & wore my clear skirt mask not the black one & left off my nerdy beanie. It looks so much better in the photos. Scott took some cute shots of Jill & I together for Peggy. Also Jill & Dan kissing underwater! Such adorable lovebirds.

August 4
We are the only boat in either anchorage down here by the south pass. This will be \”Giselle\’s\” second night at sea. When we chat with them on the radio in the morning, hopefully they\’ll be in view of Tahiti. This morning they reported very light winds so slow sailing, but comfortable.

We woke up with the wind blowing from the north & now it has shifted west. This was predicted, but thankfully it is not strong. We were slopping around on the mooring which made me queasy, but I was quick to put on the wrist zapper & I do think the thing is helping. Hallelejah!

We only did one dive this morning; fun with sharks as usual. Scott\’s back was a bit delicate & it was cloudy when it was time for the second dive so we decided to pass. He feels much better lying flat on the heating pad. Bending & lifting no bueno. At 3:00 p.m., I dinghied to the pension to pick up Jill & Dan for a visit. They enjoyed seeing \”Beach House\” & we swapped underwater photos of each other. The owner of the operation Sunny picked them up near sunset. I cannot in good conscience use the word resort to describe the facilites: there is no hot water, food is limited to fish & coconuts, the cabins are open air with mosquito netting around the bed. But the diving is amazing. They go out fishing with Sunny for their dinner every night. They seem to enjoy it & know it is fresh, that\’s for sure. Too much camping for my taste, but they really love the quiet, non-touristy, rustic aspects of this remote place.

This evening I decided to bake oat & chocolate cakes. Oat cakes are a perfect glycemic index food. The chocolate cake is a package mix & evil in every way. That\’s why it\’s called Devil\’s Food! It is surely wishful thinking to imagine that baking them at the same time could elicit an insulin balancing effect�

Tomorrow we are not diving to do some maintenance. Change the oil in the scuba compressor. Change water maker filters, chase mildew, etc. I am often surprised by how full our days are.
The view from the cockpit is lovely this evening with the near full moon rising. I must retrieve my laundry to hang it inside overnight. We haven\’t had much rain recently, but I\’ve learned that it can always come out of nowhere, so I hang the clothes indoors at night.

Thursday will be our last day diving with Jill & Dan, they fly back to San Diego Friday. What a nice treat for us to share their vacation. Jill will be starring in one of Scott\’s \”shark week\” videos�stay tuned!
Cindy & Scott