Category Archives: trip planning

When Travel Doesn’t Go As Planned Part 2: Be Calm & Be Kind

We made it home! In time for Simon to start his new job! With most of our things!

After our last post, the comedy of errors continued including a rental car with no child seats (did you know that rental agencies are not obliged to guarantee child seats?, and that if you try hard enough, priceline will refund prepaid ‘nonrefundable’ rental car fees?), lost diaper covers, awkward seating assignments on flights, Blake being kicked out of a bar (too intoxicated), etc.

But something strange happened. After the first few days of everything seeming to go wrong, Simon & I stopped being stressed. We accepted the situation, paying an extra $1700 for flights, and moved forward calmly. We worked together to manage the safety, happiness, and well-being of our family first. We met many friends and colleagues along the way who were always surprised when we said our trip was full of things going wrong. “But you seem so calm and happy!” they said. Truthfully… we were.

The biggest reason is that we were with our kids, and my strong feeling is that happy parents make happy babies, and happy babies make everything easier. We both work hard to achieve family happiness at all times, but especially during travel and times of stress. The side effect of ensuring that the boys get time to play outside, timely meals, naps, and bedtime, is that we experience many of the calming benefits and are able to better handle the various fires being thrown at us.

In addition, we had a lot of good things happening alongside the fires. We had productive meetings with colleagues; Simon got good experimental data, we gave various talks, brown bags, and seminars at Scripps and at the International Coral Reef Symposium that were well received; we enjoyed quality family time in beautiful places; and we had happy reunions with friends.

Something else special happened on this trip though. In our times of great duress, we received unexpected assistance from strangers. Random acts of kindness that meant so much given our compromised state:

  • The strangers that switched seats with us on the red-eye flight from LA to DC so that our family could sit together in one row
  • The Virgin America flight attendant that provided six little bottles of water when we desperately needed it for the kids
  • The baggage claim clerk that helped me move all of our luggage to the street to meet Simon with the rental car and I was alone with Blake
  • The collection of Brazilian scientists at ICRS that happily held & played with Blake during the last night banquet for an hour while Simon & I ate and made friends with them
  • The friends-of-friends that offered to take photos of our whole family on our last day  (and only day on the North Shore!)
  • The cleaning staff at both hotels we stayed at, who were amazing about providing extra towels and coming back repeatedly so as not to disturb our napping children when cleaning the room

That’s not to mention all of our friends and family that stepped in, whether or not we asked, to play with Joey, hold Blake, and in general help us out immensely. Japanese grammy came all the way from New Zealand to Hawaii to look after the boys during the meeting. She did the typical grammy thing – spoil Joey rotten with care and attention – so that now Joey wants to “go back to Hawaii”. Why? “Obaasan”.

Those relatively small kindnesses made all of the difference for these strung-out parents that wanted to bring their kids on a work trip. Kindness matters most to those who need it. Look for the need and pay it forward. You might be in the needful position some day.

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When Travel Doesn’t Go As Planned

I wanted to call this “When the Shit Hits the Fan,” but I’m pretty sure my mom reads it.

You may have gathered that we have taken to the air again with our two kiddos and are currently in Hawaii. The lack of a pre-departure post is a fair indicator of our lack of organization for this trip.

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Joey collects Macrocystic kelp on the beach in La Jolla

Usually, I am a super-planner. Every detail thought out, from snacks for everyone on the plane to printing out hotel confirmations and addresses ahead of time (or more recently, saving them to my iPhone). Simon is surprised if I cannot spout off our itinerary in detail at any point on an adventure.

This trip was not well planned. In fact, it coalesced together in a messy fashion after we both were given slots for conference talks at the International Coral Reef Symposium in Honolulu this week. From there, we slowly added on items. We decided to bring both boys & a dedicated care giver (Japanese Grandma!). We decided to come to Honolulu early to use rewards nights at the Marriott for our anniversary, and to stay the weekend after the conference with friends on the North Shore of Oahu. Somewhere along the way, we had the idea to make a long layover in San Diego en route to Hawaii where we would visit Scripps to give talks, catch up with friends & colleagues, and Simon would collect some data off the pier while we were at it. So in summary, in two weeks we would visit two cities, stay in six different places, do a wide variety of work things, vacation with our kids, and catch up with friends.

 

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If we had gotten on our original flight to Honolulu, we wouldn’t have had this beautiful cliff top picnic on our last night in San Diego
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Joey likes al pastor tacos the best

 

 

 

 

 

 

What could go wrong?

Turns out, a lot:

  • We forgot toothpaste
  • We didn’t realize that we wouldn’t have childcare in San Diego for all of those talks and experiments & had to modify our plans at the last minute
  • Joey took three days of sharing a room with Blake to nap quietly without waking his brother, much to my dismay
  • Our bags didn’t really fit in the rental car with the car seats (so I had either a large suitcase or stroller on my lap)
  • Renting car seats with the rental car is expensive & they didn’t tell us that ahead of time. In fact, our first rental car reservation added so many costs & fees that Simon elected to cancel it and find another rental car at the airport, adding nearly an hour delay before we got to our digs for the night.
  • We missed our flight from San Diego to Hawaii and had to fly standby the next day
  • On our standby flight, we were seated behind another child who spent a lot of time screaming, making it extraordinarily difficult for our non-screaming children to nap and remain well-behaved
  • We lost Simon’s wedding ring and the quadcopter (not at the same time)
  • We continue to not have baby wipes available when we need them, despite bringing at least five packages with us

I’m forever optimistic, and am inclined to now list the things that are going well. I’ll spare you bullet points, but will say that we are still having a good time and for the most part the boys are not phased by our stress and struggles.

Whether this trip is a set of unique challenges or a complete disaster depends on your point of view. For example, we found ourselves leading a discussion with graduate students about government jobs and postdocs while holding a very alert and cheerful Blake, watching Joey play with the foozball table out of the corner of our eyes. At least we’d had the foresight to suggest this event occur in the graduate student lounge? And the grad student coordinator that organized for us had kindly provided Joey’s favorite snacks (bagels) as refreshments, further sweetening the deal for him. In fact, he has been asking to go to another “work meeting” with us since.

So what do you do when your plans fall apart? Or you failed to make a plan in the first place?

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Make a new plan stat.

Simon & I will waffle endlessly about things like where to go to dinner – until we get to a critical situation. Then we both switch gears and start damage control. We dish out orders to each other and the children, and follow one another’s instructions exactly.

We triage:

  1. Safety
  2. Immediate/unchangeable logistics (i.e. flight departure)
  3. Personal needs (hungry, tired, diaper change)
  4. Everything else
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Blake’s first steps in the ocean. This moment alone made all of the hardship worth it, but there were many other high points along the way too.

This trip has been a healthy reminder that planning is important, but even more important is learning to roll with the punches and make the best of it. We could have let various challenges ruin this trip, but that would have been a much bigger loss overall. The kids mean that we spend more money (missed flight? better just get a new hotel and go out for lunch so the boys can eat & nap), they also keep us on the happy end of the spectrum. They achieve this magic partly because we want the best for them, including happy parents, and partly because they are delightful and they cheer us up. Joey has even started making jokes. We also have some perspective that the most challenging situations wind up being some of our favorite memories and most endearing stories later on.

That ^^ was supposed to be the end, in hopes that posting would put an end to our comedy of errors. Nope! Cue some important emails to Simon yesterday about his first day as a federal employee – not only does he have to be in the office in person with paperwork on Monday, but he needs to arrive no earlier than 7:30am and no later than 8:00am. Our flights would not get him there in time.

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Both swaddle blankets dirty? No problem, use one of Daddy’s t-shirts instead. Improvising solutions to smaller problems along the way have kept our whole family much happier.

We each had our own itinerary on the same flight, and Joey was attached to Simon’s. Much of our first day at the conference was spent looking for flights, calling airlines and travel agents, and establishing that Simon really had to be at work by 8am Monday (he does). We went through a string of options and came down to the choice of 1: buying Simon a new flight home early, while I traveled alone with both boys on a red eye and really hoped that they would let me add Joey to my reservation without asking for large sums of money or 2: cancel all of our flights home and buy three seats on an earlier flight together.

I think we’ve finally learned something from the last few weeks, because we picked #2. This sadly means cutting our family fun weekend on the North Shore a little short, but based on how things were going we decided to plan conservatively.

What else can go amiss in the next few days? Stay tuned for updates 🙂

 

 

 

Travel With Babies & Toddlers – Sleep & Food

We’ve been (happily!) receiving more family travel FAQs since we returned from Japan. At least half are about how to deal with basic baby necessities while on the road, in the air, or overseas. Here are some pro tips we’ve built up over the last few years. Bear in mind that every child is different, and its always important to find the right groove for your family. Our strategy has generally been to be adaptable and teach our kids to do the same, whilst being one step ahead to ensure that they get the nutrition and rest that they need. There is a lot of patience and planning ahead, and we are also more lenient than we would be at home. It is ultimately most important that they eat or sleep – happy baby happy life!

Sleep

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Whatever it takes – an hour of slow laps around the aquarium with two sleeping boys and one tuna.

We have always prioritized our kids’ sleep more than anything else, because we have found that a well rested baby is a happy baby. We knew that there would be lots of trips and outings long before our first was born, so we made an effort to teach him to be somewhat flexible in terms of where he sleeps. In other words, anything goes as long as the kid sleeps – walks in the baby carrier, car rides, co-sleeping, etc. We are more strict at home about keeping them in their beds (at least, the older one 🙂

We always plan ahead so that we have some means to help the boys nap during the day, which is often in a baby carrier or stroller. While this isn’t as great as napping in a bed as they get older, it works for us. The biggest key is to identify when they are starting to get tired and get them comfortable in their napping spot before they pass the threshold to overtired and cranky.

Jet lag is tough for adults and tougher for littles. The same rules that apply to us do them – hydrate well, go outside in daylight hours, and try to force your schedule to local time as quickly as possible. However, between jet lag and activities while traveling, we often wind up with an earlier waking time and earlier bed time while traveling.

Both boys have a bedtime routine that includes certain items. Blake is swaddled every night after receiving his last feeding and PJs. Joey reads stories with his stuffed toys, and brings a stuffed toy into his bed. We maintain these routines on the road, and always bring key items with us (swaddle blanket, a couple of stories, 1-2 stuffed toys of Joey’s choosing).

Even so, it doesn’t always go to plan – which is why we fall back to “anything goes as long as they sleep.” If they will only sleep in the bed with me for the first few nights in a new place, then they can sleep in the bed with me. Trust me when I say that the less tired the kids are, the more enjoyable everyone’s trip is!

Also – me and Simon always come home tired. We no longer ‘vacation’ in the restful sense. (Actually we never did, but it used to be because we spent all of our time diving and exploring!)

Food

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Joey takes apart his sushi at an expensive sushi bar (the chef cut all of his sushi pieces in half!), eating first the fish and then the rice.

This advice also depends on age, but the short story here is that our kids eat what we eat (or some part of it).

For the first year, we combo feed. Breastmilk comes everywhere with me, and we always brought our own formula and bottles to avoid any issues with switching brands/types on them. We usually buy bottled water to mix it with unless we can get access to filtered water.

Once on solids, the children eat what we do, and that continues overseas. Our rule is that they have to try the food, after which it is OK if they don’t like it. Since the rule is the same wherever we go, J has never really questioned it. Like me, he likes some foods and dislikes others when introduced to new things. I will never forget Joey slurping soba noodles with delight in Japan or demanding more sashimi. At the same time, he wasn’t really into gyoza (dumplings) and other items we thought he would like.

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In general bottled water is one of my most hated products, and you will never see it in our house. I’ve had to bend on this too because its more important to me that the children have clean drinking water.

As with sleep, we are more lenient with food when we are away from home. Processed/packaged foods that are normally not around our house are provided at opportune moments. Joey still calls Oreos “Peru Biscuits” since he first received them there, and he only gets them when we are traveling. It’s more important to me that they eat something to avoid hanger. There are also inevitable long, boring, waits associated with travel and having special treats/snacks helps mitigate that.

I’m used to carrying around a wide array of snacks wherever we go, and I usually stock up on favorites before any trip (fruit/veggie pouches, clif kids bars, goldfish or other little crackers, raisins and other dried fruits). I don’t try to bring enough for the duration of the trip, though, since I’ve always been able to find new and interesting snacks on site. Almost everywhere has some variation on bread, rice, or pasta and fruit – staples of the toddler diet.

J does have food allergies so I always learn how to say and write the offending foods ahead of time, and check labels/ask at restaurants as I would at home.

It can be a whirlwind with a lot of trial and error. We always say we will not plan anything during our first day at a destination, and we almost always wind up doing stuff anyway with catastrophic results. Dinner in particular has been disastrous several times with slow service, new food, and very tired parents and children. I’ve taken a tearful Joey out of restaurants in several countries to go to bed before the food actually arrived, and had Simon bring me leftovers later. Hang in there – it gets better!

Japan Travel With Infant & Toddler

We are still recovering from jet lag, but safely home from our journey to Japan. We had a wonderful time and will post highlights soon!

In the meantime, here are some notable things that are different in Japan from western countries that are particularly relevant to travel with little kids.

There are a lot of:

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    Joey quickly mastered the vending machines

    Vending machines. Selling everything from hot coffee to soda to ice cream to toys to full meals. This is often useful (quick drink or snack anyone?), although our toddler quickly learned to recognize the ice cream machines and requested that we stop at them often.

  • Trains. Travel by train or subway is challenging with small children since there is a lot of rushing through crowded, busy, stations and there isn’t always a lot of room to sit or play on the train. For infants, a baby carrier is 100% the way to go. For toddlers (Joey was 2.5 years) it is trickier. We used a light front to back double stroller (Kinderwagon Dual Hop), which was about the biggest stroller one could manage on public transit in Japan. In retrospect I’d recommend a light single (you will have to push through crowds and lift it over the step/gap when boarding and disembarking) or another baby carrier. This was one of our biggest challenges.

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    Shinjuku station rush hour
  • Huge, amazing, playgrounds. Even in the shopping mall on the roof. For a country with relatively few children (the current average birth rate is 1.2), Japan has extraordinary playgrounds. We made a point to stop every time we saw one, and often had it nearly to ourselves. No waiting for the zip line or complaints when the grown-ups joined in the fun!
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One of Joey’s favorite playgrounds in Japan
  • Rules. The Japanese have solved the problem of high population density with several rules (walk on the path to the left, queue for the train, etc). Everyone was very polite to us despite our often lack of understanding.
  • Outdoor public baths (when you get out of Tokyo). Onsen require some guts and cultural awareness to get onboard with the naked communal bathing, but they are actually amazing for toddlers. Joey loved playing in the wash room where showers/water could be put anywhere, and in the cooler parts of the naturally heated outdoor pools. One place we stayed had a private bath, which allowed our whole family to enjoy an outdoor pool together. Toys were provided for the children and the temperature was perfect for both of them (about 96 F).

There are not many:

  • Public rubbish bins. No one litters (see above re: rules). The intention is that you take your trash home with you. This is a great idea, but potentially hard to comply with given the number of pre-packaged items (especially from vending machines!) Thankfully we carry around plastic grocery bags with the kids anyway so it wasn’t too challenging to collect rubbish and store it in the stroller basket.
  • Dirty things. I am a germ-a-phobe about public transit, but everything was remarkable clean from the sidewalks to the trains to the stores.
  • Changing tables in mens or ladies restrooms. Japan’s solution is much better in my opinion – there is a third choice at any public restroom area called a ‘multipurpose’ or handicap restroom. The room is open to men and women and includes a changing table as well as handicap access and a regular toilet. Some also have a little plastic seat on a stand to contain your kid while you pee (best for children 6-18 months. Blake was too small and Joey was really too big).
  • Spacious restaurants. Most dine-in establishments are tiny, seating less than 30 people at a time or standing room only. This is sub-optimal for the kids as well. We searched for cafes with outdoor seating, and places selling take out (check out the department stores in Tokyo) near parks.
  • Places to sit. In part because most living spaces and restaurants are small, there is a distinct lack of sofas, cushy recliners, gliders, etc both in homes and public spaces. This isn’t a big problem unless you have an infant the needs to be fed frequently. In that case, work on your core strength ahead of time and be prepared to get creative.
  • Loud people. In fact, people walking down the street during business hours are so quiet that I almost felt rude talking. Joey attracted a great deal of (positive) attention between enthusiastically pointing out various items and being dressed in bright clothing. Again, the reception from the Japanese was very positive, but our family definitely stood out!

Japan has nearly all of the same features as the US, but the details are different. Some preparation will definitely help, especially for train and subway travel! I can’t say enough about the benefit of our baby carriers for this trip.

Packing for 4

I’m going around the world, and I’m bringing a… toddler. And his stuff. And his baby brother. and his stuff. Not to mention their caregivers (me and Simon).

We are on our way to Japan to visit friends and relatives. This is our first overseas trip with both kids, and packing for everyone was a mental exercise that could give the Sunday crossword puzzle a run for its money. Space actually isn’t an issue. Since Joey is now 2 and has to pay for his own seat (thanks, frequent flier miles!) he gets two checked bags. Blake also gets one as a lap infant on an international flight, in addition to a stroller and car seat. So in theory we could check seven 50 lb bags, two strollers, two car seats, and bring four large carry-on items.

Do you see the problem? We learned during our fieldwork adventures in Hawaii exactly what it means to travel with an absurd amount of stuff, and we do not wish to take that on with kids. So the trick is actually to make everything we need fit in the least number of bags possible, and keep each of those bags at or under 50 lbs.

This is what we are bringing:

Each kid gets one large checked bag. Simon & I are splitting the third, which is one of our American wheeled carry-ons. All of our camera gear and electronics will be carried-on in the camera backpack. Joey gets to choose his own toys and books for his backpack. Remaining diapers, clothes, wipes, snacks, changing pad, and anything else we need in -flight will be in the diaper bag backpack.

What are we bringing for the kids? Their bags are each being packed based on experience with Joey and our plans/background research about what we will experience in Japan.

For Joey (2.5 years):

  • Blanket
  • Clothing – 4 warm weather outfits, 4 cool weather outfits
  • Fleece jacket & raincoat
  • Diaper covers, cloth diaper inserts, and compostable inserts
  • Toys & books of his choice (in his backpack)
  • New coloring books & activity books for the plane & train rides
  • iPad loaded with games and movies for the plane & train rides
  • Snacks
  • Basic meds, thermometer, snot-sucker (for both boys)
  • Baby soap, lotion, toothpaste
  • Ergo baby carrier

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    Blake got an extra insert for support in the stroller

For Blake (3 months):

  • Travel bassinet (he just still fits in it!)
  • Travel bouncer/baby lounge chair
  • Blankets – heavy, light, swaddles
  • Clothing – 5 warm weather outfits, 5 cool weather outfits
  • Fleece jacket, warm hat, sun hat
  • Diaper covers, cloth diaper inserts, and compostable inserts
  • One toy
  • Feeding gear
  • Another Ergo baby carrier

We made it to Chicago and are waiting for our long haul flight to Tokyo. Thirteen hours of close quarters await. The iPad is loaded with movies and games. After doing his homework, Blake has secured one of the coveted Boeing 787 long-haul infant bassinets and in the same breath obtained premium economy seating for his whole family! – we will let you know if that actually materializes. The American Airlines Admirals Club lounge at ORD actually has a family room for kids and we got to have breakfast at Starbucks, so everyone is happy despite the 5am wake-up call.

 

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Simon practices dual baby-wearing. Both baby carriers are with us!

 

 

Babies & Science Meetings

Blake crossed off two big firsts last month – his first flights and his first scientific conference. He has many more of both ahead of him, so I’m glad to report that everything went well.

Joey stayed home with his grandparents while Simon, Blake, and I flew to New Orleans, Louisiana for the AGU Ocean Sciences Meeting (OSM). We were quickly reminded of how easy it is to fly with an infant compared to a toddler!

We were thrilled to see lots of kids running around OSM, from tiny to school age. AGU kindly provides onsite daycare at a reasonable cost, with no obligation (parents can drop kids off when needed and pay by the hour). The meeting is divided into talks during the day, mixed with town hall meetings and big plenary talks, followed by poster sessions in the evening. The poster sessions are prime kid territory – there are food and drinks available, its already loud, and the posters are in a huge open space! Blake is too little to run around, but he was a great mascot at our poster.

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Blake helps attract interested scientists to our poster detailing some cool results from our family fieldwork in Hawaii 2012.

At just over two months old, Blake was perfectly travel sized and spent most of his time engaging in that newborn specialty – sleep. Since he isn’t yet on a very regular schedule and likes to be with us all of the time, it was pretty easy to haul him around the conference in a baby carrier. Both Simon & I were participating in the meeting, so we could trade off baby duty. Simon held Blake in the back of the room during my talk. Some may find that distracting, but I was really pleased to have them there for support! He was also a good sport about participating in all of the lunch and evening networking & socializing that goes hand-in-hand with most conferences. This was a particularly fun meeting for us as we had the chance to reconnect with many friends and colleagues from Scripps, including one of the greats – Walter Munk – who Blake was photographed with.

We’ve employed a variety of strategies at scientific conferences in the past – bring baby & caregiver, bring baby & extra parent, leave baby & 1 parent at home, leave baby (once toddler-sized) with grandparents… Unfortunately this situation doesn’t have a one-size-fits-all solution. But with some creative thinking, its definitely possible to pull it off. In our experience, it is rewarding and fun to bring kids along. When you are on break from the meeting you get a mini-family vacation in a cool new city, your old friends and colleagues get to meet your kid, and your baby is taking in the latest ocean science developments to prepare for kindergarten. That said, a baby older than about 6 months really requires a dedicated caregiver in our experience.

The adventures of Joey & Blake will kick into high gear in April – stay tuned!

How to Take Your Child’s Passport Photo

Remember how I told you it is almost always better to take your own passport photos and bring them with you when submitting the application? Here’s how.

For our countries of interest (New Zealand & the USA), the requirements are the same, but you should always double-check before finalizing your photo. Child positioned against an untextured white or off-white background, two eyes open, looking at camera, nothing in front of face, no hands visible, no expressions, mouth closed.

For an infant, it is easiest to lay a plain white blanket or sheet over a carseat or bouncer chair, set the child in the seat, then wave a toy around near the camera to try to get them to look at it when you take the photo.

For a toddler that can stand but can’t stand still, our strategy was to sit on the floor against a plain colored door and hold Joey above one of our heads (remember we can’t be visible in the photo and he has to have a white background behind him) while the other of us waved toys about and took photos. Here’s what happened:

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Set child on head. Oh look, a doorknob! Clearly, neither of these photos will do.

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Yes! He finally has learned to smile for the camera! What a perfect photo! Except we then re-read the requirements, which mention that the child must not smile or have any expression on their face. Keep trying.

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Not looking at camera – no dice. Great mug shot, but this one won’t fly either because Joey’s mouth is open and it must be closed. Have you ever tried to explain to a happy, energetic, talkative, 14-month old to keep their mouth closed for a photo? I resorted to trying to startle him by hiding and popping out while Simon held him. There was a brief moment of shock before he giggled during which I had 0.2 seconds to take an effective photo. After many tries…

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Success.

Once you have the digital photo, crop to the correct size (2″ x 2″ with the head 1″ to 1 3/8″ high for the USA). For ease of printing, I put several copies of the cropped photo into a Microsoft powerpoint slide, formatted to be 4″ x 6″ (standard photo size). It also works to crop in powerpoint. I double check the size and line them up. You can fit 6 on a slide. I usually leave extra space around each and do 3-4 per slide. Then save as a photo and print at your neighborhood one hour vendor.

Not the easiest task ever, but a lot better than showing up for your passport application with an uncooperative kid or sleeping infant. Good luck!

The Perks of Shore Diving

Two hydrophones recording away at Electric Beach, Oahu

Initially we thought we would be spoiled rotten during our time on the cruise.  The idea of working from a small boat with a tender seemed so much easier than lugging all of our heavy equipment between car and beach, and beach and dive site.  Such luxury would be hard to come down from, and we weren’t sure how we would handle it.

Turns out that some of those original assumptions were wrong.  Fortunately, it wasn’t too big of a shock- since our original assumptions often turn out to be wrong!

These urchins were so animated. I am feeling increasingly fond of them, despite their intimidating form.

Working from the Hi’ialakai was awesome, and we got to visit some of the most amazing underwater places on earth.  However, it was also extremely difficult.  We had to move heavy equipment between decks, and on and off our small boat every day.  The small boat was often out in rough seas, which made dealing with our gear challenging. We were both looking forward to begin shore diving operations this past week to see how it compares.

The Perks of Shore Diving:

1- All gear (diving, photographic, and acoustic) can be assembled on land.  It may be sandy, but it will definitely not be rocking, and no one will be seasick over the side while putting hydrophones together.

Look at all of the space to spread stuff out around the car!

2- No one uses our car except for us!  Unlike the small boat, which had to be emptied every day, our car can be the semi-permanent home for clean gear, removing one of the lugging stuff around steps.

OK, I admit that this is not a perk. Our hot water ‘showers’ from the car are difficult to keep at a comfortable temperature and often reach scalding levels. The trick is to keep the bottles out of direct sunlight…

3- Towing a raft full of stuff isn’t much harder than towing an empty raft.  We had to tow a surface float at all times on the cruise, so our trusty SeaHawk raft doesn’t seem very different in terms of effort.  It does serve a much more functional role as the main gear transportation device, however.

Simon towing SeaHawk out for a dive

4- Surface swimming is great exercise, and you get all the pros without much risk of serious injury. At least, not much risk compared to lifting 50-100lb piece of equipment or bracing oneself against 2-3 meter seas in a small boat.

Screwing in sand anchors is also great exercise! The underwater part of our routine hasn’t changed

5- I get to pack our cooler!  With whatever I want!  Instead of sifting through the same array of potato chips and crackers that weren’t particularly appetizing on the first day (much less the 21st), we fill our cooler each morning with foods we like for lunch and snacks.  What a great idea.

The camera ‘windmill’ was more challenging than expected to get to the surface while snorkeling, but Lauren eventually pulled it off. Our time lapse cameras captured quite a few of those damselfish!

6- If someone becomes sick and can’t dive, the other one can just pick the gear up snorkeling- no lost equipment!  This happened today when Simon’s cold was still too persistent for diving, and I recovered the two small hydrophones and camera tree from a dive site.  He helped from the SeaHawk, which incidentally also works well as a small rowboat.

Lauren snorkeling to recover hydrophones and cameras. It’s called Electric Beach because of the proximity to the power station.  The water is significantly warmer by the outfall.

7- Shave ice. Instead of celebrating another successful deployment with increasingly stale cookies, we can each select our own preferred flavors of Hawaii’s best frozen treat.

Since arriving in Hawaii, this is our new favorite dessert

All of our experiences in Hawaii have been incredible, and our time on the Hi’ialakai was nothing less.  We both learned so much and got to see the most amazing things.  But the challenges of really working at sea were real.  We learned how to take it all in stride and had an awesome time, but being relieved of those challenges makes us appreciate what we doing now that much more!

After a month at sea, we feel even more appreciation for Hawaii’s beautiful coastlines and geography. This is the view from our dive site at Electric Beach, looking towards the west end.

Almost ready to go!

*Some* of our gear.

The bags are packed and we leave tomorrow!  Twelve pieces of checked luggage await transport in our lounge: 8 Rubbermaid 24 gal. ‘action packers’ and 2 suitcases each. Hydrophones and associated equipment take up almost all the space. We are also taking at least 10 various cameras and their accessories, scuba gear, first aid equipment, books and notebooks, and clothes and towels. Lithium-ion batteries can only be carried on, so Simon’s bag contains $3200 worth and weighs…an amount I am not willing to state here. Through some miracle, most checked bags weigh between 48 and 52 lbs. Simon may have spent an excessive amount of time trying to extract the greatest value from the $50-a-bag checking fees imposed by Alaskan Airlines.

The last week has been a hectic one in the acoustics department – Tuesday saw us testing the Buckingham Lab’s Fly-by hydrophone array off the Scripps Pier, demonstrating deployment and retrieval to the Scripps diving safety officer, Christian McDonald. Analysis of the collected data revealed all was not well inside the flyby; the National Instruments PXI 8186 PC inside, running windows XP, was creating a strong square-wave signal on top of the ambient ocean noise we were supposed to collect… Although the problem was eventually resolved by re-installing ALL the computer hardware and desperate jiggling of cables, the root cause is still a mystery. Stay tuned to see if the Fly-by can work its magic in the northwest Hawaiian Islands! Thanks to Fernando Simonet for advice on this matter and our intern, John Bruce, for sympathy.

The Fly-by computer housing literally ‘just’ fits. If one box is going to be overweight you may as well put all the heavy stuff in there, right?

Meanwhile, Lauren was busy taking care of the permitting and dive safety side of things. A DAN Oxygen kit was sourced from the diving locker and will accompany us on all diving excursions. Permit applications to gain access to Pearl Harbour, access to NOAA’s Kewalo research facility, scientific access to the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument, and permits for deployment of scientific equipment in some of the marine protected areas around the main Hawaiian Islands with the Division of Aquatic Resources are underway. Fingers crossed that we’ll be given the green light on all of these…

Now Lauren is working hard to clean the apartment and store our personal items to prepare for our subletters, and we are both finalizing details around San Diego.

A huge shout out and thank you to all of our friends and family that are chipping in to help us relocate for 4 months- checking mail, babysitting our fish, watering the plants, and generally keeping an eye on our subletters!