Dive Report, scary stuff at the Catalina Dive Park

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Posted by JRM on November 05, 2001 at 14:26:26:

OK, this is a combo dive report / rant about what I saw at the Dive Park this past Saturday.

First, let me say that this trip was in celebration of our anniversary, which oddly enough is in July. However, due to a clerical error on the part of our hotel (who were kind enough to change our reservation to midweek and then not tell us until after it had elapsed) we were given the first off season weekend. Even that required the threat of legal proceedings against the psycho owner. But the place was empty, so we ended up getting the best room in the joint gratis anyway (and based on the service, I can see why it's empty).

Anyway, back to the diving day. Conditions couldn't have been better. There were only a couple of classes at the park, with maybe 100 divers in the water. Nearly empty. After aquiring tanks and weights, we started kitting up. Since something has to go wrong on every dive, my wife decided it would be nice to drop a 5# hardweight on her toe. Luckily, her bootie and wetsuit were already on, so she braved it out and dove with a broken toe. It was worth it.

The first dive was amazing. Best vis I've ever seen there. And the fish were really out en masse this time. I practically cried when a monster callico swam up to me. But, being in the park, he continued living. We went out to the wreck of the little sailboat, and after dinking around headed down to the wood rubble pile. Then we headed back in, playing around in the kelp "rooms" for a bit. I saw a huge yellow kelpfish, and all the other usual suspects. No bugs though. A cormerant was chasing the baitfish, and we watched him for a pass or two. My wife took a bunch of photos, hopefully even some good ones. We came back to the stairs, and there wasn't even a line to get out. We just swam up, popped off the fins, and up we went.

In between dives, we exchanged tanks, then boogied on down to the little cafe for lunch. Not bad food, and very reasonable for over there. So we sat out and watched the yachties fumble around for a bit. Then back to the point.

When we arrived back at the point, and instructor had decided that our spot was nice, so he and his class pretty much surrounded and took over our little niche. He must have craved the company, since every other spot was pretty much barren. But it was an advanced class (I gathered since two of the divers were diving dry), and by the talk. In fact, the lady diving dry was complaining about suit leakage. Since they were practically in my lap already, I asked about the seals. Turns out this was her first dive in the suit, and she was glad I asked because the instructor didn't know a thing about drysuits, and admitted he had never dove one. I thought that odd, but didn't say anything.

Then the real scary part started. The group was trying to find the sailboat wreck, but couldn't (so much for the navigation portion). But they had managed to find the rubble pile (you could see the boat from there, if you looked). But since they had planned to do the boat as the "wreck dive" for their advanced, the instructor counted the rubble pile as "a wreck" and signed their logs. At that point I was in danger of choking to death trying not to laugh, so we headed into the water.

The current had come up a touch, so we headed south to start our second dive. We passed a tape line on the bottom on our way. After several minutes of nice relaxing drift, we were back in the general vicinity of the tape. Frighteningly enough, an entire class was at the end of the line. I'd like to say hanging, but they weren't. They were all pretty much upright, kicking to stay off the bottom, and absolutely thrashing the vis. We decided to give them a wide berth, but it didn't matter. I was hanging motionless watching a crab on the bottom when someone crashed into me. It was one of the students doing his navigation line. He managed to head butt my tank, which sucked for him. After the dive, my wife got a big kick out of the fact that he was so intent on watching his compass console he forgot to look where he was going (nice of her not to warn me, or him). What a CF. We bailed out of there quick. We hit the rubble pile again, where I found a really nice brass nut and bolt. But, since it is a park, I put it back. Then back to the sailboat just for spite, and then we headed in. We debated making a third dive, but with the conditions deteriorating fast, we decided to dive into an ice cream instead.

Sunday, just for grins, we did the "semi-submersible" boat tour. It actually was a blast. The fish are trained to arrive for feeding. I sat there drooling the entire time as a decades worth of Calico dinners swam calmy just outside the glass. And how nice, to sit down and enjoy snorkeling without even getting wet.

All in all, a great weekend of vacation. It's so nice to just relax and enjoy the moments underwater. To hang in a kelp room for several minutes just to watch what might swim by. And especially to decide that two great dives were enough, that we can always come back, and call it a day.

But enough of that touchy-feely junk. This comming weekend is back to the hard core life I've been sucked into. Like they say, "the first hit is always free." Hopefully this Friday night I'll find more than just mutant fish and a sinus infection!!!


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