Wednesday, December 12, 2012

12/12/12 Lucky day? Well, we did see a neat lizzard.

Pat and I were busy packing up our house and one of our old friends dropped by, old friend being a person who stayed in our downstairs vacation rental 13 years ago and has since become a friend we look forward to seeing every few years when he visits Kona.  While we were shooting the breeze out on the rock wall in the front yard he looked up and said "what's that crawling on the power line?"  Pat and I looked up and saw that it was a Jackson's Chameleon.  Cool!  I've seen them crossing Napo'opo'o road about a hundred foot higher in elevation than our place, and know they're all over further up the mountain, but haven't actually seen them at our property (not that we're looking) before.

Perhaps I should say NOT so cool, they are an invasive species.  Jackson's Chameleons are native to East Africa.  The story goes is that someone over on Oahu down around Kailua/Kaneohe had a bunch of them breeding in outdoor netted enclosures and a storm came through and they escaped.  From there they went uphill to the popular pali park hiking areas and eventually were spread all over the islands by people who thought they were cool.  Invasive species are a real problem here in Hawaii, but it does make things interesting.... we've had a wild boar problem this week, tearing up the yard, digging up plants and such, first time in years but it does happen.

Back to the lizzard... I broke out my camera and managed to get a couple of shots, kinda tough but I had picked up a zoom lens for my Pen e-pl1 a little while back.  Here's a couple of shots, one from the front yard, and one from underneath on the neighborhood road. This one is a male, you can tell because it has the 3 horns all males have.  It was staring at a spider web with a couple bugs in it.  These guys are neat in that they have a super long tongue... roughly triple the length of their body or so, and they'll nab a target a significant distance away.  They're about a 7-8 inch long lizzard, but with the horns you'll find them magnified to gigantic proportions for monster/dinosaur movies on occasion.

I did talk to someone years ago who said he used to collect them about 500' higher up our mountain than our elevation.  Apparently you can go out in the coffee and use a flashlight at night, and their eyes (independendantly articulating, they can look multiple directions at once) apparently reflect light very well.  I might have to walk out with a flashlight and look at the bushes to see if I can find any before I go - I just hope the eyes looking at me aren't those of a 200 lb tusked wild boar...



Big news for Wanna Dive...

Well, I've got a big announcement to make.  I'm shutting down Wanna Dive.

It's been a fun decade of diving, meeting people, diving, and meeting people.  You couldn't ask for a more interesting career.

This last spring we put our house up for sale, with the idea of downsizing, moving closer to work, and possibly picking up a small place back in Oregon so we could have a home base over there to visit family and friends from and have a place to retire to.

This fall we went back for a 3-4 week trip for house/condo hunting.  While we were there we got to thinking about what we wanted for our futures, the expense of trying to manage two households, where the business was going, our friends and family, etc, and made the decision that it makes sense to make a permanent return to the mainland.  In November we received a serious offer on our house, and it should put us in a postion to make the move, get a nice place, and lower our living expenses all at the same time.

....So.... I'm not sure that scuba could support us where we're headed, and there's not a lot of call for boat Captains in Corvallis, Oregon as far as I know...  Looks as though I'm looking for a new career. How exciting!

We're in the process of packing up the house and parting out the business... BIG garage sale at our place this weekend by the way.... now that the house is officially in the final stages of closing - the papers are supposed to be ready on the last day of the world (December 21st for those who haven't been paying attention to the Mayan calendar), and then we're out shortly afterwards.  We'll probably be hanging around Kona for a short while afterwards, I hope to be getting in some fun dives over the holidays.

The blog will continue, heck, I may be posting more frequently now that the business won't be taking up so much of my time and energy.

Aloha for now.


Saturday, October 27, 2012

Back from my attempt to get to the boat harbor....

Well traffic leaving town was crazy nuts, going into town not so bad until I got about h half mile south of the King Kam3 highway, there to Lako was near a dead stop.   It took ages to get past Lako and by then I was well past the time that they'd shut off all coastal bound traffic, so little to do but head uphill and head home..  Keeping my fingers crossed that the tsunami is less, or at least little more than expected.  Supposedly the first surge should be hitting the NE shores of Maui and the Big Island about now.  Sirens are going off frequently.  Gas stations were full on the way into town, lots of police activity on the ocean side of the highway directing traffic, lots of cars parked alongside the uppper highway after I'd turned it around.

So the tsunami sirens started about 5 minutes ago.... surprisingly the neighborhood dogs are silent..

What gives? The state of Hawaii sets off the sirens at 11:45 am on the first weekday of the month every month, and the dogs howl and bay.  It's kind of fun.  Tonight, it's surprisingly quiet.  I'm debating on whether or not I'm heading down to the harbor to move the boat.  It's a 30 minute trip and the reality is the boat park is quite a ways above the water, but when things are coming our direction we usually move the boats.  This one's tough because it's coming from the northeast.  Better safe than sorry, I'm likely to head that way in the next few minutes.



More tsunami news....

OK, more like stories.  I've been watching a rather dissappointing Oregon State versus University of Washington game (Beavs lost) and after the game ended a friend called and said to turn on the news.  I did, it is news here.  They're not expecting much, maybe 3-6 feet on sides of the island facing Canada, however it's really hard to tell what will happen.

Tsunami time in Hawaii again. Hilo has just been recommended to evacuate...

Not expecting much here, but you never know.  Looks like I get to drive down to the harbor to move my boat again.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Pacific Bottlenose Dolphins in Kona...

Howdy.  Just got back from vacation (Oregon, first time I've been back for more than a few days since I moved here in '99) and I'm back to diving. 

Haven't posted in ages... I had a minor camera flood last year and set the camera aside (it's OK), didn't want to deal with camera issues with customers in the water, and have been busy with dive charters for most of the year.  Now that we're in the slower season I need to get back to taking photos.

On to dolphins....

Our commonly seen dolphin species here is the Hawaiian Spinner Dolphin.  They're a smallish dolphin, maybe in the 5 foot range, and hang out in large groups to rest in the bays during the day.  We see these quite often on charters, and with some frequency underwater as well.  It's always neat to see them on the way to a dive site or underwater.

There are numerous other dolphin and whale species that we can see from time to time.  On occasion we see Pacific Bottlenose Dolphins in the wild.  These guys are a larger heavier dolphin.  We usually see these in twosies or threesies, smaller groups anyways.  We don't see them frequently underwater, but I've seen them a few times underwater over the years.  There have been 2 or 3 coming into the night dive the last half a year or so, it's been a thrill for everyone that sees them.  Earlier this spring I did a whale watch with a group and we went offshore and ran into a group of several dozen that were hanging out with a group of whales... quite the thrill... I haven't seen a large group before.

 Well, on yesterday's dive we had a special moment.... more like a special 5-7 minutes.  We'd seen some dolphins on the surface off the Golden Arches area and they submerged, did not approach the boat as spinners will often do, so I thought since I only noticed 3 or 4 that they were likely Bottlenoses.   We went on up to Hoovers (north end of the Kona airport) for our first dive (lots of shrimp, a couple flame angels, two reticulate frogfish and more) and then moved on down to the Kaloko Ponds area for a dive.  While diving I heard one of the diver's shaker going and turned to see a couple of dolphins just behind me, they passed me and laid down in the sand....

Check it out...  Customer Jeff was shooting video at the time...

Thursday, July 05, 2012

Nice Captain Cook Kona house and land for sale...

I mentioned earlier I'd run a house 4 sale post, this is my big real estate sales pitch.  Way back in '97 my wife and I took a trip to Kona for a 10 or so day vacation. By day number two, Pat, my wife, said "wouldn't this be a great place to live?"... well, it took us a year and a half, but the rest is history.

On that trip we fell in love with South Kona.  It was rural, yet close in if staying in the area of Captain Cook.  We spent much time down around Kealakekua Bay, checking out Napo'opo'o village, the Place of Refuge, Napo'opo'o road, the stretch from Honolo to Capatain Cook, and the surrounding area.  I remember clearly us taking a ride up Napo'opo'o road after hanging out at Kealakekua Bay and Pat mentioning she wasn't sure if she'd want to live at the top of the road near the highway, nor at the bottom of the road in the village.  I remember pointing out the window and saying "somewhere around here would be ideal".  We didn't intend it, but after we moved to Kona in '99 and house hunted for a couple of months, checking out areas from the  Palisades subdivision up by the Kona airport, on up to the Holualoa area, and all the way down to Capatin Cook, we ended up choosing our future home... our driveway is probably within about 300 feet of where I said would be the ideal place to live. Cool coincidence.

We've been in the house for 13 wonderful years now, but we've decided it's time to downsize and move a bit closer to my work (Pat works from home and can be anywhere).


 The property is located roughly half way down Napo'opo'o road above Kealakekua Bay, at what we consider an ideal 900' elevation.  Kona is unique in that there are numerous micro-climates.  If you are near sea level, it can get quite warm at times, if you are away from mountains it can be kind of a desert, if you are on a mountain at a high elevation it can be a humid and wet jungle a significant portion of the time.  At our elevation you still get sun in the morning, then cloud cover around mid-day to where it cools off, and live in a green jungle without it being a humid wet mess. It's a great place to visit the coast, then cool off a few degrees after a day in the sun.

One of the great things about the location is that it's 5 minutes to the ocean, 5 minutes to a gas station, 6 minutes to groceries and restaurants, 18-20 minutes to movie theaters and more shopping, and no more than 30-45 minutes from anywhere else in Kailua Kona, often quicker in non-school traffic drive times.

The property:

We're situated on 1.72 acres of land overlooking the ocean above Kealakekua Bay. Unlike many properties in the area, most of our property is gently sloping, as opposed to straight up and down, and affords having an extensive yard out front of the house for lawn, fruit trees (we've got breadfruit, jackfruit, white pineapples, mangos, bananas, limes, navel and valencia oranges, mandarins, honey tangerines, papayas, jaboticaba, mac nuts and a few varieties of avocodos, as well as coffee and quava and lillikoi and such that grows wild around the place) without having to look at the roof tops of your neighbors... we pretty much own our view (excluding the coastline and ocean down below of course) for the most part. 

There is nothing like sitting on your lanai, sipping a maitai in the evening and listening to all the bird songs (we have doves, cardinals, finches, mynahs, pheasants and more wandering through most every day) and enjoying the view, without the trappings of being surrounded by loads of neighbors (to be fair, we just cut down some trees for a view and can see our next door neighbor for now, but that'll grow out).

The house:

The floorplan is large and open, with roughly 1900 feet of living space (not including the lanais which surround the house) on the main living level upstairs. There is an additional living space I'm taking the above photos from I'm not showing that we currently use as an office, the original owner had a pool table in it, it's plumbed for a wet bar as well.

The house features  an extremely nice koa wood kitchen.  Koa has become a very expensive exotic wood in recent years and is highly sought after.  You'd pay a pretty penny for a koa kitchen these days
The master bedroom is large, with twin skylights over the bed, with an adjoining koa wood and marble bath featuring separate shower and partially sunken bath tub.
The second bedroom and bath, on the opposite side of the house from the master, both open to jungle views, with the bedroom also getting a coastline view as well.

The downstairs:
Downstairs is a completely separate one bedroom one bath living area of over 700 square feet.  When we purchased the house we took a look into fixing it up and renting it out as a vacation rental.  That is probably one of the smartest things we've done with the propety.  Fully updated, it has a huge bedroom and a nice sized bath with a nice little living area and a kitchenette/wetbar.  One could live there quite comfortably.
 The Kealakekua bay area is quite in demand for vacation rentals, and it's done us well.  We've run it since about a half year after we bought the house.  It was slow going for a while, but we started picking up and in a few years we were bringing in roughly 2K a month and keeping it booked full time... that really helps with the bills. 

The last few years we've been buffering the length of time between bookings and taking the rental out of service 2-3 months a year, but we've still been bringing in about 2K a month when we want to have it booked.  With the tourism downturn, '09 was a slow year, then in early '10 we were looking at no bookings after our typically full winter season we were getting a bit worried... decided to play with our listing for the first time in ages and changed some things and ended up booking up the rest of the year in 5-6 weeks.  We just took the vacation rental out of service to have it available for showings (although we are open to short notice stays if anyone feels like visiting Kona soon) and have dropped our VRBO lising, but we've kept the information and would be happy to pass that along to the next buyer if they are interested in a jumpstart on renting out the unit as a vacation rental.

The specifics:

Land- 1.72 acres
Extensive rock walls on the property
House- 2646 square feet
Built in 1985
Garage- 987 (I think, haven't checked lately, I've lived in houses and apartments smaller than our garage) square feet
3 bedroom, 3 full baths, laundry facilities upstairs and downstairs,  large living areas, nearly a 1000 square feet of lanais
Hawaii MLS Number- 254553
Our agent- Sue Brown, Livingston Realty
Price- 699K   I think there's a good opportunity for increased valuation the next time the market turns around, it was worth in the million + range the last time the market was up.

The house has been well maintained.  We recently upgraded most of the skylights in the house.   We wanted to get away from metal roofing some years ago and had it reroofed with composit shingles (wow, what a difference in both heat in the sun and noise from rain, much nicer).  We're in the process of repainting the eaves and replacing the rain gutters.  Nearly all electrical and lighting fixtures, as well as the appliances and several plumbing fixtures (aka low flow toilets) have been upgraded over the years.

If you are house hunting in the Kona area, and looking for a rural place in good condition with room to entertain (I haven't even touched on our parking) guests or just enjoy a tropical paradise, check out our listing.  Note: It's July 5th 2012 right now, I know how things tend to hang on forever on the internet, so check that MLS number to see if we're still on the market if some time has passed.

Happy house hunting!!!!

The Manta Ray Night Dive is going nutz....

We've been choke with mantas lately.  I ran the dive both Sunday and Monday nights this week, and there were LOTS.... but Tuesday apparently took the cake... 41 manta rays from what I heard Wednesday, oftentimes those numbers go up slightly after all the videographers go through their tape.

It's hard to imagine that many mantas in one spot dive bombing divers repeatedly.



Friday, June 22, 2012

Whew, busy spring......

Sorry I haven't posted much, or at all, in a few months. I got very busy with a number of things... charters, closing down the retail shop, working on projects at the house, etc. So here's what's been going on.... with the exception of the last couple weeks it's been pretty busy with charters this spring. That late May early June period is always dead, the phone's starting to ring again and the schedule's filling in fast now though. I do have a night dive tonight.

In Wanna Dive news, we closed down the retail shop this spring. I had opened it hoping it would add extra seats to our charters, while selling product, neither really happened, so it's back to running straight charters for now. The shop was a good experience, and if I could afford the additional expense. I think in a couple of years it would have built up to where it was really contributing, but for now it's not worth it.

The other project that has kept me very busy is we're trying to sell our house in South Kona and get closer to work.  We've got a lovely place, large and quiet, but it adds on to the length of my day and we want to get closer to Honokohau harbor and downsize things a bit while we're at it. Now's an opportune time with interest rates so low and prices down.  I'll post a "house 4 sale" post here in a few days... a little advertising never hurts.

 I've got a night dive to get ready for, I have a cement related project I'll work on for an hour or two and then head out.



Hawaiian Flame Angelfish... I saw 5 different ones in the first 8 minutes of yesterday's dive....

It's interesting how common these fish are nowadays. When I moved here back in '99 I think I managed to find 1-3 a year until 2004 came along. At that point I started finding a few more, then more yet the next year, and it's continued to where I pretty much expect to find flame angels when diving certain types of terrain.

I'm assuming there just are more these days rather than my developing an eye for them, although knowing what to look for does help with spottings. If you are diving Kona and there's a dropoff with finger coral on it, keep your eyes peeled 10-15 feet ahead of you when you are diving roughly 50-60 feet. You almost have to spot them early, as they will dive into the coral if you get close or over them. Once you find them, try to remember exactly where they were, they often keep defined territories, often no bigger than a hula hoop, where you can find them over and over.

The five I ran across yesterday were not ones I knew locations of, although it's quite possible I've seen at least a couple of them before as I know I've seen a few in that area over the years. The corals were pretty non-descript so finding them again would be more a matter of diving at the same depth and hoping to spot them rather than knowing exactly where they are. I chalk the increase in spottings for me to the collection management measures that were put into place back in January of 2000. Looks like numbers are improving nicely. Later, Steve

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Water Cold.... Mantas Hot!!!!!!!!!!

I hadn't posted in a long while, just thought I'd make updates. We've been seeing water temperatures in the 74/75 range lately. Last night the mantas were almost half of that in numbers... 34 from the first reports I'm getting. Usually when it gets that thick in mantas the videographers start comparin gnotes and find more. It's been jumping with numbers in the teens and twenties for about a month.



Monday, January 23, 2012

Shore diving Kona Hawaii...Some of the best shore diving in the State...

Kona has a number of very decent shore dives. Unlike the other islands in the chain, we're mostly a rocky shoreline and there are no rivers or streams on our side of the island. That makes for very good water clarity on most days.

This was an OK day, nothing special. My guess is I took this video maybe 70 feet from shore. The Place of Refuge is neat in that you can step off the entry rock and be in 6 feet of reef from the get-go. Yellow tangs are often literally eating at your fin tips as you step in. There's a good expanse of 9-30 foot deep reef out front and then it drops to deeper than recreational diving depths in just a short swim.

As much as I like running dive charters, there's good diving to be had for those who are in to shorediving.



Saturday, January 21, 2012

the Big Island of Hawaii and live coral reef... lots of it here...

I was cruising the web and ran across this page I've linked before on NOAA's study of Hawaiian coral reefs. It reminded me of a story from this last fall.

We went to DEMA, the big dive industry show, in Orlando in November and my wife and I went to Miller's Alehouse, a bar/restaurant near where we were staying that impressed us favorably. While sitting at the counter waiting on food, Pat noticed a couple across the way and said "they're divers". I'm wondering how she figured that and she mentioned she could see the necklace the gal was wearing was one we sell out of the office, and the guy had a dive computer on his wrist... maybe Pat should be a cop, I apparently don't notice these things. We started up a conversation with them and by and by Pat says to the guy that he's familiar, we must have met before. I'm doubting it because they're from the east coast, then suddenly she says she thinks we talked to him on the monorail in Vegas on the way back from DEMA the year before. He said "that's quite possible".

Towards the end of the meal he mentioned he had 30 some odd dives in Hawaii, then said too bad Hawaii doesn't have any coral. Well, that's a hot button topic with me because it's simply not true. We've got no soft corals or sponges, but we've got loads of hard corals in Kona. He didn't believe me, but he'd never been to Kona yet, his diving was mostly Maui and some Oahu. Now I've been to both, and Maui has some decent corals in spots, but not like in Kona from my experience as well. Anyway, I disagreed with him and later realized he was definitely the guy from the monorail the year earlier because the exact same topic came up. I've now had two big Vegas monorail coincidences over the years (first one was spoken of on one of my very first posts in this blog, check the history if you're into a lot of reading) and I find it amazing that it can be such a small world at times.

So... if you think Hawaii doesn't have coral, or you think you've seen it all on trips to the other islands, you might want to come to Kona for a visit and check out what healthy Hawaiian hard coral reefs can look like. We've got several types of dive sites here, and most of the dive operators try to vary the dives, so over the course of a couple of days you should run across some of our nicer spots for coral structure. Hurricane Iniki did pull a number on much of the coastline a couple decades back, but there's still plenty of old growth coral to be had. Reef areas that were really trashed from the hurricane nearly 20 years back are starting to come back quite nicely - I wish I'd taken photos of the north side of Honaunau bay when I moved here, it looked like a boulder avalanche, now it's tough to see the boulders and there's an 8-10 inch coating of finger corals over the whole thing, and plate corals are starting to take up residence on that side of the bay as well... that was the one weak part of that bay as a dive spot, now everything's pretty much a tremendous dive.



Tuesday, January 17, 2012

We've had lots of mantas over the holidays and to start 2012

I took this brief video on the 23rd of December. I think there were 14 mantas that evening. It's been running anywhere from 5 to up to 25 mantas a night pretty much since then. Hoppefully it'll keep up.

Yesterday we had a blast. I had a friend that wanted to take friends out for a whale/dolphin watch. We headed up north and ran into mantas on the surface at Garden Eel Cove, then a huge school of dolphins off Makalewena. After watching the dolphins we decided to head out to sea and look for whales, about a half mile out we ran into 6-7 false killer whales (possibly pigmy killers, I can't really tell them apart at this point) and continued out to sea because we could see some splashing in the distance. turned out there was the largest school of pacific bottlenose dolphins I've ever seen out there. Usually we see 2-6 in small groups, this was dozens spread out over a good sized area. There were humpbacks whales in the mix as well. After watching that for a while we headed in to Garden Eel Cove to watch dolphins again.

We've had some gorgeous skies lately. If you check out my facebook page I've got a shot or two of the skies I took with my cell phone, it's been gorgeous.



Friday, January 13, 2012

Do you suck air? How to improve your air consumption while scuba diving....


I thought I'd start the new year with a helpful hint. We often get people on the boat who are divers that get only 35-40 minutes a dive and always have. When that happens, we try to give them some hints on how to dive to get longer dives. A few months back we had a customer on the boat that commented "you're the first dive company we've been with that actually helped us stay down longer" or something to that effect. Apparently when the question of breathing came up, most dive crews they have had just said something along the lines of "dive more and it'll get better" and not given actual hints at how to change it right away.

So here we go... there's no guaranteeing this will improve your bottom time, but we've found that most divers can have a great deal of improvement over just a couple days time by working on these. I've had divers go from a history of 35 minute dives, to staying down 50-60 minutes or more just within a couple days of trying these "tricks".

- Slow down. Slow down your breathing (more on that later) and slow down your diving. People who zip around tend to burn up their air faster, tend to see less stuff, and actually tend to cover less ground because they're using up their air at a much faster rate than they would if they went at a relaxed pace.

- Don't swim with your arms. One, every time you swing your arms forward, it practically acts like a bellows to your lungs, making you take a breath. Two, for as much pull as you get using your arms to swim, you are creating almost as much resistance, so the net gain is negligible. Arm swimming is pretty much a new diver's problem, but I know I was guilty of it for quite a while in my early diving days. I finally got to where I wanted to stop it and I actually clasped my hands behind my back while diving to stop it. I'd already improved my bottom time at the time quite a bit, but when I started doing that, I just about immediately added 5-10 minutes to my bottom time. Every now and then a diver's likely to have to use their arms to make a turn, back up and such, and that's OK (although those that dive a lot can often find a way to kick that stops that need), but constant arm swimming really burns the air.

- Slow down your breathing!!! That one's the big one. As a boat captain, I watch a lot of bubbles. I can pretty much tell who's coming up first as soon as my divers are three feet underwater. There are divers who's bubbles are literally hitting the surface every second or two, then there are divers who's bubbles are hitting the surface every 7-8 seconds or longer. Guess which one's are going to be down for a long time.

From the get-go, you are told "deep and slow" when it comes to breathing on scuba. It really does work. Implementing it is another thing altogether. Diving is very exciting, and very foreign, at first. Breathing underwater isn't all that natural, and the tendency is to breath quite rapidly for a lot of people. Even once they get over the initial discomfort there's a tendency to breath somewhat shallow and rapidly for lots of divers.

There's a couple of tricks for breathing slow. Some instructors will say, pretend there a long straw down to the bottom of the tank and you want to slowly sip it as you inhale. That works for some people. I've heard others say that you should inhale for 7 seconds, then exhale for 7 seconds. That works for a lot of divers, but it's kind of tough for many to go from 1-2 seconds each direction immediately to 7 seconds each direction. An instructor once told me to count the duration of my inhale, then count the duration of my exhale (set a counting rhythm and then do it a few times while breathing in and out), then try to extend it by a second each direction for a few counts. He told me to not spend the entire dive counting, but just to check my breathing rhythm and then try to extend it by a second or so maybe every ten to fifteen minutes during the dive. Over the course of a couple dives I found myself lasting a lot longer.... this method worked the best for me.

Nowadays I pretty much ignore my breathing rate, but every now and then I'll have a customer who's a very good breather (it's embarrassing to be out breathed, but it does happen on occasion) and I'll have to slow down my breathing. I find that if I set a slow rate at the start of the dive as soon as I hit the bottom, I'll maintain that slow rate throughout the dive and last longer than if I wasn't paying attention to it at all.

Over the years I've seen divers go from "hoovers" to being able to last 75/85/90 minutes or more just on improvements in technique. Once they are there, they need to look for dive companies that actully allow those kinds of bottom times (we do unless deco status or other circumstances affecting dive length exist, hint hint) on their charters, but at least they can maximize their tanks even if the dive companies they are with have earlier cut off times.

Diving is one of those "sports" where even relatively out of shape divers can breath with the athletic ones once they find their rhythm. Good luck and happy diving!