Sunday, September 27, 2009

Multifaceted Homes

This post might bring this outfit a little free advertising, but at the moment we're feeling interested in exploring a home design that many would argue is unconventional.

For our August visit to the Big Island we found and rented Hale Kea, a private residence on the mauka end of HPP near Maku'u Drive. We very much liked the appearance of it from pictures provided by Mark and Ron, the guys at Hawaiian Paradise Vacation Rentals, and found it even more to our liking once we saw it in person. Our initial line of thinking about this style of a dwelling was that its uniqueness in the shape (equiangular/equilateral polygon) and interior (100% finished wood - no sheetrock on a single wall) would be nice for a few weeks' vacation lodging but might be a little too unconventional for our taste as a permanent residence.

Although the house was not much more than 1000 sq/ft indoor space, it featured almost the same area of covered lanais creating a larger, greatly more roomy feeling. The multiple structures joined by lanais and a covered breezeway added to the illusion by increasing the footprint of the dwelling to that of a 1600-1800 sq/ft house.

As our 2 weeks R&R passed while we lived in this little house surrounded by one of the most well planned and tastefully planted landscapes we've seen anywhere, itself an inspiration for the potential that our own property has if we tend to it right, we became accustomed to the rich, natural surrounding inside the house of woodwork everywhere. This is a function of the constuction method of this house being single-wall, meaning that the interior of the framing and exterior siding are not covered with drywall and painted rather, the framing material and inside surfaces of the cedar tongue and groove siding are of a clear or nearly so quality to accept stain and varnish, resulting in the interior wall surfaces being treated to become the final interior wall finish. Single-wall construction is popular in Hawai'i and has been used there for many years.

A few weeks after our return from vacation, on a whim I did a google search for modular home manufacturers and found to my surprise, that the company that made this house is located right there in the Shipman Industrial Park near Keaau...practically right in our own back yard. This discovery caused me to look a little deeper into the designs, and the process by which Multi-Faceted Homes creates these unique houses.

What I've found so far in the limited time devoted to this research is that (a) the more we look at other designs of this style, the more we seem to like it. It feels a little like you're living inside a beautiful piece of furniture, or a wooden ship. (2) The company has a great variety of design configurations due to the modular design method and no load-bearing walls other than the exterior shell made up of flat panels, framed and sided at the factory and assembled on site, the number depending on the square footage of the home being built; and (c) putting up one of these homes is fast, once type of foundation (slab or post and pier) is determined and installed. Turnkey condition of course is additional time.  Overall however, I think this construction method should be faster than conventional stick-built construction.

This is a sample of one of their floorplans that shows a similar configuration to that of the August rental house. The difference to note here is that the structure joining the two faceted modules is enclosed and the space used for kitchen and laundry, and has two bedrooms in the main hale. Our rental was connected by the open-sided, covered breezeway, and the kitchen occupied the space where the left most bedroom is shown in this plan, partition wall removed. This illustrates the flexibility achieved by no load-bearing interior walls.
Another thing that this concept permits is a relatively easy ability to expand by adding another module, or expanding either the main hale or master suite with a rectangular extension. This is shown in other plans on the company's website.

One of the considerations about building a house with unconventional design is eventual resale. Although not as extreme as a geodesic dome golfball-looking house or one built out of shipping containers or stucco'd straw bales, many would avoid a design that did not fit the mold of modern home design. In our case, as shortsighted as it sounds, this is not of great concern since we plan to spend the rest of our lives in the house we build and selling it will be someone else's issue to deal with.

Although this could be one of many impulsive ideas to come, for the moment, we like it, the financial aspects are attractive, and we think we could get used to living surrounded by rich, warm woodwork. The multi-faceted hale is under consideration for a possible solution for our housing requirement when our time comes to build. Besides, right angles aren't everything.

Monday, September 14, 2009


POSIT: 027° 08' 36" N / 080° 10' 44" W

Moored Port side to at Berth B-4, Stuart FL inboard a nest of six ships. Six standard mooring lines, doubled and spring lay out fore and aft. Topside security sentries posted, Starboard section on deck. The engineering plant is Cold Iron, main space roving watch taking soundings hourly. Receiving ships power, potable water and sanitation services from the pier. Material Condition Yoke is set throughout the ship. The Captain is aboard. Ships present include various units of the US Atlantic Retired Fleet, SOPA is COMSAMLANT, embarked in USS NEVERSAIL.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

I Must Be Looking Up A Lot Lately

POSIT: 027° 08' 36" N / 080° 10' 44" W
DTG: 102021Z SEP 09

Leaving my neighborhood this morning on my usual route to work, I turned onto the road from the entrance to our community and saw this rainbow. We get a lot of rain this time of year - it's the tropics - but I'm used to seeing a lot more mosquitos and quarter-sized raindrops that hurt when they hit you than I am rainbows.
It was worth a stop to admire it for a minute. Work will always be there.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Now Haul Over All Hatch Hoods And Gun Covers

The title of this post is from US Navy Manual of Commands and Orders, 1945. I refer to it often.

The sky opened up this morning on my transit to work. Not unusual here, given that this is the tropical rainy season, except that typical weather patterns usually bring the thundershowers in the afternoon. The rain is often heavy enough to cause severe street flooding and very limited, sometimes no visibility. But there was something else about this mornings rain that reminded me of my late father and something he used to tell me about certain weather conditions like this.

In this picture, the bright spot in the left center is the sun shining through the deluge. My Dad, using his extensive knowledge of the sea and meteorological matters told me many times that, when the sun shines and it rains simultaneously, it means only one thing; that the Devil is beating his wife.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Mobile Blogs, Geotagging, Phantom Pain In Citrus Trees

Having only just discovered the buttons that permit use of mobile device to post (Blake and Damon...I watched you do it, or, Rommel, you magnificent bastard! I read your book!), first tactical post showcases my tangelo tree. The phone settings indicate the photo will be geotagged with location. Amazing, if it works. The picture quality of the crackberry's camera is poor, which is a negative.

The tree used to occupy the space you see here in our side yard with a circle of new sod. It was ill-placed in the beginning, grew too big for its space, and went to glory sacrificing its wood...and its life to smoke a hog, in keeping with the highest tradition of barbecue to celebrate Labor Day.

We have the easy, Yardmate.

Meanwhile, the key limes in the upper right foreground continue to flourish, and the sun will come up again tomorrow.

Thursday, September 3, 2009


POSIT: 027° 08' 36" N / 080° 10' 44" W

Once again, the Cold Iron Watch decided to go UA. He's got a reservation at the end of the Captain's green table without an ashtray when he comes aboard. I had to get a Tiger Team in here to police up the ghost turds out of the overhead (dust bunnies for civilians), wipe down the bilges and get those decks swabbed. This bucket was a mess after riding the hook cold iron for this long again. Most landlubbers and other sand crabs would think after a glance that she'd been mothballed. Sincerest apologies to any interested parties and/or followers for caulking off, actual or perceived.

This post is actually motivated by my sister-in-law Marisa’s urging me to write about the Facebook pictures we’ve been posting during our recent vacation to the Big Island where, as of June of this year we became owners of a piece of land that we’ve set aside for the site of our future retirement home. (Reminder to self: Come up with an appropriate name for the place…it seems to already have the feeling of a place that should have a unique name, appropriately Hawai’ian, specifics TBD).

The journey began departing West Palm Beach early on Friday, August 14th and arriving at Hilo on the East side of the Big Island around dinnertime that day; connecting in Atlanta for the 9-hour leg to Honolulu. Nine straight hours in a Boeing 747-400 with 360 other passengers is not a particularly pleasant experience, but we knew our destination was worth the temporary discomfort. Fares were also much better than the same time last year; our tickets were almost half of what we paid in 2008. Following the brief layover in Honolulu the 40 minute interisland flight with Hawaiian Airlines got us into Hilo around 5 PM… as usual, without our luggage…that airline seems to prefer bringing your bags to you at your lodging a few hours after you arrive and that seems to happen to us every time we connect with Hawaiian from any other airline, in this case Northwest/soon to be Delta.

Seats on Hawaiian Air interisland flights are consistently priced at around $50 per seat, and there’s a flight from Honolulu to and from almost all of the other islands about every hour on a typical day. Although there’s insufficient time for the airline to offer much in the way of refreshment service on interisland hops…none of their interisland flights take more than 30 or 45 minutes…I always like the little cups of Passion Fruit/Guava drinks they pass out to passengers during the brief time you are at cruising altitude. Sort of gets your palate in the right calibration for tropical tastes yet to come.

I’ve noticed several HA pilots flying the Boeing 717 jets, aside from appearing very young, use flight techniques that some travelers may not be used to. Besides the aircraft being smaller and more maneuverable compared to larger passenger jets, proximity to populated areas of some of the islands’ airports, mountains and prevailing winds require skilled hands-on piloting, and some of the landing approaches seem tricky to me. Take, for example Hilo International. The normal approach brings aircraft southeast over the north shore of Hawai’i then follows the Hilo Bay coastline in a continuous port turn. Lining up on the runway heading with wings level at almost the same instant as the wheels contact the ground brings the planes in low enough over the town so low that guests at the Hilo Hawaiian Resort on Banyan Drive can wave to the passengers through the aircraft windows from their lanais.

Route from Honolulu to Hilo (Appx 45 minutes, 219 NM)

Hilo International Airport final approach

Upon our arrival at Hilo we picked up our rental car and stopped by the Safeway for some basic supplies to get us through the first 24 hours at our rental house in the Hawaiian Paradise Park subdivision in Upper Puna, the location of our property. The subdivision is about halfway between the towns of Keaau and Pahoa, about 12 miles or so south of Hilo.

Puna District, Island and County of Hawai'i

We chose to rent a private residence during our last few years’ vacations after realizing that we can get much more space, amenities and privacy for the same price as a hotel room, as well as the savings from cooking our own meals. Selection of this house was based on a couple of factors: proximity to our property – we wanted to live in the neighborhood for a few weeks to gain a feel of the area, the climate, the neighbors, traffic, sounds in the night. Small shops, some surprisingly good restaurants, a very cool tavern (Aloha, PVC!) and 2 farmers markets provide necessities, refreshments and fresh local produce.

Maku'u Farmers' Market

Pahoa Village Cafe (Wahine agrees - good place)

The rental house itself, named Hale Kea (The White House…don’t ask me why - I saw no white anywhere in the house nor any evidence whatsoever of Presidential occupants) was as cool as you can get. Two individual structures, one self-contained with kitchen and dining area, living room, bedroom and full bath; the other contained the master suite with private bath, study and laundry room, connected together by a 30’ covered bridge. Plentiful lanai space all around the house, and a small pool and hot tub. The grounds of the 3-acre property was beautifully landscaped with native and tropical trees, palms and other plants, inspiring us with ideas for our property when we begin our own project. Rock walls built from the indigenous lava, and lava outcroppings coming out of the landscape were particularly eye catching and we hope that we can one day see our own yard look this good.

Master bedroom house foreground, passageway leading to main house in rear

Amazing landscape

Main house and pool deck

The interior of the house was all stained and varnished natural wood, giving us the feeling of being in the hold of a wooden ship. A photo album on the coffee table was filled with pictures that showed the progress of construction for this owner-built house, and confirmed my assumption that the owner spent a lot of time sanding the walls and ceilings. Still, a strikingly beautiful appearance, which also inspired with more ideas for our own house.

Living room

Kitchen, Breakfast bar

Once we got settled in to our (temporary) residence, I really didn’t want to leave. The seemingly endless day of travelling almost 5,300 miles, coupled with my amazement and feeling of contentment at my surroundings made me think I would be just fine for 2 weeks right there. That didn’t easily fit with Lois’ desires, as she was ready to go do and see things almost as soon as we set the bags down. In the end, we compromised fairly by alternating days of away activity with days of slothful laziness and leisure around the house.

A small yet diverse group of folks who either reside in and around Puna or have serious plans to move there have come together in the last year through the PunaOnline social network, of which I am a frequent reader/contributor, and we were invited as guests of honor to a dinner party by this group at the home of our realtor and friend Wes and his delightful and talented wife Devany on our first Sunday on the Island. The fare was designated Taco night so, since we were not prepared to make enchiladas or even a bowl of guacamole we opted to bring the active ingredient for the margueritas. I stopped by the store on the way and picked up a bottle of Commemorativo. This idea proved valid because when we arrived, we were immediately provided with hugs and greetings of Aloha, and Lilikoi margueritas. Lilikoi is the Hawaiian name for the Yellow Passion Fruit and I was surprised to find them not only an interesting twist to a tried and true recipe but also very tasty. The blender was running in a full duty cycle to make the exotic margueritas, and we drank many of them. Devany is amazing in the kitchen, her background including extensive travel and living abroad, master of a great variety of cuisine, and her chorizo tacos and all of the sides were superb, although the margueritas could have clouded my memory of the details to some extent. I can say without hesitation that whatever Devany decides to put on the menu is guaranteed to amaze the most discriminating diners. The other guests were mostly all residents of the various subdivisions in Puna, all were welcoming and engaging, and we came away with some more new friends.

The next 12 days saw us visiting various sites around the Island, including activities such as:

- Exploring our property
- Visits to several dormant and active sites of volcanic flow from the Kilauea volcano
- A morning touring the biggest and most populated botanical garden either of us have ever seen
- Two drives across the Island to the Kohala and Kona Districts on the west coast, where we got in some sightseeing while searching for the birthplace of King Kamehameha 1 one day, and to join the celebration of Hawaii’s 50th Statehood Anniversary with music and other activities at Kailua-Kona
- Visiting with friends, shopping, dining, shopping, partying, more shopping, and as I insisted upon, plenty of chill time on the lanai at our rental

Property Exploration

We drove down the road to see our property; since I went to Hawai’i in April on the property search by myself because of several factors, Lois had not previously seen the land other than in pictures I took or overhead imagery. What a difference an in-person visit and real-time eyeball inspection of the lot can make on someone’s enthusiasm. Prior to this visit, I sensed an absence of intensity in her interest in my obsessive-compulsive behavior from the concept of buying property in the Islands. Once she spent time walking the lot, looking at its features and various views, the trees and other plants in residence, and the surprisingly adequate size of the acreage, she was talking about tagging trees we want to keep, hiring a machinery operator to help us clear and grade the lot, planting palms, designing our house to maximize the view of the ocean from there. I think now I finally have her buy-in on this idea and it makes me feel more confident that it is the right thing for us and our future. That’s a good thing…the title for the place has our name on it and Hawai’i County will be looking for a check from us to cover the property taxes every year.
A few shots of the property follow. Believe it or not, amongst the trees, bushes, grasses, vines, cracks and holes but relatively even grade this place has a great future because we have a vision. It might be slightly myoptic by the time we realize it but vision just the same.

Exploring and inspecting the interior of our new property, and getting ideas about where would be the ideal place for our house, the driveway, landscape features, trees and plants present on the land, and identifying new concerns was our goal for this trip. We accomplished alot of those tasks but now realize the magnitide of the list of tasks ahead of us. By the way, when I say new property I mean more than simply new owners. The last volcanic activity in that area was between the years 1420 and 1470, or about 550 years ago when the site was layered with fresh lava; only a snapshot in time compared to the age of the rest of the earth.

Wild Tibuchina trees are as proliferous here as the Ohia. We will keep as many of these as possible. Amazing how a plant that people pay high dollar for in the mainland grows wild everywhere here.

Rear of lot looking makai (seaward). Ocean is 1100 yards beyond the lot line and the sound of the waves crashing on the rocks can be heard. With the right architecture we are hopeful for a glimpse of a blue horizon.

Two feet firmly planted on our own lava on our Island.

As this has been a historically lengthy post for this blog, I'm going to now proofread and get the CSO's chop on this message. UNIT SITREPS released during the next week will focus on other activities included in MIDPAC EX 09-02.

Sierra Whiskey sends from the Radio shack onboard COMSAMLANT DET STUART.