September 3rd, 2007
This summer’s summaries are dedicated to Jose, without whom they would not have been possible. Mahalo nui loa, Jose.
This posting is a couple of days late due to travel and a minor luggage misadventure. Sorry.
The final dive
Our last dive of the summer was on August 26, a Sunday. We normally make an Aloha! dive, during which we say good-bye to the honu for another ten months. No chance this year as the swells rolled in and shut us down.
If we weren’t already smart enough to know when to quit, the last dive drove the point home. It was depressing to begin with, since there were so few turtles. We were looking for one special honu, Q-778, who had been there on every dive until the last one, but now was nowhere to be seen. As we swam back and forth across the reef, we became aware of surging–a sure sign that a swell was starting up. From experience we knew that if we could feel it out on Reef 2 at 35 feet, the waves onshore would be big.
We abandoned our search and headed back early. The visibility dropped rapidly as we approached The Cavern and then The Wall, our name for the ridge that forms a barrier between the beach and the open ocean. There’s a gap in The Wall that we’re always careful to swim through, because crossing over The Wall itself could lead to a nasty case of Reef Rash if an ill-timed wave catches you. On this occasion, although we knew we had arrived exactly where the gap should be, we couldn’t see it at all. We surfaced and snorkelled over.
The surf was up a lot bigger than the forecast had predicted. We never would have started the dive had we expected this. It wasn’t particularly dangerous, but it was discomforting. Getting up the beach with scuba gear on would not be fun.
Peter went first. Just as he got his fins off, a large wave tossed him right onto the beach, a lucky accident. Ursula, on the other hand, was not so fortunate. A set of big waves had just started up (the biggest of the day as it turned out) and so she hung back, floating and waiting it out. Peter took off his BC and tank and went back to the water’s edge in case he could help.
After what seemed like an infinity, the size of the waves dropped a little and Ursula tried coming ashore. Rather than removing her flippers and taking the risk of losing them, she decided to try walking backwards up the beach. She now could see the oncoming waves, which distressingly started getting bigger again. Fortunately, Peter knelt in front of her, grabbed each fin in turn, pulled off the straps, and she was able back out of them. This saved Ursula from having to dive–or maybe fall–forward into the waves, and heading back out to wait some more.
The bottom line was that this was an adventure we didn’t need. Since the forecast called for swells all the rest of the week, we knew that our diving for this summer was over. This year, there won’t be a ceremonial Last Dive, but that’s okay. We’ll inaugurate the Ceremonial Last Kayak Voyage instead.
Click image to enlarge
The Last Kayak Voyage and Snorkel
We didn’t get any photos worth posting from the dive, but we did get a few from the kayak.
Before the dive on Sunday, we spent a couple of hours making our last big snorkelling survey from the kayak. We checked Reef 2 but there was nobody home yet, so we headed up to Hoaka for a final visit this summer. The swell hadn’t started and the water was still nice and clear. There were 8-10 turtles there as usual, mostly resting on the bottom. Occasionally, one or two of them came up for air. One of the males provided the opportunity for the delightful sequence we present here:
Click image to enlarge
While Hoaka and the nearby Trench are always interesting to check, they don’t lend themselves to long visits. The areas are small and the honu use them mostly for lying around. There’s little interaction or other activity. Once you’ve taken attendence, there’s not much point in hanging around, so we drifted back down to Reef 2 and spotted about a dozen or so turtles scattered about. Since the area is much larger than Hoaka, the chances of having a honu surface near you are a lot smaller at Reef 2, but we got lucky.
We’ve always coveted a photo that would have the kayak in the background and a honu head rasied up to breathe in the foreground. This has turned out to be exceedingly difficult to get. The photographer and the subjects all have to line up. The number of times we’ve managed two out of three is, well, almost all of them. Then there’s the timing issue. The head is not raised for long, and if there’s any sort of chop, well…
We mentioned luck. We finally got a decent image–not perfect, but close enough to post.
Click image to enlarge
The poor diving conditions had one small positive to offer: it was a little easier to leave Maui this time. When we looked out at the ocean, we weren’t thinking about how nice it would be to be diving out there. We knew darn well that it wouldn’t.
Instead, we kept reminding ourselves that this time, the wait would be only four months. For the first time ever, we’ll be on Maui in January. We want to see the whales.