Wednesday, November 30, 2011
What a week week it was! (note: as I type we are safely at home, and I just don't seem to have enough hours in the day lately to catch up with things. I FINALLY went thru all the pictures and have selected ones for posting...this will likely go into a 2nd post as there's just too many pics for just one).
Anyway, on with today's topic: KONA!
We flew from Honolulu (on Oahu) to Kona (the Big Island, which is sometimes also called Kona, which makes things very confusing) on Saturday after only 3 days on Oahu. The Big Island is my favorite of the Hawaiian islands I've visited, mostly because it's BIG (hence the name "the Big Island"). I haven't yet visited Molokai or Lani, but have been on the rest. They are all nice, yet each island is TOTALLY different from the others. But the Big Island is just that. It's BIG. That means the people who are there are SPREAD OUT! And there aren't nearly the amount of people on the Big Island to start with as there are on Oahu. There are only 2 main cities: Kona and Hilo. Kona is on the west (ie dry) side, while Hilo is on the east (ie WET) side. Hilo gets 400" of rain a year, while Kona gets 10. Which side would you want to live on? I've been to both cities (many years ago I flew to Hilo for volleyball tournaments and stayed a few days), and most everybody prefers Kona, which means it's that much more expensive. Hilo is MUCH greener though as you can imagine.
We stayed at the Kona Coast Resort, which is a timeshare. John and Donna own a share and have stayed there many times over their 20 or so years of ownership. This is the 2nd time we have joined them...the last being 4 years ago I think. We had a really nice view of a country-club golf course from our 2nd story balcony (which is called a lani in Hawaii). Below is a picture of a very cute mongoose running around in the grass. They have mongeese ( mongoo'ses?) all over the islands, and they are EVERYWHERE! They are not natural to the islands but were brought there on purpose. The story of how this came to be is this:
Long ago they (the State of Hawaii) were trying to find a way to help keep the rat population in check...due to the sugarcane fields there were just oodles and oodles of rats. Some scientist put a rat and a mongoose in a cage together and they fought to the death, with the mongoose winning (as they are VERY fast...and kill snakes in the wild...too bad there have never been any snakes in the Hawaiian isles). SO...they figured GREAT! Lets bring in a bunch of mongeese and let them go...which they did. And BAM! Nothing happened. Rats come out at night, mongeese come out in the day. The two never meet, thus never fight to the death. So now they have a mongoose AND rat problem. They ARE very cute though...much like a squirrel, only their tail is way different and is always straight out behind them...very streamlined. And their ears are kind of like a teddy-bear or soemthing. Almost like a land-otter...if there was such a thing. And they are VERY skittish around people, and will quickly dart into the bushes at the first sign of movement.
The ever-so-slinky mongoose
It was on either the first or 2nd full day there that we visited the seahorse farm. Yes, an actual aquatic farm where they raise seahorses. You see, they are VERY rare in the wild, and as every saltwater aquarium lover wants some, they pay good money for them. However, the ones that are caught in the wild don't live long in captivity. They are carnivores, eating small shrimp and such, (or plankton as babies). This 'farm' has been open for over 14 years now. WAY back in the beginning they kept trying to get the adult seahorses to eat frozen brine shrimp (thawed and poured into the water), which is a staple food for saltwater aquarium fish. They tried and tried but they would only eat live shrimp that were actually swimming around. Finally one day they had one that ate the frozen ones. As over time, the others in that tank learned to eat them by watching. And they found they could take any of those 'trained' seahorses and put them in other tanks where they train a whole new batch to eat the frozen shrimp. Seahorses mate for life amazingly enough, and they found that the babies from frozen shrimp-eaters automatically would eat the frozen shrimp when they were old enough.
Well, it wasn't long before they had a real thing going: seahorses that would live in captivity! And they live a long time...they have some that are 14 years old (from near the very beginning) and still going. So the scientists have no idea how long they can actually live. And due to their success in domesticating them, they have now taken a huge load off the reefs of the ocean, as you can mail order a pair right from this farm, and they will live! As word of mouth goes out, there are fewer and fewer being harvested from the wild as everybody knows they won't live long.
An adult seahorse from a mated pair lounging around in it's tank (the other one is at the bottom). As we approach the tanks, they come up to the top hoping you are going to feed them (which we did).
Due to the amazing success in their breeding/domestication program they are now branching out to other tropical saltwater fish, hoping to accomplish the same feat (lessen the amount taken from the wild). The stars of the farm though were the Sea Dragons! They are native to Australian waters, and are EXTREMELY rare! The Aussies know they have a good thing going, so keep any exports to a bare minimum and TIGHTLY controlled. This farm waited years for a permit and finally were able to import a few young ones, which are now full grown. They are quite large now, probably around a foot or so long. They look a lot like a blob of leafy seaweed, only their head and snout is very similar to a seahorse (they are related). Their 2 pairs (2 males and 2 females) are nearing breeding age and they are REALLY hoping they like each other and mate. Every aquarium in the world would LOVE to have Sea Dragons...so IF they can get them breeding they will really have something on their hands. Being as it's nearly impossible to get them, the marine biologist giving our tour said the adults would probably sell for around $10,000 EACH...IF you were able to buy them (which you can't). Here is a picture taken from the web (as we weren't allowed to take pictures of them at the farm, we could only briefly peek in on the 2 pairs swimming around...thank you wickipedia):
An adult Sea Dragon (they are even bigger than this picture, and just amazing to look at in person!)
After the seahorse farm we pretty much bummed around and just took it easy for a few days. Relax, eat, drink tasty beers and such. That was the primary agenda, and we are very good at it! We didn't plan too much, partly as we just wanted to relax, and partly because John has a broken arm and was somewhat limited as to his activities (no horseback riding, etc). However we all went out on a deep-sea-fishing charter on Wednesday (the day before Thanksgiving). This was our big 'whoop-de-do' for this trip). Even though John had no chance to even try to reel in a fish, both he and Donna went out with Jeannie and I for a half-day charter. We were the 2nd trip of the day for our particular boat: the "Bite Me 3". The Bite Me is a charter company and I think they have either 5 or 6 boats (the boats cost around $300,000 each btw, so it's no small thing to have a large fishing boat). Ours was a 40' boat equipped with six LARGE saltwater fishing rigs.
The Bite Me 3 coming to pick us up for our afternoon on the water
The morning charter was late leaving as the guys who went out were LATE! I think that jinxed them, as they got SKUNKED! Not a single hit on a lure or fish caught. They didn't look too happy as they departed the boat (which was late returning for us). The driver of the boat was Capt. Andy, a very nice guy. And the crew was Hector. He's a native Hawaiian from Kauai, and was a very nice guy also. As we boarded he told us about the prior customers, and we ASSURED him we brought our luck with us! As we pulled out, Jeannie wanted a picture with him, and after he said "now THAT will bring good luck!"
Hector and Jeannie as we head out from the marina
Hector immediately set to work rigging up the fishing poles and getting lures in the water. It was our first deep-sea charter and I had no idea how the outrigger thingeees worked (the large poles that hang out to the side of the boat after we leave port with lots of lines and such attached to them). They are used to spread out the 5 lures we have in the water so they aren't on top of each other. I'd estimate that our 5 rigs were roughly spread out about 25 yards or so, and a few hundred yards behind the boat as we trolled our way out to deep water.
Hector checks on things as we are trolling out, constantly making adjustments to the lures so that they are 'just right' for catching fish
Well, Hector and Capt. Andy know their business, and we DID bring the luck! They had seen a school of dolphins after we had been out around an hour or so and Capt. Andy immedietly made a line for them, and we proceeded to do large circles around the school as they swam. Two other boats saw the same thing and we had company as they all wanted to be in that area all of a sudden. But WE got the hit. It was pre-arranged who is the FIRST person to get "in the chair"...and that person was Jeannie (RATS!!!). It was her idea to go out after all, and I surely couldn't' begrudge her that. Capt Andy was watching and said he saw the 'hit'....he thought it was a marlin as he saw a spear briefly. Well, the drag started peeling off one of the reels and Jeannie quickly made her way to the chair. Hector helped her get all set and strapped into the fighting rig, and he brought the rod into the fighting chair holding jig quickly. Once Jeannie was ALL set to fight, he set the drag and BAM, the fight was on! Capt Andy had stopped the boat and the fish wasn't taking much line, he was just sitting there a few hundred yards out (the HUGE reel has around 900 yards of 187lb test monofillament fish line spooled on it).
As Jeannie began her fight, Hector was quickly bringing in all the other lures so there wouldn't be any tangles which would endanger catching the fish. Once he had everything clear we all 'helped' Jeannie as she fought and fought. One of the things about reeling in hundreds of yards of line is that the reel doesn't spool it left/right by itsself...the fisherman has to do that. So not only does she get to TRY to reel in an as yet unknown size fish, she needs to move the line back and forth across the spool as she does so. Well, it was very quickly realized this was a big fish. Jeannie was doing her best, but the rod would bend down and then it would take back all reeling she had done and more. Over and over. The rod is short and stout, and has pulleys where the line touches, yet this broomstick size rod would bend over pretty good now and then as the unknown fish would fight his way deeper and back away from the boat.
Oh, did I mention that it got HOT out there? Once the boat stopped moving forward, the warm Hawaiian sun started to take it's toll on Jeannie. She was dripping sweat and reeling with all her might. Nobody did a time check, but I am betting she fought for around 45 minutes or so (purely a guess...it was a LONG time) when we finally got a look at our beast. It was still underwater but was flashing blue and silver, and looked HUGE! Once Jeannie had reeled the fish to the boat, Hector was able to grab the leader of the lure, and the fight is over. Capt Andy had us step back and as Hector pulled the fish close to the surface, he was able to slam a huge gaff thru it's head. There was no escape now. I think we (us passengers) felt a little bad at this point, but for the capt and crew this was money and they weren't going to let it get away.
The gaffed fish being readied to bring aboard. The fight is sadly over for this beautiful monster of the ocean.
And here is our catch....a Blue Marlin (only not very pretty now that it's dead, they quickly turn gray)
Hector and Capt Andy winch the fish to the pier for weighing
And here is the happy (yet sad) group of fisherpeople with their catch. It weighed in at 203lbs, and was the first marlin caught by the Bite Me 3 boat in 5 days!
After the weigh-in, the fish market folk come out with a large rolling cart and take the fish away to be processed. We are allowed to keep up to 40lbs of our catch, the rest goes in equal thirds to the fish-market, the Capt. and the crew. Considering that Blue Marlin sells for $11.99 a lb in the fish market, I'd say they all had a pretty good day. Especially as we only took 10lbs (what are we to do with 40?) Also, consider that this was our fist deep-sea fishing excursion! Now what am I to do? If I ever go out again I'll have BIG expectations! But quite honestly, I don't think I need to do this again. Not that I wouldn't mind having a shot at fighting my own marlin, but I don't need another one killed for my own vanity. This catch was for all of us, and was remarkable to watch unfold. I was wildly happy for Jeannie at this awesome catch, yet totally green with envy. And yes, I'll have to work on that envy thing. But I'm only human, and doing the best that I can.
Dinner of Marlin steaks and John's famous FRIED potatoes, and Jeannie's salad. MMMMMMMMMMM!
So...turns out 10lbs of beautiful marlin filets is quite a large batch. We had fish that night (Weds...as seen in the picture above), and also for Thanksgiving dinner in lieu of the traditional turkey and such.
Thanksgiving dinner in Kona. Marlin steaks, baked potatoes, rice, salad, and fresh sliced papaya.
By Friday we were getting a bit tired of marlin (and we had a LOT left in the fridge)...so John had struck up a conversation outside with some new people and turns out they like fish too...so BAM! They were the lucky recipients of about 6 lbs of fresh caught marlin!
Well, this will have to do for now. I will work on Kona Part II over the next few days. Hope everybody had a wonderful Thanksgiving!