LONG BEACH, CA…
The last 2 months were spent keeping this trip as a big secret from Aimee(aka SeptemberSky), I had tried surprises in the past but could never keep them as secrets very long. This was the biggest challenge for me and I managed to keep it a secret until we were 16 miles from our destination, The Catalina Express docks. =)
This was no ordinary adventure, this was a brand new experience for the both of us which meant I had to do months of research about the city of Avalon and it’s surroundings prior to our arrival to ensure that things moved as smoothly as possible.
This was Aimee’s birthday gift! After coming up short on her previous 2 birthdays due to schedule conflict or unemployment issues, I said that I was not going to let that get in the way this time, and so I managed to get everything in line for some great adventure time! =D
DAY 01, LONG BEACH, CA…
Wednesday, September 8th, 2010
Our trip started off at the Catalina Express port side.
Once we got out tickets, we dragged our luggage out to the docks and waited patiently for our 5:45pm departure time. We boarded a ship named the “Starship Exrpess”, hey now, I can dig that, my friggin’ truck is named ‘The Starship’ =D
I wanted the way out to be the best available, so I got us commodore seating.
Most of my friends who really know me understand that I have to stay far from alcohol due to anxiety issues, but I was so relaxed that I figured I would take advantage of the drink ticket….
After spending the first 30 minutes cooped up inside the Commodore Lounge, Aimee and I decided that it would be nice to step out the back and feel the nice cool ocean breeze as we made our way across the ocean to Catalina.
I had remembered talking with Aimee about how deep the ocean floor was beneath us, and I could only guess that it was about 700-800ft deep, but I discovered later that it was actually more like 4,000ft deep and was home to one of the deepest sea canyons this was the San Pedro Channel. It was very creepy knowing that the only thing between us, the ocean floor and gravity was nothing more that a very dense atmosphere! =D
We took a taxi to our hotel which was a little over a mile away. The cost was about $9 bucks and some change for the two of us, so I just gave the guy a twenty and told him to keep the change.
Our place of stay was the Catalina Island Inn, a nice 3 story hotel within one block from the ocean =)
After we got checked in and settled into our room, we headed out toward the Green Dock for our first tour.
But not before grabbing ourselves some dinner =)
We stopped at one of the places that I had researched, it was a New Orleans themed restaurant named ‘El Galleon’
“The inside was very ornate and it was directly on the boardwalk facing the ocean.”
As I searched the menu, I noticed something that caught my eye immediately…”Scallop Chowder!”
I had never even heard of such a thing O_o
I was all too tempted to have a try and being the clam chowder lover that I am, I knew this was a sure thing =D
Scallops were not a stranger to me, I loved them on a skewer, but this was definitely a must try situation!
“I ordered an 8oz. pot to get started.”
“This was absolutely awesome, I definitely recommend this!, just stay away from touching the oyster cracker packets, they smelled like a nasty wet rag!” (This was consistent both days we ate there)
After getting our fill of dinner, we went back to the hotel to grab some cameras and the HD cam.
It was a nice walk to the Green Pier and our Flying Fish Tour boat was ready to launch. I was a bit surprised as to how many people where there on a Wednesday night =)
The tour is a 45 minute trip along the southern tip of the Island in search of flying fish. I don’t have any pics because it was so dark but I have to say that it was an awesome adventure! There were literally hundreds of these fish launching out of the water and they glistened with beautiful shades of blue, green and silver under the light of a powerful 40 million candlepower spot lamp.
As the boat approached the dark side of the island, the snappy tour guide turned off the lights and asked us to watch the ocean water along the boat as we made a U-turn. The water was filled with green strobes of bioluminescence.
They were the lights of the tiny creatures that swam along the surface. It was not too long that I looked up in this darkness and was awe stricken! I had never seen so many stars in my life, not even in Sedona AZ during a new moon night. The Galactic arm was more pronounced than ever and I suddenly felt like I was in a dream! It was just amazing!
“This is the Blanche W. is a 64-foot, 98-passenger, solid-wood vessel built in 1924 just to watch the Flying Fish. Her World War One-era, 40-million candlepower searchlights entice the fish to fly out of the water.”
After the trip was over, we exited the boat and headed back to our hotel to get relaxed and prepare for the following day of Island fun =D
DAY 02, AVALON, SANTA CATALINA ISLAND, CA…
Thursday, September 9th, 2010
Today was Aimee’s birthday and with the arrival of another great year of life came a day’s worth of awesome fun.
We started off by grabbing a decent breakfast at Original Jack’s Country Kitchen restaurant. It was a nice lil’ place with a very cozy feel. You could tell that this was a favorite of the locals here on the Island.
After breakfast, we headed out to meet up with our next tour. This would be a 2 hour trip along the coast via a Navy Seal type watercraft hosted by ‘Catalina Ocean Rafting’. As we arrived, I noticed that we were going in the smaller watercraft our equipment would be a bit tricky to stow away. Aimee was very excited, but it wasn’t until I mentioned that we were taking off in pursuit of dolphins that she just freaked!….lol (Aimee loves dolphins) ;P
A small video montage of our Dolphin Journey
We were greeted by Captain Marie, she was an awesome host and very friendly to boot. She had been doing this for some time and there was a wisdom about her that could only make one feel assured and safe for the journey to come. The boat held 6 passengers, but we lucked out and were awaiting the arrival of just 2 others.
“I took note of the witty placards on captain Marie’s vessel and knew she was going to be awesome funny =D
In the meantime, the captain awaits the other guests…”
When the time came, we were greeted by a very nice older couple and being the generous peeps we are, Aimee and I gave them the front seats.(Best view)
As we all got seated, Captain Marie made some final preparations and started the engine for departure. We started off very slow as we navigated the obstacle coarse of other ships and vessels docked in Avalon bay. It was only a moment before the captain started to pick up speed as we left the bay area and in just a moments time, she threw it into full throttle and we were literally flying over the surface of the water.
I had never been so low to the water at these speeds (I’m sure we were probably doing only around 40-45mph) but it felt much, much faster! I was so excited and couldn’t help but to look over and see what Aimee’s expression was, sure enough I could tell that the feeling was beyond all words or visible reaction, she was just in love with the adventure of it all!
The 2 hour trip encompasses an encounter with some of Catalina’s coastal wildlife such as Harbor Seals, Dolphins, Flying Fish & Bald Eagles to name a few. The captain informed us that it’s not a guarantee that we would get to see all the 3 species of dolphin that inhabit the coastal waters of the Island, but we were going to try and see what we could find =)
The weather was beautiful, clear & sunny skies, hardly any clouds and a moving breeze of about 74ºF. This day could not have been more perfect. Our first encounter came with a pod sighting of bottle nosed dolphins to the south east.
“The Bottlenose were being a lil’ shy that day but they still swam along the boat from time to time. It looked like they were focused on feeding. Captain Marie took the boat around in a large circle to help them create a bait ball of the sardines that were just below.”
We spent almost 30 minutes with the bottlenose and started to head out to find the other two species. I have never had a problem with motion sickness until this trip. I have been on many boats & ships and my good share of windy roads, but for some reason, it hit me like a freight train. I immediately started to try and understand what could have caused it.
I managed to pull up 3 possible factors.
~Trying to post a pic to FB from my cell.
~Eating a good sized breakfast just before the trip.
~Hitting lots of bumpy swells at high speed on a small boat.
I was very angry with my bodies reaction considering the fact that this was not the time or place for this sort of thing, so I did my very best to ignore it but it was very difficult. The Sensation of Nausea hit me in waves, one larger than the one before and then it would calm down for just a moment, but then would start all over again. I did my best to focus on the sites and this was my condition for the remainder of the trip. @__@
Aimee was a sweetheart and didn’t mention to me that I was completely pale in the face for the sake of my sanity, I think that would have sent me into a puking frenzy.
The captain even offered me a bucket…lol
The next location we traveled to was occupied by the largest pod of dolphins yet, these were the spunky and energetic ‘common dolphin’. They were all a bit north of the bottlenose dolphins and they were fast, I mean they were actually keeping up with the boat! =D
These were the most playful of the 3 species off Catalina, the captain said that she doesn’t know why, but they are always attracted to boats and ships alike. They have a tendency to make sudden shifts in their travels just for the sake of playing with a boat. They have also been known to tail slap the underside of the boat ;P
When we finished up with the common Dolphins, we made our way further north toward a place known as “The most easterly point of the Island. On our way there, we stopped by some Bald Eagle nesting grounds along the sea cliffs, but unfortunately, no one was home today, but we did manage to score with the 3rd species of Cetacean known as ‘Risso’s Dolphin’.
They are very, very shy and will not let you com within 100ft without disappearing under the waves. These Dolphins are very large and have the face of a Pilot Whale. They can typically reach lengths of 10-12ft and weigh in at up to 1,100lbs. The Captains said that it’s not uncommon for these Dolphins to mate with the Bottlenose when the pickings are slim…lol
After we finished visiting with Risso’s Dolphin, we made way to the most easterly point on the Island. From that point we would turn around and start making our way south along the coastal sites back to Avalon. I was still fighting the ridiculous motion sickness and found it additionally tough when ever we intersected the wake of a passing boat like this assist vessel…
On the return, Captain Marie stopped the boat at a geological point of interest. This location was referred by the locals as the ‘Eye of Catalina’ the holes in the rocky cove resembled the shape of Catalina Island itself. Captain Marie informed us that the geological history of the island was a rather fascinating one. She said that this Island was once part of Baja Mexico just over 100 million years ago. Because of tectonic shift the Island moved 165 miles northwest and rotated 60 degrees to it’s current position now. There is a small GPS transmitter at the northern tip of the Island and is monitored via satellite. The data shows that the Island is still one the move, by 1 centimeter a year. Unlike most islands, Catalina Island did not have a volcanic in origin, instead it was the result of tectonic submission by the pacific plate. This caused a section of an undersea mountain range to surface.
“Humpback Whale Rock, this is not the official name of this rock, actually I don’t think it had a name at all, but this was the first think I saw when I set eyes on this rock, A Humpback Whale breaching the surface.” =)
Catalina is known globally as a diver’s hot spot and the reason being is the massive kelp forests that surrounds the Island’s coast line. Captain Marie explained that it is very much possible to get the boat’s propeller stuck in the kelp should it become too dense. With that in mind, we traveled slowly and cautiously along the coast.
Onc we made port, Aimee and I thanked captain Marie for a most excellent tour, I was so grateful, I tipped her $100 bucks with out a single flinch, she was THAT good! =D
Aimee & I walked back to the hotel to relax and freshen up for out next tour. As usual I had forgotten my sun screen and got quite the sun burn for those 2 hours on the sea. This really drained the hell outta me, so I just took a quick nap. When the time came, Aimee and I headed out to the Green Pier to get our tickets for the next lil’ adventure at sea.
Instead of the usual glass bottomed boat, I decided that the Nautilus (a.k.a. the Yellow Submarine) would be the better choice for viewing the undersea life seeing as how the view was from the side walls rather than the bottom view.
The Nautilus was a fine looking Sub, but don’t let this vessel deceive you, this submarine is actually just a boat with a very cool makeover. A real sub ride would be outrageously expensive and dangerous to be offered as a public means of entertainment, but I still loved the feel of the overall experience =D
The Kelp Forests were absolutely amazing!, these flourished with so much life and spread across the coast of Catalina. Our destination was a spot called Lover’s Cove where the one of these forests resides.
After exiting the Nautilus, Aimee and I headed back across the Green Pier and we stopped to get a good view of the surrounding bay area. That’s when I noticed that there were these peculiar looking bottles filled with what looked like a red fluid. Upon taking a closer look, I realized that there must be a problem with wasps at the pier, because these were wasp traps!
Aimee and I proceeded back to the hotel to drop off most of our gear and freshen up again, The Nautilus tour was a nice finish to the 2 hours Dolphin excursion =)
Once we were ready to hit the boardwalk again, We proceeded to take a short cut through the Catalina Arcade and the ally ways in search of a small bakery that Captain Marie had suggested to us.
We traveled along the store fronts and after some searching for a while, decided to stop in at a little Café for a birthday dessert. Aimee had seen what she wanted, a very unique dessert I had never heard of before.
The name of this dessert was “Petite Dulce de Leche” a graham crust, topped with a creamy blend of Dulce de Leche and luscious cheesecake!
We took it back to the hotel room and stuffed into the fridge for later. Afterward, we hit the shops again and even swung back into El Galleon for another great meal and yes, another round of Scallop Chowder! =D
Once the sun began to set, Aimee and I retired back to our room. It was quite possibly one of the longest days I’ve experienced in a while and this would mark our last night on Catalina Island. Exhausted and burned out from a day in the sun and on the sea, we called it a night and fell asleep to one of the most awesome episodes of Mythbusters =D
Well actually we busted out the sweet dessert from earlier and went halves on it, it was very tasty!
DAY 03, AVALON, SANTA CATALINA ISLAND, CA…
Friday, September 10th, 2010
With a great nights sleep and a new day, Aimee and I set out to get some breakfast at Joe’s!
It was a nice little 50’s type diner and all I could think of were memories of old Warner Bros. cartoons which always seemed to depict jokes revolving around the “Eat at Joe’s” concept. This was cool because I was actually going to eat at Joe’s!….lol
“Aimee waits patiently while she recollects the prior days events…”
“Aimee’s breakfast arrives…”
“Then my own…”
We relaxed after breakfast, our ship was not scheduled to arrive for another hour so we just enjoyed our last moments of Avalon. When the time came, we headed back to the hotel and got checked out. I had made a comment to the girl at the front desk about her phone and asked if it was a Droid 2 (I was working for the last 2 months on 3D model of the Droid 2 for Motorola’s web campaign so it was burned into my mind…lol)
Anyhow, we started to make our way back to the docks with all our luggage and camera bags.
It was only a matter of time before our ship came in, this time it was the ‘Jet Cat Express’ and it was a much larger ship than the first. This arrival ship was loaded with sooooo many people that I just laughed and said to Aimee, “This is why I like doing this sorta thing on the weekdays!”…
The way back was very peaceful, I sat with my head against the window and Aimee closed her eyes to take a nap. I got lost in a gaze when I spotted a whale in the distance, I tapped Aimee’s arm and had her come take a look, it was just for a moment, but she saw what I saw =)
We were just about to the mainland and everyone began to lively themselves up for the big departure.
After getting back to the Mainland Aimee and I were all to eager to get back to my truck and head out. The fee for parking my truck in the Catalina Express parking garage was a whopping $14 bucks every 24 hours, but the place was very secure and so it was well worth it to me.
Once we exited the parking structure we only traveled about one city block before pulling into another parking structure. I decided to take AImee to see the ‘Aquarium of the Pacific’ to put our new 5D MKII cameras to the test =D
We spent a majority of our time at the jellyfish tanks. I played hell to get the best and cleanest shots possible under the very low lighting. I knew that this was a job for my lowest f/stop lens I had, the Canon 85mm f/1.2!
This baby gave me just what I was looking for and these were the resulting shots…
After spending a few hours at the Aquarium, it was time to go home. Overall this was the coolest 3 days I have had in a while and I was all too happy to have spent it with Aimee on her birthday =)
We did so much that we just enjoyed a nice quiet drive back home and bring a peaceful end to a very fun filled birthday adventure on the high seas!
Well, that about covers it for this adventure, see you all on the next one!
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