Just as you can never judge a book by its cover, you really cannot judge a day by the weather forecast. At least not here in Southern California. Today’s forecast was rain, and lots of it, starting around 5am. This meant I woke with misgivings about having to spend the day on a dive boat off Catalina teaching a young boy how to Scuba Dive. Surely enough it did start raining a little after 5:00am, as I was tossing my gear into the car to drive down to San Pedro. I must have driven south just ahead of the storm, because I had a clear road the whole way down, but as I began setting up my gear on the boat the rain started. A few minutes later it was nearly a downpour, however after about 20 minutes it began to slacken. By the time the dive boat pulled away from the dock at 7 am the rain had stopped, and even patches of blue sky were beginning to show as the sun rose.
As we motored out of the harbor, the Police Patrol boat pulled alongside us, and I saw the wordless communication between them and our captain. It went something like, policeman points out to sea and shakes his head. Our captain looks out and nods. Policeman makes a large up and down waving signal with his hand (think the motion you make when you stick your hand out of the window of a moving car). He then shakes his head in disbelief, our captain shrugs and smiles. Translate that, and here’s what I got: Policeman, “you can’t seriously be headed out there are you? Captain, “of course, we’re going diving.” Policeman, “but the swells are HUGE, you’re really going to cross the channel?!” Captain, “yep, no sweat”. I had taken my sea sickness medicine, so I wasn’t too worried, but boy was I in for a surprise.
The swells were worse than I had anticipated, and my single dose of Bonine was NOT going to cut it. About halfway across the channel, after nearly an hour of incessant ups and downs and rocking and watching the tanks sway and strain against their bungees with every roll of the boat my stomach began to get queasy. My poor little ten year old student, didn’t last that long. He got queasy and lost his breakfast while I was trying to keep it together. Carlos and Tony helped me get him out towards the back of the boat where we stayed the remainder of the trip out. He felt worse and worse as the trip continued, but could not throw up again. I on the otherhand had no trouble on that account. This was by far my worst channel crossing ever, and I ended up losing it twice, with long, painful dry heaves since my two pieces of toast had long since digested. After that I stood with my student watching the horizon, praying that we’d hit a time warp and magically appear at Catalina Island. We weren’t alone either, there were 7 others that rotated through the back of the boat blowing chunks. All in all about a third of the boat was not handling the trip out well. I would guess the other third was alseep, in an attempt to avoid a twisted stomach and the final third are the lucky bunch that have hardened stomachs, or just didn’t get to that point of no return.
Blissfully though we reached the island and settled into Geiger Cove where it was calm and peaceful with barely a movement from the boat. After some warm water and crackers, my student and I suited up and began the long day of working through the final 3 dives for his Open Water certification. Here is where the weather forecast lost its validity. Once we were at the island and out of the larger swells, I noticed that it was sunny out. The rainclouds had moved on, and we were looking at fairly cloudless skies and minimal wind. It was chilly, yes, but over all the weather turned out to be beautiful. The sun stuck around all day, with the exception of one short moment when another small front rolled through clouding up the sky and misting briefly. After that it was back to calm, sunny skies. The ocean water was still on the warm side with bottom temperature around 58 degrees, positively balmy for Southern California!
My student rocked out through his three dives, finishing up all of his open water requirements for certification. After feeling so miserable in the morning, his energy and confidence came right back when he was able to descend to the bottom and swim around with me looking for seashells and fish. He rocked on his skills, showing me with ease that he had them mastered, he even had no issues with oral inflation of the BCD underwater, or removing and replacing his mask. The ride back to the mainland was a little bumpy, but over all much smoother, and much more of the boat passengers disappeared beneath the deck to sleep through the crossing. My little student and his mother both passed out for most of the ride back, and I too snuck in a little nap to help avoid any queasiness lingering from the morning crossing.
Despite the rough start to the morning, and the painful channel crossing, the day overall ended up being quite wonderful. I felt so great that my student was able to complete all of his requirements, and I know he was so excited about diving at the end of the day. I loved seeing the joy in his eyes when we swam around exploring the ocean bottom and hope that he sticks with it as he will definitely become a great diver.