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A tale of a fateful trip, that started from this tropic port aboard this tiny ship.

13 Jan

Traveling with six people has it’s own challenges.  Ray has a propensity for sea sickness and is NOT enthusiastic about going out on the boat.  But he’s a good sport and agrees to try the morning session.  I figure he’ll pass on the night session.  We pump him full of Dramamine.  As “M” would say:  “He’ll be fine! ”

Our first mission is to swim with dolphins.  We leave the tropic port aboard the tiny ship and travel about 20 minutes north.  Ray seems to be hanging in there, I completely expected him to start vomiting over the side at any second.

For what would be NOT the first time that day we find our goal right on the bow of the boat,  A pod of Dolphin.  Captain Roy is excited – he estimates the Pod at about 300.  We jump in and swim with the wild Spinner Dolphins.  The are called spinners because when the jump out of the water they spin doing barrel rolls.  There is one baby dolphin who coudln’t be more than 15 pounds.  He just keeps jumping out of the water and spinning, doing it over and over again.  His energy is limitless, he’s a joy to watch and he’s adorable.


A pod is like a iceberg. Many times more under than on the surface

This is why they are call ‘spinner’ dolphins

The baby is adorable, and his energy is inexhaustable


While it appears there are a lot of dolphins on the surface, when you get in the water and look beneath with a snorkel mask, you see there are many times the number submerged than on the surface.  We are seriously outnumbered, We are in their home, We are on their turf, and they completely ignore us.  I was most taken by the mothers and calves.  As their mothers swim in no gravity oriented manners the babies swim, synchronized, belly to belly with their moms as they do large lazy circles beneath the surface.



Snorkleing with spinner dolphins

When I finally climb back onto the boat, in a reflexive move, I reach into my pocket and pull out my cell phone – dripping wet.  I was so excited I jumped in the water without realizing I’d forgotten to put my phone somewhere dry.  wow!  Replacing a smart phone in Hawaii is problematic.  There was a Verizon store nearby, but they were getting a shipment in tomorrow…. or maybe the next day.  And they didn’t know what was going to be in the shipment but I could call, sometime, and find out, maybe.  Aloha!  Well, who needs a smartphone on Hawaii?  I’ll consider it a tithe to Neptune – along with the hundreds of hats lost in great south bay off my catamaran, ‘Hazardous (when wet)’.

I wonder how they compensate the dolphins.

Once back onboard Captain Roy reminds us that it’s “our” boat, so I say, “we’d like to see some whales”.  What I like about Captain Roy is no matter what he is looking for, it seems to appear directly in front of the boat within minutes.  Funny how that works.

He finds whale signs then puts his hydrophone in the water.  Immediately the boat is filled with the song of a lone male.  He tells us the song goes on for about 45 minutes, then starts back at the beginning.  Female whales hearing the song are either attracted, or decide he needs more work on it and continue to more interesting rendevous.


whale on the bow

Summoning a Whale

whale tail 1



whale tail 2

If you look at the water surface in the above picture you’ll see two smooth “puddles”, these are whale signs.  When a whale sounds (goes down) these circles remain for some minutes afterwards. That’s how Captain Ron knew where to put his hydrophone.

I wonder how they compensate the whales.
The whales finally sound and leave us alone on an unusually calm pacific.  Oh what to do next.  Captain Ron planes off the boat and a surprise visitor makes an appearance.  A lone bottle nose dolphin decides he wants to play with us.  He comes rocketing in from the left and gets right under the bow of the boat (as we’re planed off) and rides our bow wave for quite some time.  I’m actually worried we’re going to run him over, but he makes it clear he wants Captain Ron to open the throttle. Captain Ron obliges.  I think these two mammals have played together before.  When the dolphin needs a breath of air, he breaks off to the right.  Captain ron stops the boat.  The dolphin makes a big circle in front of us, comes to the bow of the boat and makes it abundantly clear he’s not done playing.  Captain Ron Obliges and we play this game for four more rounds.

bottlenose - zoom in from the port side

Interception on port side!



bottle nose rides the bow wave

Riding the bow wave



bottlenose rides the bowwave

I can ride the wave for a long long time!


bottlenose - come on ron open the throttle

Come on Captain Ron, OPEN THE THROTTLE, AGAIN!

The dolphin is done playing with us and it’s time to head back to the marina.

On the way back we see large structures that I have not seen before.  The previous night at Roys, they offered dishes made from locally ‘Farmed’ fish (of some type).  It turns out these structures are the local farms.  When they harvest the fish the net moves up the pole pulling the net out of the water.


Wild Fish Farm

Notice the totally lava black shoreline in the background.  That’s the Air Traffic Control Tower overlooking the sole runway at Kona Airport.  you can also see the massive black lava flows in the haze.  That haze is called Vog – volcanic fog.  It’s emitted by the Kilauea volcano.
Finally our morning is over and we head back to the marina.  Ray thoroughly enjoyed the morning.  As my gynecologist would say: “he was fine.”



From left to right,

Captain Ron, Dan, Laura, Izzy, Ray, Amity and Paul, Shannon on the boat.  This is an odd photo, taken by a professional videographer, because it’s on a steeply slanted boat ramp.  The photographer made the camera level with the ramp, instead of level.  We all look leaned over!


We go into Kona to have some lunch.  The place recommended was not open for lunch and the town is a bit of a tourist trap.  Plus the Norweigan Cruise line ship is in, making the whole town overrun with cruise ship creatures.


We in the OF (old fart) car decide to go back to the hotel and rest up before the Nighttime excursion to swim with manta rays.  The KC decides to find something to eat in town.

We all meet back at the marina at 5pm to go on the night time manta ray snorkel.  this time Justin and Sampson are our hosts.  Ray, much to my glee, is with us!  as we leave the harbor, Justin slams the boat into reverse and comes to an abrupt stop… Have we hit something?  hats wrong?  He yells “MONK SEAL” and points to the jetty.  There are 6 Monk seals around the big island, and we’re looking at one of them from about 30 feet away.

Along the way we see what I will swear is two rays near the surface.  Justin and Sampson get all excited.  This is a Pelagic ray.  The rays we are going to swim with are coastal rays, and never leave their little area.  Pelagic rays start at 18′ wingspan, which is what they estimate this ray is, and get larger.  Sampson grabs fins, mask, snorkel and camera and is ready to jump in..  The first person who documents a particular ray gets to name it.  But they are too slow and the ray, after 3 or 4 sightings gets away.  I’m thinking to myself “what wimps, Diane would have been in the water without hesitation  and gotten that picture”.



In the dark we slip into the warm pacific, hold onto a board full of lights and snorkel with 2 rays, a couple of persistent needle nose plier fish, and millions of plankton, which the rays are there to eat.

Another full day done, we go back to the hotel.

The ‘kids’ go swimming in the massive pool complex at the Marriot.  The OF’s go to bed.

Swim with dolphins – Check!

Hang with Whales – Check!

Play with Bottlenose – Check!

Monk Seal – Check!

Pelagic Ray – Check!

Sunset on the water – Check!

Night time snorkel in the Pacific with Rays, Fish and plankton – Check!
Enjoy the pools in the fancy resort – Check!

We still have 4 days left.

Tomorrow we have a major decision to make.

How can things get better than this?


Title Picture: SS minnow from the opening scene of “Gilligans Island”

Title Quote: from the Theme song to “Gilligans Island”

…flying high into the sky….

8 Jan

After 11 hours of flight time the big island finally pokes up in the distance, rising out of the pacific.

Hawaii. (big island) appears in the distance


Had I told the pilot “once around the park, Jamie” we couldn’t have asked for a nicer approach to O’ahu.
  Past the big island, the over the coast of Maui and Moloka’i

Volcanic peaks of Maui poking out from their shrouds of clouds!


Can you tell these islands are made out of Lava?

Maui Coast and Molokai


The reason I seated us all on the port side of the plane was to get the view of Pearl Harbor and Hickman Air Force base. On the final approach to HNL.   Pearl Harbor is tomorrow’s destination and the view didn’t  disappoint.

Pearl Harbor


The red and white ATC tower in the center is an icon of Pearl Harbor since the attack.  On the mid-upper right you will see the Arizona memorial standing over (but not touching) the remains of the destroyed battleship and her entombed sailors.  This commemorates the beginning of the US entry into WW2.

Just to the left of that is the Battleship Missouri, facing toward the Arizona as a sign of respect.  Battleships are normally moored with the bow facing out, towards the ocean, ready at a moments notice to sail out.  The Missouri, was where the surrender instrument was signed in Tokyo harbor, and represents the end of WW2.

Typically a document like that would have been signed on the US flagship, which at the time was the US New Jersey, but Harry Truman was from Missouri, so the “Mighty Mo'” received the Japanese Delegation and the honors.

(Note – to non tech – savvy readers – you can expand the pictures!)

Hickman AFB


Hickman Air Force base adjoins Honolulu International Airport.  250 feet left to descend.

Landing at HNL


We land on runway designated 8R/26L, also known as the Reef Runway, was the world’s first major runway constructed entirely offshore. Completed in 1977, the Reef Runway was a designated alternate landing site for the Space Shuttle.

Finally, we deplane, rent a Tahoe and we’ll be spending the night in Waikiki beach on the beachfront tonite, then it’s off to Pearl Harbor and the banzai pipeline tomorrow.
See ya’ then!

Off we go!  Into the wild blue yonder……

8 Jan

We’re currently flying west over the Grand Canyon, but the cloud cover has it obscured, or I’d try to figure out how to put the picture here.  I’ve decided, I’m just going to try to get the words and sentiments out.  I’m not going to compete with my usual merciless traveling companion and his writers prose.  I’llstick to what I’m food at.  As Chico once captioned a photo of my fording a stream in a jeep- “Dan is comfortable behind the wheel”.  Just gonna be me, warts and all, and see how it comes out.  I’m also not going to blog by the day.  Maybe I’ll do short ones many times a day.  Maybe I’ll just blog a picture when I’m too busy having a good time.

I got up at very dark 15 and got out the door. (Winston Kitty was very unhappy I was leaving with my bag again) and drove the rental thing to Newark airport.  My siblings head to Newark airport from 40 miles in the other direction.  We figured we’d meet at the gate.  And use cell phones if we have to to find each other.  Turns out you can rent a Chevy spark from dollar around the corner for 15 dollars at the last minute and drop it off at Newark airport.  It took $1.90 in gasoline to top off the tank.  Cheaper than mass transit.  Dropped off the car, got on the AirTrain.

And now an advertisement for TSA Precheck!  Precheck is great.  You can usually get through security in a fraction of the time, without being irradiated and with most of your dignity intact.  Leave on your belt, leave on your shoes, leave your computer in your bag and just stroll through the simple metal detector and you’re done.  I’ll talk about GOES maybe on my next international flight.

 Those of us that are unfortunate enough to have to use Newark airport know there is only 1 TSA pre check checkpoint for the entire United terminal – at entry point ‘C’.  But I consulted united’s terminal map which proudly proclaims that there is a TSA preconceived at all entry points.  So I wrote a detailed note to my siblings that I didn’t believe them and if it weren’t so how to get to to checkpoint “C”.
The AirTrain stops at checkpoint 2, so I took the time to find out what I already knew.  There is only ONE TSA pre check at the United terminal, and it’s at “c”.  The published United documentation is a bald faced lie.  So I take the escalator and walk over to ‘c’ and get on line.   Who is directly in front of me?  My siblings.  THANK YOU MOM! (See I told you they’d be with us)  We coud not have done that if we planned. It.

  So an easy boarding for an on-time departure on UA15, EWR->HNL.  I give my family the briefing on how to use the power, bed and other amenities.  We take up the forward section of the  port side of the cabin.

The singles (me and Izzy in the front), the marrieds (Ray and Laura in row 2) and the soon to be marrieds (Amity and Paul) in row three.

The plane is a 767-400ER.  A ubiquitous mini-jumbo jet of united’s fleet.  Nice comfortable accomodations for our 11.5 hour flight.

Then it’s up up and away!,  er….  Off we go into the wild blue yonder flying high into the sky……

  • We are currently approaching the San Bernadino mountains at the southern part of the  Sierra Nevada mountain range. To fly south of LAX then over the pacific.

san bernadino mountains

Bucking a 140mph headwind… Finally over the pacific.

Our first stop will be O’Ahu, a drive along a dramatic coastline, then dinner at Uncle Bo’s and accomodations in Waikiki Beach.  We will only be on O’Ahu a short time to see Pearl Harbor, the banzai pipeline, some sights along the coast then off to less populated islands of Kaua’i and Hawaii.

  Talk to you again from O’Ahu.

HKG / SIN 4/9/2014 – 1m miles part 1

14 Apr

1m mile trip part 1 intro

A personal letter from United* (yeah sure)

Dear Daniel,

We are excited that you are approaching a remarkable milestone: flying one million miles with United® and MileagePlus®. Once you are a 1 Million Miler, you will enjoy benefits that reflect your accomplishment, including status that will not fall below Premier® Gold.*

We look forward to welcoming you as a 1 Million Miler in the near future.
Dan S

Get ready to be a 1 Million Miler

*with an asterisk.

The Quest:

Is it possible to go to the other side of the world to have dumplings in 2 famous cities and back, staying in decent hotels for less than $175 and an unknown number of frequent flyer miles? Welcome to dan’s Hong Kong/singapore adventure. we’re going to find out.

The History.
a long time ago (I believe 1995) i had a business opportunity on the left coast. Up until that point i flew tower air. It was the worst! they only flew 747’s (which was nice) but they were serial numbers 1-5. the ones that only had 3 windows on the upper deck – i don’t even think they had a dash after the number, in a word: ancient. they had terrible processes and rude crews (they were israeli, so it was ok). The cheapest ticket in the sky but you just had to accept that fact that if the plane left on the same day the ticket was for, it was on time (that is NOT an exaggeration). Tower flew from JFK to OAKland.

tower air had another attribute that worked. the place ‘s’ and i worked at was at the end of the runway at oakland airport. we worked push/pull. he would spend two weeks on the left coast managing this huge project, then i would fly out, take over and he would go back. we called the time there, “in the barrel”, it was said that we would dosi-doe at the airport. From the lab, you only had to look out the window and if the tower air tail was at the airport, you had a few hours to get over there, meet sam, discuss the issues for the next two weeks, hop on or off the plane and go. Well tower air went out of business and it was time to pick a REAL airline to fly. i was a delta flyer, but they were kinda pricey, so i tried united.

My first united flight was delayed due to a mechanical problem. but something interesting happened – they made a prompt and honest announcement and gave their assessment. What is this? an airline NOT treating me like a fragile parcel being unloaded from the top shelf of a UPS truck? I was so impressed with how united handled what went wrong, and their price on the JFK/SFO run that i joined their FF program. i’m sure i missed joining the first couple of flights, but that announcement about ‘frequent flyers earn 2586 miles for this trip) caught my attention. When i found out that you could trade those miles for upgrades and sit in the big seats in the front of the plane (how DID those people do it?) i was hooked.

and what wouldn’t i do to get those ‘free’ upgrades to the big seats in the front? credit cards that got miles, YES! 19 years later, i realize that airports are the bus stations of the middle class. i have too many frequent flyer miles in the bank and the airlines are devaluing the currency. why should this be any different than the US peso, or any other currency? Since i can’t diversify my ffm assets, i decided to fly a lot. I’ve flown on A380’s, I’ve flown on 787 Dreamliners (while they were catching on fire)-even got a cockpit tour by two senior pilots! and every other plane you can imagine. and in every class. I have my memorable flights.

I flew a 787 dreamliner from newark to houston to San Fran to houston to newark on New Year’s Day last year – just to be a part of history. Since i foolishly missed my chance to fly on the concorde, i figured i’d lock this one in. It was noteworthy because when we landed in San Fran, 7 policemen rushed in, stopped short and looked around and said “damn this is a nice plane” (it is), and then went back to coach and arrested a woman and took her off the plane in handcuffs. When I reboarded i asked the flight attendant what the story was. Apparently she bought her ticket on a stolen credit card – and it wasn’t the first time. How foolish — to buy a ticket on a stolen credit card and not buy first class! but i digress – back to the adventure at hand.

This trip is noteworthy not only because i am using some of my miles to travel first class 1/2 way around the world and back (it feels like for free) and pay for decent hotel rooms, but because on this trip, i will hit 1 million lifetime miles. A dubious achievement, to be sure, but one that has great perks, priority boarding, not getting nickled and dimed for baggage and other stuff for the rest of my life (or until they change it). with some airlines charging even for advanced seat reservations, it’s a good thing.


9 Mar

Sometimes the experiences are so intense, so dense, you don’t realize what an incredible time you’ve had until later, when you look at the pictures……


my shadow over a 2600 year old mosaic floor in a ruin in paestum, italy.

Hawaii is for Foodies

9 Mar

but they don’t know it. This morning we are going to the farmers market.

Hello world!

11 Jan

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