Palau continues to be a truly amazing place and is fast becoming maybe my favorite stop on the trip so far. The atmosphere on land is well matched by the natural beauty above and below the water. We ended up waiting to go cruising to the Rock Islands a few days so that we could do a two tank dive with Sam’s Tours. We went first to German Channel. This turned out to be a pretty deep dive for our first certified experience. We went down to 100 feet and parked on the bottom for a few minutes (a few minutes too long). As we sat in the sand two reef-mantas did their mating dance right above us. When I say right above, I mean they glided so close to me that I had to duck. I have an awesome video of it that will be edited as soon as I can. For now though, the picture above will have to suffice.

The next dive was a current dive out to the very famous Blue Corner. This is supposed to be one of the best dives in the world but unfortunately the clarity was only 75 feet or so. Basically you jump in and dive right away to keep from getting tossed up on the reef. Then when everyone is ready you descend and drift around the corner where, using a blunted fishhook clipped to your BCD, you hook into some rocks. Then you sort of fly there like a kite for 15 minutes or so and see what pelagics show up. We saw quite a few sharks and massive schools of tangs, barracuda and jacks. Even a turtle or two. It was pretty good, but I don’t even think it was the best dive here, let alone the world. Since we went so deep on the first dive though we ended up having to do an 8 minute (!) decompression before ascending. I guess we stayed a little too long to watch the mantas. No worries though, I guess that can all be part of the experience.

The next day we set sail (or motor really) out to the Rock Islands. This is one of the worlds largest UNESCO underwater sites. The anchorages were by far the best I have had this trip. They have 360 degree protection and excellent holding. The scenery was stunning and the water was great. We wanted to do some wreck dives on some Japanese cargo ships but they were a little too deep so we just hung out the first few days. We did go on a mile long swim to an arch that is supposed to be good snorkeling. It was kind of cool the way the water would wash in and out of it, but it was also full of Asian tourists, many of which clearly had not yet learned to swim.

The next day went to Ulong, which is a series of three islands. It was a shallow entrance so I sounded it out on Duffy before we took Slick in. Plenty of room since it was high tide. We wanted to do some more diving here, since there are some really nice dive sites near by, but the wind was really up and trying to get out to them in dinghies was not going to be a fun experience. Even the commercial dive boats had to bash and crash back. So we just hung around and went over to the beach. The beach was another place where the terrible reality TV show “Survivor” was filmed. Nice beach though. After a few days in the anchorage we went over to anchor near Jellyfish Lake.

Jellyfish lake is an inland saltwater lake with no connection to the ocean. It was created long ago and became isolated with a drop in sea-level. So these jellies evolved to have no stingers, and there are tons of them. You swim among them and they just surround you. This would have been a great experience, but then I realized we paid an extra hundred bux for it and aside from the color of the jellies it was a lot like swimming in Boston harbor towards the end of June when the moon jellies there are in full bloom. In any case, it was still pretty cool, but I felt guilty since if you did anything but float around them they would be torn to bits as they were so delicate. This of course did not stop another group of people there who also didn’t know how

to swim and flailed about like loose weed eaters with a stuck open throttle. I am sure there was mass jellycide. After that we decided to take a very wet dingy ride to Clam City, where there are some giant clams. It really turned out to be just a clam village though since there were very few actually there. Our permits for the Rock Islands were expiring though so we sadly headed home the next day. I could have easily stayed out there for a month if I could get regular shipments of Red Rooster.

When we returned we were treated to some more diving. We went inside of Chandelier’s Cave with the crew from Alucia (a research yacht that was here, and since they are gone, it just isn’t the same, sniffle). The cave was pretty cool inside and had four chambers to surface in. While in there, one of the dive instructors we have become friends with swam under us with a tour and as he did he turned up and free-flowed both of his regulators creating a mass of bubbles that came up. When they hit the surface the flow created by them blew us against the walls. It was quite a clever trick! To leave the cave we descended and shut off our lights so we could only see the entrance and swam out in the dark, which was a great way to end the dive.

A few days later we wanted to dive something called “Helmet Wreck”. This was a Japanese mine-layer that was bombed in WWII. It is supposed to be pretty cool, except there is tons (literally) of unexploded ordnance and I guess some pretty nasty chemicals leaking out. So we decided to skip that one without a guide and dove off the wall right here at Sam’s. We went down around sunset when these incredibly beautiful fish, called Mandarin Fish, come out to mate. They do a little dance then swim off. It was nice and only in 20 feet so our bottom time was pretty much forever.

Other than the diving and sailing, we have had a pretty good time on land. But we also broke our new inverter. I think I have fixed it now, but I bought another spare. Also my backup hard drive is crashed so I am data poor now. That is why it is taking so long to make movies, I don’t have the memory on my laptop. Which has also broken a hinge and is rusting away at the ports. What a life.

We will leave for the Phillipines on Wednesday. The weather looks great, 15-20, down hill down current the whole way. The total trip is about 750 miles but after the first 500 we will be in Philippine waters where we won’t sail at night thanks to all the unlit fishing boats. We also picked up a temporary crew member from Alucia. She has a month off and wants to sail the trip to Cebu (where we check in) then she’ll depart for some diving. This will be nice to divide up the night watches so we all get some more sleep. Now we just have to see if she can match Joep’s personality!