Friday, July 24, 2015

Two-And-A-Half Hours

Yesterday was my third time swimming in the ocean for two-and-a-half hours.  There is no comparison to pool swims--even using a current generator--for lots of reasons besides the obvious tides, waves and currents.  Ocean swimming is much more challenging--at least double the effort required--when you add navigation, coral avoidance and sun and saltwater effects.

Luckily, the development of SPF-30 (and higher) sunblock saves me from most of the sun's radiation  and a good set of goggles protect my eyes.  All other challenges must be overcome the old-fashioned way:  By practice and experience.  Stand-up paddle boards, kayaks, aqua cycles and snorkelers are the main hazards.  To avoid any nasty collisions, I must first be always vigilant and keep my head on a swivel.  Course adjustments, including stopping, are often required during the third of a mile transit between the Hilton Hotel pier and the Outrigger Hotel jetty.  On average, the time to negotiate the 2.4-miles has been 2.5-hours, so my actual race time "should be" less.  My hope is it will be something of a relief only having to worry about other swimmers during the race.

Now that I'm fairly comfortable in the ocean and can handle the man-made obstacles, the experience is much more enjoyable.  The colorful fish and other ocean creatures are beautiful and interesting to see as I make eight trips between the piers.  Yesterday, I saw a small eel wriggling along the bottom, with a small curious fish tagging along.  Three sea turtles were grazing on algae about five feet below me.  I don't know for sure, but they looked like the group I see most every time.  Tropical fish are always there, too, being moved about by tide and/or currents as I pass over their reef home.  All seem to know I mean them no harm and they seldom take any evasive action.

Quite by accident yesterday, I saw my first flat fish.  It may have been a small flounder.  It was barely a foot or less below, as I glided perilously close to an expanse of coral.  Nearly invisible due to its superb camouflage, it moved just enough to catch my eye.  What a treat to see something new during the swim!  As I approach the Hilton Hotel pier, there is often a crowd of people waiting to board the boat which will transport them out to the tourist submarines.  I swim up close to the pier and can see the cameras snapping photos of this crazy person in goggles simply swimming and swimming.  I wonder how many (if any) of them ever swam in the ocean beyond the beach area.  I wonder if any of them will be inspired to try ocean swimming.  Being an inspiration to others would be a good thing.

Thanks to Google Images, here are some photos of what I see during my training swims:

An aqua cycle.  People love them because they're simple, easy and fun.  Sometimes, however, the occupants fail to look for swimmers and all I can do is change course, or stop and let them pass.  It's hard to get upset, after all, the people are on vacation in paradise and having a wonderful time. :)

Stand-up paddle boards.  Growing in popularity, at times, these are my nemesis.  Beginners are so busy trying to stay upright on their boards, they don't often consider things like where they're going or who they are about to run over.  With a couple of strokes, they can move quite a distance, so I can't take my eyes off them for long.

This is an image of a typical two-person kayak, available for rent at Ft. DeRussy.  These move through the water pretty fast, too, but usually the fun-seekers (being seated) see me in time and alter course.

The state fish of Hawaii and one of my favorites, the Humuhumunukunukuapua'a.  I see these amazingly colorful trigger fish everywhere during my swims.  I might add, in various sizes and subtle color variations.

It took a lot of searching, but even this flounder is bigger than the one I saw yesterday.  It's markings are pretty close.   

This image is a great example of the flounder's ability to mimic its surroundings and also why I nearly missed seeing it.  I wonder how many I've seen, but didn't see.

Another frequently seen reef inhabitant, the puffer fish.  Many varieties of polka dots and colors, too.

This may, or may not be, the type of eel I saw.  It was wriggling on the sandy bottom, exactly like a snake and there are "snake" eels in Hawaiian waters.  This one looks like it uses the more normal wavy fin propulsion.

I see lots of these angel fish and others with different colors.  Searching the many images of tropical fish, including those in Hawaiian waters, failed to produce most of the other fish I see, so maybe I'll need to ask Santa to get me a waterproof GoPro for Christmas!  Yeah!  That should do it!

And finally, the "Holy Grail" of tropical fish.  A couple of times--maybe due to oxygen debt--I thought I saw one, but cannot be certain.  They're just as elusive as the "Green Flash".  Just have to keep swimming and maybe someday...

So, what does one do after such a Herculean task?  Wh-y-y...mosey up to the Beach Bar after a refreshing cold water rinse, for sustenance and liquid refreshment, of course. :))  All the books say you lose lots of water swimming for such a long time--ironically, even when you're in it!  Not one to argue with experts, I immediately ordered up twelve ounces of Long Board Lager.  Needing something to replenish the lost calories, we tried something we'd never seen or heard of before:  Pork "Wings".  Now, I don't always keep up on current events, so I asked the lady at the snack bar if pigs had finally learned to fly.  She laughed, but then told me she'd prefer those to normal old chicken wings.  They sounded good to me and also had a solid endorsement from someone who should know.  Take a look: 

Michele's delicate hand with the last "pig wing".  Yes, we went all-in, adding french fries to go along with the beverages.  The "wings" were fabulous!  Moist and juicy, tender and flavorful.  Who knew?!  PS:  No dinner last night!!  We-l-l-l...hardly anything. :)

The "business" part of the Beach Bar.  Swimsuits are most definitely authorized here and it doesn't get much more casual than that.

A partial view from our table.  And to think that just an hour before I was working hard in that water.

I hope some of you who are lucky enough to live by an ocean--preferably a warm one--take the opportunity to try swimming in it.  It burns a gazillion calories and is pretty easy on the old body compared to jogging or other full-gravity workouts.  I most strongly endorse it!   

Have a good weekend everyone!  

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Rainbows, Sunsets And Two Hours In The Ocean

Recent days have brought some rain showers, an abundance of rainbows and fiery sunsets to the islands.  A tropical depression which formed a couple thousand miles to the southeast of Hawaii, failed to become a hurricane, or even a tropical storm, but as it passed to the northeast of the islands, its presence was felt.  It slowed the trade winds, brought us some clouds, a few showers, lots of rainbows, and some very colorful sunsets.

Of course, that does little to stop folks here from going about their daily activities, including the thousands of tourists.  We decided to go the beach today and nary a drop of rain fell.  I continued trying to reach my training goal of swimming for two hours, while Michele snorkeled, trying to find the stingray I saw Monday.  She swam for nearly two hours, but no stingray sighting, and I finally made it to the elusive two-hour mark.  Being able to swim for two hours in the current, tide and swells buoys my confidence that I'll have a good shot at completing the Waikiki Roughwater Swim on September 5th.  We'll see how it plays out. :)

For those of you who have never seen a stingray...This is pretty-much what I saw on Monday, only with a bit more sand flying.  Michele was in hopes of seeing the critter today, but no luck. :(

Proof!  After two hours in the ocean, my fingers were "pickled".  I was telling fellow blogger Jennifer Rose Phillip about an unexpected side effect of spending that much time in the sea:  It numbs my mouth, especially the taste buds responsible for tasting salt.  Sensory overload?

Sunset, July 7th, 2015.  Click on the photos for a closer view. 

July 8th, 2015, morning rainbow.

A bit more of the spectrum is visible in this photo.

This one graced the harbor.

And finally, this was our sunset tonight, 10 July 2015.  Not too shabby! :)

Hope everyone out there had a good day!  Enjoy your weekend, too!     

Monday, July 6, 2015

Fireworks, Planetary Conjunction And Flowers

Independence Day evening we were on the lanai and able to see four different fireworks shows!  At the same time, Venus and Jupiter put on their own astronomical show for us.  Monday, life returned to normal and I was at Ft. DeRussy for a training swim.  The Waikiki Roughwater Swim is just two months away, so I've shifted my workouts from the current generator in the building pool, to the ocean.  I'm trying to build-up my endurance (and tolerance) for a couple of hours in the sun and salt water.

Today, the tide was going out as I began swimming, and it had me zooming along heading toward Diamond Head, but going nowhere fast heading west.  I swam about 1.5-miles today in about an hour-and-a-half.  With two months to train, my hope is to be able to complete the event in less than two-and-a-half hours.  It'll all depend on conditions the day of the race.  I'm a pretty strong swimmer, but today was an eye-opener.  I could see how easy it would be for someone unfamiliar with the tides and currents to panic when swimming hard and not moving.

Besides getting a great workout today, I saw two sea turtles "grazing" on the sea floor, as well as, my first manta (or sting) ray.  It was nuzzling it's large mouth in the sand, definitely after unseen prey.  Based on the size, my guess was that it was young.  I've written an email to the folks who operate manta ray excursions on the Big Island and hope they might have a guess as to which type of ray it was.  I promise to report back when I know.  According to the experts, manta rays eat plankton, while sting rays dine on shellfish.  Hm-m...the ray I saw appeared to fit the sting ray profile, but we'll see.

As I was walking through the grounds after the swim, I couldn't help taking a few photos of the beautiful flowering trees.  Hope you enjoy the show!

Almost forgot:  Firefighters were busy on O'ahu on the 4th, fighting a brush fire and a fire at a recycling center, both well to the west of us.  This smoke plume is from the brush fire.  Click on any of the photos in this post, for a closer view.

Smoke billows from the recycling center fire.

A view of the fireworks show at Ala Moana Beach Park.

A big shell, also at Ala Moana.

This was from the Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam fireworks show.  I had to zoom-out quite far to get both the fireworks and Venus and Jupiter in the frame.  Please click on the image to bring it closer.

Venus, on the left, and Jupiter on the right.  A planetary conjunction isn't all-that rare, but they sure are impressive.  The next photo will put the conjunction in a better context.

West O'ahu and the planets on July 4th, 2015.

Out of sequence, but this was the 4th of July sunset.  On to Monday.

About noon, Monday, July 6th, Hale Koa Hotel grounds.

I thought the blue umbrella looked quite striking in this setting.

Yellow-orange flowers adorn these trees.  The building is the Hale Koa Hotel.

A closer look at the gorgeous flowers.

An arbor covered with purple bougainvillea.  I've photographed this many times and always find it too beautiful to resist.

That's it for today.  Have a nice tomorrow everyone.

**Ray Update:   Monday afternoon, I received the following response to my "Manta or Sting Ray?" email sent to Manta Advocates Hawaii.

It was from Ms Martina Wing,
Manta Ray Advocate, Educator and Under Water Photographer,
Ocean Wings Hawaii, Inc.:
"Hi Gary, thanks for reaching out to us.
"Nuzzling in the sand" sounds like feeding behavior of a Spotted Eagle Ray or a Sting Ray.
Eagle Rays and Sting Rays are bottom feeders; Manta Rays feed on plankton by filtering water through their cavernous big mouths in mid-water.
Please let me know if you have additional questions.
I love to share my knowledge about our beautiful gentle giants.
With Aloha"
Here's a link to Manta Advocates Hawaii
Thanks, Martina!

Saturday, July 4, 2015

A Jog To See Hydroptere

In my last post, I mentioned I'd try to get some of my own photos of the world's fastest sailing vessel, Hydroptere and yesterday I did.  With just a subtle alteration to my every-other-day jogging route, I was able to get photos of not only Hydroptere, but a fantastic Perini Navi sailing yacht, Tamsen, the Robert C. Seamans, a sea-going classroom and Ile de Sein, a cable-laying ship. 

Of course, the Hydroptere was the main goal.  There she was, tied-up at Kewalo Basin, with hardly anyone around.  Her low-in-the-water profile did little to convince me this was the world's fastest sailboat, but seeing the name did the trick.  It was almost six PM by the time I got there, but I still expected to see a few media people, along with lots of curious locals taking photos and talking with crew members.  To be honest, I was very surprised at the quiet scene before me.

On the plus side, I met Harold Von Sydow and his son, Lars, and learned a lot about this amazing vessel from them.  Seeing them on-board, I assumed they were part of the crew, but it turns out they are locals, heavily-involved in sailing.  Harold is Port Captain of the non-profit Hawaii Kai Boat Club, dedicated to supporting water programs for adults and kids.  Father and son, tanned with sun-bleached hair, both surf and sail and are the classic example of Hawaiian water men.  Above all, they were friendly and very kind to answer my many questions.  Mahalo to them! 

Harold told me the crew for Hydroptere's attempt to break the Trans-Pacific sailing speed record, consisted of six people.  In shifts, three would rest, while the others handled the boat.  Their attempt was thwarted by a lack of wind and running into debris from the Texas-sized Great Pacific garbage patch.  I can only imagine what it must've been like zooming along at high speeds in this relatively small boat on the vast Pacific.  Take a look at what I saw yesterday: 

People first:  A shot of Harold Von Sydow and his son, Lars, on-board the Hydroptere.  This is why I thought they were crewmen.  When I saw them coming off the boat, my hope was they would take the time to speak with me.  Happily, they did!  Click on any of the images to enlarge.

Lars Von Sydow and his Dad, Harold.  Hawaiian watermen and great examples of the Aloha Spirit.

Back to the beginning of my jog.  First stop:  Aloha Tower.  This is Ile de Sein, the cable-laying ship which suffered an on-board fire some weeks ago and is still here, waiting for the investigation to wrap-up.  I did a post about her when she arrived back in May.  Click on the link above to learn more about this ship.

This is the Tamsen, a technologically-advanced sailing yacht, built by Perini Navi.  There were people enjoying what must have been cocktails and pu-pus, so I was careful not to disturb them.  Again, there's a link above if you're interested in learning more.

Stern view of Tamsen, along with the bow of Ile de Sein.

A photo of Tamsen, underway, taken from Google Images.  She's a magnificent vessel.

The Robert C. Seamans, research, oceanographic education floating classroom and sailing training vessel.  All three ships were berthed at Aloha Tower.  Next, we're off to Kewalo Basin for a look at the Hydroptere.  A link to learn more is highlighted above.

My initial view of Hydroptere.  I still had about a half-mile to jog to get over to her.  You can see how unassuming she looks at rest.  Again, click on any of the photos for a closer view.

Working my way to the Hydroptere along the north side berths of Kewalo Basin, I came upon this scene.  The two young men are busy filleting a yellowfin tuna, also called Ahi.  I could've really used a taste of sashimi, but didn't want to interrupt them.


Someone is going to have some fine dinners and poke from this beautiful fish.

Finally.  The Hydroptere--world's fastest sailing vessel. 

Lars is driving and his Dad, Harold is supervising.  In the background is the Semisub I, a semi-submersible tourist vessel which can accommodate up to 150-passengers.

This stern view shows some of the engineering genius which makes Hydroptere fly above the water.

I encourage you to click on any of the links to learn more about Hydroptere, the other vessels and the Hawaii Kai Boat Club.

It was a good day, and I hope yours was, too!     

Friday, July 3, 2015

Record Setters Visit Honolulu

Yesterday, the fastest sailing vessel on the planet, Hydroptere, arrived in Honolulu.  The name is a combination of the Greek words for "water" and "wing".  She was trying to break the Trans-Pacific speed record from Los Angeles to Honolulu, but the winds were not as strong as predicted, so it'll take another attempt.  The trimaran is berthed at Kewalo Basin, which I'll be jogging by later today.  I'm eager to have a look at this technological marvel.

The crew of the Hydroptere pointed out their vessel's connection to the Solar Impulse 2, which landed in Honolulu at about six AM this morning.  The solar-powered aircraft set a number of records on the  flight from Japan to Honolulu in the quest to circle the globe without using a single drop of fuel.  Both use renewable energy!

It would have been great if the Solar Impulse 2 had chosen to make a couple of low-altitude passes above Waikiki Beach at noon, but that was too much to hope for.  Instead, the aircraft and its very tired pilot, Andre Borschberg, who had been flying for the past five days and nights, opted to fly in a holding pattern until dawn.  He landed at Kalaeloa Airport, formerly, Naval Air Station, Barbers Point, located on the southwest part of O'ahu.  The photos of the arrival were taken from TV news coverage, courtesy of local television stations, Channel 8, NBC and Channel 4, ABC.

This, and the other images of Hydroptere, were taken from Goggle Images.  I hope to take some of my own while the super sailboat is here.

She "flies" approximately five meters above the water and has reached amazing speeds.  Click on the link at the beginning of the post to learn all about this boat.

How fast is she?  She broke the world record in 2009, sailing (flying) at 52.86 Kts with a 30-Kt wind.

Approaching touchdown at Kalaeloa Airport on O'ahu's southwest side.  Thanks, Channel 4!  The Solar Impulse 2 wingspan is longer than a Boeing-747!  Click on the link at the beginning of this post to learn all about the attempt to circle the globe without using a single drop of fuel.


Some of the crowd of people who got up early to witness history.  We settled for TV.  Thanks, Channel 8!

The pilot of this leg, Andre Borschberg is welcomed to Hawaii.

Already wearing a lei, pilot Andre Borschberg seems delighted to be back on the ground. 

So, a triumphant couple of days for wind and solar energy.  I don't know about you, but I hope to live to see the day when burning hydrocarbon fuels for energy production is history.

Enjoy a safe Independence Day celebration and a great weekend!