With a scad 44 hours between the last trip and the annual Best trip the crew of Discovery was squarely behind the 8 ball with no respite in sight. Sole hadn’t had a day off since Christmas; Pia was buried in cleaning and had been since her arrival in mid-January. I’ve documented my own injuries and infections this season in the past logs which are likely related to the demanding schedule we’ve had to maintain across Micronesia. I reminded our weary crew that we had a long ways to go to get a breather. 15 days with Best, then we’d have a scant 10 days before another 3 back to back trips in Palau- some 1400 miles west of Pohnpei. Even with good winds it would be tight just to make it.
This is the side of our collective job that the owners, guests and readers of these logs don’t really see and certainly don’t pity. And neither do I. I wouldn’t trade our life for the world and the work-load is worth it but there are times like these in which I’d give just about anything for a few more hours.
Ian Huschle, his wife Lorrie and their two adorable children Charles and Natalie would join us for the first week of the 15 day trip. Ian heads up Best Kiteboarding, our title sponsor and deserves a rest more than anyone I know…well, other than maybe the crew of Discovery! He has given every ounce of energy he has to the company since signing on as CEO and we made a deal in the weeks before the trip that he would leave his Blackberry and lap top behind. Jerry Seinfeld once quipped that “there is no such thing as fun for the whole family”, but I hoped to prove him wrong.
Ian loves to kiteboard but his arrival coincided with 8 days of perfectly still, perfectly glorious weather. We’ve had so much wind this season that a break in the breeze was welcome relief and thankfully Ian didn’t seem too miffed. And no kiting meant that the Huschle family could spend precious time together proving Seinfeld clearly hadn’t been out on The Best Odyssey.
Pohnpei is a wonderland that we discovered gets even better when the focus is taken off the wind. We spent three days on the outer reef far from any neighbors. Each day we’d make the trip to swim with our friends the Manta Rays; and each trip somehow beat the previous. Watch the video at the end of the log for proof. Ian, Charles and I made two treks to the outside of the reef and came home each time with a gorgeous Mahi Mahi. It’s a wonder there are any pelagics left out there with the massive fleets right around the corner, but the area would prove productive again and again. Read on…
Trips were made to Nan Madol, the mysterious and very impressive ruins; another day the gang spent on a guided tour by our friends and locals John and Mikey to several of the islands’ majestic waterfalls and vistas; and we re-visited Ant Atoll where Ian and Charles found an unexploded bomb about 30 feet from where we dropped our anchor, a remnant of WWII. Chilling to think what might have happened if the anchor had…well let’s just leave that thought.
Before we knew it the week was over like an equatorial sunset. Here one minute, gone the next. At the airport Ian met with some of the inbound crew from Best who would be our guests for the next week. Frazer and Darren from the UK; Sebastian and Martin from Germany; and Lia and Kate from the US. He told them it was the best week of his life. I guess there is fun for the whole family and I noticed our crew had made a large rebound as well. Strangely enough this is a recurring pattern. Our time between trips getting the boat ready is always a mad dash of repairs, cleaning, provisioning, negotiating customs and immigration, obtaining necessities like diesel and internet. We never seem to have enough time and we’re never really ready when it’s time to go to the airport for the pick-up.
But then the trip starts and inevitably the world we live in is so foreign and strange and wonderful to our guests that their joy envelopes us like a gentle breeze and we are soon appreciating our surroundings through their eyes. They always provide a much-needed energy kick that carries us through. This was very much the case as the Best crew boarded. Months and months of anticipation could be seen in their animated smiling faces. Their happiness of just being here was a soothing elixir that carried over to each of us and I found myself swept up in their glee as if I was also just arriving.
With a light forecast we figured the obvious bet would be to blow everyone’s mind with more Manta encounters. By this time we’d had a number of incredible Manta swims but we nail the timing three days in a row and even for myself, the interactions go to a whole new level. On one go nearly a dozen swarm at the surface rolling and turning inches from our bewildered faces. On these days when I get back to the dinghy there are 6 people all talking at once describing what can’t really be communicated with words. Their smiles do it a bit of justice but the experience is ours alone, a precious snapshot in life that will stay with each of us forever.
Kate, Frazer, Darren and I have a go at fishing outside the reef and come back with one and a half fish. Darren hooks into a gorgeous Dog Tooth Tuna and seconds later loses most of it to a shark (the remainder we ate for sushi shortly afterwards). Then Frazer successfully lands a beautiful Mahi-Mahi which brings the house down. All of us laugh so hard we nearly fall out of the boat and declare the expedition a roaring success. We return to Discovery quite proud of our efforts and Sole expertly transforms the catch into several mouthwatering delights.
When we aren’t swimming with Mantas or catching fish or snorkeling the reef or paddling around on the SUP we pass the light air days playing poker or telling stories and each night we star gaze on the trampoline. I find myself caught up in our guests’ enthusiasm and wonder. I too become mesmerized as I get re-acquainted with bright constellations that I see all the time. I too am stunned at the beauty of a magnificent sunset. I too am caught up in this experience we are all sharing that is simply perfect. As we have been all season we share our anchorages with no one. We swim with Manta Rays all by ourselves. We kiteboard over miles of reef that not a single person has flown a kite over. While the world at large seems to be falling apart at the seams we are thriving on it’s very fringes basking in a much better reality.
As more time passes acquaintances become endearing friendships. I take note of a recurring theme one evening after dinner, one that manifests on nearly every outing. Experiencing the world from the decks of Discovery on this rather unique voyage we’ve called The Best Odyssey often makes people take an objective look at their life and evaluate where they stand in the world. Over the years we’ve seen people return from trips and quit their jobs. End relationships. Pursue a dream. Get married. There have been so many “firsts” on board the Best Odyssey for our guests as well as our crew they must number in the many thousands. First time snorkeling; first time seeing a shark; first time swimming with Mantas; first time seeing the Southern Cross; first time sailing offshore; first time catching a tuna…I’m not sure there is an end to this list.
I can’t portray how proud this makes me and what joy it brings to my life. Those dark hours where all I want is just a bit more time will never be remembered a few years from now. But knowing we’ve possibly inspired people to change their lives, to live their dreams- that’s something I will never forget.
“The chief danger in life is that you may take too many precautions.” –Alfred Adler.