Thursday, December 16, 2004

The Hawaii Diaries -- Day Five (slowly getting there)

Playful dolphins off the snorkel boat Posted by Hello

Turtle love at Kapaluu Posted by Hello

Needle fish Posted by Hello

Kapaluu Posted by Hello

Afternoon snorkeling at Kapaluu Posted by Hello

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

This was the best day so far – snorkel, snorkel, snorkel. Who knew all that cool stuff was under the water? I guess I did know, but you don’t really think about it much until you are checking it out.

In the morning, we went out on the Pacific Dream Cruise. (I don't know that it was such a dream, but it was only $39 for all three of us because of our timeshare discount.) When we got there, it was only the three of us and one other guy on a sort of old beat up trimaran that could have held 50 people! Word was that an ocean liner that was supposed to have come in didn't, so business was slow. All the better for us, and we embarked on our essentially private cruise. We had a crew of three to our four, with Captain Kahani (pronounced Connie), First Mate Jordan and crew woman Astrid.

Kahani was just a little guy, but he was competent. I wondered right off why his tatoos were being removed and why he had taken out all five of his earrings, of which only the holes remained in his right ear. Given that observation, Mom later learned that his goal was to become a captain of a private yacht for $100,000 a year or so, but his tattoos were hindering him, so he was spending some $10,000 to get them removed.

Jordan, who was perhaps the most tan person I had ever seen, was a single mom but she was dating a guy who came from Leadville, Colorado. We didn’t learn that much about Astrid, other than that she was young and blonde and came from Hilo.

Chatting with Dutch, the other guy on the cruise, I learned he hailed from Holland, hence his name. His real name was Arthur and he didn’t really speak Dutch any longer. He was attractive, in his late 50s. I learned that he was actually half-owner of the company that owned Pacific Dream Cruises (or so he said) and had shown up on a secret scouting mission. He told me not to tell anyone, so I didn’t, although I pondered warning the crew. He wasn’t that happy with the state of the boat, which was 30 years old and needed painting.

The night before had been rainy and storms were predicted all day long. The morning opened cloudy and a bit cool, but rain didn’t seem imminent. The stormy weather from the night before had made the water a little rough, so we had to search for a place where we could moor up. After checking out one harbor, we went to another. Captain Kahani decided it was too rough there as well, but we did see a pod of spinner dolphins and that was so cool. They just swim up to the boats, check them out and hang out a little. They really are so social and seem to enjoy saying hi and swimming along with you for a bit. I wished we could get out and swim with them.

We ended up going back to the first harbor and tying up. Now it was time to jump in, a prospect I hadn’t really given much consideration to. The only time I had ever snorkeled before was at a snorkel park around Playa del Carmen and that was pretty easy peasy – like snorkeling for retards in a super giant manmade aquarium – awesome, but not really occuring in nature.

Still, I strapped on my mask, snorkel and fins and jumped into the water. Looking down, it was pretty much a watery wonderland – with all sorts of colorful fish swimming around. Jacks, also known as Chubs, hovered near the boat like stray dogs, hoping for some cast-off food (which they got, by the way). There were surgeon fish – deep black with a few marked white stripes – an irridescent blue-green fish the Hawaiian name of which I can’t remember. I saw one parrot fish way down there, and also a moray eel at one point. Lots of bright yellow fish, black and yellow and white angler fish with a big fin hanging over their snouts. It was cool to see all the life just there beneath the waves, something you never consider but that is always going on.

We snorkeled, ate lunch (hamburgers and hot dogs and grilled pineapple – the water slide didn’t work to Dutch’s sort-of secret dismay but the gas grill did) and then Mom and I got in for some more snorkeling. When I first got in, I looked below me to see a squadron of divers about 25 feet down, which was kind of cool to see. I was going diving on Thursday and it was fun to check out what they were doing.

Finally, I moved on, swimming and floating about the cove. I was out there for a long time, but everyone on the boat seemed relaxed and not worried about me so I just kept swimming. At one point, I looked up and everyone was standing on one side of the boat peering out and I knew they were seeing something cool that I was missing, but I couldn’t get back in time to see it. Turns out that was a whale and I was mad I missed it.

Anyway, I was still snorkeing away, absorbed in my own little world, when I saw a lot of commotion at the boat. I started swimming back and I heard a woman screaming in a very frenzied voice: “help her, help her, help my sister!”

At that point, I decided I had better get back in case they needed help or just needed to get on our way. When I got back, everyone was working hard to pull up a scuba diver, who seemed to be passed out because they were having a tough time getting her up. I wondered if the woman was breathing because you could tell she wasn’t awake. But things were chaotic and I just waited to get the information later.

Turns out, something had malfunctioned with her tank and she had inhaled a lot of water. After that, she panicked and grabbed her sister’s regulator but that didn’t help. She came up fast, never a great thing, and was disoriented and choking when she got to the surface. She just so happened to surface right at our boat, which was lucky (or providential, as my Dad said) for her, because she needed immediate help. She was alert enough to ask, but she passed out fairly quickly and started turning blue, according to Mom and Dad.

They got her up on the boat and on her left side so she could lay and let the bubbles, which happen when you surface too quickly, pass out of her system. She threw up a lot of salt water, but finally she was awake and breathing again. Very shaken, but likely okay. One boat, from Jack’s Diving Locker, took her and her husband back to shore because that boat’s divers weren’t in the water yet and it was a faster boat than our 30-year-old catamaran. Her boat, Kona Honu Divers, got all their people back on board before finally taking off.

Ultimately, everyone was okay, but it was both exciting and somewhat traumatic. Mom didn’t want me to stick with my plans to go diving on Thursday, but I was resolute because I had always wanted to try scuba diving and the chance doesn’t come up that often. Dad and I agreed that using the law of statistics – the “lightening strikes” rule, I like to call it – I was unlikely to run into trouble.

After that, we cleaned up and went on in. Dutch never told them who he was, but even though he said he was unhappy with the condition of the boat, he had to be impressed by the way Captain Kahani and the crew handled the emergency because Kahani stayed calm and in charge the whole way.

I so loved snorkeling that mom agreed to go with me to Kapaluu, the nearby snorkel beach, in the afternoon. Kapaluu is like one really really big aquarium and you can swim forever without it ever getting too deep. Actually, I wish I had spent more time there while we were in Kona.

Some of the pictures above are from Kapaluu, including the turtles, which is my favorite picture from the whole trip. It was so cool to just be snorkeling along and then run smack into these two turtles. (I was actually given a tip by a fellow snorkeler, but Mom and Dad both saw turtles here no problem.)

After snorkeling, Mom and I indulged in Mai Tais and I have to say, those babies are strong!

For dinner, we went back to Huggo’s. The meal was great, but the coolest part was looking over the balcony into the cove. We could see a moray eel (which Mom called "the creature," and we got sort of obsessed with watching it) sliding from tidal pool to tidal pool, hunting, and there were also herds of crabs (my own biological term), scuttling sideways along the rocks.

No comments: