The 3 BD’s

It was tempting to just turn around and get back on the plane back to Hawaii when I landed in Providence Saturday night. It was dark and cold. Snow was piled everywhere. I had heard about the 14 – 18 inch snow storm while I was in Maui but I was a long way away from it.

I was wearing my Aloha shirt and digging through my pocket book for my claim ticket for my car when 2 airport police approached.

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They were wearing ski masks and bundled up big time. They stopped by to tease me about my shirt and we chatted about the snow and ice and COLD…brrr.

Eventually I was home greeted by my little fur baby.  Sunday was just time to relax, unpack and get ready to return to the real world. I had a birthday on Wednesday. I haven’t paid much attention to birthdays in a long time so I was surprised when one of my co- workers brought me flowers, another left me a message wishing me a happy birthday and then sent more flowers! The office paid for lunch. They even bought a birthday cake!

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Nancy’s kids, Dawn and Alex both have birthdays in February too. For years, since they were just toddlers, we have made it a tradition to get together for a breakfast or brunch to celebrate out 3 birthdays. In the beginning we did it because how do you explain to little kids that one kid gets presents but the other one has to wait? It turned into a tradition to just celebrate them all together.

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This year Nancy & I were both watching our pennies so Nancy suggested we go to Braintree to a place called Kristin’s. Nancy said it had a great reputation.

It’s a little hole in the wall at 349 Washington St, Braintree. Parking is a real problem but eventually we found a spot about a block away. It was a nice day, fairly mild and sunny so walking back wasn’t too bad.

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We opened the door on chaos! It was loud and the place was packed. If busy-ness is any indication, this was going to be good. Eventually we were offered seats at the counter. The portion sizes were huge! Nancy, Dawn and Alex all had pancakes. One each was ample. Alex chose the most exotic. He had a Boston Cream Pancake.

This is 1 pancake. Can you actually imagine eating 3?

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Nancy was more traditional with a Blueberry pancake and Dawn had an M & M pancake.Sides of bacon and juice were added to round out the meals. I strayed from convention with a plate of Texas Toast French toast. It tasted a lot like the french toast I make with lots of cinnamon but I don’t have those lovely thick slices of bread.

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It was really good and the best part was the bill came to under  $10.00 per person. Can’t beat that! We had a good time, exchanged gifts and the tradition continues!

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Save the Whales

Back from Maui with only limited success I watched the Kia Superbowl ad that I missed on Superbowl Sunday because I was on  plane over the Pacific. I laughed out loud as I watched Melissa McCarthy answer a call to “Save the Whales.

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She rushes out in a little pontoon boat only to have a huge whale breach right next to her! As the behemoth splashes down it lands on the end of her boat catapulting her into a larger whale watch boat.  Its all an exaggeration but I suppose the whale landing on the boat is a real possibility…if you got that close.  I sure would have been happy to take my chances with a close encounter.

So how would I rate my 4 experiences?

#1. For the best photo ops had to be the Pacific Whale Foundation’s  Photo Safari. It was the only one that actually delivered a breaching whale, even if it was a baby.

Baby Whale Breach

#2. For shear fun and excitement, I’d have to vote for the Ocean Rafting. I had a great time when I was on a pontoon boat back in November and got the same thrill this time looking for whales. I love the smallness of the boat and being so close to the waves. Plus we saw plenty of whales. I would not recommend this one for small children. We had all adults on our trip.

Man O War

#3. Pride of Maui Whale watch and Snorkel. I hate to put this ahead of the Pacific Whale Foundation trip but the arrival of the spinner dolphins kind if pushed this over the top. Plus they did a great job with the barbecue lunch. Seeing a tiny octopus while snorkeling was another plus in their favor even though they can’t control what fish or animals we might see.

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#4. Pacific Whale Foundation. This is a great family trip. The boat is large and stable in the water. The naturalists are professional and friendly and a portion of the cost goes to support Whale Research. It may not have made the top spots in this particular lineup but we saw whales, it was educational and I would not hesitate to go again.

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Any of the 4 trips would be great. It kind of depends on what you are looking for and if you are a family with small children or a solo adventurer.

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I  can’t wait until the whale season next year!

Cuise ship sighting

 

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My last Chance

It was Friday. My last day on Maui. My last chance for that elusive photo. I’ve had a lot of fun on my whirlwind visit  but I still don’t have that Breaching whale photo.

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Photo By Anna Smith

I’ve got one more chance. My plane isn’t leaving until 6:30 pm so I have time for 1 more whale watch.

This time I switched my approach. The 3 previous whale watches were on good sized catamarans. Maybe the boats were intimidating the whales. We can’t chase or encroach on the animals. The boats can’t approach closer than 100 yards. Now that doesn’t prevent the huge mammals from coming close to the boats but that means we are leaving it up to the animals.

Whales Nose

On one of the previous whale watching trips I’d spotted a tiny little boat that seemed to be attracting lots of attention from the whales. They were blowing and flipper slapping all around it. It was a pontoon raft style boat.

Ocean Raft

I found a flyer for Ocean Rafting and made sure I tracked them down in Lahaina Harbor. I got a spot on the 10 am trip.

Lahaina Booths

I had a death grip on the captain as I stepped onto the pontoon to the boat. We had bench seats to start out. Once out of the harbor we could move to the pontoons if we so choose. Standing up was also ok.

All Aboard

Man O War

Right away we saw action and the whales did come closer to the boat. Mostly we were looking at the wide backs as they cruised along with us.

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It was a hazy day. Not the bright , sunny days we’d been having but the seas weren’t too rough. We did get splashed a few times as we flew over the water .

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At one point a whale dove right in front of us. The captain brought us up to a stop and killed the engine. We all held our breaths and listened. We could hear the whale song without any magnification! The captain said we were right above the whale that was doing the singing. They tossed in a hydrophone which brought in the whale song loud and clear. It was much cleaner than the one from yesterday, probably because we were so close we were just picking up the one whale.

Another Tail

As we passed the Queen Elizabeth, a cruise ship in Lahaina Harbor, we saw a mom and calf. The Mom dove giving us a nice shot of her flukes.

Cuise ship sighting

It was another successful whale search but still no breaches. The Captain said the whales breach every day but as I mentioned in the beginning, you just have to be in the right place at the right time.  Unlike trained whales at Sea World, they don’t jump on command.

Pectoral fin glows emerald through the water as this whale swims beside out raft

Pectoral fin glows emerald through the water as this whale swims beside our raft

I guess that means I’ll have to go back next season!

 

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Whale Watch #3

Thursday I awoke to  a real cacophony from the hundreds of birds perched along the roof line, most appeared to be Myna birds. It was amazing the volume of their chirps and calls. I hesitate to use the term “song”. I stuck my phone out the slider and pressed record. I was sure no one would believe it without proof. (I haven’t figured out how to get the recording from my phone to this page, Any ideas techies?)

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Both whale watches from Wednesday had been fun and successful as far as seeing whales but I still didn’t get the photo I was seeking. I consoled myself that even National Geographic photographers sometimes had to wait weeks to get that special picture. If it was easy everyone would do it!

I still had the whale watch coming to me for becoming a member of the Pacific Whale Foundation so I headed back down to their shop to see if they had any open spots. I was seeing whales breaching all around me on every trip, just too far away. It’s just a matter of being in the right place at the right time and that means getting back out there.

Pacific Whale Foundation

Luckily they had an opening on the 2 pm whale watch on the catamaran Ocean Intrigue.

Ocean Intriguw

I had high hopes for this trip as it was active almost as soon as we took off. We saw a female with two male whales chasing her around. There was a lot of tail slapping and flipper waving. Everyone on board got very excited.

Whale Chase

At times it looked like the whales were climbing right over each other. But no breaching.

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Whales Nose

We moved on to a mother and calf. The calf was very excited by our approach and began slapping the surface with his little tail. It was like he was standing on his head and slapping his tail back and forth.

Baby Humpback

So much splashing, So much energy but no breach.

Whale of a Tail

As the action slowed a bit a hydrophone was dropped over the side. We could hear many different whales as they sang their songs. The naturalist said it was probably about a 25 mile radius.

Mom and Calf

Finally it was time to head back into shore. We passed the 3 whales from the start of the trip and they were still going strong with their chasing and competing. The whales had been closer to the boat this time and certainly we saw some fun behaviors but still no breaching.  My time was running out.

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Pride of Maui

The Pride of Maui was my afternoon whale watch. I was surprised to find that I was really tired even before we headed out. This fun in the sun can really knock the wind out of your sails!

The morning whale watch had returned around 11 am so I had plenty of time to get a snack. I didn’t want to eat too much because this trip included lunch and a snorkel stop.

Maalaea Harbor

Maalaea Harbor

The way I felt as I waited for the Pride of Maui to return from their morning excursion I was seriously doubting I was going to go snorkeling.  Still I had my bathing suit on so I figured I could make that decision when the time came.

The “Pride” was another catamaran but much larger than the one we were on for the morning trip. Reef safe sunscreen was being passed around. It was really thick and everyone was coated in white. It reminded me of the zinc oxide ointment the life guards used to put on their noses when I was a kid.

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Finally the ship was in, the morning tour unloaded and we began to move up the gangway.

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Although this was billed as a whale watch, and we certainly saw whales, it felt as if the emphasis was on the snorkeling part of the trip.

Whales' Tail

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Flukes

We stopped at a place along the shore that the crew referred to Coral Gardens. It wasn’t that far south of the lookout. I spotted the tunnel on Rt 30. We were given our gear and instructions. There was 1 hour set aside for the snorkel part of the trip. While everyone was in the water the crew fired up grills and began cooking hot dogs, hamburgers and grilled chicken. Quite a feast considering it was all done on the boat.

Coral Gaeden

I did decide to go snorkeling. I thought the cold water might perk me up. I’m glad I did too. I saw a tiny little, yellow pipefish and while I was watching it a brown blob that I thought was a stone started to move. It was a tiny little octopus! It was really fun watching that little guy and I followed him for a good portion of my snorkel time. The parrot fish and yellow butterfly fish that we always saw around were everywhere but that octopus was the high point for me.

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Back on board we were just casting off after the nice lunch when we were surrounded by a pod of spinner dolphins. What a great way to wrap up our day.

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By the way, this was a 3 hour tour. Remember Gilligan’s Island? They went on a 3 hour tour too but we came back!

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A Photo Safari

I couldn’t sleep. The alarm was set for 4 am but I was awake at 3. I tried to go back to sleep but I was too afraid that I’d oversleep if I did that so rise and shine. It’s really dark here with no streetlights!

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I’m heading back to the Pacific Whale Foundation’s location for a “Photo Safari”. I usually stay clear of things like this because my one and only experience of being out with a group of photographers was pretty negative. On that trip I was rudely pushed out of the way, yelled at by one, and blocked by a photography club. Getting a picture was near impossible!

I broke my rule because I figured there would be fewer people on board this boat and they would be actively looking for the best photo ops.  Check in was 5:45 am.

I was one of the first to arrive but it didn’t take long for the crowds to form. They had 3 different trips going out so you had to listen carefully to be sure you were in the correct group.

While I was waiting I heard a loud crash that sounded like a lens or camera being dropped. Sure enough. Once of the  “look at me, I’m a professional” types had dropped his camera. I offered my condolences but as true to  the nature of this type of  person, he just brushed it off. Turns out he was a pro and the group leader.

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Once on the boat, a small catamaran, Brian (the pro) began giving instruction about camera settings, depth of field, ISO, shutter speed and aperture modes. He also wanted to know who were shooting RAW and who was still using Jpeg.  I was one of the RAW shooters. He tossed out some recommended settings to start out since it was still pretty dark and I was pleased to see that I’d already set very similar settings on my own. Chalk one up for the weak side!

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We spotted a mama whale and baby right out of the harbor. Although they weren’t doing much we spent a lot of time there.

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Moving off we started to see breaching whales in the distance but the captain didn’t head there. Too far out he said. We followed a flotilla of other Whale watching boats.

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We soon found ourselves with another Mama and Calf. Baby must have just learned how to breach as he was jumping for joy.

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Baby Breach

That was the only breach we were close enough to photograph. We saw lots more whales , tails and flukes and flippers but no breaching in range. The crew tossed out a hydrophone so we listened to whale songs for about 20 minutes. That was fascinating.

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Everyone was very quiet as we returned to shore. No one got anything special so I think there was a sense of let down. Oh well, these are wild animals. They aren’t going to preform  “on demand”.

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Kealia Pond National Wildlife Refuge

The Kealia Pond area was a pleasant surprise that Sandy & I stumbled upon when were were here in November. It was a beautiful day so it seemed perfect for exploring it a bit more. The walking is easy as the trail through the Refuge is an elevated boardwalk.

The 2200 foot boardwalk is lined with self-guided interpretive exhibits. Even with those a good book of Hawaiian birds will come in handy.

The boardwalk runs between the shoreline and the marsh, at times passing right over the shallow water where you can see loads of fish. Its easy to see why they have so many  birds here. Food is clearly very abundant.

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Today the endangered Hawaiian Stilts were on the far side of the road and out “in force”. I also saw a large heron as I drove in. It looked a lot like our Great Blue Heron but I don’t know if they come to Hawaii.

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Once on the boardwalk I met a park ranger and we talked a little bit. He especially commented on how windy it was and almost on cue a para sail went up towing a wind surfer behind.

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As I moved along the boardwalk I could see that the birds were really out in force.

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The ‘Auku’u, were everywhere. The common name is Black Crowned Night Heron. Sandy and I saw one in November but today I saw 3 as soon as I started down the trail. At every turn  another one showed up.

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The ‘Alae ke‘oke‘o, or Hawaiian Coot, were also well represented. They are a little bird so getting a photo with the lens I had with me would have been futile. They pretty much stayed out of camera range.

I did spot a bird that no one seemed to recognize. It reminded  me of the bittern’s we get in Massachusetts marshes but I’ll have to do some more research to find out what it was.

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It was standing in the vegetation near the washout from the storm yesterday.

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Although there was still lots of boardwalk left, I was starting to get warm and thirsty. I didn’t have a hat and nothing is worse than trying to brush your hair when you have a sunburn on your scalp. Time for a trip to Island Creme for a frozen treat.

 

 

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