Thursday, March 30, 2006

It's choppy on the water this evening...

I have the boat out on a charter tonight and I talked with the captain, he said it's quite choppy. I'm sort of a nervous parent tonight... this is only maybe the 2nd time I've ever sent the boat out without being on it. I came down with this crud that apparently has been making the rounds. I've had it quite mild compared to some I've talked with. I thought I was going to make it through it without missing a day, but last night was one of those nights, although I do actually feel much better now than I thought I would, I've probably found the right combination of over the counter drugs. I'm working tomorrow morning unless tonight turns into a night like last night.

We did a manta trip on Tuesday and had one manta, it sounds as though there aren't any tonight though. Yesterday we had one certified diver and one unrelated intro diver, so that means 2 diving crew and a captain. I stayed on board for both dives since I wasn't sure if my ears could take it.... wouldn't you know it, the certified diver and guide saw a WHALE UNDERWATER. Apparently it came to within 15-20 feet of them, "close enough to see the barnicles on her mouth" according to the DM. Apparently the whale had a baby swimming on it's back. Sorry, no pics from anyone as it all happend very fast. I'm jealous. One of these days, maybe I'll see one.

This is a Trembling Nudibranch we found on a deep water mooring.

Goodnight... hitting the hay early tonight,


Monday, March 27, 2006

Brrrrrrr... Today was cold in Kona.

Today was the coldest day I've experienced in Kona since moving here back in early '99. By 3 in the afternoon we'd hit 64 degrees. I was wearing sweats and on the couch with a blanket and an afghan and still freezing (I've got a bit of a cold I'm fighting and I was waist deep in the harbor earlier today). It's actually a tad bit warmer right now than earlier in the day.

We had a charter this morning... sort of... We met up with our group and it was rainig, which is no big deal. By the time we got to the harbor mouth the storm came in, heavy wind and the first fog I've seen on the water in my time here. We pulled back to the dock to see if it'd blow over and called it a day ten or fifteen minutes later. While we were cleaning the boat several other charters came in after calling it a day. Very crummy day for here. Everyone's diving with us later on in the week.

Well, apparently a couple of the other islands have had days like today for the last several weeks. Hopefully that's the end of it for us.

I found the little nudibranch above under a large archway and thought it looked slighty unusual. It looked very much like a fried-egg nudibranch, but I finally found it on Hoover's (he wrote the invertebrate book linked in the sidebar) website and it turns out it's a newly described fryeria species. I've seen them another time maybe and I've seen pics show up on the web that are definitley this guy and not the fried-egg nudi.



Friday, March 24, 2006

The day started out with a bang in Kona...

I guess the weather had been just nuts in Oahu and later Maui last night. I woke at about 4am and the horizon was lighting up every half second or so.

By 8 or 9 o'clock this morning it had reached here. It got flat out dark at home and my wife called from the hospital (works there) to let me know that the hospital had been warned tornados were possible with this storm and I ought to get out in the yard and bring the lawn furniture and barbeque inside. We did get a number of sudden blasts of wind, but no tornadoes in our part of the island.

It cleared out in South Kona in just a couple of hours. It's still gray to the north with occasional thunder. I've got a night charter and I'll probably head into town and decide around 4-5 if it's cancelled. We're not going out if thunderstorms are around.

Here's a few shots from the botanical gardens on the scenic loop just a few minutes north of Hilo. I think it's one of the must-dos over on the Hilo side if you are heading over that direction.



Thursday, March 23, 2006

Hawaiian Nudi Photo from Kona

I just felt like posting a photo of something aquatic and getting the food pic off the top of the blog. This is a Bluedragon Nudibranch. We don't see a ton of them here in Kona. They are spectacular!!



Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Non-diving related restaurant review....

Well, the Hawaiian Style Cafe in Waimea did not dissapoint. It turns out it did sell back about 8 months ago but no major changes, that I noticed at first glance anyway, were made.

It's basically a plate lunch place with some more local style food. I had the "sweetpork", which was more or less a korean steak type of concoction but maybe a bit less bite. I did take the camera, so here it is. There's 4 fairly large peices of meat on that plate overlapping each other, probably in the 3/4 to 1 pound range total. With the rice and potato mac the plate ran $7.25. I haven't found anywhere else that gives you that much food on your plate lunch. I wish they had one down this direction. I may have to check out the place that took over Billy Bob's Park and Pork, you never know. Anyway, I was full 'til late in the evening.

Pat and I made it to the underwater photo club meeting tonight. The video presentation was actully of the Marshall Islands around Majuro, rather than the Solomans. I was happy to see it because I'm particularly curious about this destination as it's only a 5 hour or so flight from here. Very interesting.



Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Wheee!!! Eleven manta rays at the night dive tonight!

I was just checking my mail before heading to bed and got tonight's manta report. Gobs of mantas at the dive site tonight. We have two locations where we see mantas, the last few weeks the one off the airport (which has been the most reliable the last 5 or 6 years) has been nothing but no shows. Every now and than they just go elsewhere for a while. Tonight there were eleven mantas. Just in time as I've got a few night dives lined up the next week and a half or so. The other site has fairly consistantly had 1-2 mantas for about the last 6-7 months, but generally doesn't see anywhere near the number of mantas the airport site does when they are appearing. Hopefully we're good for a few weeks or months from here on.

The picture above is of a group of Shoulder Tangs (also known as Orange Shoulder Tangs or Orangeband Surgeonfish - Acanthurus olivaceus) feeding on algae. If I didn't mention it before, tangs (surgeons) are primarily herbivorous and keep the reef clean of algaes. These fish go through an interesting color change from juvenile to adult. The juveniles in Hawaii are yellow and are often mistaken for Yellow Tangs. Even some DMs here occasionally don't realize the difference. I'm thinking these fish mimic other fish as juveniles as back in the pet shop days I occasionally received related juveniles mimicking other fish. I was getting shoulder tangs or other very closely related juveniles out of Indonesia which actually mimicked Eiblii Angelfish and Pearlscale Angels, both of which aren't even in the surgeon family. Anyway, they go from yellow to an olive or gray with the orange stripe here in Hawaii.

Aloha and good night,


Totally gorgeous weather in Kona and Hawaii yesterday

Here's a shot from my living room on a similar day (figured no need to take a pic I already had) earlier. We've been having lots of clouds the last 3-4 weeks while some of the other islands have been having a ton of rain. It's quite unusual to have even 4 or 5 days straight of clouds here so the sun was quite welcome. We're back to some gray skies today, although the morning was quite nice.

I'm going to be quite busy after tomorrow with charters for a while. Tomorrow I get to go in for an MRI on my neck. I've had occasional pain and tingling in my right arm for about a decade (bothers me for a few weeks and then goes away for a year or two). After about 4 months of it this time, I went to the doctor and he wanted to investigate further... Guess I'm gettin' older despite quite possibly being in better shape than 12-13 years ago.

I'm really looking forward to tomorrow though... I'm getting it done up at North Hawaii Community Hospital in Waimea (I live 8 minutes from Kona's hospital but this one is supposed to have a nicer machine) and I can go see if the Hawaiian Style Cafe is still the same as it used to be. This place is AWESOME, but I haven't been there since I quit the carbs (40 pounds in 6 months) a few years back. I'm back on the carbs and have added 15 pounds, so I might as well hit it again if it's still open(I heard a few months back it was up for sale).

I first heard of this place on the Travel Channel on a show called "Girl meets Hawaii" with Samanta Brown. I thought maybe the plates they showed on TV were just for TV, but that's not the case. It used to cater to the paniolos (Hawaiian cowboys - long story, but Hawaii actually had true cowboys before the American west did) and they really know how to put out a plate of food for 5-7 bucks. Fred Flintstone would eat there if he were on vacation here. I better take my camera... I won't order breakfast, but they used to serve a $5.35 breakfast on two fifteen inch oval plates that had two big piles of rice, a lot of hashbrowns, a big pile of scrambled eggs they referred to as "2 eggs" (must've been goose eggs) with 12 pieces of bacon (no kidding) and 2 pancakes roughly 12" across. The first time I went there, there was a bunch of people in the restaurant who'd never been there before either, and with each plate that came out there was laughter when it was set down in front of them because the servings were so huge.

Afterwards I'm going to work my way back into town and try to make it to the underwater photo club meeting where one of the Captain/Instructor/Guides I know is going to do a video presentation on the Soloman Islands.

That's it for now,


Saturday, March 18, 2006

Kona Hawaii water temperature was 75 or so today....

Yup, the boat's back in the water. It ended up being a bit more serious problem with the lower unit than expected but it's been taken care of. I had an open water student and a friend of his in the water today. I'd been sending inquiries elsewhere for the last week. I've got bookings for the 23rd and beyond and now I can take the last minute (well, next day anyway) bookings again.

The weather is still a bit quirky... sunny this morning but it's starting to rain now. My other instructor/captain did the first dive, I did the second. The dive I did was quite nice at Turtle Haven (aka Turtle Heaven). Lots of nice reef, with occasional sand patches, with structure that acts as a turtle resting area in the shallows. Turtles will wedge themselves into holes or cracks so they are mostly protected and sleep here underwater, popping up to the surface every so often for a few breaths of air. Highlights of the dive were lots of shells (marlin spike auger snails primarily), a couple of large Helmet Snail shells, a decent sized trevally, a couple of flounder, a big puffer or two, 5 turtles, a school of over a hundred Raccoon Butterfly fish and other goodies. Viz was running in the 100 feet or so range.

Here's an older underwater photo of a puffer that I took on a night dive. These guys are always fun to look at. I personally am not into grabbing them and making them puff up like some DMs will. I did it a couple of times back when I first started working , then I got to thinking how it would be if someone put me into a stressful situation where I had to physically defend myself just for their enjoyment - kinda got me thinking I shouldn't be grabbing them. For now I just like to sit back and enjoy watching.



Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Kona news bits and blabber...

This post is just mostly blabber. Those who have followed the multi-year Hokulia (A south Kona subdivision) legal battles will be interested to know that the Judge vacated a portion of his earlier ruling today. Hokulia has been attempting to settle this for a couple of years and there were 2 holdouts among the plaintiffs. The legislature has made strides to finally deal with some of our zoning laws and the settlement suddenly became more doable apparently. They're supposed to release the terms of the settlement tomorrow. At least we'll finally get our highway which was stalled by the original ruling back in '03.

I was looking through the paper the other morning and noticed an obituary ad - One of the interesting things here I'd never seen (or at least noticed) is that when people pass away, the family or friends often take out an 1/8th - 1/12th page ad with the deceased's picture and a bit of a tribute. In this case it was someone I'd met and really enjoyed on several occasions. He ran one of the Kailua furniture stores for years. My wife and I probably talked to him two or three times in the store while purchasing a dining set for our rental and that's about all it took. He sure could remember faces.... I'd see him in town busy talking to people and he'd go out of his way to say hi. He was genuinely full of Aloha. I doubt he could remember our names, but he always asked how the wife was doing and how things were going down Kealakekua way. Friendly, likeable guy. He was maybe 13 years older than I and always appeared like an active fellow when we saw him, quite a surprise to see his pic in the paper. I'm sure he'll be missed by many. RIP Kimo.

The weather has been quite cloudy still. We did get some sun yesterday and a bit today, with a few sprinkles up mauka (up the mountain), beats the weather they've been having on Oahu, Kauai and the east side of the Big Island.

I talked with my mechanic tonight. We met yesterday and he started working on the outdrive, turned out to be a different, but slightly bigger problem. With any luck it'll be back together and running tomorrow afternoon.

Here's a photo of an Ornate Butterfly (Chaetodon Ornatissimus). These are one of the most gorgeous butterflyfish around. Back in my aquarium shop days these guys used to come in as an "assorted" butterfly, that was a bad deal all around as they strictly feed on live coral polyps. I never ordered "assorteds" after seeing what was generally sent.



Sunday, March 12, 2006

A different kind of Hawaiian eel

Free video hosting, video codes at

I was looking through some older files on my computer today and found this clip. This is a Mustache Conger Eel (Conger cinereus). These guys are interesting. When you find one, if it's in a nice well defined hole, it'll probably be there for a long time... I've got one or two I've been visiting in the same spot for 4 years now.

Some people like to try to work at scratching these guys. Man, you've got to be careful. I've seen these eels catch a fish about the size of a human hand at night... you can hear the fish bones snapping and in two or three good crunches they've got it going down their throats.

They do seem to be curious. This one reminds me of our dog when I'm eating ice cream or something real meaty... In your face! It also reminds me of a sock puppet.

I'm trying something with the video code. The last one's I posted automatically started, apparently that chews up RAM and some people didn't like getting slowed down. Hopefully the change will make it so it'll start when you hit the play button. I had to hit the play button a couple times to get it to work, once it starts to buffer it's good to go.

Edit note: The delayed start seemed not to work consistantly and impacted it's ability to play at times so I changed it.



PS: I added a couple of things to the sidebar recently. There's a basic dive poll you are all free to answer, and a current Kona time and weather button... click on it and you can get a weather report specific for Kailua.


About 10 am or so today, every dog in the neighborhood (but ours - she's pushing 14 and only gets out of bed for food, attention, walks and to bark at anyone who shows up) started going off and we were wondering what's up... then the boar started squealing... screaming like a banshee might be more appropriate.

We do have wild boar living around our place, but we usually only see them during mango season. In about another 2-4 months we'll see a bunch of them. Anyway there was one about, I heard a few grunts last night, there's enough avocado and other fruit around to keep the occasional boar happy.

Well, it sounded like maybe 4-5 of the neighborhood dogs had cornered one. A cornered pig can get quite loud, I hadn't heard this much noise in the neighborhood since the next door neighbor's landlord had a surfer guy with an M-16 come to their place and pick a few off (that's a story I'd rather not get into). I heard at least one of the dogs yelp in pain, hopefully it didn't get nailed too bad. The whole event lasted around 5 minutes and then evidently the pig got away or won the intimidation battle.

I haven't updated in several days. I took the boat out of service this last week because there's something going on in the U-joints and bearings between the engine and the lower unit and I'd rather not kill either of those, so we're getiing this fixed. My regular guy isn't available 'til April. One of the wierd things is that decent mechanics are few and far between here, so they stay busy. I lined up a mobile boat mechanic who lives just down the road from me who has a good rep with some people I know and trust, he hopefully will be able to get into it tomorrow and I really hope to have it back in the water by next weekend. In the meanwhile I keep turning away charters, that's no fun. I don't have one pre-scheduled 'til the 24th so I can play it day by day 'til then if I have to, but I'm gettting lots of people calling when they arrive these days and I hate to be sending them elsewhere.

I haven't been totally dry though. I started a class with someone who lives here, they can do the dives when the boat is back. I also did a dive the other afternoon just to get wet. Here's a better picture of a Bandit Angel (Desomholocanthus Arcuatus - last I heard, it keeps getting reclassified, it was Holocanthus Arcuatus). We keep seeing more of these guys. They are Hawaii's only large species of angelfish.



Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Latest news about the possible artificial reef shipwreck in Kona Hawaii

Well, I wasn't able to make it to the community meeting about WHARF's proposal to place a shipwreck off a South Kona site as an artificial reef. West Hawaii Today had a front page article Click here on the meeting and apparently there was vocal opposition.

The article moved me to write my very first letter to the editor. It may appear in the paper in a couple days, but I'm not going to link it, if you are curious you could read WHT's letters for a couple days, I suspect I won't be the only one and there will be voices from either side. While I would directly benefit from this wreck, I'm trying to see both sides of the argument - what get's me is the amount of knee-jerk reaction this proposal has received without even looking at the results of comparable projects in other areas. Do a search on the Speigel Grove in Key Largo for a comparable wreck and draw your own conclusions. I can understand rejecting the proposal based on factual environmental issues or a community desire not to grow, but it would be nice to deal with facts rather than accusations. It won't surprise me if I get a return letter critical of my points in a few days if my letter makes it in.

I'm glad I'm not directly involved with the project. I'll be curious to see if those involved are disheartened by the meeting.

Here's a nice sunset from the house. There's nothing like a good sunset to relax you.


Kailua-Kona Hawaii photo

I thought I'd talk a bit about Kailua. It's a cute little town. The photo above does actually show you the bulk of the buisiness area of town. There are more condos and such to the right of this picture, but not much in the way of shops and such. The photo helps you get an idea of the town. Much of the business is within a few hundred feet of the water and along the highway. The largest hotel right in town is the Royal Kona, which is the angular structure on the water right about center in this photo. Kona is not a land of skyscraper resorts.

We get a lot of people asking for various big city type of recommendations - all night restaurants, coffee shops and such... well, we have Dennys, and that's about it. Along the same lines, virtually every customer I talk with asks which highway to take to get from the airport to town, or from their hotel to the harbor... There's pretty much only one (and it's still just a standard 2 way street for now in most spots) - this concept is foreign to many people used to numerous highways.

We have one north/south highway which actually goes 2/3rds of the way around the island, one north/south 5 mile road along the water front, two even shorter connecter roads in town calling themselves highways and maybe 3 or 4 other east/west connector roads. It's a very easy town to navigate the streets. Finding an actual street address is another thing though - Kona does not use traditional block addresses, they use property tax lot numbers. You can live here for years and still not grasp this system. Much of the direction giving here goes along the lines of... turn at the stop sign, then go 'til you see a big mango tree on the mauka (uphill, away from the sea) side and turn in the second driveway makai (seaward). It gets easy once you've gotten used to it.

We do have a growing business sector, in recent years many of the chains have moved in- Walmart, Costco, Borders, Home Depot and Lowes, Starbucks and such, so we have most of the mainland comforts. When/if you visit you will find that the infrastructure though has not necessarily kept up with the recent growth. Having only 1 two lane major north/south road, with few mauka/makai connectors servicing the entire west side has lead to a bit of a traffic problem during the morning drive time and post school afternoon/early eving hours. Just be forewarned that when someone says they are "X" miles from town, it literally can take 3 to 4 times that long to make the drive during busy drive hours.

It's still paradise though!!!!! I wouldn't trade being here for living on any of the other islands.



Monday, March 06, 2006

Best Hawaii fish book? Best Hawaii travel guide books?

I get a number of customers asking which books are the best for local fish information. My recommendations are Hawaii's Fishes by John Hoover, and Shore Fishes of Hawai'i by John Randall. Hawaii's Sea Creatures by Hoover is also a fabulous reference for local invertebrates. These are the books you find the divers who live here buy. They are excellent.

For guide boooks to the various islands, the "Revealed" series is the one most people living here recommend and purchase for themselves. The authors have written guides "Hawaii the Big Island Revealed", "Maui Revealed", "Oahu revealed" and "the Ultimate Kauai Guidebook". They are all excellent and contain a lot of information that most any visitor would want to know. The authors of these books live in Hawaii, so they aren't guidebooks written by a professional writer who made the rounds in a month or two and rushed out a book - they contain lots of good info. I would highly recommend you pick the appropriate one up if you are thinking of visiting one of these islands. Do note that on occasion some information may be outdated, trail access may be through private property, businesses closed, new businesses not yet reviewed and such, and you may find that your opinion varies from theirs', yet it's still a great handbook to have and well worth the 10-12 bucks.

I've taken the liberty of putting direct links to these books on Amazon down below my links and archives on the right side of the blog.

The picture above is of another Whitemouth Moray Eel. It's one of my favorite "teethy" pictures I've taken.



Sunday, March 05, 2006

Ugggh, I left my CF card in the card reader.

We had some great diving again the last couple of days. We did finally see some of the rain that Oahu and Kauai have been seeing, but not nearly as much as they had.

On Friday's dive my guess we had at least 150' or so of viz for much of the dive that I did. We'd gone to a spot to look for a specific fish, no luck, but found a fish that I've only seen once before while diving here. We saw a Spiny Cowfish(Lactoria diaphana) on the edge of a dropoff. UGGGHH! I'd already found out early on in the dive that I'd left my compact flash card in the card reader at home so I couldn't get a shot of it. It would've been nice as it was easy to approach and the viz was so good.

Yesterday was gray and wet, so I did't even bother with the camera. We did have some surface chop from the weather, but viz was still quite good. On the dive I led, we did a dive that has good healthy hard corals, a huge school of Yellowfin Goatfish that you can pretty much blend in with, and all sorts of neat critters. Highlights for that particular dive were lots of eels, a couple of Redstripe Pipefish (Doryrhamphus baldwini) some are pictured in this earlier post, Banded Coral Shrimp and a group of 4 Eagle Rays swimming in formation.

Here's a picture of a Lined Butterflyfish (Chaetodon lineolatus) that I took a few dives ago. They are the largest of the many butterfly species we have here. We generally see them in pairs, no doubt there was another one within a few feet of this one. We often see them in shallower portions of the reef, so there's no trick in finding them. I have an aquantance from my old aquarium store days who's been working for Ed Robinson's Dive Company over in Maui for ages, he told me they generally don't see this particualar fish on Maui. It's interesting how islands relatively close can have different makeups in fish population to where a relatively common species on one island might not even be seen on the next.



OOOPS! I amost forgot! I forgot to mention that after the first dive, as we were leaving I saw 3 fins on the surface. I'm thinking maybe a trio of small hammerheads, but it turned out to be a pelagic (open ocean) Manta Ray feeding on the surface. It was feeding in an upwelling just offshore and was circling. I stopped the boat and two of the passengers donned their snorkel gear and were able to spend about 10 minutes with it. The pelagics are different from the mantas we normally see on the manta dive in that they are a dark black, with maybe a white saddle on their backs or stomach, as opposed to gray and white like the one posted a few posts back. They can also get significantly larger. This one was in the 9-10 foot across range, not particularly large but still quite amazing to swim with.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Nice day of scuba diving in Kona today.

Today we dove Suck'em up and Turtle Pinnacle. I'm not sure if I've described Suck'em up, sorry for the repeat if I have already. This is one of the dives in the now treeless "Pinetrees" (which were actually mangroves, not pinetrees) area. Suck'em up is a 60-70 foot long lava tube with skylights which has a large opening (probably could handle a Humvee or two side by side) on one end and an opening on the other end which is only large enough to handle one diver at a time. When there is any surge at all, the small opening can act as a venturi and will alternately push or pull a diver who lingers in the opening. Hence the name, you need to approach the opening, swim against the current at the opening, and then it will reverse and flush you out of the tube. If you don't kick away from the opening immediately, it may suck you back in. How much this happens depends on swell direction and size. It can be a fun, although short, ride sometimes. I played Captain on the first dive. Apparently they saw a juvenile Flame Angel, dragon wrasses and other such goodies ont he dive.

I dove Turtle Pinnacle with the group. This was by far the best viz I've had here in a few months. I wish it had been sunny and clear skies, but we're seeing clouds from the downpours they've been having on Oahu and Kauai. The turtles were in and being cleaned. I've had pretty good luck there lately, there was a time last year I was beginniing to wonder if it was starting to peter out as a cleaning station. I found an adult Flame Angel so I'm hoping it's set up a territory and I can find it regularly.

Water temp is still 75 degrees, but it feels warmer than 2-3 weeks back. Guess I'll have to call it a warm 75 vs. a freezing 75.... My computer only gives out odd numbered temperatures so I guess it's probably never right on the money when it comes to temperature.

Here's a pair of tobies, which are basically a small puffer.



Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Overcast skies, but flat water in Kona today...

I guess Kauai and Oahu are getting poured on this evening. I've been seeing flood warnings and weather alerts on the TV. We had a couple of sprinkles earlier today but that's about it.

We had a night dive last night. There were no mantas. Bummer. Last year I was skunked twice that I can recall (we don't go out as often as some of the more established companies, and we tend to not go out if there are no mantas showing at the time). There were 6 mantas a couple of nights ago and we saw 4 when we went out last week. Oh well, you can never count on mother nature. We still had a very nice night dive according to the passengers... I Captained the night dive and my other Instructor lead the dive.... they saw spiney lobsters, slipper lobsters of a couple varieties, lots of shrimp and a few types of crabs, as well as lots of eels. It's always nice hearing people who've done several liveaboards in the Caribbean say this was one of their better night dives even without the mantas showing.

The fish I posted is called an Orangemouth Lizzardfish. They don't do a heck of a lot other than sit around. They do have a pretty good appetite and every now and then we'll see one with a tail sticking out of it's mouth.