Wednesday, April 25, 2007
Time flies when you're asleep.
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I've decided that it is important to precisely record our daily accomplishments lest it appear that we are wasting the entire day away achieving nothing. One might think we spent all
our time sleeping. Yesterday was, despite all appearances to the contrary, a task filled and productive day. I've included a list of just those items that consumed significant amounts of time below.
Items such as staring out at the horizon, or listening to Mota mumble incoherently about solar energy pay-back schemes and self financed startups have been omitted, even though they incorporate vast portions of our day. It tended to make our task list accounting complicated as we tend to do them simultaneously anyway.
So, here are yesterday's accomplishments:
1) Awoke. (2 hours) This is a process of stumbling around and/or sitting and staring at the counter, sipping yesterday's cold coffee while waiting for your mouth to slowly absorb the paste-like substance that has formed around your gums and teeth overnight.
2) Make grunting noises in response to concerns of health from crewmates. (14 minutes, but overlaps previous item.
3) Made breakfast. (one hour) Occurred at 1:32pm, but hey, it was our first meal of the day. It's the thought that counts.
4) Ate breakfast. (two hours) Includes long discussion about the music that was randomly playing on the IPOD.
5) Got shaken down by Kuna for $5.00 parking tax. (ten minutes)
6) Added plastic windscreen to the Bimini (the fabric cover over the cockpit) using pre-installed zipper attachment. (three minutes)
7) Locate plastic windscreen so that we could install it. (thirty five minutes)
8) Reviewed Jeff's "Hat Modifications". (one hour- more on this later)
9) Got ready to go snorkeling. (one hour, fifteen minutes)
10) Went snorkeling. (twenty five minutes to drive dinghy to dive site. Dive site was six hundred yards from the boat.)
11) Snorkeled. (one hour) Details below.
12) Returned to boat. (six minutes, Mota drove)
13) Ate lunch. (one hour, forty five minutes) Consisted of each of us foraging through fridge for left-overs.
14) Watched Jeff attempt to fix his glasses. (one half hour)
15) Watched Mota attempt to also fix Jeff's glasses. (fifteen minutes)
16) Fixed Jeff's glasses. (three minutes)
17) Wrote email. (one hour, ten minutes)
18) Watched DVD about heavy weather sailing. (eighty minutes)
So, as you can see, it has been a hectic, work-filled day for us and we have actually accomplished something! Not only did we go snorkeling, but we brought Jeff's camera (which we call "The Pop Tart"), and have photographic proof of our exploits.
I should mention this device as it has proven to be the greatest technical marvel of our trip. It is an Optio W30 which Jeff bought for under a few hundred dollars on line. It can take both photographs and videos, is water proof to three meters, can be uploaded to any laptop, holds hundreds of photos, is able to produce great shots, even in low light conditions, and is smaller than a pop tart.
We've used it everywhere, under the worst conditions and it has produced incredibly great shots. In fact, we've taken snap shots of all of our female passenger's breasts under water, which have become the screen saver series for the laptop.
That alone makes it a piece of gear I will always treasure, but the reliability, ease of use and low maintenance make it something to behold. If you are looking for a great bang around trip camera, this is something to check out. If you have any shots of your breasts under water, forward them on to AnnMarie and she will include them in our montage.
Now back to our regularly scheduled stroll through paradise. We snorkeled in an area called "The Japanese Rock Garden" today, which is a shallow, sandy area just off the South Eastern edge of the island next to us.
It is strewn with large coral heads (a light brown "brain coral" and a dark purple fan coral) with lots of small, brightly colored fish darting in and out. As we were getting ready to dive out of the dingy I noticed an odd disturbance in the water about twenty yards off. I watched it for a few minutes and started seeing a dark black fin break the surface now and then. Every so often enough of it would be visible that I could see a bit of white underneath it as well. This meant only one thing: Eagle Rays!
If you've never seen an Eagle Ray I suggest going to the internet and finding a video of one. They are sleek, amazing sea creatures, shaped like a sting ray but significantly larger. The one we saw was more than four feet across and maybe seven feet long, with a mottled back and a white underbelly. They move so gracefully through the water that it is easy to miss just how powerful and fast they are. They glide along in slow motion, undulating in a hypnotic manner devoid of any effort. Their motions completely belie their strength and agility. A ray can literally disappear into the distance if frightened. Normally they just swim about straining the water for krill and algae, and are quite docile and at times even friendly. There are stories of divers being allowed rides on them, and a friend of mine once spent over fifteen minutes riding the back of one over ten feet wide through a school of hammer head sharks!
No such opportunities for us. Instead we watched it glide by a few times, then swim slowly away. It was beautiful and sexy and we could have gone home right then and the trip would have been worth it. Thinking I'd just seen the day's highlights, I shrugged and started off towards the reef only to encounter a three foot long barracuda blocking my path and staring me down. Now if you've never seen one of these up close and personal you may not be able to quite get the sense what it means to suddenly find yourself face to face with one.
Okay, imagine that you are weak guy, about 5'6" tall, weighting a hundred and ten pounds, and are wearing a suit and tie and carrying an expensive brief case. It is 2:45AM and you've accidentally gotten off at the wrong BART station and have noticed too late that there is no one in the parking lot waiting to pick you up. In fact, the parking lot looks like a miniature version of Harlem when the Democrats were trying to improve things through urban planning and social welfare, and everything is covered in graffiti. You turn around to walk back into the BART station and there, standing between you and the entrance, is a six foot tall, two hundred pound, nineteen year old, hooded male holding a length of chain. You look into his eyes and see someone that is evaluating you in terms that have nothing to do with your sunny personality or civic contributions.
This is exactly what it is like to meet a barracuda underwater. They are big, powerful, mean looking animals with razor sharp teeth and an expression that says it all. You are in their hood, they are absolutely the law and can do whatever they want. Your only hope is that they have other plans and/or the BART police are due by shortly. Oh, and much like our mythical street thug, barracuda are attracted by shinny objects. They have been known to attack swimmers that are wearing jewelry or bits of shiny metal, taking large chunks of the swimmer off with them in the process.
I stuck my head out of the water and yelled over to Jeff & Mota, warning them about this. "You wearing anything metal or shiny?" I asked. "Not that I'm willing to take off" said Mota, referring to his silver nipple ring with the dazzling green jewel in it that reflected sunlight in about a thousand little points of light. "Um, you might want to think about that" I said. "Nope, not coming off" was his steadfast reply. "Okay, its your nipple". We swam around a bit more, the barracuda lost interest and wandered off, sparring Mota any unnecessary breast reduction.
The rest of the dive was just plain, relaxing fun, with any number of local reef fish making their appearances for us. Clown fish, angle fish, parrot fish, sponges, anemones, crabs, starfish, the fauna and flora were beautiful and numerous. I floated at the surface and watched a mini soap box episode where a small yellow banded fish with bright blue eyes defended its little burrow from two larger brown and white stripped fish, ultimately standing them off through shear determination.
Eventually my back began to hurt so i decided to call it a day. It was a very lovely dive and for Jeff & Mota an extra special treat to see a ray so close. As we dinghy'ed back to the boat we motored right over a five foot long nurse shark in about ten feet of water. We got a few seconds of video of it as it swam gracefully along under our boat. I was surprised to see something that large hanging out around here, I'd have thought that something like that would be prime food for the Kuna, but either it isn't good eating or we got lucky a third time in seeing one.
Once back on the boat Jeff decided to repair his glasses. Apparently the screw had fallen out of one hinge and Jen had repaired it by tying a piece of thread through it. Over the course of time the thread began to break down and by yesterday it was being held in place by a wisp of material, which meant his glasses had this lopsided look about them, which we gave him no end of shit about. By way of full disclosure, my glasses, although still soundly attached at the hinges, are so bent that I look like the before picture for geeks anonymous - but no one even bothers saying anything about it, as it is generally recognized that I'm hopeless. At least Jeff has the potential for being cool, and it disturbs us to see him fall short.
Perhaps that is why this next bit is so funny to us. Jeff bought a hat from West Marine.
It is a wide brimmed, floppy, white polyester affair with special flotation built in, in case it goes overboard. I have the same hat, but while on me or Mota it looks only dorky, on Jeff it is absurdly funny looking. Actually, on Mota, it even looks good, but he is one of those people who were born looking good in any hat. No doubt he could wear a beret and pull it off, the bastard.
Anyway, Jeff decided to "improve" its look by altering the styling, so two days ago he mentioned that he had the sail repair kit and if I was looking for the needle and thread he had them. At the time I didn't pay much attention as I was preoccupied with making breakfast [translation: repairing the LP solenoid and unplugging the stove burner] so I didn't think anything more of it.
Later the next day he decided to unveil his handy work, which produced a laughing fit in Mota & I that lasted several minutes, with tears running down our faces and that gasping of breath that makes you wonder if you might just guffaw yourself to death by suffocation. I think we might have hurt Jeff's feelings. He seemed genuinely annoyed that we didn't appreciate his masterpiece.
He had sewn back the two opposite edges of the brim on each side of the hat to themselves, using a needle and thread not intended for anything less than twenty ounce cloth. If Frankenstein had a tailor, this is what he'd have worn to the beach. Each stitch was about 3/8" long and the thread (which was originally designed to hold together hardened canvas during a hurricane) was almost as wide as the hat band itself. To make matters even worse, he didn't arrange the brim in that "Australian" style, where one or both sides are fastened to the top leaving the wearing looking a bit jaunty if not swaggering, but instead just folded over less than an inch on each side and tacked it to itself, giving it a shape best described as a sort of rhomboid that had been left out in the rain too long.
What was already not a good look suddenly became hilarious. At least to Mota & I. Jeff didn't think our cackling was at all justified and refused to allow us to photograph him wearing both the modified hat and the lopsided glasses. At one point, while wearing the jeweler's magnifying glasses, I asked him to please model the hat for our video collection. He threw the hat overboard and has been very touchy about it ever since, although it floats, so he had to dive in and retrieve it afterwards, which undercut the gravity of his original action. If anyone sees a beret they think might look good on him, send it down.
Other than that, the day has been pretty much one of preparing to do one thing, going to do that thing, or recuperating from doing it. My back is still fucked up, so I'm not as happy as I could be, but life is pretty good right now. We've had a bunch of rain, mostly from squalls that blow through, but otherwise it has been quite nice, with temperatures in the high eighties or better.
I hope everyone is well and that any gun control issues have been satisfactorily resolved in my absence.
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