I know I live in the right place when I look down from an airplane window, see Oahu’s green mountains rising from the blue ocean and feel as thrilled as the visitors around me to be in Hawaii. As exciting as my four-week solo sailing trip in Mexico’s Sea of Cortez was, I still felt homesick.
When writing from the boat, I send my columns to the newspaper via satellite phone, but that system can’t receive my standard e-mail. I’ve got it now, though, and that’s one of the fun parts of being back: Readers shared with me their own experiences with the marine animals I encountered.
One story came from local angler Paul Hanada, who wrote that one night while fishing off the north coast of Maui, he saw "what looked like a city all lit up traveling under the water towards the boat."
After turning off the lights, Paul realized it was a whale shark, glowing in the dark as it swam through light-producing plankton. "It kept passing under the boat and created the effect of a comet traveling through the sky," Hanada wrote.
My living light show and whale shark sightings occurred on separate occasions, but Paul hit the marine life jackpot when he witnessed both at the same time.
Kaneohe resident and sailor Bill Meyers also sent a glowing story. Years ago in the Philippines’ Subic Bay, while sitting on a dock at night waiting for a boat to take him to his ship, he saw two 6- to 8-foot-long serpents.
"They glowed with a greenish luminescence, their heads were golden and about the size of my hand, and they had bright red eyes that sparkled like jewels. They were pretty big and aggressively spiraling about each other in what looked like some sort of mating dance."
It wasn’t until the "serpents" slowed to a near stop that Bill saw they were two little fish. The trails they made in the bioluminescent plankton tricked him into thinking they were enormous.
Early in my monthlong voyage, I wrote about coming face to face with a scorpion fish and swimming back to take its picture. Readers asked to see that photo, but my satellite phone couldn’t send it, nor could it download reader Carol Edson’s photo of the titan scorpion fish she took in Maui’s Honolua Bay.
I love Carol’s picture, but her fish is so beautifully camouflaged I can barely make it out. I’m sharing my picture of my 12-inch-long scorpion fish because it’s a little more defined.
During my voyaging, I also wrote about finding triggerfish remains in Baja’s fishing camps, and described their mouths as small but containing powerful jaws and sharp, robust teeth. My photo of those impressive teeth illustrates how these fish can crunch up their favorite meals of snails, crabs and sea urchins.
On my Honolulu-bound airplane last week, I heard two children shout, "Look! It’s Hawaii!" It sure is, I thought, and I get to live there.
Thank you, fellow ocean-watchers, for the warm welcome home.