Whale Watching on the Pacific Ocean–a splendid idea if you don’t get seasick!

I’m delighted to share more photos from our recent family time on Kauai, geologically the oldest of the main Hawaiian islands. Did you notice how I just slipped in one more little island fact? Prior to our travel I had very little time to do the background research I enjoy. I have learned so much more since our return home that I hope I might have another chance to visit Kauai.


Hanalei Bay

While the majority of the time was spent enjoying the beauty and leisure of Hanalei Bay, we did arrange for a few island adventures.  This year’s whale migration has been very observable even from our Southern California perch. In December and January of this year a record number of sightings were recorded off the coast of Long Beach. Orcas, Humpbacks, Sperm Whales and even Fin Whales were spotted in record number. Speculation is that global climate change could be bringing more food to the area.

Humpback Whales leave Alaska in the fall and swim for six to eight weeks before reaching the Hawaiian Islands for their winter breeding.  Congress recognized the important Hawaiian habitat (1992) as critical in protecting the breeding grounds of this endangered species, and we were excited to share this experience as a family.

As we pulled into the  parking lot of the Nawiliwili Small Boat Harbor on the east side of Kauai, I casually snapped this picture and posted to Facebook something about hoping our sea-worthy vessel was larger than these.


My previous whale watching experiences were on vessels between 70 and 80 feet, and even in those large boats the roll, pitch and yaw sent nearly everyone to the rails at least once!


When you think of the vast Pacific Ocean, this does look small, doesn’t it?

I swallowed my concern as we boarded the “UFO,” a 28-foot Coast Guard certified power catamaran, very hopeful that we’d have success.


And off we went.



Our Captain, Steven, and First Mate, Tyler, informed us that the waves were a little rough, but I already knew this by the sound of several of our “team” desperately hugging the rails!


In this instance I think distraction kept me from feeling ill.  I was deeply focused on the three, five and seven year-old who were handling the bounce-over-the waves better than many of the adults, but I did have a thought that perhaps we should be sitting on them to guarantee they weren’t jettisoned.

And then I saw a humpback whale breach, launching out of the water in the most spectacular display, and it wasn’t long before we were surrounded by the most glorious whale activity.

The photos aren’t wonderful, but the experience was thrilling! I was so happy that the children were enjoying this exceptional experience. We have spent many happy days at the Long Beach Aquarium of the Pacific , and it’s always a challenge to pry Sophia and Karina away from the interactive station dedicated to whale song.

The Aquarium places great emphasis on teaching children (and adults) about these magnificent mammals, and I was thrilled to think they could see them in their natural habitat. What an opportunity.

After about 90 minutes of exploration we headed in a different direction to have some lunch and perhaps take a swim.

The movie “The Descendants” was filmed on Kauai and our guides informed us that this cove and stretch of shoreline are easily recognized, however, it is private land and we were not permitted to go ashore.

I’d love to share more photos from this beautiful spot, except I don’t actually have any.

Although I managed the “high seas” without significant trouble, as soon as we entered the cove and the little boat started the gentlest of  rocking, I, and the others who had yet to fall, made a mad dash to the rails! No lunch for us!

Perhaps if we’d followed advice to take our “seasickness remedies” the night before, we’d have been a bit more prepared. But queasy stomachs were a small disadvantage in light of being so close to the magnificent whales.

I would definitely recommend Na Pali Coast Hanalei Tours for any group eager for a day’s ocean adventure. Steven and Tyler were very eager to show us a good time, and were very kind to those who didn’t feel well.


Have you been whale watching? Do you do well on the “high seas?” I’d love to know if whale watching is something you’d like to do!




Sticking Close to Island Time

We have been home from our Hawaiian holiday for one week. I am back to work and going through the usual paces, but every now and again I take a mental leap back to the beautiful island of Kauai.


When the wedding couple came to us last fall stating they wanted their parents and siblings to join them, sharing one big historic farm-house on Hanalei Bay for eight days, I wondered just how that was going to work out. All of us together? Ten adults and four children ages seven, five, three and one? One house you say? Eight days?


Could we really all step away from our daily roles and responsibilities without too many pretzel-like twists? Or would we simply decide the pretzel-like twists were worth it?

I take my responsibilities very seriously. Maybe a little too seriously, I’m thinking now that I’ve had a delicious dose of island time.

I certainly had an opportunity to catch an unflattering glimpse of my distinctly “NOT Hawaiian” temperament while visiting a Costco not long after arrival. We swooped in to purchase some food and supplies to take back to the house–remember now, ten adults and four children, that’s a lot of supplies–and working from lists we’d prepared from home, we made it through the store with efficiency. That is until we got into the line.


I felt a surge of impatience with a check-out hiccup. An item didn’t scan properly and instead of just replacing the item with another,  the original was handed to someone else to look up the appropriate scanning codes and issue a whole new label.   This seemed irritatingly inefficient to me. The line grew longer behind me and my party was also waiting on me to get everything to the car. The Costco employees weren’t the least bit flustered and definitely not in a hurry. That was my first reminder that we were not in Los Angeles. Welcome to Island Time.



And welcome it was.

From the moment we left the airport our drought-tolerant senses were bombarded with the luxury of green. Flowers and foliage familiar to me in Southern California were easily fifty times the size.I have thousands of photos to prove it. Raise your hand if you want to see them ALL…I seriously couldn’t stop myself.


We’ve previously visited Hawaii, but this was our first time on Kauai and we shared a nearly private beach on Hanalei Bay. It was quite magical. Unless we can travel again as a large pack, I doubt we will personally have this kind of experience again, but saying that something was once in a lifetime is pretty great, too.

I am far from ready to jump back into the pace that I kept prior to our beautiful island experience. And there’s been a wedding that brings me great joy with many happy memories I want to fully savor.

A part of living in Southern California is learning how to stay with the flow of traffic–literally and figuratively– or you’re run over, and the “flow” here is rapid-paced and often aggressive.

It’s hard to go very far without stress in many forms lurking about the perimeter of our lives, but at least for now,  I have refused to meet its eye.



Whenever I choose I can call back the feeling of refreshment and bring back a little of the island’s warmth, charm and tranquility. That will always help me to breathe lighter.











Memorizing the snapshots of a very special week


“Why do they not teach you that time is a finger snap and an eye blink, and that you should not allow a moment to pass you by without taking joyous, ecstatic note of it, not wasting a single moment of its swift, breakneck circuit?” ― Pat Conroy

I don’t know what I was thinking. I honestly thought I’d be able to move through the month of January with ordinary rhythms. I don’t know myself as well as I purport.

My son is getting married this week. He and his bride-to-be have ambitiously coordinated events to bring their parents and siblings together in joint activities that have surprised me from the very first mention. He was born with an independent nature and I somehow missed many of the clues that would have prepared me for his desire to closely meld two families.

This hasn’t been hard for me.  We have known the other half of our now larger family, although there were large gaps of time when we didn’t, for more than two decades. I have a photo of the bride and groom that dates back to high school prom night twenty years ago. Sometimes it takes awhile for stars to align.

So back to my belief that I could be fully present for this special time and also share it. I can’t. Or maybe it’s really that I don’t want to. Every now and then I think about the joy of this union and I realize it’s impossible to capture it in photos. And parents take these things in with a special lens that doesn’t translate anyway.

So I don’t know what you’ll see or hear from me this week. I have every intention of sharing details later. But for now, my only awareness is to open up to the experience and be as conscious as possible through each small moment. We don’t get them back.

The big day is Thursday. The only detail I’ll share for now is that there will be sand under our feet. I don’t think he had his mother in mind when he chose a beach wedding, but he is my son after all…he loves the ocean as much as I do.

For this one week, life will not be rushed. No “break neck circuit” for me.

Breathing lighter…Debra