Weekend Catalina Exploratory Trip

Looking to do something different, we decided to take the Mola up to Catalina for a fun overnight trip this past weekend. Pulling her behind us on the trailer up to San Pedro (it was difficult finding a gas station that could fit her in!), we launched her out of the Port of Los Angeles Saturday morning.

Catalina trailer
We were in a great mood as we set off for Catalina – beautiful weather and an incredibly flat ocean during the crossing.¬†About halfway there, we had a brief encounter with two fin whales which came within 50 feet of the boat! And then 20 minutes later, we passed by a pod of Rizzo’s dolphins, a real treat. One of the larger members of the dolphin family, Rizzo’s average about 10 feet in length and are a grey color with distinct white scratches. They were very shy, perhaps because they were feeling protective of the younger dolphins we spotted within the pod.
Rizzo's dolphins
As we headed for Catalina, it was easy to head straight for Ship Rock, located in front of the isthmus of the island. We had a great view for lunch over a calm ocean as we neared the island.
Catalina crossing

Once we reached Ship Rock, we anchored and suited up for our first dive of the weekend. The currents were a little strong here, but the visibility was still a solid 60′, a refreshing change from diving in La Jolla!
Ship rock 1
The bright orange Garibaldis really popped against the lush kelp forest scenery, and they were great, cooperative models today.
Catalina Ship Rock 2
Catalina Ship Rock Garibaldi

 The sun and the kelp at this shallow spot formed a very picturesque amphitheater that perfectly framed Alice.
Catalina Ship Rock 3

After our dive, we headed over to Little Geiger cove to do some spearfishing and freediving till sunset, and Kyle speared a nice calico for dinner. As darkness set in and the bright stars came out, we headed over to the and picked a spot near shore at 4th of July Cove. We then cleaned, seasoned, and cooked our fresh fish with a side of mashed potatoes and hearty soup. Not a bad way to end a Catalina day! For mid February, the temperatures were surprisingly comfortable, and we were treated to a swollen yellow moon rising over the island. We decided to pitch a tent right on the deck, and it was actually a really comfortable night.
Catalina Night Tent

The next morning we woke early to catch the sunrise and cooked up some eggs and bacon on our new marine BBQ.
Catalina Sunrise
After packing up, we headed back out of the coves to do one more dive at Ship Rock. It was a little windier and colder today, but Kyle still managed to get this amazing shot of Nick hidden in the kelp.

Catalina Ship Rock Nick

We decided to dive Eagle Reef next, which was further off shore than some of the other sites, but easy to find since it was marked by a large red buoy. The strong currents here provide much of the nutrients to support the abundance of marine life. We saw numerous bright blue-banded gobies, tons of blacksmith, lobsters, a wall of red gorgonians and some large lingcod.

Eagle reef buoy

Eagle reef gorgonian

Following the dive, we headed back to shore to enjoy the shallows at Big Geiger Cove one last time before leaving. Nick donned his freediving fins, and even though the swell was picking up, the shallows were still beautiful to photograph.

Catalina Freediving
Catalina Big Geiger Cove
It was finally time to head back home. As the island got smaller and smaller on our way out, we couldn’t help but look forward to our next Catalina trip already. We rode some large swells all the way back, but the highlight was the megapod of common dolphins that passed us. You could see dolphins leaping out of the water for as far as you could see, and some even came over to playfully bow ride the boat. It was a pleasant way to end an amazing weekend at Catalina. You can be sure we will be back soon!