Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Happy New Year!!!

Just an early happy new year wish for all as I'm going to be too busy to post for a few days. We've been busy the last couple of days and it'll stay that way through the holiday and then some. I may have some time to post after the 2nd or 3rd of the year.

Kona water conditions, at least for diving, have been superb the last few days, horrible for surfing as it's been glassy flat in the mornings with only some small chop in the afternoons. Hopefully it'll stay at least close to flat the next few days. We've been seeing lots of cool stuff on the dives lately, but we're still waiting for the big prize.... Whalesharks. This time of year seems to be the time that people are seeing them. My wife's boss saw them while he was fishing down south on the weekend and we've heard of other reports in the area. I'll be keeping my eyes open for a collection of boats on the water the next several days - when one boat finds one, then soon there are several as the whalesharks often stay put and check out the boats for some time.

Here's a shot of a frogfish I took back in May that I apparently haven't posted. We're seeing mostly larger ones right now, although the divers found a bright yellow medium sized one earlier today that we've not seen before.

Hopefully everyone has a great holiday.



Sunday, December 28, 2008

Another great day of diving in Kona today....

It was very nice conditions for today's charter. We did have some wind chop pick up after the first dive started. Today we had a couple of very nice dives.... 6, yes SIX, octopus were seen between the two dives... that's darned amazing, I think the most I've seen on a day were 3 and that was a very good day. Also seen were frogfish, several razor wrasses, several divided flatworms and nudibranchs as well as many other things.
We also had a nice active group of spinner dolphins jumping and twirling all over the place as we returned to the harbor.... always fun to see.

I hope everyone's Christmas holiday was a good one. Both Pat and I had three days off (I hate to even admit that, but it's been slow for even some of the bigger dive businesses here) and Pat and I did some things around the house and relaxed otherwise. I've got charters 10 of the next 11 days so far, so it all evens out in the end. This dive "season" has been a bit weird. I've actually had a good December, but Christmas week didn't book up a month or more in advance like last year, and then I had those three days off while the rest of the week was a pretty full boat. It'll be interesting to see what the upcoming months bring.

So here's a shot of the boat from this morning. I get people inquiring about the boat, some people are concerned by the size. It's not a huge boat by any means, but it's not a dinghy or a crowded panga either, so I thought I'd post a pic. Pat's at the back end of the boat, she went out for the day with us and took some cool pictures, I'll see if I can get some out of her.

I haven't been diving the last 5 weeks or so, so that's why most of my recent pics are topside or by Pat... that probably changes in the next couple of days... Never get old if you can help it! This turning 50 thing got me into the fitness kick, and sometimes, especially when you haven't exercised in 30 years or so, it's best to break back into it a bit slowly I guess. I'm thinking crunches on a big ball did me in. I feel normal the last two days for the first time in weeks so I think I'll take it slower this time. ....Anyway, I can't wait to get back in the water again.

Tonight I get a shot at my annual cry.... "The Sound of Music" is on ABC. That one almost always does me in for some reason.



Tuesday, December 23, 2008

It's two days before Christmas, and you couldn't pick a better day for diving conditions in Kona...

I hope this keeps up for a bit.

Untitled from Steve on Vimeo.

We had dolphins just outside the harbor, whales on the water on the way to the first dive, whales about a third of a mile outside the divesite on the second dive (they weren't singing, so the divers were unaware of them but I got a good look), and the divers saw a lot of good stuff on their dives.



Sunday, December 21, 2008

Fuchsia Flatworm (Pseudoceros ferrugineus) - Wooohooo, my business is certified terrorist free!!!!

OK, so that's a weird title. The first part is obvious... it's a picture of a fuchsia flatworm that Pat took a while back. These usually top out at about two inches in length and we're always thrilled to see them... the second part is not so obvious unless you are a Captain...

A while back the TSA put in new regulations that basically stated any Coast Guard Captain or worker that had to enter a secure port has to go through a Homeland Security background check. The Coast Guard decided that read "any Coast Guard Captain, or any worker that had to enter a secure port" and now requires all Captains to go through the background check whether they ever need to go into a secure port or not. Funny thing is, we all have to go through a Homeland Security background check just to get the original or renewed Captain's license anyway, so it's a redundant background check.

So now Bob, Cathy and I have these fancy new digital ID chip embedded security cards we have to carry around for basically no reason. Technically, if the local Guard wants to enforce it, if we're not carrying them and they board us we can lose our licenses. The sad thing is, it's strictly a TSA ID card, and isn't acceptable as ID proof of being a Captain if we get boarded by the Coast Guard so we've still got to haul around our jumbo licenses every time we're on a boat. It'll be curious if we'll ever need to show them... they don't even have date of birth on them so they're useless as proof of age ID (you never know, we're all over 50 and maybe qualify for some sort of senior discount somewhere).



Saturday, December 20, 2008

It's a banana buffet....

It's a bright sunny day today in Kona an the day geckos are out in force looking for fruit. We've had a bunch of bananas ripening and there were geckos crawling all over them.



Friday, December 19, 2008

...the sharks at this site, their mouths are this big....

Here's a shot of Cathy giving a pre-dive briefing. OK, she's not really talking about sharks, probably something more innocuous like the length of coronet fish. At each site we like to talk about the things you are likely to see at the site. Many fish are territorial and so at most of our sites we've got a good idea of what you'll see and we try to point out a few highlights before the dive.

So our yucky weather and water conditions last week was relatively short lived. It's been gorgeous out on the water the last few days. They were predicting a big swell by now last weekend... couldn't tell it by today as it was nice and flat. We've seen lots of neat stuff the last few days. The highlight of yesterday and today both was dolphins underwater. We were up at "Hoover's" up by the airport yesterday on the second dive and there was a huge group of dolphins that came by spread out from around the corner up north during the dive, the divers saw about 30 of them, they came down to the boat and turned around and passed our divers again... but this time they all passed right over and around our divers, Cathy figured there were at least a 100 that they saw on that pass. Today Bob did Naia/Crescent Beach/Manta Ray bay (or whatever it's called, depending on the operator) on the second dive and had 12-15 or so come by him and his diver (very light load the last couple of days, several companies didn't even go out today).

The water temp is still in the upper 70's, but it's feeling a bit cooler. Tomorrow we're doing a night dive trip. We did one earlier in the week and had 2 mantas early on, but only one stayed for the bulk of the dive. One's enough to give a pretty good show, but we love it when there's more.



Friday, December 12, 2008

Winter snow season has arrived in Hawaii...

I took the liberty of stealing this picture off the Keck observatory webcam on this webcam page that has live webcam shots of Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa. I'm not sure if this is one of the first snows of the year or not up there, but it was a pretty good snowfall by the looks of it.

We had a heck of a squall come through yesterday. My boat was already out and the surf was coming in crazy tight sets from the south so Cathy and Bob stayed right outside the harbor where it's protected from the south. I had a medical appointment yesterday so I was off the boat. The rain hit hard about noon time yesterday. The Big Island was soaking, but the most rain fell on the other islands... parts of Oahu got over 14 inches of rain yesterday!

Today the flood warnings are up 'til 4pm, but it's not raining right now. I looked at the Magic Seaweed Hawaii surf page last night and they were predicting 7 foot surf from due west for today, and called the divers and we decided to take a breather from today. We rarely see surf from straight west, usually it's north or south and easy to get out of. I haven't been out yet to see if the surf materialized, but if it does it won't be a pleasant day for diving anywhere on the Kona side.

Brrrrrr, it's cold.


Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Fourspot Butterflyfish (Chaetodon quadrimaculatus)

Here's a shot of a couple 4 Spot butterfly fish that Pat took. These guys are quite attractive and fairly common, but I'm thinking they're somewhat under appreciated as I can't recall ever hearing any divemaster brief for them. We see them picking in and around corals on the reef quite often.

So our surf went down Saturday night and Sunday morning it was like glass out on the water 'til the wind picked up later on the day. This particular surf episode messed things up for about 2 days. I didn't take my camera as I wasn't diving (got some kind of infection/bug that'll keep me out of the water for a few days) and I regretted it as Sunday morning was one of those days you could see the reflections of the clouds on the water. When we got to our mooring, the water was exceptionally clear. It's amazing how it can go from nasty surf to great conditions overnight here - One of the nice thing about a young island is that the shore is mostly rock so there's little sand or soil to get stirred up and keep the viz down. Anyways, the last couple of days the diving's been terrific... 2 frogfish, a shark, dolphins underwater, a hawksbill turtle and a whole lot more for the divers. Water temp is inching down to 77/78 degrees but hasn't taken a big drop just yet.

Starting Thursday, I'll probably be running charters at least once a day for the rest of the month. I still have a couple days wide open Christmas week and several spots to fill on most of the days, but the month's filling in fast.



Saturday, December 06, 2008

Bluefin Trevally, one of the jacks we see most frequently in Kona....

Here's a cool shot Pat took of a Bluefin Trevally (Caranx melampygus) on a dive. This one's a pretty good sized one. We run into them patrolling the edge of the dropoffs fairly frequently.

The surf's up this weekend. Yesterday was really pretty bad, borderline diveable. It was down some today and we have a charter set for tomorrow. We'll take a look at it in the morning tomorrow. According to This great surf site we'll probably have 5 foot surf in the morning. It all depends on the angle it's coming in at that point as far as whether we can find good spots to dive, 5-6' stuff is usually quite doable this time of year, when it comes in straight from the west it can be a mess, but if it's from the north we can usually tuck into a flat spot.

We've been messing with computers yesterday and today. My "main" computer I've used since I started the business died about a year ago and I've been unable to access my website program since. I finally was able to retrieve the site information and get it loaded on an XP machine so I can edit the site again. My new "main" computer I picked up last year has done fine for everything but the website, my old copy of Frontpage isn't compatible with Vista, and lately it's been getting buggy and locking up on me..... rats. It looks like it's time to reformat. We're trying everything short of that today, reformatting is next. A lot of this stuff is beyond me, but luckily Pat's quite computer savvy. I'm trying to sneak a post in before the computer crashes again.



Thursday, December 04, 2008

OK, I don't normally post pictures/videos other than one's I'm sort of directly involved with... but. this one I really like....

This showed up on my google homepage and it's something I've talked about with customers from time to time over the last few years as it's something I read on the net back at least 3-5 years ago.

Watch the video first or I guess I'm giving it away... a few years back they started finding dogfish shark carcasses in the big display at the Seattle aquarium. Employees spent the night to see if they could figure out what was going on and a video showed up on the net, I'm thinking this is a re-edited version unless another public aquarium has had the same experience.

Back in the day when I dove off Newport, Oregon with my Instructor and his buddies, they'd come up talking about the octopus they'd found.... meanwhile, I saw nothing.... it was early in my diving days and I still had "tunnel vision" and more or less focused on what was directly in front of me. I remember one of them saying they found one they didn't even want to think about touching, that it might get too much of a hold on them. It appears these critters can be pretty darned strong.



Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Time to fly rules.... what about driving to altitude on the Big Island of Hawaii after scuba diving in Kona?

Here's a shot Pat took of one of the white tip reef sharks that occasionally hangs out in the mouth of "suck 'em up", a lava tube we have here in Kona.

I thought I'd write a post about something that comes up for divers on the Big Island from time to time.... Driving to altitude after diving. Many visiting divers, and some that live here, don't give it a second thought, they seem to forget that not only is the Island of Hawaii BIG... it's TALL too.

For the non-divers reading this, when you go through scuba certification classes one of the things taught is the use of dive tables to track your nitrogen loading, or computer use that will do the tables for you on the dive, and the time to fly rules. I'll give a brief over-simplified version of what it's all about... Nitrogen comprises the bulk of the air we breathe, and normally it's inert and our bodies do not absorb it, but when we breathe compressed air at depth our bodies absorb nitrogen. Sudden loss of pressure, such as flying in an airplane or driving to altitude, can cause that nitrogen to fizz out of solution and cause all sorts of problems with your body. In essence what happens is similar to opening a pop bottle, the dissolved gas fizzes out of solution, but when the dissolved gas is in your blood and it fizzes out of solution into your joints and such, you're in trouble. Anyway, the easy to use guidelines you are taught in your Open Water course are to avoid this.

Most visiting divers do think about the time to fly rules... no flights within 18-24 hours of diving is common... but some think inter-island flights don't qualify as "flying" for some reason and I get the question asked of me several times a year. It's all airplanes, they fly well above the altitudes they're pressured to (generally airplanes are pressurized to an equivalent of 7000-8000 feet altitudes), so yes, inter-island flying has the same recommendations. Lots of people though tend to forget that you can drive to altitude here on the island, often times to altitudes well higher than what you'd find an airplane pressurized to. It's important to be aware of elevation changes while driving too.

Currently, I'm thinking DAN and PADI are typically suggesting you should be safely able to drive to somewhere between 1000 and 2000 foot elevations after diving without worry... don't quote me on that as I'd have to look it up to be certain. Above that elevation they're very vague. I've heard recommendations for driving to altitudes over that which are all over the board.

You can NOT drive between the Kona side of the island and the Hilo side of the island without going well above 2000 feet in elevation. The southern route will put you well over 4000 feet in the volcano area. The northern route runs through Waimea, which is at 2500 feet, and you're heading uphill when leaving Waimea, so you need to consider it to be at least 3000 feet - I don't know what the altitude peaks at on that highway. Over the top via Saddle Road, you might as well consider it to be a flight, as it approaches 7000 feet at the summit of the road. The observatories should be considered extreme altitudes, and I personally wouldn't visit them for at least a couple days after diving.

So, what do you do? The only guide I've seen on this is by NOAA. Here are the NOAA dive tables. Dive tables are only a guide, and even their no-decompression tables carry this warning: "WARNING: EVEN STRICT COMPLIANCE WITH THESE CHARTS

Anyways, to give you an idea of the time you need before heading to the other side of the island you can use their no-decompression tables and then follow up with their driving to altitude table. I'll run a relatively common, and non-aggressive dive profile run on their tables just to give you an idea.... 1st dive - 50 feet for 50 minutes, an hour and a quarter surface interval, 2nd dive - 40 feet for 50 minutes. Running that you you'll end up with a K group letter. Going to their altitude after diving chart, as a K diver you are recommended to spend at least 6 hours and 25 minutes out of the water before driving to 3000 feet, say Waimea. If the dives were any deeper or any longer, and those dives I just ran were very conservative, we often do dive days that would put you in a much higher group letter, the time you'd need to spend at sea level would be even greater.

Now in real life, there are people diving here and driving back to the other side on occasion without problems. I did hear a rumor that someone took a DCS hit driving to Waimea in the last year or two, but I can't substantiate it though. So what happens if you take a DCS hit? You're looking at a private helicopter flight over to Oahu and then a few days in the chamber is my best guess. Last numbers I heard bantied around for the cost of this (not sure if they were accurate numbers though) were fairly similar to the numbers I heard for a week's stay at the Presidential Suite at the Four Seasons... Not cheap! For me it's not worth trying to go to the other side of the island after diving. I personally won't go to Hilo after I dive 'til the next day, and if I was diving Hilo side, I'd probably rent a hotel room for the night before coming back.

Just some food for thought... before you dive and drive, you might want to pay attention to the elevation here. For most of Kona you're in pretty good shape to drive after diving if you stay below the upper highway. Above that you maybe should think about elevations and maybe spending some extra time at sea level.



Monday, December 01, 2008

Wheeeee!!!! I can fly!!!!!!

Here's a shot that Pat took on a dive some time ago. When I look at this turtle, all I can think of is that it's flying.

So I may owe someone an apology... I'm responding to e-mail this morning and the phone rings... it's a "private caller" according to my caller ID. I pick it up and get a MUCH larger than life "HI STEVE" pause "HOW ARE YOU THIS VERY FINE MONDAY MORNING" pause pause pause... I didn't respond immediately because lately I've been getting lots of sales calls with more or less the same opening, and any time I've responded they'll continue on without stating what they're calling about for more exchanges and I'm getting real tired of it. I used to play along with those calls for a while, but today I just wasn't into it. If the person who called was an actual potential customer, I really do owe them an apology.

Anyways, when I get a phone call from a blocked sender, it automatically ups the odds that it's from a salesperson about nine times, when I get the much bigger than life super-friendly person on the other end of the line the odds that it's a salesman skyrockets- in fact, I can recall only one non-sales phone call ever where it was a much larger than life caller, but that one had a name behind it on the caller ID. Hopefully I didn't ruin someone's day, I need to decide how I'll handle those calls in the future.

So other than that... It's a gorgeous day in Kona today. We've got a nice breeze and the vog's gone for now. The surf's up a bit, should be coming down for tomorrow's charter.