Taking first day trip to Catalina... What should I expect

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luckydays

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I am heading to Catalina on the Ferry next Wednesday or Thursday to dive Casino Point. This is a new site for me and my fiance (dive buddy as well) so I am hoping I can get some pointers what to expect from the ferry ride to the diving, as well as good dining options in the vicinity.

We plan on bringing my gear and possibly my steel tanks/weights.

Any tips would be greatly appreciated and if someone wants to come over and dive with us, that would be great as well.
 

fnfalman

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The Catalina Express ferry is a very fast ride. You'd be leaving from Downtown Long Beach port, I presume?

You can drop your gear off at the front of the Cat Express dock entrance. Have one person watches the gear and the other person parks the vehicle.

Then schelpp your gears inside, pick up your tickets then walk out the doors to the dock and get in line to board. Depends on which boat it is, you either wheel your baggage to the back of the boat or feed it to a conveyor belt at the front of the boat. Your tanks, once again, depending on the boats, may be attached to your BC and lay down on the deck or have to be put in these tank racks.

Once you've arrived and picked up your gears and disembarked, you have a few modes of transportation to the dive site:

1. Walk and carry everything to the dive site. Not recommended unless for young folks who wanted pre-training before joining the Army or Marine Infantry.
2. Hire a taxi to take you and your gears to the site, and vice versa when you're done.
3. Hire a porter service which only transports your gear to and fro and you walk to the dive site.

I like Option 3. I can warm myself up and get limbered while walking to the site (less than half a mile), and then after the dive, the porter service would pick up my gears and keep my gears until I'm ready to pick them up before embarking on the ferry to go back to main land. If you take a taxi, then you'll have to lug all your gears with you to wherever the taxi drops you off. If you want to eat and shop after dive, then Taxi is not the way to go. IF you just want to go directly to the dive site then directly back to the dock then Taxi is the way to go.

If you don't want to schlepp your weights and tanks over then you can rent both at Catalina Divers Supply airfill trailer right at the Casino.

As far as food goes. I really don't eat a lot over there. I usually would eat at the burger stand next to the Casino for convenience, but they only operate between May and November. I may offend the Island residences but I have yet to find a joint in Avalon that's praise worthy.
 
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luckydays

luckydays

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Thanks for the info. This is exactly what I was looking for.

I did not know how far Casino Point was from the ferry so its good to know that there is porter service. That sounds like the best way for us to enjoy our time over in Catalina.
 

fnfalman

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The porter service is at the far end of the dock shops, catty corner from the Catalina Express ticket booth. Usually a kid stays there waiting for divers to come. You pay them $8 a person to haul said person's gears. They give you a couple of rubber banded tickets that you can loop around your dive bag. MAKE SURE that the phone number they gave you is legibly written on these tickets. Otherwise, you'd be playing guessing games as to if it was a "3" or a "5".

They'll load the gears onto the pickup and drive to the Point then drop off your gears there. You just walk over and do your thing. Afterward, call them for pick up and they'll come and load up your gears. You can stroll back, stop for a bite or shopping, sightseeing, then collect your gears and board the ferry back.
 

peabs

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Don't take your tanks. Totally not worth it. The air truck is on-site and is nice and cheap, and if you get tanks from them you can just grab a fresh one. They are famously slow about refilling personal tanks. I hear lots of people grumbling about how long it can take, so I have always rented from them.

Get your food at Antonio's after you're done. The Bloody Mary is great, the Oktoberfest is great, the food is a good pleasant average+.

Is your gear on wheels? Just walk. Antonio's will let you dump your gear on the patio. But if you plan on making an afternoon of Avalon (shopping, browsing, etc) then I agree about hiring the porters. They are easily located near the ferry.


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decidedlyodd

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TSandM

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You've gotten good advice about getting there and what to do with your gear.

At the site, there are coin lockers you can use for your valuables, or you can leave ordinary-type stuff on the benches or along the sea wall. Entry is via a set of stairs and is pretty easy as long as the surf isn't strong. Go down the right-hand side; people exiting come up the other.

The site is a slope, and goes down to about 80 feet at the far boundary. There is LOTS of great stuff to see in the shallows -- I actually think the boulders that make up the base of the sea wall are some of the best places to poke around for lobsters and morays. The wreck of the SuJac is at the right-hand end of the park, starting at about 60 feet or so (IIRC) and is a good place to look for nudibranchs. The kelp beds are full of Garibaldis -- look for the juveniles, which are only partly orange and have beautiful bright blue spots on them.

A couple of photos to whet your appetite (courtesy of my friend Jo Hjelm of Hawaii Underwater Explorers):

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luckydays

luckydays

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Thanks for all the tips and info. I did not even think to look at if and when air would be available for us. Since we were thinking of going mid week and getting fills seems to end at noon, I think to truly enjoy ourselves we may have to find a hotel to stay so we can get in the water early or go over on Friday and enjoy the full time that fills are available.

Love the pics Lynne, I am hoping that is what we see when we come over.
 

Thiad

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If it's a weekend, the earlier you arrive, the better staging spot you get. It's a great place to take students and very popular with many divers. With that, it can get a bit crowded around the walls, but never unmanageable. Kind of sounds crazy, but once you get there, you'll see what I mean. Regardless, it's a rare day everyone's not in a great mood excited about the dives.

Take a mat!! You can pick one up at any of the local dive shops. It's nice to have something to stand on when you're putting your gear on, etc, since it's pavement. If the sun is beating down, it can get very warm on the feet.

If you want to dive the Valiant (it's outside the park boundary, but a lovely dive at 70'-90'), you need to get permission from the harbor master first. It's quite a swim out to the dive site but it's a nice dive. Inside the park you'll find so many wonderful things including the SuJac (Lynne mentioned above), glass bottom boat, sailboats, old swim platform and pipes, and a few memorial plaques. This on top of the kelp which is amazing by itself. There are a number of great websites that talk about the various features and you won't be at a loss for things to explore. Just remember to take your time and enjoy yourself. You'll be surprised at the life you might find hiding away (there's good chance to find an eel or two - I've rarely not found one around the old dive platform). I don't prefer diving one side over the other but will say that closer in the shallows, I've had great luck finding smaller macro subjects. Deeper water finds the huge kelp (bull kelp, I believe), which is definitely worth seeing.

Getting in and out is easy, but there is etiquette to follow (and I've ran into a few militant divers who don't take kindly when people do this wrong). Go down the right side to get in (as you're facing the water) and come up the left (as you're facing the water). Just watch a few other divers and you'll get the picture. If it's low tide, it can be a bit tricky with rocks, but otherwise, just wait for the right moment to hop in and crawl out.

Hope that helps and I hope that you two really enjoy yourselves!!
 
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