Planning for a writing trip to the South Pacific is quite an extensive project. Hours are spent on the Internet combing through cyberspace sites about those pearls of white sand strewn across the vastness of the Pacific. In addition to countless web sites, I am rapidly amassing books about these faraway islands that many dream of visiting but few ever see firsthand. I average over an hour per day reading about possible itineraries-what to see and what will have to be saved for another trip.

Then there is the time consuming process of getting the cheapest tickets possible for airlines and hotels via the Net. Once you think that you have gone as low as they will go, you purchase them online hoping that you haven't picked an airline targeted by some terrorist or booked a hotel like some that my wife and I stayed in South Asia last summer. Dirt and disease doesn't pixilate well on the hotel web sites so you never know for sure.

The main reason for this trip is so that I can relive my adolescent days when I read all the sailing stories and explorations of the South Pacific. However, all the reading material talks about snorkeling or scuba diving as a must do while in French Polynesia. Had I had more time, I would have learned to scuba dive. However, I will have to settle for the next best thing-snorkeling. Even that will require prep time to get up to speed. I haven't snorkeled for a half century. Being Scottish and frugal (perhaps that is redundant), I thought it prudent to buy the snorkeling supplies in the States. So, off to my neighborhood sports center to pick up the necessary items. Allow plenty of time to do this. There is much thought that goes into the selection process.

First, you will need to determine the color of your swimwear. For me, all my swimsuits are combinations of blues and yellows. For you, it might be different. However, a decision of colors is critical since the snorkeling equipment comes in colors. You must dress for snorkeling success, and color coordination is essential. I don't want to be on Blackwell's list of the worst dressed snorkelers on Bora Bora.

The next decision regarding equipment is between recreational and professional equipment. You may ask what is the difference except for the price? I don't know but am opting for the professional set of fins and goggles. I figure that the pro equipment will make up for my age and lack of experience.

The final step is getting the right fit. Picking flippers is a lot like shopping for a pair of new shoes. Some flippers have closed toes and others are opened toed, but comfort is the critical issue. If you are going to spend hours swimming with the dolphins and escaping from sharks, I figure that you will need comfortable flippers. As for the mask, it isn't quite as problematic. Just make sure that it fits snuggly or else you will soon be breathing water and not air.

Making sure of the correct fit and color...

The next issue is to have a dry run. This involves putting on your swimsuit, mask, and flippers. Once you are completely decked out, stand in front of a full-length mirror. If you are like me, you could stand to loose a couple of pounds and generally tone up a bit before venturing out on the beaches of Tahiti. I figure that if I workout from now until I leave, I will have gotten a six-pack look again. Well, perhaps a two-pack look, but I will look a little trimmer than I do presently. My goal is 150-crunches and 30-minutes of aerobic exercises per day, and that should do it.

Finally, you need to find a lake that is crystal-clear-like the waters of the South Seas. My wife and I will have to settle for Stone Lake in LaPorte, IN to experiment with snorkeling. I will report on our progress as we prepare to swim with the dolphins, sharks, manta rays, barracudas, and flying fish of the South Pacific.

One thing that does concern me is a recent terrorist alert about danger from potential terrorist attack by scuba divers or snorkelers. I have a sallow tone to my skin. From a distance, I might be confused as a terrorist. Therefore, I will keep my wife close at hand; she's a blonde and has blue eyes-hardly the Middle Eastern look. I figure that she is my best insurance policy against being confused as an aquatic terrorist. Honestly, I don't put much stock in this alert. Think about it, there can't be too many scuba divers who are Muslim fundamentalists lurking around coastal waters. How many terrorist even know how to swim?