Longing for Touch

This post is in response to the question “You are on a mission to Mars. Because of the length of of the journey, you will never be able to return to Earth. What about our blue planet will you miss the most?”

——-

As a boy in the 1960’s, I wanted so very much to become an astronaut. With my roots in science fiction already well established, it seemed to me that there could be no better job in the world (or off the world).

Sadly, my eyes betrayed me in the 4th grade. A sudden shift to nearsightedness at 20/400 vision was the death knell to my plans. There was no way I would be joining the Air Force, as flying jets as the best first step into the space program. As it turns out, it would also have been the first step into the Vietnam War which was raging when I graduated from college. Who knows what that might have brought into my life.

Now, many decades later, I have come to realize the importance of having good friends and neighbors within reach. A solid handshake or a loving hug means so much more than an exciting adventure or a chance at fame.

If I were on a one way trip to Mars, I would miss my friends pat on the back and the loving touch of my wife, children, and grandchildren. Yes, we could communicate through the ether, but that is just not the same as being in the same room. I could see pictures of the Grand Tetons or the Grand Canyon, but that is just not the same as standing there in awe of their beauty. I could look down on our beautiful blue oceans, but that is just not the same as sailing on them, smelling the breeze, listening to the wake against the side of the ship or snorkeling above a beautiful reef in the Caribbean.

“The Martian” was a great movie, but I am now content with watching and not participating. My journeys now occur in the pages of my new SF novels. In there, I can see and do almost anything and then return to the comfort and touch of my home.

Longing for Gravity

A Taste of Nu Book 1 – Chapter 33

Artistic representation showing the Trojan asteroid Hektor and its tiny moon. Credit: H. Marchis & F. Marchis

Note: AMC stands for Asteroid Mining Company and AMC Scorpion is the first of a new class of mining assay ship with added defensive capabiilties.

Chapter 33 – Scorpion Encounter

Sted and his crew had been working this rich area of the belt for
almost three months without incident. Apparently, the increased
speed incorporated into the AMC Scorpion made following the ship
very difficult for the independent claim jumpers. None of the eighteen
mineral-rich asteroids his crew identified had been discovered by the
independents. They could only follow the initial vector of the Scorpion
into the belt, but it did them no good, because Sted never set out directly
for his next intended target. Midcourse corrections were applied once out
of range of any possible pursuers.

This was very satisfying for Sted and the crew. They really did not
want to employ their new defensive capabilities and let the cat out of the
bag too early. The more minerals the Scorpion could put into AMC’s mining
coffers before the independents were alerted to their new capabilities,
the more profit could be made while the remaining Delta class vessels
were being completed.

In fact, a message received from Cam on their first resupply capsule
indicated that the remaining Delta class ships were already on their way
to the belt. Cam indicated that his spies at the foundries were only picking
up rumors of AMC’s increased mineral ore deliveries, but apparently
nobody had any idea of the cause. It just appeared to be a small increase
in AMC deliveries and a small decrease in the independent deliveries. A
real trend had not yet been established, and the independents were not
yet saying much about their change in fortunes. This would not last long
when all ten Deltas were deployed. The shift in fortunes would be obvious,
and the search for the cause would begin.

Also in the note, Cam requested that Sted prepare his second in
command for taking over as the AMC Scorpion’s captain. Sted was needed
back at the lunar base to work with the design and engineering teams on
the new Epsilon class. The ten additional Delta class vessels would have a
huge impact in the belt over the next few years, but Cam wanted to be prepared
when the independents began responding in kind to the new Delta
class tactics. Cam was sending a replacement officer on the new Delta
class AMC Mantis. The officer would take over as second in command on
the Scorpion. Then the Mantis was to deliver Sted to the naval shipyard,
where he would hop a ride back to the lunar base on the next shuttle.

The Scorpion had four weeks until the AMC Mantis arrived at the
closest mining platform, so Sted planned to visit three more asteroids that
were in their flight path to that platform. That was his mistake.

The successful tactic of not heading directly for the next target asteroid
but correcting course midway was forgotten. The crew had been
lulled into complacency by their continued success. After registering a
claim through the mining platform for the first asteroid, Sted ordered the
ship on a course directly for the second. This small M-type asteroid was
shaped like a two-kilometer long peanut, as if two bodies had merged partially
over the millions of millennia since the formation of the sun. AMC
often found their richest deposits of tungsten in these small but dense
planetesimals that may have resulted from collisions of larger bodies in
the early stages of planet formation.

As the crew was winding up the analysis of the three drilling sites and
preparing to depart for their last target, Julie picked up the signature of an
inbound ship drifting toward them from the direction of their last claim.

“We have visitors approaching stealthily from the sunward direction,”
she announced to everyone on the bridge.

“Well, that’s never a good sign,” Sted replied. “That usually indicates
foul intentions. Bundy, I want you prepared for immediate missile defense.
Bill, spin the laser capacitor back up. I want it at full charge in the
next three minutes. Once that’s done, I need both of you to get into your
vacuum suits while monitoring your consoles.”

With that, Sted switched to the all-ship channel. “All hands prepare
for enemy engagement. This is not a drill.”

As soon as Sted donned his vacuum suit, he strapped himself into the
command chair and turned to Julie. “Give me the latest on your contact.”

“Contact is at fifty kilometers and drifting toward us at one hundred
kilometers per hour. I can’t get a good visual because of the sun, so I cannot
identify the vessel’s class. They are, however, already in missile range
for the type that destroyed the AMC Pride.”

“Okay, Julie. Prepare to come about. I want the prow facing the visitors
as I hail them.”

“Bill, I need the main laser trained on their ship and dialed up to its
highest setting. Be prepared to fire on my order.”

With that, Sted switched to the universal hailing frequency. As soon
as Julie had the Scorpion facing their enemy, he activated the microphone
in his helmet. “This is AMC Scorpion. Please identify yourself
immediately.”

Five seconds after the transmission, Bundy Meacham looked up. “We
have two inbound missiles. I am engaging laser defenses.” He paused for
a moment. “We have two direct hits on the missiles and both have been
destroyed.”

“Fire the main laser,” Sted to Bill Overton. “I want multiple holes in
that ship immediately!”

With that, Bill sent three fifteen-second pulses through the drilling
laser with only two seconds between each pulse. He began analysis of the
laser hits immediately, but the sun made any confirmation difficult. “I
can’t get a reading on the result of the drilling bursts,” Bill said. “I know
we hit them hard, but the sun is masking any readings.”

“Julie, spin up the engines to half power and move us away from the
asteroid to get a better angle for Bill’s analysis. Bill, prepare for another
three pulses if necessary.”

Once again, Sted hailed the enemy ship. “This is the AMC Scorpion.
This is your last chance to identify yourself. Please advise if you have
casualties or need assistance.”

“AMC Scorpion, this is Powell Madigan aboard the Falcon. We have
sustained significant damage and multiple casualties. We surrender and
request immediate assistance. I repeat. We surrender and request immediate
assistance.”

“Standby, Falcon.” Sted turned to Bill. “Can you get any better
readings?”

“We definitely breached the hull, sir,” Bill replied. “I detect a significant
plume of atmosphere streaming out of the ship.”

“Falcon, this is AMC Scorpion. We will be coming around and approaching
from the stern of your ship. Any sign of resistance, and we will
put more holes in your hull than you can count. Please let me know the
number of personnel aboard and the number of casualties. We are only
a mining assay ship and do not have the facilities to afford any relief. We
can, however, contact our closest mining platform for assistance. They
will contact the Space Navy to schedule a rescue mission. That assistance
will be at least a week getting here. Monitor the emergency channel for
updates on the rescue party.”

“AMC Scorpion, this is the Falcon. We have a crew of fifteen. We have
seven dead from decompression when you ripped open our crew quarters.
The remaining eight crew members should be able to survive at least three
weeks on our remaining air, water, and food supplies.”

“Falcon, this is AMC Scorpion. We are now one kilometer to your
stern. We have recorded all of your transmissions and will send these
along with our request for assistance. We will advise the rescue party of
your current state. Scorpion out.”

Sted turned to Julie. “Please contact the mining platform. Send along
the contact recordings along with the coordinates of this asteroid and the
condition of the Falcon. We also want to register our claim immediately.
That asteroid is our biggest find to date. The platform may want to follow
the Navy back here to begin their mining operations.”

Pace and the Knob of Life

My thoughts on today’s Daily Prompt on Pace Oddity.

Have you ever had one of those days when you feel overwhelmed by the cacophony of audio and visual stimulation? You just can’t seem to follow everything going on around you and know you are missing something important in all of the noise?

That is the exact moment when you want to change the pace of life. You want to turn the knob of life down just a little so that you can enjoy everything and everyone around you.

So what can you do?

Here is how I try to cope. First I fill my lungs with air to the bursting point and then let it out slowly, concentrating on the sound of the air escaping my lips to the exclusion of all other sounds and sights. Then I do it once more for good measure.

The effect of concentrating on the sound of my breath tends to smooth out my temperament and reset my outlook.

Do you have any tricks like this that others could employ? If so, leave a comment so that we can all start a conversation. Pace is important and there should always be a way to adjust that pace to fit any situation. What is your knob of life?

CRUISE DAYS 23-25 at Sea and back to Sydney, December 15-17, 2015

Based on the grueling trip over, we were not looking forward to our flight back to the States, but we were determined to enjoy our last two days aboard the Noordam on the way back to Sydney, Australia.

With that in mind, we spent our time relaxing and getting to know our new found friends on a deeper level. We also exchanged contact information so that we could continue our relationships on a long distance basis.

The evening of the 23rd day was our last formal dinner on board which gave us one more time to dress to the nines, dance a few dances, drink a few drinks, and spend a little more in the casino playing blackjack with the dealers we had gotten to know so well over this extended cruise. It was a great evening. This was followed by another great night of sleep on a rocking ship that lulls you into a languid dreamworld unlike anything you will find on dry ground.

We spent our last day on-board packing for the trip home. Let me pass along some advice to future cruise travelers on extended voyages. If the cruise ship does not have a laundry for the passengers, but offers to do your laundry for a price, do what we did. On the first leg of our trip, we used most of our clothes and stacked them in our laundry back awaiting the second half of the voyage. Then, on the second half, we purchased the unlimited laundry option. At that point, we were able to send all of the laundry from the first half of the cruise to get cleaned. From there forward, we sent in small loads every few days so that when we packed to go home, we were packing all clean laundry.

That brings me to the trip home. Ugh! The first leg was from Sydney to San Francisco on the Boeing 777. Four hours of flying followed by 10 hours of torture while flying. I envied the passengers in business class because their seats converted to beds. However, we were not about to pay and extra $10,000 to get a bed.

Like all good and bad things, they come to an end. We landed in SF around 10:00 AM, got through immigration and customs, rechecked all of our bags for the remainder of the trip and then took the BART from the airport to Fisherman’s Wharf. There we had a wonderful lunch followed by a long walk to reactivate or legs after the cramped 14 hour journey. The walk included a stop in Ghirardelli Square to buy some dark chocolate for the remainder of the trip and a stop in a camera shop to buy a new lens cap and a UV filter for my telephoto lens.

By mid afternoon, we were both exhausted and decided to go back to the airport and await our red-eye flight at 9:00 PM to Washington, DC. We were going to spend more time in downtown SF but sometimes the body does not cooperate.

Well, we made it home in one piece and our neighbor was waiting at the airport to pick us up and bring us back home. It is wonderful to have great neighbors that are also great friends. When we got in the door at around 11:00 AM on the 18th, we simply dropped our luggage in the living room and went directly to our own bed. Of course we turned the hot water back on and reset the thermostat first, but that only took a few minutes.

That was the end of our bucket list journey down under, but not the end of its impact on our lives. It took almost ten days to get our bodies back in sync with the local time. It was much more difficult flying west to east than the reverse. Is that your experience too? I would welcome comments on your experiences.

CRUISE DAY 22 – Amadee Light House, Noumea, New Caledonia, December 14, 2015

Our bucket list tour down under was coming to a close, but somehow fate saved one of our best stops for last. We docked early in the the New Caledonia capital city of Noumea. This was a French protectorate which was very clear when passing through the city by bus to get to our excursion ship out to Amadee Island. All of the signs on all of the shops were in french, which gave the island an exotic feel. Otherwise, I might have thought we were in the Caribbean.

On the bus to the ship we were warned about the indigenous population of the island, namely the venomous striped sea snakes. A picture was passed around and then our guide explained that the snakes were plentiful on the island but that you were very unlikely to get bitten by one. Their mouths are small and the venom is injected only if something like a finger is pushed way into the back of the mouth. If anyone was uncomfortable around one of the snakes, they were to call him and he would pick up the snake and move it to another part of the beach.

Well, that was all my wife Alice had to hear. She fears small animals, and particularly snakes. I could tell that this was going to be another exciting adventure.

The excursion was an all day trip and there were several activities planned by our guide. The first order of business was to find a spot on the beach to put our beach towels, snorkeling gear, bottles of water, etc. We met another couple on the trip over to Amadee Island so the four of us found a nice spot on the beach under one of the beautiful turquoise colored umbrellas. We had about forty minute until our next activity, a glass bottom boat ride to see some of the abundant underwater life, so I got out my camera and took a few pictures of the beach area and one looking back at Grand Terre Island where our cruise ship was docked. I posted five pictures on Facebook from the trip and you can access them by following this link: https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100010589645735 . While you are there, you might want to make a friend or follow request. I find it easier to post multiple pictures there rather than on my blog.

Our glass bottom boat tour was fairly typical of others we have taken. On this tour, however, we had a few remora fish attaching themselves to the glass bottom and taking a ride around the reef encircling the island. Now I have an idea how these fish attach themselves to sharks and other large fish. The suckers on the top of their heads are large and very effective.

When we got back to the dock, we stepped off of the small glass bottom boat and then immediately on to the large boat that brought us to the island. Now we were off on a trip around the island that is famous for its lighthouse as seen in the featured image for this blog. From there we went out even further to the barrier reef where I took the picture of the shark breaching the ocean’s surface. That was a lucky shot: right place, right time.

Then it was back to the island where our hosts had prepared a lavish barbecue lunch that included rum punch, and a bottle of french wine with the meal. This was followed by a dancing demonstration with a small band and two hula dancers. All of this was very entertaining on a warm and beautiful day in the South Pacific. But the real entertainment was to follow.

After lunch, we had about two hours to enjoy the beach and take a snorkel to see the reef, the turtles, the fish and the snakes. While I was out snorkeling, Alice and her friend that we met on the boat on the way over decided to set their chairs out in the water off of the beach with the waves just below the seats of their chairs. The two of them were having a pleasant conversation when the great snake attack occurred. One of the sea snakes surfaced near the two of them. Alice’s friend quickly got out of her chair, picked up the chair and ran back to the beach. Alice was not quite so brave. All she could think to do was raise her feet out of the water and start screaming for help. There was no way she was going to allow that snake to get near her legs and feet.

Well, someone near them in the water intervened and forced the snake on a path away from Alice. Then she had to decide whether or not she was going to put her feet back in the water to get back to the beach. After all, there might be another snake in the water that she just hadn’t seen.

Meanwhile, I cut my snorkeling trip short and came back to the beach to help her out of the water. What I told her when we got back was that I was just observing one of the snakes out by the reef as it moved slowly along the bottom looking for food. Well, that was the end of snorkeling for the day. I was not allowed back out, regardless of the fact that the snakes were perfectly harmless and regardless of the fact that I have been on several shark dives on previous trips.

This was just another great memory to tuck into the long list of great memories from our many adventures around the world. Every time I bring up the great snake adventure, I can get a smile from her. I keep telling her that she was the real entertainment on the trip.

Living the Dream – With the Money

Money for Nothing

I have been living the dream for decades. How is that possible? Let’s take a look at a little history.

After leaving college in the early seventies, I got married, got a regular job, moved to the Boston area, sired three wonderful children, and then realized that I was not really happy with my life’s work. So what do you do when you have already created so many dependencies but you are not really satisfied?

My answer was to take a job interest test at a local college to see what kind of job might make me excited. The results were eyebrow raising. There was a spike on my graph of work fields in the area of data processing and programming. Meanwhile, I was stuck selling elevators and elevator service contracts. Time for a change.

I looked at the big employers like IBM, Honeywell, Wang, etc. and submitted my resume by mail to 19 different companies. I got only one response and that was from Ross Perot’s company, EDS, in Irving Texas. After an exhaustive four interview process, including a final interview in Dallas, I was hired in 1975 and began work at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Massachusetts in what was called EDS’s System Engineering Development program. That meant 6-9 months working in the field with their heath care client, followed by three months of in depth training in COBOL and IBM Assembler programming at their headquarters in Irving.

Let me tell you, that training was intense. You went to class all day and then worked on assignments all night and during every minute of break time during the day. At the end, I knew both programming languages very well and could solve complex problems quickly and elegantly.

Next I went to went to work in their corporate data center in Irving after moving my family to Plano, Texas. Now this was an awesome job. I consumed free coffee all day while fixing or enhancing their Medicare Part B claims processing system and feeling like I was really good at my job and useful to my employer. But all things must come to an end.

Feeling underpaid for my skill set, I found a new job back in New England with another health care company. From there I worked my way into the lead design position for a claims processing system that had me commuting between Connecticut and California for over eight months. Boy did that get old after a while.

Finally, I decided that I just couldn’t work for big companies as an employee. I was too busy trying to run these companies from the bottom, and believe me when I say that this just doesn’t work. It was time to strike out on my own.

I could write a whole book about my experiences as an independent data processing consultant for the next 24 years. Let’s just say that I had four or five regular customers that appreciated my system design talents and that I kept rotating assignments between these customers from 1981 all the way through Y2K until 2005, when the market collapsed  under the onslaught of cheap labor for India and other countries. Time to reassess.

I became an employee with one of my former customers and spent the next nine years as an expert in the Pharmacy Benefit Management field doing what I do best – designing and building systems that last and last.

In 2014 I finally retired after my wife and I put away enough money to live comfortably for the next few decades. Now the real fun could begin.

It was time to begin a new career as an independent writer in a field that I have enjoyed since my early youth – science fiction. I had paid my dues for almost 50 years. Now I could set my own writing schedule, mixed in with playing golf and pool and enjoying my many grandchildren.

Hey, do you think there might be enough stories in this long life that I could chronicle in a book? Would anyone be interested? Let me know. Have keyboard, will travel.

CRUISE DAY 20 – Dravuni Island, Republic of Fiji, December 12, 2016

Dravuni Island was another tender port. It was a typical example  of a small South Pacific island where the residents live a simple life spiced up every once in a while by a visit from a cruise ship. On cruise days like today, everyone on the island focuses on entertaining their cruise guests with the usual booths selling wraps or offering massages.

On this island, however, we were treated to a village dance show. A line of women, dressed in costumes enhanced with palm fronds, danced traditional island dances while a group of men with instruments and voices provided the musical background.

Because it was a Saturday, school was not in session, so all of the children participated in or sat and watched the dance ceremony. It appears that the villagers were actually looking for donations from their guests to improve their schools with books and supplies.

After walking through the small village looking at the various stalls, and then watching and listening to the dance, we returned to the ship. This was another south sea island with little to offer other than a beautiful climate.

CRUISE DAYS 18 & 19 – At Sea and then Lautoka, Republic of Fiji, December 10th and 11th, 2015

Day 18 – We spent the day at sea traveling from New Caledonia to the Fiji Islands. I don’t remember what we did that day, but I know at some point I worked on Book 2 of the trilogy while Alice sun bathed. At another point, Alice and I spent some time in library playing Yahtzee. Just another relaxing day on board.

Day 19 – We docked in the port city of Lautoka on the main island of Fiji called Viti Levu. From there we boarded a large catamaran bound for the island Tivua, one of the many small islands off of the main island.

During the half hour ride to our destination, I was offered a chance to go scuba diving. I have not been diving for almost nine years and I had been looking forward to an opportunity to dive in the South Pacific. After reviewing my diving certification card and asking a few questions about my diving history and skills, the dive master decided it would be safe for me to dive with him.

Upon arrival at the island, we found a spot to park our gear and for Alice to get some sun while I went diving. Then it was back to the dive shop to get outfitted for the dive. This dive was just what I needed. We entered the water from the shore and waded out to chest deep water. Then it was on with the BC (Buoyancy Commentator) and then down to the bottom and along the reef.

The reef was not very spectacular. It turns out that a typhoon had passed over the island three years before and done quite a bit of damage to the reef. After only three years, the reef was just starting to recover. I didn’t care, however, because I was back in my underwater element. It truly was like riding a bicycle. I was comfortable with the gear and with the dive. We only went down to twelve meters, but that was enough for me.

When we finished the dive, I went back to find Alice on the beach. This excursion included drinks and a buffet meal along with some local entertainment. It made for a pleasant day.

On the trip back from the shore to the catamaran, we had a choice of taking one of the bigger glass bottom boats or one of the smaller skiffs. Based upon the line at the bigger boat, we chose to go on the skiff, and that made for an interesting ride. The smaller outboard driven boat bounced through the choppy waves and drove right up to the loading area on the back of the catamaran. Then it was time to get off. everyone had to stand up in the skiff and then step up onto the front platform before stepping over to the catamaran. This was done one person at a time, with the crew helping guide each person to prevent any accidents. Everything was fine until it was Alice’s turn. She stood up and then froze. The guides had to practically carry her up onto the platform and then over the gap onto the catamaran. Meanwhile, it was all my fault because I left her behind to fend for herself.

Needless to say, Alice made is safely aboard and I was eventually forgiven for my terrible sin of leaving her behind.

CRUISE DAY 17 – Easo, Lifou, New Caledonia, December 9, 2015

This was our second stop in the South Pacific. If you look up the island in Tripadvisor, you see that it is know for its beaches with snorkeling and for little else. Having snorkeled the previous day and not being terribly impressed, we decided to get off of the ship and walk around the dock area to see what was available. Alice was looking for some kind of hat to protect her from the sun for the remainder of our trip.

We tendered to the dock while looking at the Notre Dame de Lourdes church on the bluff overlooking the bay. Again, I didn’t take any photos on this stop, so I borrowed the image on the post from Flickr as posted by Jim Gardepe. I thought this put the island in its best light.

After getting off of the tender, we walked up through the small market where there were stalls selling wraps and offering massages. As it turns out, this is what is available on every stop in the South Pacific.

We chose not to climb the hills to the two churches on the island, so we just turned around and went back to the dock to tender back to the ship. That is when the excitement started.

Just after we sat down in the tender there was a small scream and a commotion on the dock next to the tender. It turns out that a woman passenger fell off the other side of the dock into the bay. The crew of the tender went into action. One climbed to the top of the tender and got one of the rings they throw into the water to help you float. Another member of the crew came into the tender and detached a telescoping pole from the ceiling above the seats to hook the woman and guide her over to the ladder to climb back onto the dock. The problem was that she broke her arm in the fall and could not climb the ladder. The crew had to get into the water and help push her up from behind.

Meanwhile, the tender was moved away from the dock and motored out a short way to fish out the woman’s sandals that were floating in the bay. We did not go back to the dock, but proceeded to the ship, allowing the woman to get some care on the dock before boarding the next tender.

If you thought that was excitement enough, there is more. A young woman was sitting next to Alice on the tender and she appeared to become more and more agitated. She got up and started pacing in the aisle with her head either looking down or swiveling around like she was trapped and didn’t know what to do. I think she was having some kind of anxiety attack. We mentioned this to a crew member and the crew then called ahead to the ship. When we arrived back, there was a member of the medical staff waiting to tend to the poor young woman to make sure everything was okay.

We didn’t know, at the time, that the first woman broke her arm. We found that out later when we met her in passing on the ship and she had her arm in a cast and sling. I’m sure she will have stories to tell her friends and family for many years to come.

 

 

CRUISE DAYS 14-16, Two Days at Sea, First port of call at Mare, New Caledonia, December 6th thru 8th.

After leaving the port of Sydney for the second time, we had another two days at sea. There was a big turnover in passengers on the second leg of this cruise. The Australian crowd was definitely younger and more in a party mood. I guess that goes along with the itinerary of visiting Fiji and New Caledonia. This is the equivalent of people from the USA traveling to the Caribbean.

We had said goodbye to three of our dinner table mates before the turnaround and then welcomed three new mates to our nightly dinner. As it turns out, all three had been on the first leg of our cruise around New Zealand. When tables were reassigned, they were moved to our table. Let me say, we were not disappointed. Alice and I love the experience of sharing our dinners with new friends that you get to know better each night. We have made lasting friendships over the years, and this cruise was no exception.

Our first stop on round two of the cruise was at the island of Mare in New Caledonia. This was not one of my favorite stops. The only tour offered by the ship was a shuttle bus ride to and from Yedjele beach.

I rented fins for snorkeling off of the white sand beach. For $10 US I got very beat up fins that looked like a shark had taken a bite out of the end of each fin. They did suffice to help me snorkel around the sparse reef area where I saw some of the local small fish. After experiencing the beautiful reefs in the Caribbean, this was not very inspiring and a poor start to seeing South Pacific islands. I think Holland America has discontinued this stop, as I don’t see it on their 2016 calendar.

The beach itself was not of the soft sand variety. Many small pebbles (probably coral) and pieces of shell made for uncomfortable barefoot walking. We stayed for about two hours and then headed back to the ship for lunch. I was not inspired to take any pictures so I’m going with a picture of the ship at a later stop for my featured image.