STEM Logo

Dive Dry with Dr. Bill

#711: Dreams Can Come True, Part II

When I arrived at the San Pedro terminal, I parked my car and walked over to where Cousteau's windship Alcyone was berthed. I quickly spotted Margery and Pam carrying supplies on board and joined them. Jean-Michel and Murph were besieged by members of the press, so I enjoyed reunions with other members of the team. I toured Alcyone from stem to stern, from bilge to the top of the turbosail.

Many of you are familiar with Cousteau's original vessel, the Calypso. The 103 ft long Alcyone was a completely different animal. She is named for the daughter of the Greek god of the wind for good reason. Her propulsion is based on two 33 1/2 foot tall turbosails. These function in similar fashion to airplane wings, creating differential air flow over each side. In an airplane this produces lift, but with Alcyone is creates forward thrust.

The vessel also has two 156 hp diesel engines. A computer controls both propulsion systems. When winds are favorable, the turbosails provide all the propulsion. If they weaken, the engines engage to maintain a cruising speed of 9 to 11 knots. Under optimal conditions, this system saves about 90% of the fuel that would be used by a comparable conventional vessel.

Once the interviews were over, Jean-Michel invited Margery and me for dinner at The Reef. Over bouillabaise and French wine we discussed the open house to be held in Avalon Bay and the filming schedule for the following week. I slept that night in the galley as all the bunks were occupied by the boat and film crews. The next morning I expected French croissants but settled for a breakfast of powdered donuts.

The Channel crossing was a great opportunity to experience Alcyone in action. We arrived at the Isthmus to film Jean-Michel in the passing of a torch for "The First Great Earth Walk." Then the vessel motored along Catalina's leeward coast using the engines due to the island's windshadow. As we passed Toyon Bay, I gave a smile and Pam immediately recognized why. That was where these Cousteau adventures began a decade earlier.

Upon entering Avalon Bay, Jean-Michel handed me a glass of French wine, saying "I think you may need this." I was nervous while greeting those coming on board that I forgot the names of a few people I'd known for years. Following the open house, Jean-Michel suggested we all go to the Society's unofficial Avalon headquarters, the original Antonio's, for dinner and more planning.

Two days later I picked up Jean-Michel at the heliport and drove down to Toyon to film CIMI students in the water. Then I arranged for the film crew to shoot the glassbottom boat Moonstone "from a fish's eye view." After that we raced up to a point above Silver Canyon to record Dave Garcelon releasing two bald eagles. It was here I had a significant Eureka moment.

Jean-Michel handed me a Sony Hi-8 camcorder and asked me to film the eagles as they were released. Previously I had considered a video camera useful for family reunions, but the light bulb went off in my head as I realized I could film natural history with them too. I did a lot of work for the SCICo filming their tours, but it was another 15 years before I used the technology underwater!

That pretty much completed my role on the TBS episode entitled "Channel Islands: At The Edge of a Human Tide." Alcyone sailed on to film the other Channel Islands. There were still a few things to tie up here on Catalina, but I was about to "wake up" from my dream adventure. In the years since, I've worked with Jean-Michel, Murph and the crew on a few projects. The latest was filming a massive squid run off Catalina a few years ago. The footage, filmed in UHD 3D, is now part of an IMAX film entitled "Jean-Michel Cousteau's Secret Ocean 3D." Go see it!

© 2016 Dr. Bill Bushing. Watch the "Dive Dry with Dr. Bill" underwater videos on Catalina Cable TV channel 29, 10:00 AM weekdays and on Charter Communications Cable channel 33 at 7:30 PM on Tuesdays in the Riverside/Norco area. You can also watch these episodes in iPod format on YouTube through my channel there (drbillbushing). Please help me climb out of self-imposed poverty... buy my DVD's (see this link). Yes, take Dr. Bill home with you... we'll both be glad you did!

To return to the list of ALL of Dr. Bill's "Dive Dry" newspaper columns, click here.


Jean-Michel ready to dive and Alcyone along our coast; filming John Beckman in
Packy & Wendy's bathroom and filming the release of bald eagles above Silver Canyon. .

This document maintained by Dr. Bill Bushing.
Material and images © 2017 Star Thrower Educational Multimedia