Catalina Island

To celebrate the end of the school year, Danielle organised a weekend trip to Catalina Island. The plan called for leaving Santa Barbara at 4:15pm, Friday June 13. Morgan and Shane picked us up in Shane’s van, and at about 4:20 we were on the road to LA. We hoped to get to San Pedro by 6:45pm to catch the 7:20pm boat to Catalina. Traffic was heavier than usual and on the 405 it looked like we might miss the boat. So we wouldn’t have to stop, Shane bravely went to the back of the van, and did something with a Gatorade bottle that made splashy noises, while Morgan took over driving. At 7:10pm we arrived at the terminal parking lot. After picking up our tickets, parking the car and unloading our gear (not in that order) we had all our people with all our stuff standing in line a couple minutes later. Luckily they were still boarding and we safely made it onto the boat.

The boat ride was pretty uneventful. We ate the bread and sandwich fixings Danielle had brought for us, and got to Avalon in about an hour and a half. We walked to our hotel, Hermosa Hotel (sleep cheap Catalina) and checked in. As advertised, the hotel was cheap (\$25/person/night) and featureless, but provided us all with a place to sleep. We took a quick stroll down Avalon’s main stretch but went to bed pretty early.

On Saturday we got up at 7:30am because we wanted to get to Casino Point before there were more divers than fish in the water. After a breakfast at Joe’s we walked over to Scuba Luv to rent gear. In addition to that, we also rented 2 carts for only \$10 each. These carts combined to make our day soo much better. Hauling a tank, 25lb weight belt, BC, wet suit, etc. is much easier when it’s all in a wheel barrow. By 9:10am we got to Casino Point and started putting on our gear. It took a while since we were all kind of rusty. It also didn’t help that I first put on my wetsuit inside out, and then tried to put a leg into one of the sleeves.

Getting into the water was pretty easy owing to the stairs, high tide and negligible surf. We all followed Danielle around who showed us various neat fish and other sealife. I ended up focusing mostly on my buoyancy but still had a good time. I don’t remember too much from that dive. Diving still has a rather surreal feel to it, like watching a movie, but with all your senses. I do remember holding a sea cucumber (though at the time I thought it was some kind of porous rock) that Danielle handed me and seeing a plaque commemorating Jacques Cousteau. Later, just after a starfish was being passed around, it apparently snagged Danielle’s hair as it was floating down. I didn’t see that happen but I did see Morgan use Danielle’s knife to cut off a chunk of her hair since the starfish refused to let go. I also saw some snails, a massive abalone, and lots of fish. We were down for 45 minutes, at a max depth of 55 feet.

Back out of the water, we went for some lunch. Then we rented a small boat to go dive somewhere else. It was quite impressive how we managed to fit our huge pile of gear into the 15’ boat while still leaving ample room for us to sit and move about. We had a smooth ride to Long Point, owing to Shane’s skill in taking other boats’ wake head-on, or close to it, except for one scary moment where he wondered if we could surf some particularly large wake. We clearly couldn’t. At Long Point we anchored easily owing to the new metal anchor we had (as opposed to the plastic ones the rental place had given us previous years).

Gearing up wasn’t as big a deal as I thought it might be in the small boat, and we all got into the water without any real problem, although Morgan got close to falling at one point. We headed down to check on our anchor and it looked OK. Then we made our way towards the cliff where things are interesting to look at. There was a strong current along the cliff, which we went with slowly, holding onto rocks and kelp to slow us down. This gave us a chance to see some of the smaller animals and plants that live right on the rocks. At some point Danielle realised we weren’t where she thought we were, and signalled for us to go up because the current was far too strong to swim against. We must not have swam the correct direction from the anchor to the cliff, since we were out past the point. Getting back to the boat was quite tiring and we were all glad when we got back and rested. Morgan had some energy left in him and snorkelled a bit, seeing a large bat ray. This time we were under water for only 20 minutes, at a max depth of 45 feet.

On the way back a large pod of dolphins overtook us a few hundred yards away. A couple of curious ones came to say hello and briefly surfed our wake while some other ones swam right by the bow. They must’ve decided we were too slow though because they left soon after that. Back at the pier we unloaded, returned our rental gear, showered, and ate dinner. We were all pretty wiped out and went to bed early.

Sunday morning we slept a little longer. After breakfast we rented some snorkel gear and a cart, and went to Lover’s Cove. We spent a good portion of the day there, both in and out of the water. I had fun using Andy’s underwater camera case for my S30, although none of the pictures came out that well. The second time we went snorkelling we fed the fish frozen peas we’d bought earlier. They really go for those quite aggressively. Morgan got them to bite a number of holes in the freezer bag we used to feed them. Aside from that we just saw lots of fish (including some Kelp Fish), and Danielle showed me a lobster.

We had a late lunch, and spent the remaining few hours dozing on the beach. We were nicely on time for the boat this time around. Just as it was getting ready to leave the dock 2 flying fish shot out of the water, soon followed by a seal which clearly was way too late to catch them. On the way over we saw some dolphins really far away. On the way home we stopped by the Cuban restaurant Versailles (take a right on Venice) for some good dinner. Then we dozed while Shane drove us home.

About the author

Living the good life in Seattle, occasionally sharing something interesting with the Internet.