Time Spent in Chichime

Straya Day party we got a message from some friends in Chichime.  We were only a short sail away, so we headed that direction.  We averaged about 6 knots, but were slogging through some waves for a while at 4 knots.

We could have almost sailed into the anchorage but the entrance wasn’t ideal.  And when we tried to pull in the headsail it got jammed – which made for an interesting few minutes.  But we made it in, got anchored right next to Fishers Hornpipe.  Luke checked the anchor – there was 25 knots of headwind, and I didn’t want to leave the boat unattended until we put eyes-on the anchor.

The next few days were a mix of parties, dinner get-togethers, diving, and surfing.  I think we actually worked on the boat once or twice.  Luke has two spots here he can surf, and I usually end up diving right next to his surf spots – so it’s convenient for both of us.

The Birthday

My birthday was on February 3rd.  We planned a small beach party for that night, but Lisa (another friend here) got work and was leaving on February 2nd – so we decided to celebrate into the birthday (i.e. the night of Feb 2).  Fine by me.  That’s like having two birthday-days.

We started it off correctly by going and exploring a new dive spot in the early morning.  Luke and I started on the Western side of a channel here and worked to the outside reef, where it was blowing like Hell – and therefore had some pretty epic swell breaking over the reef.  The current was ripping too.  Not much home.

So we tried the Eastern side of the same cut.  Dramatically different, despite being only a couple hundred meters away.  We found a huge wall where I almost bumped into a Black Grouper. We were both a little surprised and he made haste in his retreat.  Luke and I dove a couple more times there, then decided to hunt the rest of the wall – then come back and try to sneak up on him again.

On the way be both found lobster and lionfish.  Within 30 minutes, I had two giant lionfish on my spear and two single-serving lobster stuffed into my wetsuit – so I headed back to the dinghy.  Luke found crab, lobster and the biggest lionfish either of us have ever seen.  It was enough for ceviche and dinner.  Boom.

Luke found that Black Grouper twice more, and let off a hailmary spear but missed.  Too far.  I never saw him again after that dive.  We headed back to the mothership.  Andy had returned to Fishers Hornpipe with a new crew – and they were anxious to dive.  So when I told him about the grouper – his answer was “so you wanna go get him?”  There’s no way to say no.

Two hours later we were headed back to Luke and I’s spot.  We guided Andy and crew there, dropped Luke off in the surf, then dropped our anchor near our Black Grouper’s home.  Andy anchored closer to the surf.

Upon diving the wall with said Black Grouper – I saw two.  Both high-tailed it much too quickly for me to give chase.  They were gone.  Andy and I made a plan on how to run those grouper in between us, on the way back.  So we hunted the rest of the reef…  Until I saw my dinghy with three guys in it, heading into the swell outside the channel.

That’s an unwelcome sight.  It means something went haywire.

Oops

The folks in my dinghy picked up two other divers, and with 5 people onboard they were having trouble keeping the dinghy upright in the swell – so they escaped back inside the channel and left Matt and me to swim.  When we made it back inside the protection of the reef, everyone looked a little worried.  I quickly realized that Andy’s dinghy was capsized and bobbing (without the motor on it). In the middle of large, breaking swell.  Against the reef.  A long ways from either mothership.

We have a problem. Andy’s dinghy had pulled into the breaking surf, capsized, lost the motor, and was bobbing just above the crashing surf.

But there were 6 guys around and two dinghies (one underwater).  That’s enough to salvage almost any tough situation out here.  A quick discussion and we decided to tow the submerged dinghy out with my dinghy – and after getting slammed repeatedly and almost losing the other dinghy in the surf:  we did manage to get it out of the surf.  Then we had to flip it rightside up.  But the swell was huge, and we were in deep water.  So we towed the dinghy back onshore the nearest island.  Then we bailed it.  Then we realized I needed more gas.  So we towed the other dinghy to Fishers Hornpipe, filled up with gas, and headed back out to pull a 115 pound motor off the bottom of the ocean in the middle of huge wave breaking on the reef. No problem.

We got there, Luke drove the dinghy (expertly) and Andy and I drug the engine out of the breaking waves, freediving, into deeper water, where we pulled it aboard my dinghy.  Then we salvaged what we could from the bottom of the ocean in the area (Andy had stuff in his dinghy when it flipped).

I was bleeding from a couple spots, and we had some bumps and bruises;  but it was handled super-well.  We all made it out without serious injury and recovered the important things:  dinghy and engine.

Then it was time to breathe a sigh of relief and decompress.  Both Luke and I were completely beaten.  A little rum helped.  Then I started cooking, we had a dinner aboard Fishers Hornpipe, and then we started the island party.  We were joined by a backpacker boat, the local Kuna, and everyone of Fishers Hornpipe.  That party went like island parties do – we drank, talked, stoked the fire, and just hung out.  A great birthday, and I wouldn’t have had it any other way.

Here’s hoping I spend another birthday or two that way.

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