Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas everyone... + always keep one eye into the blue when possible....

Here's another shot forwarded by customer Jim. This one was taken on his second dive ever with a camera... keeps getting decent shots. Makes me want to get some add-ons for my camera. This particular shot gave all of us a kick. Bob was showing customers a pincushion star, and the small crab or shrimp that lived on it, and Jim took the picture. It was only later after he was looking at the photo that he noticed what was in the background.... DOLPHINS!!!!! Make sure to click on the pic for the enlarged view. Jim actually managed to get a couple shots off that had dolphins in the background that none of us knew were even there. It happens, you can't hear them if they're not making noise. It's easy to miss things going on around you.

Today was a wonderful Christmas diving day. We did a night dive last night (14-15 manta rays, what a nice Christmas Eve) and got back into the harbor before a thunderstorm hit us - man it hit hard, we were standing in running water while cleaning the boat. Today was sunny and calm. We did a couple very nice dives. Highlights were Flame angels, Flame wrasses, Divided flatworms, Nudibranchs, Curious Wormfish, Octopus, a Tiger moray, lots of eels and more. It was pretty quiet on the water today, I only saw two other dive companies out, along with a couple of dolphin watch/snorkel companies. Nice day for a boat ride.



Friday, December 24, 2010

Bi-color anthias Kona Hawaii...

OK, I'll do something a little different. I'm posting a photo that customer Jim forwarded to me that I find interesting. It's of Bob (one of our guides) and a group of anthias.

Back in the day, there used to be a dive spot called "anthias rock" up in Garden Eel Cove that the dive charters used to go to. It was a rock in 102 or so feet of water that had maybe 4-6 anthias on it. We had a terrific high surf several winters ago that basically buried all but the top of the rock and the anthias site was no more... same surf episode moved the garden eels about 20 feet deeper than they had been prior to that. At some point, divers started visiting a rock out in the sand off one of our other sites to see the anthias that were living at it (anthias often will congregate around a rock out in the middle of nowhere). The last year or so this rock has really become well populated with anthias, tends also to have cleaner shrimp and eels hanging out at it too, so it's an interesting spot.

This particular photo was taken on our customer's very first dive with a housed camera... nice shot! It took me several dives with a camera to come up with something I consider to be a "keeper". He happpens to have the same camera I now own, but with a nice strobe and a wide angle lens with a domed port. The wide angle makes for an interesting perspective, and keeps pretty much all of the scene in focus as well. I'll probably move that direction with my gear at some point.

So I came down with a nasty chest cold for about a month after my trip. I'm pretty much over the caughing and back to diving again. Water conditions have been holding up pretty well, with a bit of a swell that really doesn't affect us much. Last couple nights we've had thunderstorms in the Kailua area - rare event here - we're doing a night dive tonight, hopefully that won't occur again.



Friday, December 17, 2010

Leaf Scorpion fish in Kona Hawaii...

I just found this picture on a laptop I'm about ready to "retire" and thought I'd post it while it's on my mind. It's a nice "white" leaf scorpion. Leaf scorpions come in all variety of colors. I probably never posted this one because it's not exactly facing the direction I want.

Today's diving was good. The water's starting to get a slight chill on it... still around 78, but it's a cool 78 I guess. I managed to come home from vacation feeling fine, but 2 days later I had something attack my chest... lots of caughing for a couple of weeks, but I'm back to where I can lead dives again so I'll be trading off with the crew. I did the second dive today, there was a bit of a swell coming up so it was a bit murky, viz down to 70-80 feet or so. Nothing out of the ordinary today, we did see a few flame angelfish among other things, good dive.



Thursday, December 16, 2010

Several manta rays on the Kona Manta Ray Night Dive last night...

Manta rays visit scuba divers in Kona Hawaii from Steve on Vimeo.

We went north of Honokohau Harbor up to the Kona Airport site for the manta dive last night. Our divers saw one manta ray on the afternoon dive, that's always a good sing. On the night dive it was obvious there were several rays that had shown up - all the snorkelers from the other boats were squealing with delight.

There were 7 or 8 mantas hanging around and everyone had a teriffic time. Here's a short video from a while back on a night there were a few mantas at the dive. It looks like there were only 4 or so in this video, once the numbers get up a bit higher it can be a manta madhouse.

Hopefully it'll keep busy with mantas through the Christmas season. We're looking to be pretty darned busy... Ive got today off, then my next empty day is the 5th of January.



Saturday, December 11, 2010

Back to the fishes....

I kind of drifted away from posting about the diving. I'll get back to it now.

So far, with the exception of last night (ended up being a lot of rain and a lot of wind), the diving's been very good this month. We've had 78 degree water and it's been mostly flat, some days lake flat. We've had several days with sightings of dolphins underwater, the whales are starting to show up (although we're not hearing them yet), the mantas have still been around (although we had to go south last week one night to gind them) and we're keeping busy diving.

Here's a shot of a nice antler coral. We're always taking a peek into these as we pass, they attract a lot of critters and you never know what you'll find.



Lots of snow fell uphill last night, it's gorgeous today in Kona Hawaii....

Yesterday the island had it's first major snowfall of the season. Here's a link to the webcams up on Mauna Kea.

The Big Island sees it's share of snow just about every year. I'm not sure how often it snows on Haleakala over in Maui. Last time Oahu got snow on was in March of 1953 as far as I can tell.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Kona Hawaii Weather NOW... kinda yucky today...

On Wednesday they started putting out civil defense alerts for flash flooding for the island starting on Thursday evening, it finally started raining about an hour ago, call it 10:30 Friday morning. Kauai and Oahu had some good rains and wind damage yesterday, Maui started raining overnight, we'll see how it is here. This is what it looks like outside my house right now. I'm only 2 miles from the ocean and normally we can see the shoreline, the ocean and a whole lot of sky... now it's just gray space beyond our yard.

Click here for the current weather loop. Note: if you're looking at this on another day, it'll be current for then, not December 10th, 2010. Subtract 10 hours from the UTC time to get current Hawaii Standard Time.

I've cancelled tonight's charter. Frankly, it'll be very wet at the very least, if thunderstorms come up it'll be dangerous. Everyone's better off waiting a day or two if they can.

So today I'm running errands. I just ordered essentially a thousand bucks worth of pegboard accessories for the shop. It's not cheap setting up a retail store. I'll be unpacking boxes all day tomorrow and maybe into Sunday, then I gotta figure out where to put it and wait for the next shipments to come in.

Christmas season is almost fully booked, a week ago I had a couple charters booked, now I've got charters every day from the 17th through the third, and a good portion of them are already full... lots of phone calls the last week. Hopefully this is our only storm coming through the next few weeks. From the doppler, it's looking to be the longest stretch of rain (meaning 12+ hours) we've had in Kona in about two years. We don't typically get all day rains.

It's been gorgeous here for a couple of weeks.
Here's a shot of a sunset 3-4 evenings ago... it's getting to be that season where the sunsets are particularly gorgeous at our house. I suspect by tomorrow night we'll be seeing sunsets again.



Wednesday, December 08, 2010

My vacation post...

Well, I took a vacation in November for a couple of weeks... Phoenix area and Vegas, with the DEMA dive show being the focus of the end of the trip. I haven't posted other than a couple of times in the trip, so I'll try to get back into it. Rather than bore you with DEMA reports, I'll bore you with highlights of my trip.

First and foremost...

After that it was pretty much all downhill.

Actually, a customer we had on the boat the week before the trip knew Phoenix and recommended we go to Gallo Blanco, a small mexican place that was real good. It was close to the airport so we decided to do lunch there after landing. This is a shot of the tacos and a torta we had. They were wonderful. It's a really good little spot for some good mexican food for a good price... she didn't even mention the urinals!

Here's a bunch more photos from the trip.

We hit a zoo/aquarium, ate more food, saw some Vegas, ate at the Horny
Toad in Cave Creek Arizona(who's motto "Enter yourself and enjoy" is a classic. Mannaged to see an ancient Indian cliff dwelling. It was an interesting spot, sort of idyllic with a river, flat area beneath the cliffs to grow crops. Interesting it went vacant around 1500 or so.

We were able to spend some time with our parents on the front end of the Vegas portion of the trip... good fun for us as we don't get to see them all that often.

All in all we did a whole lot of very little. I'll close with a shot of my 52nd birthday dinner meal - a 22 inch loaded hot dog at Alice Cooper's restaurant in Phoenix. Now I can say "been there, done that", if not for the fries, two would have been a cinch to eat.

That's it for a vacation report, I'll spare you the details of DEMA other than it was a pretty busy show.... lots of dive stuff to look at.



Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Frogfish with lure fishing in Kona Hawaii.....

I've been on vacation for about 10 days and haven't spent much time on the computer. I'm all settled down for the dive industry show in Vegas so I thought I'd post one last fish photo before the posts become DEMA realted the next couple of days.

I took this shot in about 15 feet of water kinda swinging back and forth in the surge. This is a pretty decent sized frogfish, and I didn't realized at the time I took the photo that he was "fishing". Frogfish are a member of the angler family, they have small "lures" they wiggle to attract small fish. You can see the lure off the center of it's forehead, it appears to be a small feathery object on a thread. They'll wiggle that appendage 'til something comes along to eat it, then they'll eat the unsuspecting fish. They're jaws can sort of hinge and separate to where they can eat a fish of quite some size, and the strike is very very fast... I think I remember reading the strike was in the 16/10,000ths of a second range. It's regarded to be among the fastest movements (certainly eating strikes) in the animal kingdom.



Thursday, November 11, 2010

My lips are cracked... My nose is bleeding... I'm on vacation...

I haven't been off island for more than 10 hours (quick Oahu day trip) in over two years and it's getting to be time to get away. We've got friends that have a house in Arizona, who also love visiting Kona, so a trade was in order. Going from an extended time in medium/high humidity to zip for humidity does a number on the lips, nose and sinuses every time. Lots of chapstick and saline spray are in order... holpefully it'll settle down in the next few days.... I brought my neti pot (if you don't know what a neti pot is, do a youtube search, you'll be enlightened) just in case, but for now am trying saline spray to keep from totally drying out.

We'll be not running charters for the next short while, but will be running them again come the end of next week or so, so I'm still trying to answer e-mail and the phone for scheduling purposes... it can take a day or two right now, come this weekend I'll be settled to where I can respond quickly.

Here's a couple of lined butterflyfish. They're Hawaii's largest butterflyfish, significantly larger than most other species.



Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Spent 164 minutes underwater in Kona yesterday....

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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



Thursday, October 21, 2010

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

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

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

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


Another nice day in Kona...

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

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



Wednesday, October 20, 2010

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

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

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

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

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



Tuesday, October 19, 2010

"My best dive ever!"...

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

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

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

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

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



Sunday, October 17, 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



Sunday, October 03, 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



Monday, September 27, 2010

In the middle of a long stretch of's an underwater video...

Haven't posted in a bit. Here's a quick video I took while playing around between dives for a minute. We've been having back to back swells come in so the viz has been a bit down on several of our dives, call it 70-80 feet on the bad days in some spots, more in others. The video makes it look worse than it was, it was a cloudy day and the quality's not quite what it should be.



Thursday, September 16, 2010

Painted Church, South Kona, Painted church road above Honaunau Bay in Captain Cook Hawaii....

I'm playing with the new Olympus ib software for the Pen e-pl1 and other recent cameras. I went down to the Painted Church down the road from where I live in Captain Cook. It's a local landmark. It's an older church, and the minister at the time, having a fair number of parishoners that weren't all that literate (written language was relatively new to Hawaii at the time), painted pictures to help illustrate his teachings. It's quite fabulous.

Anyways, I tried the panorama function that the Oly Pen camera has. You can set it in panorama mode, take pictures which have some lineup helps/prompters on the LCD, then go into the editing program and stitch it all together. This particualr image has three separate photos involved. One merging is pretty obvious, but really doesn't affect the image, the other is less obvious. I managed to merge RAW photos, but it doesn't allow a RAW editing afterwards, I'm hoping I can do a RAW editing then merge the photos... if this happens, then... YAHOO... I can go underwater and take panoramas that are color corrected. Give me a few days (possibly weeks, I've got a full schedule ahead starting Saturday for a couple weeks at least) to figure that one out.

Anyways, for a first panorama, and about 5 minutes in front of the computer, I'm happy.



I finally put a RAW editor for the Olympus Pen e-pl1 on my computer....

Well, it's about time. Unfortunately Adobe CS and CS3 don't support the Pen series of cameras, you need CS4 or later to find an update that'll support RAW editing for those cameras. The cameras come with Olympus' own editing and file management program. I'm working off two 4-5 year old computers and neither of them has a functioning DVD/CD drive, got on to Olympus' site this morning and downloaded their program. Yay. It's slower than Adobe's RAW editor, doesn't seem to do as many of the things I want to do, but it'll do 'til I get a new computer at some point in the future and load CS5 on to it.

I've only converted two shots so far, so I can't say much about the program. It does have a nice grey dropper white balance feature which works well for underwater shots... lots of greys on the reef with all of our hard corals. You can just put the dropper on a likely gray spot (OK, since this blog is read internationally I'm covering all my bases by interchangeablly using "gray" and "grey" I guess... Don't remember which one I should be using anymore) and click and the photo will hopefully go to it's natural color rather than the cyan/blue you typically get underwater. I should do some screen shots some day to show it. I tried it on a couple photos and they came out looking a bit too colorful, might have to tone down the saturation a bit on some pictures.

Here's a quick shot of a couple yellow tangs picking at algae amongst the finger corals. Tangs are herbivores and graze pretty much all day long. A lively reef will be coverered with numerous species of tangs.



Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Like snorkeling Kona? Try scuba! Discover diving intro dives are fun, no certification needed...

Kona Hawaii is blessed with a lot of the best snorkeling and scuba diving in the state. There's lots of great snorkeling and lots of people love it. If you're one of those people, keep intro dives in mind. With a short briefing and practice of a few skills on and just below the surface with a qualified instructor, you can be diving in no time.

Pretty much all the dive companies offer intro dives off of their boats. Due to the fact that Kona has excellent reefs next to shore, with drop offs and both deep and shallow water near the boat moorings, it's easy to put both intro divers and experienced divers on the same boat, give them separate instructors or guides, and tour the reef without interfering with each other's dive experience.

As an intro diver you'll be with an instructor at all times. You'll be shown a video or a flip chart explaining the what's, why's and how's of scuba diving, then do some practice before diving. Once everyone's comfortable with their skills,it's time to dive!!! Whoohoo!!! You'll generally be diving the very same reefs the experienced divers are diving, but there are some depth and other restrictions. Depth limit for intros with an instructor is to 40', most all of our best fish and reef life is in the top 40' of water so this works great. 40' sounds scary for some, but generally it's the top 10-20 feet where the nerves kick in if there are any apprehensions. Once down to the bottom of the moorings, most intro divers calm right down and are comfortable in quick order.... they're usually too amazed to be nervous by that point.

My recommendation to anyone curious about trying scuba for the first time is to plan the outing ahead, leave a couple days in advance open to get some snorkeling in... snorkeling in the days prior to intro dives increases the success rate immensely... and plan on having lots of fun! Standards can vary from dive agency to dive agency, but the biggest one allows up to 4 intro divers per instructor. I try to limit it to 3 intro divers per instructor on my charters, and I typcially don't mix groups with an instructor, so if there are only 2 of you, expect an instructor for yourselves and don't worry about extra divers competing for the instructor's attention. I reserve the right, if there's only 1 student, to add another student if the opportunity arises, but I think that's happened only once in the years I've been doing intros off my boat.

I'm not sure what other companies price their intros at, but I currently charge $189 for a single, or $159 each for two or more, for intro dives (September of '10, prices could change at some point down the line). That's 2 boat dives (we typically move for the second dive), all the gear, a light lunch and beverages and such, and the instruction. Other than Hawaii's 4.166% tax, it's all included in the price.

It's a great experience for most people that are comfortable snorkelers. If you're in the water a lot on your vacation, you might want to call a dive company (pick me, pick me) and give it a shot. Advance notice is helpful, it's a good idea to call or e-mail before the trip as there is a medical history waiver that may require a physician's signature involved... once you get to a certain age it's easy to have a health history that might need a signature, better to find out ahead of time than having to play the fax game back and forth with your doctor on short notice.

This is a great way to find out if you're interested in going for a scuba certification without any time or financial committments. If you decide you want to get certified after trying intro dives, you've pretty much done the hardest part (getting underwater that first time) and the class should be much easier after the experience.

Here's an underwater photo of a spotted puffer I saw while diving for fun on my day off yesterday. I found it interesting as it was quite golden brown, compared to the usual black with white spots we usually see.



Saturday, September 11, 2010

So every now and then, I kinda like a corny joke...

We had a customer on the boat telling a couple jokes... here's one I can repeat...

What do they charge for piercings at the Pirate tatoo parlor?

OK, this one is better heard than read...
A buck an ear.

I got a kick out of that one.

I'm down at the shop today, have charters tomorrow and Monday evening then a few days off if the phone doesn't ring in the meanwhile. The last half of the month looks pretty busy.

Here's a shot of a small whitemouth moray eel. These guys are our most common eel, sometimes we make it through an entire dive without seeing any, but that seems to be the minority of the time... Hawaii has lots of eels.

This is another pic that I photoshopped out the blue. I should write down the steps when I do that, this pic turned out pretty accurate for color.



Saturday, September 04, 2010

Raccoon Buttefly fish on the reef in Kona Hawaii....

Wonderful weather in Kona today... sunny skies, flat ocean. I had the day off, work the next 5-6 days at least as calls are coming in. Hopefully the great weather and water conditions continue.... this time of year there's a good chance of that.

Here's a school of raccoon butterfly fish I took a picture of the other day. Turned out OK for a jpeg shot. It had a fairly strong blue cast to it, but I was able to go into photoshop and get in to the selective colors and turn down the blues and cyans, and boost the magentas and yellows a hair then go to levels and get it looking closer to real. I wish I could do that consistantly, it worked reasonably well this time though.



Oregon State Beavers beat number 6 TCU Horned Frogs in upset win in college football....

OK, this is strictly an experiment. I'm seeing if my blog places well on google searches after the game, based on predicting the results of the game 7 hours before it starts... I may already be in the system before the game's over.

As you can tell, I'm a Beaver fan... lived in Corvallis for many years before coming over to Kona and went to Oregon State (my college experience is a whole 'nuther story in itself). I guess I could make up a headline predicting a different result in another post to really broaden the experiment in case it's not a Beaver victory, but I'm not going there. Go Beavers!

Note: game didn't turn out like I hoped... oh well. Expect this post to disappear in the next day or two.



Wednesday, September 01, 2010

We're coming into the best season / time of year for scuba diving in Kona Hawaii...

It's that time of year again... summer's over, crowds are down, water's warm and flat. We always look forward to September through November as it's probably the nicest water conditions of the year - not that they're bad at other times - it's just consistantly good for the most part.

We've had some really good diving lately. Been seeing lots of critters. Highlights of the last week or so have been frogfish, scorpion fish, flame angels, psychedelic wrasses, flame wrasses, a HAMMERHEAD!, leaf scorpions, and more. The manta ray night dive has been crazy busy, with both boats and mantas. We've been going out 2-3 night a week (a lot for us, we've only got 3 people to cover 7 days and 3 nights of diving) on top of the daily morning dives. Manta numbers have been in the teens the last couple weeks pretty much every night. The boat numbers on that dive are starting to shrink now that school's starting everywhere and tourist numbers are dropping.

Here's a nice frogfish that we've been watching grow. It's in the 5-6 inch length right now, was much smaller when Cathy found it earlier this summer. It's amazing how fast they grow. It's pretty "clean" and yellow right now. As they grow it'll get all sorts of red stuff growing on it (you can see it starting in spots) and start changing colors.



Sunday, August 22, 2010

Hawaiian Cleaner Wrasse (Labroides phthirophagus)

Here's a shot of a Hawaiian Cleaner Wrasse. This particular colorful little fish is endemic to Hawaii, not found in other parts of the world. Other species of cleaner wrasses can be found throughout the tropical Indo/Pacific, I'm not sure about the Red Sea but I suspect there's a similar species there. They are not found in the Caribbean, although there is a neon goby with similar markings and feeding habits.

Cleaner wrasses perform a valuable service to the reef community. Their diet consists primarily of parasites. Fish will solicit a "cleaning" from the wrasse, and the wrasse will work the fish over, removing anything that shouldn't belong there. You'll see even larger predator fish such as eels and groupers willingly let the cleaner wrasses enter their mouths and gills to pick at parasites.

I first learned about these guys back in my aquarium days... they're poor aquarium inhabitants. Their diet is primarily parasites and they typically starve to death in aquariums. This is a fish definitely best left on the reef.

I snapped this one on the spur of the moment as a damsel was begging for a cleaning. The new Olympus Pen was able to lock focus (well, close anyway) in a flash. I haven't been able to get a shot of these guys within several feet in the past as they dart practically every split second when you get close. I'm hoping some afternoon when I have time to really focus on getting a crisp clear shot of these.

Water temp is still hovering in that 78 degree range. We were hoping for a little higher by now, but apparently there's talk of a la Nina current coming in this year that'll keep things cooler.

Busy week this next week, day charters and a couple of night charters. We had 15 mantas on the night charter last week, heard it was around 20 last night... the manta dive is really hot right now. Things are starting to slow down, tail end of the summer tourist season... it's been a madhouse the last 3-4 weeks on that dive.



Saturday, August 21, 2010

First results with my Olympus e-pl1 underwater...

I took a quick dive yesterday with the new camera and underwater housing. First thoughts... a flash would be helpful... adn I need to shoot RAW. It was a very gray afternoon, and there was a pretty strong south swell, so the Place of Refuge was a bit more mucked up than usual... probably 60 foot of viz in the shallows and 80-90 at depth.

Wow! The camera reacted quickly, locks focus practically instantaneously compared to the cameras I've used in the past. I was using the underwater settings that are hidden on the camera... Olympus does a very poor job at explaining how to get at them in their manual, had to look it up on a message board, it's easy to get to and they have an underwater macro and underwater wide angle mode you can toggle back and forth between at will... more on that in another post. I spent most of the time just pointing at things using the underwater macro mode.

I took a bunch of photos, some of them turned out OK. The biggest issue was the dark day and lack of light made for typical underwater blueish photos. Without shooting in RAW, where you can adjust the white balance after the fact, and not taking time to custom white balance the photos underwater as I was taking them, I had to rely on my weak photoshop skills to get the proper colors on the fish. This photo of an Ornate Butterfly fish turned out pretty OK.

I'm off to the shop for the afternoon... open noon 'til 6 on weekends.


Friday, August 20, 2010

Olympus Pen PT-EP01 underwater housing for Oly's E-PL1 camera review...


I just received the housing for my Olympus E-pl1 camera. I refused the urge to go down the hill and do a dive with it today, tomorrow morning I'll have to. I took the time to read the manual, it actually comes with a reasonable sized manual, something I haven't seen with a lot of housings I've had before.

My first impressions are that it's well made. In the box comes the housing, o-ring, o-ring grease, dessicant packs, rubber LCD hood, a rigid lens cover. It also comes with an application for DEPP insurance. DEPP insures gear sets and underwater photo equipment. The housing features a new-ish locking system that Olympus has come with in the last couple of years that seems pretty good. The back of the housing is a transparent polycarbonate type of material. My only gripe is that only the bottom part of the back is polished to clear so you can readily see the o-ring and check for moisture... I'd like to see it polished to where you could see the entire o-ring to check on your seal. The buttons on the back of the housing are really nice, they're larger than I'm used to on other housings, and they're labeled nicely - almost better than the buttons on the camera are labeled.

I was happy to see the lens cover and LCD hood as the company that sold the housing had those available as "replacements" and I decided not to purchase them at the time. "Replacement" to me implies they come with the original purchase, but if you look up the housing on Olympus' site, they have the zoom gear ring listed as a "replacement" item, yet it does not come with the original purchase. I think Oly ought to change their website to say "optional" on the zoom gear, as the way they have it makes it unclear as to whether it comes with the original purchase or not. It doesn't. I did pick up the zoom gear as a separate purchase. The zoom gears are basically rubber gears that fit tightly around the camera lens which matches up with a small gear on the front of the housing so you can use the zoom. It's an extra 45 bucks, but well worth it. Different sizes of zoom gears are available, as the housing has been made to accept a couple different lenses and the gear needs to fit the specific lens.

The other purchase at the time of the order was the macro lens mount. It's a rigid plastic piece that fits over the front port of the housing and will accept 67 mil threaded lenses. I have an Inon 67 mil macro lens already so I'm set there. The lens adaptor is another 45 bucks... it all adds up.

The housing itself is pretty big compared to the Canon housing I had for my G9, but it's quite comparable to the size of the Ikelite housing I had for my Olympus 8080 several years back. The Olympus E-pl1 is one of the smallest interchangeable lens cameras available these days, and the housing is also. Olympus could have made the housing a bit smaller by eliminating the space for the optional electronic viewfinder. I'm sure they put that in there to appease the people who love using viewfinders rather than using the LCD. In my opinion the LCDs with live view have sort of revolutionized underwater photography, I suspect we'll see less use of viewfinders in the future. Even with it's somewhat largish size, it's quite a bit smaller than most of the DSLR housings we see come on the boat. Price of the housing is $599, I found it for $75 less. It sounds like a lot of money, but the typical DSLR housing begins at around $1200 and can top a couple grand easily. Olympus has made it so you can get an interchangeable lens system underwater for what has been the price of just an economy housing in the past.

Unlike most of the smaller point and shoot housings, this housing is not made for use of the onboard flash for taking photos. It's set up so the onboard flash can trigger a remote flash.. that's another expense down the line. For now I'll be shooting with available light.

I can't wait to get it wet.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Video of Alii Drive in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii....

Quality's not real good on this, I haven't figured out how to successfully upload a full size file to Youtube yet. I took a drive down Alli Drive some time in July and set the camera on the dash. Here's a little video from about the Royal Kona Resort to the King Kamehameha Hotel, that's pretty much the main business sector tourist-wise in Kailua. Hopefully it'll give you somewhat of an idea of what it's like here, it's a cute/quaint seaside town.

I've been real busy doing charters, not much time for anything else the last two weeks. Water conditions have been terriffic except for an occasional unexpected south breeze popping up.

I should be getting back to posting new fish photos again soon. Took advantage of the busy weeks and paid off my camera, the housing's on order... I may have to get it wet this weekend.



Sunday, August 08, 2010

Kaloko Honokohau National Park. Exploring Kailua-Kona's backyard...

This morning I decided to check out the trail at the Honokohau harbor parking lot that leads to the Kaloko Honokohau National Park. It's a trail back by the Kona sailing club lot,it's clearly marked. I checked it out the first month or two I first moved here and really haven't done it since. It runs from the back lot and winds it's way through the National Park. A short way in to the trail you"ll come across a split in the trail. One directions goes to a large tidepool and canoe house and the beach and the other leads to the trail going to the visitor center you access from the highway, and to the beach and Ai makapa fish pond.

I passed on walking to the visitor center, just checked out the beach and the pond. The beach here is one of the longest on the west side of the Big Island. It's probably at least a half mile long, maybe longer. The photo doesn't do the sand justice, there's a fair amount of black sand mixed in with the off-white/brown sand typical of sandy beaches here so it looks a bit "dirtier" in the photo than it is. This was taken at 9:45 on a Sunday morning... it's just 2 guys fishing, a dog, and me. Not a heck of a lot of decent sandy beaches in Hawaii see that kind of lack of activity on a weekend. I suspect it picks up over the course of the day, but considering it's just 2-3 miles from a major tourist center it seems quite uncrowded. It's not a frolic in the water kind of beach, but it's a good sunning beach. Back when I moved here they were working on eliminating the nudity, there's a sign reminding people of that as you enter the park. I think they've done it, was kind of news in the area back around the turn of the century (now I really feel old.... one of my grandfathers was a kid "back around the turn of the century" last time that phrase came up).

Back when I checked out the beach years ago, I just walked along the water and had no idea the fish pond was just the other side of the small dunes of the beach. I've checked out the more accessible Kaloko ponds below Costo several times, but wasn't aware of this one 'til I was training someone to scuba dive that had a pool at their house above Costco. You can clearly see it from up there and it's much larger than Kaloko pond. I'd like to catch it for photos on a clear quiet morning. There's some water foul around, and some kind of fish jumped in the distance when I was there. The Hawaiian's used to catch or trap fish and keep them in the ponds along the coast for food.

I didn't walk the entire park. think you can make it all the way to the Kaloko end from there if you want. It's a nice little cultural walk.

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Yay! Humpy's Alehouse restaurant opened in Kailua! Kona just got another good restaurant (I hope it's good anyway)....

Whoohoo!!! I've been waiting for this restaurant for almost a year. I'd never wandered into the Hard Rock Cafe the first several years I lived here, then finally did and kind of liked it... then it went out of business and there's been a big hole in the middle of the shopping/restaurant area of Kailua for a couple of years. It was announced that Humpy's Alehouse of Anchorage Alaska was going to put in a restaurant here and it sounded quite interesting. I talked to several of my Alaskan customers and friends and they'd mentioned it was as pretty good place up there that seemed quite busy... sounded like a good addition to Kailua village to me.

Original plans, if I recall correctly, were to open around October/November of last year. Well, things go slow here, especially permitting, and they were finally checked off just recently and apparently opened in the last couple of days. Pat was headed to the airport tonight to go to a friend's wedding on the mainland and we figured we'd do a quick visit for a meal. I'm not kidding about quick, we had a 50-55 minute window and I wasn't sure we'd be able to get it in. The restaurant was pretty busy, and I've got to commend them for their service. We've been to other places when they first opened where things didn't go smoothly the few nights.

A bit about Humpy's. Humpy's is a whole lot of BEER... and more. The upstairs is much the same configuration as the old Hard Rock, the downstairs retail space has largely been replaced by a bar and seating. When I mentioned "a whole lot of BEER", I wasn't kidding... 36 beers on tap according to their list. That's a lot for a small town.... they should start a club and offer a T shirt and a spot on a plaque to anyone who can finish the list (oh, at least 2 sittings of course). They also feature sandwiches, burgers, stone oven pizzas, seafoods (from King Crab legs to salmon burgers), a Hawaiian plate menu and more. It's gonna take me a few visits to navigate the menu and get a handle on the place. I had the Paniolo burger off their 10 oz burger listings with a Big Island feel... big burger, pretty good, but when it comes right down to it their "Humpy's Burger" and other 6 oz burger listings sounded a little more interesting, I'll try them next (I was hungry today). Pat had the calimari strips, I'd say they're more like calimari fries, cut like french fries and breaded with a spicy breading. They were cooked right... tender, not rubbery, but Pat's not into the style as much as I am, guess who got to finish the last few... yum, yum. I forgot to mention the fries that came with the burger... yay, fresh cut fries, happy to see them.

Anyway, the seating was immediate (seat yourself once checking in), the service prompt, drink and food orders were taken quickly and delivered quickly. No long waits through anything, but we weren't rushed in the least. Come desert time I mentioned we were timing things for a plane and the check was delivered right away. Service was good. We were treated to a pretty good sunset too....

It's located smack dab in the middle of the Coconut Marketplace shops next to the volleyball court on Alii drive. I'm happy to see new businesses in town. There's a few other spots right nearby that have opened recently too, haven't had a chance to give them a try. I'll be back to Humpy's.

Oooh, gotta mention the new camera again. I took these shots with my Olympus Pen, no flash and not trying to be particularly motionless. Not sure if I could get the interior bar or exterior shot with my old point and shoots that well exposed without paying attention to what I was doing in the lighting we had. It's fun having a bit higher end camera to play with.



Saturday, July 31, 2010

The Kona Hawaii manta ray night dive is very busy right now...

Untitled from Steve on Vimeo.

Just thought I'd throw in a little manta video from a year or so ago since the manta dive off the Kona airport is hopping right now. We've had numbers in the teens the last several nights - that'sa lot of manta rays in one spot! We've got 3 manta charters running next week, as well as a slate of pretty full day dives.

The next few weeks are looking pretty busy, it's that last of the summer crush I guess. Water temperature is still holding at 78/79. We've had a bit of a south swell this weeks, limits a few of the sites somewhat, but there's still plenty of great spots to dive that are free from the swell and have great viz. I'm hoping that swell has raised the water temp a degree or two. It'd be nice to see 80 degrees or more for a while this year, last year I only saw it once on a dive. Some years we get a few months in that range in the late summer through fall.



Keei Cafe. The best value nice dinner restaurant in Kona?

Looking for a good meal that won't necessarily bust your wallet? Pat and I went to our favorite nice restaurant on the island again last night for an early meal. I thought I'd give it a plug. Keei Cafe. We managed to pretty much open up the place last night, so seating was wide open and "Uncle Freddy" was just setting up to start performing (he apprently is there Thursday through Saturday at this time). Nice quiet jazz with singing, very pleasant.

When I first moved here I kept having people tell me about this great little roadside shack to eat at, it was the original location for Keei Cafe... I think it had 9 card tables with gingham fabric tablecloths at the time. Several years ago they moved into new digs... bigger, lots of tropical woods, full bar, very nice.

The Keei Cafe has a smallish menu... a fancy tostada, half a chicken, ribeye steak, rack of lamb, 2-3 fish items cooked 3 different ways, and a few other things I'm forgetting off the top of my head, as well as soups, salads and deserts. Everything we've ever had there is very tasty and cooked properly. Entree prices start in the 12-13 buck range and top out at $25.99 for the rack of lamb. My pan seared ribeye steak was $22.99 and Pat's pan seared lemon caper butter sauce Ono plate was $21.99. We also had a nice greek salad at $7.99. Everything's great, the portions are good, the photos don't do them justice as far as size goes, and we can't recall them having raised prices at all in several years. We haven't found a meal this good for this price anywhere else on the west side of the island in a long time.Pat and I are not big desert eaters, but Bob (my employee) loves their mango cobbler and every desert I've tried over the years has been great. Located in Kealakekua on the mauka side of the highway, it's a bit of a trip for some vacationers, but it's worth it in our opinion. One note: They've been cash only, no credit cards, for years. Nowadays with even fast food places taking credit cards I thought I'd better mention it.

Oh, and did I mention the maitais are delicious? Very interesting, have a bit of li heng mui powder mixed in... you'll either love it or hate it I guess.

Good meal.