Hawaii Skin Diver The Breath of Freedivers

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 Post subject: Red Sea Ocean Adventures Chartered Trip to Niihau
PostPosted: Wed May 07, 2008 7:24 am 
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A group of us chartered a weekend dive trip to Niihau a couple of months ago as a birthday and a farewell event for a couple of us. After talking with Kyle of Red Sea Ocean Adventures, it was decided to keep the group to 4 so there would be more space on the boat despite the higher costs we would pay to do that.

Kyle of Red Sea Ocean Adventures was excellent at following up with the required deposits, forms and final payments, as well as patient in answering our questions we had about the upcoming trip. We were excited!

The arrangements that we chartered for as per their website were for a double bed, three single beds, a sofa sleeper and a large covered mattress on the observation deck. Plenty of space to go around. TV, DVD player, electrical outlets, two private bathrooms. Also unlimited food and sodas, a huge bonus for me! I don't normally drink sodas, but the carb-up would be welcome after each dive.

We landed in Kaui in windy conditions and hung around at the airport to wait for our fourth member to land. Once he landed, we had to wait another 20 minutes at the curb for the pick-up. They knew when we were landing and it would have been nice to be picked up then.

We get to the dock and were told to take all of our dive gear out of their bags/tubes/cases to be stowed away on the boat. The tubes/cases/bags stayed on land. I noted that there were no less than 9 coolers on the deck. :shock: This made for cramped conditions and difficulty in putting our gear away and accessing our things. I was expecting two or three coolers at the most. I would find out why later.

I also noted two additional people on the boat along with the captain who were also coming with. I thought we chartered this trip and paid extra to keep the number down to 4 but that wasn't the case.

Turns out they were fishermen and that they would be fishing through the night for money. There was some mention of the possibility of fishing at night in an early communication with Red Sea Ocean Adventures. I had envisioned this as anchoring in a quiet spot, dropping a line in the water for a spell before reeling up and going to sleep. What actually happened both nights was that the deck lights were on full blast, we were in rough seas (despite being on the leeward side, the wind was cranking) and the captain was motoring the boat back and forth with diesel smoke blowing back into the cabin. This was why there were so many coolers - hundreds, if not a thousand or so fish were fished up and put in coolers.

Only two single beds and the sleeper sofa were available to us divers. One of us had to sleep on the floor.

Did I mention that the toilets were designated as off-limits as well? We had to pee overboard. We had to crap in a bucket and toss the crap overboard, and wash the bucket afterwards.

Due to the seas, and the captains desire to save money, we never exceed 8 knots the entire trip.

On Saturday night, we agreed we would check out/dive the north side of the island. We "woke up" at dawn to find the crew fishing on the south side of the island. I think the captain should have been a bit more considerate and worked his way to the north side before dawn so that we could have hit the water then, instead of waiting the hour (more fishing time for the crew on our dime) or so it took to get to the north side.

On the flip side, the captain was very nice/good about picking us up or picking up our fish so we wouldn't have to lug it around. All we had to do was raise our guns above the water and he would usually be on his way over within a minute or two.

A couple of other issues I ran into - I specifically asked about having power for my electronic devices and was told I was all set. Turns out that wasn't the case. I asked to watch a DVD I brought along, but the TV/DVD wouldn't turn on and when I asked about turning the power on for this, I was told that the TV/DVD was broken which was a lie. I also had to use my laptop under battery power only. It wasn't until the another time when I insisted that the power be turned on, that we got power. Lo and behold, the TV/DVD started working and I was able to repower my devices. I was however rationed to a hour of electrical use/recharging.

The unlimited soda options were... Diet Coke and Coke. Caffeinated sodas are the worst thing for a free-diver to be drinking on a dive trip. However, the food was decent and plentiful. We thankfully were provided with bottled water.

I made a gentlemens agreement with the dive group that whoever got the biggest fish the first day would sleep on the floor that night. I "slept" on the floor that night thanks to a large Uku. I didn't actually sleep though. Bright lights, fumes, pounding seas, motors roaring on and off, boat being steered around while I tumbled around on a hard, wet floor. I must have looked at my watch 100 times that night wishing it was the next day already so I could get off of the floor and back into the peaceful water.


The diving:
There wasn't much structure or activity where the captain would drop us off each time. It was rather bland actually, and wasn't full of choke fish like I was expecting. Maybe it was because the captain wanted to fish for more fish throughout the day and those were better fishing grounds. I don't know, but I came away unimpressed with what I saw underwater. I've since then been told that it's better on the other side of the island, but the Captain wouldn't go there due to the wind/waves.

It wasn't until the last dive that I finally saw things of interest. We went up to the north side to a small island with steep cliffs and a steep drop-off. We saw a bunch of small sharks, a baracuda, and I saw a couple of Onos drift off in the distance. I tried and tried to get one, but could never get them to come close enough. I think I saw my first pair of Uluas ever, but they were about 100' down and spooked when I went down. Never saw them again.

One of the group had a SWB after a 85' descent, and that was pretty much the most exciting thing that happened. The captain came pretty quickly when I blew the whistle - I think he understood there was something wrong. Props to him for that. I dove down to my personal best of about 80' looking for the person's gun but to no avail. The second most interesting thing that happened was when a shark came up to one of the group's floats and ate most of a fat Mu. The person was rather upset about the whole thing.

For those who have an issue with diving Niihau, all in all, we averaged about 3-5 fish each for the whole weekend (about 6 dives), and stayed well off-shore.

Would I do this trip again at the price I paid or recommend it to somebody? No. Half the price? No.

The best part? I got to hang out with this group of divers although the location/charter could have been better. I also have a nice Uku fish print in my classroom now.

What did I learn? Go over EVERY detail with the chartering company/captain beforehand. Don't assume. Even if the website says I will get this, ASK if I will really get exactly this, and how/what it will be. If there are any unfavorable surprises or changes, demand that the surprise/changes be undone. We found out some of the surprises at the dock and felt we really couldn't do anything. We already took the time off of work, we already spent a lot of time preparing, shopping and packing for the trip. We already flew there. I didn't feel like we could say "Hell no, gimme a refund". We were stuck, and we had to suck it up.

One other thing that bothered me was that when a couple of us expressed our concerns about what happened with the trip to Kyle, one of them got an angry phone call from the captain. That was not cool and not professional of either Kyle or the Captain.

Kyle of Red Sea Ocean Adventures said he would update his website accordingly.

I personally don't think I will ever go on a trip with, or through Red Sea Ocean Adventures. I have yet to meet Kyle in person but perhaps I will change my mind later down the road if I feel I can trust his company.

I wish the experience was more favorable.

*puts on his flame-proof suit*

-Paul


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 Post subject: Re: Red Sea Ocean Adventures Chartered Trip to Niihau
PostPosted: Wed May 07, 2008 8:12 am 
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lol. posted right before you meet everyone at the gene tourney.

in defense of one small part -- the price. rising fuel costs and whatnot have spiked, yet i see no price increase on the Captain's end to cover for that, and we all know large boats suck gas like the last rambo movie. on average, a fishing charter for 4 hours will set you back about $400, and the RSOA charter is for 2 days. on RSOA's end, i compliment them for somehow managing to keep costs down.

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 Post subject: Re: Red Sea Ocean Adventures Chartered Trip to Niihau
PostPosted: Wed May 07, 2008 11:20 am 
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Thanks for the thorough and candid report Paul. I understand fuel prices are way up and all, but if they bring other people aboard on a small boat they should have explained that and made it clear before you paid. I'm probably not as picky about some things - I'm just used to slumming it and I can drink diet coke for days - but it wouldn't have sat well with me if they did this without telling me first.

So when they were fishing at night, would they have been anchored during that time if they stuck to the original trip plan? I ask because if they would have been traveling at that time anyway then I guess it's not such a big deal, but if they were moving all night just to let the other guys fish and didn't tell you about that in advance then that's lame.

Well at least you all landed some nice fish and got to experience a dive spot many of us will never know. Sounds like the captain was good about picking up the fish and acted quickly at the right time so that's good to hear.


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 Post subject: Re: Red Sea Ocean Adventures Chartered Trip to Niihau
PostPosted: Wed May 07, 2008 11:29 am 
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Quote:
on RSOA's end, i compliment them for somehow managing to keep costs down.

Sorry Nakama, but they do not deserve any compliments, they apparently keep their costs down while making a nice profit by raping Niihau's reefs. They use divers like Paul to pay for expenses and make a small profit, while the bigger profit comes from pillaging, by taking freedivers like Paul, it enables them to have an economically profitable trip, had they not taken Paul's group, the gas would have eaten into their profits. Paul and his group were used.

Paul, what kind of fish did they fill those nine coolers with, were the other 2 commercial guys divers?

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 Post subject: Re: Red Sea Ocean Adventures Chartered Trip to Niihau
PostPosted: Wed May 07, 2008 12:18 pm 
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I'm not a boat expert so I really don't know how much gas a boat like that uses to cruise along at about 7 knots. From what was translated to me (I'm deaf) by one of the divers in the group, the captain said our expenses didn't even cover, or only barely covered the gas. I found that surprising - We paid about $2,700 plus tips. Did this boat really burn through $2,700 of gas motoring along at 7 knots to Niiahu and back? Maybe somebody can answer that one.

We were told before leaving for the trip that we could bring a fishing pole if we wanted to fish. One of us talked about bringing a small fishing pole just for the hell of it but that didn't happen. When we arrived, had our gear stowed away and were on the boat, it was when the captain mentioned that they were going to be fishing at night and why there were the two extra guys.

J-mar, when I told Kyle afterwards that I had thought we would have been quietly anchored at night for sleeping, he replied back saying this about the captain:
Quote:
"He is reluctant to anchor in Ni’ihau for client safety reasons. On all our trips we’ve done he has never anchored the boat at night."
I don't know what's dangerous about motoring into 30' of water in a sheltered spot and dropping an anchor. If the anchor were to break or something, the wind would blow us outwards to sea. Again, I'm no expert.

They fished for those yellow-stripe (with blue outlines) snapper (Dunno what they're called, I'm still learning), menpachi (soldier fish) during the night and while motoring around during the day time, they trolled for omilus. The fishermen were not divers.

I personally liked the captain although he took some warming up to. My disappointment doesn't really lie with the captain, or Kyle personally, but what I thought I paid for, and what I actually got. Now as I charter a wedding honeymoon boat trip for this August, I know what to ask for and clarify so that trip might have been a blessing in disguise.

-Paul


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 Post subject: Re: Red Sea Ocean Adventures Chartered Trip to Niihau
PostPosted: Wed May 07, 2008 1:32 pm 
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darryl, no offense taken. ever. really.

but you bring up a good point.

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 Post subject: Re: Red Sea Ocean Adventures Chartered Trip to Niihau
PostPosted: Wed May 07, 2008 1:34 pm 
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Darrell, they were catching Ta'ape and menpachi at night and trolling for Omilus and whatever would bite their lures. They caught a huge Kaku.
There was a misunderstanding between the dive crew and RSOA/Captain. We thought one thing they meant another when it came to accomidations and "fishing". Basically our expectations on somethings were different then what actualy happened.

It was not against Kyle(RSOA) or the Captain.

The diving was fun. Good grounds of course. I think any grounds that rarely if ever see humans are good grounds. Wasnt as many sharks as we expected after hearing the stories from previous divers. Small kine white tips. We did not "pound" any reefs or grounds. We were selective and took about a total of 9 fish with 4 divers in two days. I dont think anyone can call that pounding. I know some people disagree with anyone diving/spearing certain islands but you cant please everyone. Right?

Any how we have good memories from the trip. Good times, good times! Wouldnt take it back for anything. (except the SWB)

If you have any questions in particular PM me I will be glad to answer.
Aloha and see ya at the Tourney on Sat!!!!!

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 Post subject: Re: Red Sea Ocean Adventures Chartered Trip to Niihau
PostPosted: Wed May 07, 2008 7:36 pm 
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Quote:
We did not "pound" any reefs or grounds.

Indeed C, you guys maintained a good discipline....but the thing I want to get at, (but not get down on you guys, cause I see that you upheld good conservation ethics) is I hope that when other divers go to Niihau, or anywhere else for that matter, that they consider the fact that by paying for the fuel of this boat, it enabled the Captain and crew to pound the grounds.....Not at your own fault because you guys did not know the specifics, but technically, you are accomplices to the pounding that occurred. I'm not saying that you guys should not have gone, nor am I saying that nobody should dive Niihau...but am saying that perhaps in the future, divers who are conscientious as you guys were should not enable the captain and crew to do what they did and instead, either stay home or pay a higher price so pounding is not necessary. But again, you guys never know what they were going to do, so no fault to you.

I would love to see Niihau, love to dive there and shoot fish too, but not if the captain and crew will do what they did on your trip. I'm glad you guys had a good experience diving and seeing some new grounds, I'm sorry Paul is disapointed, as you should be, but do chalk it up as experience and if any good came out of this, it is to be able to share this story with all the other divers so future dive trips will not result in being "accessories" to "pounding".

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 Post subject: Re: Red Sea Ocean Adventures Chartered Trip to Niihau
PostPosted: Wed May 07, 2008 7:55 pm 
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You make a decent point Darrell, BUT, does that mean that people that work at car dealerships, gas stations, or dive shops are aiding in the pounding of the reef. They provide the means, the gas, and the gear.

As we have seen, we can not rely on our state to protect so the best means is us as individuals working to instruct. Hopefully the concerns raised do make it back to the Captain which I'm sure they have. From the original Niihau post (years back) about the Captains comments of encouraging pounding, to the lack of those comments on this trip (I was on this trip), I can see that Kyle did address raised after the last incident and am sure they will be addressed for future trips. But it may be at a higher expense/rate which may end up negating anyone going out there which would help 'lessen' pounding.

I was very impressed with everyone's self restraint and can say that ALOT of fish could have been taken but were not.

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 Post subject: Re: Red Sea Ocean Adventures Chartered Trip to Niihau
PostPosted: Thu May 08, 2008 8:22 am 
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You make a decent point Darrell, BUT, does that mean that people that work at car dealerships, gas stations, or dive shops are aiding in the pounding of the reef. They provide the means, the gas, and the gear.

Boat dealerships, gas stations and dive shops all serve people and cannot withhold any sale upon "conditions" so no they are not aiding the pounding, when you guys went diving on Niihau, you did not know the Captain was going to do what he did, so technically, that was not aiding either. But on future trips, thanks to Pauls post, divers now can think twice and ask the right questions and if they find out that pounding will occur on their trip, they then would need to decide if they want to be accomplices, if they choose not to be a part of the "pounding", unlike dive shops and gas stations, they have the ability to withhold the sale.


in this particular case, atleast the crew was pole fishing, and not diving. Menpachis and Taapes are plentiful and if anyone was to target any species those are the ones that are in abundance, granted they took a lot, but I've heard of worse trips to Niihau where divers were instructed to pound Uhus to help make up for costs......there's a big difference between hooking fish and poking fish when it comes to pounding, nature controls how many fish you can hook, menpachis don't normally bite during the day for instance....but guys can poke fish night and day no matter.

It's too bad we all live in these times of "tug of war", there used to be a day when catching that much fish was marveled at and not criticized, a catch of that many menpachis was considered "proud" and people would give the fishermen congratulations....now, we shake our heads.

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 Post subject: Re: Red Sea Ocean Adventures Chartered Trip to Niihau
PostPosted: Mon May 12, 2008 9:39 am 
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Paul wrote:
.....They fished for those yellow-stripe (with blue outlines) snapper .....


Sounds like those fishermen actually did the people of Niihau a favor.

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 Post subject: Re: Red Sea Ocean Adventures Chartered Trip to Niihau
PostPosted: Mon May 12, 2008 3:48 pm 
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Brian,
Just proves a point that those damned taape are everywhere :lol:

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 Post subject: Re: Red Sea Ocean Adventures Chartered Trip to Niihau
PostPosted: Tue May 13, 2008 6:51 am 
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biologist wrote:
Brian,
Just proves a point that those damned taape are everywhere :lol:


at least they taste pretty good. they just have a few more bones than toau but they taste pretty similar. at least if your spot holds taape, you'll never go whitewash.


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 Post subject: Re: Red Sea Ocean Adventures Chartered Trip to Niihau
PostPosted: Sat May 17, 2008 3:25 pm 
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at least they taste pretty good. they just have a few more bones than toau but they taste pretty similar. at least if your spot holds taape, you'll never go whitewash.

They make good palu for uku as well :D

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 Post subject: Re: Red Sea Ocean Adventures Chartered Trip to Niihau
PostPosted: Mon Jun 09, 2008 9:30 am 
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3 months later I finally threw together a video of the trip. Not the best, but it'll do:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=exjFpbLaclE

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