We'd spent over a month in Kona and we still weren't getting bored. Personally, I could have stayed forever. The marina waters were clear, with daily visits by turtles who used it as a quiet place to nap. Surprisingly, they also liked to tuck in to the carcasses thrown overboard by fishing boats. I'd always thought turtles were vegetarian! A porcupine puffer made its home under the dock we were tied to, and an endless procession of tangs, boxfish, parrotfish and Moorish idols kept our keel and lines clean. We discovered great snorkeling right next to Honokohau harbour, and took the dinghy to the harbour entrance where the resident pod of spinner dolphins make a game of playing in powerboat wakes. They weren't bothered by us as we bobbed about, and repeatedly swam right past as they made lazy circles round the bay. It was a great way to spend a morning- and if we didn't want to take the dinghy out we could just walk to the headland and watch them from shore.
When we weren't in the water, Jim was on wheels- in training to try and cycle up Mauna Kea. He embarked on a training programme of stiff hill climbs and explored possible routes up to the mountain. Every other morning he'd get up at the crack of dawn to catch a bus to a new place to go Up. Like in Hilo, the buses had the capability to load bikes on the front. The drivers seemed to be a quirky bunch, and bus routes were rather flexible depending on whether the driver needed a cigarette break. But fares were cheap and the service covered a lot of the island. The training plan was going well, and Up is plentiful on this moutainous isand, but the logistics proved trickier. The cabins just below the park were closed, there was no other accommodation and sneakily camping brought the complications of having to bring up enough food and water. Then the weather added to the difficulties- both sides of the island were experiencing heavy rainfall and the normally clear peak of Mauna Kea was obscured by cloud night after night- an enormous inconvenience to all the observatories up there. Jim's dream of standing above the clouds and staring at the stars seemed less and less likely.
And then, after repeatedly extending our marina stay, it was time to leave. We had farewell drinks with Gary and Joanna aboard 'Cheers', and they mentioned renting a car. Within minutes our plans had changed. Again. Justin, a local who is fitting out his own boat ready to sail to Tahiti, was a whizz on Google and knew the local rental places- and soon we had a car booked for a week, and were smiling sweetly at marina management to have our berth for another week and a half, please.
Of course, the first thing we checked was Mauna Kea's weather. Nothing hopeful for the next few days- but plenty more island to explore. And plenty of places to eat. Hawaiian food is based around pork, taro, chicken, fish and rice- often with a Japanese or Chinese twist, a touch of pineapple, an American edge or a little extra aloha which turned stodgy to succulent. Pork is cooked long and slow til it's tender and falls apart, taro leaves are treated like spinach and spices are handled with flare. The portion sizes tended to be very generous and generally lunch would feed us through to the next day's breakfast. I can recommend the orange chicken at L&L BBQ, the pizzas at the Kona Brewery and the pork and rice at Maddie's, but the grand prize has to go to the Hawaiian-Style Cafe in Waimea. My fluffy omelette was accompanied with gravy and delicious hash browns, plus a stack of pancakes the diameter of a dinner plate and as much syrup as I cared to drizzle. Thankfully we'd skipped breakfast so I made a valiant attack on the omelette, but even with Jim helping me most of the pancakes ended up in a takeaway box (and were still delicious later). We are now having a week of salads and vegetable stir fry to compensate for our week of indulgence!
In between these feasts, we managed to see quite a lot of the island. Hawai'i is full of small towns, historical buildings, archaelogical sites, dramatic valleys, twisting gulches and incredible views of the volcanoes which dominate the island. The landscape and wildlife are tied into a host of legends which explain this diverse and contradictory land of fire and snow. Pele, the volcano goddess, often takes centre stage with her jealous nature and capricious and fiery temper. The snow maidens dominate the higher mountains and occassionally Maui pops over from his eponymous island to visit his mum, Hina, who lives in the as-picturesque-as-they-sound Rainbow Falls.
Waterfalls are a feature of Big Island- especially on the Wet Side- and with the generally soggy weather they were in full flow. The north east coast is home to a lot of them, where they tumble down the sides of the beautiful but intensely private Waipio Valley. The road down to the valley is steep and suitable for 4x4 vehicles only, so we satisfied ourselves with taking in the view from the lookout at the top. Sheer cliffs fringe the flat green river valley floor before twisting out to form a vertical coastline. Waterfalls cascade off the top and tumble into the sea. The valley was decimated by a tsunami, but although few people live there now it is still cultivated. Much of it is closed to outsiders, giving it a secretive, 'lost world' feeling.
The 'Akaka Falls are much more accessible, but that doesn't stop them from being beautiful. A 400 foot waterfall drops into a pool, surrounded by emerald vegetation. It belongs in a storybook or a shampoo advert, and the viewpoint is perfectly located to take in the whole of the falls. The well-paved walk meanders past banyan trees, pretty cascades and lovely vistas, whilst orchids and ginger add splashes of colour.
A short drive away, we found the Rainbow Falls which enthusiastically launch themselves into freefall, the riverbed sloping in just the right way to give the water a run up before it takes the plunge. We were there too late to see the rainbow for which they are named- that's a sunny morning phenomenon. Behind the falls is a cave, which legend says was home to Hina, mother of Maui. A true fairytale falls, it even had a giant lizard monster to bother it, once upon a time.
After our waterfall themed day, we returned to Puna and the south coast. The Punatics were still about and the funny smell still clung to much of Pahoa. We ate brunch then drove to the tide pools near the south east tip, where I found the best snorkelling we've had in Hawai'i. The deeper pools were home to thousands of fish living amongst varied and pristine corals. I found this healthy coral very exciting- whilst the other snorkel spots we'd visited were teeming with fish, the coral was mostly bleached and dead. Parts of the west coast have reserve systems where swimming is not allowed at all- I'd like to think that those areas host coral gardens just as lush as these.
How to follow a chilly snorkel? A visit to the hot pools! Fed by underwater springs warmed by Pele's fires, the pools are a bath-like temperature. They're open to the sea, which stops them getting too hot, and fish seem to enjoy them just as much as humans. Concrete areas around the sides make access easy, but the sandy bottom and overhanging trees keeps everything feeling natural. The only occasional spoiler to the relaxation were the small fish who kept trying to nibble Jim and Joanne's legs. None of us wanted to get out, and we'd probably still be in there now if we hadn't started to get hungry.
Getting back to Kona involved driving along Saddlecross Road, which crosses the plains between Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea. When the weather is clear it offers spectacular views out to sea, and the sunsets are incredible. Low clouds make everything more mysterious, as the volcanic vents form odd shaped shadows and twisted trees create eerie goblin forests in the fog. Every time we crossed from one side of the island to the other the light was different, and Gary got us safely over the saddle, whatever the weather threw at us. Joanne was DJ and we usually had a great soundtrack to our roadtrips.
The west coast also had a lot to offer. We snorkelled at Two Step and saw Kealakekua, where, as Jim likes to say, "they wrote the Captain Cook Cook Book". Thankfully these days 'long pork' is not on the BBQ menus. Farther up the coast, Lapakahi State Historical Park offered the remains of a fishing village with many fascinating glimpses into traditional Hawaiian life, and the petroglyphs at Waikaloa literally made the past an open book. Carved letters and words were not modern graffiti but the recordings and experiments of people learning a new alphabet system. More fascinating, to me, were the carvings of people, boats, fish and turtles, and the mysterious but once meaningful systems of lines, dots and concentric circles which formed a method of communication long before the Latin alphabet sailed into town.
The valleys of the far north were obscured by heavy rain, but the little town of Hawi had enough cute little shops and galleries to entertain me and Joanne. It was a typical little town with buildings which just beg to be described as 'quaint,' including a historic cinema. Gary and Jim were less impressed, but cheered up when we added coffee and cake to the itinerary. They were more enthralled by the driving- from coast to rainforest to mountains. This island does manage to pack a lot of variation into a short distance.
We did a few boat things too- chiefly a big trip to the shopping behemoth of Costco to bulk buy provisions. Our last full day of car hire was laundry day. As we sat in the car, Jim checked the weather on Mauna Kea one last time. Sun. And a clear night ahead. Suddenly doing the washing turned into a scramble, as we planned the quickest way to get petrol, gather snacks and find enough warm clothes for a night up a cold mountain. We made it up to the visitors center whilst there was still plenty of room in the car park and walked up a hill for stunning sunset views of Mauna Loa. As it grew dark, telescopes were set up outside the visitors center. After a dinner of leftovers (of course), we were treated to a laser-guided tour of the cloud-free heavens, and then had a peek through each telescope. Binary stars, colliding galaxies, the Jewel Box cluster, the Cigar galaxy (actually a side-on spiral) and the Orion nebula- it made amazing viewing, like real-life Star Trek, and the volunteers were able to answer all our questions. Jim finally got to see the stars, and it was totally worth the wait.
After the car went back, it was time to disassemble our bikes and say our goodbyes. Yes, we finally managed to untie the mooring lines and make the crossing over to Oahu. The marine chandlers were calling and Prism needed work done before the passage to Canada. Hawai'i is something really special, and I've pretty much run out of superlatives to describe the landscape, wildlife and people. I'd love to sail back here next year- so long as I get a thesaurus first.
I drew Owha last month, when we were lucky enough to have the beautiful leopard seal visit Island Prism. But I had a bit of a block when it came to colouring her. I put the drawing away until I had the urge to return to it. The pieces all came together and made sense- green and turquoise for the blues of Pacific Bay, and a touch of summer skies as the sun goes down- the time when we usually see Owha (in Maori, 'wh' is pronounced 'f', so Owha is pronounced 'Ofa')
I'm happy with how the paints have granulated, giving texture to the water. I think it gives the piece a bit of a flowing feeling!
Owha has left the Tutukaka Coast now, but is nearby at Marsden Cove. This will be our point of departure for our Pacific crossing, so we might see her again! Today we leave Tutukaka to cruise back to Whangarei where we can carry out the last few repairs and take on provisions- I have a LOT of shopping in my future as I'll need supplies for at least a month!
Click here to see Owha in my Redbubble shop, on t-shirts, bags, notebooks and stickers.
There she blows! This orca and humpback have swum over to my Redbubble shop, and they both have a Kiwi twist. Great voyagers, they'll come and visit you anywhere in the world- on t-shirts, hoodies, cushions, stickers and more. You don't even need to live near the ocean! Click the pictures to head over to andreaengland.redbubble.com and adopt a whale today!
The Tutukaka Coast is alive with birds- we often see and hear tui and fantails I've been playing with layering watercolours, ink, paint markers and gel pens. I put down the watercolour wash first, then overlaid the black ink with brush pen. Posca paint markers and gel pens created the patterns and swirls- the gel pens give the ethereal metallics and the Posca markers are brighter and bolder. Finally, I used watercolour to add shading and a little softness to some of the pen detail.
I've uploaded the designs to my Redbubble shop- click each photo for the link.
Excitement hit on Sunday morning, somewhere between loads of laundry, a final tidy of the boat and a visit from our friend Adrian. The stressful jobs were done and I was ready to go sailing! There was a total lack of wind, so the sails remained furled, but we maneuvered away from the dock easily and headed to Waiheke. Our night at Blackpool was quiet and uneventful. I made the most of having time to read, Jim worked on the drain pump which had already began to misbehave, and the next day we set sail to Kawau.
We had beautiful winds. All the work which Jim had done on the hull paid off as Island Prism cut through the water at 6.5 knots. We met heavy rainfall, with beautiful sunshine in between, and by the evening were anchored near the Governor's mansion at Kawau. The anchorage there is secure and very pretty. The island has a colourful history, having been home to cannibals, coppermines and Governor George Grey, who imported exotic plants and animals and drove around the island in a carriage drawn by four zebras. Some of the animals remain today- peacocks and wallabies roam alongside the native birds.
The island's birdlife are always happy to see people, especially if you come bearing bread. A flotilla of ducks swam out to see us as I sketched the view from the boat in the late afternoon, and the following day the peacocks and weka stalked the cafe in hope of edible gifts. The peacock's feathers were glorious in the sunlight, although he did seem to have trouble turning round in the confined space between tables!
I was experimanting with my new Noodler's Nib Creaper and Lexington Grey ink. The pen is a flex nib, which gives it a range of line variations as you change pressure, and Lexington grey is a lovely shading ink which goes from a light pencil shade to a deep grey. The two worked together beautifully as the pen allows the ink flow to vary- I think the duck sketches show it well. On the cream paper in my sketchbook, everything had a very gentle 19th Century air. Next time we're back I might need to try something a little more outrageous, but for now the greys and greens suit the beautiful mansion house and peaceful island very well.
Kawau is beautiful, and it was tempting to stay another night- maybe looking for wallabies at dusk and barbequing on the beach. But the wind was blowing well so we decided to take it to head up the coast to Leigh.
Do you ever find that your opinion of something you've done changes over time? Sometimes a finished painting leaves me very disappointed, then I pull it out years later and love it. Other times I can be really pleased with something, then later inspection leaves me feeling flat. My lionfish was one that gave me mixed feelings- I love the fish itself but worried that I should have painted the reef instead of leaving it white. I tucked it away for a couple of weeks and came back to it.
Part of me still regrets not painting the entire background turquoise, but I still love the graphic patterns and shading on the fish. So I scanned it in and decided to have a play digitally.
Cutting and copying the lionfish in Photoshop took quite a while, but when I added a solid turquoise background it all became worth it. The fish still has the watercolour feel I love, and the background lets its shine!
He's joined my orca and manta ray over on Redbubble. There's something very exciting about seeing my artwork out there on stuff- and feeling that both my watercolour and digital image skills are coming along nicely! Click the images below or the shop link above if you'd like a closer look!
Boat launch is less than three weeks away, and it's two months until the summer holidays. My feet are itchy and can't wait to swap shoes for dive fins. I've been revisiting old photos and using them to paint from- it's been good inspiration to work on watercolours. Yes, I know it's Inktober. No, I still can't stick to a single signature media.
About six years ago, we sailed Island Prism from Auckland to Abel Tasman National Park, at the top of the South Island. The passage was eventful, and we got slammed by a gale off Taranaki, but were eventually rewarded with amazing cruising. Our friends Jill and James joined us for a few days. We consumed copious amounts of wine, tried to catch a fish that wasn't a barracuda (we failed) and met a white dolphin and a colony of seals.
The seals were NZ fur seals, and the group consisted of a couple of males, dozens of females and some tiny pups. They were happy for us to approach the colony provided we stayed away from the pups. The females kept their distance but the males were much more playful and inquisitive, diving with James and swimming up to me and Jill to blow bubbles. They revelled in showing off their underwater acrobatics.
I came across some of the photos and relived our encounter in watercolours. I'm loving my tubes of Daniel Smith and finally seem to be achieving some reasonable darks.
That's probably it for painting this weekend- the epoxy paint we used this morning should be dry, so I'm off to slap some bottom paint onto the hull. I'd rather stick with watercolours, but it will all be worth it when the boat is afloat- and we have some great adventures planned for this summer!
I was very excited when my order of ink samples from Goulet Pens arrived, along with a couple of ink syringes. The syringes are supposed to be used to transfer ink into my fountain pens without creating an eco-disaster, but I soon got distracted by other possibilities! I made a video as I went- I've added more instructions and details about supplies below.
I started off by creating the bell shape with some water from a pipette- a water-loaded brush would work just as well. Then I pulled a very small amount of gold ink into the ink syringe and squirted it into the water bubble. It only took a few drops- and watching the ink swirl in the bubble is so pretty! I added the darker red, then used a brush to trail some water to make the tentacles. Once again I squirted ink into the water- occasionally a little too much would come out but I think the blobs add interest. In fact, the inspired me to try drawing straight from the syringe! It was also perfect for adding some little dots, then I used a brush and some water along with turquoise ink to paint the water. A few swirls with a white Posca paint marker was the perfect finishing touch.
If you fancy trying this yourself, ink syringes are available from Goulet, and you can pick up a whole rainbow in ink samples from them for about $1.25 per sample (I used Noodlers Apache Sunset, Ottoman Rose and Navajo Turquoise). They also ship worldwide and the samples are so well packaged they survive international transit (I am in no way affiliated with or sponsored by Goulet- I'm just a fan!).
You can also drop the ink in from an eyedropper or paintbrush. It will be a bit less precise but equally pretty!
If you give this a try, then please let me know how it goes in the comments, send me a link to your pictures or tag me on Facebook or Instagram- @andreaenglandart I'd love to see what you come up with!
On drizzly days, I've been pulling out my photos from diving and snorkeling trips, and painting watercolours of some of my favourite sea creatures.
The difficulty with taking photos when diving is that things often get a bluish cast, or backscatter from the flash unless you have external strobes. My budget definitely does not extend that far. So I figured I can take some of my favourite pictures and express them in water colour.
The aquatic backgrounds have also got me playing with negative painting. It's a relatively new concept to me, and one I stumbled upon in a Collins guide to painting flowers- suddenly I realised how many of the artists I love create their subtle layered backgrounds! I didn't pull it off so well with the clownfish, but I'm pretty happy with how it turned out on the nudibranch painting above.
With the lionfish, I committed the cardinal sin of completing the water and the fish before I touched the reef. Now I'm really worried about getting the reef colours wrong, unbalancing the image and losing the impact of the lionfish. Maybe some gentle green-grey outlines will suffice... or perhaps I'll leave it like this and enjoy the clean zing of what I've done. What do you think?
There's a wonderful sense of achievement when you finish a picture that you've been working on all week! I began drawing a word with illustrated letters last weekend. In my infinite wisdom I decided I'd work on it in ballpoint pen and would cross hatch the whole thing. This probably meets Andrea Joseph's success criteria for 'drawing like a barmpot'. I have worked in biro before, but this A4 drawing was the largest yet.
Some things I learned:
I'd love to hear what you think!
An Artist Afloat- Painting the world one anchorage at a time.