Scuba Diving the Channel Islands – Day 2: Santa Catalina Island

Kiana and I both slept like rocks that night; it may have been the sedative effects of the seasickness pills, but we suspect it was the gentle rocking of the boat as it made for Santa Catalina Island. I spent a good deal of time on the island as a child, as well as two months during my undergrad years at UCLA conducting research on marine algae and invertebrates at the USC Wrigley Center (any marine bio nerds out there need to hit me up), so I am reasonably familiar with the island and what its waters have to offer.

We were wakened by the smell of breakfast and the sound of zippers zipping and clothes hastily being thrown on in the bunks all around us as divers prepared to get wet. When we took the steep metal stairs up to the galley of the ship, we discovered that we were anchored just off of Two Harbors, and that the weather was fantastic, though a little breezy. Breakfast consisted of quite a large variety of typical breakfast foods like bagels, as well as freshly scrambled eggs, fruit, pancakes, and sausages. I had predicted that we would both slim down a few pounds over the course of the trip from all the exercise, and we had packed snacks in case we ever got hungry, but the food proved to be excellent, plentiful, and frequent. Our first dive was on a reef at the edge of the harbor, where waters were 10-60 feet deep, but then suddenly dropping off to who-knows-how-deep at the shelf a little further out.

We had a mild case of the jitters because it was both of our first time using unfamiliar gear in the ocean, and since I had bought new dive gear just for this trip, Kiana had inherited my hand-me-down rig, on which we had tightened all of the straps significantly to make it suitable for her, as she is much smaller. We immediately regretted not going for an ocean test dive, because Kiana experienced buoyancy issues and her gear was quite loose. We had prepared with a pool dive (pretty much identical to the ocean, right?) at Beach Cities Scuba because we had been tight on time. It turned out to be a sloppy dive with me acting as Kiana’s ballast for much of the dive, as she was under-weighted, and there was quite a strong current blasting along the reef. If we had been wise, we would have started swimming against the current at the beginning of our dive so we would enjoyed an easy return swim with the current towing us, but alas, we did quite the opposite, and ended up having a dickens of a time swimming against the strong opposing current. The water, however, was crystal clear and the fish were abundant and healthy, so it turned out to be quite a scenic dive. We returned to the boat somewhat winded, and climbed aboard to warm up and eat lunch.

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Whale Rock (white from tons of guano) with Two Harbors in the background

While we were eating lunch, the The Vision pulled up the anchor, and made way for the northern part of the island. She anchored off of Lion Head, and we jumped in the water again. Fortunately, this dive was more protected from the current, so we were able to enjoy ourselves and explore the floor and the kelp forests. We were both amazed at how much healthier and robust the marine life is out on the islands than it is on the mainland.

I believe that the boat offered four dives that day, but we only did two of them, as Kiana takes quite a long time to warm up after a dive in those frigid waters, even with three layers of neoprene. She was also taking a Biochemistry class during this time, so we would get valuable study time in while warming up.

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Fortunately, the boat had excellent hot showers (both below and above deck), and hot air vents, where Kiana could warm up.

It was around 4 PM when we climbed out of the water from our last dive, and the sun was quite low, lighting up Catalina Island with the type of sunset that makes you appreciate being alive and healthy. The fresh salty wind filled our lungs and tussled our hair, cementing our goal of owning a boat one day and sailing the islands under our own steam. After dinner, we headed to bed, and enjoyed another excellent night of sleep as we chugged off to Santa Barbara Island.

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The island is rugged and beautiful
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October 12th, 2017 – Santa Catalina Island
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My dive/life buddy

We will be releasing Day 3 soon, keep a look-out! In the meantime, please take a look at our dive video (we ran out of memory on our first day of diving so excuse our lack of photos).

Thanks so much for your read and please comment with any pointers and feedback – we love to know how we can improve and what we’re doing well!

Happy Travels,

Pete and Kiana

We have received no compensation to write this post – all opinions are our own.

If you are interested in learning to scuba dive… we highly recommend Beach Cities Scuba; they have a highly experienced staff who really bend over backwards to accommodate peoples’ schedules, and often offer Groupon deals, especially during summer. They are the organization I have risen from Open Water Diver to Dive Instructor with, and have thoroughly enjoyed every step of the journey, as well as making some fantastic friends and contacts in the industry.

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