Friday, March 6, 2015

34th Annual Avalon Harbor Cleanup, Healing a Harbor, Healing a Community #Catalina

Avalon Catalina Harbor Cleanup

The Avalon Harbor Cleanup in Catalina is over and it was bittersweet.  This year we brought up more trash out of Avalon Harbor than in any other year but the reason for it was heartbreaking.

In case you hadn't heard, there was a storm on December 30, 2014 that will always be remembered in Catalina as a horrific and heartbreaking night.  That night, while most of us slept on the mainland, the residents of Avalon were fighting to keep their town safe from horrible swells that came up with "Santa Ana Winds"/ North East winds.  The winds brought waves into the otherwise safe harbor causing massive damage to the boats that call the harbor home.

Many people lost not only their boats, which many consider a luxury but even worse, people lost their homes and in two instances, lost their lives. Tim Mitchell and Bruce Ryder were respected members of the Catalina family and will always be remembered.  

Tim Mitchell was a Harbor Patrolman, who also captained the King Neptune, one of my favorite SCUBA Dive Boats.   That fateful night, he was trying to save the boat from hitting the rocks and lost his life while the boat smashed to splinters with a handful of other boats.

Bruce Ryder, a long-time diver and resident, lived on his boat and was presumed to have been washed overboard.  His dog had swam ashore to his favorite hangout to find help.

The loss of life was horrific and the bottom of the harbor was littered with debris and personal artifacts from the boats that were lost.  The organizers of the Cleanup encouraged us to locate personal items that might be returned to their owners.

With heavy hearts, we entered the water.

Avalon Catalina Beach Cleanup

The visibility was crystal clear this year unlike most other years we could see about 50 feet in front of us in silted sand.

Beach Cleanup Bill Bushing Avalon Catalina
Photo Credit: Dr. Bill Bushing
As we collected debris, we were humbled by the shipwrecks and the trail they left behind.  It hit especially hard when I found a photo album filled with memories.

Beach Cleanup Avalon Catalina Bill Bushing
Photo Credit: Dr. Bill Bushing
With our tanks empty and our bags full, we returned to shore to check in with the dive master and see the results of the others.

This year, there was so much debris that the bins had to be emptied and brought back to fill yet again.  This was the first year that I had to leave debris in the water because I couldn't physically carry another piece!  After the stats were out, it broke down into:
  • 900 lbs of metal
  • 1640 lbs of boat parts
  • 400 lbs of trash
  • 427 divers
Some pieces of the boats were recovered by divers that returned after dropping off their bags.  These pieces were easily 10 feet long!

Beach Cleanup Avalon Catalina

As the last of the divers returned, volunteer kayakers and harbor patrolman discuss safety.

Kayaks Harbor Patrol Catalina

The finds were unbelievable!  
  • Kitchen and bathroom sinks
  • Sides of boats
  • Antique bottles
  • Sewing machine
  • Engines
  • Clothing
  • Compass
  • Photo Album and SO much more!
SCUBA Avalon

We all met at the Wrigley Stage in the middle of town for the ceremony and with Mr. Bob Kennedy(former mayor and owner of the King Neptune) leading a moment of silence for our fallen friends.

Avalon Mayor Catalina

The ceremony commenced when all divers were accounted for.  The awards handed out for the best treasures and stories. 

PhotoTJ Avalon Harbor Cleanup To my proud surprise, my good friend TJ Jones got the Golden Flipper Award for outstanding volunteering!  He has been the M.C. for the last 10 years!  He absolutely deserved his name on the plaque!

Avalon Harbor Cleanup CatalinaThere were awesome raffle prizes ranging from trips to Catalina, zipline tours, artwork, SCUBA gear, a Stratocaster guitar, and more to be handed out.  Of course, everyone loves a little swag too!

As the day wound down, many divers headed out of town but many more enjoyed the beauty of the Island.  With new friends and memories created, we are reminded of what makes Catalina so beautiful.  It is not only the external beauty that makes Catalina so special but the people that help keep it that way. 

DISCLAIMER:  ALL photos are copyrighted and used with permission,  Do not use any photos without asking permission.


  1. What a wonderful thing to do. I had no idea they had such a bad storm this year.

  2. Wow so crazy all the stuff that was pulled out of the water.


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