Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Snorkeling and The Great Crab Hunt

We had our big adventure of the trip yesterday when we went snorkeling at Molokini crater and at an area where sea turtles gather for "washing." I was a bit apprehensive as we set out across the water, not knowing how the kids would react to a boat ride. I shouldn't have been, however. If any of them were the least bit fearful, they didn't show it.

Then I was apprehensive about how they'd handle snorkeling. Again, I shouldn't have been. We had a crew member assigned to our family, and she was great with the kids - getting them fitted, going over safety issues and showing them pictures of fish they might see. 

We first went inside the crater, where I took the lead photo looking down into the water. There weren't, however, as many fish this year as there were two years ago when I made the same trip with the same snorkeling company (Seafire - I recommend them).

"There's too many," the captain, Don, said at one point as he surveyed the scene of a half-dozen or more snorkeling boats moored in the crater. "Too many people. They scared away all the fish. It used to be ten times better than this: flowering coral, amazing fish. But all the sunscreen, all the oil, all the engine fuel ... it's killing it ..." Don's boat accommodates about 20 people. Several of the other boats can accommodate three to four times that amount, if not more. Nevertheless, we all had a good time, and Mark and Aaron got to see an octopus.

From inside the crater, we went around to the back of it for more snorkeling then returned to a spot just offshore that had been my highlight of the trip two years ago and was again yesterday: the sea-turtle "washing station." It was a spot 50-60 yards offshore where turtles come to rest and fish come to eat the stuff that has adhered to the turtle's shell. We saw a couple of examples of that and at least a dozen different turtles of various sizes. The kids loved it. They also enjoyed feeding finches as we made our way back to the boat dock.

After a breather and some sandwiches back at the condo, we headed to Po'olenalena Beach. The kids had spent five hours in the water there on Saturday, playing in the waves and with their boogie boards. The water is much safer here than on Big Beach, which means that Mark and I can read a bit instead of having our eyes constantly glued on the kids.

I knew the day had been going too well. It was bound to happen, and it did: the boys started fighting over a boogie board. We had to allot times to each, but that system quickly broke down. I was approaching wrist-slashing territory (again), when Mark came up with a brilliant idea. 

"Ok, kids," he announced. "Tell you what. We will pay $20 to anyone who catches a sand crab." Eyes widened, and they were off. Each of the boys grabbed a weapon (a large sand shovel) and headed off toward mid-beach, while Esther and Annie staked out a territory near the end of the beach. 

Now, I should perhaps explain that we felt we had made a very safe bet. Sand crabs are notoriously fast. They pop out of the sand and scurry across the beach, immediately retreating if they sense they are threatened. But the kids were tenacious: for the next 90 minutes, they were hard at it. Mark and I, meanwhile, gloated a little over our successful diversion as we enjoyed virtually uniterrupted reading time. We knew we were tempting fate but couldn't help ourselves.

The boys, who were much closer to us than the girls, employed a variety of stratagems. These included the following: trying to set a trap with a pail; waiting for a crab to surface, then pouncing on it, scooping up the sand where the crab had dived; pounding on the sand with a shovel; jumping up and down on a spot where a crab had surfaced; and throwing a shovel full of a sand at a spot. We had not, after all, specified whether the crab had to be alive.

Above: Levi pounces. Below, Aaron waits, ready to spring

Finally, the boys headed down to where the girls were. Suddenly, there was a commotion, then all four came hurdling down the beach towards us, each grinning from ear to ear. Esther triumphantly opened her hand to reveal a teeny-tiny sand crab, only a fraction of the size of the crabs we had challenged them to find. But we couldn't very well back out of the deal then.

Of course, the boys immediately expressed disappointment and resentment. Both, but especially Levi, can be very competitive and aren't always (like, never) good sports when someone else wins a competition. We would now pay for gloating over our 90-minute repose. Things got ugly quickly. It was time to head back to the condo, where we would lock (we wish) the kids in their respective rooms.

The end of an afternoon on the beach

Or so I thought. We stopped at Safeway on the way back, where I went in to pick up a few things. I didn't feel the least bit guilty for leaving Mark in the van to deal with four sullen children.

When I came back out and got into the van, I thought I had stepped into a twilight zone. The children were talking happily with each other. I didn't say anything thing at the time, but later asked Mark, "What the hell happened?" 

"Well," he replied, "I had a talk with them. I told them that we're just a couple of old guys who are trying to provide them with a good time; but it's really hard on us when they start fighting with each other."

"And they bought that?" I asked.

"Sort of. Esther responded by saying, 'We know. But we're kids after all, and we're all different from each other.'"

Point taken. And so we face another day - our last full day here. We fly out tomorrow night.

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