[post by John] Me a SCUBA diver.
So, after bouncing around between tropical locations for the last 15 years, but never venturing very far beneath the water, today I took the plunge and went on my very first SCUBA dive. I always though SCUBA looked like an awful lot of hassle and expense when I could just jump in the water and see quite a bit by snorkeling. But after staying underwater for almost 50 minutes today and exploring the depths as the fish do, I see the benefits of also being a SCUBA diver. I joined our friends from another boat, Thomas and Laure. We were picked up from our boats by the dive boat and then we motored out about five minutes to the reef. After about one minute of instruction from the dive master, in a mixture of French and English, mostly just about hand signals to use underwater and how to inflate and deflate the buoyancy compensator, I flopped backwards out of the boat and into the water.
Thomas with his mask complete off.
I descended with the instructor to about twenty feet and after that I was on my own for awhile so I swam around and took a few photos of my classmates learning how to clear their masks. When my turn came I was a little confused since nothing had been explained to me before, but with some hand signals (can't talk underwater anyway, so no problem that I don't speak much French) I figured it out that the instructor wanted me to take out my mouthpiece and try exhaling without it. That was pretty easy. Next I had to remove my mask completely and then put it back on and practice blowing all the water out. This was a little harder but I managed it okay. After this it was back to swimming around and taking photos and chasing sharks. The deepest part of the dive was 35 feet. After we finished and were headed back to the anchorage the instructor complimented me on being extremely relaxed in the water for it being my first time diving. Everything felt pretty natural to me. Breathing from a tank was the only part I was not so sure about at first, but once I got my rhythm of one quick breath and slowly exhaling, I was set. I hope to complete my PADI certification in Fakarava, the third atoll we will visit in the Tuamotus.
Swimming as the fish do.
The day after we arrived in Makemo we were joined by friends on four other boats. All the boats are tied to the wharf and it was a lot of fun helping tie up the new boats as they arrived. Lots of locals, and especially kids, were on hand to help as well. It was a bit of a party for awhile on the dock as everyone was really excited to finally be in the Tuamotus, not to mentioned being tied to a wharf for a change. Our friends on Charade caught a nice sized blue marlin on their way in and gave all the boats of bag of fish. That night all the French boats joined together on Charade for a huge sushi and sashimi feast. I provided entertainment during the cocktail hour. After dinner Bruce played accordion and Pascale sang and I played a few more piece on the violin.
Five cruiser boats plus Antoine's boat, Banana Split.
Helping Banana Split tie up.
Helping Moondance into the dock.
Saying goodbye to drifter Anne and her father.
Yesterday I went for a six mile walk exploring the atoll a bit. I did not find a whole lot of interest, but while I walked I kept busy trying to learn how to weave coconut palm fronds. I was not very successful but when I got back to the boat I downloaded a bunch of instructional information about flax weaving and now have completed a fish and a flower from coconut fronds. On the way back into town I opened a coconut and enjoyed some thirst quenching coconut milk.
Fishing boats passed while walking into town.
Local kids are extremely friendly.
Tonight I talked with two men on a boat from Padua, Italy. It was fun meeting some Italians and getting to practice speaking Italian. We met one other Italian boat a few weeks ago but they were not very friendly so no luck then, but these guys seem much more open to conversation.
Calou really attracts the locals, and even a guitar player.
This morning I practiced violin for about three hours at the foot of the wharf. There is a nice covered area with good acoustics and a terrific view of the bay. It turns out there is a movie night there on Friday which is very popular with the islanders. I have been invited to play before the movie starts. Also, a man drove up on his scooter, Felix, who heard me practicing today and asked if I want to play at the high school. So now, in addition to providing cocktail hour music, I have two engagements in town.