Scott joins \”The Manta Club\”…..

Dear F&F,
December 23, 2008

We took the dinghy around to the dive site called \”The Boiler\”. It was much flatter seas so a more comfortable ride than when we went out with the commercial boats. Today we had a hard time finding the shallow site to anchor on. We had tied up to the commercial boat the other day so we had a little bit of a clue on land bearings, but it is like trying to find a needle in a haystack.
We used the GPS and found the coordinates that Terry had given us. We saw swirling water that we imagined was \”boiling\” but no luck. The depths were 130 feet, too deep for setting our anchor & not the right area. We were really starting to sweat in our wetsuits & getting discouraged. Then Scott remembered putting it in as a waypoint on our depth sounder when we were tied up to Nautilus Explorer. Whammo it appears from the deep: 20 feet, just as advertised.

The shallower rock & reef mounds like this are home to all kinds of sea life & called \”cleaner stations\”. The little fish clean, or pick at the bigger fish. Kind of like other animals grooming each other.

We did our backroll into the water out of the dinghy, made sure the anchor was secure & right away a manta came to check us out. I petted his belly & then thought he swam away, but he was still over my head. I accidentally collided with his wing as he started to swim, so my mask flooded a bit. No big deal, but the current was strong & I didn\’t want to get blown away from the reef. So I swam & took the video camera away from Scott & let him play with the manta while I taped it. He got to join the \”Manta Rider\” club! Very exciting.

The first ride the manta swam away from me and the reef, so Scott let go & swam back to me. The manta came swimming right behind him, \”Hey – let\’s keep playing!\” So he took another ride & this time the manta stayed more near me. Every time Scott let go & swam to me, the manta swam right up to him again. He took 4 different rides over 20 minutes total. Spectacular! They are so playful & curious. We can\’t help but compare them to playful puppies. Giant playful 1500-2000 lb. puppies!

Even when we were finally too low on air to stay down, the manta stayed right under us as we were doing our safety stop at 15 feet for 3 minutes. Beautiful. Amazing. Unbelieveable. Scott is the photographer in our family, but the video footage I took does capture the experience. Scott was so stoked. He felt very special. As he should!

We had taken 2 tanks & sandwiches hoping to get 2 dives in at the boiler. We took nearly an our surface interval but then the current shifted & we had to jump in to move our anchor so the line wouldn\’t get chafe on the coral. Some waves started breaking on top of the reef (thus the name \”The Boiler\” – the current can really swirl around & the water gets all churned up). The current was really strong & I had to do a \”combat crawl\” on the reef to move forward against it. We got the anchor re-secured to a safe location & then enjoyed watching some white tip reef sharks. But no mantas & the visibility wasn\’t that great so we only stayed half an hour. I always feel like I am in Navy Seal training when the dive conditions are strenuous. I don\’t get scared, but it does occur to me that most people would think we are nuts.

We are certainly getting way more exercise these days. It is plenty to do 2 dives a day. We don\’t want to push the nitrogen levels & we are pretty tired after #2. Schlepping all the gear in & out of the dinghy, plus the actual diving. Then rinsing & hanging the gear at the end of the day. There are always some chores to do. Today I get to do laundry later when we run the generator. The watermaker is still not 100% but we filled up our tanks enough to spare water for the wash. Yippee, clean sheets & towels! In the evening we look at the days video footage & re-live every moment.

Today is 2 years ago that Suzanne died. Scott hadn\’t mentioned it in the morning, so I did not remind him. After his special manta riding time, I asked him if he had thought about it. He had not (or at least tried not too), but gave special thanks to have such a great experience on this day. It is sobering think how the time passes & people come & go from our life. We feel so privileged to have this chance to live this life, especially at our relatively young age. There are challenges, but so many wonders under the sea.

Scott & Cindy