Seal of Approval

One of the best reasons to dive Catalina is the variety: the variety of animals, the variety of dive sites, the variety of underwater terrain. If you want to explore a kelp forest, or search the sandy areas for bat rays, or look deep into rocky crags for eels, it’s all available at Catalina—sometimes in one dive site!
Over Labor Day weekend, the Barnacle Busters took a group of newly certified divers, students and long-time members aboard the Cee Ray for another fantastic summer day. We were all eagerly waiting for our first dive; some had new cameras to test out, some had new computers or masks they were breaking in. I was eager too, but that didn’t stop me from climbing into a bunk for an hour-long snooze on the way to the island after a hearty breakfast!
Our first stop was Johnson’s Rock and the kelp forest there was something to behold! After seeing these areas just a few short years ago with zero kelp, it’s such a huge relief to see them thriving and strong again. We spent our whole dive in the forest, working our way along the rocky edge where it was exceptionally healthy. I stopped to have a deeper look and was rewarded with a juvenile spotted shark sleeping under a rocky overhang. There were plenty of abalone around as well, so I took a moment to feed one some kelp.
From there we moved to Black Rock and our surface interval was spent munching down on some Monkey Bread, a Cee Ray specialty! Yum … Black Rock happens to be one of those all-in-one dive sites. There are the sandy areas, the rocky crags, the kelp forest, pretty much everything something for everyone.
This dive started a bit awkwardly with some computer failure and other malfunctions threatening to abort the dive. I took one buddy back to the surface and then went back for the others, but they had left the spot where I had left them (they had malfunctions of their own as it turned out). I decided to circle the area for signs of them and felt a tug on my fin. Thinking it might be one of my buddies, I turned to find a Harbor Seal looking at me like he wanted to play. I grabbed my GoPro and got it rolling as I tried to follow the seal through the kelp. It was too fast for me, so I switched off the camera and headed back to where I was and then I saw the seal again below me turning over abalone shells, looking for a meal. I switched the camera back on, and the seal gave me a little show, not at all bashful like others I’d seen at Catalina. After a few minutes and a couple more tugs on my fins, the seal left, on to more distractions. But I was exhilarated!
Once we were all on board, we discussed our various gear misfortunes and misunderstandings and made plans for the next dive, which would also be at Black Rock. While variety is a big bonus, sometimes there are good reasons to stay and dive at the same site. In this case, other sites we had looked at along the way had currents that would have made the diving difficult, so best to stay where the conditions are best. Plus, I may get to see that little seal again! While the seal was a no-show for round two, we still saw plenty: a shy-but-curious octopus, several bat rays hovering by, a few juvenile sharks napping and a ton of sea hares!
Back on board we ate dessert and had video show-and-tell on our laptops before retiring to the bunks for a ride-home snooze.
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Who’s Got the Marshmallows?


To me, the humble S’more is the heartbeat of any camping trip. Without it, the weekend would be an empty shell. Luckily, we had plenty of ‘em around Saturday night’s campfire at Leo Carrillo State Beach. We had milk chocolate s’mores and dark chocolate s’mores and strawberry s’mores, all to top off a fabulous dinner supplied by our own Alex Collett.

But the weekend wasn’t just about the food. No, it was about camaraderie, friendship, sunsets and beachcombing. One thing I love about diving is how it brings together people of all demographics. Lawyers and dancers, students and forest rangers, musicians and therapists, veterinarians and computer geeks all sitting around a blazing fire pit, laughing and swapping tales.

Saturday and Sunday found most of us on the beach searching for sea glass, seashells, agates and other interesting rocks. The perfect weather lent itself to beachcombing: blue skies, cooling breeze and small surf. Last winter’s storms eroded a lot of the beach, leaving broad stretches of water worn stones, a hunter’s paradise.

Waves were small enough for easy surf entries, but only Matt Bokach brought dive gear. Dying to dive, he searched for a buddy, even approaching strangers, moving from campsite to campsite in search of a tank…Alas, he had to settle for hanging out with us, the landlocked.

For the first time is several years, Thomas and Greg set up their “taj mahal,” complete with full bar and colored lanterns…so civilized! 11 year olds Ella and Josephine took charge of organizing the S’more production line and competed with Chris for the most glorious agates on the beach. Sharon & Nixie focused on sea glass when not shepherding Grace and Penny (Arf,) and Yuki colored his hair especially for the event.

It was fun having Judy Carter back after an absence of many years, and meeting her girlfriend Anna. Others just came for the day and dinner, Craig & Neil, whose new home is just up the road and Jeff Thorin, still jet lagged from Europe.

And so ends yet another fabulous weekend at Leo Carrillo. This year marks the Barnacle Busters’ 20th trip to this local state park and we look forward to many many more!!


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Accessorized Black Sea Bass Alert!

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We just received word about some very special Black Sea Bass who are roaming our underwater hood. If you spot one of them let someone know, but don’t attempt to take away a bass’ unusual bling! Read the email below!
Researchers at Cal State Long Beach have tagged 34 Black Sea Bass over the summer and it’s certainly possible that your divers may come across them and mistake the tag for a float or something that shouldn’t be there. I’m hoping you’ll pass this e-mail along to your followers so they’ll know not to try to remove the tags and can pass any sightings or info along to the researchers. The research is being done by Alyssa Clevenstine ( under the supervision of Dr. Chris Lowe (
One of my divers saw a tagged BSB in the Underwater Park this weekend (didn’t try to remove the tag but didn’t know what it was) which is what got this conversation started. Here’s the note from Alyssa along with photos from Mike Couffer ( as to what the tags look like. (Please give a photo credit to Mike if you use the image.)
“I’m glad to hear no one attempted to remove the tag – it is darted into the animal so trying to take it out would have done far more harm than good. This is the method our lab uses for to tag a variety of large-bodied fish. The transmitters are quite small, about the size of an A23 battery with a small cap at one end to attach the transmitter to the rest of the tag. I completed tagging for my project in August, so I will have to hope any divers and anglers that encounter the 34 tagged animals will leave them be. If you or any members of the dive community have any questions or information, feel free to pass along my email – I’d love to hear from them!”
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Leo Carrillo Camp Weekend


September 8-10th are the dates for the club’s annual Leo Carrillo Camp/Dive trip. This a great, local getaway weekend that offers our members the chance to chill and enjoy some of the best things that the California Coastal Region has to offer.

Just 28 miles north of Santa Monica, Leo Carrillo State Beach sits 1.5 miles of beautiful state beach. The site is perfect for hours of relaxing exploration; beach combing, surf fishing, kite boarding, wind surfing and swimming. For the more ambitious, there are some challenging hiking trails as well. Conditions permitting, the club sponsors a beach dive on Saturday morning. Just off shore there are numerous small kelp beds interspersed with sand beds and rocky shoals that host a healthy variety of sea life like perch, bat rays, lobsters, garibaldi, and even octopus. After a tranquil day at the beach and a sundown cocktail (or two), the evening the meal is on us. We’ll provide the appetizers, main course and dessert.

Some members take advantage of the site’s proximity and opt to come out for part of the weekend or just the day. It’s all good to us! Just please be aware that we need to know if you plan on joining us for Saturday’s catered dinner so we have enough on hand to feed everyone. If you want to overnight with us, you can sign up here. The cost just $25 dollars for the entire weekend. Space is somewhat limited, but we have managed to squeeze multiple tents into some pretty small spaces!  Don’t have a tent you say? Well if you let us know what you need, we may be able to help you out!


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Membership Renewal Just Got Simpler


Thanks to club members Scott Weber, Rex Theobald, and Gary Nugent, renewing your Barnacle Busters membership just became a whole lot easier! We now offer an online renewal option for our members. Before your membership expires, you will receive an email from us letting you know its time to renew. Within that email will be a summary of the contact information that we have on file for you. This is the perfect time to let us know if anything has changed in your life over the past year. Just reply to the email with any corrections that you’d like us to make.

Also included in the email will be a reminder of the waiver that you originally signed when you joined. Simply click the link to the website (indicating that you agree the terms of the waiver) and you’ll be taken to a page on our secure website when you can use your credit card to renew your membership before it expires. No postage or check writing required! Pretty simple, right!


Catalina Dive August 5th


As part of Buck’s monthly PADI certification classes, there will be a contingent of new divers (and instructors) heading over to dive Casino Point this weekend. If you’d like to join them, make a reservation on the Catalina Express and then email Buck letting him know you plan to join. If there are any last minute schedule changes, he’ll email to let you know. Make sure to book the boat leaving Long Beach at 7:15am and returning from Avalon at 5pm. Hope you can make it!

Monthly Club Meeting


This month we’ll be back in Silver Lake for our monthly club meeting. The date is Wednesday, August 16th and we’ll be gathering at Casita del Campo. Join us to see what’s new and reconnect with the membership. Also this evening we plan to screen the first half of the Netflix documentary “Chasing Coral” about the decline in healthy marine ecosystems. Can you think of a better excuse to justify that hump day margarita?

October Cee Ray date change!!!


We need to give everyone a “heads up” about a date change in the works. The Cee Ray has changed our October dive boat date from Sunday, October 22nd to Saturday, October 21st.  Our members typically prefer to dive on Saturday so that they can have Sundays free.  The date change should be good news to most of you! If you are already booked on this boat for the 22nd and can not make the 21st, let us know at and we will try to help you re-sell your spot.

Legendary Bingo

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It’s certainly NOT a night of your parents’ bingo…and that’s a good thing!

Hamburger Mary’s Legendary Bingo featured a very full house on Sunday the 25th. Club members and a surprising number of single women celebrating birthdays with their gal pals made sure that the house was rocking and ready to roll for the evening’s festivities. Bingo-Boy was not able to be there, but we were treated to the quick-witted very cute Joel as our emcee. Trans icon Calpernia Addams herself served as our ball caller for the evening!

It was all great fun and we were very fortunate to have the club benefit from the evening’s take at the door. Those funds are crucial to ensuring that the club can continue to book our charter boats throughout the year as well as offering our other free events and gatherings. Thanks to everyone who showed up and made the night such a great party!

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Well, another CSW festival has come and gone. While we’re all exhausted and ready for some relaxation, it’s hard not to be excited about how well everything went for the club.

First of all, a big, hearty “Thank You” to everyone who came out to help support the club presence over the weekend. YOU are the reason we have so many great potential recruits for the coming year. Without your encouragement and enthusiasm, many potential new divers would have simply walked on past our booth.

This year we had over 250 people stop by and express interest in becoming part of our LGBTQ scuba family. Even accounting those chronic festival “signers” and those too high to know what they were signing, we should be able to look forward to banner year of new friendly faces to welcome on our upcoming underwater adventures! Of special note this year, was a particularly high number of already certified divers who had been looking for a group of people to dive with in 2017.

Thanks again to all those who helped make the weekend such a success. Now come on out, get wet, and meet some of your new dive buddies!