Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Salt and pepper shrimp?

Last night we had a bunch of mantas, along with a couple of squid, on the night dive. Bob dove both dives, I did one the day before. Tomorrow we're starting an Open Water referral, Bob and I usually split the dives when we're training. We're still seeing roughly 81 degrees for the water temperature in Kona, so it'll be nice diving for a class.

Today I was running all over town. I had a tire go flat on the trailer last night, lucky I had the day off today to rip the old one off and pick up a new one. I had to buy yet more tools, a floor jack and a big ol' deep tire iron to be able to get the wheel off. I'm gradually aquiring something of a workshop now that I have a boat to take care of. In the process of running around, I stopped at the "Rainbow Cafe" up in the Kaloko warehouse district up above Costco and Home Depot. It's a plate lunch place with a small buffet style serving counter ready to go for a quick lunch. They have delicious shrimp. I think it's salt and pepper shrimp as it's cooked much like salt and pepper squid... fried with lots of hot pepper flakes... yum, yum. Not a bad little place, it was doing a booming local business at 11:30 this morning.

Here's a pic of a school of tiape. They tend to hang out on dropoffs in large schools and form a ribbon of fish on the reef. Once you run across a school, you can almost count on them being in the same spot in the future.


Monday, September 25, 2006

Snorkeling in Hawaii hints...

Hi there,

I was on the web today and found a link to THIS.

It's a great little locally made video on reef care when snorkeling. Anyone planning to snorkel ought to take note of it. Many people know how fragile a reef can be, but others don't. With care we can all enjoy the ocean and it's marvels.

The picture above is of a Redspotted Sandperch (Parapercis schauinslandi). These guys are quite common out in the sand in deep water. They act much like a hawkfish, awaiting prey while they sit on a coral head.



Friday, September 22, 2006

9 manta rays on the night dive last night.

We had a group come over from Oahu for the night dive and had a great time last night. It was another great show with nine mantas at the site. Bob did the diving, I sure missed out. I'll be getting in the water for at least one dive tomorrow.

Here's a little shot of a cactus flower. Yep, the Big Island has cactus. This particular type of cactus is fairly common in the upland parts of Kohala. There's a neat little highway that runs between Waimea to the northwest and comes out between Kapaau and Hawi that has plenty of it along side the road. This island has a lot of different climate zones, so you'll never know what you might come across.



Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Scuba Diving in Kona Hawaii... it's always fun.

We had a nice couple of couples on board the other day. It was a nice day of diving for all. Bob found a little frogfish at a site that I need to try to get to with a camera before it moves on... it's a type of frogfish we don't see all that much.

I get busy again for a while starting tomorrow night. We've got a group of divers coming over from one of the other islands for the manta dive. After that we'll be off Friday and then pretty much working every day of the month, with maybe a day off on Wednesday. Bob leaves for the Galapagos (man, is that gonna be some fun for him) on the 1st, so I'm trying to work out coverage for the first half of next month 'til he gets back.

Above is a photo of Spanish Dancer Nudibranch eggs, also called a "sea rose" by some. In real life, this egg mass is about 2.5 to 3 inches across. I saw a large Spanish Dancer (say 10 inches or so long) on the night dive last month, it was a full group so I didn't bother with the camera, I wish I'd had it. Anyway, when we come across these eggs, especially ones that look like they've been there for a while, we check them out closely to see if there are any Egg Eating Nudibranchs on them. It's a very small nudibranch that hitches a ride on the Spanish Dancers 'til they lay eggs, they drop off the Spanish Dancer and lay their own eggs on the egg mass, leaving a much smaller spiral on the egg mass. Hopefully one day I'll have a camera in hand when I find an example.


Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Instead of talking like a Pirate, I'll do a scuba diver's review of Crocs foam shoes..

Today is "talk like a pirate day", but I'm not very good at it... but I do wear Crocs. Non-diving post today.

For those of you who aren't familiar with them, Crocs are a foam rubber shoe that are hugely popular over here, and apparently in many areas with watersports. There are a few other Crocs style shoes out there (Holey Holes, Shaka Shoes to name a couple) that are essentially the same in appearance.

A few notes...

These are great shoes for the active person who spends a lot of time in and out of the water.

They are comfortable, but it did take me a week to get used to wearing clog style footwear. My first worry was they would be too hot, being rubber and all and having worn nothing but sandals for 6 years, and there was some noticeable warmth the first couple of days, but nothing major. I have no major issues with these shoes. A lot of the hospital employees here wear them, so they must be comfy.

They don't hold up forever, it looks as though I'll go through about 4 pairs a year. I've had varying results with sandals holding up and have only found one good one (Gurkees dive sandals) that would routinely give me around a year's use - can't find them anywhere in Kona anymore, bummer.

They are odor free. This can be very important. We see a lot of very stinky sandals and shoes on the dive boat.

They claim to be nonskid, but I've found slick boat ramps to break that claim. The fist time I was walking lightly for two weeks - tailbone, ouch. The traction does seem to wear off pretty quickly with these shoes.

The toes are protected in most styles.. great for us people who don't pay attention and kick things a lot.

They now come in several styles. The original style and the "heavy duty" style are shown. They have several other styles. I just picked up the heavier model and they are great, but I suddenly came down with some athlete's foot, I'm wondering if the lack of holes in the toe area contributed. Some Crocs stores sell little buttons that will go in the holes... I've got some dive flags so they don't get confused with other sets of blue Crocs that come on the boat. I've seen all sorts of buttons available for those who want to "customize" their Crocs.

Sorry for the non-diving post, but a lot of people actually ask about them when they see them.



Saturday, September 16, 2006

It's the "slow" tourist season in Kona Hawaii again...

Not that it's really all that slow, but it is compared to summer and the holidays. My week's starting to fill in because of a couple of phone calls. Today I'm heading down to the boat to sand for a few hours. I'm going to try to repaint the interior of the boat on my off days this week, then when I hit an empty spell in the next month or two, see if I can get the exterior repainted. It's a work boat and will never make the cover of boat beautiful, but it definitely needs some cosmetic work while it's slow.

I've been getting occasional "last minute" calls lately... last night I got one at 8:35PM wanting to go on the night dive... which started at 4PM. As a head's up, I would suggest that people try to arrange to schedule at least their first dive of their trip in advance. If you know for sure that you want to dive, I'd recommend setting up at least the first dive before you get here, if you know you want to dive a lot then try to set it all up well in advance. Kona is not really a dedicated dive destination and there are not boats going out multiple times a day like some spots of the world. Most everyone has a morning boat, leaving between 7 and 9, and if they have a later trip it's an afternnoon/evening boat, leaving for the night dive at 4-6pm. We get a number of calls for people looking for dives for that very day at say 8-10am thinking they'll be able to catch a late morning or mid-day boat... they're basically out of luck finding that anywhere over here. Even the "next day or two" calls can be tough at times depending on schedules, but if I'm unable to make a go of it I can usually find an operator to refer people to.

Here's a photo of a sponge crab. We see them from time to time on the night dive. They carry a sponge on their back. I guess it's supposed to be camouflage, when you see them without a sponge, they'll likely have something else. We saw one carrying old shredded underwear several years back... whatever works I suppose.



Thursday, September 14, 2006

Gorgeous day on the water today...

Well the topside conditions on the water were much nicer than the other night. Flat and fairly sunny.

Our intro divers were a nice couple. One admitted to being extremely nervous, even to the point of not really wanting to come out on the boat this morning. At the end of the first dive the first words out were "I think I've got a new favorite hobby". It's always fun seeing how excited people can get trying scuba for the first time.... it's a different world.

The photo above is another pic I took recently of a Saddleback Butterflyfish (Chaetodon ephippium).I think I posted one back earlier in the summer, but this pic was a little closer. Colorful fish.



Wednesday, September 13, 2006

10 manta rays and 3 squid at the night dive off the Kona airport last night.

We did another night trip last night. We're back to the slower season so we've been going out a hair less frequently. I've got intro divers tomorrow daytime and then almost a week off (assuming no phonecalls in the meanwhile) with charters on 7 of the last 9 days of the month.

The water last night was quite sloppy, and it made for a bumpy trip, but the diving was still great. It was a great manta show, Bob lead the dives (they saw 3 mantas on the first dive) and said with 10 mantas on the second dive it was a great time. I think all the divers had their heads bumped several times by manta rays.

There were 3 squid on the dive. I'm pushing 2000 dives here, with about a couple hundred of them being night dives, and I've yet to see a squid. We've had a pair of them showing up off and on for the last month, I missed them one night I was down, and apparently there were three on Monday and last night. I'm hoping they keep showing up. If there's food for them on the dive they'll probably keep coming in. Last night they apparenlty were out of the edge of the reef, on occasion they've actually come to the dive site and hang out with the snorkelers a few feet under the surface.... COOL!

Here's a couple of little shrimp from a night dive I did a few weeks back. This is one of those cases of things that are tough to get a good photo of... clear or light colored on a light background... but they turned out reasonable.



Saturday, September 09, 2006

Did a night manta dive the other day in Kona...

Actually, Bob did the dive and I sat up top playing Captain. We had 5 or 6 mantas on the night dive on Thursday. It's been consistantly running about that many the last week or so. Water temperature has still been running in the 80 degree range.

I have a dive tomorrow morning, so this post will be a short one, time to hit the hay. I just wanted to get back in the habit of updating at least every 3 days or so.

Here's another picture of a Banded Coral Shrimp (Stenopus hispidus) from a night dive some time back. Here's a little factiod about them I don't think I've mentioned... I learned this back in my aquarium days. They really don't like each other. Actually, we do find them in mated pairs in the wild quite often, but if you randomly put two together in an aquarium they often will battle. I remember one customer of mine had bought one and then later picked up an Arrow crab, which is a long spindly crab from the tropical Atlantic and Carribean. They apparenlty don't like each other either. He said the crab took off the shrimp's primary claws... Later, when the shrimp molted and regained it's claws (after a molt, as soon as the exo-skeleton hardens up they're apparently good as new) it returned the favor and took a few legs off the crab. This apparently went back and forth for a couple of molts each until they apparenltly found a workable peace arrangement. The customer actually got quite a kick out of it, I never sold that combination again though.

That's it for now.


Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Living in Kona...

it seems the yardwork never ends, at least when you live in the agricultural area. Being the "wet" season right now (late summer brings mauka properties a little late afternoon rain several days a week), things are growing like mad. Shortly, I'm making a trip out to green waste to drop off some palm fronds, mango and mac nut and guava branches that have been encroaching on the driveway. If I took 5 or 6 days solid of cutting and chipping I probably could make a huge impact on our private jungle, but hauling a truckload or two of branches to Kailua's green waste center can kill nearly a whole day. I'll have to get out in the yard with the camera to show you how overgrown things can get FAST here.

I went diving yesterday just for fun down at the Place of Refuge. The conditions were nice. I'm still seeing 79/81 degrees of water temperature on my wrist computer, I keep hoping it'll bump up another couple degrees before the fall ends. I had no luck getting any interesting photos. There's a little goby here that looks related to the dragonets (mandarin gobies and such) that is nearly clear and sits on the sand that I was trying to get a picture of. It was quite cooperative, but everything I took was washed out. I'll try again another day if I ever come across another as cooperative as this one was.

This photo is of a marbled shrimp, taken at night. They are one of our more commonly seen shrimp at night. We rarely see shrimp during the daytime other than the cleaner type shrimps, but at night things start coming out of the coral and we get to see lots of cool stuff.



Sunday, September 03, 2006

Sad news... apparently Crocodile Hunter Steve Irwin has passed in a scuba accident

Click here for info

Here's an updated story with more news.

This is a sad thing. Rest in peace Steve Irwin.

One little note, the manta rays we have in Kona are harmless, and barbless, creatures not to be confused with stingrays. I'm sure we'll probably be hearing questions about diver and snorkeler saftey with the rays due to this incident.


A couple of days off.... mostly non-diving related...

Time to catch up on yardwork and everything else. The other day, on the tail end of my long stretch of workdays, the drive shaft on my pickup truck broke in half. That was kind of a noisy event. Luckily it was right at the bottom of the driveway while I was moving very slowly and I was able to roll to a spot at the side of the road, it could've been much worse. Also luckily, my wife had the day off and we were able to transfer all the gear to her vehicle and still get the charter off.

I did have a couple of days I had off at that point and it was spent searching the internet and local car lots for a new truck. It couldn't have happened at a better time... 6 years of zero percent interest and the new vehicle (Ford f-150) might run me the next couple of years little more than we've plowed into the old Dakota after replacing breaks, transmission and other assorted work done the last couple of years, not to mention this repair bill.

The diving conditions are pretty nice right now. I'm intending to get back in the water just for grins the next couple of days, maybe just play with the camera as I haven't really shot any pictures in the last couple of weeks. I don't have a charter pre-scheduled 'til Thursday, but I'll take charters if a phone call comes up.

Here's a picture a little critter I really enjoy... a medusa worm. These guys are a type of sea cucumber. They can be very long, are very soft, and have an accordion-like movement. I took this shot on a night dive, we generally do not see them during the daytime. Medusa worms, as well as other sea cucumbers, are sort of the vacuum cleaners of the sea - they pick up detritus and eat it. The medusa worms can be upwards of 3-4 feet long and slink along with their feathery fronds picking up items and passing it into their mouths. I used to have a pink medusa worm in a large reef tank I had at the front of my aquarium shop, way back when, that amazed people... one day it died and poisoned the tank... sea cucumbers tend to prolapse their guts when threatend or dieing and it's toxic enough that things stay away on the reef, in a closed system like an aquarium the toxins can have a devastating effect on the fish. I lost everything but the invertebrates and a pair of mandarin gobies.



Saturday, September 02, 2006

September, October and November can have some of the best scuba diving conditions...

...Long time no blog...

We're entering that time of year again which can be the best time to dive in Hawaii and Kona. The water's warming up nicely, it's roughly 80 right now, and will probably go up another degree or two. Add the water conditions to the fact that the tourist season slows down in the fall, and you've got potentially ideal diving.

I'd been really busy for much of August, now I've got a slow spell schedule-wise. I still have a bit more lined up this month than I did on the second day of last month, so it may be fairly busy yet.

We had a full boat for the manta dive a couple of nights back. There were a couple of manta rays at the manta dive. We had them right under the boat the moment our divers hit the water. When this happens, we still send our divers over to the dive site that all the operators share as that will get everyone an opportunity to have a show. Most all the dive operators do that, on occasions you'll get a new company or a private boat that hits the site and doesn't send their divers to the area everyone goes to and splits the manta action, that can be annoying for everyone but it hasn't happened in quite a while.

Yesterday we did a three tank dive day. I run a three tank local dive day for $149 per person where we stay pretty much within our regular dive area so we don't have to hit passengers up for what we'd need to do for a long range charter. There are plenty of great dive sites, without having to make an hour or two long boat run, so we don't have a ton of passengers (we'll go with two) or charge a great deal to do a three tank day. We had two divers over from Oahu on the boat. Both were very good divers, so the average dive time for the three dives was in the 90 minute + range. Four and a half hours underwater is a lot of bottom time in a day for most people, but they seemed pretty darned happy with the diving here in Kona. They were used to diving Oahu and thought the viz and diving here was fabulous... it was kinda average viz for here yesterday in reality. The diving does vary from island to island, if you haven't dove Kona but have on the others, give Kona a try, you just may be impressed as we have lots of areas with reef that is better than elsewhere in the islands.

Here's a photo of a red-spotted nudibranch. We seem to see these guys sort of "seasonally". I can't pick the season, but it just seems that at times we see them frequently, then they disappear alltogether for quite a while.