Sunday, July 31, 2011

Drove to Hilo on Friday for the first time in ages... forgot how interesting the Big Island is...

I drove to Hilo to have the tailgate of my truck linexed, insurance paid for it since I was rear-ended a month ago, and Pat and I decided to make a day of it. For the most part we had a sunny trip over to the east side of the island, man is the Big Island gorgeous when it's sunny. I haven't been to Hilo in the sun all that often.

Downtown Hilo seems to be a little busier than I last remembered it. It's got a bunch of shops on the main drag to check out. We stopped in at Sun and Sea Hawaii, a nice little dive shop that's been in Hilo for about 3 years or so. From what I can see, Nautilus and them are about the only game in town for dive shops there. Pat and I stopped at Cronies bar and grill for a couple of beers and to try out their "broke the mouth" size "works" burger. Twice the meat (1# total) and twice the toppings... lot's of cheese, bacon, mushrooms, onions, tomatoes, lettuce, sprouts... that's a lot of stuff. I had to resort to a knife and fork. Pat and I split it since we'd just eaten a couple hours earlier but I wanted to try it, it was good.

The big yellow blob at the top of the post is a Siphopteron Quadrispinosum. It's one of our local nudibranchs. Back 10 years or so, when I was first made aware of them, I used to spot these guys from 8-10 feet away. The last few years I haven't been so lucky... they max out at about 3 millimeters in length, and my middle aged eyes are having a tough time focusing on something that small anymore. My guess is that a portion of the people I've pointed them out to over the years thought I was just pointing at sand and was a little bit crazy to be fixated on nothing. I've tended to notice them in the late spring and early summer, so if you're diving along over a sandy area and see a hot yellow grain of sand, you might want to look a little closer to see if it's one of these.



Thursday, July 28, 2011

Want a light weight compact full featured BCD to travel with? Cressi Travelight BCD may fit the bill...

I thought I'd give a try at a video review of a product we're carrying at the dive shop. When I went to DEMA last year I saw the Cressi Travelight BCDs and was favorably impressed, figured when I started to carry BCDs in the shop it'd be something I want to stock.

The Cressi Travelight BCD folds up nicely into a smallish bag, small enough that you can probably fit it in most carryon bags. Nowadays with how the airlines are charging for that extra suitcase, it's nice to see dive manufacturers putting out some lighter more compact gear without sacrificing features. The Travelight comes in the standard sizes, has large zippered pockets, integrated locking weight pouches, trim pockets, rear and right shoulder dumps, a large padded spine pad for comfort, plenty of D rings to hook things on, etc... all the features most people look for in a BCD. Weight-wise you're looking at about 5-6 lbs all told. It also has a decent lift capacity for warm water diving, not huge but not bad.

I was surprised once I looked up some reviews of the product. It fares quite well as a BCD. Scuba Diving magazine's scuba lab gave it "Editor's Choice" and "Best Buy" designations. I've seen other good recommendations as well. It's well worth looking into if you're looking at a new BCD to travel with.



Sunday, July 24, 2011

Another reason why I like Hawaii Scuba Diving...

Went scuba diving... dolphins swam by from Steve on Vimeo.

Whoohoo!!! Hawaiian Spinner Dolphins!!! When you are scuba diving in Hawaii it's a real treat to see these guys underwater. It doesn't happen all that often, but we get lucky often enough to say it's not that unusual. We do see them on the surface on a quite regular basis, often several times a week, when we're out diving in Kona.

This was a particularly good day for us, I happened to have the camera along at the time. You can clearly hear the dolphins in the video and if you listen, you'll hear the whales singing in the background. It was February when I took this, that's just coming into the height of the whale season off Kona. We hear humpback whales quite often on our dives that time of year.



Saturday, July 23, 2011

Reserve your activities early for best scheduling options....

It's about time to make this post again. It's that time of the year where it's busy in Kona and elsewhere. I've been getting lots of phone calls the last few days from people that I just can't help out because they've either been beaten to the punch and I'm full, or they're calling so late I don't have the ability to set up charters or add on enough passengers to make a charter worthwhile.

I got a couple of interesting phone calls this week:

One was from a person who flew over to this island, for one night, specifically to do the manta dive. Unfortunately for tehm, they waited 'til they arrived to try to arrange for the manta dive. From the list of operators that had turned them away, it appears everyone was either full or not going out. I gave them the list of every one I knew of that might possibly be going out that night, hopefully the found a ride and weren't disappointed. I had a similar call the next day, but at least they had one extra day available to go and I was able to take them.

I received another phone call from someone who had seen that I'm one of the few, if only, charters here that goes out with only two divers, problem is they wanted it in a time frame that made it very unlikely for me to even break even (not to mention they said they were open to either of two days, until they found out I already had someone on board the other day). I'm happy to guarantee charters for two divers if they can give me at least a week to try to book on top of it... when that happens, more often than not I'll get an extra body or more on board to make it worthwhile, so it's worth guaranteeing the dive. When people are looking at booking within a week, hopefully they have a flexible schedule and can join in when there are existing charters. I even guarantee charters for singles from time to time (most are long time customers I consider to be friends, or it's during a busy time for me and I'm quite sure I've got a good shot at booking on top) Historically, 90% of my business is booked a week to months in advance...It's July and I had two inquiries yesterday for February and April (didn't book yet, but I bet by November I'll have a couple of firm bookings for late winter or spring)... I've historically been getting very few short notice bookings, as the new shop starts to generate more traffic, that'll change and the issue may never come up again.

From what I've seen over the years, many companies on occasion do a last minute scramble to cancel or reschedule charters with people who've already booked because there weren't enough to make the charter a go at a profit. I try not to go there by either guaranteeing my bookings, or not taking them if it's what I'd consider to be realistically too short of a time period to book enough to make it worthwhile. Luckily most of my weeks have enough charters already going out that last minute couples or singles with flexible schedules can get out with me.

Anyway, from what I've seen, there are lots of people scrambling to find spots with local activities (not just scuba) on short notice right now. I've been there myself when I've travelled, but my recommendation is to try to arrange the activities you really want to do at least a week in advance, it'll likely save you some phone calls and frustrations.

The photo above is of an Imperial Shrimp that lives on a Spanish Dancer Nudibranch. I was lucky to spot this one, we don't see either of them often enough.



Best night dive in the world? Best manta ray diving in the world? The Kona Manta Ray night dive is really hopping right now....

Thought I'd mention the manta dive is going off again right now. We went out again last night and had umpty-ump mantas on the dive and are going out again with a full boat of divers tonight and Monday night. I've had a couple different companies call me to see if I have room the next few nights, they're running full too. Maybe the busy season has finally hit Kona.

I've probably posted this before, but the manta ray night dive never gets old. This video only has about 25-30% of the number of mantas that have been showing up the last couple of nights, but it gives you an idea of what it can be like.



Cheap, inexpensive underwater film cameras for snorkeling or scuba diving in Kona Hawaii.

A lot of people tend to think of underwater photography as a thing they're going to have to spend hundreds of dollars just to get started and don't realize there are reltively cost effective cameras available for those who just want to take a few snapshots while they are snorkeling or diving.

We carry the Snap Sights Sports Utility Cam at our shop. It's a basic housed film point and shoot camera. You'll find "underwater" single use cameras that are good to 12/15/30 feet around at a lot of places. These cameras are a bit beefier... they're good to 100 foot depths, so they're great for snorkelers, kayakers, and scuba divers. These specific cameras are quite nice in that they come loaded with 27 shots and are refillable/reusable... you can put another roll of film in when you are done and take them back underwater again. They are also quite nice in that they come with a built in flash, you'll have a chance at taking a picture with good color. Water tends to absorb color, and without a flash the pictures can look dull and bluish. With a flash, you add light back so you get your color back. The flash is really only good to about arm's length or so but it really helps bring back the true color of what you're looking at if you're about 2-3 feet away or so.

These cameras are a fun and reltively inexpensive (we're selling them for $19.99 at our shop) way to try underwater photography and bring home some memories without breaking the bank.



Sunday, July 17, 2011

Escaping the summer heat? Maybe Kona Hawaii is the place to be...

We've been real busy lately with dive charters, and oddly enough there's been someone from Texas on the boat almost every charter the last 3-4 weeks. I figure they must be coming here to get out of the heat. Let's face it, Kona's a wonderful place to be when the mercury's hitting the century mark at home. We've been seeing 83 degrees, plus or minus 2 degrees, and quite pleasant pretty much every day the last couple of months.

Summer's been fairly busy for us. We're starting to get into a routine with the shop now, we're open from 8am to 5pm. We're trying to get our inventory set up electronically from here on out, Pat's been sitting at the computer inputting bar codes and descriptions. She looked at me the other day and said "you owe me bigtime, do you realize you've got almost a thousand different items in the shop already?" I"m not sure if we're up to a thousand items, but it's well into the hundreds when you start figuring in sizes and colors of shirts/fins and all the assorted accessory items we're starting to carry.

Update on current water conditions. Summer's here! We've had some wonderfully flat days lately. The water's still 78 on my computer, but it's feeling warmer than it was a few weeks back to me. Lately I've dove the manta dives a few times (always a fun dive) and several dives with students, otherwise I've been mostly playing boat captain. I need to hire one more part time boat captain, that can also lead dives, to round out our scheduling.

Here's a Moorish Idol photo I took some while back. They're one of our more "popular" fish, but they're kind of hard to get photos of... I can't tell you how many "fish butt" photos of these guys I have. They have a knack for turning at the last moment and the camera delay of most point and shoot cameras is enough to allow them to turn and give you a different photo than you expected.