Sunday, September 25, 2016

Snorkels and Fishes and More Fishes

We've been spending a lot of time in the water. Michael, Mark, and I set out on a brilliant morning snorkel along the reef cut. The variety of coral was amazing and we saw lots of interesting fish. Michael also saw a giant grouper, but it was not a confirmed sighting. In swimming toward Michael like he had found gold coins, Mark and I must have scared the big guy off. But, there were many larger fish and interesting ones we hadn't seen in the deeper sections of this reef—there was lots of topography, with depths ranging from 1m to 20m which made for good snorkeling. The visibility was pretty good and the current held off. The cute fish of the trip was the South Seas Devil, Chrysiptera taupou (I think—possibly the Blue Devil, C. cyanea though). At any rate, it's a bright cobalt blue 2" dude with bright-orange-y yellow along the dorsal fin. For those with the interwebs, maybe someone could sort the difference between the two? And for your efforts, I'll throw in a second cute fish of the trip: Clark's Anemonefish, Amphiprion clarkii. Yup, it's an orange anemonefish. But unlike the Fiji Anemonefish, A. Barberi, which we've seen plenty of, Clark's has 2 large white bars and another one right at the caudal peduncle (put that term in your fish biologist geek pipe and smoke it!). Cool to see another species of these now iconic fishes!

After rave reviews and a nice lunch to refuel we convinced Barbara to join us on a return trip in the afternoon. She was dutifully making baked beans for our dinner during the morning trip. The wind had picked up and it was a little more surge-y and not as clear, but the light was good and again we enjoyed exploring. The cute fish of the trip for me was a juvenile Chekerboard Wrasse, Halichoeres hortulanus. It was immediately recognizable as something I had not seen yet (unlike the myraid butterflyfishes which are gorgeous, but which I cannot keep straight!).

I would be remiss at this point if I didn't mention the Guardian Spadefish which have been keeping us company at anchor. They came up to the surface one of the first days, as we were tossing some moldy bread overboard. We have had some disagreements about their identity, but think they are Golden Spadefish, Platax boersii. The bottom line is, we enjoyed seeing them each morning and were glad for the piscine company. Although, as we pulled the anchor today, a shackle broke and a hook was lost and Barbara was convinced the mischievous side of the Guardian Spadefish was to blame. Oh well, some guardians are better than others, I suppose.

We got in one last snorkel at Elizabeth Cove before leaving the N side of Rabi. This reef was shallow and along shore and we swam along the outer edge. Barbara nominated the Regal Angelfish, Pygoplites diacanthus, as the cute fish of the day—although, as the name correctly implies, it may be more regal than cute. These are very cool yellow and blue-ish/purple fish that are often found in pairs and are really beautiful. Also notable on this trip were some really cool nudibranchs—black, orange, and, white, but in different color patterns. And lots of Crown of Thorns, which we kept our distance from! There were a lot of beautiful corals here and I'm glad we made the trek.

We got back to Astarte and began the tasks associated with prepping for a relocation. At this point we have our jobs down and we got rinses and showers and still managed a quick turnaround time. Aside from the lost snubber hook, all is well and we had a nice motor around to Catherine Bay on the S side of Rabi. Not surprisingly, we failed to catch dinner. But, we are anchored up in a new location and will explore the town tomorrow. This cove is a little more populated and while we really enjoyed the solitude, tranquility, and the amazing night sky of Albert Cove—probably the most remote place I have ever been—it will be nice to see another side of Rabi.
At 9/25/2016 5:50 PM (utc) S/V Astarte was located at 16°31.65'S 179°59.41'W

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