Fakarava Island Reality Show…..

Dear F&F,
July 31, 2009

It just occurred to me as I began writing that these \”Ships Logs\” are like an email reality show. Nearly live, from around the world. What is the \”Beach House\” crew up to now?

I invited David & Mary to dinner last night since I know that they are heading off soon & it seemed like my chance to host them. I made brown rice cooked with coconut milk & ginger, Bruce\’s (sailboat \”Migration\”) Szechuan eggplant (minus the sesame oil, but still good), and garlic shrimp. I splurged & opened 2 of my last 4 bottles of white wine. One was my last bottle of Whitehaven. We toasted \”Red Herring II\”of New Zealand (Whitehaven is a sauvignon blanc from the Marlborough region of NZ) who set sail for Tahiti that day. David played \”Auld Lang Syne\” on his concertina. We introduced them to a few selected tracts of Jimmy Buffet. It was funny to us that David quickly dismissed Ottmar Liebert as awful (which we often play as background party music), but appreciated his frankness. His main complaint was that Ottmar could have never been to Spain & come away with this music. We look forward to hearing some Portuguese Fado that David & Mary love. We also got a hoot out of how much he seemed to love Jimmy Buffet!

In respect for their low glycemic index diet, I did not have a dessert planned. But when David mentioned what he had onboard \”E.T.G.\” I was thrilled to bring out the desired ingredients: small squares of 70% chocolate topped with fresh lime. He carefully peeled the lime to remove all pith then sectioned it & removed all membrane. He placed a small bit of pure lime fruit on the square of chocolate. You pop it in your mouth for a taste sensation. I couldn\’t help but think of the part in the movie \”Ratatouille\” (which we gave them & they adored) when the rat is trying to get his brother to expand his taste horizons. Very nice; and low GI!

This morning we were up at 6:00 a.m., zoomed by dinghy the 20 minutes to the dive area, saw the shop boat already out & jumped in probably 30 minutes after them. There was a clear incoming tide and sunshine, best conditions we\’ve had yet. Scott timed it just right. We were gazing at \”Shark Avenue\” within 5 minutes. It was fantastic to see a parade of grey reef sharks swimming up & down the sandy lane at about 90-100 feet deep. We held on to bits of rock at 90 feet, gradually working our way to 60 feet as our decompression-meter of our dive computers dictated. The current was steady but comfortable. Scott held onto the dinghy, so he did not have a camera. Darn! When we had maximized our deep time, we went gradually to 30 feet drifting along the acres of lively coral & fish below us. Better than any Disneyland ride!

After we did our safety stop & both surfaced we went to the cafe built over the water & hung out with dive master Marc, crew from \”E.T.G.\” Josh & Claire & met the new tourists Jill & Dan. Within minutes we figured out we have a SMALL WORLD STORY with Jill. She is my friend Peggy\’s sister!!! Peggy is my former patient, turned friend. That happened to me a lot – lucky me to gain so many friends during my career. Peggy\’s husband Mark was also my patient & is our primary M.D. Peggy\’s Dad Doug was a frequent patient & shares my birthday. When I turn 50, he turns 80. So I have a strong connection to this family. I had heard the story from Peggy how miraculous & wonderful it was that not long after Jill had lost her husband to an unexpected tragic heart attack, she meets this great guy Dan & is having the time of her life. Here they are on vacation at just this time when we are here! We could not have planned this if we\’d tried. They are avid divers & travel as much as possible. A few months ago they were diving in Palau. This is their 3rd trip to Fakarava. What an amazing coincidence to run into the sister of my good friend! I can\’t wait to email Peggy that we are a part of her sister\’s vacation! THIS IS FAKARAVA, look it up on a world map, it doesn\’t get any \”smaller world\” than this!

We will begin diving with them & Marc tomorrow. Then Scott will be able to take pictures & video & not drag our dinghy. You will see the results in the galleries after we get to Tahiti.

Later on, I took David up on his offer to teach me how to sail. This may sound very strange, but I really am not a confident sailor. Our boat is so big & not quickly responsive. Changes in sail trim & other adjustments are not felt like a small boat and not always easy for me to see & understand. David & Mary have a wooden sailing dinghy that looks like a row boat with a mast. It\’s name appropriately is \”Mouse\”. The \”E.T.G.\” kids have been enjoying it. When I saw them all motor off for snorkeling at the other anchorage, I got my courage to ask David to teach me. He had warned me I\’d be wet, so I dressed in my lycra shorts & shirt I wear under my wetsuit. The little boat\’s sails are hot pink so my aloha shirt matched perfectly.

He demonstrated how to control the rudder, genoa & main lines then got into his motorized dinghy to follow me. I had taken small boat sailing lessons before I met Scott, but not this small! It was great because it is hard to capsize yet imminently responsive, so I felt what to do intuitively very soon. Pull in or ease out the main with one line. Keep the tiny genoa from fluttering with another line that is then cleated. Push the rudder away from the direction I want to go (opposite of our wheel which is like driving a car). I sat in the bottom of the hull & had to duck when I tacked to avoid hitting the boom with my head. Everything was so small & toy like, that I wasn\’t afraid. All parts were light & manageable. It took a bit of muscle as there was 10-15 knots of breeze when I was out, so I got a good thrill going close to the wind & using my body weight to keep the dinghy from heeling too hard over. When the wind lightened, I\’d sit inboard a bit, to not tip her the wrong direction. David swung by \”Giselle\” to pick up Scott (where he was enjoying coffee with Mary) so he could take some photos of me, making him promise not to give me any coaching whatsoever.

A line wasn\’t tied properly & the upper half of the gaff mast fell down during my first 5 minutes. Later another line broke & the foot of the main bunched up. Then near the end, I hit a shallow bit of coral with the dagger board. Despite these casualties, it was a very happy & confidence-building experience. I laughed out loud that it was perfect that I got to experience some of any sailor\’s biggest fears: the mast falling off, ripping a key mainsail line & running aground, all without any serious consequence. Another round of love & appreciation for our friends on \”Giselle\”.

Our tanks are pumped & we are looking forward to our morning dive with dive master Marc. We may get in two if the incoming tide lasts long enough for us to have an adequate surface interval.
We signed up for a package of 6 dives & will likely do more. Stay tuned, more adventures from South Fakarava to come.

Cindy & Scott