Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Seahorses and scuba diving in Kona....

We've been really busy diving the last month or so. Diving conditions have been good, we've had some big winds, and finally a couple days of rain (thank goodness, we've been having a drought and the local green was turning brown) but those don't generally effect the scuba diving here.

So we're diving outside of the harbor and one of the divers came up from the dive and starts talking seahorses, apparently he'd taken a photo of a seahorse on the mooring line. He showed me a pic, it was blurry but it was definitely a seahorse. I was bummed because I was up top captaining and I didn't have a housing for my camera handy that day. When the next diver came up, he mentioned the seahorse was RUBBER. The diver with the camera was so intent on the back of his camera LCD that he didn't notice the algae covered tie wrap holding it on, and the wind was up that day and shaking the boat so the mooring line was bouncing around and the seahorse did look like it was moving. When Bob surfaced, I mentioned the divers saw a seahorse on the mooring line... well he was all over that and descended immediately - came back up smiling and saying "that would be the rare Hawaiian rubber seahorse".

One of the other dive groups had obviously mounted it down there. Apparently there's a rubber snake on the other side of the chain as well. We do see seahorses here from time to time... mostly at the boat washdown... The Big Island doesn't really have any readily findable reef seahorses, we have a deep water/open ocean species that the fishermen see at night when they hang lights. Occasionally they'll clean a mahi-mahi and one will fall out of the entrails, that's how we see the most of them. Apparently Hawaii does have a reef species or two that can be found on rare occasions on the older islands, and I heard of a sighting on the reef up in Puako this last year, but seahorses are not one of the things we expect to see here at all.

Here's a shot of a couple of Moorish Idols (Zanclus cornutus) on the reef that Pat took. These attractive fish are always a pleasure to see, and we see them quite often. Most people will say they saw an "angelfish", the true angelfish species we have look nothing like a freshwater angelfish you'd see in an aquarium. The Moorish Idols are in their own family, sharing many of the traits of our butterflyfish and surgeonfish.



Thursday, March 18, 2010

Blog post

My wife Pat took this nifty picture of a nudibranch some time ago. I don't have a picture that looks like it. I thought it might be some kind of nudi I'm unfamiliar with as it doesn't quite look like the typical scrambled egg nudibranch, a look at Keoki Stender's Phyllidia page has a shot of a juvenile scrambled egg nudi (fried egg nudi) that looks very similar. I guess it's a juvenile that hasn't developed as much yellow spotting. Very cool.

I had a double scheduled for yesterday, diving in the morning was good, but we had big winds pop up this afternoon and met our customers for the evening. It was getting pretty sloppy and we decided to reschedule for Saturday evening. The winds of this strength aren't common in Kona and should settle down by today or Saturday.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Busy week full of dive charters in Kona ahead....

Well, I know my schedule for the next 5 days. I'm basically full through Friday. There's plenty of openings after that, hopefully things will continue to be busy.

Today was an awesome day on the water. There was essentially no swell this morning. We headed out for a couple of nice dives. I Captained the boat, have a very mild cold (popped so much vitamin C the last couple of days I'm turning orange) and need to be ready to finish off a student tomorrow. Bob and the group dove Golden Arches and Kaloko Arches, we had a pair of whales milling around maybe 200-250 feet off of both dive sites during the dives. I was hopeful the divers might get a peek at them, no such luck today.

We semi-officially opened the "shop" above the Tesoro across the highway from the harbor this weekend. We're going to man it 10-6 on the weekends and then add more days as we can. I'm still spending time after charters there every day I don't have a night dive on top of the day charter, so we're actually around in the late afternoons on most days 'til about 6pm. My wife Pat was manning it today.

Here's a very nice shot of a Wire Coral Goby that Pat took on a dive a while back. It's the best one we've got between the two of us. This is a magnified version of the real thing. These little guys spend pretty much their entire lives on wire corals.



Friday, March 12, 2010

Very good diving conditions in Kona Hawaii lately....

We've been going out pretty much daily lately and the conditions have been wonderful for the most part. They've had heavy winds up north, but it hasn't affected the Kona area diving. Today we had two divers on board, decided to head up to Garden Eel Cove (yes, even though it's only two passengers we go pretty much anywhere we would normally take a full boat) to dive. On the way we came across a bunch of boats watching a whale.... Call us Ahab!!! It was white, well light gray anyway. Don't know if it was albino or awfully ill. Went to the dive and did our thing... Garden Eels, Dolphins underwater, Barracuda and more.

On the way to the second dive site we found a bundle of floaty net. We hate seeing that stuff in the water, as manmade garbage doesn't belong there, but we kind of like to explore it when we find it. The first picture is of the wad of net itself. Fish are attracted to anything floating in the ocean. The second picture is a bit closer shot of the net. ... Notice anything about the second shot? Take a look again, it's not just netting....

One of our favorite fish to find while we're diving on the reef is frogfish, they're always a treat. There's an ocean going frogfish, called a Sargassum Frogfish, that typically lives in sargassum seaweed. It also is attracted to nets. Here's the same photo as the second cropped and blown up a bit.

If you didn't see the frogfish earlier, you should see it now... look for the eye! This is the first one I've seen in the wild, last year I posted a photo that Cathy had taken at one time. I'm thrilled to have my own shot.

I gotta mention something, in the last post I raved about how hopping the manta dive was... well things can change fast... 3 days later we did the dive and got skunked. We still had a fabulous night dive. Shrimp, all sorts of life, even had a very large spiney lobster... could've had dinner, but we let it be.



Sunday, March 07, 2010

Kona manta ray night dive action is picking up, just in time for spring break!!!

I saw on the manta report yesterday that 20 or so mantas showed up on Monday night. That's a bundle of action. I've got a manta ray night dive charter tomorrow and another one or two scheduled for next week. Hopefully it'll keep up with lots of mantas for those outings.

We're crazy busy next week. I've got 8 charters currently scheduled, and 6 of them are full. It'll be interesting to see how spring break diving pans out for all of the dive companies in Kona. The last two years it hasn't been as busy as it had been in years earlier. I'm thinking people are starting to travel a bit more than they have lately once again. I've got bookings into June and inquiries into August so far. I used to have a good portion of my bookings 3-6 months out, the last two years it's been more like 2-6 weeks ahead of time with a lot of last minute calls. I'll be referring a bunch of the last minute people elsewhere next week most likely. If other operaters are experiencing the same thing it might be tough to catch a dive for the last minute bookers this spring break. After next week I open up again for now.

Yesterday we had some strange winds in Kona. It was blowing in heavily from the north at the harbor in the morning, so we headed a bit south to Casa Caves and it calmed down for a very nice dive. We don't seem to visit this site often enough, it's got the cave and a very nice reef out front, the topography's a bit different than our other sites and the finger coral reef is a great example of that type of reef for Kona. By the end of the dive the wind had done a 180 and switched to fairly strong from the south and things were getting pretty choppy, so we headed north and found the conditions to be quite good in that area... go where the wind ain't I guess, it worked this day anyway.

Here's a photo of a Goldlace Nudibranch. We see them from time to time. I took this underwater photo a couple days back. Yesterday Cathy and a couple of others popped into the cave at the end of the first dive and spotted 6 of them in a grouping. I've never seen that before, wonder if it's some sea slug sex thing?

Man, the scuba diving conditions are great in Kona Hawaii right now...

On Friday I had a double, running charters all day long. The water's really flat right now and viz was great. On the morning charter we hit the Golden Arches area and had fabulous viz, then followed it up by doing the Suck 'em Up/Skull Cave/Aquarium sites. Water was calm and great at both sites of the day. Cathy's big thrill was finding 6 different leaf scorpionfish during the course of the day.

We went out for the manta dive about an hour later. On the first dive the divers took their tour of Garden Eel Cove. Highlights were 2-3 mantas during the dive, and 10, yes ten, squid hanging out at the night dive site. On the night dive it was all about the mantas. I heard two different numbers for the night, 8 & 9, either way it was a real good showing.

Yesterday I took day off #3 for the year, this time there was no vacation rental to clean or Superbowl to watch so it was an entire day of doing nothing... I think watching bad Steven Seagall movies on some cable channel and eating frozen pizza qualifies as nothing at any rate. The downtime felt good.

Today there's not much going on, hanging out at the shop all day to see if I can get some walk-in bookings. I've got 12 charters scheduled the next 13 days so far (I'm trying to keep it to no more than 9 charters a week 'til the shop's open full time and I hire another crew member) so I'll be busy on the boat for the next couple weeks.

As for our Kona dive shop/office, we're going to open the shop on weekends with regular hours from here on. Starting Saturday the 13th of March we'll have it manned 10am to 6pm on weekends. I've been hanging out there when I don't have charters ('cept the 3 days I've taken off this year) but otherwise there's been no consistancy in the schedule. Count on us being there 10-6 on weekends for now and I'll be adding days as business starts to pick up again... we're starting to get into our busier season, winter's are slow for the most part for dive ops here.

Here's one of my favorite fish, Reticulated Frogfish. I didn't even know about these fish 'til a few years back when someone pointed one out to me. They hang out in larger cauliflower corals and antler corals. Looking at them, their faces match the color of most of the older shells, and their body resembles the pattern of a cone shell, so they're quite often overlooked. At first glance they'll easily pass for a shell, but then you see their eyes or their little webbed "feet" and catch on to it being a frogfish. We've had a couple of them "stashed" away at one particular dive site, for now they've seemed to like that particular spot and we'll be able to show them off 'til they move. Once they've moved off it'll be sheer luck in finding them again, so we're happy to have them in one spot for now.



Monday, March 01, 2010

No tsunami alert, back to fun.... We celebrated by making a long range dive trip to Au Au Canyon...

The ocean was really nice yesterday morning and we decided to make the long trip down to Au Au Canyon/Crater (whatever it's called, it's cool). We don't get down there much, it's an 85/90 minute boat ride in my boat and we need a sizable enough group of good divers to make a go of it. Au Au is an underwater canyon with sheer vertical walls that run about 80 feet high or so on the shore end to well over 200' high on the seaward end. It's one of the true "walls" we have here. Most of our "walls" are more like steep dropoffs or slopes.

It was a gorgeous dive. On the second dive I was Captain while the others all dove. We did a drift dive around the western end of Kealakekua Bay. Right on the corner the current was screaming, and the divers got to play Superman, "flying" with the current, for about 70-100 yards or so before reaching the calm water on the other side of the corner.

It was a long day. On the way back it got a bit choppier, then by the time we got to the middle of Kailua the winds picked up, then the last mile into the harbor was crazy windy... it got very wet very fast. One of the divers commented it was like doing a third dive. Other than a lot of spray over the bow it was uneventful and over in 10 minutes. Turned out it got apparently really nasty about mid-day up around the harbor. We came in at 5pm, around 2pm I'm told it was like a mini-hurricane there. It was sunny and windy when we arrived, Pat and I (Pat tagged along for the dives) went to the shop after cleaning up the boat and there was water all over the walkways, we thought maybe the landlord had sent in a pressure washer.

It's looking great today. Occasionally in the winter we'll get a cold front passing through that can make it nasty for a bit, this apparently was one of those days.