SCUBA DIVING AT CATALINA ISLAND, CA - MAY, 1993
In May of 1993, my son and I took a SCUBA class that was taught by an instructor who specializes in teaching SCUBA lessons at local high schools. I took the class with my son and another boy from my son's Boy Scout troop, where I was an Assistant Scoutmaster, and with a dozen others from the Sea Explorer Scouts that my son and I joined.
The class met once a week for eight weeks on Wednesday evenings -- four classroom sessions and four pool sessions. It was so wild to be floating under the water in the pool looking up at the surface of the water!
We then did a couple of ocean dives on Saturdays at Corona del Mar, near Newport Beach. First was a skin diving session -- I had trouble diving down because I was too buoyant. Next was our first SCUBA dive, but unfortunately the visibility was poor. We had to lug the gear along the beach and fight the surf going in and out. They use Corona del Mar for diving instruction because it is nearby, the water is shallow, there is adequate parking, and there are showers to rinse off. But there is little to see underwater there.
So I looked forward to going to Catalina Island, which is considered one of the 10 best diving spots in the world. We went the weekend of May 15-16, and it was quite an adventure. We rode in a 36-foot sport fishing boat owned by the Sea Scouts. Catalina is 22 miles from the LA harbor, and about 3 miles out one of the two engines died. So it took us three hours instead of two to get there.
When we arrived at Avalon on Catalina Island, we anchored and loaded our gear into two rubber rafts to go to the edge of the underwater park, since no boats are allowed over the park. One raft had a motor and was towing the other. But the gear was so heavy, that as the raft tipped, it was filling with water. Our instructor feared that $6000 worth of SCUBA gear would sink in 150 feet of water! But we made it back to the boat and unloaded half of the gear.
Half of us went to the park, and had to wait in the cold water while the rafts went back for the other half. The underwater park is quite beautiful. We saw giant kelp, orange Garibaldi fish, little tiny blue fish, and other fish. We did two dives on Saturday. After the first dive we slithered and climbed on our knees up the rocks to exit, had lunch, then slithered back in. We explored the park, and also worked on skills such as maintaining buoyancy at various depths, buddy breathing, mask clears, regulator recoveries, and octopus ascent.
Saturday night we rode the harbor boat from our boat into town, and had dinner at a great pizza parlor. I would have liked to have had some beer, but we couldn't because we were going diving again the next day. I also would have liked to check out a couple of other places which had live bands, but we were all exhausted.
Sunday we went to another part of the island called Long Point, where we did a step entry from the back of the boat. That sure beats fighting the surf or slithering up and down rocks!
There were not as many fish, but there was a greater variety of fish. It was a great dive. I felt at ease practicing the skills, although I became cold. None of the wet suits fit me very well! If I wear a large, it's too tight in the crotch. If I wear an extra-large, it's too loose in my chest, and when I move I get squirts of cold water shooting across my back. This time I opted for room in the crotch, and was cold as a result. We practiced an Emergency Swimming Ascent, and finished all of the skills for Open Water I.
We had originally planned to do a fourth dive at Catalina, but didn't have enough time. As a result, I wasn't able to get my certificate, even though I'd learned all of the skills.