August 29, 2007

You’re Driving Me Macadamia Nuts

Filed under: hawaii,ocean,rainbow — geoff @ 4:57 am

Interisland travel in Hawaii has always been quick and expensive. Well, now you can take the slow boat and it’s cheap. On Sunday, the $95 million dollar Hawaii Superferry made its maiden run with a rushed launch for the three-hour voyage to Maui-the first ever passenger ferry service between the islands. And here’s the best part – all for the whopping price of $5.

Legal problems had threatened to beach the manta ray emblazoned ship, so the company moved up the debut two days with more than 500 passengers and 150 cars aboard. Choppy waters and strong winds had foiled previous attempts at interisland ferry services with much smaller ships. But even with the calm seas, the ship was swaying and that had some passengers wishing they had gone Greyhound.

Before Sunday, the only way to travel among the islands was with the highly competitive local airlines who are now engaged in a fare war. The ferry sold out its first voyage in 30 minutes on Saturday. The launch was originally set for Tuesday with fares of $240 for a passenger and a car, but was moved up after the Hawaii Supreme Court ruled that the state should have required an environmental review before the ferry started service. Three environmental groups have sued, concerned that the vessel could collide with humpback whales, spread invasive species, create long traffic delays and skyrocket the price of chocolate covered macadamia nuts. More than 19,000 people have signed up to take advantage of the $5 fare thru September 5th. I say, Kauai not?

Today’s photos feature the lovely golden sands of Sunset Beach on the north shore of Oahu. In winter time, Sunset Beach is a beast and is known for its big wave surfing. Located just up the road from the dangerous waves of Pipeline and Waimea, Sunset is the home of the Triple Crown of Surfing, one of the premier events on the pro surfing tour. These shots were taken in the summer time, when the waves are calm, the beach is empty and the water temperature is in the low 80′s. That’s when I like to stage my Triple Crown of Relaxation.

The horizontal surfing shot was taken from the porch of our rental house at Sunset, and for a boy from Jersey, this oasis in the middle of the South Pacific is a dream come true. So that’s it for today, tune in next time when we’ll take a look at the British rocker Bryan Ferry, the much-traveled Staten Island ferry, and my kid’s personal favorite, the tooth ferry. Aloha, mahalo and enjoy a peak at this slice of paradise.

August 27, 2007

Whew, That Was a Coast Call

Filed under: davenport,golden gate bridge,pigeon point,trees,wildflowers — geoff @ 5:30 am

An hour and a half drive north of Santa Cruz along the Pacific Coast Highway is perhaps the most beautiful and certainly the most photographed bridge in the world, the Golden Gate. We stopped in the Marin headlands to take a shot of this magnificent structure on our ride down the coast a couple of weeks ago. Unfortunately, it was a cloudy day so the photo doesn’t really capture all the surrounding beauty. The bridge was designed back in 1930′s by engineer Joseph Strauss to withstand brutal winds, surging tides and persistent fog. For his efforts Strauss received $1 million, a lifetime bridge pass and two backstage passes to a Grateful Dead concert.

The Golden Gate is the strait that connects San Francisco Bay to the ocean. It was given its name by Army Captain John C. Fremont in 1846 because it reminded him of a harbor in Instanbul named the Golden Horn. For many years the crossing of the strait was accomplished by a ferry running between San Francisco and Sausalito. When it was completed in 1937 the Golden Gate was the longest suspension bridge in the world. It is currently the second longest in the US after the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge in New York City.

Despite its red appearance, the color of the bridge is an orange vermilion called “international orange”. The color was selected by consulting architect Irving Morrow because it blends in well with the natural surroundings yet enhances the bridge’s visibility in the fog. If the US Navy had its way, the bridge might have been painted black and yellow to assure greater visibilty for passing ships. During construction, a safety net below the bridge saved the lives of 19 men who became known as the “Half-Way-to-Hell-Club.” Unfortunately, 11 missed the net.

Since its completion, the bridge has been closed five times due to windy conditions, the last being in 2005. In 1982 the wind was so severe that it set the bridge in visible motion. The Golden Gate is also notorious for suicides as there is an average of almost one suicide attempt every fifteen days. And just in case you were wondering, the fall takes only about four seconds and jumpers hit the water at 75 MPH.

On that happy thought, the second shot is a half hour drive south from the bridge along Highway 1 where the road winds thru the precarious Devil’s Slide. Then as we head south we see the lighthouse as Pigeon Point, low tide at Waddell Creek, the wildflowers at Scotts Creek and finally the Monterey Cypress trees on the cliffs of Davenport. This is one truly spectacular drive and for those of you who haven’t experienced it you’re in for a real treat.

So that’s it for today, next time we’ll discuss the Golden Rule, the Golden State Warriors and my favorite geometric structure in Southeast Asia, the Golden Triangle. And feel free to leave your comments on the bottom of these blogs. They cannot and will not be used against you in any court of law. Enjoy the cruise down the coast and have a great Monday.

August 24, 2007

We Egret To Inform You

Filed under: birds,great egret,snowy egret — geoff @ 6:49 am

When August rolls around, I like to pack up the family and head for the warm waters of Hawaii. Unfortunately, due to the effects of global warming on our travel funds, we did not make it to the islands this year. So no in the water all day, fresh pineapple and papaya in the morning, trade wind blowing tropical vacation experience. Instead, we packed up the car and headed up the coast to Marin County.

We stayed in a hotel in lovely Mill Valley that overlooks Richardson Bay, an ecologically rich arm of San Francisco Bay. Richardson Bay got its name from a young British sailor, William Richardson, who arrived in the Bay Area back in 1822 and was so impressed with what he saw that he applied for Mexican citizenship so he could become a permanent resident. In 1838 Captain Richardson received a 20,000 acre land grant that extended from Sausalito to Mill Valley and out to the Pacific Ocean. Not a bad piece of real estate. Unfortunately, the Captain died in 1856 of an overdose of mercury tablets that had been perscribed for his rheumatism. No word on what happened to Tennille.

Bordering on the bay is the Bothin Marsh, a saltwater sanctuary where the shorebirds come to feed at low tide in the mud flats. This is where I took the shots of the great egret and the snowy egrets. Now you’re probably saying to yourself, “Geoff, what’s the difference between the great and the snowy?” I’m glad you asked. The great egret has the yellow beak and black legs while the snowy has the black beak and yellow legs.

Both birds were almost hunted to extinction for their plumage which was used in women’s hats. This near disaster led to the conservation movement in the US and the formation of the National Audubon Society. Richardson Bay receives over 1 million migratory visitors a year, not including the snow birds who stay at the nearby Holiday Inn Express. The first morning when I walked out into the marsh I counted 23 snowy egrets. Wow! Then I quickly hurried back so I wouldn’t miss the all-you-can-eat breakfast.

There were all kinds of exotic birds in the marshes but these white wonders really caught my eye. The last shot is a snowy egret that I shot one morning at Natural Bridges State Beach. Love the westside. Enjoy the egret experience and have a great weekend.

August 23, 2007

My Lips are Elephant Sealed

Filed under: monterey bay,sea lion — geoff @ 4:23 am

As many of you know, one of my daily activities is taking my golden retriever “Summer” down to Its Beach. This way we both have a chance to get some exercise, check out the action along the coast and keep our coats shiny. Of course while Summer is furiously paddling out thru the waves to retrieve the stick that I’ve thrown for the 50th time, I relax by counting crows and pelicans.

Anyway, for two weeks back in July there was an elephant seal hunkered down in the sand on Its Beach. It was a year and a half old female who for some reason decided to pick this spot to molt. Why, I don’t know because this beach is loaded with locals, tourists and dogs, many of whom are ignorant on how to behave around a marine mammal when it comes ashore. Here are a couple of simple tips-don’t kick it, throw tennis balls at it or let your dog play freeze tag with it.

Back in early summer lots of dead birds and marine animals had been washing up on beaches around Monterey Bay because of a algal bloom that was producing a powerful neurotoxin called domoic acid. The birds and marine mammals were thought to have been eating such fish as anchovies and sardines, which consume the algae and pass the toxins up the food chain. This particular elephant seal, who I nicknamed “Bobbie” was not a marine mammal in distress, just someone who wanted beach time and wasn’t going back in the water, despite hoards of people and dogs getting way too close to it. She actually left one Sunday morning but came back to the beach the next afternoon while I was there contemplating my life and the true meaning of the Neilson ratings. “Bobbie” pretty much spent her time moving up and down the beach with the flow of the tide, flipping sand on herself (shot #3) or barking at dogs that came to close (shot #4).

Speaking of barking, the fifth shot is a sea lion who I shot on one of the landings off the Municipal Wharf. The final shot was taken 25 miles north of Santa Cruz along the coast at Año Nuevo, which is the largest mainland breeding colony for northern elephant seals in the world. It is also where at certain times of the year 300 or so great white sharks wait out in deeper water for dinner and desert. Myself, I’m just happy with a little ice cream. Finally, on Sunday morning as I was driving along Delaware Avenue I spotted a coyote. It was a youngster and unfortunately I didn’t have my camera with me as I hadn’t planned on taking any wildlife shots on my way back from Safeway. Big mistake. But more importantly remember, an elephant seal never forgets.

August 20, 2007

Splish, Splash, I Was Taking A Sunrise

Filed under: clouds,fog,sea gulls,splash,sunrise — geoff @ 5:59 am

I was going to start off the week with a continuation of Friday’s blast by moving along West Cliff Drive to the same fog bank surrounding the action at Bird Rock. And then I thought to myself, “It’s a new week, your son is experiencing his first day of eighth grade and the site is Sunrise Santa Cruz, so get out of the fog and back into the light.”

The first shot features the coastline looking east to Lighthouse Point as it is entrenched in the before mentioned early morning fog. But then we get back into a more familiar mode as the next five shots are from a sunrise back in late February.

Sunrise season really kicks in around November and hangs till late March. That’s prime time for me, when I wake up every morning and bolt out of bed hoping for some outrageous cloud action. When I send out these blasts you only get to see a few segments of the dawn experience so many worthy photos don’t make the cut. There were actually a few mornings last winter that were just super spectacular, so much so that when I view them in my computer files I know they have to be seen again. It’s early morning magnificence starring the skies of Santa Cruz. This one wasn’t one of those unbelievably colorful, mind-blowing sunrises but I thought it was worth taking a second look. I hope you’ll agree.

And on a different note, a thanks goes out to my brother Brad who has brought my Santa Cruz based parents into the 21st century by hooking them up to the internet so they can actually send and receive pictures. But more importantly, these two people who brought me into the world are now the 100th members of this blast list so we have hit the century mark. On that front, a lot of people are new to this list so if I haven’t heard from you let me know what you think. As I’ve said before, I hope you enjoy these photos as much as I enjoy taking them. And for those fans of the recently canceled HBO surf classic “John From Cincinatti,” no need to worry, “I’ve got my eyes on you.” Enjoy the day and enjoy the spray.

August 18, 2007

Holy Cowells

Filed under: cowell's beach,sunrise,surfers,surfing — geoff @ 4:19 am

To finish off this week of incredibly, beautiful Hawaiian-like weather here on the central coast, let’s journey back to July and a foggy morning down at Cowell’s Beach. Unlike the past few days, the marine layer tends to hang off the coast like groupies backstage at an Aerosmith concert. It usually breaks around midday and going from overcast gray to Pacific blue is always a delight and this day proved to be no exception.

The first three shots are from that morning but to give you some real Cowell’s contrast I went back into the photo vault and pulled out these items. The fourth shot is Cowells before sunrise, the fifth an early afternoon cloud conference and the last shot a late winter rainbow that had the crowd buzzing. As you can see from the wetsuits in the water, Cowell’s Beach is one of the best places in the world to learn how to surf. All the energy pushing around Steamer’s Lane and Lighthouse Point mellows out by the time it gets to Cowells and the result is a long, gentle, easy wave that breaks for a very long time.

Cowell’s is one of the most crowded surfing spots in Santa Cruz but most of the surfers are beginners so there’s very little animosity, unlike in the stands at an Oakland Raider game. And with the resurgence of modern longboarding, Cowell’s has become more popular than ever. And finally, a shout out goes to New York Yankee Hall of Fame shortstop Phil Rizzuto, who passed away this week after a four-decade career as the team’s broadcaster. Phil’s stream of consciousness commentary included his love of cannolis and his fear of snakes, lightning and traffic and called anyone who made a mistake a “huckleberry.” He also figured in a memorable plot point of a “Seinfeld” episode because of a key chain that uttered his most famous exclamation, “Holy Cow!” and that phrase is what landed him on today’s blast. Thanks for all the memories, Scooter and rest in peace. Enjoy Cowells and the weekend.

August 14, 2007

Got Eddie Money?

Filed under: birds,cowell's beach,ocean,pelicans,wharf — geoff @ 3:24 am

I was on my way to an Eddie Money concert at the Boardwalk on a warm summer evening in July when I happened upon this pelican gathering. The anchovies (or was it mushrooms and black olives) must have been running at Cowell’s Beach because the pelicans were diving and the gulls were screaming – kind of like an opening act for Money fans. And he rocked the Boardwalk that night just like he did the Catalyst back in the 70′s.

We are gearing up for our first Open Studios coming up in October and I’ll have more news about that next month. So before we go today, congratulations go out to blast list player Jim Berry, whose lovely wedding I attended yesterday on top of Depot Hill in Capitola on just a perfect day to be overlooking Monterey Bay. Lucky we live Santa Cruz. Enjoy pelican Monday.

August 10, 2007

Hello Dahlia

Filed under: dahlias,flowers,santa cruz — geoff @ 5:14 am

Since we did something a little different for Wednesday let’s continue the trend for a Friday. Today’s blast comes to you in the form of a blog rather than an email blast, the difference being the blast lies dormant in your computer while the blog will continue to span the globe like the wide world of sports.

Today’s blog features the spectacular, multi-flavored dahlia, a summer and autumn flowering perennial plant that is native to the mountains of Central America and Mexico. It is also the national flower of Mexico. In the 16th century Spanish conquistadors, while busy conquering the vast Aztec Indian nation, also made some interesting explorations-one of which was the collection of new world plant life.

The dahlia is named after Swedish 18th century botanist Anders Dahl. In 1872 a box of dahlia roots were sent from Mexico to the Netherlands. Only one of the plants survived the long journey but it produced brilliant red flowers with petals that were rolled back and pointed. Nurserymen from all over Europe bred from this plant and these are the progenitors of the thousands of varieties of modern day dahlias. Colors include orange, pink, purple, red, scarlet, yellow and white with some flowers striped or tipped with a different color.

These dahlias were shot in a couple of local gardens on the westside of Santa Cruz, where some varieties grow to six feet in height and over a foot in diameter. So that’s our look at the dazzling dahlia, next time we’ll check out surrealist painter Salvador Dali, the notorious unsolved murder case of the Black Dahlia and Clint Eastwood’s classic movie “A Fistful of Dahlias.” Enjoy the blog, the colors and the weekend.

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