Diving California's Channel Islands

What better way to spend my birthday than diving in kelp forests? In September, I led a group of divers on a three-day "liveaboard" dive trip to California's Channel Islands on the dive vessel Sand Dollar. This was not only my first time on a liveaboard dive trip, it was also my first experience working as a divemaster and trip leader.

And it could scarcely have gone better. About the only downside was not being able to dive San Clemente Island, due to a Navy closure of the island. But we had a great time diving with sea lions on Santa Barbara Island, and spent most of our time on Santa Catalina Island, the most popular of the eight-island chain.

The best part of the trip was the great group of people from Oceanblue Divers. They made the trip easy as well as fun, and the biggest thrill was showing off my beloved California kelp forests to a bunch of people who'd never dived in California before. Extra special thanks to Jesus, Xavier, CeCe, Jack Tripper and my partner in crime, Montiel.

Click on pictures for larger-size photos (images will come up in a new pop-up window).

Home for three days: the Sand Dollar

Sleeping on a shelf - just like the good ol' Navy days!

The Sand Dollar Cafe: kitchen, dining room, living room... in short, the galley

Sunrise in Pirate's Cove, Catalina

One of Catalina's many awesome dive sites

Helping divers out of the water

One of our dive buddies

Sea lions at Santa Barbara Island

Horn shark

Moray eel (and red rock shrimp, can you see them?)

A Spanish shawl nudibranch

We were just a few weeks too early for lobster season

Lush and thick kelp forests

Sea Fan Grotto, most people's favorite dive site

Bait fish highway

Giant keyhole limpet

Spiny sea star

A bat star with three extra legs

Spiny brittle stars

A night dive worthy of the Keystone Kops

Scenic Pirate's Cove

Surface interval

Andy and Dave on the ride back to the mainland

San Pedro Brewing Co., our hangout before and after the trip

Photos contributed by Cassie Craig

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