Valentines scuba

Kona pt 3 – more snot and some whales

I woke up bright and early and ready for my four-dive day.  At Jack’s Diving Locker, they label the all-day people as ‘Dive Animal.’  I like that.  I walked to the shop early to scope out their GoPro gear and bought a new underwater housing; my camera started behaving mostly normal again (Why do you put rice with your wet electronics?  To attract an asian person to come fix it.  Is it a racist joke if you’re calling them smart? Probably.  Sorry, I giggled.  But I think I heard it from my Japanese boss).

Anyway, the new housing didn’t fit with my new red filter, so that will be someone’s gift.

Jack’s is a clean, professional dive shop with all the newest gear and gadgets for sale, and I waited there for about an hour before they even considered getting us to the boat; not super efficient.  The boat was nice, though, and I loved the crew.  We went all the way down to Kealakekua Bay at the Capt Cook monument, which took nearly an hour.  We had to go that far to find a place out of the continuing north swell, although the wind was still kicking pretty hard.  The first dive was good, and super cold again, and if you assumed that I had snot in my mask all day you would be correct.  Immersion in cold water for extended periods does not make a runny nose stop.

The fish and reef were about the same as 2 Step, without the cool ray and turtle.  The best part was getting in close to the rocks and watching the waves crash from about 20 feet below.  I had no trouble keeping off the reef, and the fish were happily swaying with the current.  The weirdest part was watching the only couple from the boat, they held hands for the entire dive.  Almost an hour.  And then they held hands during the surface interval.  And again throughout the second dive.  At times I would just stop and watch them instead of the fish, they were fascinating – two skinny, regular-looking white people, maybe in their late 20s.  Glued together, no matter if they had to turn around, or were stuck on the reef, or one was having equipment trouble.  Never let go.  I almost want to say it was romantic and Valentinesy but no, it just seemed pretty inconvenient for the most part.  And a bit ridiculous.

I had left my filter connected to my camera since I tethered it before I realized it would’ t fit the new housing; I had decided to give it to Shanti for helping me arrange my trip.  And I left it somewhere on the sea floor.

We found out between dives that the afternoon and night Manta Ray dives were cancelled due to the weather.  No more ‘Dive Animal.’  The second dive was much like the first, cool, but with lessening visibility and getting rougher.  By the time we were done I couldn’t feel a couple of my fingers.  I never thought diving in Hawaii could be so cold, even with Bill’s extra wetsuit on top of Pablo’s.

On the way home we saw dolphins chasing the boat, and whales breaching here and there.  We stopped a couple times to watch, and most people had never seen a whale up close before.  This was also about the time that we found out that all communications on the island were down.  We didn’t know at the time, but a construction worker grading some land hit a pole which knocked out all phone, internet and cell communication (except TMobile.  Crappiest island service provider was the only one working).  Seems like an important pole like that should be a little more protected.  Besides the couple and me, all the other divers were married guys whose wives were shopping.  Each of them was supposed to call for a ride when they got out of the water.  Each of them was staring at their phones, scratching their heads, wondering what their wives were gonna do when they didn’t call.  And we were almost three hours late because we dove so far away and kept stopping for whales.

When we got back I was able to reschedule my night dives for the next day, even though I was planning on driving north to see some friends.  But I had exactly 18 hours between the end of the night dive and my flight home, and like one diver told me, “If you’re going to give yourself an embolism, the manta dive is the only one worth it.”

And off I went to Humpy’s for a couple post-dive drinks.


Kona pt 2 – Snot diving

My first dives on the big island were completely unlike what I expected.  Since a northwest swell had started to come in, and all the dive companies I called were sold out, I could only find a company to take me on a shore dive.  Bill, at the Hawaiian Dive Shack, didn’t want to fill up a boat and cancel so he was turning away business.  But he was willing to jump in my car and take me somewhere.  To me, this meant picking him up at his shop, driving to the nearest pier, and swimming out; therefore, I didn’t bring much beyond my dive gear.  To Bill, a decent shore dive was an hour away, which I didn’t realize until 20 minutes into the drive when I finally asked him where we were going.  We drove to Honaunau Bay, or 2 Step, by the Place of Refuge.  The bay is called 2 Step because of the two rock steps to get into the water.  From a short distance I could see the Place of Refuge; if a criminal or defeated warrior in the old times could reach Pu’uhonua before being caught, he was given protection until no one was looking for him anymore.

Bill and I suited up and made our way to the steps for our first dive.  The swell was starting to come in so there weren’t many people in the water; instead, most snorkelers were standing around the steps wondering how they were going to get in, the water was surging and crashing on the rocks with each set wave.  We sat on the steps, put on fins, waited for a big wave, and let it suck us off the rocks.  After a short swim out, the visibility was good and plenty of fish were happily swimming along.  The highlight of our first dive was a spotted eagle ray cruising by, he let us swim with him until we were pretty far out and decided to turn around.  Half-way through this dive I noticed that my GoPro had condensation inside the housing, it was a panic moment.  But nothing to be done about it, it was either ruined or not at that point, so might as well finish the dive.  We saw a couple turtles, stayed out until I thought I was going to freeze to death, and my Dayquil wore off.  I had borrowed Pablo’s wetsuit, and it wasn’t nearly thick enough to keep me warm; I was mostly thinking of the $9 per dive over four days that I would save by not renting a suit, and not that I’m always cold.  I’d say ‘lesson learned,’ but I knew better already.  I did warm up a little trying to get out of the water through the waves, it’s easier to get sucked off a rock going in than to ride a wave in and not bash my head getting out.  Especially in front of a crowd, wondering how it would turn out.

I dried off my GoPro, Bill changed our tanks, we ate granola bars, and got ready to go back out.  I had taken four Dayquils before I left to make sure that my nose would stop running and my ears would clear, but since I hadn’t expected such a long drive I hadn’t brought any more and my cold came back.  Not enough to stop me from diving, though.  We made our daring entry through the waves, again, to the amazement of all the people standing around with fins in hand, and swam to the other side of the bay.  I didn’t risk bringing my camera again and just enjoyed the scenery.  My mask was brand new, and even though I used plenty of defog, I had to continually let in water, swish it around, and blow it out to get a clear view.  When my cold medicine wore off for good, about 10 minutes into the second dive, every time I cleared my mask I blew snot into it, which left slimy slug trails across my vision.  Awesome.

By the end of the second dive, getting out of the water was way more challenging.  There were no longer any other people swimming, they were all standing by the steps.  Bill and I floated for a couple minutes watching the set waves, which were pounding the rocks, forcing the people to run back and forth, tripping over each other to get out of the way.  In the end, it was either ‘just do it,’ or swim all the way around to the shallows by the Place of Refuge.  We just did it, and no one was hurt, just a banged tank; it was kinda fun, really.  As I sat back on the rocks taking off my fins, a man walked up and said ‘good thing he was with you.’

The ride home was a guided tour of the side of the island.  Bill was great, and wanted me to stop anytime I saw something interesting.  I also learned about his entire life.  He opened his dive shop when he moved to Kona, and has since been buying the stock from every shop that goes out of business.  His place is packed with gear.  He knows all the prices of every item of every competitor, and at the end of our trip, he gave me a regulator and a shorty wetsuit to put on top of Pablo’s so I wouldn’t be cold, even though the rest of my dives were with a different company.  All for free.  Super nice guy.

The rest of my day was fairly uneventful – a nap, a trip to the hotel gym after I finally saw a full-length mirror for the first time in months, and horrible pad thai.  Good times.


Kona 2015

written at humpy’s alehouse, kona 2-11-15

I really didn’t want to go to the big island by myself.  I had a week off work, little money, and no desire to spend more time alone.  Shanti talked me into going, and after all, what was I going to do at home all week?  The same things I do every day, including complaining about my upstairs neighbor, and being alone anyway.  There was a big northwest swell coming in and my favorite camping spot would be too junky to swim, and way too big to surf.

I spent an evening trying to find flights, hotels, dives, cars, all the necessary vacation things, and failed.  I’m just not a good planner.  Every time I found a piece of the puzzle, I stressed that the other pieces would sell out before I could book them; for some reason, Valentine’s Week is extremely popular in Hawaii.  Another depressing thought about being alone for vacation.

But Shanti persevered and booked my entire trip, except for the dives.  I had called in advance and made those reservations; there’s no reason to go anywhere if I can’t get in the water.  Dive shops have a much friendlier cancellation policy than airlines.

There are always little surprises when you let someone else book trips for you; I hadn’t realized that my flight from Kahului to Kona was on a puddle-jumper plane.  Normally I don’t mind them, but to get an idea of the conditions, a school in Kona cancelled because the wind gusts ripped off the roof that day.  And there were lots of kids who had no idea of what ‘indoor voice’ means.  Its pretty intense on a small plane, and I forgot my headphones.

We landed successfully and I retrieved my rental car.  I had a choice of a blue, four-door Hyundai or something that resembled a Smart Car.  I still envisioned that Andy might join me and I wasn’t sure either of us could fit in the tiny car, even separately, so I picked the Hyundai.  I made it to Island Naturals to buy food, and ultimately to the Holiday Inn Express.  Shanti had printed me maps for everywhere I needed to go.  She’s so awesome.  I sometimes wonder how I got through life before her.

By the time I got to my room at the Holiday Inn it was dark.  I had three bags: one of camera gear, one of Pablo’s borrowed scuba gear, and a tiny sack with some clothes.  My room had two beds and I immediately decided that one was for sleeping, the other for snacking and napping.  The building next door contained a pizza place called Longboards, specializing in taro crust, and I ordered a medium to go, for my snack bed.  After an hour walk to reacquaint myself with Kona, I had been there for a couple days with Shanti, Pablo and Jason a few years ago, I came back to the largest pizza I’d ever seen.  And it was a medium.  I started to argue that they made the wrong size for me when I saw the large walk past, for a group of about 20.  My pizza could have stuffed eight people easily, and it took up almost half of my snack bed.  I ate about four people’s worth, thought I might never walk again, and threw the rest in the hallway so I wouldn’t be tempted to start eating again in ten minutes.  I didn’t even want it for breakfast, I never wanted to see that pizza again.

One of the reasons I finally relented and went on a trip instead of saving money was that my upstairs neighbor had a house guest for the week.  I love my neighbor, but my house just wasn’t meant to have a downstairs apartment; every movement she makes is amplified and echoed, and I haven’t had a full nights sleep in months.  Two people above me meant that I wouldn’t sleep all week.  And wow was I surprised, sitting on my snack bed with my ridiculous-sized pizza, when all I could hear over the TV was the people above me pounding across my ceiling.  Fuuuuuuuucccckk.

At least I still had some Nyquil left from my cold.

But I’m on vacation, and the diving starts tomorrow.  All up from here.