Nana and the Birthday Man

"Nana is coming!"
"Santa is coming!"
"It's almost Daddy's birthday!"

Hunter is boundless in her glee.

She runs from bow to stern and hugs everyone she encounters.
She announces over the VHF (to the entire fleet) that "Nana is coming TODAY!"....

The last few days have been a whirlwind of activity.
(We're not ALWAYS  loafing and shooting fish).

We had been out and about for weeks and were in need of a  MAJOR restock. 
Company is coming ( Nana and our friend Jr would be guests over the holidays) and as there are wee ones aboard, Christmas must come with all the bells and whistles- or a least a little tree tied to the mast.

But first things first-we needed water.
A few days ago, we discovered that our water maker was on the fritz and our secondary tank had become contaminated.
All the hours Jon diligently spent replenishing our water supply- a week's work of running the desalinator off the solar panels and the generator- had culminated in us making only less salty water out of very salt water. 
I had noted a slight change in taste but dismissed it as someone forgetting to rinse the cups thoroughly in fresh water- to conserve, we wash everything in salt first.
A day later, everyone was seeming very out of whack.
Jon re-tested our water and discovered that instead of making 600 parts per million-we were making 2100...
This explained why we all looked as if we had been binging on a diet of pickles and potato chips.
Thank Goodness. I thought it was just middle-age bloat.
We had ruined our forty gallons of hard earned fresh water but fortunately, the water maker only fills the holding tank-the primary is separate-to avoid such a mishap from fouling the entire water supply.
What a monumental bummer that would be if one were crossing the Pacific.

As well as water, we also needed diesel, gasoline, food and to do our laundry we made for the marina in Escondido.
The only Marina around for a hundred miles.

The marina at Escondido has no water. 

They have not fixed the pump damaged by Hurricane Paul- four months ago.  
They have also forgotten to pay their (gas pumping) license fee to the government so even though they have diesel in the big tank- they are not legally allowed to sell it to you.
They also have no gas.

But they do have beer!
So, we bought beer.

We spent the next three days, humping back and forth to Loreto ( forty miles away) with our Jerry cans.
Jon and Kai lugged 580 pounds of water on board, in five gallon jugs and emptied them into our tanks.
Hunter and I dropped two body bags of laundry off at the Lavandaria in Loreto and a sweet-faced, Mexican Abuela did our wash for us.
It turns out, running out of water does have it's advantages.

Jon spent a fun filled day, disassembling the water maker- imagine taking the space shuttle apart and then rebuilding it, one precious seal at a time- only to discover the problem was  not a faulty seal-cheap and replaceable- but most likely the membrane. 
A spare part we do not have and costs 400 dollars to replace.

This is the Murphy's law of cruising.

As soon as company is coming-the heads will fail, the fridge will over heat, the water maker will blow, the weather turns cold, the crystal clear waters cloud and the sea-life will migrate somewhere else.
The people who love you will come to visit, just when your boat smells like mold and you will have only wilted grey fruits and vegetables to serve and everyone will spend their vacation playing cards around an oil lamp while the wind howls through the anchorage.

-This is what I was worrying about.
As it turns out, it wasn't quite that bad.

After refilling the tanks and  getting all the spare fuel cans on board and rearranging our lockers-which entailed moving everything we didn't need in the next two weeks into the trunk of the car-we managed to get to the Sunday market.
Thankfully,  we have our dear, old Subaru down here. 
Driving your own car, while exploring a foreign country by boat, is a weirdly awesome luxury. 
I may not have a hot shower for months on end- but at least,  I can climb into a familiar vehicle and drink in the comforting smell of worn-out pleather-and a little bit of home sinks in.
Mexican roads are fearsome but in my trusty Subaru, I am ready for anything...
and I can pull into the dusty arroyo where the local Sunday Farmers market is held and I feel more like a local. 
Well. Maybe not a local, local-I would need chickens hanging out of the car windows for that-but I feel more confident. 
I shop the stalls with confidence, using my six and a half words of Spanish with flair.

The Sunday market was excellent (as usual) and Hunter and Kai were thrilled to discover that right between the guy selling a donkey from the back of his truck and our favorite cilantro lady, was a booth selling Christmas trees.
They weren't real-of course, but they were something and the same vendor had lights and lots of festive decorations-in Mexican colors like pink and electric blue and we managed a whole bag of stuff to decorate the boat with.

We spent the rest of the day offloading our purchases from the car into the dingy-which required climbing (with the bags) down a steep vertical rung ladder onto a rickety homemade, half sinking dock. It took about ten trips back and forth to load on all the provisions, then I spent the next six hours careful washing and cleaning( by soaking in a detergent bath) every single fruit or veg brought aboard. Jon continued to hump more water aboard until it was dark.

Each time we restock, fuel, water- it takes two entire days to complete the process.

We got the boat decorated and looking spiffy, the fridge and every food locker and bilge compartment  was loaded beyond capacity and we were ready-for two weeks out with a guest...and  then we will have to do this entire process all over again. 

I will never moan  about going to a grocery store or having to fill the car with gas.
I will thank my lucky stars if I ever get to use a vacuum or a dishwasher again.

Sometimes, I feel like we really are homesteaders out here, or at least,  something slightly Amish.
Minus, the whole bible reading thing, of course...
and possibly a bit more drinking and swearing, singing and dancing.
But other than Amish-ness.
Up at dawn. Bed shortly after dark. Mend our own clothes and bake our own bread.
And it's a long, long way from the nearest Betsy Johnson boutique.

Oh, how I've changed.

Today, when I looked in the mirror, I saw a wizened,  blond, sea urchin in the reflection.
"Who the hell are you?" I asked.
But the creature in the mirror, knows there is no point in answering that question.
She has been reading Buddhism.
She may not know where her hairbrush is anymore- but she knows a thing or two about living in the moment.
She looks back at me and says;
"Put your bikini on, bitch".
So I do.

Nana arrived at the airport, in a flourish of scarves and a lovely hat and two smartly packed bags.
Nobody travels as well as my mother.
The kids were overjoyed to see her and so were Jon and I.
We took her for tacos in town, then whisked her back to the boat.
By sun-up the next morning, we were setting sail for San Juanico.

The weather was the only part of my imagined horror that seemed to hold true. 
The North winds blew cold and the Pineapple Express-clouds form the Pacific-made a dark and liquid grey of my aquamarine world.
Nana could care less.
She certainly wasn't here to tan.

She was in bliss just to snuggle the kids and coo over how beautiful they are and marvel at the scenery.
She laughed at the dolphins and gasped at the stars.
She met Manta, our wonderful new friends.

With her here, to babysit Hunter, Jon and Kai and  I were able to dive all together, with Manta - for a change.
We cooked Nana all kinds of fish, speared on hunting forays.
And now, with Nana aboard, helping with the chores...the grown-ups outnumber the kids-so we're winning!
Things stay tidy at last!

We celebrated Jon's birthday-  
Dolphins played in the anchorage as we made Jon breakfast.
He got a new knife and a shark tooth necklace and we wrapped everything in pages torn from a Vanity Fair ( hurray for the naked pictures of Kate Moss!)
Nana had brought me this little bit of literary escapism  and the previous day, I had spent a wonderful hour in my bunk not being bugged by the kids, eating chocolate almonds( also Nana gifts) and reading about the fantastically squalid life of the rich and beautiful.

Hunter and Nana baked a red velvet cake while Kai and Jon and I went spearfishing.
We came back with two snappers and all of us half frozen.

Birthday Jon napped while I turned Pura Vida into a French bistro for the day.
The North winds blew a gale outside but we lay  comfortably at anchor, sheltered by the lee of a volcano, listening to Edith Piaf, drinking red wine and eating lovingly stowed away treasures from home.
Pate and cornichons-
And for dinner, steaks et pomme frites-rustled from the galley.
And of course, Hunter's cake.
And more wine.

Dolphins continued to play in the sandy bay and the stars came out and we had  grand time sharing it all with a new crew member.

And my beloved captain celebrated ... another year, still short... of Forty.
Cheeky bugger.

My Ship Mate...
and Soul Mate.
Who gallantly protects this little seaward tribe, 
and navigates us through the tricky bits... 
and never lets us down.
Who has the warmest heart,
the readiest laugh,
and always seems to smell like warm buttered toast.
Who wakes up everyday and looks at me with unconditional, goofy love.
Who is the best father a kid could hope for and
taught crazy, old, me, how to love without one foot out the door-or off the boat.
Who's trust and respect, is my most cherished possession.

If I didn't adore him so much, it would be monumentally irritating how damn good he is at everything-but lucky for me, it works to my advantage.

Happy birthday to him and a special, huge, fat, thank you to his wonderful parents- for making him.

We are a satisfied, cosy group aboard a trim old ship.
Pura Vida is a magic carpet, accommodating however many people she carries -even though we have less space-no one feels cramped or unhappy.

This is the nicest kind of magic.

I wonder how much more she'll make when Santa and Jr arrive...
Cake and Xmas decorations

Birthday boy

Too cool for Galley duty

Kai  tries to remember how to stow the asymmetrical 

Panga with a flock of seagulls 

Nana makes the lines with style

No pressure...It's only our water supply.


I knew (theoretically) when I gave birth to my children, that everything to come, from that moment on, would be another stage of letting go.

I held them, each, in my arms, before the cord was even cut. 
They were impossibly perfect and miraculous (as all babies are) and no matter how many of them pop into this world it never stops blowing your mind;
that this, tiny, squirmy, helpless creature, will in a very short time, be running and swimming and singing and reading and drawing snowmen and making you laugh.
And then, before you know it, it zooms away in a dingy to look for snakes or shoots and kills a large pelagic fish-seventy feet under water.

They will come home, jabbering like monkeys about adventures that you weren't even there for . 
And you did not tie their shoes or make them breakfast that day-they did it themselves.
And you will look up at the Clouds and say "How can this be?".
And the Clouds will pull their beards and shrug their sad shoulders and shake their heads.
It confounds them, too.

I was making meatloaf (something I am still needed for), when Kai finally ran out of gas- he was telling us about the fish he shot this morning and had been talking for four hours straight.
He stopped, mid sentence, stuffed an entire box of crackers in his mouth, downed a quart of milk, stood up, stretched his baby giraffe limbs and announced he needed a nap.
Then, flopped off into his cabin.
Hunter was already in her bunk, listening to music and writing private things in her diary.
She was mad at everybody-nobody had any idea why.

"I need this to slow down..." I said, mincing vegetables.

"What?" Jon was finishing up the dishes from lunch.

It had been a busy day so far...
Up before sunrise to 'rouse the kids-It's Kai's job, to flake the anchor chain whenever we raise the hook. 
Jon pulled up the chain and I drove us out of the lovely cove we had spent the night in.
The weather was calm and the seas were flat- a perfect day to dive a sea mound with Manta.
Jon had just recently shot his first yellowtail and Kai was eager to try for one.
I was not thrilled by the idea but Kai kept after us, rehearsing with Jon everything that he would do, if he were lucky enough to get a shot at one and everything he would do in case something went awry.
He promised me not to shoot anything too big.
He promised Jon he wouldn't lose his gun.

Hunter and I had snorkeled the reef near the mound the other day-
There were sea caves and underwater mazes of weather-worn rock to swim through.
We discovered schools of juvenile parrot fish and were on a treasure hunt for the elusive Blue Benny.
We found sea urchins and Hunter dove down with her little knife after one.
Our Ama diver expertly cut it open and fed it to the swirling schools of angelfish and brightly colored wrasses.
The current had been strong and would be again today- so we chose not to snorkel while the others dove, opting instead to bake a gingerbread cake.
Already, Pura Vida is festooned with homemade Christmas decorations.
Snowflakes and snowmen and candy canes colored on construction paper.

We put on Christmas music and laid on deck in the sunshine watching the boys suit up.
Jon filled the scuba tanks that Terry and Dawn have been lending us and Kai went to get Jon's big speargun.
"Don't worry, mom. " he said, grinning at me.

An hour later as the cake was coming out of the oven, I could see the two dingies out on the reef.
The dive was over.
Hunter and I stood on deck watching them.
"There not coming back, yet..." said Hunter.
"They're talking about the dive." I told her.

Surfacing after a dive is when you finally get to talk about everything that happened down there.
When you dive, you all get to experience things and as soon as the regulators come out of your mouth,  it's a flood of chatter as you compare all that you saw and felt.

I went below to turn the cake out of the pan.
I was anxious but I had counted two heads in our dingy- and that's all I cared about, really.

"Here they come!" squealed Hunter, from up top.

At sixty yards, I could see the grin on Kai's face.

He got one.

Everyone came home full of stories of the great hunt.
Terry had one, Jon two, Kai the biggest of all.

We ate warm gingerbread cake and listened to fish tales, then we weighed anchor and motored back to the calm cove for another night.

There were Horse running wild on the beach at sunset.

We would row ashore later, that night, and watch a prize fight on television at the beachside bar. 
(We cheered and whooped with all the Mexicans as Marquez knocked Paquiau out).

The kids and Jon wrestled on the beach and everyone came home tired and happy with piles of sand in their pockets and ears.

It had been a wonderful, amazing day but now here I was, flooded with emotion, maniacally chopping onions.

"What is it, hon?" Jon asked.

"This!" I shook my head and wiped my flooding eyes with my sleeve.

"The, the... hunting, the night dives, the having of diaries and high heels, the...." 

I was only vaguely aware that I was hammering away on the cutting board.

Jon dried his hands and hung the towel over the stove and sat down on the settee.

"We can't slow it down, babe. It's only going to go even faster from now on...."

He turned and looked at me.

"Don't cry" he said.

"I'm not. " I wailed. "It's...these Mexican onions! "

"Yeah. They get you every time." Jon said.

 He came over to give me a hug. 

Nothings wrong. 
Not at all. It's the opposite.
It's all so amazing and just so apparent, suddenly, that life is whizzing by...
And there's nothing I can do to stop it.

This is why the Clouds were so understanding.
They see the whole sad, beautiful picture from where they are.

I finish making the meal and put it in the oven.
Then I begin the task of making room in our freezer...
Jon and Kai have shot pounds of fish.

We will have Yellowtail in every conceivable form for the next few days.

Nana is coming soon and the boys are thrilled to have to hunt for FIVE now.

I will need a bigger freezer soon.

I hear Hunter and Kai giggling in their bunks.
Jon is on deck, looking at the stars.

Maybe, I can't make it stop...
But I can make every meatloaf count.

Just for the "Halibut"....

I told Dad not to put his in the dryer....

We have to keep dive logs now. 

We are getting close to number thirty or so. By the time I post this, Kai or Jon will probably pass that number.

I still occasionally pass up a dive to stay aboard with Hunter-who is beginning to groan about being too small to go to 80 feet. 

I try to assure her.

"Mommy, didn't even get to TRY this until now and I'm 45, you're  just soooo lucky to be doing what you are, it's amazing!" .

I tell her this and she rolls her eyes.

'Yeah " she says, unimpressed. 
"But I"VE been free-diving, forever, sooo, I'm more ready than you!"

Hard to argue with that.

As soon as we get back to Loreto, I have promised Hunter we will get her a junior Padi liscence- and we all will get certified.
It's going to be really weird to wear our gear in a POOL after all this.

I think we could actually have more "specialty" dives under our belt than our instructors...if we keep following Manta around.

And following Manta around is just about our favorite thing ever, these days...

We completed a circumnavigation of Isla Carmen-a 20 mile long, privately owned island, with all sorts of exciting things to see.

We dove reefs and drop offs, we played dingy chase with several hundred Bottles Nose Dolphins, we motored around at sunrise following a pod of pilot whales that decided to visit the anchorage.

 I dove with Terry and Dawn ( on a heavy current day) off the Northern most point of the island. 

"When you hit the water...kick as hard as you can for the anchor line..." Terry told me.

He and Dawn had been sharing horror stories of strong current experiences and teaching me how not to get myself swept away from the boat as I jumped in.

I nodded and spat in my mask.  I wasn't too worried.

I'm a pretty confident swimmer. I've spent my whole life around the ocean and as a kid, I spent a zillion hours training and swimming competitively.

"When you reach the anchor line, grab onto to it, have a rest, then work your way down to the anchor." 

Totally. I got this. 

I jumped in and swam for the anchor line.

I was kicking but nothing was happening.

I noticed the boat going past me. 
I was going

I reached up and grabbed the dingy at the last second and stuck my head out of the water.

"Oh, you mean, like,  REALLY KICK!"  
Dawn looked down at me and nodded, she was still in the dingy putting on her gear.

She usually hangs back, waiting to make sure one of us, newbie boneheads, does't need her to rescue us.

"You going to be okay? " she asked.

"I got this!" I said and stuck my regulator back in.

This time I kicked like Michael Phelps going for gold.

I grabbed the anchor line and fought my way down the line, against the current. 

Terry was patiently waiting by the anchor at the bottom, once you hit the sand the current is usually way less. Today it was less but not so much that I wasn't still getting blown around if I didn't hang onto a rock. 
Dawn came down the line like it was a swimming pool- these two are so impressive underwater it makes you feel extra goofy as you bobble around behind them but like anything, if you have a good mentor, you learn faster-eventually, I got the hang of swimming in the strong current and started looking around.

The first thing I saw was a mass of long, thick green grass, swaying in the cold currents at the bottom. 

I looked again and gurgled happily in my mask.

"EEEEEEEELLLLSSS..... bubble, bubble, bubble... EEEEEEELLLLLSSSS..."

I signalled to Terry and Dawn. They nodded and smiled.

I was looking at a field of swaying Garden Eels. 
They're about two feet long, and they live in their same little hole in the sand for their whole entire lives. 
They feed by sticking their bodies up out of their little homes and catching organisms that float past them in the currents.


I noticed shadows in the dimness. BIG shadows.
The visibility wasn't great- I could only see about fifteen feet away from me but those shadows came a little closer on the next pass.

I pointed and mumbled in my mask again.

There were four of them and each one had to be at least twenty pounds.
Too bad Jon wasn't here with his spear gun!

We found some lobster and then I realized I had already blown through half my air. 
I signaled to Terry and we started to head back.

A little while later, as we hung onto the anchor line and decompressed, Dawn and Terry motioned to me that I was using too much air, breathing too fast.
I sometimes forget to be calm and breath slowly-but this happens to me when I'm not on scuba too!

I nodded that I understood and that I would work on that the next dive. 
There's a lot to learn and it comes, "poco poquito"..."llittle by little," as we gain experience with each dive.

I kicked to the surface, and the water was black and silky looking.
Terry popped the anchor float and the dingy was sweeping out to deeper water quickly. 
Dawn was already in the boat ,helping me with my tank and Terry surfaced, right next to me, looking down at something.
He was talking into his snorkel and I couldn't understand him.

" Terry!" yelled Dawn, loud enough for Terry to hear. "Whatcha looking' at?"

Terry popped his head out of the water. 
"There's a hammerhead right under us."

" Us" meaning him...and me. 

I was still in the water, only I didn't have my mask on, I had thrown it into the dingy already.

"Oh, yeah."I said trying to sound casual. 
Terry seemed relaxed ...I thought that seemed like a good way to act.
(You know, being a professional actor does not really prepare one for much out here- but it does have it's moments of coming in handy).

"Yup, he just rolled over and looked up at you as he went past."

I levitated into the dingy.

As Terry climbed in I noticed a cacophony of sound, that I hadn't  heard before.
We had been swept around the point by the currents and now we could see a HUGE colony of sea lions sunning themselves on the point not 200 yards form us.
"That's a lot of sea lions" said Terry.
"I love seeing them. " I said. "there so cute" .
Terry shook his head.
"I don't like seeing that many so close...If they're here, the "Man in the Grey Suit" might be around, too.
Great White.

Okay. Let's go back to the big boat now.
...And they wonder why I use up my air so fast down there. Geez.

The next morning Hunter and I were up before sunrise baking muffins...
Yeah, that's how we roll out here. 
Us, shark swimming , types...

Terry called us on the VHF.
"anybody up over there? " he asked.

"I AM!" yelled Hunter across the water to his boat.

"There's whales in the anchorage...wanna go have a look?"
Hunter and I turned off the oven and Terry  and Dawn picked us up in their dingy and as the sun rose over the bay we frolicked around with a pod of slow moving pilot whales who were having a loll around in the calm shallow waters.

The water was so clear we could see the big 25 foot males hovering quietly under the dingy looking up at Hunter as she leaned over the bow.

There were a few days of Northers but we found something to dive everyday.

We did a wreck dive together- Hunter and I snorkeled it and then Dawn lent me her tanks and I joined Kai and Jon on it afterward.

On the way back to the boat Kai spotted a HUGE Halibut disguised, but not well enough for Kai ("the Eye" )who sees EVERYTHING down there.

I swam over to tell Terry about it, while Kai lined up to shoot it with his tiny pole-spear ( Haiwaiin sling).
Terry swam over, took one look at it and wagged a finger at Kai.

Kai reached for Terry's much larger pole spear but Terry shook his finger again and then lined up for the shot.
Kai glanced at me like..."Awwww...shucks...that was my fish...."
But we both knew Terry must have a reason.
A second later we knew why Terry didn't let Kai take the shot.

Those suckers are mean.

Terry, who is one serious dude and Captain Aqua-Man had to tussle with that fish and pin it on the sand, using all his weight to keep it from ripping off the spear.
I watched in awe, as the nasty fish snapped it's nasty, toothy jaws at Terry while he stabbed it in the head about twelve times and it still didn't die.

I made the "phew" sign, wiping my hand across my brow, looking over at Kai.
But Kai was busy, he had his own halibut squirming around in the end of his little pole.

It was much smaller but still a gutsy little monster and Kai leaned into it and  tackled it on the sand but he wasnt wearing a knife so he motioned for his dad to swim over and finish it off for him.

As Terry had lunged for the big one, the smaller one had darted out from under the behemoth.

I guess he wasn't as much protection as he seemed like.

Kai  and Terry climbed aboard Manta with their prizes.

"That thing was MEAN" I said, watching Terry hand the fish to Dawn up on deck.

"Oh, Terry..." she groaned. 'I hate cleaning these guys..." 

Dawn has seen A LOT of fish in her days. She's hard to impress :)_

'I totally could have gotten him" said Kai  hoisting the huge fish. and proudly carrying it around. 
It was almost as big as him.
Terry laughed. 
"Not with that little sling of yours. I didn't want him getting away from you...
I had a buddy, who  once got sixty stitches from one of these guys. He hit it and it got off his pole and it  came back an attacked him-bit off a chunk of his arm. And trust me, he was a little bigger than you"

Terry smiled at Kai, who was clearly imagining himself attacking the much bigger fish with perfect success.

Kai filleted his own little guy while Tigger cat watched and ogled it's slimy big brother lying on the deck at Kai's feet.

Another smile-filled day with Manta.

The next day, Manta offered to babysit and the kids made Terry suffer through watching "Elf" while Jon and I had our first "date dive" together.
We did a really shallow little reef but it was loads of fun and we scored some lobster so it was great.

Later, that same night, Manta took Jon and Kai out for their first night dive.

Okay. Let me just apologize in advance for the anxiety this next section will cause the Grandparents...

And let me say this, I was not without my own case of jitters as my little boy suited up and readied to dive.
Kai had been talking about going on a night dive for weeks and I know how much amazing stuff happens down there at night that you never see otherwise.
They were going to go shallow and Manta would be guiding them and caring for them and I trust those guys and I trust Jon and Kai.
Kai has shown a stunning maturity and natural ability every time we dive, If he is told not to do something or to do something differently, you only have to tell him once.
Somehow this miraculous event does not translate to land based activities.
But underwater, I have confidence in him.
Still though, it was currenty- and it would be PITCH, pitch dark out there in the windy darkness and the swell.
They only have tiny little flashlights and a small glowstick-one that would go on Kai;s snorkel so everyone would know where he was on the surface or underwater and the other would go on the dingy in case someone got lost and had to surface-that part I did not let myself think about at all.

Jon was serious and quiet as he double checked all their tanks and gear. Kai was unusually focused.
"Are you nervous, buddy? " I asked him.
"I'm excited." he said. "and a little fluttery inside".
"I'm nervous" i said.
"I'm going to be fine mom. I promise. I'll stay with everyone. You don't have to worry."

Dawn called over the VHF.
"How's everyone doing over there?" she asked.
"Okay. their heading to you now." I watched the last of the sun sink over the horizon and the dark was closing in fast. It's winter and the full moon was a few days ago so I knew it would stay blacker than pitch for another few hours until the waning moon made her entrance over the horizon.
"take care of my boys, out there"  I said.
"It;s going to be fine." Dawn said in that way she has that instantly makes you feel okay and that you can trust her with your most precious children.
"this is no big deal. I know it's scary for you now but as soon as you do one... you'll see.".

The boys dinged away-and Hunter and I burst into tears.

I knew it would be an hour for the dive and if we focused really hard we could see the two little dingy lights as they made their way out to the reef.
I checked the clock and vowed not to check it again for at least an hour and ten minutes.

I started dinner and let Hunter play a game on the iPad to distract us.

I remembered all the times Terry and Dawn had cautioned us, all the times they had stepped in or called a dive or rechecked something to make sure it was okay. I thought about all the times I turned to see them watching us or checking on us as we swam around gurgling at things. I thought about Terry not letting Kai shoot that fish, when I knew for a fact if it had been safe Terry would have wanted Kai to have that shot more than anybody.

I trusted them. Completely.
And I did not look at the clock for the full hour.

When the hour was up though,  Hunter and I popped back on that deck to have a look out to the reef.
If they had been under water for fifty minutes- they would probably be making their way back to the dingy now.
Sure enough,  3/4 of a mile away in the pitch black ,I could see an occasional flash of green light under water.
They were fine.
The dive was over. 
They would be heading back soon.

I put dinner on the table.

Ten minutes late,r Kai and Jon were standing in the cockpit, freezing cold and yammering like maniacs.
"It was so COOL!" 
"Mom! I totally snuggled a SEA TURTLE!"
"The phosphorescence were amazing!"
-There's something called "Purple Haze", a trippy, purple, goo that squirts out of a sea cucumber found only at night...

I poured a tequila for Jon and Hunter made Kai a cup of tea and we sat down to eat freshly made fish tacos, made form the Halibut ,Kai had shot the day before.
I listened to the boys tell Hunter and I, all about the amazing things they had seen in the night sea.

I looked at my ten year old child, his eyes shining, like huge round stones in the candlelight...
He was grinning and chatting away and he looked as polished and as smooth and clean and pure and happy and filled with wonder as a human could possibly look.

I glanced over at Jon, who was also watching Kai.
He took my hand in his and looked into my eyes.

"You have to go on the next one...." he said.

A day later we were diving again. 
This time, I was with Terry and Dawn and we were hunting for Yellowtail.
Terry had his big gun.
"if we see one," said Dawn.
"You get DOWN or hide behind a rock..."

"They get really pissed when you shoot them and they look for something to tangle the line on."
Terry got me wrapped up in one once" said Dawn, glancing at Terry.

"Oh, boy she was so MAD at me!"  Terry chuckled.

 I thought they were joking. I mean, it's  only FISH, right?  I can get out of the way. I figured they just didn't want me swimming up and getting tangled in the line. LIke an idiot.

Yeah. Okay.  So they weren't kidding.

We dropped down to about fifty feet and right away there was a huge green turtle laying on the bottom and I swam after him all slow and mellow and he let me trail him by a few feet and we banked in a turn together and while he kept a leary eye on big old Terry with his huge gun, he didn;t seem to mind me too much.
Terry swam down and picked up a rock off the bottom and banged it on a cliff.
This is how you call in the bigger pelagic fish.
Fish are curious and if you make noise, they will come in to check it out.
Then you have to be smooth and quick and you have a short chance to see them and get a shot off before they figure out that you are not interesting - you are dangerous.
I was swimming above Terry, about ten feet, and I saw the Yellowtail come over the ridge. I only saw one but Terry said there were two. Before I could turn my head and point, I saw Terry lined up in the shot. It was so cool. I have to say. LIke watching Barishnikov leap through the air, witnessing Terry hunt underwater has a sort of balletic quality to it. It is a deadly ballet but it's not without grace and complete physical and mental control. So many things were happening at once and because of the nature of the terrain on this dive and the timing of this fish showing up, Dawn and I had front row seats to the battle. 
And battle it was. This fish was big and Terry hit it perfectly behind the gills but it was not going down without a fight.
And do you know the first thing it did was look STRAIGHT at Dawn and I and make a run for us.
Terry yarded on the end of the spear line but that fish had a look of PAYBACKin it's eye and it had every intent if tangling DAWN or I or both of us in that line and chocking us and knocking off our masks and our regulators .
We pressed ourselves up against the rock wall ( we were in a sort of grotto with a sand bottom and a ring of rocky cliffs-imagine an underwater gladiator ring and you will get a very good idea of the theatrics of this event) but the thing kept coming.
Terry fought it away from us but it circled back and I pretty much jumped in Dawn's arms and we sank to the bottom and crouched on the sand to watch the rest of the thing play out.
There was a LONG wrestling match and the fish was eventually tired out and Terry wrapped him up in a bear hug at the end and drove his knife quickly into it;s brain and ended it without another twitch.

I had to put the lobsters (caught the night before) back in the fridge so I could make sashimi for dinner.
Dawn made sushi rolls- hundreds i think, to satisfy our hungry children- and we had a feast on Manta and celebrated a glorious animal that made a glorious meal for six-with plenty left over.

The next day it was Jon's  turn.
He had quizzed Terry over dinner, in that -hyper focused Jon way- about the fight and how to play the fish and when we went to bed I knew without doubt that Jon was lying awake thinking about getting a yellowtail.
We were up at dawn and motored back to the special reef and Hunter and I dropped off the gang and snorkeled some caves and an hour later we returned to pick them up...

Kai was the only one in the dingy when we got there.
"How was the dive?" I asked, worried.

"It sucked" said Kai with a sad look.
"there wasn't anything".

"I'm so sorry," I said, looking around for Jon.

"He's lying" sniffed Hunter. "I can tell".

"Where's daddy? " I asked, scanning the bubbles welling up under the dingy.

"Getting my broken flipper strap" said Kai.

Then, Jon surfaced, grinning and holding a beautiful fish.

Kai burst out laughing. 

'It was so awesome! I spotted the fish and  then Dad got a perfect shot and fought it and then a giant Moray tried to steal it from him and then he had to jump out of the way and then I scared it off....It was amazing. Ha. ha.....I fooled  you!"  Kai pointed a finger at Hunter and I.

"You got MOMMY, not ME !" yelled Hunter, very smug.

I had to smile at our situation;
How did this happen? 
Who is behind all this wonderfulness?
Who lifted up the curtain and said...
"Look, there is Freedom, there is Love, there is the Open World waiting for YOU"...
and now, Sashimi, at your spear-tip.

I don't know how this all came to be. 


All I know is what's in front of me and...
that the Lobster dinner will have to wait another night.

Who's ready for a night dive?

My boys!

The Guys hamming on Manta

Hunter and the pilot whales

Jon stops Hunter from joining her Dolphin brethren.

Barbies and Bones

Hunter's playground

Mom in DOUBLE heavy wet suits- Suki's don't like cold!
Hunter finds a suspected Meteor

Hunter and a pilot whale

Manta readies her Potato gun-at us!

Some of the many Man chores-fillets and wet suit repair

Whale buddy

Pirate caves
Dog Tooth snapper

Freediving Hunter

Bigger than they looked (12 lbs each!!

Hunter in one of her many incarnations- this is Big Bozo.

Puppies tussling

Cracking Terry up

Hunter trying to steal the thunder-her favorite trick

spotting for the wreck

Tigger snack

Mr. Yellowtail