Month: July 2009

Fakarava Island Reality Show…..

July 31, 2009

Dear F&F,
July 31, 2009

It just occurred to me as I began writing that these “Ships Logs” are like an email reality show. Nearly live, from around the world. What is the “Beach House” crew up to now?

I invited David & Mary to dinner last night since I know that they are heading off soon & it seemed like my chance to host them. I made brown rice cooked with coconut milk & ginger, Bruce’s (sailboat “Migration”) Szechuan eggplant (minus the sesame oil, but still good), and garlic shrimp. I splurged & opened 2 of my last 4 bottles of white wine. One was my last bottle of Whitehaven. We toasted “Red Herring II”of New Zealand (Whitehaven is a sauvignon blanc from the Marlborough region of NZ) who set sail for Tahiti that day. David played “Auld Lang Syne” on his concertina. We introduced them to a few selected tracts of Jimmy Buffet. It was funny to us that David quickly dismissed Ottmar Liebert as awful (which we often play as background party music), but appreciated his frankness. His main complaint was that Ottmar could have never been to Spain & come away with this music. We look forward to hearing some Portuguese Fado that David & Mary love. We also got a hoot out of how much he seemed to love Jimmy Buffet!

In respect for their low glycemic index diet, I did not have a dessert planned. But when David mentioned what he had onboard “E.T.G.” I was thrilled to bring out the desired ingredients: small squares of 70% chocolate topped with fresh lime. He carefully peeled the lime to remove all pith then sectioned it & removed all membrane. He placed a small bit of pure lime fruit on the square of chocolate. You pop it in your mouth for a taste sensation. I couldn’t help but think of the part in the movie “Ratatouille” (which we gave them & they adored) when the rat is trying to get his brother to expand his taste horizons. Very nice; and low GI!

This morning we were up at 6:00 a.m., zoomed by dinghy the 20 minutes to the dive area, saw the shop boat already out & jumped in probably 30 minutes after them. There was a clear incoming tide and sunshine, best conditions we’ve had yet. Scott timed it just right. We were gazing at “Shark Avenue” within 5 minutes. It was fantastic to see a parade of grey reef sharks swimming up & down the sandy lane at about 90-100 feet deep. We held on to bits of rock at 90 feet, gradually working our way to 60 feet as our decompression-meter of our dive computers dictated. The current was steady but comfortable. Scott held onto the dinghy, so he did not have a camera. Darn! When we had maximized our deep time, we went gradually to 30 feet drifting along the acres of lively coral & fish below us. Better than any Disneyland ride!

After we did our safety stop & both surfaced we went to the cafe built over the water & hung out with dive master Marc, crew from “E.T.G.” Josh & Claire & met the new tourists Jill & Dan. Within minutes we figured out we have a SMALL WORLD STORY with Jill. She is my friend Peggy’s sister!!! Peggy is my former patient, turned friend. That happened to me a lot – lucky me to gain so many friends during my career. Peggy’s husband Mark was also my patient & is our primary M.D. Peggy’s Dad Doug was a frequent patient & shares my birthday. When I turn 50, he turns 80. So I have a strong connection to this family. I had heard the story from Peggy how miraculous & wonderful it was that not long after Jill had lost her husband to an unexpected tragic heart attack, she meets this great guy Dan & is having the time of her life. Here they are on vacation at just this time when we are here! We could not have planned this if we’d tried. They are avid divers & travel as much as possible. A few months ago they were diving in Palau. This is their 3rd trip to Fakarava. What an amazing coincidence to run into the sister of my good friend! I can’t wait to email Peggy that we are a part of her sister’s vacation! THIS IS FAKARAVA, look it up on a world map, it doesn’t get any “smaller world” than this!

We will begin diving with them & Marc tomorrow. Then Scott will be able to take pictures & video & not drag our dinghy. You will see the results in the galleries after we get to Tahiti.

Later on, I took David up on his offer to teach me how to sail. This may sound very strange, but I really am not a confident sailor. Our boat is so big & not quickly responsive. Changes in sail trim & other adjustments are not felt like a small boat and not always easy for me to see & understand. David & Mary have a wooden sailing dinghy that looks like a row boat with a mast. It’s name appropriately is “Mouse”. The “E.T.G.” kids have been enjoying it. When I saw them all motor off for snorkeling at the other anchorage, I got my courage to ask David to teach me. He had warned me I’d be wet, so I dressed in my lycra shorts & shirt I wear under my wetsuit. The little boat’s sails are hot pink so my aloha shirt matched perfectly.

He demonstrated how to control the rudder, genoa & main lines then got into his motorized dinghy to follow me. I had taken small boat sailing lessons before I met Scott, but not this small! It was great because it is hard to capsize yet imminently responsive, so I felt what to do intuitively very soon. Pull in or ease out the main with one line. Keep the tiny genoa from fluttering with another line that is then cleated. Push the rudder away from the direction I want to go (opposite of our wheel which is like driving a car). I sat in the bottom of the hull & had to duck when I tacked to avoid hitting the boom with my head. Everything was so small & toy like, that I wasn’t afraid. All parts were light & manageable. It took a bit of muscle as there was 10-15 knots of breeze when I was out, so I got a good thrill going close to the wind & using my body weight to keep the dinghy from heeling too hard over. When the wind lightened, I’d sit inboard a bit, to not tip her the wrong direction. David swung by “Giselle” to pick up Scott (where he was enjoying coffee with Mary) so he could take some photos of me, making him promise not to give me any coaching whatsoever.

A line wasn’t tied properly & the upper half of the gaff mast fell down during my first 5 minutes. Later another line broke & the foot of the main bunched up. Then near the end, I hit a shallow bit of coral with the dagger board. Despite these casualties, it was a very happy & confidence-building experience. I laughed out loud that it was perfect that I got to experience some of any sailor’s biggest fears: the mast falling off, ripping a key mainsail line & running aground, all without any serious consequence. Another round of love & appreciation for our friends on “Giselle”.

Our tanks are pumped & we are looking forward to our morning dive with dive master Marc. We may get in two if the incoming tide lasts long enough for us to have an adequate surface interval.
We signed up for a package of 6 dives & will likely do more. Stay tuned, more adventures from South Fakarava to come.

Cindy & Scott

Island Life, South Pass Fakarava Atoll, Tuamotu Islands…..

July 30, 2009

Dear F&F,
July 30, 2009

We had a nice time last night at the beach happy hour. The “E.T.G.” kids enjoyed stoking the bon fire. I managed to stay out of the path of the smoke. Gloria, the 6 year old showed me shells she had collected. I had to focus hard on staying present with her & not letting my thoughts drift back to Skye at that age & getting pangs of missing our little girl (now 24!). We talked with Graham about their time cruising up the Red Sea & land touring in Israel. It was nice for us to hear a non-Jewish New Zealander speak very pro-Israel. We also learned more about his work with Outward Bound. And what led up to his open heart surgery. His father & brother each died of heart attacks in their 50s. Graham never smoked & was really into running, hiking, mountain climbing & bicycling. He had arm/chest pains when doing a big uphill bike ride, got tested & 2 coronary arteries were completely blocked & a 3rd 80% closed. The surgeon said they caught him just in time. Ya just never know…

A 3rd crew member has flown in to help with the kids on “E.T.G.” & give Captain Josh & chef/nanny Claire some help. The 7 of them have been together non-stop for 5 months with only 2 days off. They are staying off-boat in a bungalow tonight to have their first privacy from the family since the Galapagos. They are in their mid 20s, British & plan to work as captain/crew on boats for about 3 years. I am so glad we are posh enough not to have to work while doing this life. And independently functioning enough to not require crew. I cannot fathom being around someone else on a boat as either employee or employer for any length of time.

This morning Josh & Claire went diving with the Marc the dive master. We followed their group towing our own dinghy above us. Scott thinks he could handle both the dinghy plus the video camera (but not the huge still camera set up). The current can be too strong for me to hold onto the dinghy & not be swept out of control. So we plan to begin diving with Marc tomorrow so Scott can do photo & video. Marc is very funny & thrilled to discuss gear & techniques with a fellow underwater photographer. He seems much more like an American than a Frenchman and he did live in Florida for a number of years.

The wind has shifted so we will likely move to the anchorage closer to the dive area once “Giselle” leaves for Tahiti. Right now it is about a 20 minute dinghy ride & quite rough pounding into the swell. We were up before 6:00 a.m. because the incoming tide today was at 7:00 a.m. so that’s when we must go. It was overcast plus early, so not as pretty below without any light. It was still nice, lots of fish & healthy coral, but we have not hit it at the ideal time for the sharks yet. Every day now the tide will be half an hour or so later, hence the sun will be higher in the sky. It is funny here; it can be blue sky & sunshine, then 10 minutes later completely dark gray clouds & pouring rain. The rain usually does not last a long time, but this morning after the dive it did stay quite a while.

We went to the little dock & had a coffee with Mark, Josh & Claire after the dive. Repeat clients of Marc’s are arriving by airplane today & bringing him the newest version of the underwater video housing that Scott uses. He asked Scott a lot of questions. It will be nice to have the friendship of Marc to console us when Mary & David sail away. I think it will be nice for Marc to have some serious divers that are here for awhile, not just a 1 week vacation. The couple flying in today are from San Diego so we should have a fun week of diving & camaraderie with them.

We may dive under the boat this afternoon to clean her. I will switch to my new thicker wetsuit as I have been getting chilly after nearly an hour in the 81 degree water. Diving really helps you stay cool all day. It is 87 outside but feels absolutely comfortable to me with a nice breeze. I am happy that I seem to be preventing an ear infection with rinsing drops & the little ear dryer. Mary asked me if I had to plug up my opposite ear so the air wouldn’t blow out the other side – that rascal!

There are about 10 other islands we could visit in the Tuamotu group, but we are inclined to just stay put as long as we are enjoying ourselves. We’ve heard so much about this being one of the premiere dive sites, that we want to give it a chance to be here when the conditions are peak. Taking it one day at a time & enjoying this moment.

Cindy & Scott

Words of Encouragement from Paris…..

July 30, 2009

Dear F&F,
July 30, 2009

We love to get emails from our friends and family. What you read on as these “Ships Logs” begins as a more raw email update to my closest supporters. They are not well edited & can be whiney at times. After reading such an email, I received this heartfelt reply from friend Clark, formerly from Oklahoma, then Los Angeles, now living in Paris. I appreciate all my cheer leaders and wanted to share his letter with you.

Dear Cindy,

You know, for those of us sitting in our air-conditioned offices reading your emails on an iMac while eating take-out sushi, it is sometimes really hard to appreciate what a daring – and sometimes precarious – adventure you two have undertaken. We talk about you all the time, our friends who sold their house and their business and took off to sail around the world on a custom-made catamaran. Diving, taking pictures, swimming with manta rays. We only seem to think about the good stuff, the fun parts, the easy parts. The part where it is more of a vacation than a way of living, or even a way of surviving.

But after reading your last entry I am abruptly reminded of just how much of a sacrifice you guys are making. Nothing can be taken for granted. You can’t just hop in the car and drive to Trader Joe’s to stock up. Call a doctor in the middle of the night because someone has a fever. Or even ask a
neighbor to come help you raise up the anchor. Add to that, all the unknowns and the elements – wind, rain, etc. – and I realize that you guys really deserve a medal for bravery. If it’s any consolation, I can tell you that everyone is envious and in awe of you. Sitting here in our sterilized little cubicles where the biggest decision of the day is “do I go pick up a sandwich or get some take-out sushi for lunch”. When I leave here I know I can either take a bus or a train or a metro or even a free bike to get home. I realize just how easy and simple our life is. I don’t have to worry about freezing pain au chocolat (which, by the way, I am no longer supposed to eat…) or having someone I love diving down to un-snag the anchor in a 20-knot wind. I don’t have to worry about whether or not I will get seasick in the Metro on the way home. I don’t even really have to worry about what’s for dinner because even if there is nothing in the refrigerator, I can run to the store or order in. But is this really living life, or just going through the motions?

If ever you doubt what you are doing, if ever you doubt the decisions you’ve made that have brought you to this place, just remember: you and Scott have been planning this and looking forward to this adventure for years. You’ve practiced, rehearsed and prepared. You are ready for this. You will learn
along the way. You will grow and experience and be a better and richer person for it. You will be admired. You will meet lovely, wonderful, giving people. You will share. You will see things you may not have otherwise ever seen. You will swim with Mantas (and be filmed). You will touch and eat and experience wonderful new sensations, smells, tastes, feelings and emotions. There will be good days. There will be bad days. There will even be so-so days. (Well, actually, I guess that applies whether
you are on land or on a boat!) There will be days where you say, “this is all worth it” and other where you say “what in the hell am I doing here?” Hell, I say that in Paris, too!

But know this: you are where you need to be right now, doing what you need to be doing, learning the life lessons you need to be learning. I once attended Zen Buddhist Guru lecture in Santa Monica years ago. A friend dragged me along. I don’t remember who it was and I didn’t really know what
I was doing there or getting into. It didn’t change my life drastically (I’m not wearing orange sarongs and have not yet shaved my head), but I did take something away from that experience that I still use today. It’s the idea of “living in the moment” or “living in the present”. I’m not talking about the
Dead Poet’s Society idea of “Carp Diem” or “Live for the Day”, but more along the lines of cherishing every single moment when you are in it. Focusing on it and being present in it, present to your fullest extent. This is quite difficult for me, as I am often doing or saying one thing and thinking about another. But when I manage to really focus on the moment and be present in it, wonderful things usually happen.

The Buddhists say, “don’t dwell on the past, don’t worry about the future, but concentrate on the present moment”. I don’t claim to fully understand, and I’ve never really done any Buddhist studying, I don’t know if you have either, but it seems to work for me and even be comforting to me at times.
It reassures me.

Yes, I suppose it is hard to think about living in the moment when you are standing on the stern in a 20-knot wind trying to understand what Scott is shouting back to you and keeping the boat from drifting. But I’d also guess that at that very moment you instinctively can’t do anything other THAN live in the moment. So I’m not really sure how you will interpret this. But whatever you do with it, stay strong and continue to believe in what you are doing. You are L-I-V-I-N-G life! So many people are proud and envious of you both. You have both lost people very dear and close to you recently, do
it for them, in their memory and in their honor. LIVE!

It wasn’t until several years after coming to France that I finally understood why so many people kept telling me, “Oh you are sooo brave, doing what you are doing.” I never saw it that way. It was just obvious to me that it was what I had to do and wanted to do. Now, in hindsight, I realize that
it was brave. That I was taking a chance. But I wouldn’t change a thing and I would do it all over again in an instant. The good parts and the bad parts. The fun days, the not-so-fun days and even the so-so days. I am happy with who I am today because of this experience. I know I doubted myself at some points. I know I was scared and worried and stressed and confused and fed up and pissed off and wondered what the hell I was doing. But that still happens every day, just for other reasons. People only tell us we are “soooo brave” because they wouldn’t dare do the same thing, take the same risks, dig deep within and ask themselves the tough personal questions needed to undertake such a challenge.

So, just the simple fact that you are there and you are doing what you are doing is in and of itself enough to be able to say, “This is it. This is where I should be right now, doing what I am doing and being the person that I am.”

I hope I haven’t rambled on too long and wasted too much of your download time and I hope you’ll find my thoughts comforting. I may be a big bore and not be making any sense, but on the outside hope that you’ll get something out of all this gobbledygook, I just wanted to share my thoughts
and encouragement.

All my love to you and Scott

Thank You Clark!
Cindy & Scott