Category Archives: Travel

Tales of adventure and photographs to prove it!

Wreck of the Hilma Hooker

The wreck of the Hilma Hooker is one of the best wreck dive sites in the Caribbean. The story of how the 235 foot long by 36 foot beam Colombian cargo ship was sunk is a good story and a nice piece of history.

In 1984 the ship arrived in Bonaire and anchored close to Klein Bonaire in a little inlet on the leeward side of the island. This was unusual behavior as normally ships would dock at the Kralendeck harbor. The Customs Officials deemed this as suspicious behavior and proceeded to board the ship for an inspection. The captain protested the boarding and as the officials began their search, he pulled anchor so the ship would drift into international waters. The officials got wise to this and at that point seized the ship and had it towed to port. They did a thorough inspection of the ship, going so far as to bring in specialists from Miami to help, yet they found nothing. The captain further tried to swart their efforts by opening a valve allowing water into the ship trying to sink it.

Into the picture enters Captain Don Stewart (1925-2014) an American navigator and avid diver who moved to Bonaire in 1962. Captain Don was hired to inspect the bottom of the ship. He located a metal plate welded to the bottom of the ship that didn’t look right… in the hidden hold twelve tons of cocaine and marijuana were found. The ship’s captain was jailed, the ship seized but the ship’s owners couldn’t be located.

Now the ship was at the dock, in a bad state of repair and listing because of the water that had entered. While no water was still entering, the ship had to be moved off the dock to make room for other ships. It was anchored offshore while the authorities decided what they would do. Captain Stewart and the local dive community wanted to sink the vessel and make it a dive site but were not given permission. Somehow, the ship was moved and mysteriously sunk on September 12, 1984. It now lies perfectly positioned on its side in 100 feet in a sandy spot between two coral reefs. It is a short swim from shore and couldn’t be better positioned if Captain Stewart sunk it himself (which I suspect he did!).

For a good read, look up Captain Don Stewart on Wikipedia… a great story!

Underwater Photography

Back when I started diving… 50+ years ago, my primary interest other than exploring the undersea world was hunting. Spearfishing, lobster, abalone and scallop hunting were my main focus. As years went by I had visions of becoming a great underwater photographer. I’ve won a few awards for underwater photography over the years but back then it was a very difficult skill to master, which I never really did. I started with a Kodak Instamatic camera in a plastic box before moving up to a Nikonos camera and then 35 mm SLR cameras with large bulky housings. Strobe lights attached to the cameras made using them difficult to do sometimes and a complete underwater camera setup was an expensive investment.

Continue reading Underwater Photography

Lobster Man

We were diving off a small, remote island called Mayaguana, the easternmost island in the district of the Bahamas. The diving there wasn’t that good. There’s about 30 local residents and not much in the way of services. They have medical folks who show up about once a month. I’m swimming along and there’s a good size Caribbean Spiny Lobster (Panulirus argus) walking across the sand so I grabbed him. He didn’t make it to the dinner table, I let him go.

Diving the Hermes

The wreck of the ‘Hermes‘ is also a popular Bermuda wreck site. There was a large Lion Fish waiting for me when I arrived. Shortly after that he was speared and later met me for lunch. Lion fish are delicious! The ‘Hermes’ was a U.S. Coast Guard WWII buoy tender that was sunk as an artificial reef in 1985.

Fore more information about Lion Fish in Bermuda, check out the Lion Fish Task Force.

Lion Fish Task Force

Diving Mary Celestia

The island of Bermuda is a wreck dive paradise. The island is surrounded by ship wrecks of all types. The ‘Mary Celestia’ is one of the more famous wrecks. The ship was a steam powered side paddle boat and was sunk in 1864. This is a photo of Pam next to what’s left of one of the paddle wheels. The ship was running guns for the Confederacy during the Civil War. The Confederates would trade cotton with the English for guns and then run the blockade back to the south. She was a victim of the many reefs around the island.

You can interact with a 360º 3D model at Bermuda100.

Diving in Roatán

On a shark dive in Roatan I was in the water with about thirty sharks… mostly small in the 4-5 ft. range but there were a few like this one in the 6-8 ft. range. Lots of close up shots!

Pam diving in Roatán, Honduras

We encountered this large grouper near the ship wreck of El Aguila (The Eagle) in Roatán, at a depth of 100 ft. The ship is 210′ long but in 1998 when hurricane Mitch came through it broke into three pieces… even down 100 feet!

Large Grouper lazily gliding passed El Aguila, Roatán, Honduras

Santa Catalina Island Golf

When Your Home Golf Course Is Catalina Island

Catalina Island Golf Course, Catalina, California, USA
Catalina Island Golf Course

Golf is often referred to as the game you love to hate. No matter how good you think you are, the “Golf Gods” are always ready and able to knock you down and return you back to earth. You might be able to string together a couple of good holes. You get a couple of pars, then you get that birdie and start feeling really good about your game… then that double or triple boogie comes along; the horrible sand trap; the deadly water hazard, and you quickly become mortal again. It’s the great equalizer in life and even happens to the great ones. How many of us smile just a little when you watch golf on TV and see a great pro player have that horrible hole just like the rest of us. Since I play for fun and don’t have to depend on my game to support myself (thank God!), I try not to take the game too seriously.

I have been fortunate to have played some of the most beautiful courses in the world, the Olympic Club, the Old Del Monte Course, The Presidio S.F., Cabo del Sol, just to name a few, but there is nothing like playing island golf.  “Mainland” courses are pretty, but when you add golf to an island, the courses become truly beautiful.

I have played the Tryall Club Course in Jamaica, the Waikoloa King’s Course and Wailea Golf Club Hawaii, the Pearl in Morea, the Coronado and yes, I have even played at St. Andrews in Scotland. What they all have in common is that they are located on islands! What I consider to be my “home island course” is here on Catalina.

All the courses I have listed above have their own unique histories. Many have hosted major tournaments and as we all know, St. Andrews is the legendary home of golf. We here in Catalina have a great deal to be proud of with our course history as well. Our course was built by the Banning Brothers in 1892 and is the oldest operating course west of the Rock Mountains. Not only has the Catalina course been played by numerous movie stars, athletes and celebrities over the years but is was the home to the Bobby Jones Invitational from 1931-1955. The Catalina Island Junior Golf Tournament started in 1967. Future pro golfers, Corey Pavin, Craig Stadler and Tiger Woods played in the tournament.

If you visit Catalina, take a little time to enjoy golf here. And for those of us who play here on a regular basis, next time you play a round, take a moment to remember the history, enjoy the beauty and realize how fortunate we are to be in such a special place.

Reprinted from the Catalina Islander February 10, 2017

Seaplanes in Catalina

Sea Planes have been crossing from the California mainland to the Channel Islands for almost a century.  The first service was operated by Charlie Chaplin’s half-brother Syd in 1919. Operating for a couple of years, other firms moved in to operate the service until 1931 when Wrigley stepped up.

Phillip K. Wrigley, began the Wilmington-Catalina Airline, Ltd. through his Santa Catalina Island Company, and took over the sea plane services.  The airline’s fleet were mostly comprised of Douglas Dolphin’s designed by Donald Douglas.

Douglas Dolphin Sea Plane, Avalon, Santa Catalina, circa 1940
Douglas Dolphin Sea Plane flying over the casino and Avalon Harbor, Santa Catalina. Circa 1940

In 1931, Wrigley helped design a unique airport at Hamilton Cove, the 2nd cove north of Avalon, to accommodate the Douglas Dolphin ‘Amphibion’ planes.  The twin-engine Dolphins landed just offshore & would taxi up a ramp to a large turntable mechanism.  The airplane would then be rotated until it was facing the water & ready for a trip back to the mainland. A small Spanish-style terminal building welcomed residents, business people & tourists to Catalina.”  There was also a large hanger behind the terminal building.

Hamilton Cove Seaplane Base
Hamilton Cove Sea Plane Base, north of Avalon Harbor, Santa Catalina, California

According the Catalina Goose, Wilmington-Catalina Air Line was noted in the March 1941 issue of Flying & Popular Aviation as “the shortest airline in the world.” The article points out that not only was Wilmington-Catalina Air Line, serving 2 towns less than 30 miles apart, the shortest but also the safest airline, having flown the channel 38,000 times carrying over 200,000 passengers with no accidents or injuries between 1931-41.

Seaplane service was discontinued & replaced by a landplane base in the spring of 1941 and following the entry of the USA into WWII, civilian air traffic to Catalina Island was shut down and the Coast Guard took over the Hamilton Cove Seaplane Base.

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Sea Creatures

Just a few photos of the creatures we share the sea with. Future web posts will have some of our smaller creatures.

Octopus close encounter
Octopus Close Encounter

A close encounter of the octopus kind! This is one of my favorite creatures. They are incredibly smart and very adaptive. They change colors depending on their mood or environment.

Barracuda Belize
Barracuda

Large barracuda like this guy usually swim around alone. When they are small you will see them in large schools. They have large sharp teeth and the unwarranted  reputation as being dangerous. I have been in the water with them hundreds of times and have found them to just be curious. If you catch one on a fishing line… getting him off the hook could be dangerous. This was taken in Belize.

Caribbean Reef Shark
Caribbean Reef Shark

Caribbean reek shark. I love diving with sharks. They are fun to photograph and add an element of excitement to any dive. This guy and his pals were keeping us company on a dive. There are really only a few species that are of much concern to divers.

Lemon Shark Bora Bora
Lemon Shark

Lemon shark in Bora Bora. This was a large pregnant shark about ten feet long. She was a little far away for the photo and kept her distance. The photo shows how well they blend into the surroundings. You look into the distance and see nothing and then suddenly they are there. We saw several sharks of the same size on this dive but only a few came close to us.

Pamela Marchetti 70 feet down Bora Bora
Pamela Marchetti

This is my wife, Pamela, diving in Bora Bora at about 70 feet down. The water is warm enough that you do not have to use a wet suit but keep in mind that in the ocean there are lots of little stingy things that can get you. I learned that lesson with fire coral many years ago. Clear warm water with lots of fish… just like an aquarium.

California Spiny Lobster - Panulirus interruptus
California spiny lobster (Panulirus interruptus) in Casino Point Scuba Park, Santa Catalina, California

Garibaldi damselfish - Hypsypops rubicundus
Garibaldi damselfish (Hypsypops rubicundus) is the state fish of California and is prevalent in the shallows around Santa Catalina Island, California

Green Abalone - Haliotis fulgens
Green Abalone, Haliotis fulgens, is a species of large edible sea snail, a marine gastropod mollusk, found in the Casino Point Scuba Park, Avalon, Santa Catalina.

California sheephead - Semicossyphus pulcher
California sheephead exposing his teeth against the backdrop of the kelp forest in Casino Point Scuba Park, Avalon, Santa Catalina.

Diving Cormorant
Cormorant diving for dinner in Casino Point Scuba Park, Avalon, Santa Catalina

California moray - Gymnothorax mordax
California moray (Gymnothorax mordax) is a moray eel of the family, hiding in a crevasse in Casino Point Scuba Park, Avalon, California