Thursday, April 3, 2014

Chuuk Wrap-Up

We had a nice time the last few days at Chuuk. Our final count on dives was 15 dives. Deepest depths we went was about 130 feet, but most dives we did you could see all you wanted above 100 feet.

Nitrox matters, so if you can get Nitrox certified before you go, and opt for the $10 per tank Nitrox fee. At least one day, Cindy from the Truk Stop Dive Shop said "you won't need Nitrox today--no need for you to pay for it extra if you don't need it."

Good buoyancy also matters a lot, so an Advanced PADI certification (or equivalent) and practice on maintaining neutral bouyancy is important. When you are in enclosed spaces in a wreck, with lots of silt around, you need absolute minimum "finning". One ill-placed push of a fin will "brown out" the whole area. Rob and Cindy are great at coaching on wreck diving techniques--at at gearing your dive to your likes/dislikes and capabilities. Even as experienced as we are, we learned a lot from them about wreck diving. That's why we recommend Truk Stop over the other dive operations at Chuuk. A very small diver-to-guide ratio means you get real personal service (and fewer people clouding up the wreck you are diving on).

As for "which dive operation", after 10 days in Chuuk and diving with Truk Stop, and seeing the other operations, we felt that Truk Stop was best for diving. The others have more divers and thus less personal attention and not as good diver-to-guide ratio. Truk Stop makes it a point to leave early in the morning so as to be the first on the wrecks in the morning, therefore you have best visibility. People we met who had stayed on Odyssey for a week the previous year said they had a much better experience diving the wrecks with Truk Stop (fewer divers messing up the visibility). But Odyssey apparently had great food, and an open bar. (The bar is quite expensive at both Truk Stop and Blue Lagoon). Truk Stop is in town, so it's easy to go to a store, get cash, see something besides their place (though, there's not much to see). Blue Lagoon is more of an all-encompassing resort, so if you have non-divers with you, they will probably be happier at Blue Lagoon. Blue Lagoon does more boat trips per day, so its easier to pick and choose what dive you want to do. But Truk Stop works really hard to tailor their dives to what you want to see, on any given day. They have 3 boats, so can accommodate both the tech divers and the recreational divers. If you're going out to Odyssey, you might stop at Truk Stop on the way in or out, as Cindy will take you to places she knows Odyssey doesn't go.

The weather turned nasty in Chuuk unexpectedly one afternoon while we were there. Completely un-forecast, the wind went a little west of North, and picked up to about 15-20. We had 2-3 foot waves where we were. We were safe enough, but uncomfortable, and so opted to pick up late in the afternoon and move down to Blue Lagoon, where there was better protection from the north. (another option would have been to pull into the commercial pier, but there wasn't room at the time). Fortunately we had stopped in at Blue Lagoon on our way in to Chuuk and scoped out an anchor spot, and we had a track there. We snuggled in just inside the live-aboard dive boat Odyssey, who was on their Blue Lagoon mooring to change over passengers on the weekend.

Dave and I went into dinner when we stayed overnight at Blue Lagoon--a very nice-looking resort. Compared to Truk Stop, the restaurant at Blue Lagoon has less ambiance, and the food was not nearly as good. A day or two before the next supply ship was due, and they were out of several key ingredients for their menu, so the selection was limited and what we got was uninspiring. But a little cheaper than Truk Stop. Truk Stop has better internet (free for guests).

We did two land tours while in Chuuk. Both were arranged through Truk Stop and conducted by Mason Fritz (cell 930-6424). The first was a drive-around Weno to several World War 2 sights, including a couple of caves, gun emplacements, and Xavier High School. Even without the sights, a couple of hours talking to Mason gives you excellent background and historical information about Chuuk. Second, we arranged with Mason to get a boat to take us to Dublon (now called Tonowas), which was the main island for the Japanese. There truthfully isn't a lot to see--most Japanese things are either levelled--by U.S. bombings, the locals, or typhoon, or so far back in the jungle that it would be a messy hike to visit (which Mason wasn't offering, but could probably be arranged). But Mason took us around the island and we saw some Japanese sights, and got a lot more of the history. We ended the day at his family's residence, next to an old church, and the site of the large Japanese hospital. He arranged for us to see some handicrafts (sold by the makers at a much cheaper price than at the gift shops), and for a taste of local food at his sister's house at the end of the trip. Both trips were well worth the time and expense, if you want to do more than just dive dive dive at Chuuk.

The internet was totally down for the last 2-3 days of our stay. So I can't post pictures now of our land tours. Maybe later.
Sherry & Dave
Heading west across Micronesia in 2014

At 04/02/2014 3:25 AM (utc) our position was 07°21.11'N 149°11.54'E

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