Friday, September 23, 2016

Fish, Fish, More Fish

No, we still haven't caught any, but we have seen a ton, underwater, swimming around their little coral refuges. Our first full day in Albert Bay, we got in 3 snorkels, a walk on the beach to look for nautilus shells, and a visit to John on the beach. Vacation is busy!

The first snorkel of the day was a long kick out to the reef cut we sailed through on our way in. Mark loves these because the big stuff lurks in the deep. I love them because I can stay more shallow. We made our way there, and the first coral head we saw on the reef cut was so laden with small colorful fishes, our goals were met right then and there. But we spent an hour or two swimming around and saw lots of fun stuff. There was only one shark (small kine) and more fish than I could identify. But the cute fish of the trip was the Scalefin Anthias (Pseudanthias squamipinnis). It is a beautiful purple and reddish number with a very long dorsal spine—easy to identify! We got hungry before we got cold and headed back for the next activity.

We made a quick change and were in to the beach to meet John and Pauline and their family. Pauline was in the town with two of the kids, but John and one of the kids was home and we had a nice chat, dropped off some food, and were offered pawpaw (papaya), of which we had plenty), and drinking coconuts, which we will need to go back and claim. There was also a little dog (whose name I think was Stanza, or something like it) who was happy and eager for attention, judging by the wagging tail. These guys have some prime real estate, but life is not easy—it's a boat ride and walk to the nearest village. But they have lots of coconut palms and we saw John and some friends fishing (with line, free-diving, and with a beach seine-like net) several times. So, they seem to get a lot of what they need.

After a quick but tasty lunch, we headed out for snorkel number two, which turned into snorkel number three. We wanted to check out the beach where Michael had previously found a nautilus shell. We also had to scout the lobster ledge. It was decided that Mark and I would get dropped out on the reef, have a look around for lobsters and swim to shore. So away we went, and within seconds we were on our way further away! The current was ripping, but we were already looking at the motor-end of the dinghy, so we made our lobster reconnaissance short and got a boogie on and headed to shore. We didn't get a great look at many fish, as we seemed to be just zooming by, but we did see a very long, skinny sea cucumber in the shallows that was notable—it must have been 10' long! We got to the beach and decided to do some shell hunting and tide pooling. No nautilus shells, but we did have a fun time finding some less dramatic ones and watching the local hermit crabs scurry up and down the beach with their hermit crab homes.

We headed back to the good ship Astarte, and on the way, Barbara, Mark, and I jumped off for another snorkel. The reef is kind of rubbly (same one as our first day here), but there was lots to see. One coral head had these really nifty bright-blue edged scallops embedded in it. We also saw a fish cleaning station with the cleaner wrasse hard at work, and a few live cowries. The cute fish of the snorkel was the Jewelled Blenny, Salarias fascitus. We found him and his bushy eyebrows hiding in a rock and thought he was pretty cool. Not the bright colors of the dasycllus and wrasses, but an interesting fish with a cute mug all the same.

And with that, our activities were done and Barbara set to work creating goat curry. It was delicious, especially with the local pumpkin and sweet potatoes in it. We could have added a few more of those spicy peppers we bought in Savusavu, but Barbara served them on the side!
At 9/23/2016 7:08 PM (utc) S/V Astarte was located at 16°26.64'S 179°56.26'W

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