Sunday, September 16, 2012

Yellow Submarine Ride at Catalina Island

Do you see the Yellow Submarine in the middle of the picture?

The yellow submarine you're looking at is the SS Nautilus, a semi-submersible boat that gives tours of the Marine Preserve on Catalina Island. 

On one of our sailing trips to Catalina Island, my husband, Rex, and our good friends, David and Christy decided to play tourists and take a ride on the SS Nautilus. It was a fun excursion and we had a great time on our 45 minute ride. 

To board the SS Nautilus, we went down the gray metal ramp and climbed down a ladder into the belly of the submarine. It's not a place for anyone who is uncomfortable in closed-in spaces although the surface of the water is always visible through the port holes. 

When we pulled away from the pier and started our under water voyage, the flat screen TV displays came alive. With red blinking lights and warning bells, we are informed that we were descending into the waters. Bubbles shot out around our windows as if we were truly on a deep sea dive. An audio track continued to play as if we are on a real underwater mission. 

Once our adventure commenced, the scenery out our portholes was magical. Kelp beds sparkled from the rays of the sun shining through from the ocean's surface. 

The long stems (called the stipe) floated to the surface and the leaves (called the blades), waved gently as we passed by. 

I had often seen the kelp (seaweed) on the surface of the water when we steered around it in our friend's boat or kayak. I found it fascinating to see the length and appearance of it under the water. 

After a short ride, it was time to push a button by our porthole and fire a fish food torpedo. When the torpedoes exploded in the water schools of fish swarmed our windows. Pieces of fish food, floated in the water and mobs of Opaleye Perch scrambled to partake in the food. After our first free torpedo, we had the option of buying more which we did. We were like excited little kids pushing torpedo buttons and drawing the fish to our portholes.  

The brightly colored orange fish in this picture are the Garibaldi fish which are California's state marine fish. They look like giant goldfish and may grow to up to 15 inches in length. By law they are protected in the California coastal waters.  

The fish followed along with us knowing a torpedo of food could come their way at any minute. The fish go wild grabbing the food in a feeding frenzy with every push of a button. Watching the fish scramble right before our eyes was quite the entertainment. 

After our 40 minute underwater excursion, the captain invited us to climb the ladder and exit the hatch where we could stand on the top of the submarine as we cruised back to the pier. It was a easy reminder of how sights and sounds can trick us into believing we were on a real deep sea adventure (as long as we didn't look upward to the surface of the water). The air was warm and sunny and it was a beautiful day to ride below and on top of the water. I think if I played tourist again, I'd seriously consider another submarine ride with Catalina Adventure Tours!

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