June 29 – Married for 18 years to Dave, my sweetheart, and were still adventuring along together I’m very thankful to have such an amazing partner. Normally we try to do something special or unique on our anniversary. When we got married, our reception was on the old Skansonia boat. Never did I imagine in my wildest dreams that this many years later we’d find ourselves on a remote island in the middle of the South Pacific for this anniversary. The day was perfect just like our setting. On the island of Maupihaa with beauty surrounding us we ventured out to the narrow pass after breakfast to snorkel through it. Our friends on Muskoka had just done it and reported via radio it was fantastic. We all got ready, hopped in our dinghy and sped towards the pass. We threw ourselves in the water about 200 yards inside and floated out with the 3-4 knot current. It was thrilling and exhilarating to see just how narrow the channel was that we came through, the big fish (sharks), little reef fish, sting rays and even an old wreck at the very bottom. On one side, the shelf dropped straight down, on the other side it sloped gently up, both to only about 1 foot depth of reef. The sharks were curious about us but didn’t bother us. Afterwards Scott on Muskoka steered us a to nice bommie to snorkel on. Beautiful reef fish, coral, and a gray shark that came to check me out. The current was still pretty strong here too, so we anchored the dinghies. Upon returning we ate lunch and restarted our Tzolkien game where we had left off. The joy of playing a board game without being encumbered with chores or time. All four of us just played for several hours. Before the sun slipped away, I insisted we go for a walk together; our anniversary sunset stroll. We went ashore and met several locals including Harry who owned the shack where we landed our dinghy. He was quite a character and really nice. Him and his friends (neighbors) were sitting around chatting and sipping his strange homemade brew (water and sugar and who knows what). They had just said goodbye to their spouse, grandson, daughter, wife who went on a cruiser’s boat back to the small island of Maupiti. Their kids were going back so they could start school in a few weeks’ time. Harry’s wife was escorting his grandson. Summer break is mid-June through mid-August, which meant the kids had spent their vacation on the island. It seemed early to return, but after much discussion we learned the locals hop on cruiser boats heading back to “civilization” whenever they can because they never know when another chance will come. And the supply ship only comes once or twice a year. Harry’s wife will return in a month or so. She’s the mayor of the island and president of the small community of which they’re part of the larger community of Maupiti. She has the only government issued satellite phone which everyone uses to call their relatives on their birthdays or special holidays. We strolled over to the ocean side and collected some shells. We saw the little power boat cruisers puttering along with their family headed to Maupiti. We saw a gaggle of birds swooping and diving in the bushes lining the beach. They were making such a cacophony it was hard to hear any other noises except, of course, the waves crashing on the outer rim of reef. We ducked back into the interior of the island and gingerly walked down the only road made of crushed coral and maybe some gravel with grasses growing tall in the center. We marveled at how this rough road was built. Harry had a vehicle and so did a few others but most only have bikes that they ride up and down the 8-total km of unpaved road, overgrown by grass. We passed a house with barking dogs and then popped through to the lagoon, interior, side and walked along the beach until, again we were passing the house with the barking dogs. There were 2 men and a young teenage boy sitting outside chatting and listening to music. They were friendly, so we walked up to chat with them. We asked them questions about how long they lived here on this island, when they return, how they get supplies and what they do. Similar responses as Harry and his friends. After we said goodbye, we kept strolling as the sun set, sinking behind some clouds. The sand was warm on my feet and the waves were non existent since we’re on the lagoon side. Back at our dinghy we were greeted by Harry who kindly offered us coconut water. He invited us to bring our dinner and dine on the beach with him and bring our friends on Muskoka. I explained we would ask, so it was a maybe. Returning to the boat we found the dishes done by Camille – ah so nice of her! We started cooking up our anniversary dinner since Scott had invited us over after dinner for dessert and to play Mexican train. I felt bad, but we didn’t want to dine with Harry on the beach in front of his house because the bugs were biting, the ants were everywhere and flies too. Just a little much for me to bear and I certainly didn’t want to expose Camille to that scene since the bugs love her. Camille and I returned to tell Harry we wouldn’t come to dinner. I brought him a new t-shirt (a bright yellow one from Whangerei New Zealand) and two packets of the strange tomato pizza sauce from the Galapagos that tasted like a mix of ketchup and BBQ sauce. Harry had set out a table, laid it with a lovely table cloth, set it with nice glass cups and bottled water. He had combed his hair and put on a nice polo shirt. When I told him we weren’t coming, he seemed so sad and lonely. Upon returning to the boat, I told Dave and he felt so bad that he suggested we go back to fetch Harry and bring him to our boat to dine with us. We did, and he was happy to join us for Dave’s expertly grilled pork chops, mashed potatoes and lettuce with wine. Harry enjoyed himself and the food, as best we could tell. After dinner we gave him a tour of our boat. He explained how they see sailboats like ours come to their island but only a few every now and then. One time a big Italian sailboat came and trolled by the entrance for hours deciding whether they could make it in through the pass given their fixed keel and drafting nearly 12 feet. He went out to greet them. They finally made it in. He said it was a grand boat. Afterwards we went over to Muskoka and had dessert – Scott made a fabulous tapioca pudding. They served us a heaping bowl of it. I was so full I could hardly move. Harry regaled us with info about the island, explained why it has two names (one Tahitian and one French) and many others tidbits. Finally, we returned Harry to shore and came back to play Mexican Train. A fun time was had by all playing the game even though Dave won the game – as usual! I couldn’t have asked for a better anniversary day on a remote island surrounded by beauty and clear waters beneath us.