Yesterday morning Tiff and I went scuba diving a mere few hundred feet or so from where the boat was anchored. We had seen multiple dive boats in a particular spot tied to a moored dive boat, so we assumed that there must be something there to see. Despite that it was close by, getting over there was a comedy of errors. The current was intense and rapidly carried Tiff and I away from the boat, in the opposite direction of the dive site. We agreed that it would be best to get a lift over in the dinghy rather than trying to swim there, but even at the lowest possible speed, riding alongside the dinghy was a bit of a nightmare what with water flowing over our heads so that we couldn’t see or breathe, so I had to stop being stubborn and allow Dallas to drag me and my 40 lb gear into the dinghy for the 2 minute ride. Then as he was pulling Tiff into the dinghy, I lost my balance and fell back into the water and had to repeat the process. Needless, to say, Dallas got more exercise than he anticipated when he volunteered to give us a lift.

dive Check out the clarity of the water!

Once at the dive site, we quickly sank to the shallow bottom (around 12′) and found ourselves drifting back toward the boat super fast. We had to kick like mad to stay near the coral heads, but we must not be the only ones who have had trouble with this, as we found ropes tied between the coral heads to grab onto. These kept us from immediately floating back to the boat and thus having a very short dive. We held the ropes as we explored four large coral heads and the surrounding fish. The most common ones seemed to be zebra fish, needle fish, schools of small vibrantly blue ones, and black, white, and yellow angelfish.

Dallas had suspected that this was one of the sites where sharks or rays are fed for the tourists, who use long hoses attached to a small tanks of compressed air that remains on the boat to breathe underwater. While we didn’t see any tourist boats arrive while we were at the site, we are pretty sure that Dallas was correct, as we had two very large (about 4′ across) gray stingrays circling around us for at least 10 minutes as if we were supposed to feed them! Under other circumstances, both of us agreed that we would have been pretty freaked out by this, but it helped that we had heard about the feedings and the rays’ apparent comfort with people. Even so, we didn’t expect them to get SO close, and when one of them approached Tiff almost seeming to want to kiss her (it was only a few inches from her face), I instinctively grabbed her and pulled her away! She later said that her instinct was to freeze up and pretend she wasn’t there!

After about half an hour, we had seen what we wanted to see (and I was low on air, as I was using what remained from Dallas’ dive on our anchor in Huahine), so we rose to the surface. We blew our whistles to get Dallas’ attention, but the boat was upwind of us, so that didn’t work. Dallas had said he would be checking for us every five minutes, but Tiff and I decided to use the formidable current to help propel us back to the boat. About two minutes later, we were there!

We talked over our plans for the day and decided to try to motor over to a nearby anchorage. Dallas and I used the dinghy and depth sounder to confirm that we could make it there without running aground on one of the many coral heads. While it was very shallow (as little as 6′) in some places, it looked like we would be fine with our 3.5′ draft, and we were. We were surprised to see some monohulls in the anchorage, though.

A French woman from one of the monohulls came by and invited us to her 4-year-old daughter’s birthday party on the beach. She was a little disappointed that we didn’t have children to attend the party, but she later found some local kids on the beach to invite. Tiff and I decided to go, and we really enjoyed the company of the small group of cruisers in attendance from France, New Zealand, Columbia, and Switzerland. We drank some rum, played with the bilingual kids ("will you play avec me?"), and I even had the opportunity to play "Happy Birthday" on the Swiss mountain horn. It seemed that a good time was had by all until the end of the night when we were reminded how difficult it can be to sustain positive relationships on the close quarters of one’s boat. One couple had a very public but controlled argument before heading back to their boat, while another got into a loud, intensely emotional fight back on their boat. We were anchored some distance away, but we could clearly hear what was going on, and it was all I could do not to jump in the dinghy and try to calm them (particularly the woman) down. Just when we thought the situation had subsided, we heard a splash and realized that the woman was in the water swimming toward shore with the man following behind in the dinghy, trying in vain to get her aboard. At this point Dallas agreed that it was time to intervene, and we picked up the woman in our dinghy and housed her for the night (after Dallas retrieved some dry clothes from her boat and had a good chat with the man). The next morning she was gone, and we haven’t heard anything since, so we are assuming it was just a case of too much booze. After spending time in less inhabited, very tranquil anchorages, we are not used to such drama!

kids Chasing the birthday girl and her sister

horn Pulling out the collapsible Swiss mountain horn was a great party trick

Yesterday was much less dramatic. Wes and Tiff took the dinghy to go snorkeling, Dallas did some boat work (sewing a tear on the spinnaker, repairing a broken starter rope for the outboard engine), I baked some banana bread and went snorkeling around the anchorage, and we Skyped with friends and family.

Last night Dallas and I had dinner at "Ben’s", a "snack" (small, informal restaurant) on the road that runs along the beach. Ben is from Bora Bora while his wife is from…wait for it…Oklahoma! They have been running the snack for 20 years and have a lot of insight into the island and its social problems. It sounds like Bora Bora is anything but paradise for the locals. For example, there are few jobs beyond those in the tourist industry. The best of these go to the French, and the mid-level jobs go to Tahitians and other islanders, leaving only 15% of the jobs (the menial ones) for natives of Bora Bora. To top it off, public service companies such as the electric company have a monopoly and are increasing their rates just as the island has fallen into an economic crisis. As happens anywhere, these economic problems coincide with mental health problems, and Ben and Robin are currently in the process of adopting a boy with an alcoholic father and a remarried, negligent mother whose elderly foster mother physically abused him. These were harsh realities to consider, but it was enlightening to get the local perspective of the island, as this was our first opportunity to do so in the Society Islands (in English as well!). Incidentally, we also learned that Marlon Brando’s wife, who he met during the filming of  Mutiny on the Bounty in Tahiti, had no teeth until she was given a new set by MGM Studios! Unfortunately, Marlon’s outrageous fortune did not prevent them from having outrageous problems, and for those who don’t know, his son was later imprisoned for murdering the abusive boyfriend of his sister, who later committed suicide. Talk about drama!

After all of this, we are feeling ready to get back to the peace and quiet of the sea. Today we will get duty-free diesel, do some last minute snorkeling, and prepare to get underway tomorrow.