A Week in Hawaii

My good friends Melinda and her husband of nearly a year now, Kim, live half the time in Hawaii where Kim works at the Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology and the rest of the time in Richmond, a suburb of Seattle, where Melinda works as CEO and Technical Director of Wildlife Computers – competitors to Sirtrack, but friends and colleagues too. We have enjoyed each others company at a number of conferences and workshops around the world over the last few years. I have shown them around my home turf here in Hawkes Bay and what little I know of Auckland. I have enjoyed their hospitality in Seattle and the offer of accommodation and hospitality in Hawaii was too good to ignore.

So, I arranged to stay with them for a week in early February. By the wonders of the dateline, I left Napier at the crack of dawn on Saturday 7th Feb. and arrived in Honolulu mid-evening on Friday 6th. I finally managed to use my second complimentary Airpoints Gold upgrade to business class which made the 10 hour flight very comfortable. Having attempted to use it several times and failed it was great because it was due to expire in a couple of weeks. I picked up a hire car and headed North and West. I overshot a wee bit, but after a phone call I was sipping my first cocktail about 10pm.

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Sunset on the lanai, or balcony, overlooking Lahi-Lahi Bay.

After a relaxed morning we drove the 40 minutes down to Honolulu. We picked up some food for lunch in Chinatown and a few beers and headed to the harbour where Kims boat, Imua, is moored. We motored out of the harbour and headed North towards the Reef Runway, used jointly by Honolulu International Airport and Hickham Air Force Base. The US Navy had managed to park a billion dollar guided missile cruiser on the namesake reef at the Northern end of the runway near the entrance to Pearl Harbour. They had just refitted it and taken it for sea trials. They were stooging around in the dark dropping off civilian contractors into shore boats when they ran the USS Port Royal up onto the sand and rock reef.

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USS Port Royal high and dry on the reef off Honolulu’s main runway.

When we saw her they had attempted to tow her off twice and failed. They had pumped out her fuel, water and half the crew jumped ship, but this still didn’t help. There were a lot of guard ships and other vessels around. They again failed to tow her off that night, but I wonder if they didn’t even try, but removed a significant quantity of weaponery under cover of dark that night. She was successfully towed the following night after ‘removing the anchor chain and other heavy items’. Most embarassing for the US Navy was that every plane landing at the airport had a clear view of this large ship listing noticably with the thankfully small surf breaking around her.

On Sunday morning we walked out to the North Western tip of Oahu, Kaena Point. The path is the bed of an old narrow gauge railway used to link the North coast and West coast sugar cane plantations, long since unused, but the sleepers are visible in a number of places.

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Looking South down the West coast of Oahu. The old railway bed pathway is visible below.

We stopped to watch humpback whales breaching in the distance when I noticed a familiar outline on the rocks below us, a Hawaiian monk seal basking in the sun. At the point there is a nesting area for laysan albatross and wedge-tailed shearwaters. We also saw a white-tailed tropic bird flying around. On the way back we pointed out the monk seal to a couple of young tourists, sharing our observation and knowledge – big mistake! They immediately walked right down to the poor animal and took pictures of each other next to it. I was surprised that it did not head for the sea or lunge at them. I will in future keep it to myself, some people do not deserve to share natures beauty, no respect. That afternoon I drove up to the North coast for a look around.

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Pesky tourists showing no respect for a Hawaiian monk seal minding it’s own business and enjoying the sun.

On Monday we started early and dropped my car at Ko Olina marina, pretty much halfway between Honolulu and Waianae. We then picked up Kims work boat from Honolulu with his colleague David to try and catch and tag some striped marlin. We headed out to the nearest FAD (Fish Aggregation Device) and immediately caught two mahi-mahi, or dolphin fish, a good feed as they were not the target species. At the end of the day, having caught nothing, we hooked up a big blue marlin. I was right beside the reel it hit and it was my fish. It took out more than half the line on the reel, well over 1000yds. The drag was way too hot to touch and was cooled with water several times. We hauled it in to only 20 or 30 metres from the boat after it had pretty much given up fighting, but one last leap in the air and it managed to break the line with it’s bill. Bugger! Never mind, I got to experience having a 300lb plus fish on the line and saw it leap a few times.

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The last gasp escape of a 300lb plus blue marlin.

On the Tuesday we headed to Kim’s work, the HIMB (Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology) lab on Coconut Island in Kaneohe Bay on the East coast of the island. It was originally a playground island for a wealthy family with many animals including an elephant apparently kept for their amusement. It is now wholly owned by the University of Hawaii.

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Coconut Island research centre from mainland Oahu.

Whilst on the island I hung out for a while at Kim’s shark tank. There was a long tank, maybe 6m wide by 30m long, which contained a medium sized shark and a slightly smaller local reef fish which followed it constantly. Not much else to be seen. At the far end of the tank is a small penned off area which was very cool. I watched it for about an hour and took a few pictures.

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A large puffer fish which came in small and enjoyed a good life until it couldn’t get out through the net any more.

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The main reason for the small tank was to grow small fish to move to the main tank. Here’s a small hammerhead and a stingray.

The puffer fish was very cool. It would do a couple of laps and then come and check me out. It would stick its head out of the water and on a few occasions squirted water in my general direction – only 20 to 30cm, but cool to watch.

On Wednesday we took a colleague of Melinda’s and his family out for a trip on Imua. We searched around for dolphins and whales, but didn’t find anything. I gave Kim some stick about not having a line out, so we put a single trolling line out. On our way home passing close to Waikiki Beach, where you never catch fish, we took a strike on the one line out. I jumped down from the flying bridge and got on the reel. After about 20 minutes I had reeled in a good sized mahi-mahi. Kim vowed that he would religiously put out a line no matter how unlikely the result.

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Flying the flag on the way home.

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A good sized mahi-mahi, very tasty!

Those were the highlights of my holiday in Hawaii. Great place and I look forward to visiting again soon.

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