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Whales. Beached.

Thursday, 16 February 2022, Lahaina to Hilo

One more morning waking up to the sound of waves.

One more day to enjoy the pleasures of Maui.

When Sue had googled 'Maui activities' on Tuesday, 'whale watching' came up near the top of the list. Turns out that mid-January to March provides the best time to see whales - one cruise company guarantees you'll see whales! I remember a whale-watch tour in southern California years ago, seeing nary a one, so I stayed skeptical of any guarantee. However, Google told us that Maui was one of the best spots in the world to whale-watch, and if Google says so...

We chose the tour offered through the Pacific Whale Foundation, since part of our money would go to research. The cruise left from Lahaina Harbor, only a mile down from our motel. After checking in, we wandered about the harbor area. Roosters wandered around the harbor

and the public square, which was dominated by a massive banyan tree.

Clouds filled the sky, not threatening rain but not promising sunshine, either.

Many boats, from huge yachts to rubber rafts - all tours catering to different people, but they all ply the channel between Maui, Lanai, and Molokai islands.

This is where the whales come after their journey from Alaska, with mating and breeding on their minds. It didn't take long to sight our first whale, in the distance (thank heavens for telephoto lenses!).

Soon after, we saw our first fluke, as the whale took a dive.

The guide pointed out a mother and calf as they passed near our boat.

"The boats are not allowed to approach the whales," he explained, "but they are free to approach us. If they do, though, we have to cut the engines and wait for them to move on."

The picturesque setting - whale foreground, historic Lahaina harbor behind -

amplified that sense of maritime peace. But the guide wanted to keep us involved. "While we were looking at a whale on the port side, another one has come up on the starboard," he announced. "That means they've surrounded us and are preparing to attack... But don't worry, we have a strategy in place for our safety. It starts with throwing any children overboard."

Soon we were gawking at the competition pods, groups of young males showing off their stuff, trying to impress the ladies.

As they cavorted, they certainly impressed the tourists.

For your enjoyment, a compilation of video from our cruise (music by Ray Kane).

In a stretch without an actual whale sighting, the crew lowered hydrophones into the water. From over the boat's loudspeakers came the music of the whale's songs. Such magnificent and intelligent creatures...

Near the end of our two-hour cruise, the sun actually popped out for a brief moment, glinting off the water just long enough to take a single photo. Little did we know that we wouldn't see the sun again until our last day of the trip.

As we headed back to port, the guide stated that we'd had an exceptional day on the water. "It's been quite a while since we've had that many sightings on one cruise. Count yourself lucky!" The people sitting next to us confirmed his words, saying they come out often and rarely see so many cetaceans.

We had a few hours before our flight to the Big Island, so after a quick, delicious lunch at the Paia Fish Market near the harbor, we drove a few miles north to the resort complexes at Kaanapali Beach. How could we do Hawai'i without a stroll on the beach? However, exclusive resorts line up one after another on the southern edge of town, high-rises squeezed between the beach and the golf course. We counted ourselves lucky to find one small public lot (only a couple dozen spaces) near a public access walkway to the sand.

The beach was far from crowded - nothing like I'd gotten used to from my years in southern California - but people still wandered about. Moderate temps did not deter people from trying their hand at surfing,

sand castles, or SUPs.

As we strolled along, wriggling our toes in the sand, we discovered that this must have been where Gilligan and crew washed up.

A short distance later, a rope cordoned off a short section of beach. Inside we saw the only mammal indigenous to the islands.

Strolling north again, Sue stopped to rest in an unoccupied beach chair while I continued on, searching for a photo op. I saw a couple trying to launch a sit-on-top Ocean Kayak into the surf. On the first attempt, a wave hit them just as they hopped on, dumping them in the surf.

After they acknowledged their failure to the chuckling audience, they made a more educated stab at it, riding out on a receding wave. But they ended up parallel to the surf, and the next wavedumped them again, to more laughter all around. On the third try - now that I had my GoPro running, a friend trotted across the beach to tow them out the danger zone.

By the time I got back to Sue, they were well out to sea.

Ahh, so much for our Maui magic. Time to head back to Kahului to catch an evening flight to Kona. I'm glad the weather had treated us so well... because at the airport we heard an earful about a massive Kona Low weather system bearing down on the island chain - the worst storm in decades, with predictions for non-stop rain for the next week-plus. Well, we can always hope the weathermen got it wrong...

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