Wednesday, March 13, 2019

A Most Peculiar Form of Vandalism and the LSV 4

     At the beginning of the week, Sandra noted that bright and early on Thursday morning, I was to appear at Kaiser Permanente for my biannual dermatology appointment.  Biannual, as in this is happening twice a year, so we now what to expect.  With a high degree of certainty, Dr. Dangerfield is going to play whack a mole on my defenseless corpus with a variety of sharp and fiery instruments,
When my Dr. Dangerfield finds that mole, he's a goner.
rendering me a non-
swimmer for just under two weeks.   To put a silver lining on the situation,  Sandra suggested that we take a special snorkeling outing on Tuesday.

  And so we decided to head up to Mahukona.  Naturally I thought of my friend Peter, who had introduced us to Mahukona, and I sent hm a text asking if he and his lovely wife would care to join us.  He responded that unfortunately he had to travel on Tuesday to Kaiser in Honolulu for some un-named medical situation.  Are you noticing a pattern here? 

   And so yesterday morning we headed north.  As we approached the clubhouse turn at Kawaihae, we were surprised to see a landing craft, a fairly large ship actually, docked in Kawaihae harbor right where we have taken our swim.   This shouldn't have been a surprise.  It is well known that the army is conducting exercises at the Pohakuloa Training Area up on the Saddle Road; drivers heading for Waimea have been advised to expect delays associated with army convoys.  As my father served in WWII on a similar ship, we decided to stop on the way back and check it out.

    We arrived at Mahukona under sunny morning skies only to find the gate locked to the pier.  There were a few cars parked on the side of the road  opposite the gate and a gentleman who had just completed his swim assured us that the park was not closed.  In fact, he gave me his personal blessing to go swimming. 
The View from the Mahukona Pier.  Perfect Conditions!

   As we walked down the slope to the pier, Sandra recalled the Peter and Marla had mentioned this situation (the gate being locked).  At about this time, we met a small, wiry man with a wild white
beard.  He reminded me of Ben Gunn from Disney's Treasure Island.  With a sparkle in his eye, Mr. Gunn said, "You picked a fine day.  The visibility is a hundred feet!"  As he walked away, I could hear him talking to himself.
" 'Those that seeks can find,' says I".

   Soon enough we were plunging into the bay, only to discover that while the visibility was great, the water temperature was frigid. We swam across the bay, looking in the usual places and not finding anything remarkable.  I found myself taking pictures of rocks to demonstrate how clear the water was.  Before we left this north side, I saw an exceptionally beautiful oval chromis.  I dove several times, but he scooted to cover whenever I got near.
Milletseed Butterflyfish  Mahukona  March 2019

   We swam across the bay to the south, admiring the bottom which I think must be 40 feet down.  While we were out there, I was thinking back to what Peter had said a couple weeks ago, that they had run into several snorkelers at Mahukona that had swum with whales in, I supposed, this very spot.  But there were no whales for us.

   On the south side, I spotted a blue stripe butterfly bout 25 feet down.  Sandra and I swam a bit further out to sea in hopes of finding the milletseeds, which indeed were there.  Such pretty, clean fish, I had to try for a picture.  I dove in the opposite direction with the intention of circling back underwater, but right in front of me was a fan tailed filefish.  I took a quick shot and as I turned there was a yellowtailed filefish.  I told Sandra and she was able to see them, too.

    A few moments later I looked at Sandra and her mask was completely fogged; she had been experiencing a persistent leak.  This wouldn't do, so we headed for the shore.  On the way, I saw several more oval chromis and a pair of cleaner wrasse servicing a variety of fish.
 Spiny Lobster Mort.  A most curious incidence of automotive vandalism.

    Back on the pier, the gate had been opened and people were parking.  And frabjous day, the fresh water spout was in business.  All rinsed off, we made our way back to the car.  I grabbed my shorts and headed into the porta potty to change.  When I emerged a moment later, Sandra said, "Look what they did to our car!"  Nodding in such a way as to indicate the front of the vehicle.  Suffice it to say, my heart sank as I walked around, expecting to find a broken windshield or headlight.   Rather, I was greeted with a tufted spiny lobster.  The unfortunate crustacean had been broken in half, the better to extract his edible parts, and his tail and carapace placed beneath our windshield wiper.

   For some reason Sandra couldn't get over the horror of it all.  Both she and the lobster had been violated.  Not to mention the poor Honda.  I was just grateful that it was nothing serious.  All in all,
The LSV  Owned and operated by the United States Army
 I think you will go a while before you find a more curious bit of motor vehicle vandalism.

    Having survived the shock of lobster vandalism, we were soon heading back to Kawaihae.   As we entered the port we encountered a veritable convoy, jeeps, trucks, and objects on wheels that defy my ability to name.  Presumably they were all headed up to the saddle between Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea.

  We drove down the gravel road to what we had up to now called the boat launch.  This slanting cement pad, perhaps forty yards  in length, had never really seemed like much of a boat launch to me.  The pad terminates at the water's edge achieving a depth of a scant few inches at high tide.  Just off the pad the water is about five feet deep.  And aside from a couple gargantuan cleats well up the pad from the water, there is nothing upon which to secure a newly launched small boat.  
The LSV 4 moored to all three platforms, lines running forward to the pad.

   Now all was revealed.  The pad was designed to accept the ramp that opens at the bow of the LSV and those giant cleats each receive a bow line, securing this large vessel to the pad.  The platforms beneath which we hunt for nudibranchs and sponges were now pressed into action; LSV 4 was tied up to the first two of those platforms on her starboard, or makai, side.

   Suffice it to say, a picture is worth a thousand words.  Here are a couple that demonstrate the
mooring and carrying capacity of the LSV 4.    

   After parking in the picnic area, Sandra and I walked back to LSV 4.  On the way, I met a group of camouflage clad soldiers, one of whom was kind enough to accompany me down towards the ship and answer some questions.   First, this vessel is owned and operated by the U.S. Army.  The

officer in charge of the nautical aspects of this ship is a warrant officer, a master sergeant given an officer's rank for the purpose of command.  At the bow she draws 13 feet and slopes deeper towards the stern.  Thus, while fulfilling the function of an LST, like the ship upon which my father served, she can not run up on a beach and land tanks, trucks, what ever.  Below her decks, upon which are kept a myriad of wheeled or treaded vehicles, are the crew's quarters.  As far as my new friend was aware, this vessel had been used exclusively to transport the army from Oahu to the Big Island.  However, she is capable of projecting overseas Venezuela, as an example.

    We finished off our visit by having lunch among the soldiers as they lounged around the seaside park.  They were dressed in full camo, probably not what they would wear to the beach, given a choice.  However, it was beautiful, cool day, best weather on the planet.  Not bad duty for March.  All the while I was wondering if the LSV 4 and her company would remain in Hawaii for the foreseeable future.

Your humble correspondent and Lt. Golkowski of the LSV 4

The convoy leaves Kawaihae, photo SKG

Monday, March 4, 2019

Transfiguration Sunday and the Devil (Scorpionfish)

Related image
Moses, Jesus and Elijah.  Go Transfigure.
   Yesterday was Transfiguration Sunday.  We were unaware of the day until Pastor Brian revealed this  piece of liturgical trivia in his sermon down at the Lutheran church.  Yes, Martin, we are Lutherans now, at least after a fashion, having abandoned the Samoan Methodist Alliance over a dust up involving a pagan necklace dedicated to the god Mammon.

    It was a glorious Sunday, cool and clear, and one would have been forgiven if the view of the Kona Coast out of the window of the church was a little distracting.  That sunny view with palm trees and all must have been especially attractive to the Lutherans visiting from Minnesota.  At this time of year there are so many that Sandra wonders if there is a non-stop from Minneapolis to KOA.

Image may contain: 3 people, people smiling, people standing
Backstage. Delaney (center) as Sophie. Courtesy of Aloha Theater
   Did you know that when Moses received the Ten Commandments his face glowed to such an extent that he frightened the Israelites and, as a consequence, had to wear a veil?  This glowing visage was, I believe (for this part was curiously not tied together during Brian's typically excellent sermon), adopted by Jesus 2,000 years later.  Hence the Transfiguration.

    Church is good, but the after the service snacks, aka fellowship, can be pretty spectacular.  Say what you will about the Lutherans, but you can't deny their baking abilities.  Out on the lanai, coffee and pastry in hand, I cornered Delaney.  Delaney, the daughter of our pianist, is a graduate of Columbia in musicology, and is currently starring in the Aloha Theater's production of Mama Mia.  She is really good in the role of Sophie, the girl who (spoiler alert) doesn't get married. More important than her singing and dancing, at least in this context, she is willing to talk to an old goat without outwardly appearing to be plotting an escape.  It may be noted that I have had that effect on women, (How quickly can I extricate myself from this situation?) long before I became an old goat.
Devil Scorpionfish  Kahalu'u  March 2019

   We chatted about her acting, her ambition to garner a PhD at Harvard, and my having parked a car in Harvard Yard, which is as close as I ever got to attending that bastion of veritas.  As Delaney has no interest what so ever in fish identification, I encouraged her to read the blog.  And she sort of promised that she would.  Suffice it to say, if she reads this blog I will hear about it!  At least she has a good sense of humor.  I hope.

   At this point Sandra decided that I had enjoyed my fill of spiritual nourishment, Scandinavian bake goods and young female companionship and said, "Gee.  Isn't it time to go snorkeling?"  Or words to that effect.  After exchanging our liturgical duds for snorkeling attire, we soon found ourselves back at Kahalu'u.  This Sunday represented a break in the high surf conditions and I was determined to give old K Bay a second chance.  In the meantime, I had embarked on a beard trimming project, removing roughly a quarter in of mustache south of my nose, in hopes of providing a mask fit.  One sinus wash per week is my limit.

    As I was getting ready to take the plunge, and Sandra was setting up her beach chair in a prime shelter location, I somehow managed to strike up a conversation with a sweet young thing perched upon the adjoining table.  As she wished me a good swim I think I could hear Sandra mutter, "Mama mia, here we go again."
Broad Fronted Crab  X. latifrons, Kahalu'u March 2019

   Happily the water possessed less current and slosh than a few days previous and my mask was leaking only an acceptably small amount.  

     Early on I spotted a Devil Scorpionfish. He was only two feet deep and tolerated numerous photographic passes.  You will note from the pictures that he was on the shady side of the street, or coral head as the case may be.   And so, like the field of the Rose Bowl as we enter the third quarter, he was half in and half out of the shadows.  With luck, you will find the effect dramatic.  Or perhaps you will just find it annoying.   

   As I was preparing to bid El Diablo a fond farewell, A large lady came along bearing two cameras.  I was able to attract her attention and got her hooked up with the scorpionfish.  I was pretty sure that was the best thing I would see on this outing and its always nice to be able to share a good find.

Broad Fronted Crab, Courtesy of  Kaleo Wong
    I swam around the area in front of the now demolished hotel, which is sometimes quite productive, and then made a turn up the middle.  Investigating the coral on the left, which ascends almost four feet from the bottom, I spotted a small crab deep in one of the crevices.  He was hiding under a small coral outcropping, but when first noticed, I had a good quick glimpse at half of him.  And as the old saying goes, half a crab is better than none.  My impression is that he was an inch or so across the carapace, a rich mahogany brown and had several distinctive white stripes on his legs. 

    I took four dives at him, attempting to photograph this small animal while he cowered under the overhang.  I am including my best effort, which at least gives a pretty good look at those dramatically banded walking legs.  Recently I have found a new tool in my Corel photo processor: fill in light and clarity.  It lives in the same box with my old friends brightness and contrast.  FIL&C is an amazing tool and did much to help me bring you those banded gams which provide some photographic documentation for my life crab. 
Image result for dom deluise best little whorehouse in texas
I like  the whole nut, sheriff.   

   For those of you, who like Dom De Luise in The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, like to see the whole nut, I am including the only picture I could filch from the internet that looks like what I saw.  In Hoover's Sea Creatures there is a less than perfect picture, although it is good enough to verify my identification.  Curiously, if one searches the internet, there are several pictures of  Xanthias latifrons, but this is the only one that was remotely like what I saw.  There are green crabs, spotted crabs, crabs with no bands on their legs.  John Hoover's description is right on: dark maroon carapace...Bright white bands adorn the legs.  Go transfigure.  

     At this point, with the fine look at the Devil Scorpionfish and a life crab to show for my outing, what right did I have to expect anything else?  It was proving to be a pretty good day for critters, though, and I was keeping my eyes open when I came upon a small Evermann's coral, its central compartment hosting a cleaner wrasse that was working on a black durgon.  This was in shallow,
clear, calm water.  What an opportunity.  As I was readying the camera, the durgon stood aside and the cleaner wrasse proceeded to service a four spot butterflyfish.  I snapped away and you get to enjoy the best of these pictures.  I think its a dandy.

   Sandra greeted me as I exited the water, offering a helping hand as I crossed the rocks of what used to be the sand entry at K Bay.  Right away she told me that she had made friends with my nubile acquaintance.  The girl was really nice, my beloved reported.  She said she was from Utah. When Sandra mentioned that our friends Bob and Kim Hillis live in St. George, Utah, the young lady remarked that they were lucky to live in such a pretty place.  And then she allowed that she actually lived on Vancouver Island.  Go transfigure.


A few days ago Sandra and I enjoyed this look at the palace and the Mokuaikaua Church from the south.


Thursday, February 28, 2019

Disaster at Kahalu'u

Image result for Maynard G krebs dobie zelda
Dobie, Maynard and Zelda. "Watch out for the current at K Bay.  Too much work".
   Those of you who follow the Blog may have noticed that it has been a while since we mentioned Kahalu'u.  The main reason for this is that good surfing conditions have been present here in Kailua Kona for weeks, with only a day of respite here and there.  High surf is associated with strong currents in the bay of fishes.   Strong current, while not insurmountable, means more work for the fish watching snorkeler.  And I am as averse to work as the beatnik side kick of Dobie Gillis, Maynard G. Krebs.

     "Work!" Bob Denver would chirp.  A year after Dobie Gillis bit the dust, Denver took the three hour cruise on the S.S. Minnow that set up 28 seasons of work (there's that word again) as Gilligan.  Well, I swim hard when I have to.  Sometimes it makes the difference between making it back to shore or spending the night at sea treading water.  But in general, I do my best to avoid strong currents.  Its too much work.

Bad Camera.  Too many buttons, not enough answers.
    Yesterday, for reasons unknown, I decided that too much time had passed, the surf wasn't going to change, and it was time to check out K Bay. As Sandra dropped me off, I realized that I hadn't shaved.   By the time you get that close, its time to buck up, the potential of a mask leak be damned. 
So she headed off to the Keahou Shopping Center and I headed for the beach. 

    There were not too many swimmers at 10 AM and the water was just deep enough for me to slide out over the rocks.  And there was another piece of good news...the water wasn't all that cold.  My fear of  a mask leak, unfortunately, was well founded and I was soon emptying my mask about once a minute.  Sometimes I would concentrate on what I was doing and suffer a nose full of water. 

    Early on in the swim, the strangest thing happened.  The camera changed from automatic focus to manual focus.  I had no idea that the Olympus TG 5 could do this.  That being the case (total
ignorance), I had no idea how to focus the camera.  I recognized the problem immediately and attempted to fix it, looking down at the camera through my water logged mask, nose full of water,
Shortnose wrasse juvenile Kahalu'u February 2019
being bumped against one coral head after the next.  All the while fiddling fruitlessly with the buttons.  There are several to choose from, none of them worth a damn.  Despite pausing for several uncomfortable minutes on at least three occasions, I was unable to find the proper sequence to restore automatic focus.  Thus, for virtually the entire water logged swim, I continued to take pictures that were in focus if the subject was five to seven feet away.  Bummer.

    All that aside (strong current, leaking mask and uncooperative camera) I experienced some pretty clear water, which was downright warm in a few spots, and some pretty good fish.  The best fish early on was a juvenile shortnose wrasse.  The adult of this diminutive species, has an amazing array of colorful luminescent spots.  As you see here, this juvenile, which was swimming with some baby parrots, bird and belted wrasse, was basically brown with a constellation of white spots.  This juvenile fish is pretty rare elsewhere, but occurs regularly in the spring at Kahalu'u.  Here I am including the best I could do given the focusing problem.

    There was a nice variety of other fish, including a foraging whitemouth moray and a large zebra
Star eye parrot, Kahalu'u February 2019
that was sleeping inside a coral. 

   Before I headed for the beach, I encountered a very colorful star eye parrotfish.  This is a very common species at Kahalu'u and the lighter hued males, like this one, can be very colorful, indeed.  Lucky for us, he allowed me to swim within the four to seven foot range.

   On my way out, I saw a small juvenile raccoon butterfly.  While raccoon butterflies are common where ever we swim, the juvenile raccoon is rare as hen's teeth.  You will recall that I showed you a picture of what might have been my first taken at Mahukona six or so months ago.  Yesterday's fish was smaller and even more distinctive.  He was in the channel where the water was only six inches deep and swishing in and out, turbulent and cloudy. But the little fish was only a foot or so in front of me for as much as 20 seconds, so despite these difficult conditions,  I got an excellent look.  He was very square in shape, about two inches on a side and had a distinctive black occulus in the upper aft quadrant.  I am including a picture from the internet to give you a better idea what this particular fish looked like.  John Hoover states that
Extreme Juvenile Raccoon Butterflyfish , Volox Underwater Photography
extreme juvenile raccoons may be found in tidepools.  The exit at Kahalu'u now approximates a rocky tidepool with the added feature of some current.

   This was a great fish upon which to conclude this difficult swim.   Sandra met me in the shelter and got the grump home where she soothed my wet feathers with some warm soup.  Its spring at K Bay and I'm sure our next swim there will be more pleasant. Perhaps we will see you there.


Monday, February 25, 2019

Dolphins at the Pier And a Juvelile Peacock Razorfish

Whose sea is this?
I think I know.
His throne is in the Heavens, though.
Yet he may see me swimming here.
Among the dolphins at the pier.

Image result for o brother where art thou baptism song meme
     We awoke today to a torrential downpour.  By the time we had finished our morning coffee, though, the only evidence of the rain was the dripping from the leaves and gutters.  Today was Sandra's day to work on our taxes.  For how is poor Donald Trump to have his chocolate cake at Mar a Lago if Sandra doesn't remit?  At any rate, she wanted some peace and quiet, so I went out and filled the trunk with unwanted verbage (No!  That's what you were hoping for.) Leaves, fronds and rubbish.  That's the ticket.  Me and my refuse headed off for the redoubtable transfer station.  There after, I made my way to the village and parked in one of the available alternate spots.  Illegal sounds so damn judgemental.  Having secured parking, I gave the family bean counter a beep to let her know that I would be committing my flesh to the briny deep.  She said, "Be careful." and returned to her accounts.

A Baptism at the King Kam.  We can do it 50 times better.  
   While I was changing, I heard some cheering over by the King Kam Hotel.  Investigation revealed
 a collection of well heeled youths from the University of the Nations.  With their spiritual advisor, they were participating in a baptism ceremony.  You may recall that very beach was the location, only a few days previous, of Bo Campo's paddling memorial.  What with King Kemahemeha's heiau and all, this is turning into quite the spiritual locale.  I asked one of the handsome young men what was going on.  When he told me that it was a baptism,  I revealed to him one of my dreams:

    I have a long standing fascination with the scene from O Brother, Where Art Thou? in which the trio, having just finished their repast of barbecued gopher, happens upon a white clad congregation singing  Down in the River  (to pray).  I can imagine nothing better than a group of us  standing in line on that very beach, dressed in white and singing this song. And, of course, in turn, getting baptized.

Six Dolphns, Kailua Pier, February 2019
    My new friend from U of N agreed that this was an excellent idea.  I now know a few good voices of the religious persuasion in our beach community and I'm dedicated to making it happen. 

   Then all my sins would be washed away.  Including that job that Sandra and I pulled at the Piggly Wiggly.  If you want in, be sure to let me know.  This may be a bit of a happening, so if you are an agnostic you are still welcome.  And who knows?  Maybe your sins will be washed away.  Assuming you believe in sins.

    Having concluded the religious segment of our morning's activities, I wandered back over to the Ironman side of the pier.  As I was adjusting to the cold water, I couldn't help but notice that all my fellow beach enthusiasts were looking seaward at a group of small boats.  I saw a splash and it was soon verified that a school of dolphins was swimming off the southwest corner of the pier.
Four Dolphins (five, actually) Kailua Pier, February 2019

   I swam out,  crossing under the swim line just after the second buoy.  I passed over a large school of large scad, shepherded by black durgons, and then a large group of milkfish, for we were over sand.  I got my bearings and verified that there was only twenty yards of open water between the outermost spot where my swim might usually finish and the nearest boat.  In that stretch of no man's land there were actually a few like minded snorkelers.  Soon I was passing tourists wearing inner tubes,
I'll have four dolphin sliders, two Barnacle IPAs, a Longboard and a Squirt.
obviously disgorged from a boat at great expense.  Then there were the dolphins.

   On this morning I had many encounters, but they all involved me diving my paltry ten feet to get close.  The closest I got to a dolphin on the surface was just short of fifteen feet.  Never the less, I had many wonderful looks and there was only a modest mob with which to  contend.  In this instance, because it was a fairly large pod, the number of dolphins and tourists was about the same, perhaps thirty of each.

    I saw no mother and baby combinations, but I did see one dolphin with a common remora attached to his back.  There were a few dolphins with scratches, but none with gaping wounds from cookie cutter sharks.  Those lesions are truly gross and I was pleased both for the dolphins and myself.

Peacock Razorfish, Kailua Kona, 2019
     As I swam back in I came up with that bit of lead off poetry, paying a bit of homage to the immortal Robert Frost.  Maybe I'll include it on our next Christmas card. 

    One would have been justified in thinking that the day was over; we had had our treat.  But one also needs to keep his eyes open.  Near the fifth swim buoy, in about 20 feet of water, I saw something flopping around on the bottom.  It had a singular way of wriggling and light brown vertical stripes.  I was sure as I dove it that I was looking at a juvenile peacock razorfish.   I've seen this fish just once before, in the shallows of the disappearing reef at Ho'okena.

   Somehow my pictures don't catch the light brown of the vertical stripes.  You can see the two occuli, outlined in turquoise if you use your imagination.   And what about that long dorsal filament?  This was a very cool fish.   I watched him for about five minutes, diving him at least four times.  He was deep enough that I didn't get within seven or eight feet.  But he never spooked, never swam away.
Peacock Razorfish juvenile.   Love those occuli.
    Its not clear why this fish is seen so rarely.  In Bali we see two species of razorfish, a sand living wrasse, hanging out during the day.  One can dive them and if you get too close, they dive into the sand.  Here in Hawaii, us snorkelers never see them.

   At that moment there was a lady of a certain age and her husband swimming right beside me.   They were wearing those little blue fins, so one knew they were strong  recreational swimmers.  As such, the husband related in an accent redolent of the Canadian prairies, that seeing the dolphins was nice but really not unusual.  Which is true.  If I was out there swimming a mile or more, I would run into the dolphin pod regularly.

     I asked, "Do you see that fish on the bottom?  Its a razorfish.  Super rare."  In fact, I was pretty excited and I might have said super rare three or four times.  They were only mildly interested.  The gentleman gave it a cursory dive and the lady looked down from the surface.  Which I guess was better than nothing.   This casual interest shouldn't have surprised me; us fishwatchers are almost as rare as peacock razorfish.



Saturday, February 23, 2019

A Birthday Blog

    Soixante-huit...huit that sounds like wheat.  Wheaties...Breakfast of Champions!

The Greatest lived to 74.  Am I on pace?
     That loose word association was floating around my head a week ago as I snorkeled on the Ironman side of the pier.  It was a glorious day, relatively dry, with a light breeze and blue skies, which should have lifted my spirits, but last Saturday was my 68th birthday.  I suppose my associations were attempting to put the best face possible on the inexorable aging process.  There is always the old saw, "Consider the alternative."

    I had originally planned on swimming Paul Allen's Reef, but that morning there was a Kai 'Opua (the paddling club based in Kailua Kona) event that took up the entire beach in front of the King Kamehameha Hotel.  I was to discover after my swim that the founder of the club had passed away and that this convocation of paddlers was a memorial to him.  "Uncle Bo" Campos made it to 83.  Quatre-vingt-trois. Not too shabby.

    I didn't see too much that Saturday morning.  On the way out, I encountered a friendly  whitemouth moray that insisted on having his picture taken.   And on the way back in I happened upon this well illuminated two spot lizardfish.  Certainly,  it was good to get out and have swim on my birthday, enjoy the sun, the fishh and the friendly people on the beach.  For sure, our family and friends on the mainland weren't snorkeling, more likely they were shoveling the driveway.  So this was pretty
A whitemouth moray providing me with a happy birthday greeting.

   The week following that nascent event was spent, largely, getting the Casa Ono kitchen put back together, including the installation of new counter tops.  So you see, not only can I still go snorkeling, but I can stand on a ladder and paint walls.  Hoo rah. 

    Yesterday, I made it back to the pier.  Not only are we entering a period of calm seas, but the weather had cleared after two days of torrential rain.  This day I had the beach in front of the hotel virtually to myself.   There was a nice young family from Seattle that permitted me to waste their time while I put on my gear.  Their children were exactly the ages of Colsen and Reid and they had been enjoying the ocean. What's up with that?

Can a lizard fish even say, "Happy birthday?"
     After braving the cold of the Inner Harbour,  I checked in with the coral croucher, still residing in front of Paul's lagoon.  I have just done some sleuthing back through the blogs to discover that this coral croucher was first seen on August 31, 2018.  That's almost six months of crouching in the same
coral.  Is it time to call Guiness to see if its a world record.  Or is it time to raise a pint of Guiness  and say, "Good on ya, Spotty!"

   Around the corner I was striking out until I happened upon a Whitley's trunkfish.  This fish seems to be a specialty of the area around the Kailua Kona pier; it is uncommon both north and south of this single location.   I hadn't seen one for a while, so it was good to get a Whitley's for this year and the experience was augmented by the acceptable picture that you see here.

Whitley's Trunkfish, Paul Allen's Reef, Kailua Kona February 2019
     A few minutes later I happened upon a mushroom coral.  Before the great coral die off of three years ago, this species was not terribly unusual in this location.  Like the cauliflower coral, the mushroom coral took a pretty big hit.  Perhaps this coral is a harbinger of good things to come.
Mushroom coral, Paul Allen's Reef, February 2019.

    On my way back to the beach I saw a Hebrew cone that was sitting shiva for Uncle Bo.  Bo has gone to that ocean in the sky, where the skies are blue, the seas are flat and everyone strokes in unison.  I, on the other had, am still here with you and our friends the fishes.  May the dear good Lord bless us, one and all.


Kai 'Opua says aloha nui loa to Uncle Bo.

Sunday, February 10, 2019

A Winter Swim with Roy Rogers and Dale Evans

     With the jet stream moving south faster than a Hawaiian Airlines747, Hawaii is beset by high surf, high winds and low temperatures.  Our high in Kona yesterday was a frigid 76.  Holy underwear!  Better make that long underwear.

Fly to the Emerald City and take them spam.  Lots of it!
    Thankfully things aren't as bad as they are in Seattle.  When your city makes the national news for its weather it is rarely a good thing.  According to one of our faithful readers, the snow in the Emerald City has been so persistent that the shelves down at the Piggly Wiggly have been stripped bare.  That happens here on the Big Island at least once a year when we are threatened by a hurricane.  Its sort of creepy.

    Like if you were starving, would you have to fight it out for the last can of spam?

    Perhaps in an act of unexpected benevolence, the Wicked Witch will marshal her flying monkeys for an airlift into the metropolis that fashions itself after Frank Baum's fantasy.  It seems like they can use all the help they can get.

   Despite the frigid zephyrs whistling through our tropical paradise, I made it down to the pier for a swim on Saturday.  No surprises, there were relatively few people at the beach.  I mean, what sort of masochist goes swimming in cold water with full knowledge that when he gets out he will be buffeted by cold winds?  In the words of Garfield the Cat, I resemble that remark.  Or so it would appear.

Blackside Hawkfish.  Anybody got an Eskimo Pie?
  Suffice it to say,  I bucked up my courage, tucked in my neoprene and plunged into the cool, cloudy water.  With great surfing conditions being as persistent as the snow on the Space Needle, one might
have anticipated that the water would lack clarity.

    There were only a few fish and nothing remarkable as I made my way out past the last swim buoy.  Out in front of the palace, I spotted one fat freckeld hawkfish waiting patiently, perhaps for an Eskimo pie.  I dove down to capture the image that you see here, enjoying the slightly warmer water that one encounters a few feet below the surface. 

    Working my way back, I crossed under the floating line at the second swim buoy.  To my dismay, there was little of interest over by the pier.  No eels or hermit crabs and relatively few fish.  Sad.

Finescale Triggerfish wounded in action.  Kailua Pier  February 2019
    As I headed towards shore I was surprised to be joined by none other than Roy Rogers and Dale Evans.  Who would have guessed that the King of the Cowboys was also a snorkeling fishwatcher?  There was no doubt that it was Roy because he was yodeling through his snorkel.  Perhaps that is what scared away all the fish.

   As we approached the floating line, Dale, said, "Pardon me, Roy.  But did the cat that chewed your new shoes also take a bite out of trigger?"  Looking towards the pier, I saw immediately what she was talking about.  A finescale trigger (fish) was cowering there in the lee of a boulder, a large chunk missing from his dorsal musculature.  I don't know if the poor triggerfish was a victim of  the puma that roams Roy's Apple Valley Ranch, but you now know how far I will go to slip in an apocryphal reference.

  Happy trails to you, until we meet again.


If you think Dale looks cute here, you should see her in a shorty wetsuit.


Friday, February 1, 2019

Winter at the Pier and A Shark Sighting at Beach 69

   Most of my friends are like me in that we are a little over weight, just an extra pound or two here and there.  Not Sandra, of course...she just keeps on getting thinner and prettier.  But there are more than a few in the land of the malasada, both white and brown, that are way too heavy.  I'm talking in the 350 plus range.

Our new cheerleader.  "Never root for the Ducks!"
   Yesterday morning at the Kailua Pier was glorious.  The sky was blue, the temperature in the mid 70s, with fleecy white clouds floating above.  And by the cubbies above the beach, the lady swimmers were showing off their fancy full length neoprene.

    As I made my way down the steps towards the Ironman beach I was preceded by a very large lady.  She had to be younger than me, but biologically speaking, her knees were ancient.  It occurred to me that if she fell I would be the first responder.  Not a happy prospect.

   As she waddled down the narrow walkway below the sea wall, she ran into a problem.  A lady tourist was sitting on the wall enjoying the sun and dangling her not half bad legs across the path.  When she noticed that she was impeding our large friend, she withdrew them with a quiet apology and the heavy lady passed.  She made her way down to the beach and into the sea.  There, presumably, the buoyant water took the majority of the weight off her tortured knees.  Much like it does in whales. (Who, of course, don't actually have knees, but isn't it an amusing mental image?)
Red Phobas sponge brightens up an otherwise dull afternoon.  Tom Lehrer, loosely

   As I, in turn, trod the narrow sandy walkway, I encountered those same not half bad legs, swinging gaily, just happy to be in Hawaii.  Attached to the legs was their smiling owner.  Under her ball cap, this fifty something was grinning like the Cheshire cat.  "Are you a hazard to navigation?"  I asked.

  "No," she replied, "I'm a cheerleader!"  Well, cool.

   I stepped onto the sand and turned around.  "If your a cheerleader," I said, "why don't you cheer for some good fish... And while you're at it, how about cheering for some warm water."  She smiled and waved and I made my way into the chilly bay.

A trio of milkfish out by the fourth swim buoy. Kailua Bay January 2019
   Cheering for the water was a lost cause.  It was cold and modestly cloudy.  I don't know if she cheered for the fish, but if she did so, it didn't do much good. I actually saw fewer species than on recent outings at the pier.  In the words of the Tweeting Trump, "Sad."  Furthermore, unless you count a couple patches of bright orange Phobas sponges, there was nothing in the way of note worthy invertebrates.  No molluscs or crabs to pique our enthusiasm.

   Thanking our maker for my wee bit 'o neoprene, I made my way past the last swim buoy where I had a nice encounter with the tribe of milkfish.  There were at least seven of these large, handsome fish with the big forked tail.   In the absence of the now usual finescale triggerfish, this was the best species for the day.  Coming back to the shallows, I photographed the ornate butterflyfish you see here.  While it is a
Ornate Butterflyfish, Kailua Bay, January 2019
pedestrian species, to be sure, it is a beauty and this is a pretty good picture.  For me, anyway. 

    Back ashore, our young (relative to me) lady friend was still perched on the wall.  As I walked by, I noticed that her ball cap bore the friendly beaver logo of Oregon State.  Unless I'm mistaken that particular beave is named Benny.  I said, "Oh! You cheer for the Beavers."  And she replied," Never root for the Ducks!"

    So with that as my mantra resonating in my hollow skull, I made my way towards the showers.  "Never root for the Ducks.  Never root for the Ducks."  A guy could get into that one.

     In the shower, I was joined by a young man and his wife.  Young by the same standards as the lady cheerleader, you know...early fifties.

    We got to talking about some better fish we had seen recently and I told him about the nice adolescent Christmas Wrasses I had seen at Beach 69 a week or so ago.  He then told me that about a
Kickin' it at beach 69.  If you stay on the beach you won't need to worry about sharks
month ago, right at dear old Beach 69,  he had seen a white tipped reef shark.

   A couple years ago, following a rumor, Bob Hillis and I explored the crevices around the island that sits about 25 yards off the beach, less than fifty yards to the south of the T, where the trail comes down from the parking lot and showers.  We had no luck in the shark finding arena, but I still look at those crevices when I swim off that part of the beach.  If nothing else, they are a good spot for monster porcupinefish.

    Above, you see some beach enthusiasts on the south side of Beach 69.  You also see the start of that small island, which is only 20 yards off shore.

    My new friend said that he was swimming about fifty yards straight out from where the trail to the restrooms ends at the beach.  It is remarkably rocky right there, so he must have entered either north or south of this reference point.  And he must have been in the open, no coral head or rocks especially close by.  He spotted a white tip reef shark about fifteen feet away, the shark turned and swam towards him, stopping, he said, four feet right in front of him and just looked at him for a minute.  It then turned and swam away.
Snorkel Bob Cares

   At this point in my narrative, I imagine Bob Hilllis, who has videos of real dangerous shark
encounters, rolling out of his chair with mirth.  The white tip should be completely safe.  You never hear about one attacking a human. But this guy said he was a bit afraid and all I can say is, "Boy Howdy."  If looking a six foot shark in the eyes doesn't give you a squirt of adrenaline, you are one cool cookie.  Like Bob "Hang 'em High" Hillis.  Suffice it to say, my friends estimation of distances and time may be off.  If I were four feet away from a shark ten seconds could seem like an hour.  And six feet might seem like four. Regardless,  this is a note worthy tale and if you are snorkeling at Beach 69, its reasonable to keep in mind.


Here is a picture of our favorite cheerleader, Sandra's daughter Leslie, and yours truly on the north side of
     Beach 69. Since the tsunami a couple years ago, the north side of the beach is rocky.  Better to use the
beach to the south of the T in the trail.