Catalina Trip Report - 01-08-04 Great Escape & Sport Chalet

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Posted by Elaine on January 18, 2004 at 12:33:30:

Trip Report Ė Sport Chalet To Santa Catalina Island

Saturday January 10, 2004. I had the opportunity to join the Sport Chalet trip to Santa Catalina Island. On the Great Escape.

The group definitely wasnít treated to the best swell conditions for the San Pedro Channel crossing to Catalina Island. First the Sea Sickness Fairy visited a few of my fellow passengers. Then, King Neptune sent several large pods of dolphins to play in the wake and the bow wave - kind of like an apology for the rough conditions.

Conditions improved to calm, sunny, and wonderfully warm by the time we anchored at Black Rock for the first dive. A group of divers who ventured to the shallower kelp forest were treated to multiple sightings of Leopard Sharks. I crossed the sand in search of deeper waters. At 62 feet I came to a dead stop when a Mantis Shrimp caught my eye. I think that our California Mantis Shrimps are the most beautiful Mantis Shrimp species in the world, and, Iím a sucker for every one of them that I find. A perfect macro photography subject and I was armed only with 20mm wide angle lens. No problem I thought, Iíll just scan him and crop out the 90% of the frame that included nothing of any interest. Iíll try anything to get more photos of this awesome critter. This shrimp agreed to play. He would pop out of his hole, let me get close enough to fire off a shot and then he would dive back into his hole and make me wait at least five minutes for his next appearance. I wondered with each flash if he would duck or strike, one swipe with those powerful claws and the dome port would shatter. Was I absolutely certain I had renewed my camera insurance policy? Yes, I was sure of it. So I mentally relaxed and let the game continue for most of the dive.

Next the boat traveled to Isthmus reef. Captain Tim anchored perfectly so that those desiring a shallow dive could head off the back of the boat, that those desiring a wall dive could follow the anchor line to the wall. I chose the anchor line. At the top of the reef a large school of blacksmith patrolled the area as well as some halfmoon and opaleye. Down the wall the large gorgonians sheltered the roving sheephead and one of the biggest calico bass that Iíve seen in a long time. A current swept the face of the wall making it a slow crawl toward the green buoy and a nice easy ride back to the anchor line. Visibility was around 40 to 50 feet, I kept one eye peeled to the channel in hopes of spotting a shark or a sun fish, I was rewarded instead with a large bat ray sighting as he made a classic silhouette in front of the distant sun. We made two great dives at the isthmus.

The trip back to long beach was smooth and peaceful. We welcomed some newly certified divers to our ranks. The day ran so smoothly that I had barely noticed that as openwater class had been aboard. It is always kind of exciting to see newly certified divers. You never know, one of them may become a Cousteau of the future.

Another great dive day for the logbook. Iíd post pictures but the processor lost my two rolls, that happens about once every couple of years. At least I should be done with my ďlost rollĒ quota for a while. Just goes to show, my film is safer with a mantis shrimp than the photo lab.


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