Winter Swells on Kaua‘i

It seems that Winter has arrived. Hawai‘i has just two discernible seasons, Summer and Winter…or Hot and Cold.

Of course, ‘cold’ is a subjective term. This week the temperature in Princeville dropped to around 60°F in the middle of the night. Since the same week brought blizzards and 6 foot drifts to parts of the mainland, I recognize this is hardly likely to gain much sympathy, but when it feels sufficiently cool to warrant something other than a thin sheet on the bed, that tends to be news around here.

Along with cooler weather, Winter on the north shore brings rougher seas and higher surf, sometimes particularly dangerous and vicious. Drownings are sadly too frequent at this time of year. Most residents quickly learn to respect the winter surf, but visitors don’t always understand the dangers of hidden rip currents or ‘rogue’/sneaker waves.

The huge swells on November 13 triggered a high surf warning along the north and east facing shores, from Ke‘e Beach to Anahola. Steve and I drove out to Lumaha‘i Beach, a beautiful spot to witness nature at its finest. The impressive seas had drawn a small crowd, both residents and visitors.

At one point we noticed a couple close to us; a husband was attempting to capture a photo of his wife with the waves crashing behind her. He appeared to be waiting for the perfect moment, the one memorable shot.

The largest sets of waves can be some minutes apart, so we heard him tell his wife to be patient, but each time he was about to press the shutter on a sufficiently impressive set, she heard the almighty crash of surf behind her and leapt out of the way. She had my sympathy! When the large sets come through, the surf will encroach many feet further onto the beach, and can easy whip your legs from under you if you’re not watching.

With each attempt he became more exasperated with her. He seemed a bit of a jerk, but who am I to judge…could be he was a lot smarter than he looked…could be he’d recently taken out a life insurance policy on her and was looking for a quick claim! 😉 I suggested she offer to have him stand on the shoreline and for her to take the photo! She appreciated the joke, he didn’t!

Later that day, I was volunteering with my friend Alice at the Kīlauea Point National Wildlife Refuge; our regular Wednesday afternoon slot. In between chatting with a record crowd of visitors who were awestruck by the Point and views, I captured some more video of the swells, and of our less dependable and lesser known north shore equivalent of Po‘ipū’s Spouting Horn.

Hi-tech beachcombing on Kaua‘i’s north shore

Steve has a new hobby on the island, and a new toy: a metal detector. Ah, but … not just any old Joe Schmoe metal detector! Oh no! This is the White’s Surf PI Dual Field metal detector! Oh yeah, baby!

Dutch MedfordHis purchase earlier this year included a meeting at Lydgate Beach Park with the White’s agent on Kaua‘i, Dutch Medford … as it turned out, a two hour ‘meeting’ that was part instructional and part browsing through Dutch’s impressive ‘portfolio’ of finds, listening to some amazing stories. Admittedly his album extends over decades, but it was fascinating to see the amount of valuable and sometimes historic items he’d uncovered.

Since then, Steve’s taken occasional metal-detecting strolls along a few of our north shore beaches, usually with me and the purpose-made scoop (Dutch’s invention) at the ready.

DSCF0796

One day’s haul from Hanalei Bay

He’s succeeded in turning up a large number of exciting items: money (I think we’re up to 53 cents now, ignoring all the foreign coins), can ring-pulls, firework spikes and sparklers, bottle-tops…oh and one cheap (very cheap) hoop earring. Yup, it’s certainly a lucrative hobby so far! 😉

Steve has left his card with the local hotels, which have beach fronts, as it’s not uncommon for visitors to lose valuables on the beach, particularly in the water.

DSCF0092Let this be a lesson to everyone: NO jewelry on a beach day. Fingers do shrink and rings, even if you think they are too tight, do drop off, earrings can easily be dislodged if you fall off a surfboard or SUP board, clasps on necklaces, bracelets, and watches can come undone. Just don’t risk it, no matter how cool you want to look on the beach!

Around the time that Steve acquired his metal detector, a canoe club friend of mine was mourning the loss of her husband’s wedding band that had dropped off his finger some weeks earlier while bodyboarding somewhere along Hanalei Bay. Steve tried on two occasions to find it, but unfortunately the area they could pinpoint was too vague, and so far we’ve had no luck with that one.

However, a couple of weeks ago, Steve received a phone call from a visitor staying at the Princeville St. Regis. Married on Saturday, lost his wedding band on Monday! Not the most auspicious start to married life, and certainly likely to cast a permanent shadow on the honeymoon.

The pristine beach at the St. Regis, raked by tractor each morning at 7am :)

The pristine beach at the St. Regis, raked by tractor each morning at 7am 🙂

The following afternoon Steve met him on the beach. Luckily, he was able provide the exact location, because he had felt the ring slip off. Yet, despite that immediate awareness, his two hour search with (according to him) 20 others the previous day had been unsuccessful. Needles and haystacks come to mind.

Not surprisingly, the poor chap was pretty forlorn; I’m assuming his bride was none too pleased with the situation.

Steve waded in and was prepared to spend a couple of hours with him searching the area, but it took only 10 minutes to rescue the band from the clutches of the Pacific!

Elation and effusive thanks followed … and that truly is the ultimate satisfaction of metal detecting. To see that look on someone’s face when you can return a personal item to them, particularly something that holds far more value than mere dollars.

Steve was chuffed to bits, having converted that couple’s honeymoon from a dismal memory into a happy story to tell the grandkids one day.

The grateful groom rewarded Steve generously for his efforts, which was kind of him since nothing was expected. Dutch advised us that Hawaiian law is specific in this area: if someone asks you to find something for them, then its their property and they owe you nothing (though it’s great to be given something for your trouble, or at least to cover expenses). However, anything that you find when searching an area for yourself is yours to keep … even if someone approaches you after the fact and claims the item is theirs. A beachcomber has no duty to find the owner or return the item; though, as Dutch confirmed, part of the fun of the find is tracking down the owner and reuniting them with something they assumed was lost forever.

photo-1I’ve started a photographic record of all Steve’s finds, starting with his very first cent, and I was particularly delighted to add this special item to the album!

Freya’s first swim at Anini Beach

One of Steve’s fondest wishes for the past year has been to swim with Freya in the warm Hawaiian waters. We’ve often taken her to beaches on the Pacific coast of California…Fort Funston (aka Fort Fundog) just south of San Francisco; Half Moon Bay; Carmel…where Freya has romped in the surf but rarely swum, and never with Steve.

This afternoon he had his wish! They swam together at Anini Beach, a 2-3 mile stretch of beach on the north shore, a 10 minute drive from the house, where it’s easy to find a peaceful patch away from more crowded beach parks.

We almost had the place to ourselves, except for a very pleasant local chap who came for a swim with his 14-month-old Aussie Shepherd, Kobe. Kobe seemed more keen to play with Freya than to swim with his boss!

Freya earned her rest this afternoon! After her lengthy swim, she dug a hole and flopped down to survey her new surroundings!