Its been a long time coming, but here it is, the Catalina, Casino Point Scubapalooza recap! On June 19-20th Richard and I got up at the crack of dawn (literally, it was still dark when I pulled out of my apartment complex) to catch the Long Beach Catalina Express to catch the 6:15AM boat. I literally mean catch. Thanks to poor google directions and being about half awake I managed to miss two exits, get turned around, end up almost back in San Pedro, making it onto the boat with less than 5 minutes to spare.

We got to Avalon around 8:00am, had some delicious breakfast at Joes diner, checked into the hotel then went off in search of Scuba Luv to pick up a pair of Nitrox tanks. We had decided to dive nitrox that weekend, because our plan was to get as many dives in as possible. Nitrox would allow us to dive more, because we’d be absorbing less nitrogen (Why its Great!). We discovered just how long the walk around the harbor from the boat to Casino Point can really seem!

The weather was sunny and warm, and the water is calm. I discovered how to use the stairs at low tide, where you can’t easily wade into the water, because they end before you get wet! A gentle fall on your side splashes you into the ocean without hitting the bottom and tearing up the grasses and reef! We dove to the right, we dove to the left, we dove down into the depths finding the glass bottom boat, the swim platform, both the Jacques Cousteau and La Cruzado Plaques! In the middle we took a long lunch break with some delicious pasta (funny how hungry you get while diving!) Then it was back in the water, where the diving was great, the viz was good, not the best though, but still good. As night  fell we relaxed watching the sun set before donning our gear one last time for a night dive.

A warm shower, and delicious fancy meal and a few drinks, we headed back to the hotel where Richard promptly fell asleep, snoring from the other side of the room. I watched part of a movie on my computer then it was off to dreamland myself. The next morning it was new tanks, we didn’t feel like paying the extra cash for nitrox and decided since it was day two and we weren’t doing as many dives, we’d just do air…hell, we could sleep on the boat on the way home. In retrospect, I would have dove nitrox… it was amazing just how tired you are after 5 dives! It’d definitely worth the extra cash. Diving was good again and we explored further on each side of the park, revisiting several parts we had liked the day before. We ended a little early so we could rinse off, change and pack up the gear. A large root beer float was a nice ending to the day before piling back onto the Catalina Express and reality on the mainland.

Check out our adventure!

Nitrox vs. Air

I spent all of last weekend on Catalina Island diving my brains out at Casino Point. I’m hoping to take the IE at the end of July and one of the requirements of the test is that you have 100 dives under your belt. At 77 with less than a month and a half  to go, I was starting to get nervous. After this weekend, I knocked out 11 of my remaining dives bringing that number down to only 12 left; a much more achievable number of dives.

Now I’ve been Nitrox certified since 2006, but never really had the chance to explore its benefits. Since my certifying dive I’d only used a nitrox mix once, on a pre-work morning dive. I definitely felt much better after that dive, and noticed the absence of the usual 2:00pm crash I typically get after an AM air dive. With this in mind I decided that I wanted to dive the weekend on Nitrox. Not only would it allow us more dives with less nitrogen build up, but in theory we would also feel less wrecked after this serious bout of diving. Upon arriving on Catalina we discovered one small hitch in the perfect nitrox diving plan. The dive site is about a half mile walk from Scuba Luv where you can get your nitrox fills. There is a great little container shack right at Casino Point, but unfortunately they only have air. So we were looking at approximately a 10 minute walk each way whenever we wanted a fill. Dragging a couple tanks on a dolly adds to the annoyance. Now I know, a half mile is really not that bad, but it’s dodging tourists and over a slightly uneven brick surface while clad in your 7mm wetsuit and sloshy booties. We decided to tough it out, and were lucky enough that the lady at Scuba Luv was able to put one of the 2 tanks we rented on the truck that was coming out a little later. This was nice because that morning we were already loaded down with all of our dive gear. We dove all day Saturday, completing 6 dives with Nitrox.

Sunday however, we were feeling a bit lazy, and didn’t want to have to make the trek back and forth from the shop, so we opted to use air and just get tanks from the Catalina Diver Supply container right at the site. The plus side was we now only had a 100 ft walk from our gear. However I was AMAZED at the difference. We did our first dive on nitrox (finishing off half a tank we had left over from the shorter night dive on Saturday), then dove 4 dives on air. After the first two I could easily feel the difference.

So, let me say, the nitrox was worth it. On Saturday, we dove six dives (ranging in length from 23-52 minutes and depths of 25-70ft) and at the end of the day I still felt great. I was tired sure, but mostly that was the fact that I had been up since 4:45 and working on about 5 hours of sleep. The pain really was only having to trek back and forth with tanks. On Sunday, we did five dives (1 on nitrox and 4 on air) and I was tired after two, and just about dead after the 4th on air. I had to take a quick cat nap during our lunch time surface interval (after dive #3) and was having trouble staying awake to make conversation with Richard on the ferry back home. At one point I just told him that I had to shut my eyes or I wouldn’t be able to drive home from Long Beach!

All in all, if I have the opportunity, and am doing more than 1 or 2 dives, I will definitely be using nitrox. Not really for the added bottom time, but purely becasue I felt SO much better at the end of the day, even after just a few dives!

(Note: a full write up of the weekend with photos and video is coming…I just have to find the time to get through all my media!)