Manihi Diving…..

Dear F&F,

August 27, 2009
Manihi Diving

At 2:30 p.m. it has already been a great day. Serge, Marc & Wilfred picked us up at the Manihi Pearl Beach Resorts dive boat. Wilfred is the assistant manager of the Pearl Beach Resort Hotel in Tikihau, the last Tuamotu island we may visit, before Tahiti just after Rangiroa. He is staying at the Manihi Pearl Beach for a long weekend & loves to dive. Since Marc already knows us, it made for a very congenial group of avid divers. The ride in the dive boat is a lot faster & more comfortable than our own dinghy. There was no wind so the lagoon looked glassy & we had a smooth ride.

Serge tied the boat to a mooring inside the lagoon, 5 minutes from the hotel. They call the site \”Le Cirque\” the circus. It is a cleaning station & has a consistent reputation for manta rays in the morning. The mantas glide, hover & circle as the small fish eat off little parasites, groom wounds & generally tidy up the larger animal. As advertised, we descended & immediately saw 1 manta. Three others joined shortly. He briefed us of the no touch policy & said that if we swam toward them or exhaled when they swam near us, they might be shy & swim away. We dutifully held still on the rocky bottom & enjoyed the view without interaction. Of course our hearts beat faster when one came near, with fond thoughts of San Benedicto imprinted in our memories forever. Despite the hazy water, Scott got some good photos. What a great way to start the day.

We zoomed back to the shop for our surface interval. They refilled all tanks except mine & we had a cup of tea. I am paranoid about any other compressor filling my tank with potentially less than pristine air. After one horrid dive using a tank from south Fakarava dive shop\’s that tasted like I was sucking on an exhaust hose, I really value the clean air our own dive compressor puts out. Scott risked using a Manihi shop tank since they have an electric compressor, not gas. Serge claims to change the filters regularly. I could not bring myself to risk polluting my perfect clean tank & had brought 2 of our own, so no need to take a risk.

The second dive was outside the lagoon. We tied up to a mooring on one side the pass. We dropped down 15 feet to a beautiful, crystal clear coral garden. Myriads of fish of all sizes, shapes & colors. A few moray eels. We swam against the current which I find exhausting, but I knew there had to be an end point. We dropped down the reef wall to about 100 feet and saw 2 white tip reef sharks & 1 nurse shark resting under a ledge. It was easier kicking the other direction with the current & we enjoyed the majority of our hour dive exploring all the critters of the reef. Marc, ever the divemaster, pointed out fluttery nudibranchs (tiny colorful slug-like creature), 3 varieties of lion fish, 2 different flat fish. Scott took photos of Marc & me hamming for the camera. It is so great to have this chance to dive with him again.

The wind picked up strong by the end of our dive, so the ride back to \”Beach House\” was rough even in their boat. Thank goodness we convinced them to transport us so we didn\’t have to slam into those waves in our dinghy. With the wind now pushing the sailboats somewhat toward land, we are glad of where we are anchored – a bit further away from the shore than the other 2 boats.

We left all our gear except my 2 tanks with the dive boat since we plan to go again tomorrow. We just had our wetsuits & swimsuits to rinse & hang, take showers & eat lunch. I am always glad after the fact that I\’ve cooked ahead. My pot roast over rice & some carrot sticks made a hearty lunch for 2 hungry divers. Scott gave me a preview of the manta photos. Even without being worked by his digital darkroom program, he got some good shots. We know the website is already loaded with manta shots from our 5 weeks at San Benedicto & Socorro, but you will forgive our fondness for these creatures. They will be a highlight wherever we find them. I read a bit then dozed as Scott carried on with photo processing. I came up for a cup of tea, to write you all & hope to receive emails from you when I connect to the ham radio.

Last night we enjoyed the sunset from Xavier\’s pier. Xavier, who owns this motu (islet) is a warm & wonderful guy. He lit a hurricane lamp and shared Navy stories, including a memorable dinner with Jacques Brel (A famous French Folk Singer who died from lung caner in the late 197o\’s). I enjoyed talking to Kenny from San Diego, the contractor building his house. Kenny flew to Tahiti today to visit his Tahitian wife Matania & 2 daughters. Matania works for Air Tahiti Nui & he\’s asked her to get my seat assignment for my September flight to LA. Kenny wants his girls to experience American high school, so they may live with friends in San Diego when the time comes for that. Born in the U.S. & living in Tahiti about 4 years, they are already fluent in French so should be bilingual for life.

We swapped stories with our fellow sailors, learning more about British Arthur who has been to sea for the better part of 20 years. He used to run a sailing school. Since leaving the U.K. he has lived for long stretches in France, New Zealand, the Caribbean. When I asked crew member Augustine, from the Canary islands, who did the cooking aboard he described that they all take turns in the galley. On Sunday they have a proper 4 course dinner & wear colorful shirts. How delightful! Crew member Chris from Brazil is dashing & we talked about the Galapagos, where he joined the boat. They seem to be a happy trio. Sylvan is still uncertain where to go from here for cyclone season: New Zealand, Hawaii, Kiribati. We loaned him our cruising guides & he\’s taking digital photos of charts. His good old dog Eddie (Jack Russell terrier) is sweet with people but gives a warning growl so the 2 other dogs keep their distance. The 6 month old cocker spaniel, Fletcher (named after Fletcher Christian of Mutiny on the Bounty fame), is adorable & a real snuggler. It is nice for us to have dog interaction, then return to our boat without the hassle of onboard ownership.

That\’s the update from here. We are so glad we chose to come to Manihi & that the timing to dive with Marc is working out. More bubbly stories to come!

Cindy & Scott