There were no flippers but the sea was only 12 feet deep and it was easy to
reach the bottom. Unusually my ears did not hurt when I reached the sand but
there were few fish. I returned to the surface for air and swam to the bows of
the boat. The anchor chain was pulling out from the reef at an angle, which I
followed. This time I was rewarded by a blaze of colour. Fish, some 10 - 12
inches long, darted away in front of me to seek shelter amongst the cracks in
the coral, but smaller fish in blue, yellow and striped like a zebra, swam by in
I gave chase to a large zebra fish but suddenly in front of me were giant
sea urchins some ten times the size of my previous encounter in the
Mediterranean. The long spiky barbs stood out menacingly into the water.
Previously the spikes had been so sharp they had gone through the rubber of my
flippers like a hot knife through butter but, without even that protection, they
would probably have gone through my foot. I was careful not to kick at them as I
swam away; I was lucky the current helped me.
Back on board, our party was imbibing drinks - courtesy of the skipper.
Suddenly a racing catamaran came from nowhere. It was expertly handled and I
marvelled at the skill with which it was pulled up alongside the stern. There
was a torrent of French with our skipper. The helmsman had been hit in the eye
and blood was oozing onto his cheek.
I assumed he got in the way of the boom of his catamaran, but my wife
thought he had had an argument with his lady crew who retaliated. She certainly
looked angry. Commanding her to hold the catamaran steady he climbed aboard. A
first aid box was produced and a repair put in place; sufficient for him to
complete his return to shore. In a moment he was off leaving us to our drinks.
Volunteers were needed to raise the anchor. With a lookout to guide us we
steered the boat in the direction of the chain and the anchor was levered
aboard. Then we were away on a broad reach with a full genoa. The wind was brisk
and we ploughed easily through the waves. Many had not sailed before and found
it exhilarating. For the more experienced it was a comfortable ride without any
worries. A fin raced under the boat and away to the side.
"What was that?" I asked, "was it a shark?"
"No, a dolphin. You don't get sharks here. The dolphins are more
powerful than sharks and will attack them if they are a danger to their young.
Otherwise they swim and fish together - but not this side of the reef."
"How does a dolphin attack without the shark's teeth?"
"They butt them in the side."
Our skipper was a mine of information. "I lost my own boat in a
typhoon," he said, "the insurance didn't cover it and now I am earning
a living with support from a sponsor.
Navigation is always difficult when the shoreline is unfamiliar.
"Aim for that yellow crane in between the hills."
What crane I wondered as I lifted my sunglasses to get a better view. I
could just make out the thin line of yellow stretching into the sky. It helped
if you knew what was there.
"Keep to the starboard side as we approach the harbour." It
seemed the wind would play tricks as we moved away from the protection of the
rocks and we might need the extra space. The sails were furled and we motored
back to the wharf.
It was time for dinner and maybe a shark steak on the menu.