Ocean Defenders Alliance (ODA) has a lot to be thankful for as Mr. Barker not only supported ODA generously in our operations through his foundation, but also granted a large donation to ODA that allowed us to purchase our 55-foot Chris Craft boat in 2014 that we use to this day.
Reflections by Kurt Lieber
In the years around 2010, I met Bob at a couple of fundraisers that I attended. I had the opportunity to actually sit down with him at a dinner and told him about Ocean Defenders Alliance (ODA). I wasn't even thinking about asking him to support our work, but I knew about his love of animals and how he’d been supporting a variety of animal-related causes.
A couple years later two of my cohorts, Carla Robinson and Chuck Swift, worked with me on drafting a letter asking if Bob would be interested in helping us raise some money for a new (used) boat. About a month later, he sent us one of the largest donation we had ever received!
While it wasn't enough money to purchase the boat I wanted, it was enough that we could cobble some other funds together to buy the boat of my dreams.
It took us three months to get the boat properly outfitted for scuba divers and hauling out large-sized marine debris, but finally, on September 21, 2014, we took a boatload of divers down to Huntington Harbor to take our inaugural expedition to remove abandoned fishing gear.
First, we honored the long-standing tradition of christening the vessel with champagne and a celebration: We named the vessel in honor of our generous benefactor – Mr. Barker’s LegaSea. And what a positive legacy that boat has definitely left which honors this man who loved animals and the ocean.
It sure felt good sitting in the captain’s seat of this vessel which was a huge improvement to our past boats.
Many people gave of their time, talents, and finances to upgrade this boat to be a specialized marine debris-removal vessel. We had a custom dive ladder designed; installed diver seating benches; added special toilet/changing room; and installed a hoist on the front deck (called a davit) to lift heavy debris and to off-and-on-load a RIB (Rigid Inflatable Boat) that came along with the LegaSea. There were many more touches added and I remain thankful to each person who contributed to this wildlife-and-habit-saving vessel!
The first-ever LegaSea crew was: Jeff Connor, Lisa Davis, Al Laubenstein, Jim Lieber, Bill Maley, Walter Marti (underwater video), Julia Ransom (photographer), and Luis Soto.
On this happy day, I dropped the divers off at a spot where we had seen abandoned lobster traps before; it was just outside the entrance to Huntington Harbor.
Things were going smoothly when the divers surfaced. I still remember Al Laubenstein telling me "Hey Kurt, I think there are 30 lobsters in this trap". What?!?! Sure enough when we pulled it up onto the dive step, it was alive with lobsters. We set them all free, and then the divers found another trap with still more lobsters in it for a glorious day by hauling in five traps and releasing 40 entrapped lobsters!
We had a lot of fun releasing the lobsters. That's the ultimate satisfaction -- seeing animals that were once trapped, set free!
These photos show the LegaSea speeding back to the harbor with the bow full of recovered traps.
This is an epic picture of the proud and satisfied crew posing with their “Catch of the Day.”
The next day, I called Bob to tell him about it. He was so excited that I swear I hardly needed a phone to hear him. I could tell he was jumping up and down!
That's how I'll always remember him. The person who people saw on their TV's was not an actor, that's the way he was naturally. Enthusiastic till the end.
If you'd like to read more about that inaugural outing, please visit the original article here.
And be sure to check out our short tribute video to Mr. Barker with footage of the trap haul-out and lobster release: