July 20

Fifteen more days to go: before we get on a plane and fly to Boston. Wow. Not much time left. Its hard to stuff 3 months of cruising into a 3 week period, but we are trying! Yesterday we had a wonderful day here at Mana Island. We lounged in the early morning taking our time to get ready. I cooked a picnic lunch (cold tortellini salad with bell pepper and left-over bacon-bits) and we packed up the dinghy and by 11am we were on our way to the edge of the reef for some snorkeling to start the day.

We went out of the pass at the entrance to the lagoon and anchored the dinghy on the edge of the reef in about 15ft of water. The clarity of the water here was incredible and the reef was in excellent condition. There were wonderful blue starfish, giant clams and scallops embedded in the coral, and some really gigantic specimens of hard coral, one in particular which must have been 10ft high and 15ft all around like a big head sticking up off the floor. It was festooned with feather dusters and surrounded by clouds of little tiny fish of various hues and colors.

Just as I spotted a school of barracuda hovering just over the edge of the reef (which dropped down to about 45ft to a sand bottom) I noticed a stinging sensation on my left forearm which is caused by nematocysts floating free in the water (nematocysts are essentially the stinging cells which various creatures posses in the ocean as a defense mechanism). Sometimes we find that these stingers are free floating in the water and we suspect they come from some coral species which releases them periodically or after some trauma.

It has happened to me several times, once particular experience I recall in the Marquesas last year when I was cleaning the barnacles off the hull after our 19 day passage from Mexico. Soon after I got in the water I noticed them. But Jonah was watching from the deck and the last thing I wanted was to scare him from going in the water so I pretended not to notice and went about doing the job I started. By the time I was done I was itching and burning all over my body and had o work hard to keep from screaming.

Meanwhile, back to yesterday - I pick my head up and look in the direction of Kate and Jonah, about 30 feet behind me, and I see them swimming towards the dinghy with Jonah and him yelling and screaming. As I swam toward them the nematocysts became more and more numerous and by the time I realized why he was screaming I was itching and burning all over. Of course, he had not experienced this before and was really miserable, crying and wailing about how this was "the worst snorkeling of my entire life" (he always makes grand statements when he is happy or sad about the best/worst day of his life).

Too bad because the reef was really wonderful and we could have spent hours exploring the length of it. Days even. Anyway, we next headed back toward island and worked our way around the point in the shallow water, lifting the dinghy engine occasionally to avoid chopping the bottom, and soon landed on a lovely beach on the back side of the island. We walked along for a half mile or so, looking at shells, feeling the sand on our feet. Then we realized the tide was going out and we had better get off this beach while we still could (soon the water would be so low the dinghy would not be able to float)!

We went back to the South side of the island and landed on the main beach there and set up for our picnic lunch. We spent about an hour and a half there eating, reading and playing in the sand (Jonah). By this time the wind had come up quite a bit (from 5k to 15k) and we dinghied back to the boat and rinsed off. Jonah and I went to shore to dispose of garbage and met some of the people at the backpacker place on shore (cheap food, cheap lodgings, beautiful beach - what more could a teenager or twenty something need?)

We are having meatballs and spaghetti tonight, one of the favorites on the Queen Jane. Then we plan to settle in and watch a video we picked up last week from another boat - "Escape from Planet of the Apes". I can't wait to see how Jonah reacts to it, I think he will love it.