After an unexpected summer hiatus due to mechanical challenges and the relentless red tide, I'm happy to report that ODA is finally back in operation this month with a splash in San Pedro on September 24th. This was our second year participating in the Great Earth Walk, which was put together by Stephanie Barger and the tireless volunteers at Earth Resources Foundation. The GEW is like a walkathon, where individuals get people to sponsor them while they hike, bike or dive to help raise money for selected non-profit organizations.
ODA chose to dive at Cabrillo Beach, where the Cabrillo Marine Aquarium was holding their famous annual Chocolate Lobster Dive (CLD) fundraiser. We had a booth on the beach, along with several other organizations, where the divers for the CLD could find out about who is doing what in the area to help raise awareness of the problems facing the oceans or the local environment. We had a lot of people inquire at the booth about ODA activities, sold quite a few of our T-shirts and had several people sign up for our email list.
It was a nice fall day, cloudy in the morning and started to clear up by noon. Just what you want when you are out in a boat with no canopy to protect you from the sun. We hope to purchase a canopy in the near future to prevent our volunteers from getting overexposure, the sun is unrelenting in an open hulled boat.
The surface of the seas were calm, with 3-4 foot slow rolling waves and an ODA crew that was excited to be back in action. As usual, Jim Lieber was acting as the First Mate and photographer. The dive crew consisted of Chris Aultman, our newest volunteer Michael Zuehlsdorff and myself. We anchored on the lee side of a huge kelp bed and entered the water looking at visibility of about 5 feet. We could barely see each other and not knock into one another at the same time.
Our coast has been mired in a red tide for pretty much all of the last 4 months and it is still present. Usually it goes from the surface to about 10 feet from the bottom, so we were hoping to get beneath it and start our hunt for abandoned fishing gear. But to our dismay when we reached the bottom at 35 feet, the visibility was even worse. When we got our bearings, we headed due west for about 50 feet when I literally ran into a reef because I couldn't see it. Visibility now was reduced to zero. With this as a signal, we ascended and returned to the boat.
On our way back to the dock we picked up a lot of trash on the surface, mostly plastic bottles and bags. After we loaded the boat back on the trailer we went to see how things were going at the booth. Jared Rubin and Lisa Davis were engaged in conversations with a lot of the divers that were there to participate in the CLD. The booth looked great and we got to enjoy the rest of the day talking with people about my favorite subject, the Oceans, and what we can do to help restore the fish and kelp community to a healthy population.
Thanks to all the volunteers who helped ODA out, and thanks also to Kelley Sayce and Sue and Jeff Shaw for putting on such a wonderfully attended Chocolate Lobster Dive. Long live the REAL lobsters!
A special thanks to John Milligan for putting so much time, effort and money into developing a superbly designed bilge system. Thanks to Scott Sheckman for helping with the logistics of the GEW/CLD fundraising. Also to Jim, Chris and Mike for helping repair the engine parts that were damaged from the saltwater that inundated the engine compartment when the bilge system failed. It took us about two weeks to replace the starter, which had become fused to the engine block by salt deposits left behind by the evaporated sea water.
Even though the dive season was severely reduced this year due to the red tide and our recently solved mechanical problems, we look forward to a very eventful next couple of months when California diving is usually at its best visibility. Thanks for everyone's support this year and I hope to see you all underwater in the near future.
Let's go bottom cleaning!!
Founder & President
Ocean Defenders Alliance