I’ve met Giancarlo in January of 2013, when I flew to Los Angeles and had a day or two to explore seascapes of California. The guy helped me to get tanks, weights and all necessary equipment to make a few wonderful dives at the Malibu Beach and at the Catalina Islands

Alamitos Bay, CA
Malibu, California
Doctor's Cove. Camp Emerald

In May of the same year, Giancarlo invited me to visit the Summer Camp, located on the east side of the Catalina. Thus my daughter, her friend and I utterly enjoyed 3 days at the Emerald Bay.

Chromodoris macfarlandi (shot in 2013)

During that time, I took pictures of Spanish shawl and Chromodoris macfarlandi. And I know that these shots are among the best that I ever took.

Spanish shawl (Flabellina iodinea) (shot in 2013)

Last week I had a few days to spare and decided to visit my dad and … well, you’ve guessed it, my Californian dive-buddy. I called and Giancarlo told me that he would be happy to dive with me again. We agreed on the schedule and I packed my bags.

Giancarlo

Flying to California

Giancarlo called In2Deep Dive shop, located 5 minutes’ drive time from my dad’s apartment, and pre-arranged rental of weights and BCD. A “weekend deal” covered 2 days of diving, so if weather allowed, we could dive Saturday as well.

Ballast Point, Long Beach

Friday morning, I packed my dad’s car, drove to the Ballast Point (Long Beach), and at 7 am Sundiver Express set its course to the Catalina.

Ballast Point, Long Beach

The Sundiver Express is a wide double-decker, roomy enough to comfortably accommodate up to 22 divers. It’s a clean, well-kept vessel, with plenty of space to set your gear and it’s run by a helpful crew. The boat is also equipped with a compressor, therefore, we could dive indefinitely 😉

Sundiver Express

The crossing took about an hour and a half, and at 9 am we dropped an anchor at the north end of the island.

Sub-ride dive-site. Catalina Island

Diving Catalina Island

The first dive-site called Sub-ride. Despite that it supposed to rain all day, the sun was out and with great expectations Giancarlo and I plunged into the deep of the Pacific.

Garibaldi (Hypsypops rubicundus)

Below Sundiver, the depth was about 50 feet, but the tops of kelp were floating at the surface. As soon as I saw dark yellow-greenish blades, I recalled how beautiful and magnificent those aquatic giants are. The visibility was about 30-40 feet and as soon as we begin descending, I regrated that I wasn’t diving with my wide-angle lens.

 Kelp (Laminariales) My poor attempt to use a macro lens for a wide-angle shot

Laminariales

Kelp (Laminariales) Dove with macro lens and couldn’t make a wide-angle picture

It is hard to convey an incredible sensation when you are slowly floating amongst thick stocks of a kelp forest. Or when all of a sudden, a fire-orange Garibaldi glides out and then disappears into serpentine of the rugged blades. By the way, Garibaldi is an official California State Marine Fish.

Garibaldi (Hypsypops rubicundus)

We stopped at a clearing and Giancarlo pointed at the small and very attractive fish – Blue-banded goby. Now I was happy to have my macro lens and I moved closer to a large dark-blue urchin, where gobies found ample protection among its long, sharp spines.

Blue-banded goby (Lythrypnus dalli)

Giancarlo new well that I was looking for the nudibranchs and he tried very hard to find a Spanish shawl or some other sea slug. But our afford bear no fruit, none of our 3 dives yielded a single nudi. And yet, I was happy to dive Catalina and to photograph other critters. Among different species of fish, we saw a moray eel, common octopus and a prize winner was a baby horn shark.

Garibaldi, juvenile  (Hypsypops rubicundus)

Gymnothorax mordax

Morey eel  (Gymnothorax mordax)

Common octopus  (Octopus vulgaris)

Horn shark (Heterodontus francisci)

This shark is endemic to the region and Giancarlo, besides the baby shark, was lucky to spot a larger, at least three feet long (1 meter) member of Heterodontus Francisci. Despite its size, the shark was hard to spot, the specimen was practically wrapped by large leaves of kelp.

Horn shark (Heterodontus francisci)

Between dives, while the crew was refilling our tanks, we had a yummy hot baked chilly, cornbread, tea, coffee, vegetables and other snacks provided by the Sundiver Express. The return trip to Long Beach took no more than an hour and by 4:30 PM we ducked to the pier at Alamitos Bay.

Round Stingray Urobatis halleri

Round Stingray (Urobatis halleri)

Giancarlo wanted to bead the heavy traffic, so we quickly offloaded our gear, shook hands and bid each other goodbye, agreeing on planning our next join trip soon.

Giancarlo and I

Conclusion

No, I did not find a Spanish shawl or any other nudibranch, but I see it as a minor drawback.

The tumultuous Pacific Ocean.  Oxnard, CA

I dove with Giancarlo, saw my dad, the family of my older brother Josef, my niece, her 2 wonderful baby boys and other relatives, whom I’ve seen for the first time.

My father. Santa Monica Pier

I also would like to express my warm appreciation to everyone on the boat. Without you, guys, my dives would not be as much fun as they were.

My father. Santa Monica Pier

And a special thanks to my dive-buddy Giancarlo, for organizing our dives and for being attentive and kind.

 

Great new discoveries and safe diving to all.