Tuesday, July 29, 2008

It's 1am and I'm winding down from the manta dive....

I pulled a double today. I've been working pretty much straight through since the 16th, luckily I don't have to turn right around and get up for a charter tomorrow as I have to get up at a bit after 6 am to make the morning charters. I've been up since 5:30 yesterday, these doubles turn into long days for me. Tomorrow's a day off - to go to the dentist.... yuck. After that I have another busy stretch. August is panning out quite nicely so far, with lots of charters but still plenty of space available to add additional divers.

The manta dive tonight was kind of weird. The plankton (small shrimp/crustaceans and other critters that the mantas feed on) has been pretty light the last few evenings so the manta numbers have been a little light. Tonight was primarily fly-bys, where the mantas come in to see if there's anything worth sticking around for. Luckily at the end of the dive there was a manta feeding beneath the boat tied off to us so our divers got a good closeup view for several minutes.

Here's another frogfish photo from yesterday... it's a bit too reddish, I'd probabaly want to play with it a bit if I were going to print it up, but I like that you can look into it's mouth a bit so it's a keeper for me. This frogfish is the same one that Pat took a photo of and I posted a couple months back. Cathy and Bob have been watching it for several months, I'd only dove the site twice since Cathy found it, couldn't find it (the frogfish) the first time, but this time I did. It's grown a fair amount since the first photo. It's surprising how fast they grow. I'd always thought it took much longer for them to get up to size than it really does.

Later... gotta hit the hay before I slump down on my keyboard...


Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Quick, lock up the booze cabinet!!!!

This gecko's after margarita residue, no way we're letting him help himself.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

10-12 foot Tiger shark on today's dive in Kona Hawaii....

Sorry no pics, it was a training dive. I had a 12 year old on the dive and a tiger shark went near us. The student probably only saw the tail end of it as it was heading off, but I got a pretty good look at it from about 25 feet away... first good look at a tiger shark since I've been here. I've only seen a glimpse of one once before, in the first year I lived here.... new divers get all the luck, he isn't even certified yet (dive # two of the OW class) and he's seen a fish that most divers here dream of. Anyway, the shark paid no attention to us, it was swimming along the rocks near shore.

The water's nice and comfortably warm now, I saw 79/81 today on my computer. It took a while to warm up, but we're about where we usually are this time of year now.

Here's a shot of a Zebra Moray (Gymnomuraena zebra) I took back in '03 with my first digital camera. I may have posted it before, but I'm not going to look back through the archives tonight... I hate doing repeats, but I'll take a chance, I liked this photo quite a bit at the time I took it.



Saturday, July 19, 2008

Fit at 50? Another post on gettin' old....


A few months ago I mentioned I was losing weight... well, I've pretty much stabilized at 217+/-, which beats the heck out of the 240 or so I was late winter and early spring. The pounds haven't changed since my frist weight loss report, but I do look a hair thinner (I've been lifting a lot of scuba tanks lately so that's probably helped). I haven't really stuck with the diet at all the last month and a half or so, at least I haven't gained any.

Well, the other week at the Hilton was a bit of a wake-up for me. Other than the short walks (maybe a mile) I do with Pat on occasion I really haven't walked more than a couple hundred yards at a time since tearing the hamstring this winter. After walking the length of the resort and then some I started to realize, hey I'm noticing my leg's a bit more sore/tired than expected... not good, as I've only got a few months to build it up before our trip this fall.

We're doing Vegas for the dive show and I typically walk for hours and hours when I'm there. After Vegas we're hitting the Grand Canyon and other hiking areas for a few days... I may have to actually exercise to get ready for this trip. I've basically got 3 months to get it to where I won't notice it... quite doable I suspect, as long as I actually work on it. We're really looking forward to the hiking after the Vegas visit... gonna check out Antelope Canyon and some other slot canyons, and Pat's on a mission to lose weight herself - she's doing quite well, down 2 sizes - so I've got some competition as far as the weight loss thing goes... Can't let her embarrass me ya know.

I never really took a "before" picture, although I suspect we can find a picture of me at 240/250 somewhere, but my goal is to be able to take a sub-200 pound picture by the time I'm 50, which is coming all too soon. It's surprising just how much better the first 20 pound loss has me feeling, so it'll be curious to see how I feel at 200 or less... haven't been there in 20 years for any length of time, so I've got the work cut out.... Just say no to non-fiber carbs!

Here's a small frogfish a customer noticed at the tail end of our 100 minute dive I mentioned the other week... nice find. To give you an idea of the size of the frogfish, the piece of finger coral it's on is a bit smaller than the size of a little pinky finger. The fish was maybe an inch or so in length. It was sort of tough to get a shot of it, this was as close as I could get without risking bumping anything.



Friday, July 18, 2008

Doo be doo, doo doo be, doo be doo be doo be doo!


Anyone who has lived here for any length of time and ever listened to the radio will get the title of this post. It's the refrain from the most radio played Hawaiian song of the last decade or two, by my guess anyway.

Here's the video by the guy who wrote?/produced? it.

It's Aloha Friday, no work 'til Monday....Doo be doo, doo doo be, doo be doo be doo be doo!



PS: I actually do work this weekend, but I just had to share. This song kind of grows on you.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

We're coming into the best time of the year to dive in Kona and Hawaii...

...although you really couldn't tell it today from above the water, it was great below. Today's charter was with a fun family that was mostly certified for scuba diving, with a younger one who was doing an intro. We went to the first site and after everyone was down I decided I ought to put on some sunscreen - that did it - it wasn't minutes before we were covered with a big dark cloud that created it's own weather and wouldn't leave. This was the first charter in maybe a couple of years I've been rained on during both dives. Luckily, we've got more shade, in this case umbrella, than most of the 6 packs (and some of the larger boats) so it was relatively dry up topside despite the downpour, just cooler and darker than normal.

Our water is warming up, today it might have been warmer in the water than topside... water temp at 79 on Bob's conservative computer, and maybe that above when it wasn't raining. Late summer is when the water gets warmer and generally calmer, it's pretty nice by most standards.

Anyway, we moved to the second site which was a little calmer and the rain held off 'til the divers went down. I got to enjoy the rain on the ocean... you'd almost need to see a video of it (I didn't take the camera today), but the ocean often looks quite interesting when it's getting poured on.

Here's an underwater photo I took of a juvenile Dragon Moray (Enchelycore pardalis) a couple of months back. This was taken on the same dive I took the pic of the adult Dragon Moray I posted earlier (take a look through the April/May/June archives or click on "moray eel" directly below, I'm not sure which month I posted it)... we see them rarely enough, it's really something when you see two on the same dive.



Monday, July 14, 2008

Time to answer a question....

A couple months back I solicited questions, it's time to answer one, or at least make an attempt at it.

Reader Mel asked this... this is probably the most difficult question that was asked.... "Have there been any customers you haven't allowed back on the boat because they were too obnoxious/dangerous/poor divers?".... In a netshell, no. I guess I should probably say... "Not yet"... to give myself a little leeway.

Every person has their own personality, but I think the dive hobby tends to attract a fairly gregarious and adventurous crowd. For the most part we all get along quite well, and in the rare event personalities don't get along, it's generally over that day and life goes on. I've really met very few divers who I consider flat out obnoxious (being kind of obnoxious myself, I can't really tell), I can't say that any really stand out thinking back.

As far as poor or dangerous divers go, once you work here for a while you realize the vast majority of the people who come to Hawaii to dive DON'T have more than 10 - 20 dives under their belts, so you figure out a way to run your tours so that everyone can get their diving needs met and you start assessing and take a certain amount of control before it gets to the point where dangerous situations can pop up. I'll try to give an example: I get people asking me why I don't do single tank night dives with divers I don't know. Well, I used to lead dives for a dive op that did that and we'd get people signing up for the manta night dive that hadn't been in the water in 2-3 years or longer... well folks, a night dive first thing when you've not been diving in the last few weeks or months is NOT a real good idea. It works most of the time, but we ended up doing a lot of "mini-rescues" (panic attacks, dropped masks and weightbelts, etc) that either end up with customers sitting on the boat upset with themselves or doing the dive and breathing so hard they'd be low on air in 25 minutes. Add the afternoon dive and virtually none of that happens and the night dives are longer. Other stuff you can take care of just by following boat policy, giving a decent briefing and making sure people are listening to that first briefing. Most any problems that might occur are usually within 2 feet of the surface at the start of the dive, so you just take it slow and it generally works out. The flat out dangerous diver who is a liability to themselves or others is quite rare.

I've got to admit there are rare occasions that we're happy someone is not coming back on. It's happened a few times over the years, literally 3 or 4 times, the last time for me personally was 2 years ago, and invariably it's the same thing... so I might as well fess up to what it is and anyone who falls into ths category and reads this will know they might be better off checking with another operator... "experienced" divers, who don't want to listen to a thing the crew says, and want to go a completely different direction as the group is going. I put quotes around "experienced", because they're generally somewhat experienced... usually say 35 to a 100 dives and haven't done much in the way of mixed group charter diving... the really experienced divers are very easy to dive with and actually mix well with less experienced divers. The reason this can turn into a problem is that most of our dive sites have specific critters in specific spots, and the DM knows where they are and has a pattern they lead to make sure everyone has an opportunity to see them. When a portion of the group suddenly decides on thier own they need to go another direction, that can mess up the tour for everyone. You can't just let people wander on their own merry way unfortunately, as they're paying for a "guided" dive and the DM is responsible for them should anything go wrong. My recommendation is for anyone that just has to go a different direction or on their own should check into shorediving or make sure their operator is cool with self guiding ahead of time.

This picture above is of an octopus that is trying to appear "invisible". In general, if we see an octopus we'll hang low to the bottom and back off 6-10 feet and they'll pop up and put on a show once they realize you aren't out to eat them. This guy I didn't notice 'til we were on top of him. He just settled straight down and tried to look like a rock, so I figured I'd snap a shot of him. Usually they'll find a quick hole to crawl into if you get over the top of them, this one was stuck in the open.



Sunday, July 13, 2008

Went to the Waikoloa Hilton, but not for scuba diving...

Pat and I went to the Waikoloa Hilton up north last night for a wedding reception for someone she works with. Very nice reception, very nice resort. I'd never spent any time up at the resort prior to this other than for a walkthrough or a brief visit with friends.

We spent the afternoon by the pool before going to the reception. The pool is quite nice. Pat took this pic with her cell phone this morning, it gets much busier in the afternoon. The photo shows only a part of the actual pool, it's got waterfall grottos, a decent water slide (which we enjoyed many times), and a bar... very important for vacationing sun worshippers. The resort itself is quite large, almost looks as though it was two or three resorts combined at a later point, and has a tram and water taxis to get you from one point to the next if you aren't into a long walk. In addition to the pool, there's a nice central lagoon which is hooked to the ocean, so it has live fish and turtles. The Waikoloa Hilton also features a dolphin habitat. Overall, I'd have to rank the Waikoloa Hilton as much more interesting and relaxing than the Hilton Hawaiian Village in Honolulu.

The Hilton does have an onsite dive operator, which I know little about. It seems relatively few divers dive both the Waikoloa area and Kona, usually sticking to one or the other so I get few real comparisons for the diving. One thing I have noticed from visits, and hear about from customers, is that the tradewinds do affect chop conditions up in that area as the day progresses... I can't say from experience how that affects the diving in A-bay (locals call the bay the Hilton is located on the edge of "A-bay" for short... I think the real name is "Abaywhosnameisnearlyimpossibletopronouncecorrectly Bay")specifically, but I've got to wonder if it disturbs the visibility at times. If you are staying up at the Hilton and scuba diving, do think about giving Kona diving a shot, especially if the afternoon winds are an issue as south of the airport there are few tradewinds. Most of us Kona operators leave out of Honokohau Harbor, which is roughly 25 miles to the south of the resort, just 4 miles south of the Kona airport. Feel free to click on my Wanna Dive link to the right of this post to find out about my dive operation.

This morning Pat and I took the time to check out the new malls... Queens Shops at Waikoloa and the Shops at the Mauna Lani. They're coming along, still adding businesses, but are nice shopping venues. It was nice to get away for a day.

Gotta go downstairs and clean the vacation rental... new vistors coming in tomorrow.



Friday, July 11, 2008

I feel like posting another Kona Hawaii frogfish photo....

I just rescued this photo from the forgotten bin. It was a little underexposed and I'd basically ignored it, but thanks to the fact that I shoot in RAW it was quite saveable. We saw this one on a dive last month and I haven't posted a photo of it yet.

Road construction update... Whoohoo!!! Kona has a new highway... sorta kinda anyways...

They opened up the north bound lanes of the highway from Palani Road to Honokohau Harbor the other day. This hopefully will really speed up traffic to the north in the mornings from here on. They still have about a half a year's work, at least, on the south bound lanes and the area between Palani and Henry Street. I'll try to take some photos of the work in the next little bit.

Yesterday was a fun day, we had a certified diver and two intros, so both Cathy and Bob were on board as we don't mix students and certified divers unless it's a family thing. Everyone had good dives. Cathy and her diver had a 15-20 foot pelagic manta ray swim up to them. The pelagic rays are open ocean rays and are slightly different than the resident ones we typically see... big and solid black with a white saddle. She said the remoras that were tagging along with this one had to be 10 pounds each, which is huge compared to the little ones we see on the local rays.

So here's an almost irritatingly too close closeup of a Banded Coral Shrimp (Stenopus hispidus). I was playing with the new closeup lens.



Wednesday, July 09, 2008

The ocean is full of color...

And yesterday afternoon we could color it kinda green. During the first dive yesterday (Golden Arches)the viz wasn't so great, but not all that bad. It was a three tank dive day so we went quite a bit north for our second dive, and it wasn't too bad for viz. On the third dive we came back in to the Pine Trees area to do Aquarium and Suck 'Em Up... now that dive had poor viz. It was down to maybe 20 feet or so by then. We had some kind of unusual algae bloom or coral spawn or something. I've seen really heavy algae blooms diving twice since I moved here in '99, it usually lasts for a couple of days.

It was a fun day of diving though. The sky north of Kailua was clear, with little vog and beautiful "puffy" clouds in the distance.... I should have taken a picture, it was gorgeous. We could see Maui from the water. The water temperature has bumped up nicely, I saw 79 degrees my entire dive. The seas were very flat and we were doing a three tanker with a couple of very good divers from Oahu so we took them to a special spot we don't make it to often due to water conditions, distance and such. I got to dive the second dive so it was a blast for me, Cathy dove the other two dives. I'm betting the divers were tired... first dive 77 minutes, second dive 100 minutes and the third was 60 something (the divers were getting cold at that point, despite the extra shorties we threw on them... nearly 4 hours underwater dims your furnace).

Speaking of color, the photo at the top of the post is a closeup of a Fried Egg Nudibranch, one of our most common sea slugs here. Here's the full photo, it wasn't one of my best efforts, but in good focus for the cropped version.

I thought I'd post another interesting blog... I earlier posted a blog from Saipan, this one's from an obviously enthusiastic California Diver and has a bunch of local shots, both above and below. Some people knock cold water diving, but there's a lot of color if you can get past the freezing. I'm looking forward (well sort of anyway) to one day doing some cold water diving again now that I have more of an eye for little stuff than I had back in the day when I was diving in Oregon.



Monday, July 07, 2008

Manta ray cleaning station...

The water's finally warming up and getting to more summer-time like conditions. We've been seeing mostly 77 degrees off Kona with the occasional 79 the last couple of weeks.

Today I'm cleaning the vacation rental for our next renters who come in tomorrow, then I have a night dive tonight with day trips the next several days. I thought I was going to have more time off than I wanted, but suddenly I booked an extra 12 or so charters... that's nice, but I'm still hoping for more divers to add on to those days... gotta keep busy!

I'm stealing a couple of photos from Bob for this post. He was leading a dive the other week when a manta ray came by for a cleaning. The mantas will come to the reef and look for a cleaner wrasse. When one comes in to pick parasites off them they typically will circle around in slightly larger concentric circles in an effort to find more cleaner wrasses. Sometimes you'll see mantas with numerous wrasses working them over. If you look real hard, you can see a small wrasse just below the manta in the second photo. I belive Bob's group had the manta hang out for several minutes during this dive.



Friday, July 04, 2008

Happy Independance day.... I stink!

I took the day off yesterday to deal with my new trailer.... Last year I had my boat trailer get a crack in one of the crossbars and I took it to my mechanic to tack together, he said he could fix it and it'd maybe run 1500, which I figured beats a new trailer at 7 grand. Well, he sold me a bill of goods and it cost much higher, to where I'd definitely picked up a new trailer instead of a 1 or 2 year fix. Little things are now starting to happen with the old trailer so it's time to pick up a shiny new aluminum trailer that should last several years with little trouble...

So yesterday was the swap out, lots of sun, a little sweat and such, then it was time to take the old trailer home to pound out the rust and give it a coat of primer so I can sell it as it's not in bad shape at all, especially for a lighter boat. Well, getting it home wasn't a piece of cake as we live in a jungle with an 8 foot wide access road and it's a 9 foot wide trailer. To top it off, all of the water lines here are surface lines, and ours sticks out close to the access road... close enough to be eaten by oversized trailers towed by idiots... so yesterday afternoon was spent making several trips to the local Ace Hardware - I can't get Connie Stevens and Suzanne Sommers out of my head now... "Ace is the place with the helpful hardware man" - to try to get supplies. I'm attempting to fix the water lines in the rainy jungle and gettting all muddy and such and in the end realize I'm gonna need a compression fitting, by then it's dark and getting towards Ace's closing time so it's time call Pat and tell her I'm an idiot and broke the water line and that she should plan for no water 'til sometime today...

Ok, we're half way prepared for "no water" situations as our lines used to break every time the fruit fell (we've since replaced most of the PVC pipe with driscol pipe, which is much stronger, yesterday's boo-boo involved galvanized pipe though). We always keep a five gallon container full of water to be used for a flush or two if needed, along with several cases of bottled water. To clean up it's a quick "bath" to knock off the mud with Diaperene wash cloths, which we keep just for such emergencies, and done for the evening. Pat had arranged for her morning shower at a friend's place so she wasn't overly bothered by the turn of events.

I just finished getting the compression fitting in place, and am waiting for some PVC cement to set on some PVC I did use, then will turn on the water at the street and hope it all holds. I NEED A SHOWER!!! I STINK!!! We'll probabaly break down and bring in someone who can change out and reroute the old galvanized pipe with driscol or something similar and permanently (at least 'til the wild boars figure out there's water in that black pipe - our uphill neighbors have pig attacks on their water lines every few years) solve the water problems.

I have a night dive tonight, so I'm hoping this fix does the job and I don't have to spend my whole day dealing with this.

The picture above is of an Undulated Moray (Gymnothorax undulatus) hunting at night. We see these guys a lot on the manta dive when we tour the reef at the end.