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  • Writer's pictureHannah Nelson

Suitcases, dolphins and traps - Oh my!

Updated: Mar 14, 2022


When a Sunday morning starts with 7AM bagels and coffee, you know it’s going to be good.

Sunday June 6th, Pete and I set off up North to San Pedro, CA just north of Long Beach. Ocean Defenders Alliance has a 47-foot boat called the LegaSea where the team tries to meet up almost every other weekend for a boat outing in search for marine debris.

A sport fishing boat creates a wake in the ocean.

As we pulled into the harbor parking lot after a quick and easy drive through Orange County into LA County (the traffic can get bad, we got lucky), we immediately spotted ODA team members Dave, Al, and of course Captain Kurt. Suited up in our ODA t-shirts, we made our way to the end of the dock where the LegaSea lives.

The morning weather was nice, a bit overcast with a chill to the air, but comfortable enough for a mid-weight jacket. We greeted the team as everyone arrived. Our crew for the day was Kim, Geoff, Al, Dave, Captain Kurt, Pete, and myself - in my opinion the perfect size crew for a boat outing.

As Kim, Geoff and Al loaded their diving gear onto the boat, I tried to help organize any gear coming on board and just stay out of the way.


I eventually began chatting with Kim and it turns out that she just got back from Tulum, Mexico a few weeks ago from a diving trip. I was so excited to chat with her about it as I just got my scuba certification last weekend! It felt really great to chat with an experienced diver about my most recent dive and what to look forward to.

The crew finally got loaded on and we were ready to head out. The LegaSea has a smaller boat on board called a RIB (rigid inflatable boat), that we like to use when going out. The RIB makes it easier to haul in marine debris when our divers locate anything and bring it to the surface.

A sport fishing yacht disembarks a smaller boat with people helping.

However on Sunday, we got the RIB into the water, gave it a start aaannndd….nothing. The battery was dead, even after trying everything to get it running. So, the RIB went back onto the LegaSea and we strapped it back down.

Luckily we didn’t need the RIB in order to have a successful boat outing so with that, the 7 of us embarked out of the harbor towards our diving destination.


Our goal for the day was to send our three divers down on two separate dives in two separate areas: one along the break wall of the Huntington Harbor and another within close proximity.

Upon arriving at our Huntington Harbor destination, we set anchor and prepped our divers to hop in. Within minutes, all three divers were in the water and below the surface. The wait for debris bags to pop up to the surface was on.

In the meantime, Pete and I conducted an Instagram live video, giving our viewers an idea of the day’s events, a tour of the boat and a quick interview with Kurt about his most recent ODA trip to Hawaii.

A man pulls debris aboard the back of a boat with a scuba diver in the water nearby..

After about 25 minutes, a debris bag surfaced followed by our diver Al. He scootered himself and the debris bag to the LegaSea and we were able to help pull out our first item – an old suitcase! It was in pretty bad shape, deteriorating nearly past the point of recognition.

Al mentioned that he got separated from the other two divers pretty quickly down below since the visibility was so bad. It was soon after that our second diver surfaced. Geoff made his way over to us under the impression that both Al and Kim had made it back, he got separated from the group as well.

Geoff made it out of the water when we spotted a second debris bag! Kim appeared soon after but struggled to drag the entire debris bag to the LegaSea.

Leaving the bag and making her way to us, we got Kim aboard, pulled anchor, and made our way to the debris bag that couldn’t make it to us. It was pretty snagged underwater and needed the force of the large boat to pull it out.


Without the help of our RIB, a joint effort from everyone successfully pulled the mammoth lobster trap out of the water. It looked like it had been down there for a while. But a win for us! We even spotted a couple of dolphins nearly 20 feet from the back of the boat. A perfect way to end the outing. After assessing poor underwater visibility conditions, dive two was aborted and the journey back to San Pedro was en route.

A dolphin swims freely in the ocean with a city in the distant background.

Forty minutes later we found ourselves back where the day began. We managed to dock, pull the trap off the LegaSea, clean and rinse down the boat, and snap a few group shots with our catch of the day.

It was a successful day through and through. Everyone was in good spirits and we managed to make our ocean a few pieces debris free. I can’t wait until the next outing!


Written by Hannah Nelson June 9, 2021


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