Tuesday, May 30, 2006

More Kona Hawaii scuba diving fun...

I've had a couple days off, one more tomorrow and then back to work. On Sunday we had a couple of nice dives.

We did the first dive at Turtle Pinnacle. I'd been telling Bob that I had a "turtle theory" involving conditions that would lead to a busy cleaning station. All conditions were go, according to my stupid theory anyway, so we decided to give the spot a try... well, as luck would have it, there were plenty of turtles to be seen at the site - both the customers and Bob (who led the dive) were pleased... gotta chalk it up to luck though as I like to make up theories just for conversational purposes sometimes. We'll make a point to keep track in the future just in case I've stumbled on something.

After that we headed to an interesting site our customers hadn't dove yet. The couple on board had dove with us earlier in the year and returned to Hawaii for the holiday weekend to dive. I wanted to show them somehting a bit different from what they'd seen so far. We picked a site which has some neat structure, a nice dropoff, decent reef in the shallows and a good shot at Tinker's butterfly fish. I led the dive. We popped down to a hundred feet and the Tinker's seen in this earlier post cooperated, they came up from the deep and got right in our faces. These are cool fish in that they are extremely curious and will approach divers. That unfortunatley makes them very easily collectible, and since they are generally described as only being found in Hawaii (they recently found them on another island - Johnston atoll, Majuro, or something along those lines, I can't recall which) they are considered quite rare and desirable as a high end aquarium fish.

Here's one of my favorite shots I've ever taken. It's of a Banded Coral Shrimp (Stenopus hispidus, also called a Boxer Shrimp in some places). This guy came out great, and you can see a Golden Goby in the background. They are one of the cleaner shrimps, although they don't appear to be as active a cleaner as the cleaner shrimp I posted numerous posts back. Oftentimes these guys will set themselves up in a hole somewhere and you will be able to find them there, along with an eel visiting for a cleaning, nearly every time you visit.

I'm running very, very low on pictures that I really like without doing repeats.... You may start recognizing things or seeing some pics with a blue cast.... I gotta get out more and take some new underwater photos.

That's it for now.



Sunday, May 28, 2006

What about Bob?

Since I posted a pic of myself a couple posts back, I figured I'd post a pic of my primary crew member, Bob, on the blog. Bob was having a good hair day today, so he said "sure, why not", or something along those lines.

I've been fortunate enough so far to hire crew members who've been quite experienced in both the dive industry, and in particular, the dive industry in Kona. When my last primary crew member (I'm a small op so the crew consists largely of myself and one other person, with occasional fill in help) left for the mainland I had a few weeks to search for a replacement. I was worried that I may have to hire someone with 80-200 dives or so, a DM or Instructors certification and a good attitude (good attitude can make up for a lot of inexperience) .. I lucked out, Bob was interested, he wanted to get away from the bigger boats and work a 6 pack (6 divers max) again and have some fun.

About Bob: Bob's been teaching and leading dives in Hawaii for a decade or so. He worked at one of the largest dive companies in Oahu and came to Kona to dive when he had breaks, when he moved here to work at the shop I was working for at the time, I checked out their website (OK, I'm somewhat of a snoop, but it's nice to know who you're working with)... they had not yet taken his info down... it was quite complementary. Bob has been working in Kona since then and knows our underwater coastline forwards/backwards/inside and out... If you had asked me a couple months ago, before I hired Bob, "Which DM or Instructor in Kona has the most working dives in Kona the last 5 years?", Bob would have come up... Monday thorugh Friday (sometimes even the weekend), two dives a day for nearly 5 years... although there may be others in Kona who've done that, I can't think of any off hand.

Anyway, Bob recently logged dive number 4100+, beats me by over 2000. With his huge amount of experience here, as well as his dive adventures in Palau, Chuuk, Fiji, the Carribean, Indonesia (and soon the Galapagos), I consider Bob to be a great asset.

More about Bob: All that experience would be meaningless if it weren't matched by a good attitude. Bob's got it. I won't go on about it, I don't want to make Bob blush, but he's definitely someone I want representing my business.

So there, enough about Bob. My internet is down for some wierd reason, as soon as it comes back up I'll call Bob and tell him to check it out so he can tell me to yank this if he can't tolerate this post.



Dive with Bob!!!

Saturday, May 27, 2006

7 mantas at the Kona manta ray night dive last night

We did the manta dive last night. This followed the day trip we'd already done.

During the day trip Bob led a dive at his favorite site. It goes by several names... spaceship/pyramid pinnacle/harlequin/etc. It's one of our more interesting dive sites. I dove the second dive at Kaloko arches/canyons. In the briefing I mentioned a fish I've seen there on 3 occasions about a year and a half apart each time... dumb luck, we saw it/one of those fish. Darned, no camera... these fish are rare. Bob, with nearly 4000 dives in Hawaii, said he's seen them twice. I've seen them 4 times diving so far. This fish was a male Whitley's Boxfish (Ostracion whitleyi), here's a link to a stock photo on the net . We see the females and juveniles, which are a different color, quite often, but the adult males are very rare here. The Hoover's book linked on the side bar doesn't even have a photo of a male, it was tough to even find a picture on the web until the last couple of years.

I did the night dive for last night. I hadn't guided one in about a month and a half. These are always a blast. The plankton wasn't super thick last night so we didn't get tons of manta action, as they were spread out over the 50 or so divers in the circle, until the videographer we work with came over with her more powerful lights, after that we got a lot of up close action. It's always an amazing dive.

Today we did a dive up at a site called Sand Chute, up near Garden Eel Cove off the Kona airport, and another just outside of Honokohau Harbor. I've got another day of diving ahead of me for tomorrow, and then a couple days off before we're at it again.

The underwater photo above is of a Jeweled Anemone Hermit Crab. These guys are cool. You may have to look at it a few times to get a handle on what it is. They are good sized hermit crabs, often up to the size of say a soft ball, and they seem to prefer partridge tun shells which they then adorn with anemones. I'm not sure if they pick up multiple anemones, or just one which propagates through bipedal laceration (splitting in half and essentially forming a twin of itself - sorry to those more in the know if my science is a little off). We see them on occasion on night dives, this one was under a lobe coral at the Place of Refuge when I found him. Cool eye stalks, eh? I had one outside of Honokohau harbor that hid in the same hole during the daytime for nearly two years (most divemasters usually has a secret stash of critters at various sites to show people) ... it was fun being able to guarantee seeing him, but it moved or passed on last year.



Come dive with me (a little self-promotion never hurt ,eh?)

Thursday, May 25, 2006

It's good to be back in Kona...

Vacation was fun, but it's nice to be back home and back to work.

Today Bob dove Golden Arches and Turtle Pinnacle with our customers. I spent a couple hours in the pool yesterday so I figured I'd give my shin a break today. It's pretty much healed over to where I don't think exposure will be an infection issue. It's getting sprayed with Nu-skin just as a precaution, it seems to be good stuff for covering scrapes and such.

Tomorrow we're diving both AM and PM two tank dive trips so I'll be doing 2 of the 4 dives. They're still seeing lots of mantas at the manta ray dive, so I'm gonna ask Bob if I can do that one - I haven't done it in a while as I've been letting my employees lead the dive. Bob really likes to dive so we may be battling over who's diving and who's sitting on the boat as Captain in the upcoming weeks... It may be rock, paper, scissors before each dive from here on out.

Here's another turtle picture. We do see multiple turtles at cleaning staions, but I don't often have a camera in hand when I can readily get two in the same shot.



Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Gotta post a nudibranch photo

I found this little (about an inch/inch and a quarter long) guy out in the sand and rubble on yesterday's shore dive. I've seen them in Kona too, but they match in with the sand so well they're tough to spot. This pic was done without a white balance, but the color's close.

I've no idea of the name on it, I need to get myself another copy of Hawaii's Sea Creatures so I can look up some of these invertebrates I don't know. I really liked the horns on this guy, quite predominate, remind me of a longhorn steer.



Note: Something wierd's going on for me when I open/expand the pics on the last couple posts... don't know if it's blogger, my computer, or something I did when I uploaded the pics. Let me know if you are having problems clicking and enlarging them.

Maui vacation report.

I'm back, so time for a brief trip report. Here I am at a popular attraction (Ok, a slightly off the beaten track spot) in Maui - I think that's west Maui in the background but it could be the island of Lanai, as we could see both from this location.

Pat and I went to Maui for 8/9 days for a little R&R. We stayed at the Napili Shores condos outside of Lahaina in the Napili/Kapalua area. They are sort of a mid-range condo, reasonable place.

For diving, we did the Lanai dives I mentioned earlier, and yesterday I did a shore dive with a couple of gentlemen off one of the scuba message boards I frequent. It'd been a while since I've done a shore dive into mild surf, and with the relative inactivity the last 7-8 weeks (illness in injury) I found I need to do a little exercise again to help keep those entries and exits a bit easier. The dive was fine though, I'll post a couple shots next post.

You might notice in the picture above.... I had a LOT of french fries and other eats on this trip. My official weight gain for the trip was 12 pounds, about par for me when I travel... I like to travel unencumbered by dietary restraint. This is the heaviest I've weighed in a couple of years so it's time to get active again... lots of diving lined up in the next while, that and not eating like mad should get me headed in the right direction.

Top meals were at Moose Mcgillicuddy's (bar food), the Maui Brewing Company (very good kiawe grilled meats and seafoods, wish we had one in Kona, although I prefer Kona Brew Pub's beers) and at Mama's Fish House. Mama's Fish House deserves it's own post - this is probably the best all around dining experience I've had in Hawaii. It's on the quite pricey side, but the food was excellent, service excellent and the location and atmosphere are very hard to match. I'm a fast food kind of guy normally, we ended up dropping a couple hundred on dinner, appetizers, desert and drinks and it was worth it - it may be another year before we splurge on that type of meal again though. If you get to Maui and are interested in a good meal, check it out. It's out in the boonies and doesn't look like much from the road, but once you get into the parking lot you'll be pleasantly surprised... temple entrance, lovely grounds, private beach, open air covered dining in an interesting combination of high end/family/tropical tiki bar decor.

We did the Haleakala thing, worth a trip if you have the time. We also visited the winery, I wouldn't make a special trip there but it's a short side trip from the volcano.

Maui is kind of "big city" compared to Kona, much more developed, so Pat was able to get some shopping in and pick up a few things. Each island is different, and although I prefer the Big Island on the whole, it was fun to get away for a bit and it was a change from what we are used to.

Well time to catch up on everything. I was disappointed in that my cell phone didn't have service in the area we stayed in, so I've been playing phone tag with a few people. Now that I'm back home I should be able to catch up with everyone within a day or so.



Saturday, May 20, 2006

Did some scuba diving off Lanai out of Lahaina, Maui...

Just a quick blurb while I have a fast connection (sorry no pictures). We did a couple days of diving off Lanai. The diving there is fairly similar to Kona for the most part. We dove "menpachi", "wash rock", "first cathedral" and "fish rock".

My assessment of these sites is that they are pretty similar to what we dive in Kona, but the structure at these particular sites was larger than the more frequently dove sites near Kailua. Kona seems to have a bit more in the way of hard corals, finger and lobe corals in particular, and better access to deeper diving at the sites - then again, it's not fair to make a judgement based on just diving four dive sites. I guess you could say the diving was similar, but slightly different... it's all good.

The ride back wasn't a joy though. So far all the diving I've done off Maui over the years has involved a bumpy, and often wet, return ride. The trade winds pick up in Maui as the day progresses, so most of the dive ops seem to get an early start so they can get back early... I'm spoiled by the flat water we have off Kona most of the time. The water at the dive sites themselves off Maui/Lanai/Molokini has been calm, it's just the return trip that is rough.

We dove with Extended Horizons on this trip. The did a good job, had a nice crew and such.

We went to the top of Haleakala Crater yesterday. It's interesting and definitely worth one trip, doubt I'll return to see it again anytime soon though.

Current highlight of the trip... The "fantasy burger" at Moose Magillicuddy's -A pound of beef, cheese, red onions, grilled onions, bacon, mushrooms and such. I've had more french fries in the last 5 days than in the last 3 years.... my stomach's showing it a bit... Oh well.



Monday, May 15, 2006

Off to Maui for a week....

Pat and I are taking our first trip together without friends or family since late '01. When you move over here, it seems nearly every trip involves meeting up with family or friends.... not that there's anything wrong with that.

Last night was spent trying to figure out the packing. We're taking Island Air for the inter-island flight. Here's a little tip for yyou island hopping travelers.. Hawaiian and Aloha are not the only game in town. Island Air runs internet specials and we managed to land round trip tix tickets for $102 each including tax and all. Inter-island flights have become quite spendy the last couple of years. There are a couple small commuter lines - Island Air and Mokulele that occasionally run deals. There's a new airline, I think it's called "GO", part of the Mesa Air (I think they're tied in with Southwest)group, that begins flying in a month or two that promises low prices. We've had revolving bankruptcies in the local airlines here since 9-11, it'll be interesting to see how this all pans out. Island Air allows for aobut half the weight of the bigger carriers, 50 pounds combined luggage per person, not 2 bags and 50 pounds each, so we've had to figure that out... our fins weigh over 10# alone.

I'm healing up quite nicely from my accident fest... I had yet another I didn't mention. We're hoping the axiom "bad things happen in threes" is true and I'm back to normal for a while.... so it looks as though I won't have to cancel my diving plans. I've been out of the water for a month now, uggh. Hopefully I can start getting some new pictures, it's getting tricker not to repeat pictures on the blog.

I won't be completely escaping work this week, I'm taking the laptop and the phone will be on so I still will be booking for the last part of the month and onward.

Have a nice week, I know we will.



Saturday, May 13, 2006

Am I going Bananas?

Bananas, bananas, bananas. This post is completely non-diving related. I helped my wife with cutting down some bananas yesterday to take to a friend of her's. These ones were ripe on the stalk already, usually we will cut them down while they are still green.

About bananas... the banana plants we have here in Hawaii can range anywhere from say 4 to 25 feet or more tall, depending on species. We've got at least 4 species of banana (williams, dwarf cavendish, apple and cuban reds) in the yard. Each has it's own taste. The williams and dwarf cavendish are more along the lines of your typical store bought banana, the apples and cubans are different, and tastier. The apples will have an apple after taste, the cubans have orange meat and are delicious. The williams I picked up by accident when I was purchasing a mislabeled "ice cream" banana, which has a vanilla ice cream aftertaste. You'd be amazed at how many species of banana there actually are - you can check out
Stoke's Tropicals for a good selection, many of which will grow in many parts of the continental US.

Bananas are technically an herb, not a tree. All's you really need to grow them well is a pile of compost and a starter plant. We had several sickly ones on our property basically growing out of rock and poor dirt when we moved in, I loaded 'em up with greenwaste compost and they took off. A banana plant will typically take about a year and a half to fruit, prior to fruiting it will send out keikis (Hawaiian for children, kids and such), usually 2 or 3 per plant if they're happy. They'll send out a flower and then start showing the fruit. After the fruit is up to size you cut down the plant and remove the bunch, they only fruit once. The keikis will become full fledged fruiting banana plants in a year and a half or so... you just throw the old trunk back in the spot to compost down and feed future plants.
Now that you have a green bunch of bananas, you just hang them and they will ripen. You can eat them at your leisure and then they'll all go bad at once and make a great attractant for small birds and critters.



Friday, May 12, 2006

6 or 7 manta rays at the night dive last night.

We did another two tank manta ray night dive off the Kona airport last night. The two tankers aren't necessarily two tanks at night though, what most of the dive operators here do is a late afternoon dive and then follow it up with the night dive after it gets dark. This allows people who haven't dove in a while to get used to the gear they're wearing and get a dive in before doing the night dive... it generally makes for a better experience for everybody.

This was likely the last outing before my break. Pat and I are heading to Maui to relax for a week. We'd hoped to do something real exotic, but it's not in the cards this year.

Yesterday morning I finally was able to get a chance to replace my fuel pump on my boat. I'd been waiting a week or so for it to come in. It seems to have done what I'd hoped. I'm still going to change out some valving between the tank and the pump, I've replaced everything else so I might as well change it out too just in case it's a bit worn - it's something which shouldn't really wear out, but what the heck.

Here's one of my early attempts at a pseudo-artsy closeup. It's one of the pencil urchins. Could be a slate pencil urchin, but I've seen so many different pictures of urchins credited as "slate pencil" urchins that I'm not sure, and my killer invertebrate book (see the Hawaii's Sea Creatures book linked in the side bar) turned up missing. There are many types of similar pencil urchins here.



Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Sounds as though the water temperature is beginning to bump up.

I haven't been diving the last few weeks. I've been playing Captian a lot. First I was sick, then I bunged up my shin, and then yesterday I managed to take a divot out of the calf on my opposite leg. I've been doing this since '99 with little more than a scratch 'til the last couple of weeks. The problem with open wounds and diving is that you can come down with a nasty staff infection... you don't want that... so I'm out of the water 'til both boo-boos skin over. Pat isn't thrilled with my recent case of accident proneness as we're taking a little vacation next week and planning on diving some. I may have to cancel my diving, I've still got a week to heal though. I'm on anti-boitics and things are looking better. If things skin over I'll be putting on the waterproof bandages and going. Well anyway, reports from all the computers on the other divers are that we're seeing a lot more 76-77 degree temps as opposed to the 74-76 degree temps last month.

A note to anyone reading this... any stuff about my personal health is on here primarily because my parents and sisters (who form the bulk of my regular readers) keep track of me via this blog. Open wounds and staff infections are also handy for divers to know about if they're on a trip. I've known a few DMs with nasty infections here the last couple of years.

We've had a busy week or so of charters with a few different groups of fun people. Yesterday was a family group, four intro divers taking their first dives ever, with two of their kids on board. Tomorrow night I have another night dive and then, unless I get some last minute bookings, I have a couple days off before heading off on vacation for a week.

Here's a pic of a Fuchsia Flatworm (Pseudoceros ferrugineus). These little guys crawl along the reef and we always enjoy running across them and pointing them out. This pic is a little bluer than true color. They are generally a bright fuchsia with a yellow fringe.



Saturday, May 06, 2006

A little thunderstorm action in Kona...

Yesterday evening we had some thunder rolling in from the south of where I live down above Kealakekua Bay. We didn't get a drop of rain. When I got to the boat today down at Honokohau Harbor, it was obvious it had rained. Bob and the customers said there had been quite a bit of rain last night, even up Haupna Beach way. The thunderstorms were beginning again up mauka at the end of our day today.

We've been running dives the last couple of days. One of the passengers is working on their Advanced Open Water class with Bob. AOW is an interesting class in that it is for certified divers and we can generally run it in the course of our regular dive schedule. It takes 5 dives, with deep and navigation dives being required and then 3 elective dives done to complete the Advanced certification. It basically is an exposure to different aspects of diving without a lot of extra expense or time, as long as you are committed to doing at least 5 dives.

Highlights of the last couple of days were a frogfish, 2 sharks, several nudibranchs, a great barracuda, garden eels, several large moray eels, a coral banded shrimp Bob said is by far the largest he'd ever seen (thick as his thumb), turtles, as well as lots of the other critters we see all the time.

The pic above is of an adult Hawaiian Domino Damsel (Dascyllus albisella). The juveniles are solid black with a white upside down teardrop on the side. These fish generally cluster around larger coral heads. They are interesting in that they chirp when divers get in their territory, sort of like a quick high pitched dove. You have to specifically listen for them, but it will be obvious if you are listening.



Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Tidal wave in Hawaii today?

NOTE: IF you are looking for information on a current quake/tidal wave or other event, try clicking on my link to the main page of the blog in the column on the right. It'll take you to more current posts....

We had some excitement in the state today. The morning news reported the earthquake in Tonga and that there was a tsunami watch because it was a substantial earthquake. Numerous schools around the state had their days cancelled due to the tusnami watch. By 8 am or so the civil defense made an announcement that there was no tidal wave formed as a result of the earthquake. It was basically a non-event, but I'm glad the news is keeping up on the possiblities as it would be horrible to be caught up in a tidal wave.

Otherwise, it was a nice day on the water, very calm, although we did have a bit of a south swell.

Sort of a wierd day all around for me personally. Had a welder in this afternoon to replace the winch arm on the trailer, had a doctor's appointment at 4 to review a MRI I had taken last month (looks like I have to give up my dreams of becoming a trapeze artist, otherwise nothing overly unexpected), ended up on anti-biotics for my little shin boo-boo the other day (foot is now swolen and bruised as the edema makes it route.. better to take precautions before it become big troubles... it's great getting older, new experiences), messed around with the fuel pump this afternoon, we had a sputter today and I later found some air in the fuel filters - tomorrow's a day off so it's more work on that so we can keep the boat going --Ahhh, the joys of boat ownership....

The pic above is of an Arc-eye hawkfish (Paracirrhites arcatus). This is one of the first pictures I took here with my old Sea and Sea MX 10 that I was happy with. These are a neat fish. You can find them perched on coral heads. Hawkfishes don't have much, if anything, of a usable swim bladder, so they spend their time perching on a coral head waiting for something edible sized to swim by and then make their swoop. In an aquaruim they will actually get excited when you approach because they seem to know to expect food when you come around.



Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Gorgeous morning in Kona today.

We've had a bit of a cold front pass through and have had fairly good north winds yesterday and today. It's really cleared out the vog (a volcanic fog, resembling smog, that we have a fair amount of time).

I've been busy on the boat. We had an instructor from the east side of the island bring a bunch of his newly certified students over for a manta dive a couple of nights back, and then I've had a fun group of divers who are with us for a few days on board a couple of times.

Bob (the new hire) has been leading the dives as I made a bonehead move the other day... swung off the boat at the washdown area and caught my shin on one of those concrete filled metal pipes they put up to keep you from bumping your truck into things -- youch!!! Didn't hurt much at the time, but when I saw the wad of leg hair on the post and the goose egg building up on my shin I knew it was going to hurt. 5 hours later it finally was quite bothersome. That was a couple days back so I'm relatively pain free now, I'll go out and look for some of that liquid bandage later today so I might be able to get in the water again tomorrow or soon anyway.

The manta dive is still hopping. I think there were nine the night we went out, there were 18 a couple nights ago and plenty still last night. Water temperature is still in the 74-75 range.

The Ono (called Wahoo in many areas) bite is apparently on, we've been seeing fish at the washdown area. I may have to think about throwing out a line or two soon and stock up while I can. Every year when they fist start biting, you could probably litterally throw a hook on a sandal and tie it off behind the boat 50' and catch fish. I use 30- 50 feet of clothes line with a 5' length of piano wire and a 2 oz weight with a squid skirt on it with hooks and that does the trick - no poles or reels necessary - during the heavy biting. They get a little pickier later on in the season and you have to start using real lures and gear.

Here's a picture of spinner dolphins I took when I first moved over. Many people come here to swim with the wild dolphins. I did it from shore at Hookena Beach and a few other spots a few times my first year over here, but nowadays it's getting to where there are probably too many people doing it, and the dolphins don't seem to hang out as much in their usual spots. I stopped. There are companies who will take snorkelers out to swim with the dolphins, I won't as there is a real gray area as to the legality of such operations depending on interpretation of the Marine Mammal Protection Act. Nowadays I just enjoy seeing them playing in the boat wake while we're on the way to dive sites.

Have a great day!