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Scuba Diving on Catalina Island, California November 1, 2008

Posted by Chris Sullivan in Dive Log.
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In October 2005 I was in the Los Angeles area for a company meeting, and on the day before I flew home managed to get over to Catalina Island for a little diving. I’d brought what little gear I owned at the time in hopes of doing some local diving, and had called ahead to the closest shop to my hotel and arranged to meet them. Once I arrived they recommended I not dive on the LA side, but go over to Catalina where the diving would be much better and there would be no risk of the dreaded red tide.

So I made arrangements with a shop called Scuba Luv (how very Californian) and  found out about the ferry crossing from Long Beach. I had to get up very early to catch the ferry so I’d arrive in time to catch the boat. It was still dark when I arrived in Long Beach and I couldn’t find the ferry terminal. It turned out to be in a parking garage. I had driven around the garage without seeing the ferry terminal because there was no activity until not very long before it left. Anyway, I missed it.

In my increasingly frantic driving around the area, I’d seen a helicopter service to the island. So deciding to bite the bullet and spend the $80 US, I caught the first chopper over, arriving not far from the town of Avalon. It was a fun ride and I’m glad I did it – and I got to sit in the front seat with the young woman who was doing the flying. I then shared a cab into town with the other two passengers, and found my way to the dive shop.

I had to rent almost everything, including a 6mm two piece wet suit. We set out on the boat and I was in the water for my first dive at twenty past ten in the morning. I had brought my tables but as we were doing multi level dives, I just stayed a little shallower than the couple I dived with who had dive computers. Our first dive maxed out at 95 feet, and totalled 45 minutes. The water temperature surprised me at only 63F (17C), but that’s what you get in the eastern Pacific, I found out.

Swimming in and out of the Kelp (my first time with it), we saw plenty of orange Garibaldis, some starfish, wall to wall sea urchins, and a Bat Ray. Catalina is the only place I’ve seen these cool looking rays. OK, they’re not as pretty as Spotted Eagle Rays, or as awesome as Mantas, but they’re still cool.

It was a nice day and I got a bit sunburned. For the price of the boat we did 3 dives. I didn’t catch the name of the first spot, the second one at a depth of 40 feet was Torqua Springs, and third one, also maxing at 40 feet was called Garibaldi Reef. On the 3rd dive I noted a bit of a surge. The visibility was decent at 20-30 feet. Being a Canadian lake diver I classify anything over 20 feet as “excellent” in my log book.

Catalina Island has been rated as a top dive spot by some people. I couldn’t say it is on the top of my list, but I can hardly pass judgement with a single day of diving there. My relative inexperience at the time, despite the training I’d taken that year, would have been a factor in my overall enjoyment. I’d like to go back if given the opportunity, but I doubt I’d flying across the continent just to dive it again.

Avalon is a bit like the land that time forgot, and was rather quaint. It had a similar feel to Santa Cruz and other places on the west coast that had been on the receiving end of the hippie migrations in the sixties.  I felt right at home there.

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1. Diving in the News, Sept 29, 2012 « Chronicle of an older diver - September 29, 2012

[…] woman died near Anacapa Island, which is about 150km North West of Santa Catalina Island where I dove several years ago. Also reported was a 55 year-old ex-Mountie who died in Alberta. The accident may have begun with […]

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