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A brisk breeze and full Sail

The following morning all hands readied to disembark into vast expanse of the Bismarck Sea. We motored our way past the Beehives (named by Captain Cortland Simpson in 1872 for their unique shape) to the mouth of the harbor where a slight breeze began to rise. The crew’s excitement grew- even the slightest wind meant we would cast sail, for the size of the MV’s sail could generate enough of its own wind to make way.

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An excitement and energy filled the deck as the crew made ready. The giant sail (the largest in the world) emerged from the boom overhead. As its massive 12,000 sq. ft. surface began to fill with wind the boat began to heel to port at a startling angle. Furniture slid across the deck. Soon, we were moving at a brisk clip. At 20 knots the ship was an efficient machine, using nature’s power and converting it into impressive speed- her bow slicing through the ultramarine surface of the sea. The faces of passengers and crew alike beamed with the thrill of it!

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Arriving at our destination, a small group of nameless islands, we embarked on zodiacs for a picnic on a remote white sand beach.  Passing through a pod of countless dolphins we arrived at a tropical paradise of white sands shaded by coconut fronds and littered with colorful starfish.

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It wasn’t long before our hostess grabbed her underwater camera and asked if anyone was interested in diving with the dolphins. Without hesitation I was back in the zodiac on the chase, but intercepting the shy creatures proved a challenge, the wily mammals deep diving at every approach. Finally, anticipating their path, we plunged from the boat- just in time to see about 20 of the beautiful, sleek creatures dive, eyeing us in their deep angled decent.

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Disappointed at the briefness of the encounter and knowing another was unlikely; I crawled back in the boat. They were gone. Suddenly a crew member remaining in the water started pointing frantically below. Without hesitation I pulled on my goggles and dropped into the blue abyss. Anticipating the dolphins’ unexpected return, I instead, suddenly and surprisingly, I found myself floating above a large reef shark. I froze, waiting for any indication of its intention, and was soon relieved to see it roll and descend slowly and effortlessly into the deep blue space of the open ocean.

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That evening, over a lovely dinner and multiple cocktails, we recount the adventures of the day, and the ship begins to move. A hundred and twenty five nautical miles later, we arrived in one of the most bio-diverse places on the planet.

To be continued-