A Walk in the Park

Several hours without transportation. My vehicle is in the transmission shop for a checkout, have been having some rough shifts. Stranded for the morning without wheels in the old industrial area I had no intention of sitting in the shop’s waiting area for a few hours.

Old Airport Beach Park Kona
Looking down the old runway at the Old Kona Airport Recreation Area
Just up the coast from the old industrial area is a large beach park. Called Old-A’s or Old Airport, it is the site of the original landing strip just north of town. Abandoned when the jet age rendered this airstrip far too small. The area was used for a while as a drag-strip, the old airport was eventually converted to a park. The old terminal building was renovated into a multi-use pavilion. The old runway is still there, now an enormous parking lot that fronts the rocky shoreline along one side and a community garden on the other.

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Queen’s Bath

“We swam in the Queen’s Bath this weekend”

“Oh? Which one?”

Queen's Bath
One of many freshwater pools along the Kohala Coast
Queen’s Bath is a name you will find scattered through vacation guides to the island of Hawaiʻi. The problem is that there is more than one, dozens actually. The name Queen’s Bath tends to be applied to any freshwater pool, particularly near the ocean. Some are small, some are quite large pools of crystal clear freshwater, a few are hidden in lava tubes.

There is the well known lava tube at Kihilo just a pebble’s throw from the surf. Enter through a skylight into the crisp, cool water. Bring a dive light and swim all the way to the back of the tube. Careful, there are boulders waiting to scrape the shins of an unwary swimmer, reef shoes or river sandals are the ideal footwear here.

Another Queen’s bath is found on the grounds of the Kaloko-Honokōhau National Historic Park. The park requests that you refrain from swimming in this one.

There are any number of pools along the Kohala Coast, particularly the low-lying section from Puako to Kiholo bay where enormous amounts of fresh water find their way into the sea. These often have reef fish trapped within, perhaps washed in by the winter surf. Other species of fish prefer these pools, grazing on the algae growing in the shallow, warm water.

Queen's Bath
The lava tube Queen’s Bath at Kiholo
The Puna coastline hosts many pools along the shoreline. Kaimū beach at Kalapana hosted one of the most famous Queen’s Baths. It was lost to the lava on the 1990’s as successive flows covered the area and destroyed the famous black sand beach. I have heard the pool at Ahalanui Park called a Queen’s bath, yet another example of the confusion.

Some of these pools are brackish, the salt water mixing with fresh. The result is a swirling view through a dive mask with the mixed refractive indexes, looking a bit like mixing water and oil. As one swims away from the ocean the water becomes fresher, you often find startlingly cool currents where the fresh water enters the pool. Often the tides will affect the depth of the water in the pool, even pools a hundred yards from the ocean rising and falling as the tide backs up the flow of water.

Many of the pools are local secrets, directions not available to outsiders. Places where a hot afternoon can be enjoyed, swimming in the cool waters. I know a few of these, don’t ask me where to find them.

Sailboat Update

When we saw the sailboat on the reef Sunday morning we wondered what the story was. Just how did the vessel end up in the surf in front of Kaloko?

Sailboat on the Reef
A large sailboat sitting on the reef in front of Kaloko-Honokōhau National Historical Park
You would think that the local paper would have some mention of the story, just a blurb about the wreck? It was not until Thursday that there was any mention of the story. In the meantime rumors reached me about the story, rumors that turned out to be true.

The boat was stolen, taken out of its slip by someone who did not know how to sail. They made it less than a mile from the harbor before foundering on the reef. The man was arrested by rescuers, they became suspicious when it became apparent that the man did not know anything about the boat or about sailing. The local newspaper writeup was fairly good, if a bit late. Will they tow the boat out and sink it? It would be a great dive.

Sailboat on the Reef

I first saw it from the highway as we approached Honokohau, the sailboat in a bad spot.

A very bad spot.

A large vessel is sitting on the reef just off of the Honokohau beach about half a mile north of the harbor entrance. The beach is closed as it is part of the Kaloko-Honokōhau National Historical Park, closed along with other effects of the federal shutdown. We took a few photos as we cruised past the beach on the way to a Sunday morning of diving.

I looked through the news Monday, looking for information on the incident. There is none, no explanations as to how the sailboat got onto the reef, or what is being done about it. Everyone in the harbor knew about the boat, not a whisper in the media. Tuesday’s news?

Update- The sailboat appears to be the Corsaire, a charter out of Honokohau. No word on how she ended up on the reef.

Sailboat on the Reef
A large sailboat sitting on the reef in front of Kaloko-Honokōhau National Historical Park

Killer Tacos

Killer Tacos is not a tourist place. Hidden back in one of the little business strips in the old industrial park it is not likely to be found by wandering visitors.

Killer Tacos
The service counter at Killer Tacos, Kona
We often find ourselves looking for lunch in North Kona. Target, Pet Smart, and more, this is where the stores are, this is where we go shopping. There are a number of eating places in the Kona Commons shopping center, where we have often eaten in the past. This time Deb remembered another option, why not give it a try?

You can find Killer Tacos a couple blocks behind Target on Luhia, just past the four way stop at Kaiwi. Look makai for a busy little place in the middle of a strip mall of other, more industrial, businesses.

Killer Tacos
The storefront of Killer Tacos, Kona
The shop is a little reminiscent of mainland chains like Chipoltle Grill, with much the same basic concept. Bins and tubs of ingredients served in either tortillas or tacos, assembled in front of you the way you like it. It is a good formula, it works. As long as the ingredients are good the end product is good. No problems at Killer Taco.

When asked what meat I wanted my burro filled with I said “carnitas”. This received a funny look. Pork? Oh! I found it fun that staff serving Mexican food did not know the Spanish names of the items they were selling. Years past I often enjoyed eating Mexican meals in south Tucson, sometimes at places where you could not order without ordering in Spanish. This is however Hawai‘i after all. I continued to order in Spanish, it became a game, the gals behind the counter having fun trying to remember what each of the items was. Mexican food not made by Mexicans? It didn’t matter, it was still good food.

The food was a nice surprise, the prices were also a pleasant surprise. I suspect that not having to pay rent in a fancy neighborhood is an advantage. A meal for two cost us about what I would have expected to pay for myself alone. Fourteen dollars for two lunches and drinks. Good food, decent prices, and substantial portions… I may just be back here if I need a meal in North Kona.

Three Dives on a Holiday Weekend

We managed three dives last weekend. It was a holiday weekend, Kamehameha Day, that helped. But still, we average a couple dives a month, three dives in a weekend was a bit unusual. We dove with some friends at Pukao on Saturday. Then two more on the following Monday. This was conservative, a few of the guys dove on Sunday too!

Diver Down
Diver Mark Devenot cruising the reef at Hoover’s Towers north of Honokohau
Monday’s diving was with Dennis. Again he invited us out on his boat. The Aqua Safari is quite comfortable, a 42′ cabin cruiser outfitted for diving. There are plenty of tank racks, a big swim deck and a very nice ladder. Dennis is quick to point out one of the best features… A warm fresh water shower on the swim deck! Which, I have to admit, is rather nice.

Thus, Monday morning saw us packing up the dive gear, a cooler with drinks and sandwich makings for everyone, and heading for Honokohau. There Deb and I joined Dennis and Mark for a very nice day diving.

We have been diving a lot in the NELHA area lately, I expect we will be diving some more there. It is some spectacular diving in the area. A rich reef sloping out to a steep drop-off that descends far beyond scuba depths. You look into the deep blue and know that somewhere down there is the abyssal plain, 8,000 feet below.

As usual I had my face in the coral, in and out of every crevice or small cave I came across. This is a great way to find the little stuff I love to photograph, but you can miss the big stuff… A series a sharp clangs gets my attention, the sound of Mark’s tank banger. I pull myself out of an alcove and swim over the large coral outcropping just in time to see a ten foot manta sweep by! The manta was just beyond the reef drop-off, against the deep blue of open water.

The find of the day was a Spanish Dancer, the largest nudibranch found in the islands. I do mean large, while most nudi’s I locate are an inch or two long, this fellow was the size of a dinner plate. Dancers have another feature… They Dance! Actually a form of swimming through undulating the body. I flushed him out of a crevice in the cave and the nudi proceeded to dance for us, everyone got a good look. After a few photos, actually quite a few photos, I carefully shepherded the pretty fellow back into the crevice I found him in.

No dives this weekend, I was on call. But we are already planning another outing next weekend. Summer diving season is here, bringing calm and clear water to the Kona side. The crew is ready to go, discussing where we will dive next.

Diving Black Friday

Black Friday, a phrase that brings to mind stores jammed with shoppers seeking the first Christmas sales. Not my idea of fun and something to be completely avoided if at all possible. Better to spend the day where credit cards do not work… Possibly under water?

The plan was to return to O’oma and the dive sites near the popular Pine Trees surfing breaks. The area is very good diving, with many sites and entries to choose from along a half mile of coastline, From OTEC to Kaloko. The area is popular with the dive boats as well, we were dropping into the water mere yards from the moorings used by the Honokohau diving operations. As we prepared for the dive we watched as the boats did as well, we just did it without paying $150 per person. The only disadvantage? We had to walk across 50 yards of pahoehoe lava to get to the lava, not a problem with the very gentle swell of the day. Entry was quite easy with a sheltered shallows available just in from the popular Suck ’em Up cave and dive site.

Olivier and Camera
Olivier Martin with his camera rig on the reef at O’oma
We again had a large crew… Mark, Patti, Dennis, Sky, Olivier, Pete and his two off island friends.. Isaac and Jeff. Mark and Patti took advantage of the holiday camping at O’oma to camp out on the beach for a couple nights. While parts of the beach were crowded with campers, the popular spots were those adjacent to the surf breaks. Much of the remaining shoreline was quiet, where you could have a nice stretch of sand to yourself. Not that the peace was totally uninterrupted… The rest of our crew invaded their peaceful campsite, for a time turning it into a diving base camp, with vehicles, wetsuits and tanks everywhere. But then, they did invite us.

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