“I feel the need for speed!” is the line in the hit movie Top Gun. And sometimes I feel that way on my dive trips. As much as I love the ocean I would rather spend more time IN it than ON it. Sundiver Express provides divers with just that opportunity. This dive charter boat was built for speed and it delivers. Travel time from its home port in Alamitos Bay in Long Beach to Catalina Island is only about 75 minutes. With this you can have more dive time and get back sooner. It is a great combo all the way around.
The Sundiver Express (formerly the Island Time) recently underwent an ownership and management change. Previously a good dive charter operation it is now excellent. It was taken over by the operators of the popular Sundiver boat, a full sized dive charter out of the same dock. The boat has been completely rehabbed and cleaned up. One of my favorite improvements is the enclosure of most of the back deck to get passengers out of the wind on the ride home. New twin 450-horse power Caterpillar engines were installed in 2007 and the ride is now smoother than ever. With speeds upward of 22 knots she is the fastest of mainland dive charter boats serving Catalina Island. For many, however, more important than the speed is the ride. When the boat gets up and planes across the waves the ride is quite smooth.
The boat is a sleek and stout fiberglass Custom brand dive charter boat, built especially for quick day-trip dives. If you have dived resorts in the Caribbean, odds are you have ridden a Custom dive boat. They are an industry standard for reliability and speed.
The boat is 48 feet long and 16 feet wide, more than large enough to handle the 22-diver capacity. Along the port and starboard rail are racks for over three dozen tanks and benches with storage underneath. Additional dry storage is available in the overhead rack above as well as forward and in the cabin.
Another feature that makes this boat and easy dive is that tanks and weights are provided, a big plus for divers that might be traveling in by airline and ease for local divers having two less heavyweight gear items to deal with. Most of the tanks are aluminum 80s but a few steel 85s are available if requested. For smaller divers smaller tanks are also available. And of course you are welcome to bring your own.
The boat is well laid out with an exceptionally large dive deck. Best feature of the dive area is the boat’s transom that is excellent for getting in and out of the water. The swimstep is wide and broad and hovers just above the water, perfect for an easy giant stride or, as my wife prefers, just sitting and slipping into the water. Two large well-angled ladders provide for an easy water exit. The steps are wide and easy on the feet. In short, getting off and back on this boat, especially with their helpful crew, is pure joy.
A typical dive day is boarding the early morning, with light snacks available. After the first dive, more snacks, including fruit, is provided. Drinks are also available. And finally after the second dive a spread to custom make your own sandwiches is laid out. And after the third dive the boat heads back quickly with just enough time to pack away your gear and camera. While a dive day is typically three dives, shorter, two-dive days are also run, especially on summer weekends.
Skipper Captain Kyaa Heller has a sort of cult following that is well deserved. Not only does she put you right on exciting and different dive sites (as well as the old standard greats) her positive personality makes the dive trip especially fun. Owner Ray Arntz had done a fantastic job in rehabbing and maintaining and staffing the vessel for maximum comfort and ease of diving.
For more information on the Sundiver Express, check out their website at www.sundiver.net.