By Founder and President Kurt Lieber
By Founder and President Kurt Lieber
In the early hours on Wednesday March 8th, a 42-foot fishing boat sank about 1,000 yards from the shores of Redondo Beach. The boat is called the Matador. It went down in less than five minutes, and the boat crew didn’t have time to radio for help nor grab their life jackets.
It was just after midnight and although they could see the lights on the shore, it felt like it was a mile away. The four crewmembers clung onto a wooden plank and a cooler as their floatation devices. One guy was able to crawl up on their lifeboat that had overturned. They remained calm and started yelling for help…
Luckily someone heard them from shore and called 911. An hour-and-a-half after they were in the water, a boat from the Harbor Patrol found them and got them onboard the rescue boat before hypothermia set in.
The boat went down and rested on the sand bottom at 130-feet deep. The very next day some free divers went down and took some video of the wreckage. While the boat itself doesn’t pose any navigational hazard, there is a very large net on a spool that has the potential to become a threat to wildlife if it starts to come off the spool.
Veteran ODA diver Geoff Walsh heard about the incident and was concerned enough to see if ODA might be able to help get that net off the wreck. We found out that the owner of the boat, Jacob, who was on the boat the night it went down, would like to recover the net due to the high cost of having a replacement made. The net catches sardines and mackerels, and is similar in mesh size to squid net.
Over the course of two weeks, we emailed with Jacob and several other people who want to see what can be done about the net. What we didn’t have is good information about the current state of the condition of the wreck site. It was estimated that the net and spool weigh 4,000 pounds. This is NOT going to be an easy lift by any stretch of the imagination.
On Sunday, March 19th, six of us from ODA boarded a boat that Jacob had chartered, in King’s Harbor, Redondo Beach.
ODA technical divers Mike Wynd and Craig LaPorte volunteered to go down and have a look see, and film what they could so we all could get a better idea of what we were facing. Longtime volunteer Sue St. Sure and I were there as deck support to the divers.
Two more ODA regulars Kim Cardenas and Geoff Walsh volunteered to dive down and act as a dive safety team.
We knew that the wreck had been sliding down a steep slope and was now in much deeper water. NOT safe depths for your average diver. But Mike and Craig use rebreather systems which allow them to go deep and do it safely. Kim and Geoff were to hang out at the 60-foot mark and assist them if they needed any help.
Mike and Craig dropped down around 8:30 am. They were going to be down about 90 minutes.
Kim and Geoff dropped down exactly one hour later to wait for them at 60 feet.
The team worked like a Swiss watch. Mike and Craig handed off some equipment they no longer needed to Kim and Geoff who brought that gear to the surface. The rebreather divers stayed at that depth for a while as part of their decompression process.
Once the dive team was back on the boat, we headed to the harbor and talked about next steps. Both Mike and Craig got still pictures and video of the wreck. They reported that the net is coming unspooled a bit and going onto the superstructure, getting entangled on the deck.
We’ve never done an operation at this depth, so we’re going to have a video conference and discuss what our options are to safely remove the net, or not.
We've done a lot of work on sunken vessels in the past. Check out this one about the African Queen from over 10 years ago. Captain Kurt narrates a video about the work on the wrecked boat!