Last month I had the chance to take a group down to Catalina Island for our annual March Madness Trip. A little history on this trip, over the last few years it seems I'd always find myself on Catalina sometime during the NCAA Basketball Tournament. As sports fans know, the NCAA tourney is one of the most exciting things that happen in all of sports. Combining it with a dive trip made for a great time, watch a game, make a dive, eat some food, repeat.
This year's trip looked to be the best by far. We had about 40 people interested in going and had to switch weekends around as we tried to plan for such a large group. First the hotel didn't have enough rooms, then the dive boat was full, then the airlines wanted to charge an arm and a leg. By the time we had everything finalized, we had actually lost some people who could make prior dates but not the final date. As a result, our March Madness trip went to Catalina in April. Such is life.
We wound up with 22 people who wanted to enrich their lives by joining us for a weekend of fun sun and H2O. And that's pretty much what we got. The weather was perfect, sunny and in the 70's. The water was right around 60*, not bad for that time of year, and visibility in most sites hovered around 50 feet, again not too shabby.
I'll not bore you with all the details, just the highlights. First there were the guys at the Catalina Diver's Supply van located at the Casino Point Marine Park. It's always fun trying to get 20 people set up with tanks and weights and these guys were great. Not only did they not charge us for some refills, but also stayed late so we could refill for a night dive, then came back later to pick up our tanks so we didn't have to bring them back the next day.
Those of you who've dived the marine park remember the fun entry and exit; you used to have to scramble up an algae covered jetty. It's tons easier now with a stairway and railing that goes down to the water. At low tide there are still some rocks to work around, but overall it's a lot easier. The park was great as usual. In the six years I've been diving the park, I had never seen such thick kelp there before.
Saturday morning, after a stop at the donut shop next to Catalina Scuba Luv, we headed out for a three-tank boat dive with the guys from that dive shop. Their main boat, the King Neptune, was getting overhauled so they had chartered the Giribaldi from the West End Dive Center down in Two Harbors. While it wasn't as roomy as the Neptune, Dave and Bob as always made you feel at home and we had a great day with them.
Our first dive site of the trip was Little Farnsworth Pinnacle. This was the site of my first boat dive ever made years ago off the Neptune with Bruce and Susan Andersen. And just like the first time, once again I never saw the pinnacle. "Head down the anchor chain to 50 feet and look for the dark area", was part of the briefing. Well, we never saw a dark area. We did, however, get repeatedly engulfed by the largest school of baitfish I've ever seen! That was really cool. We saw dolphins on the surface going after all these fish and a few divers heard them underwater but alas, no one saw any down there.
The next site was Hen Rock. The vis wasn't as good on account of some surge, but there was some good kelp and boulders to swim around and through and poke around in. The last dive of the day was at Torqua Springs. Incredible kelp abounded. A great way to finish the day.
We headed home Sunday, tired, sunburned and not at all ready for work the next day. Especially not Kim Howa who lost a battle with the bathroom. (He slipped in the tub and cracked a rib.) But even Kim was in high spirits after the pain meds kicked in.
And a good time was had by all.
Let's go diving!