Isla San Benedicto – Day 16-17…..

Dear F&F,
January 1 & 2, 2009

Jeronimo (panga driver for Solmar V) showed us another mound. Not too much action, so we cut that site short & went to our tried & true 25 foot mound. As I was handing Scott his camera he noticed a few drops of water inside the housing. His heart sank. Dive over. We zoom back to \”Beach House\” in the dinghy, Scott gingerly holding his camera to hopefully prevent any drips from splashing & doing potential damage. Fortunately, it was just the slightest leak and came in through the front port ring with only 1/8 teaspoon of water. No harm, no foul!…..

Jeronimo invited us aboard \”Solmar V\” to meet the Captain, Gerardo Pazos. We were to come over at 7:30 pm. We had eaten our dinner early, about 5:00 pm, but luckily it was small portions of steak & steamed carrots.

Then at 7:00 pm he hailed us on the radio to come right away because the chef had invited us for dinner. He explained that they only had room for 2 people, so Chuck & Linda were not included. We swung by their boat to pick up their trash since \”Solmar V\” was willing to take it.

We were welcomed by Jeronimo & Captain Pazos. We tied our dinghy up to their big boat & went aboard. As we entered the large & lovely saloon I had the feeling that we had just entered a restaurant. We were warmly welcomed by the group of 20 divers sitting down to dinner. Jeronimo quickly settled us at a table for two and took our drink order. What an unexpected experience to have out here in the middle of nowhere! When he offered champagne I had to say yes, being New Years Day & all… And it wasn\’t just some unknown Mexican brand, it was Moet & Chandon White Star! We felt like we were at a fancy restaurant, which actually we were. Salad came next, followed by a generous portion of delicious beef with portobello mushroom sauce & a baked potato. We ate dinner (all over again) with such relish, you would have thought we\’d been starving on this deserted island!

Half of their divers were from Massachusetts, 6 from Japan, we met a couple from Florida & another from Austin, Texas. Chip & Susan Scarlet, from Austin, are kindred spirits in their passion for the mantas here. Scott & Chip talked photography & Scott had since been suffering from a bit of camera gear envy ever since. New strobes may be on the next shopping list. One of the gals from Massachusetts has been diving out here on this boat 6 times. That is quite a tribute to the good service of the \”Solmar V\” crew and the consistent abundance of sea life seen here.

Scott & I in the past, did 4 trips on this type of live aboard dive boat (Palau, Solomon Islands, Red Sea, and Belize). You fly a long distance, you are with a group of usually quite experienced divers, many that are underwater photographers, and you don\’t miss any of the 4 dives per day because this is your 1 or 2 week vacation for that year. We had a good time & Scott got great photos, but there was a hectic feel to the pace, no privacy or chance to relax. We prefer being alone on our own floating home, knowing we can go where we want and stay as long as we want. Scott can pursue his art at his own pace. We are daily grateful for of the luxury of time that we now have as we travel.

Contrary to our surmising that the mantas were steering clear of the large diving groups, we heard that they had great manta encounters on most of their dives. We now conclude that the mantas love the paparazzi and only after the large boats leave are they content to model for just the one remaining photographer. Those hussies!

While dessert was served they showed a video on the big screen of whales. Jeronimo had taken the topside footage and a past dive guest contributed with underwater film taken in the spring of 2006. It showed a mother & baby humpback whale that allowed close interaction with snorkelers. It was so touching & beautiful. The music playing along was sweet: \”Lady In Red\”, \”You are So Beautiful to Me\”, \”Sorry is the Hardest Word\” & and ya gotta love this one – \”You Take My Breath Away\”. Jeronimo told us that this particular mother & baby stayed in the Roca Partida area for nearly a month. So 3 trips of their divers got to experience these amazing creatures. Chuck has talked to cruisers down in Puerto Vallarta that have sighted whales with babies already. So we are keeping our eyes peeled for any sightings. And their song, when you can hear it, is unmistakable.

Jeronimo showed us many of his photos from different trips. Including some shots of Scott & I both on \”Beach House\” & suited up for diving in our dinghy. He burned a CD of jpgs for us. (SEE PHOTO GALLERY, WILL BE POSTED WHEN WE GET TO SHORE SIDE INTERNET) In return as thanks, we will gave him a CD of manta photos and some hammerhead sharks.

I personally thanked the humble chef for sharing his delicious cooking. He was pleased with our enthusiasm. I inquired if he had any extra vanilla to spare, presenting my own empty bottle. He pulled out his large bottle, half full & gave me the whole amount. Yippee! More flavorful coffee & cocoa can still be had. We didn\’t return to our boat until 10:30 pm. We had such a lovely & unexpected evening out.

Jan 2, 2009
Today would have been Suzanne (Scott\’s Moms), 72nd birthday. A very mixed emotion day. It\’s hard to believe she\’s been gone two years.

We awoke to find \”Nautilus Explorer\” also anchored here this morning, so both big boats here again. Apparently they don\’t coordinate their schedules, which seems weird to us. The one item we had not yet scored from \”Solmar V\” was diesel. By the time we left last night, the captain was already in his quarters so Jeronimo advised Scott return in the morning to ask. As soon as Scott saw activity onboard this morning he zoomed over in our dinghy. The captain said the engineer, who would decide, was still asleep, but that he should return in 1 hour. He returned with 4 empty five gallon jugs. It took some doing for the engineer to drain diesel out of their big tanks into our jugs, but he did it gladly. He would not take our pesos, but wrote down information on how to email the manager of the company to ask if & how we should make payment. Some days later we got a reply that he was happy that the crew could help us & that it was his gift. We are greatly impressed with their friendship & generosity.

Chuck & Linda were thrilled that we shared half the diesel with them, as they do not have much carrying capacity.

Scott was tired from staying up late, getting up early & zooming back & forth to \”Solmar V\” schlepping diesel. He is also melancholy as today is Suzanne\’s birthday. When I suggested we just \”stay in\” today, he agreed. I am catching up on writing and he is beginning to edit his video footage. Linda saw 4 mantas, turtles, an eel & lots of fish while snorkeling this morning. I may join her in the afternoon if she goes again.

Scott & Cindy