Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Spent 164 minutes underwater in Kona yesterday....

Water temp is hanging in at 79 degrees and conditions are good. Yesterday we did two nice long one way dives... put in at one spot and pick up at another. Saw lots of neat stuff.... Flame wrasses, 3 flame angels, a huge school of lined butterflys (we usually see them in pairs),saddleback butterflys, gold lace nudibranchs... all good fun.

Yay! I got my boat back! I took my boat out of service at the tail end of last month for some warranty work. Wrong parts and waiting on shipping because the distributor refused to send parts second day air even if I paid shipping turned a one day job into 4 weeks of frustration. Tomorrow Cathy and I will take the boat out for a while and make sure things are working and try to wash off 4 weeks of dust and then we're back in business. I've been running charters off another charter boat the last week and a half, tomorrow will be the last one off it with any luck.

Here's a photo of a hawkfish hanging out in a hole in some lobe coral. I thought it was interesting that it seemed to like that little protected spot.



Dive Makai has shut down apparently... been a rough couple of years for a lot of the dive companies in the area...

In the past few years we've seen the Kona diving scene change over time. A few longtime operators have gone and others have come in, the boats seem to be getting bigger and are carrying more divers. Things constantly change.

At the risk of being tacky, I'd like to invite any former Dive Makai customers who are looking for someone to dive with to at least check out my web page, reviews on Scubaboard and Undercurrent and such, to see what I have to offer. My wife and I were dive customers (I worked in it as well) prior to being dive operators and had gone out with operators such as Mike Severn's and Ed Robinson's on Maui, and Dive Makai over the years prior to starting the boat biz and wanted to try to pattern our business after those operators to some extent. There's no such thing as running it exactly the same, but I suspect that divers who enjoy those companies will enjoy diving with us.

Wanna Dive is a small company - very small. There's essentially 3 of us running 7-10 charters a week when we're busy. We run a 6 pack boat, never more than 6 customers on board, and we aren't always full. We'll run with just 2 divers on the day dives, and don't skimp due to a light load.

About the diving... We try to give a good fish and dive site briefing prior to each dive, discussing the things we're going to see on the dives, then it's time to dive.... We dive slow. I've been doing this for 11 years, and my other two crew have been doing this 15-30 years, over time you learn slow is better. We're always looking to spot interesting critters to show you, and carry rewriteable slates to identify the various critters we're all finding. Dive profiles are computer driven, with the bulk of the dive time being spent in maybe 25-40 feet of water, making for long dives. We drop customers off at the boat as they approach 500psi, and then continue on with the divers who are better on air. Longish dives are posible, as long as you are within NDL times and have plenty of air you can stay down... within reason I guess, if you're outlasting the DM by a lot at some point we need to cut it. Between the three of us, we're usually good for 80-95 minutes worth of bottom time at most sites.

Anyway, please feel free to check us out or ask any questions you might have. There's several good operators in Kona, the trick is finding the one that suits your needs.

The photo at the top is of a flame angel we saw on one of yesterday's dives (saw three of them actually). Back a decade ago we were lucky to run into one or two a year. Since about '05 they've really been on the upswing and we see them relatively commonly nowadays.



Thursday, October 21, 2010

Awesome Kona diving today... 2 dives, 80 minutes each...

It was sunny and flat out on the water today, good day for a couple of dives. Lots of neat fishes today... 4, yes 4, Threadfin Jacks, Saddleback Butterflyfish, Lined Butterfly fish, Heller's Barracudas, Anthias, all sorts of eels, Pyramid butterflys, Peacock Flounders, and all sorts of other neat fish. Viz was pushing 150+ feet, nice and clear.

Here's a shot of some divers passing under an arch. Kona is very volcanic, there's several sites that have lava structure that has been overgrown with corals. It's always fun to explore and see what's hanging out under the archways, we find a lot of our nudibranch sightings under arches.

More diving tomorrow... maybe I'll blabber about it...


Another nice day in Kona...

It's another nice non-diving day for me today. I'm at the shop today, I'll be out on the water most of the next several days it looks like. Pretty busy 'til the 4th or so.

Here's a small Tiger Moray. It was out crawling about the other morning. We usually see parts of this eel through holes, don't see the head as often. This is one of our eels that people sometimes mistake for a seasnake, it doesn't have much of a dorsal fin to look at.



Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Oooh the water was flat in Kona this morning... dive conditions are great!

I got up this morning to walk the hills with my wife, Pat, and saw the water is about is flat as it ever gets here. I should be diving! Been busy diving two dives a day for the better part of the last week, so it's a day off. Maybe tomorrow. Starting Friday I've got a stretch of bookings through the 4th of next month. The water's still sitting at about 78/79, hopefully it'll stay this warm into December.

I mentioned in yesterday's post that I saw some Threadfin Jacks on the morning dive. I quickly took some shots as they buzzed past and lucked into getting this not so great shot - they're almost impossible to get a focus on against the ocean background. As it was, with the blue backgrounds it's tough to get any kind of shot with accurate colors... gotta learn how. I had no time to set up, just point the camera, click, click, click and hope for the best.

These fish are pretty neat, there's not a lot of information about them. They look like they're made of mylar. I've only seen them a handful of times over the years.

Today's big project... wander in to town for a haircut. Being a "business man" I probably should get a haircut every 4-6 weeks to look presentable... but hey, I was a teenager in the 70's and long hair was imprinted on me then I guess. I actually prefer it short, looks better and stays out of the way, but I just can't seem to make the time to mess with my hair more than 3-4 times a year (that's up from 2-3 times a year, there may be hope for me yet).



Tuesday, October 19, 2010

"My best dive ever!"...

I'm taking the liberty of quoting a customer after a manta dive last week. We hear this a lot, thing was, this customer was fairly well traveled and had over a thousand dives. When it's hot (we had nine mantas taht particular night) the manta dive is THAT GOOD.

Keep in mind, despite the fact that the manta dive is a world class dive that will amaze pretty much any diver, Kona has lots of good diving. It's tough to go wrong here.

I've been waiting on boat engine parts for 3 weeks... really frustrating, the boat's been out of the water with the port engine in pieces for that long... I was having some necessary warranty work (engine got an exhaust leak) and parts were brought in, wrong part, and I've been waiting since... got the call from Oahu this afternoon, parts are in, will be in Kona Thurssday and I should be back in the water on Friday. I've been using another boat the last week or so, but I want to get back to mine ASAP.

In the meanwhile... I've been doing some nice diving. The last couple of days have been particularly good critter days for me. I've seen my third Thornback Cowfish diving ever... a huge number of Flame Wrasses (I've seen these offered online for as much as 350-500 bucks a pair) at a location I hadn't seen them before, with a supermale that was displaying in a manner that would put the cover male on Hoover's Hawaiian Fishes book to shame - take a look at this youtube video of a pair in an aquarium - (too bad I had no camera on that dive, I think the one I saw was bigger than the one in the video)... Threadfin Jacks (they're so cool, look like they're made of mylar), as well as some other neat stuff.

Here's a strawberry nudibranch from an earlier dive. wehn you first see them they'll look like they're black with green/gray spots, get a light on them and their color will show (red light disappears underwater as shallow as 15-20 feet so red really doesn't show well at depth).



Sunday, October 17, 2010

Yippe-ki-yo, mini sirloin burgers... Jack in the Box has opened in Kailua-Kona... Boy did I carb out this morning...

3 mini sirloin burgers, a chicken sandwich, 2 Jack's tacos, curly fries and a soda... now that's a breakfast! Jack in the Box opened sometime the last several days on Henry street above Kuikini, ironically enough it's practically directly above an old failed Jack in the Box, now a popular plate lunch place. At any rate, I just had to go and get one good pig out in there.

The rest of this post is a bunch of blabber (like the first part was oh so important?)....

I was full. I've been real good on my diet this year so one day won't kill me, probably. My New Year's resolution this year was to be able to hike the Captain Cook Monument trail without passing out.. I started walking the top half to two thirds of it early this year, but the last time I tried it in February my knee swole up for 2-3 weeks. Next thing I know I'm weighing myself and find I'm pushing 240 lbs.. can't be too easy on the joints, especially now that I qualify for an AARP card. Back to the low carb diet to see what it does for me.

So no I'm down to 207 or thereabouts and I'm trying to keep up with my wife walking hills... getting close (she's been walking 5 days a week for a couple years) but I'm still huffing a bit. Part of my drive for the weight loss is the desire to be able to climb that Captain Cook trail, but another part is to be able to spend some time hiking (and eating of course) on my vacation this fall. It looks like the hiking's gonna work out OK, I'm definitely in better shape than the trip I managed to survive a couple years back. The eating's a whole 'nuther thing... I can't eat as much as I used to, it seems.

In the past I've generally gained about 13 pounds each time I take a vacation... so this year, since I'm down 33 lbs, I guess I'm allowed to gain 46 pounds on my vacation. It's gonna be fun! We're headed to Vegas for DEMA (the dive industry show) again next month, gonna stop in Arizona for several days first and take in the sights.

One last comment about Jack in the Box... let me tell you a story.... (hopefully my father won't mind) My father has had the good fortune of being able to travel quite a bit over his lifetime. He's lived in several parts of the country over the years, was stationed in Guam for a while, helped out in several refugee camps (Cambodia/Thailand border, Ethopia, Rwanda), lived in Romania for a while and traveled fairly extensively, and last year he mentioned that in his life he can only remember one food item he couldn't stomach... It wasn't the boiled half grown duck fetuses they ate in Guam (he apparently liked those, I guess they're considered a delicacy in some parts of SE Asia), it wasn't the food at the refugee camps, it was Jack in the Box tacos. I personally like 'em... crispy greasy mystery goo filled tacos... YUM! I'm glad to see Jack make it back to Kona. I may not get my dad in there though.

I'll try that Captain Cook trail hike again after vacation... got a couple months left in the year to meet the resolution.

Here's a shot of a juvenile Domino Damsel. They stick pretty close to coral heads when they're small. As they grow they tend to find a spot on the reef to hang out. They're interesting in that if you come up to a group of the adults, and listen as you approach, you can hear them chirp a "stay away" warning. They're aggressive for a small fish (call it 3 - 3.5 inches as an adult), but don't do much to divers other than make their presence known.



Sunday, October 03, 2010

1 tank manta ray night dives in Kona Hawaii....

I thought I'd talk about a question that comes up from time to time about my business... why don't you offer 1 tank manta ray night dives? Well, we sort of do, but don't really push it for a couple reasons.

Back in the day when I worked for other operators I used to lead 1 tank manta dives up to 3 times a week for a pretty good stretch. We'd get people who hadn't dove in years, or people who took the class a year or two earlier and hadn't dove since, wanting to do that one tank night dive because they've heard it's "THE" dive to do in Kona. Well you know what, a single night dive when you've not been in the water in some time just plain isn't the smartest idea one can have. If something can go wrong, even if it's just a matter of comfort as opposed to something serious, it probably will the first time you're in the water, and doing it at night only compounds any issues that might occur. I've never had to perform a major rescue at night, but little panic session mini-rescues are pretty darned common when a night dive is the first dive a person's done in months or years... it's task loading for the person that's attempting it. I'm amazed at the difference adding a late afternoon dive prior to that night dive makes for LOTS of divers. I've found the night dive wasn't always a fun experience for some divers, generally due to discomfort, when doing a 1 tanker, the addition of that extra afternoon dive pretty much changes that. I can't recall one panic issue to anyone on the night dive in all the years I've been doing the afternoon dive first. It just makes for a better experience, in my mind anyways, for everyone... even if you personally don't have troubles, if there's someone in the group having issues it can affect the dive for everyone in the group.

As a bonus, that first dive is generally a very good dive. We generally dive the same spot as the night dive if we're diving the Garden Eel Cove manta site, 'cause it's one of Hawaii's premiere dive sites. Before I moved here I knew of it because it made a list of "Best Dives in the Pacific" in a reader survey in Scuba Diving Magazine (and that was before the night dive even started being held there). It's a very good dive. If we're heading south to the Sheraton site for the manta dive, we tend to dive one of two great reef sites on the way.

That said, while I don't push 1 tank night dives, that doesn't necessarily mean we won't do them. The trick is I need to have enough divers, preferrably that have already dove with us at some point this vacation, to make it worth going out. I usually require 4 to 6 divers to do a one tank dive, and I really want them to have some dives in this trip first so we don't run into problems. If you've got a group of 4-6 divers and are looking for a one tank dive to keep your evening shorter rather than making a 5-6 hour event of it, give me a call.

Here's a shot of a Moorish Idol. They're one of everyone's favorites it seems.

Ironman's a coming this next weekend... October 9th... Kona will be busy for a couple of days...

I'm hanging out at the dive shop today and thought I'd post on the blog. We've had quite a bit of surf the last couple weeks, not overly huge, but coming from two directions (can happen around September/October and March/April with the changing seasons) making things a hair sloppier than normal, but it hasn't been too limiting as far as the diving goes... a few sites were too crummy to dive, but there's usually good options available.

I have the boat in to the mechanic for a repair for the first time in almost 3 years... bummer, but it's under warranty and this is the opportune time (if there's ever such a time) to be down for a few days. We picked up an exhaust leak so the engine needs to come apart and have some parts replaced. Hopefully it should be pretty much good as new once done, should be a 2-3 day fix. The fun of boat ownership. I got off cheap this time, warranty... yahoo. I talked with another dive company owner who just finished paying several tens of thousands worth of engine work a short while back. It's one of the hazards of the business.

This next weekend is Ironman. Kailua will be a bit busier than normal for fall this next week, but not crazy busy. It'll be pretty much business as usual, although the main tourist section downtown should be hopping for a week or so. I've never really seen a spike of business for Ironman, people are too busy doing other things than diving. I've had a couple of competitors dive 3-4 days after a big race from time to time, before the race they're too busy getting ready for the event. I may have to go hang out downtown for a couple hours the tail end of the week... lots of "good energy" in town around Ironman week. I'll close the shop for Saturday, they pretty much shut down the highway on the north end of town to the airport for the race so you'll find a lot of businesses off the highway in the area between Kaiwi street and the airport shut for the day.

Here's a photo of a Leopard Blenny. These guys are pretty cute, they're fairly tough to show to people and really tough to photograph because they dart into finger corals the moment you give them too long of a look. The new camera has a short enough lag time that I was able to get a shot off before it darted into a hole. This is the best shot of one of these guys I've ever managed to take so far. I still need to put in some time with the camera underwater, I've only had it wet a few times.