-34C breakfast time. This doesn’t look good. It is colder than yesterday and when I head to the pee tree it is obvious. Dan, our guide, says it is suppose to get warmer and everyone starts to get ready. Slowly, very slowly. No one is overly enthusiastic. I make an executive decision. I have skied at -30C before many times and I cannot recall even once when it was a good time. I don’t go. Pretty sad I know but yesterday was no fun and today it is even colder. It is a day by the fire with a book.
Skiing is still sketchy. The wind has stopped but the temperature is still real cold. We have chosen to start early in case we can stay out all day we want to maximize our time out on the snow.
The uptrack is long we are headed over a distant ridge and see if it is sheltered from the wind. We find a pitch that looks promising and point them down. 3 good turns, then under our feet it is crusted. Oops, at least I stay on my feet. Skin up to another somewhat promising slope and try again. This time we get about 10 good turns and into the crust.
By this time we are getting cold. Back to a high point and we should be able to slide back to the lodge. It is the most cautious trip I have ever made down an up track. If I stay in the track I gain huge speed and if I step out the snow is bad and I take a chance on bailing, and I do. Head first, tons snow on bare skin on a very cold day with wind on my face. I’m not happy.
It’s cold, the skiing’s bad, I haven’t eaten lunch and I back at the lodge. The lodge is warm and I made the right choice.
Up and at-em. Off to breakfast 6.30 just like the front desk said. We are summarily told ‘we don’t open till 7.00’. The hotel is not winning alot of points this trip.
The heli prelim is as most places but the ride is really long. We arrive late morning and it takes a long time to get it together with unpacking, lunch and all the safety stuff. Man it is cold. The wind is blowing and the snow is affected. We head off for our first ski. The up track was set yesterday so travel is relatively easy and there are spots of reasonable snow but as we walk my poles feel some pretty hard snow.
We start down and the snow is slow because of the cold and you have to be very light. There is a crust a few inches under the new snow but it is not very supportive and if you break through you are doing a header.
One run, freezing cold, tomorrow will bring another day.
One of my favorite sayings is ‘The worst the driving the better the skiing.’ Today the driving was quite good until the BC border. As I gained an hour on the day the roads turned slick and I slowed down. There has been a lot of snow here this last week, so my theory should hold true. The only thing is the avalanche report is not the best. There seems to be some sketchy wind packed slopes that are not to be trod on. But on the shallower terrain I think the skiing will be epic.
It’s New Years Eve and everyone in the hotel seems exicited. There is a ton of noise, kids and adults. I’m hoping I get some quiet, I would rather sleep. The hotel is not very accomodating. When I checked in the fellow told me they had lots of room but when I ask to change my room so I am not so near the party he said it could not be done. Seems odd they would not want to keep me happy but the music has not yet started so maybe I won’t notice.
8am at the heli and first tracks in the backcountry for 2017 shortly afternoon. Yeha.
TaaaaTaDaaa TaaaaTaDaaaTaTaDa TaTaDa TaTaDaaaaa. The sun is setting on our Kona dive vacation. Today is the last day of diving and it is long range day. Three dives far away from home. It is an all day event leaving at 7am and home at 5pm.
I know today will be an auspicious day. I am flossing my teeth and I realize I had broken with habit and was flossing right side to left side, the opposite direction of my normal routine.
And it is. An hour plus long boat ride and we are at Jailhouse Rock. A site that has no mooring ball, which means it is not an official dive site. Enjoyable dive with a goodly number of the ususal suspect fish. Nothing stands out but we are not disappointed.
We move north to a site called The Dome. Don’t remember the significance of the name, the dive briefings are starting to run together. This is when the day turns special. We search the higher elevations along a wall looking for nudibranhes, and crustachions. As we head towards the deep David spots a turtle. First one in two weeks of diving. I follow the fellow trying to capture him on video. D and C are behind us photoing an octopus. Suddenly there is all sorts of commotion and when I turn around a manta ray is swimming by with at least 10 spectators. That is cool. After calming down we head deeper. A few minutes later David is banging his tank and lo and behold another manta glides ever so graciously within 10 feet of us. Wow are those animals big, 3 to 4M across. Pace that off and realize how big they are. Under the boat, at our safety stop, there is a third encounter. Right in front of us again. Don’t get to see mantas in the day very often.
Divemaster David trying to cut fishing line off Manta Ray.
Dive three we are almost back to the harbour, Devil’s Doorway. Even though we are close to the boat dock we have not been to this site before. Briefing sounds interesting and we have instructions to keep our eyes to the deep. Dive is going as planned and more commotion. This time a pair of spotted eagle rays slides by, They’re not at all bothered by divers. I have the video camera on and don’t even have to kick hard to stay beside them. As we turn away a third fellow comes from the shallows headed for the deep.
Hint of the Spotted Eagle Rays that we saw.
Our last day and we have two awesome dives. I have yet to make the connection between right to left flossing and rays but you can bet I will be consciously changing my habit on the next dive trip. Hell, if it causes that much disruption in the universe I may change my flossing style permanently.
Good bye Kona…..until next time.
There are dolphins that hang around these parts, they do their sleep thing in the daytime. They keep half their brain turned on and cruise around while the other half sleeps, at some point they switch sides and side two gets a rest. That’s what we’re told. It is of little relevance to us when we jump in the water, swim for 15 minutes and all of a sudden there are dolphins everywhere. They are 40 ft above us but the visablity is good and the image is clear as a bell. One of the wishes (no expectations) for this trip is to see the dolphins and today is the day.
The second dive is all about eels. We are looking for the ever elusive Dragon Eel but today he is just that, elusive. David, divemaster extraordinaire, has a hay day and finds maybe 7 different types of eels this time. There is a Snowflake, Tiger, Yellowhead, the standard Whitemouth, and a few others I can not ID.
As our first dive progresses the dolphins return not once but twice and then in the distance we hear someone banging a tank. David points to the blue and OMG there is a big, very big, shark on a swim by. This is not the time of year to see tiger sharks but there it is 100 or so feet off my port side, taking up the entire field of vision of my mask. We are not more then 100M out of the harbour on our first dive of the day and if we had to we could head back right now totally in awe. Bingo!
I have a new underwater camera. My old one was a Canon S95, new one is a Canon G7 X Mark II. Similar, but different.
On day one of diving, I choose settings for the new camera like I chose for the old one. A review of the photos later in the day revealed most of the photos to be out of focus.
Since day I, along with Murray’s expertise, have been playing with the settings trying to take photos that are in focus and that have enough, but not too much, light. It is sometimes very frustrating to get back to the hotel after seeing great creatures, to find out the photos are not salvageable. GRRRR!
Aperature Priority is not good. Speed Priority is better but not perfect. Manual aperature and speed seem to be the best setting but I have to check my speed to make sure there is enough light. Sometimes this is hard for me to figure out underwater, and to remember! Fortunately, Murray uses Photoshop to process all our pictures so he can do amazing things with a photo that is too dark, or too light.
Hopefully by the time our dive trip is over I will have figured this new camera out and will have, once again, some fabulaous photos.
“Whale!” shouts D from the bow of the dive boat. “Which brownies are you eating?” calls Shaggy from the aft. Everyone laughs. We all rush forward and watch a humpback whale spout and then show us his tail. Magnificent creature!
As we motor into the harbour, a turtle surfaces for a breath or two of air. A large mottled brown beast that everyone loves.
Pulling into the dock, David calls “Eagleray!” and we all look to the port side then to the starboard side to watch a spotted eagle ray glide under the boat looking for tasty treats left by fishermen.
Cruising to our dive sites we often see a pod of spinner dolphins frolicking in the water. Oohs and ash are emitted when a dolphin treats us to a jump and spin out of the water.
We hear there is a tiger shark in the area and one day coming into the harbour we see a black shadow swimming below us, which the crew indicates is the shark, himself. Looks like a moving black rock to me, but hey, a tiger shark it is!
Going scuba diving is not just what we see underwater but also what we see from our perch on the boat above the water.
Last year, one of the dive masters suggested I try a 63 cu ft tank instead of using the normal 80 cu ft tank. It is shorter and weighs less, but the volume of air is “less”. I tried it and loved using it. My air consumption matched Murray’s almost exactly. Until we got to the shallows, and then I seemed to sip air whereas Murray still gobbled it, which still allowed me to stay underwater slightly longer than him.
Last year I had a 91 minute dive on a 63 cu ft tank. The dive masters were teasing me, and shaking their heads, about this ability. This year, again using the smaller tank, one of them said to me that I was actually allowed to breathe underwater. Today, Kerry, the owner of Kona Diving Company, and I stayed under for 94 minutes! (She used an 80 cu ft tank, MS)
Wonder how long tomorrow’s dives will be?
It is amazing how long it takes to get back in stride and begin to find the small animals you know you can locate. 5 days in and I think I am getting close to finding the things I should find.
The first day the big things are easy to see. Loads of the small fish are easy to decern, though I can’t remember what their names are. Then gradually over time I find a few nudibranches and then some unusual fish, small ones that are rare and camoflage well. Most of it is luck, being in the right place at the right time but sometimes I can even scoop the divemaster.
Today I find several different nudi’s, a couple I have never seen before. Debbie finds one really nice one at the end of the dive but the pic is suffering from new camera syndrome and is a bit blurry.
We still have a few days underwater and I expect to get even better. But I would trade the vision of a few nudibranches for the sighting of a tiger shark. We’ll see what the future brings.