Sunday, October 19, 2008

Snorkeling in the Coral Gardens

October 20, 2008--Well, it is now one week until Gary arrives in Neiafu. We are anchored back in Vaimalo where we stayed when we arrived in Vava'u. We left the Coral Gardens anchorage yesterday and stopped here so that Steve could clean the bottom of the boat in calm water. Scarlette O'Hara and Argonaut joined us here.

We moved to the Coral Gardens last Thursday and found several boats in the anchorage. The first night we just stayed on the boat, but the next day we joined Island Time and Little Wings for a snorkel of the reef between Vaka'eitu and Nua Papu Islands known as "The Coral Gardens." We took our dinghies to shore about two hours before low tide and then walked around the point of Vaka'eitu. The surf comes in on the west side of the reef, which is where you have to enter the water, so you have to time your entry with the waves. There was a "v" cut in the coral that gave us a good place to enter, so we put on our masks and fins and waited. While we were waiting the waves were coming up and over the reef where we were standing, but they were only about ankle deep. When we saw a lull in the wave pattern, I went into the water and swam quickly away from the reef. Steve then followed me, and we began to swim parallel to the reef.

The coral at this reef was really beautiful. There were so many colors and types of coral and so much of it. The fish were also plentiful. Steve had our camera and took some very nice pictures. In one of them he caught two fish that looked like "Nemo" and were floating beside each other right above a large piece of coral. We also saw a spotted eel, and we learned later that it had been fighting with another eel. We spent about an hour in the water swimming north and then south along the reef. It was the best snorkeling that we have had.

Now we just had to get out of the water. This proved to be a bit harder. We swam back to the "v" in the coral and again watched the wave sequence. Steve was waiting a little to the left so when a swell came in, we both swam to the shelf. I was just about there when the water flowed back out. I was close enough that I could grab onto the coral with my hands--I had worn my dive gloves. This was no problem; however, now I was close to the coral when the next wave pushed me into it again. I was able to climb out and quickly sit down. Steve had worn his full Lycra suit, and I had on a full dive suit, which saved us from cutting ourselves on the coral. We both were struggling to get our fins off while trying to keep our balance and not get drug all over the coral. We then walked back to the shore to get our sunglasses and hats and then wait for the other couples to join us.

A cruiser named Hubert made it onto the shelf, but then he was getting washed over the coral, so Steve went to help him while I went to help Ron and Mary Ellen and Craig and Kay if they needed it. Hubert was okay so Steve joined me. Craig came in first with no real problems. Kay came in next with her feet in front of her, and when the wave picked her up, Steve grabbed her hand, and she gracefully stepped up onto the reef. She had left her fins with Ron, which helped a lot. Ron then threw us all their fins, and he and Mary Ellen also got out without a problem. Unfortunately, Kay had scraped her foot pretty badly when she had entered the water so it was bleeding. She joked that she had been watching for sharks the whole time she was in the water. We all agreed to give Kay the award for the best exit. We returned to our boats a little tired but glad that we had snorkeled the reef. It was well worth the effort.

That morning, Steve and I had gone around to all the boats and set up a dinghy raft-up for that evening, so at five o'clock we went over to Scarlette. We decided to stay farther out because of bugs, and it was too deep to anchor so we tied to a line that they had put in the water behind their boat. We had seven boats show up so we had a nice little floating "Happy Hour." Everyone brought something to eat and drink. The food was passed around, and we enjoyed a beautiful sunset. Two of the boats were Swiss, and they had never done this before, but for us it brought back lovely memories of Mexico.

Saturday we took a short hike on Vaka'eitu Island. There was an abandoned "Eco Resort" but a path still existed that allowed us to walk to the ridge and get a good view of the other islands in the area. It was an easy hike, but it still felt good to get some exercise. When we returned to the boat, I baked bread and made chili for dinner that night. John and Renee came over for dinner and afterwards we played Baja Rummy.

We will be in Neiafu later today and will be there until Gary gets in on Monday. I need to have some laundry done and buy some more provisions for our crossing. There are also the usual cleaning and maintenance items to get done. Neither of us can believe that we are preparing to sail to New Zealand. The time has passed quickly.

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