After a year of being cooped up inside thanks to stay-at-home orders and the COVID-19 pandemic, residents in Southern California are being invited to take a ride over to Catalina island for some R&R.
The Catalina Express high-speed catamaran is once again filled to COVID-19 capacity limits with tourists who are celebrating birthdays, anniversaries or just want to get away for the first time in over a year.
Catalina Express President Greg Bombard says pre-COVID, the ferry carried around 1 million people a year from Dana Point, San Pedro or Long Beach across 22 miles of ocean to Avalon in about an hour. But after the pandemic struck and stay-at-home orders were issues, the boats that normally seat hundreds of people were kept running for a few dozen essential workers who needed transporation to get to the island.
Bombard says the family business is considered public transportation and gave the more than 4,000 residents on the island a ride back to and from the mainland whenever they needed to get somewhere.
Bombard says after COVID-19 hit, it was a tough few months thanks to the island's economy depending on a tourism industry that suddenly evaporated.
Bombard’s family started the Catalina Express 40 years ago and now has 8 ferries and about 400 employees.
Listen to Part I of Corbin's report on the re-opening of Catalina Island here:
Photo: Corbin Carson