Diving at its best

We find Simone back at LBJ, the anachronism for Labuan Bajo, and also find an old friend and past crew member, Missy. It is good to see her, she heard me carry on so much about the Sail Indonesia Rally that she joined it on another boat this year. The Furthur crew has expanded so widely that I now have the joy of return members and finding past crew scattered about.

With tales of sharks, Mantas and turtles we head back to Gill Lawa Laut. By now several other Rally boats we know have followed our advice and come too. Plans are made for a crack of dawn dive at Castle Rock.

We arise before dawn and prepare the two boats of divers. We head out bur have a hard time finding the submerged pinnacle. Soon another pro dive boat arrives and we follow their path. We have hit it right at slack tide, which is over an hour later than predicted. We descend into the dimly lit water and right off the bat see two large sharks, going to be a good day! We manage to circle the entire rock seeing Lion Fish, huge pelagic fish and a plethora of schools of smaller fish. The soft corals are magnificent. To end the dive we find a friendly turtle who likes to pose as we ascend to our safety stop.

Simone and Sion hit the school dives to finish her training as I work on the dinghy. The poor dinghy has a small hole leaking from the forward pontoon and try as I might I cannot get a patch to stick. Also the electric start connection has come apart and the pesky water leak where the pontoon joins the aluminum hull is back so I have three jobs to do.
The afternoon dive will be the sleigh ride rapid drift ride through the narrow channel again and again it has a new flock of adventurers ready to go. Michael and Gloria from Peikia Mist join us again. So good to dive with them like we did in the South Pacific.

We hit the current at full blast, drop down and fall as fast as we can to the rapidly moving bottom. This is the E ride dive, we are blasted through the channel faster than I have gone before. Yahoo! We do superman poses, cart wheels and summer salts as the current propels us along the white sandy bottom. As things calm down we see a huge group of Sting Rays proceeding in a line along the bottom. We also see turtles aplenty. We surface to find we have gone a bit farther than usual and try to hail the chase boat. Another dive boat comes along and gives Michael a lift to our boats and we are then picked up.

On the way back we see many Manta Rays and the girls jump in with snorkel gear. The have an amazing Manta encounter. I have categorically failed in my attempt to stop the air leak but do find out it is the patch and not some other hard to detect leak, good and bad news. Back on the boat I tear the entire collection of patches off and start anew. The test will be tomorrow.

All the cruisers planned on going to the beach for a gathering but after the sun dropped so did our energy and we stayed on Furthur for a scrumptious pumpkin soup and for desert, Chocolat the movie and chocolat the treat. With another early morning dive ahead we all turned in early to dream of bubbles.

Again up early for the slack tide dive, this day later than last. We hit the mound with more cruiser divers, a father and son team from Uliad join us. Again it is a spectacular dive, we see the largest Napoleon Fish I have ever seen. The four foot long fish swims in front of us turning to the side it is at least 18 inches from top to bottom, a magnificent beast.

The next dive is an experiment as we head to the eastern point of the island. The tide, although predicted to be slack, has not turned so we alter our drop in place. W dive along the richly corralled reef with countless splendid reef fish and finally I find the wall. We drop to 20 meters and go along the wall. We are joined by a few turtles and many fish. Simone, the consummate macro diver, finds a strange tiny blue eel peeping out of a rock. This brilliant creature is 5 inches long at best.

Back on the boat, naps taken, we are invited to a neighbor’s boat for sundowners. We meet two couples, one Brit and one Canadian. I had met the Brits before in the South Pacific. Both guys had been to Friday Harbor. I am constantly amazed at how many people I meet that have visited the tiny island town. The discussion turns to this year’s rally. There was a power play at the end of last year’s rally leaving the best staff out. I was curious of the effect this might have. Apparently it is significant, both couple said the rally was poorly run and they felt abandoned and not happy, this is the total opposite of what we experienced last year. This is a real pity as the rally has grown on the reputation of our experiences but will probably now diminish.

With Sion leaving we had one last day of diving on this visit. Up early and off to the pinnacle and again a magnificent dive, just one of the top dive sites I have encountered. As flight times restrict diving Sion was done but Simone and I did one last dive on the eastern wall. We could now enjoy a full tank of air and go a bit deeper than we could with the novice diver. We drifted down the wall and saw the largest Trigger Fish I have ever seen. They are reported to be aggressive and toxic if they bight, this one was big enough I backed off.

On the return side of the dive we dropped to one hundred feet and I spotted movement below. I was extatick to see two huge Sting Rays, over a meter across coming at me. I frantically thumped on my tank to get Simone’s attention. She had her usual macro diving pose with her face in a small crevice. When I got her to look her mask filled with eye balls and a smile went from ear to ear. The rays swam around us and she positioned herself for a picture. About that time the ray decided to pose and came right at her brushing her side. They did this dance a couple of times and moved on. This was an awesome encounter, a first for Simone.

We finished the dive seeing more wonders of the deep in the crystal clear water. The visbility was so good I could see the surface at over a hundred feet, (35 meters). We rose from the depths as my computer was giving decompression warnings and finished the dive on the resplendent coral reef.

We packed the boat and headed for town where we wished Sion a farewell. On to the next adventure!