By Founder and President Kurt Lieber
After investing most of the last three months working on our new boat, on September 21st, we were thrilled to honor the long-standing tradition of popping a bottle of champagne and formally christening the vessel. I proudly present to you, our wonderful supporters: "Mr. Barker's LegaSea"!
As you may know, Mr. Bob Barker has been very supportive of our work over the last two years, and I feel that naming the boat in his honor is highly appropriate, as his legacy for the oceans is immense, and because this wonderful human, through his foundation, does so much to help save animals and reduce their suffering.
Mr. Barker and the foundation's Executive Director Ms. Nancy Burnet: thank you for making the world a better place for animals!
The Acknowledgements, Thank Yous, and Written Hugs!
I will also take this opportunity to thank everyone reading this. Without you, thousands of marine animals would suffer and die each year! In addition to Mr. Barker, I want to specifically acknowledge a few more wonderful people.
Without these folks, the conservation vessel "Mr. Barker's LegaSea" would simply not be ready for ocean defense duty-and would have required much more time and money to prepare…more than ODA can afford. The following people have made significant contributions of money, time, labor, and/or expertise, and helped our alliance get to this exciting point: Kevin Augarten, Ranko Balog, Jeff Connor, Lisa Davis, Tatiana Frietas, Jeff Larson, Jim Lieber, John Milligan, Linda Nicholes and Howard Stein, Carol and Blake Storie, Mignonne Walker, Tom and Kerry Weisel, Walter Marti, Carla Robinson, and Chuck Swift.
Thankfully, there are many awesome people-including you-working together to defend the waters and animals of the California coast (and beyond, when we expand our operations). As President and Founder of ODA, I am proud to know and work with each of them, and you. All of us at ODA are grateful to every person who donated funds towards this ocean conservation vessel-every dollar counts and is appreciated. Thank you all for caring about the oceans, and for being a part of ODA's life-saving work!
And now, how about a fantastic Field Report?
The First Trip Out!
Having spent so much time preparing the boat we'll be calling "LegaSea" for short, it was now ready to go! On hand for our first the day's festivities were the following dedicated volunteers: Jeff Connor, Lisa Davis, Al Laubenstein, Jim Lieber, Bill Maley, Walter Marti (underwater video), Julia Ransom (photographer), and Luis Soto.
The LegaSea is an incredible step up from our current workboat, the Clearwater. The LegaSea is a 55-foot Chris Craft, built in 1987. It has twin diesel engines that burn fuel very efficiently, leaving none of those smelly fumes in our wake that are typical of diesel engines.
Thanks to some of our hard-working and committed volunteers, we have built new diver benches on the rear deck. An outside toilet/changing room has been added. And the best upgrades compared to the Clearwater are a hoist on the front deck, a RIB (Rigid Inflatable Boat) that came along with the LegaSea, and space to install a dive-air compressor (design phase in progress)!
This hoist deploys and retrieves the RIB between the front deck and the water in about two minutes! This is phenomenal. In the past we have had a very difficult time getting the traps/nets to the boat when the divers send the debris to the surface (with lift bags). Now we can quickly and safely send the RIB out to where a lift bag is floating, attach a towline to it, and tow it over to the LegaSea. We can also lift the debris onto the front deck much more easily with the new hoist too, and secure it there for the ride back to port.
The RIB is large enough to comfortably seat up to four people, and we are excited to be able to put film crews on it that will add more value to our documentary and educational filming capabilities. We will now also be able to get divers into the RIB if an emergency should arise.
Custom Equipment is Necessary
Another invaluable addition to this boat is a custom-built dive ladder. ODA supporter Jeff Spira was kind enough to design it for us pro bono! Once we had the designs prepared, we posted an online plea for some of our equipment and expertise needs. Thankfully, a long-time friend of mine, Deb Connor, saw it and immediately contacted me to see if I would be open to her asking her boss if her company would be interested in manufacturing the ladder for us? Are you kidding me? YES! Please!
Deb then approached her boss, Luis Soto, who just happened to have been on a couple of our outings a few years ago. Talk about serendipity! Luis, of course, was all for it, and asked the company owner Greg Clark if he would be interested in the project. The rest is history: within two weeks they started making it, and we installed it last weekend before our maiden voyage on the LegaSea.
Thank you Greg, Luis, Deb, and ROC Industries for making this very generous donation. And yes, they did donate it! Below you can see Luis dousing the ladder with champagne, before he jumped in with his dive gear. Hoorah Luis, and welcome back!
An Eventful Day Becomes Even More So…
We enjoyed our ceremony together, but were eager to get the LegaSea out on the water and into action. We soon pushed away from our slip in Wilmington and motored to a site near Huntington Harbor where we had previously seen abandoned traps. When we anchored, the skies were clear and the seas were flat-a great way to start our first dives on the boat.
We arrived on the site around 10am, and soon Jeff, Al, Bill, Walter, and Luis jumped in with their dive gear, lift bags in hand, and headed to the spot where we last saw a pile of traps. It didn't take long before lift bags were popping up all over the place. Al, in the new RIB, towed the first trap over to the boat and said "you aren't going to believe this, but there are something like 30 lobsters in this one!"
What?! This is nine days before people can legally trap lobsters, and as soon as we hauled it aboard "something smelled fishy," and I don't mean from the dead fish that was in the trap with all the lobsters. I could tell this was a new trap that had been put in the water recently. How? There was no growth on it and no rust.
Any trap that has been in the water for a few months will accumulate algae growth, but this one had ZERO growth. Another indicator was a two-foot long dead fish in the trap, which means the fish was too large to accidentally swim into it. Someone looking to circumvent the law baited this trap with the dead fish. There was no buoy and line attached to it that as required by the California Department of Fish & Wildlife to identify the trap owner.
So, we carefully removed and counted each lobster, gently getting them back into the water. In all we counted 30 lobsters in this trap. THIRTY! Jeff said that three or four escaped while Al was towing it over to our boat, so that made for 33 animals liberated from that one trap.
Luckily they were all still alive and each one made a mad dash for the deep as soon as they hit the water.
There were more traps to come as well, for a total of five. All of the other four were old and had significant growth and surface rust on them, indicating that they were probably lost sometime last year. The crew released another seven lobsters from those traps. So, the total for the day was 40 animals released to live another day, and hopefully prosper.
We headed back home around 2pm and were all in great spirits because of the momentous day for ODA: A new boat that is doing exactly what we intended it to do, a crew that enjoys working toward the ODA mission, and a whole gaggle of lobsters who are celebrating their newfound freedom.
Thanks to all you awesome ODA supporters and crewmembers for proactively working to defend the oceans; you are making a huge difference!
Take a cruise through our photo gallery below to see ALL the pics of the day!