Whales, Whales and more Whales

The new year has been very busy, too say the least, I’m doing well, no chest pain, and I’m starting the recommended cardio rehab right around Valentine Day (appropriate for heart issues).  But, in the meantime, my friend Shannon and I had scheduled a trip to go whale watching in Maui so the first week in February, we flew over.

It turned out to be the best trip for whales in the last 4 years that we’ve been leaving Charlie and Tree behind to participate in the Pacific Whale Foundation’s tours.

We booked a condo  in Kihei but spent practically no time in it, since for the 4 days we stayed, we had 4 separate boat trips.  Luckily we are both pretty avid and travel well together.

The afternoon we arrived we took a sailing catamaran named Trilogy V out of Malalea, a mere 1/2 hour from the airport.  That trip started our sojourn out beautifully,  We saw many Moms and calves (Maui is the preferred birthing place in Hawaii for the Humpback whales that live in Alaska).  Every winter between Dec and March the females come to give birth to their calves and young males come along to take their chances at mating.  The mom and calf are usually accompanied by a escort male.  He sometimes is successful in fending competition off in order to mate with her.DSCF2133

This was the best picture of a whale breaching, I got on the first day.  We weren’t too far off shore.

The afternoon ended with a big storm approaching from the north accompanied by several water spouts.DSCF2099

The day ended with my being very pleased with my Gortex jacket.  Charlie had seen on the evening news that water spouts had been spotted in Maui so he called to find out the details.

The  second afternoon we had one excursion with the Pacific Whale Foundation (PWF) scheduled, leaving from Lahina, farther north up the coast, another great trip.  We had a dinner cruise booked for the third day, however, just before we got to Maui, the cruise was cancelled due to maintenance on the boat, so we rescheduled that one for the same evening, giving us two boat rides on the same day.  Sunset was spectacular and though we didn’t see as many whales, the steak dinner and wine was awfully nice, since we are members of the Foundation we were treated like VIP’s (allowed to board first).


That’s Lanai in the background



Just before our steak was delivered

The dark, curvy drive back to Kihei got us back to the condo by 9:30 pm.

Now, we had a day free and rather than scheduling another whale trip, we decided to take the ferry to Lanai.  Neither of us had visited that island, it is owned by Larry Ellison, of Oracle and it has a 4 star Four Seasons hotel, as well as golf courses, ATV rides, and horseback rides.  So we scheduled a horseback ride soon after the second ferry of the  day.

The harbor is quite small, accommodating a few small boats and a ferry dock.  A short walk leads to the hotel, where the shuttle for our ride stops.  We arrived a couple of hours early so decided to sit at the bar overlooking the ocean and a white sand beach to wait.  We ordered beverages and an appetizer, enjoyed the view and the service when the concierge from the activity desk found us only to let us know that it was raining up on the mountain and our ride was cancelled.  Disappointed, we trekked down to the lovely, uncrowded beach, took a swim and sauntered back to the ferry dock in time to take it back to Lahina.

The trip back to Maui was anything but flat…..the captain cautioned us to stay inside the cabin if we didn’t want to be soaked to the skin.  It was pretty rough, though we saw a number of whales, it was way too rough to photograph.  We had parked at a long-term lot, but I had forgotten to pay and was nervous that our car might be towed.  We must have been living right, I didn’t have a ticket….or a tow.

For our last day we scheduled a sunrise cruise again out of Mahalea, leaving the harbor at 6:30 am.  We saw a few groups of whales for the first 1.5 hours of a 2 hour cruise but, just as we were heading back to the harbor, suddenly we had to stop (it’s illegal to approach whales closer than 150 yards) there were 5 whales in the way and the captain had to cut the engine.

I started cardio-rehab, They have me working out, hooked up to heart monitors, oxygen sensors and blood pressure.  I appreciate the monitoring since the whole episode has freaked me out a little  and I’m eager to return to running as soon as possible.  I’ve also been attending a nutrition class, a chance to improve my diet. Most of the attendees are quite a bit older and much less fit, so it seems a bit weird.

Charlie and I volunteered again for a biking 10 mile Time Trial, we didn’t bike but were responsible for calling out the participant numbers as they finished.  It was held way on the west side near Kekaha.  Each rider was numbered and each started at one minute intervals.  The day turned out to be calm and cloudy…..about 30 participants rode.


Our family Doctor “Binny” starting the time trial


Participants lining up before the start

A great way to end the week.


Winter has been challenging


As you probably remember from the last post, we have sold our house 🏡   in Koloa. So it’s been super hectic since then, because not only had we moved, but we had also committed to taking care of two cats in NYC owned by a neighbor of Andrea and Bruce, our friends from Wisconsin.  Tat, a 20 year old kitty in guarded health, and Izzy, a younger one.  20171223_170445_1514168218698_001The two girls got plenty of attention

We thought that it would be fun to be in NYC for Christmas, so in exchange for a nice apartment on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, we agreed.  Little did we know that beside 3 pages of cat instructions, we would also visit the Big Apple during the coldest Christmas/New Year ‘s week in 100 years…..and our blood has apparently thinned during our Kauai sojourn.

We arrived on Dec 19, the first three days were mild and, though we still had to bundle up, were warm enough to explore, Times Square, Rockefeller Center, and all the decorations for the holidays.

We also did a little shopping, since my only closed toed shoes disintegrated as we were leaving for the airport, I had to replace my “slippahs”, or freeze my toes.  Apparently, 5 years of Kauai’s humidity made them disintegrate ……black curds were peeling off and leaving gunk on the floor.  (And I’d even gone out and bought black polish to spiff them up.) We checked out Central and Riverside Parks, met friends, Betty and Victor, for dinner down in SoHo before the deep freeze hit.  We’d both forgotten about red runny noses, aching, frozen toes and bone-chilling cold (and we had donned every bit of clothing that we had…in layers); thank NYC for subways.   We had also forgotten the winter air in the north is very dry and drys out your nostrils.

However, we rediscovered Smoke, an exceptional jazz bar practically just outside the apartment building, and enjoyed music and dinner with Bruce and Andrea one night.  In previous trips we had also discovered Absolute Bagels, a shop that always has a long line outside the door, and indulged almost every morning with blueberry, strawberry, cheddar/bacon smears with our bagels…a huge treat for us islanders.

Two winter weeks was enough, and we watched the “ball” drop NewYear s Eve on TV, and we escaped to Kauai just hours before JFK airport closed on the 3rd with the arrival of the bomb cyclone (where do they come up with these names???).

It was good to get home, and  to continue to get settled.  AC was installed the day we left Lihue, but we still had some drywall repair work to have completed.  Within a couple of days too, the solar system we had ordered was installed, and several orders from Home Depot came in.  (Many items, especially larger ones, are either not available here, the vendors won’t ship to Hawaii, or the cost is prohibitive.  The other option is to order it at Home Depot and have it shipped in one of their containers (4-6 weeks by barge)).  Part of the time spent after we returned was remembering where we had put things.

Seal activity returned to normal, scads of tourists, were still on the beach, things were returning to normal, when, at 8:07 am Saturday morning, we got the alert on our cell phones that missles were headed to Hawaii.  It said too, to head for shelter….what a joke, we have no basements and our houses are mostly wood, and besides, we’re on a small island, no place to run to.  After a few seconds of panic, we hugged each other, said it’s been a great trip, and settled in to our regular routine.  A full 38 minutes later the emergency alert system announced it was a false alarm, someone pushed a wrong button.

Then, the same evening things got really interesting.  I had been having some issues running, my chest would hurt, I didn’t think too much about it because I have had acid reflux for years.  However, that afternoon we walked a couple of blocks to Home Depot and while Charlie was waiting for customer service, I walked quickly over a couple of aisles to check on something.   My chest then hurt enough that Charlie went home to get the car to pick me up.  We vacillated about going to the ER, but finally went over to check it out., We walked in and checked with the receptionist, telling her that I was having chest pain. ( I still was thinking that it wasn’t that bad).  However, immediately people surrounded me and whisked me off to an examining room, hooked me up to EKG, put a IV in my arm and set me down on a bed.  My blood pressure was sky high (222/115) and the nurses kept pumping beta blockers into the IV until it got to a acceptable level.  They weren’t about to let me go home at this point, luckily, after blood tests and rays it was determined that I hadn’t had a heart attack but more tests needed to be done and it was the beginning of a holiday weekend.  No more tests would be done until, at least Monday (a holiday).

After two nights in Wilcox Hospital, a stress echo cardiogram was scheduled on Monday morning (luckily, even though it was a holiday) they would do the test.  I mounted the treadmill and started walking, faster and faster and soon I had to stop, they did the echo and much to my surprise, I flunked!  The doc consulted with the assistants, he told me that he was medevacing me to Oahu for further tests.  What was that? I asked.  Within minutes, I was wheeled back to my room, Charlie was told to pack a bag, they were flying me to Straub Hospital in Honolulu to do more tests.

As soon as Charlie returned, Hawaii Life Flight crew brought a stretcher in, I was loaded into an ambulance and conveyed to the airport where a turboprop was waiting,  a pilot and two nurses to fly me out.  Wow! what a strange feeling!  It took about 40 minutes, all the time the two medical folks were talking to me trying to calm me down.  Meanwhile, Charlie was sitting up near the pilot, no doubt freaking out a little.


The flight was smooth and as we approached Honolulu airport, the nurses told me that, since we were an emergency vehicle, all planes on the tarmac were held until we had safely landed.  Another ambulance met us at the airport and transported us to Straub hospital where we were met again by nurses that put me in the “Cath holding area”.  Within an hour, I was wheeled into the cath lab and I was being prepped for a heart catherization.

I felt like I was in some sci-fi lab.  Dr. Kai put a small hole in my wrist and threaded a small tube up into my heart arteries.  Upon finding one of the three arteries leading to the heart 90% obstructed, he put a stent in to open it up.

I am very fortunate that we paid attention to the chest pain and did something.  Everything is good now, I have no obstruction anymore.  They kept me overnight but released me the next morning.  We had to find our own flight back home, so spent a few hours in the airport.

It felt good to get home and hug the cats, it could have ended much differently.  My new goal is to eat more veggies, less fat, and less salt, since I was already living a pretty healthy lifestyle.


Moving on

Wow!  I’ve had no time to post this month…..we have have been consumed with the move from Koloa to the big city, I’d forgotten how much work moving is.  We now live a couple blocks from Costco and Home Depot in Lihue.  We are also quite close to the airport, but don’t really get much noise since we aren’t on the landing path.  We are located right next to the underpass linking the first and second holes of PuaKea golf course so we are well located.

The movers came one week ago and we have since pretty much settled in.  Of course it will still take a while to find out where I’ve stashed everything, but so far, it’s really nice.  I have my own office, as does Charlie, as well as a guest room.  Our view is the other side of  Haupa, the mountain we could see from the guest room window in Koloa  IMG_1159.JPGWe now have replaced our carport with a garage…yipee!  Charlie is happy….and best of all, it is quiet…..no trucks gunning between the two stop signs in Koloa.  It is also light and airy.

A few pictures from our new house, just to show what it is like.IMG_1167

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The back yard, the view from the lanai and the garage.

There has been little seal activity for us for the past couple of weeks because of the move, but we will soon be back in the groove.  We’ve had many seasonal volunteers returning so that our absence has been no problem for the program.  We have, however, had more Green Sea Turtles sleeping on the beach at Poipu, in fact one morning we had over 20 when we arrived in the early morning.IMG_1142

Results from last month’s whale strandings have been inconclusive so far, some lab tests haven’t been completed yet.  There was, however, a hearing in Honolulu updating the public on progress.  There seems to be a lot of sentiment to blame someone, the government or military is a favorite target.   But it may well be undetermined.

The Kauai Community College Culinary class has started its second semester with Asian Cuisine.  We just about always respond immediately and since seating is limited they fill up soon.  The Korean dinner just happened to fall on my birthday and Duane, the coordinator of the program arranged to have a candle on my dessert and had the students serenade me with Happy Birthday.  It was pretty cute, I guess this means we are regulars.  We always enjoy not only supporting the program, but also getting gourmet meals for a very reasonable price.

Winter has also arrived, with more rain than we’ve had over the summer and cooler temperatures……it’s been perfect sleeping weather, 60’s overnight and 70’s during the day.  After a pretty warm summer and fall, it is certainly welcome.

Our friend Joanie had a unusual experience golfing, she is the first woman to make a hole in one at the Kukui’ula Golf Course (a gorgeous golf course that is only 7 years old). Charlie created a cake in her honor and delivered it a couple of days after the auspicious event.IMG_1168



Things are a changing

The end of Bon Dance season was marked with a ceremony sending our deceased ancestors out to sea again after welcoming them with the Bon Dances.  It was held at Kukui’ula Harbor at sunset.  Floats were made with 25 (luminaria) lined up on each float.  The buddhist monk first said a prayer and mentioned everyones name on the island that had died in the past year…a representative from the family marched up to take the blessing and after the sun set designated swimmers got in the water and each of the floats were lowered into the water and were strung together and swum out past the surf line.  We watched as the twinkling procession proceeded to sea taking the spirits back.  It was very touching.IMG_0932


Almost immediately upon returning from our trip, we were scheduled to go the the all -island senior softball tournament in Oahu, featuring 65 teams from The Big Island, Kauai, Oahu, and Kauai.  The team made reservations to go and play the end of the week in the Honolulu area.  The upper teams were to play the end of the week and the lower ranked teams, the first part.  We were ranked in the upper division, Group D, so we played late in the week.  Charlie and I decided to go for the whole week and spend a little time at Waikiki before the rest of the team arrived.  It’s fun to get to the big city every now and then.  So, on Wednesday the team arrived ready to play on Thursday. Everyone was psyched and we won our first game.  We lost the second but still had a winning record so we advanced to the elimination portion of the tournament.   After playing 6 games, we made it to the championship game for our division.  We were so excited but also tired after 6 games in 3 days (and remember the team is all above 60 years old).  Unfortunately, we played well but in the last inning of the championship game we succumbed, so came in second in our division.  Out of the 65 teams that played and out of 8 divisions, Kauai teams excelled, winning, 1st or 2nd in 5 out of the 8 divisions.  7 games in 3 days though is a lot!

All in all the week was great fun…we even got over to the beach to meet Rocky (a Kauai seal that relocated to Oahu but usually births on Kauai) and her new pup….born on the very busy beach of Waikiki.  She apparently didn’t make it to Kauai in time.  This was her 10th pup and all the rest have been born on Kauai.  Charlie and I have pup-sat previous pups of hers – apparently she didn’t seem to remember us.IMG_0946Note all the people in the background.  That had to be a challenging location since often a mother seal is quite aggressive.  A female seal pup normally returns to her natal beach to birth.  So the NOAA staff was quite worried that in five years the pup would return.  After much discussion, and having experience in the northwestern Hawaiian Islands, they decided to relocate the pup immediately after she was weaned to a more isolated beach.  This tactic has been successful in the NW Islands, as long as it is done within a day or so of weaning, they are confident that she’ll imprint on the new beach.

Friends Barry and Mary had a time-share condo at the iconic Ilikai Hotel that we got to stay in.  The view from our room is below.fullsizeoutput_e8fIt has been featured in Hawaii Five O and numerous other movies.

Meanwhile, across our street dust fences went up and it appears that the new shopping center will be breaking ground soon.  Soooo we put our house up for sale, thinking that it would take a while and we could browse leisurely and look for a place up country, perhaps.  However, much to our surprise, we got an offer right away.  After a few counters, we decided on a price and sold.  Now, we had to find a place to move to.  We found a nice house in Lihue, close to Costco, in a nice neighborhood and put an offer in that was accepted.   So, life changes again, in November we will be moving away from the tourist center of Koloa/Poipu to the ‘big city’.

We’re mixed, in that we have settled comfortably in Koloa and this will be a whole new adventure.  The new house is nice and within walking distance of Home Depot, Costco, Kmart and Safeway but farther from the beaches at Poipu.  We still plan to volunteer with the seal program on the South Shore, it will just take 15 minutes longer to get there.

The crowds have diminished a little since school started on the mainland and the seals haven’t been coming up at Poipu quite so often.  The summer weather has been record-breaking hot….close to 90 and with light trade winds, so we’ve enjoyed the AC we put in a couple of years ago.   The trade winds have started to pick up lately and the humidity has dropped,

We’ve had super tides along with south swells and waves, making the surfers very happy but closing parts of the beach at Poipu because of rip currents.  The seals don’t mind though.  Life goes on and we will have some slack until we have to move…..exciting!

There has been a long gap between posts, partly because we were on the Mainland in Wisconsin for 3 weeks in September.  Charlie was working part of the time, we volunteered, as we have for the past 10 years at the Madison Ironman.  We did reconnect with many friends but didn’t get a chance to see everyone.  I was able to run, …. twice with IMG_2534 (2)my old running group and Bucky Badger.

We had an awesome few days up at Washington Island, Door County, reminiscing about our years of camping on Rock Island (also circumnavigating her).  We stayed at Marcia and Anton’s flat on Kendall Street, thanks to them we’ve had a convenient place to stay each time we’ve visited.  Of course we had to experience the Farmer’s Market and our Saturday Morning coffee group, John, Gary, Bob, Seth and Amanda.  It was a productive trip.

When we returned to Kauai, we discovered that the buyer for our house had dropped out, necessitating new moving plans.  Joanie, our realtor contacted people that had been interested before and within 2 days, had a new buyer….for a little more money and 2 days later another for even more money.  We had signed a contract with the second buyer so we now have a backup.  Unfortunately, we lost 5 weeks while the first buyer was vacillating….our new closing is now mid-November.    We’ve been packing already so that we’re ready.

The new house .

Since we returned, we’ve been swamped with seal work,, having 3, 4 and 5 seals at Poipu.   And to top it all off, on Friday Oct 13 I got a call in the early morning, when we were down at Poipu that all hands were needed in Lihue at Kalapaki harbor.  At least 8 Pilot Whales had beached themselves on the shore and we were needed to try to get them back into deeper water.  When we arrived, two of them were already taking their last breathes but people were trying to guide the rest back into deeper water.  It was a wild scene, with hundreds of spectators, first responders in the water and whales everywhere.  Apparently pilot whales are very social and when one is ill the rest of the pod follows, even if it results in their deaths.  It was an extremely sad event, never seen at such a scale in the Hawaiian islands.  Hundreds of people were out trying to help.  The end result was 5 whales were lost.  Charlie and I and a few other volunteers were recruited to assist in the necropsies.  A remote site was set up and the 3000-5000 lb whales were transported on a flat bed to the site.  A deep hole was dug to bury them after the necropsies and 8 NOAA and U of Hawaii staff were flown over from Oahu to attend.  I was the official photographer for one of the whales.  We had to document it all trying to determine the cause of death.  We had to divorce our minds from the event and had to become clinical in our work.  While the whales were in the water, a group of native hawaiian practitioners surrounded the first two whales and blessed them.  Sabra Kauka, a hawaiian kumu and  a friend of ours chanted, dedicating the animals to the ocean.  Each Hawaiian ohana (family) has a amukua that is part of the family.  It can be a whale, a seal, a dolphin or whatever so this chant is very important to link the ohana to the universe .  It was all very emotional. Before we started the necropsies, the whole crew joined hands in a circle and discussed the importance of this to the culture.IMG_1109


Above is Sabra and the mayor just as Sabra was beginning to dedicate the whales to the ocean with her chant.

You see we haven’t been lazy…just busy.

Here’s to Merry Olde England

We just returned from almost a month in England and Scotland, so there has been no blog since mid June.

We left Kauai on June 25 and flew to San Francisco and from there directly to London, a really long flight, but better since we upgraded to seats that had a little extra leg room.  We arrived in London at 7 am, and since we wouldn’t be able to get into a room until 3 or so, we took the bus from the airport directly to Bristol in the west of England  Bristol is a few hours west of London our friends, Bruce and Andrea had recommended it because their son teaches at the university there.  It was a good move, Bristol is a nice city and close to such tourist destinations as Bath and Wales.

We stayed in a nice hotel in an eclectic part of Bristol, with lots of activity in the surrounding blocks.   Mostly young people, students and vendors.  The day after arriving, we took a bus trip to Bath, well renowned for the Roman baths located there.  The bus trip was fairly quick and the bus station was central and within an easy walk to the baths.  After taking the official tour of the baths with an audio description by Bill Bryson (well known Iowan and now Brit), met outside to join an absolutely fascinating and free tour put on by volunteers.  Most of the places we visited had free guided tours recommended by our Rick Steves guidebook.DSCF1806

The baths were beautifully restored, though the water doesn’t look all that inviting.

We returned to Bristol by train to visit the Bristol museum as well as some street scenes and a few pubs  We discovered that the two characters featured below, Grommet and Wallace, were created in Bristol.  If you’re not familiar with Grommet and Wallace, well, too bad!


We took a day trip also to the Cotswolds from Bristol.  We rented a car (in itself an adventure).  And a car rental company (Europcar) that doesn’t have handout maps of the city!  Very un-American!  Driving on the “wrong” side of the extremely narrow roads, with no shoulder,  turned out to be pretty stressful. However, the Cotswolds were lovely, even in the rain.  Below, a couple of the interesting houses and manicured gardens typical of the area.DSCF1824DSCF1822

One thing that impressed me was the number of homes, everywhere, that had flowers in pots hanging or in general decorating the streets.DSCF1816

We left Bristol after a few days to drive north to Shrewsbury, from there we took a day trip into Snowdonia National Park in Wales.  Braving the narrow roads again, we visited this lovely, wild area, quite hilly .  Every day, it seemed, we would walk at least a few miles and Wales was no exception.  There are waterfalls and walking trails across private land and in Conwy there is even a castle.DSCF1859DSCF1877DSCF1879

The signs are  in Welch and English…Conwy CastleDSCF1880

From Shrewsbury, we continued on, stopping along the way to check out the first iron bridge ever built – the prototype for subsequent steel bridges.  The designers completely over designed it, as they didn’t have a lot of confidence in the iron structure.DSCF1903

On to the Lake Country and Keswick, which turned out to probably, be our favorite place. Keswick is rolling countryside with many lakes and miles of hiking trails.  Most of the tourists appear to be quite athletic, since it is a popular trekking area.  Very few visitors weren’t wearing hiking boots.  Up the hill not far from the town we hiked up to the ancient, Castlerigg Stone Circle, similar to Stonehenge, at the beginning of a lovely 12 mile walk through rolling hills and pastures full of sheep.  Beautiful, sunny and pastoral.  Note that we didn’t visit Stonehenge – it’s quite the tourist trap, and you can’t get very close to it any more.  DSCF1921DSCF1924fullsizeoutput_e4aDSCF1931

Charlie’s the one in blue above; the ones in white are locals.

DSCF1932The last day at Keswick it rained and rained and rained.  It didn’t, however, deter us from another trek, which after 8 miles, we chickened out and took a bus back.  Our feet were soaked and we were starting to get chilled.  Note:  both gortex and umbrella.fullsizeoutput_e51

To escape the rain, we took a little side trip to a whiskey distillery, the Lakes Distillery, in Cumbria, not far from Keswick.  We sampled some of their blended whiskies and savored a lovely gourmet meal, an apt way to end our visit to the Lake Country.  The distillery is also close to another small village – we didn’t get to this one, but wondered about it.  I guess its only natural to wonder about a place called Cockermouth!

Now on to Glascow, Scotland….again driving, where we turned our car in.  We thoroughly enjoyed the city.  Our hotel was located on Bath Street, right downtown.  Two blocks from the bus station and close too, to the train station as well as Buchanan Street, a busy pedestrian mall.  One block from Bath street is another pedestrian mall, Sauchiehall St.  We walked west on it for several miles to check out The University of Glasgow as well as Kelvingrove Park, named after Lord Kelvin, a pioneer in the field of thermodynamics, who gave his name to the alternative to both Centigrade and Fahrenheit.  A highlight was a visit to a malt whisky bar, The Pot Still, established in 1835 and renowned for having over 600 different whiskys.  I bravely approached the bartender pleading ignorance, whereupon he introduced me to single malt scotch whisky…..and I loved it.  The one I chose had been stored in three different types of barrels.  Who Knew?ENGLAND SCOTLAND 062

After a couple days, we picked up another rental car and drove past Loch Lomand and Loch Ness to The Isle of Skye (Nessie wasn’t home, so didn’t get to see her).  The rolling hills and lakes of Scotland are not to be missed, again the narrow roads though are a challenge! ENGLAND SCOTLAND 083 Public transportation is minimal, so driving was the main option.  We stayed in a B&B overlooking an inlet  right in the middle of a sheep pasture and felt we were back in the 19th century.  fullsizeoutput_e58The scenery was spectacular, reminding me somewhat of Iceland with steep mountainsides, few trees, gray and misty.  The only real town we visited was Portree.  Ok, the only town on Skye!   I was impressed by the huge tides they experience.  When the tide is out, the boats are sitting on mud.  The town was quite picturesque, though rainy…..again.  And it was also blustery and cool (cold for us Hawaiians!)  Fortunately we found a little bar, with a wee bit of whisky………….DSCF1961England and Scotland lived up to their reputations of gray and rainy, we only had 3 days with sun for the first 17 days we were there.  We were glad to be well prepared for rain.

Then after two nights, back on the narrow winding roads to Glasgow, where we, thankfully, got rid of the car and took a bus to Edinburgh.

After Skye, Edinburgh was frenetic, tourists everywhere.  We stayed down town with a view of the Edinburgh Castle, a large ferris wheel, a memorial to Sir Walter Scott and a park masking the railroad tracks.  This was the view from our hotel…… the gothic Scott memorial is in the foreground and Old Edinburg is in the background.

It’s a beautiful, old city, quite interesting architecturally, with many styles shown.  We walked The Golden Mile, to Edinburgh University, and around town…..we even had some blue sky (short-lived, but it was there) I took the opportunity to try the traditional Scottish breakfast and, since breakfast was included, I tried haggis and Black Pudding.  Both are a bit weird, especially the haggis, A traditional Scottish dish basically consisting of sheep’s internal organs, ground up, spiced, with oatmeal and cooked in the sheep’s stomach.  It was actually pretty good once you got by the thought of it.  Charlie wasn’t interested in trying either.  The black pudding is made from pork fat and blood and mixed with lots of oatmeal and is solid and sliced into rounds,  It was available at all of our provided breakfasts in both Scotland and England. I liked it too, it was truly black, no doubt my iron count benefitted.  English breakfasts typically consist of eggs, potatoes, fried mushrooms, and beans.   Strange………

From Edinburgh we hopped on the train to York, another quaint city with an almost intact city wall.  We stayed at a active convent, The Bar Convent, founded in 1686 as a school for girls and is still a convent for “the Congregation of Jesus community”.  It is a lovely B&B that is separated from the Sisters by a hall.  It was clean, spacious and the staff was extremely friendly.  It’s located just outside the city wall.  Our introduction was a small cruise down the River Ouse, DSCF1978followed by a visit to the York Brewery, a microbrewery offering tours of their facility along with a tasting at the end.  They offered some excellent brews.  IMG_0893The second day we took advantage of another free tour hosted by the Association of Voluntary Guides, many of the cities have these tours, in fact our tour of Bath was one.

Besides the brews, we met a couple of ice-cream boats on the tours.

York is well known for it’s old town walls and buildings, the Minster cathedral (beautiful stained glass), the Harry Potter book store, and the old city market.   We also traveled down Grape Street – if you’re familiar with Rick Steve’s, you might know the significance of that.  If not, ask me………..

From York it was on to our final stop, London.  Another train ride on Virgin Railroad.  This time we stayed in an area near Victoria Station, Westminster, quite convenient since it was close to the train station, the bus station and the Tube.

We toured the obligatory London Bridge (actually the Tower Bridge), fullsizeoutput_e6awalked around the Tower of London, and observed where the corpses were thrown into the river.  We decided we had enough time in London that we could also take a trip out of the city.  We asked one of the clerks in the bus station, if he had a day off, where would he go.  He suggested Portsmouth, we bought bus tickets and went the next day.  That turned out to be a great choice….it hadn’t been on our original itinerary.

I had my picture taken with Henry VIII, begging for my life.  He spared my life, and we continued to view the naval museum at Portsmouth. ENGLAND SCOTLAND 231 We read about the ill fated Mary Rose (Henry’s pride and joy) that had sunk in the harbor and not raised until the 1982.  The Victory, a steel sailing warship, is also one of the ships on display.

We spent the rest of the day walking the oceanfront and old town.  The day was even sunny – hurrah!ENGLAND SCOTLAND 243

The third day in London we strolled around Buckingham Palace (the queen was in) but we didn’t see her.  My idea was to see the changing of the guards, that starts at 11 am and Rick Steves recommended being there an hour early.  We were there at that time only to see crowds 6 deep against the fence and around the circle.  Too many people, so we continued down the street to St James, where the replacement guards were assembling ….not nearly as crowded……and watched whole pantomime of the troops, and the escort police horses starting to march to the palace.  That was pretty cool, and we didn’t have to brave the crowds.  DSCF2027

Click here to see a video of the event.

The people that were there then walked down the street, following the troops.  We felt we got to experience the ceremony without dealing with the masses.  We spent 5 days in London, and hit highlights such as the Victoria and Albert Museum and Hyde Park  but one sight that we thoroughly enjoyed was the Mews.  That is where the queen’s carriages and horses are housed.  One horse had just been exercised and we were able to stroke his nose.

We were floored by the elaborate, gold-plated carriages and enjoyed the monologue provided by the tour guide.  The huge (gaudy) coronation carriage was particularly impressive, pulled by 6 horses.  It was pointed out that each pair of horses had one rider guiding (there is no seat on the carriage for a driver).  They did mention that none of the carriages were particularly comfortable and each served a specific function.DSCF2047

Because we were in London, we had to check out a couple of iconic department stores.  We first went to Selfridges and then to Harrods (below)

DSCF2040where we had a drink at the (very expensive) caviar bar.  There were also special chocolate displays and the seafood display below was amazing.fullsizeoutput_e6e

No trip to London is complete without a view of the London Eye.ENGLAND SCOTLAND 209

At last it was time to come home – it was a great trip, lots of fun, and rain!

And one final thought – as I write this, I’m watching TV, and thinking back to watching English TV.  Not once did we see any ads advocating us to ask our doctor if ‘abracadabra’ or some other miracle medication was right for us.  Who knew that English TV is so much more advanced that US TV!



Where did May go?

We’ve been enjoying this month, the rainbow shower trees are blooming, IMG_0755mangos are beginning to ripen, the cacti are blooming,IMG_0746 the trades are back and there has been a lull in the visitor traffic.  We have also had two seal pups born, PK1 was born to K22 and PK2 to K30, three days apart.  We spent Memorial Day pupsitting PK1.  Cute as can be, they are so very black and hairy when they are born.Rainbow 005

Half the time we are watching, we worry if the pup is getting enough milk, I always want to hold the pup up to the “spigot”  They do seem to be able to find it, and they will grow by leaps and bounds, getting to close to 200 lbs in 6 weeks.IMG_0759

We do enjoy sitting at a lovely beach listening to the waves and making sure everything is good.  Not too shabby!  We will take turns sitting on the beach and observing until about a month after mom weans the pup.  They are usually weaned between 5-7 weeks old.  That is the time span that they are the most vulnerable.IMG_0766

Other than pup sitting, we always seem to have plenty to do.  Every week Charlie has softball, practice 2X per week plus the Saturday game.

I was talked into learning to BON dance, the buddhist circle dance honoring ancestors.  We had a practice first at our local temple and a second at Hanapepe.  I’m starting to get it, despite having two left feet.  The dance consists of 16 songs, depicting different activities, harvesting rice, drumming, mining, and various other activities that I haven’t interpreted yet.  The series takes about an hour, there are two every weekend, Friday and Saturday nights, starting in June and ending in late July….if you go to all of them, you become quite proficient.  This was the beginning of the first Bon dance of the summer.Rainbow 001

Every now and again I am reminded that we are a small island when I walk next door to the community center and see the following relic (and they are found throughout the island).IMG_0750I was lucky enough to be invited by Jamie to go check out K30’s new pup PK2, who was born one day after PK1, however, she birthed again up on the Na Pali coast on a remote beach.  We again rode up on Captain Tara’s zodiac (Captain Nat was operating this boat), about an hour ride, where she dropped us off to swim to shore.  Jamie gave me the dry bag to push through the waves and he took the two signs that we planned to put up.  His swim was more challenging because he had to keep them somewhat dry and keep them from submerging.

K30, again had a healthy pup, this year it’s a boy.IMG_1185

After posting signs and taking pictures, we settled down to wait for our ride back.  Unfortunately, Captain Nat had engine troubles and was delayed for a while.   She did get one of the two started and we limped back to the harbor….only 2 hours late for the next charter she had booked.  The trip was a huge success for we saw not only spinner dolphins, but also bottlenose dolphins. They’re considerably larger than the spinners.  We did see a young seal with a hook, but unfortunately we can’t do too much out in the open water.

While returning past PMRF, we observed navy osprey planes landing and taking off on the beach.  One pilot even gave us the shaka out the window.  They certainly are strange looking.IMG_0770

Otherwise, life goes on, and we seem to spend increasing time monitoring seals.

While driving into Lihue the other evening, we saw a spectacular display.  a wide rainbow of colors jutting straight up into the heavens, what a sight!  People were pulling over just to take pictures.  You can see the second rainbow just starting to form on the left of the photo below.IMG_0787On to June…viva Kauai!Rainbow 019

Hooray it’s May

It has so far been a very busy May.  Curiously, my morning run to Poipu was interrupted, twice by animal encounters.  As I was merrily jogging along Hapa Trail, a huge wild boar appeared to block my continued run.  Obviously, I stopped to let him disappear into the brush, I was in no mood to confront him.  He must have outweighed me by 300 lbs.  After he disappeared, I continued on, 100 yards further along the trail I was stopped by a herd of steers that had escaped from the pasture.  Again, wait and detour.  Finally, I got back on the road and eventually met Charlie at the beach.  He was wondering whatever had happened to me.  I’ve seen goats and cattle in the pastures on that route but those were firsts.  I have to admit, the morning runs to the beach are darn spectacular.IMG_0732

Early the first week of May, our old friend G22 got hooked……again.  This hooking turned out to be more complicated that the last.  He had hauled out on the beach fronting the Grand Hyatt.  We assembled the usual crew, picked up the crowding boards (large white pieces of plywood), the capture net, the capture sling, and 4 wire gates.  As well as bolt cutters and vice grips.  G22 was sound asleep close to the water when the 6 of us, carrying the boards snuck up on him and crowded him up the beach and set a wire enclosure around him.  We put up a sun shade to allow Mimi and Jamie to assess the situation.  This time the hook was wrapped around his jaw, making it impossible to pull out.  The head vet in Oahu was consulted and we arranged to capture the seal, cage him and transport him into Lihue to the base yard to await Michelle, the head vet, to arrive the next day to attempt dehooking.  In order to get him from the beach to the carrying crate, we had to roll him into a net sling, that had two long sticks for 4 people to hold and let him loose into the crate.

At the base lot, Jamie and Mimi alternated sleeping near G22 overnight until we all regrouped at 8 the next morning.  We set up a sun shade, kept dousing him with water (as they had overnight) and released him onto a tarp where Michelle gave him a tranquilizer and anesthetized him.  They had also brought a portable X-ray machine along to see if he had swallowed another hook.G22 007G22 019

Note the yellow X-ray machine.

Finally, after about 20 minutes the hook was removed, no more found and we could allow G22 to come out of his drug induced stupor.  Next, back into the carrying case and of to Lydgate beach to release him.  That beach was the easiest to back the pickup close to the water.  He was quite happy to return to the ocean.P1070314

I’m opening the end gate to let him loose.  Quite an operation……Pretty cool!

After observing the BON dances for the past 4 years, I decided that I needed to learn how to do it and what it is about.  So I started going to BON Dance practice at the nearby Koloa Jodo Mission.  BON is time to remember and honor those who have passed on before us and is supposed to be time of reflection.  The first couple of practices, I felt like I had two left feet.  This year, there 18 dances, all involve various movements with one’s hands, arms and feet.  One of the moves shows rice harvesting, another pulling fishing nets.  The other participants have been really helpful in trying to teach me the moves., though the best way appears to follow the lead of an expert.  We slowly move in a large circle and if there are more people than can be accommodated in one circle, a circle within a circle.  The dancers are both male and female and of all ages.  The BON dances occur at various Buddhist temples and missions throughout the island.  On Kauai, there are nine 2-day dances (Friday and Saturday) scheduled for this summer starting in June.  I understand Oahu has many more.   The venue has a pedestal in the center of a field with loud speakers blaring the music for each dance.  So far I can’t recognize the words announcing each dance but Im starting to recognize the moves.  Mining, harvesting rice, hoeing are among the different moves.

This week also provided another hooking.  This time it was K90.  She had a large circle hook sticking out of the corner of her mouth.  K90 is a mature female, around 300+ lb, definitely more challenging than G22.  In fact, we were called with short notice, to help.  Short notice because we have to respond before the seal leaves the beach.  A staff member from Oahu, Mark, was flown in also to assist.  So, Charlie, Tree, Gary, Mimi, Jamie and I were the de-hooking crew, Shannon and Julie were photographing.  It was especially challenging because R336, a large male was sleeping right beside her so that we had to separate them before we could de-hook her.  We first crowded them apart with large white crowding boards.    K90 is behind the boards in the picture below, with R336 to the right.

We then had to net her and hold her down, all the time making sure that R336 didn’t sneak up behind us.

R336 was in the water trying to return, while I’m standing guard.  Good seal.

We accomplished the whole procedure in 3 min 45 seconds, whereupon K90 joined her boyfriend and swam off……hookless.  This was a difficult de-hooking, due to the location, the presence of R336, and the size of K90.   Fortunately it all went well.

The second half of the softball season has started and the May 13th game was quite interesting.  Several of the players are missing, either because of other obligations or in the case of three players, injuries.   One with a broken foot from the last game, one with a strained hamstring and one with a strained shoulder.  Such is athletics over age 60.  Luckily, our team won the last game.  Afterwards, during the obligatory potluck, 3 team members from another team, who also happen to be musicians, decided to jam in the shelter.  So many Kauaians seem to be good singers….as well as dancers.  Almost everyone in the shelter was singing along and even one (septarian) entertained with a dance.  Check out the video below:

In spite of the hula being performed and the singing, most of this fellow’s teammates continued talking, oblivious to the performance.  We though were hooting and hollering, really enjoying this moment.  Neat camaraderie!

The first tropical storm of the season has been named, Adrian, almost 2 weeks earlier than hurricane season.  It isn’t supposed to approach Hawaii, but we’ll see what develops this year.