“If you can’t be batman, always be batman.” No one said the quote of the day would make any sense.
Wayne was thrilled with his breakfast this morning - a Greek omelet. I had a plain cheese omelet, sausage and hash browns. Good, hearty fare to prepare us for freezing during our morning dive.
Our first dive of the morning took us to perhaps my new favorite dive site off the Kona Coast. Hard to believe that any site would beat Honaunau, but this certainly did. Discovered in June, Pele’s Playground has only been logged 25 times by the crew. On our first dive, we descended into the canyon to about 80 feet in search of a Tinker’s butterflyfish and a big hand lobster. While both are theoretically there, we saw neither. We did see a number of other good things, to include wire coral shrimp and a HUGE titan scorpionfish, you will see it below. Like I said, it was a beautiful reef. If I were a Hawaiian fish, I would live here.
We remained at Pele’s Playground for our second dive. We decided to try to find the tinker’s butterflyfish at the start of our next dive. This time we went down to 100 feet and worked our way up. No dice, no tinker’s. We did see the big hand lobster, though. And I got a beautiful shot of a white mouth moray with Wayne in the background. It was as though we were having a private conversation We also saw a baby green sea turtle, so adorable. With all that awesomeness, it was hard to go wrong on the second dive either. Again, this was a vibrant reef that I would like to dive again.
Lunch was a welcome treat - cream of tomato soup, roast chicken legs, baked macaroni and cheese (no, not for Wayne!), bean salad (no, not for Stephanie!), and a Mediterranean salad. We just eat so well on the Aggressor, it is unbelievable. But divers do travel on their stomaches, so you’d better prep us some really good food!
And then we went to our southernmost point of the trip. Manuka Bay. I had fond memories of this site from our first trip. First Officer, Captain Karl, pulled me to the side to tell me how to get to a patch of sand, and a lava rock, where there are garden eels and bicolor anthias. This site is at about 90 feet, and Karl was not positive all the divers could get there, see the anthias, and then make it back for an extended dive time. We went down, and the directions were spot on. There was a rock where at least 10 of the anthias could be seen at any time, right in the middle of the garden eels. We continued our dive circling around the bay, where we saw scrawled filefish, Potter’s angelfish, flame angelfish, and baby ta’ape. The landscape at the bay is wonderful - filled with lava fingers, arches, and little caves.
The fourth dive found us cold before we even entered. The water delivered a cold shock when we first got in, and it got progressively colder through the dive. We began our hunt for the elusive dragon eel that we found last year. Alas, we did not see him, but I got plenty of quality time with my favorite creatures of the deep - eels of just about any kind. Fish life was abundant too, but I was captivated by free-swimming undulated morays of substantial size, as well as by huge yellow margin morays. The yellow margins looked to be bigger than six feet long, and their girth was impressive. As we were headed to our safety stop, a HUGE yellow margin popped out of the rocks to say hello. After my heart started to beat again, I took its picture.
Dinner was magnificent. Matthew is truly an artist, and he takes such great joy in preparing meals. We started with my favorite salad, the caprese. Delightful, I could have eaten seconds or thirds. The mozzarella was fresh and moist, the tomatoes meaty and flavorful. Color me happy. The main course was braised beef short rib in beef stock and red wine reduction, roast asparagus, and au gratin potatoes. Dessert was chocolate nutella pie. Wayne had thirds. I wish I had ordered the small poriton of the short rib, as I could not finish it to save my life. Too tasty to waste, but waste is what I wound up doing.
And finally it came for our night dive, still moored at Manuka Bay. I set a time limit of 30 minutes given how cold we were at the end of dive four. Wayne heartily agreed. We stayed close to the boat, so we didn’t have quite the show we had at the night dive last year, but we saw two small stout morays, a flowery flounder, what appears to have been a Therese’s sole, a scrawled filefish, and a porcupine pufferfish. All interesting enough, but not as sexy as last year! We came up at 43 minutes, so we extended our bottom time a bit. As we approached the ship, there was a school of blue trevally under the boat, and a horde of crocodile needlefish at the surface. Wayne was pleased that we got out of the water before we froze to death. And we were wearing 7 mils. Thank goodness for hot chocolate surface intervals.