I just returned from an amazing week in Hawaii, indulging my other passion, scuba diving. We we were on the Big Island of Hawaii and I got six dives in off the Kona Coast. The unique thing about the diving here is the underwater landscape which is volcanic. Diving through lava tubes - very cool looking for eel and octopi. The wildlife is not the best I have ever seen with one mind-blowing exception - Manta Rays.
The big thing thing to do in Hawaii is a Manta Ray night dive. It is truly one of the most exceptional things I have ever done. A regular dive is you an 4-6 other divers with a dive master poking around the coral looking for fishies. On a Manta night dive, you and 60-70 other divers sit on the bottom in a big tight circle with big flashlights pointing up to the surface. The lights attract the plankton and the plankton attracts the manta rays. You just sit, blow bubbles and watch the show.
I was expecting 1 maybe 2 rays off in the distance. What I got was incredible. 11 freaking great mantas paid us a visit. They ranged in size from 4' babies to a 14' wide Mother of All Manta Rays. They swooped around the circle scooping up the plankton off the lights. They literally grazed you as you sat there, skimming inches over your head. You can feel the beat of their wings as they go over you. The most amazing thing was seeing a massive manta head directly towards you, mouth wide open then curve up in front you and do a loop over your head.
Here's a little clip c/o Youtube of someone else's trip to the same place, You will get the picture.
First off, I am not offering just helping with the annual question of "what do you want for Christmas". So as a way to avoid you getting socks, unusual underwear, terrible ties, navel cleaners, nostril-pluckers and other useless crap, I have created a list that you will see prominently if you move your eyeballs to the right.
These are my favorite sailing or boat books. Although all the books link to Amazon, I am not collecting any affiliate fees, I offer them only out of the bounty of heart as we enter the season of joy and goodwill to all.
PS: If you have any ideas to add to the list I will gladly add them.
I have been very lazy for the last few weeks and not writing at all. Just posting the occasional photo. I was especially lazy over Thanksgiving but my laziness paid off. On Thanksgiving Day, Fine Living TV (Don't ask me how I found it but if nothing else I am a master of the remote control) was showing back to back episodes of a show called "Ocean Wanderers". It won't be winning any Emmy's but for an armchair sailor like me, it was good viewing.
The six 30 min episodes, follow a nice South African family, the Knights round the world on their 52' cutter rig sloop over 3 years in the early 90s. The story starts in Calgary, where, tired of the rat race, they sell everything, pack their two small kids in the car and schlep down to Florida to start their voyage. Things start badly, when they find that their boat has been badly looked after and has filled with rain water. They spend the next six months refitting the boat. Their eventual journey takes them to the Bahamas, through the Panama Canal via Jamaica, down to the Galapagos (lucky buggers), then hopping across the Pacific to NZ. After a six month stay in NZ with lots of personal drama (Footballers Wives it ain't), they head up the East and the Northern coasts of Oz to Indonesia. They make their way through the Malacan Straits to Singapore. Cleverly they avoid the risk of pirates by joining a race. From Singapore they hop across the Indian Ocean with an amazing stop in Sri Lanka. After a brief sojourn in Djibouti and Somalia (culturally eye-opening but not top of my list for a family vacay) they sail through the Red Sea (no pirates fortunately), into the Med, bopping around Turkey and Greece and then hook round to Holland via Biscay for another long stay. Their final leg takes them down to the Canaries followed by a tough Atlantic crossing to St Lucia and then back to Florida.
This is the sort of journey I fantasize about. It's my "some day..." dream. The thing that surprised me was that the adversity they faced. I guess I expected the big drama to come from big storms, uncharted reefs or collsions with whales. Actually it was not mother nature that caused them problems but sadly the same mundane stuff we all face: worries about money, family rows, kids getting sick, bureaucracy, stuff breaking (OK I don't worry too much about my spinaker pole breaking on a daily basis) and crime (they get harassed by pirates approaching Djibouti). I was expecting that they would have faced more dramatic battles with the elements but other than some bouts with seasickness and some rough passages the only major problem they had with the elements was lightning strike off Malaysia that fried all their electronics. Thankfully no one hurt but a major pain in the ass as they had to spend a month and a ton of money sourcing and refitting all new electronic equipment.
As a family what they got out of it was not so much about the journey itself but more about the interactions they had with other cultures and the hospitality of the local people in undeveloped places like Djibouti and Sri Lanka.
There is something about arriving by sea, when you have got yourself to a place on your own, that makes the experiences you have different. You go to places you wouldn't go to on package trips or cruises (the Royal Caribbean variety). Even if you are taking the well-trodden path of charter cruisers, I always feel more adventurous and confident about exploring then I do if I arrived by place and I am staying at a nice hotel.