Back on Kena
07 November 2009
Yesterday, after we arrived at North Minerva Reef and set anchor Tomas, my dad and I went on an excursion outside the reef. On board Wasabi they have two sets of dive gear and a compressor, so Tomas and I decided to go for a dive on the north west side of the pass. My dad came along to snorkel and by our support boat. The dive was truly world class. There was a wonderful array of tropical fish, turtles, and eels amongst the dramatic terrain covered in technicolor coral, sponges and sea fans. We anchored about 15 feet from the outside edge of the reef, took the plunge and swam down a light coral encrusted trench that led to a drop off that feel thousands of feet. We swam along wall of the drop of at around 90 feet enjoying large pelagic fish and incredible geological formations that where framed by the seemingly endless, deep blue abyss. A number of times I was startled, sending out a cloud of bubbles, as large fish, often my size or larger, curiously came to check me out. Fish (especially sharks) seem to know when you are watching them and tend to approach from the rear when you are not looking. When they come into the edge of your periphery of sight quite close by it often catches you off guard.
I was completely engrossed by the magnificent marine milieu, and at one point turned around to check on Tomas and couldn't find him. I eventually located him about 45 feet below me, and at a 135 feet he was more than doubling the depth he is certified for. I frantically motioned for him to come up, because at depths beyond 100 feet one can succumb to the effects of nitrogen narcosis, which creates confusion and inebriation, caused by excess nitrogen in the blood. Divers have been known to lose orientation of up and down, take there regulator out, start breathing water, and perform other actions similar to that of someone who is drunk. When diving on a wall without a seeable bottom, it is easy for even experienced divers to lose track of there depth, as there is no visual reference to guide you. Luckily, at that dept Tomas seemed resilient to the effects of nitrogen narcosis, and it was only a good lesson about proper depth monitoring.
After we got back to the dinghy and took off our dive gear, I hopped back in the water for a quick spearfish. Within five minutes I had snuck up on a tasty looking 25 pound spotted grouper. I took a shot and hit him square in the side, but unfortunately he gave one hell of a fight and snapped the spear off the gun's retrieval line. I suppose it was just as well though, within seconds a group of greedy grey reef sharks were there to check out what the commotion was all about.
After a warm shower on Wasabi (which I haven't had in about 6 months...the warm part, not the shower!), we sat down for a meal and a whisky before we changed crews and left of out final passage to New Zealand. Since Kena had been catching fish like mad, both Kena and Wasabi's fridges are filled with fish, we ate an appetizer of tuna sashimi followed up by a large portion of mahi mahi with veggies and rice.
Although it was sad to say goodbye to my dad (it always is), as we greatly enjoyed our passage together on Wasabi, it felt good to be back on trusty and familiar Kena. We decided that I should captain Kena on the last leg to New Zealand, because the weather can be very nasty, and besides my dad no one knows her better than I do.
We left Minerva Reef at around 6:30pm, hoisted the canvas sailed a beautiful beam reach towards the sunset. We had great sailing all through the night, and hand steered most of the way in order to keep our speed up to stay with the much larger and faster Wasabi. Tomas is really getting the hang of steering the boat, holding a steady direction and adjusting for gusts and waves. He has come along way since we first gave him the wheel in August and he immediately went into the wind and put the boat in irons, jamming the sails. Now he seems at ease on the helm, sitting back, relaxing and enjoying the ride.
I had the daybreak shift, which is my favorite. You get to view the gradual transition from night to day. One by one the stars fade away, until just the planets are left shinning in the predawn glow. Then the sun slowly unveils itself, spreading warmth and radiance and igniting the clouds with brilliant oranges and purples and reds.
Today also brought favorable wind and smooth sailing. At around midday we were visited by a pod of about twenty dolphin which played and frolicked at the bow. We stood on the bow as they leaped below our feet, squeaking with pleasure to one another.
Tomas and I have love having Alan onboard and are constantly entertained by his endless and epic stories from a life on the sea. We are also learning so much from someone who has more maritime experience than anyone I know. I feel comfortable and safe with him onboard and am excited on seeing the rest of my family upon arrival in New Zealand.
I am just about to hand over the watch to Alan. Right now the moon has just risen and is shimmering like silver on the water. As we continue to head south, more and more phosphorescence is present the water leaving an iridescent path behind us and twinkling like the spangled sky above, giving the effect that the starry universe does not stop at the horizon, but envelops you completely.