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Dive Review of Dive Boat Magician in
The Continental USA/Southern California

Dive Boat Magician: "Advance diving and abundant color on Southern California Oil Platforms", Oct, 2016,

by Paul S Jacobsen, CA, US (Reviewer Reviewer 5 reports with 1 Helpful vote). Report 9316 has 1 Helpful vote.

No photos available at this time

Ratings and Overall Comments 1 (worst) - 5 (best):

Accommodations 3 stars Food 3 stars
Service and Attitude 4 stars Environmental Sensitivity 4 stars
Dive Operation 4 stars Shore Diving N/A
Snorkeling N/A
Value for $$ 4 stars
Beginners 3 stars
Advanced 5 stars
Comments There is an active dive community in Southern California and the diving can be spectacular. Itís not the typical Undercurrents affair. It is cold water diving. While the past El Nino had warmed the water temperature up last year that effect is now subsiding. For a rewarding advanced dive there are the oil platforms mid channel about 9 miles out from the port of Long Beach. There are 3 oil rigs that can only be dived by reservation from the local dive boats charters. Itís advance diving because the bottom is about 700 feet below and the possibility of swells and currents. Also the boats don't moor so itís all "live boat" diving. The boat moves in, cuts its props, drops off a few divers that have to swim to the rigs, re-position, and repeat. Then the boat picks up the divers as they come back.

I did the Oil rig dive on the Dive Boat Magician (www.magicianscuba.com) in October. The Magician has bunks, a galley, 2 marine heads, and 2 hot water showers. The charter typically includes pastries, fruit and coffee during boarding, a hot breakfast after departing the dock. Snacks after the 1st dive. A full lunch after the 2nd dive, and desserts after the 3rd dive while sailing back to port. It includes beverages: fountain drinks, coffee and tea. The charter price includes air fills. Nitrox 32% is available for $10/ fill. You have to provide all of your gear, tank and weights. Be sure to bring a tall surface signaling device/marker, cutting device, and for the oil rigs a bright dive light.

Dive boats in Southern California run different than other locations in the world. While there is a divemaster on board they do not guide dives. DMís are there mostly for safety supervision, dive briefings and surface rescues. If you need a guide you should contact one of the local dive shops to hire a guide. In Southern California SMBís are only used for emergencies, so if you are going to deploy an SMB for a safety stop tell the DM before starting your dive. Diving the Oil rigs deploying an SMB is not needed for a safety stop since youíre within the superstructure and will have a visual reference. Navigation isnít an issue either since youíre diving within the structure; however, a compass might be thrown off because of all the metal.

The Magician runs a very safe operation and performs a positive roll call after each dive to insure all divers are back. Divers must respond to the DMís roll call personally and visually before they will check you in. You have a number assigned where your tank/dive station is. Before you giant stride in, you provide your number to the DM at the dive gate. When you return from the dive you provide your number to the DM as they help you up the swim step. Then there is the full roll call by name before the boat moves.

The morning starts early with a 6:30 AM boarding time and a 7:30 AM sailing. That Saturday it was a beautiful sunrise and sailing out. A storm past through the day before and another is hitting the day after, the timing couldn't have been better. The sunrise through the passing clouds added a lot of color. It was so clear that not only could we see all of Catalina Island 23 miles out, but as we sailed to the oil rigs you could see San Clemente island behind Catalina 50 miles away. The ride was good with not much of a swell. Since its under an hour sail to get to the rigs total, there wasn't time for a nap. Just a hot breakfast, an overall briefing on how the operation for the day will run and start getting your gear ready.

The Oil platforms have names so the first dive was on the Ellen rig. As I said this is ďLive BoatĒ operations once the diving starts, group of 4 to 6 divers collect at the gates, the boat drifts in near the rig, you giant stride in, and swim to the rig. All diving is done within and under the superstructure and its a no-no to be outside of it. These are producing platforms so crew boats might be coming and going from the rigs. Divers need to be aware of their surroundings. Itís all a tricky operation to keep the boat from drifting into the rig, and insuring divers are clear of the boat before engaging the props again to re-position to drop the next group off. It is almost like herding cats, but all of the divers on the boat dived with no incidents also no classes were on board.

The boat was full with 26 divers which made the dive deck crowded and a real dance to get people in and off the boat. I was near the end to get in because of the crowds getting out. But it was not a problem. These are deep dives and cold dives so the dive times are short. So after the last divers are dropped off the first groups are starting to surface for pick up.

The rigs loom large, 6 stories over the water. It is dark underneath them so the only way to enjoy them is with a good dive light. The first two dives were on platform Ellen and Eureka, they have support structure making up the superstructure and in the middle there is a large matrix of pipes vertically going down to the wells 700 feet below. The pipes are large 2 to 3 foot in diameter. It's like steel kelp to swim between. They are encrusted with all manner of life and make for a colorful but tight swim through. The 3rd dive was on a platform named Elly that generates the power for Ellen. There are no vertical pipes in the center only a superstructure of columns, cross bars and diagonal bracing. The color starts shallower since more light could get through at about 40 feet deep. Once you hit where the color starts then all of the structures explode with all forms of cup corals, anemones, scallops, batefish, bright white Metridium (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Metridium). Male and female Sheepheads, even kelp bass hung out in this color filled jungle gym.

There are crossbars at every 60 feet of depth passing the first bar on the first dive (Ellen) I went to 94 ft where it was 54 degree. There are also diagonal braces, so in lower viz it gets a little confusing. Visibility wasn't great 30 to 40 ft for the first two dives, and the 3rd dive was lower. Some of the videos on the Youtube show water where the viz can be as good a 80 ft, not today. While viz was lower on the last dive the color started shallower. Iím not sure why maybe because Elly doesn't have the well pipes in the center, only superstructure. Probably more light gets through, but at least you could hang around 40 ft and see more.

Sea lions are very ingenious and find ways to haul out onto the superstructure of the oil rigs. They would greet the approaching divers swimming to the rig with barks, some would spook and jump in. Others would be curious and check out the divers. While not having a close encounter I saw several sea lions fly by.

There were the bright orange Garibaldi protecting their turf and challenging you face-to-face if you came too close. A Lot of baitfish schools hang out in the superstructure making an ever-swirling cloud through the rigs.

Several divers on this trip had fishing licenses so they were taking scallops (limit 10 per day). Scallops were everywhere, most divers maxed out on their limit during the first dive. So the rest of the day was just diving.

Being on the dive boat Magician meant we were well fed to keep our body burning calories for the cold water. I stayed on nitrox 32% for all dives. You can debate if nitrox keeps you warmer. The second dive was to 85 ft and the 3rd was around 60ft so I was not pushing the tables.

Several of the wetsuit divers didn't do the 3rd dive because of being cold. About 60% of the divers on this trip dived dry suits. If you are diving a wetsuit; 7mm with hood and gloves would be the minimum. Adding a 6mm hooded vest or a farmer john style wetsuit would be even better. I always dive in a dry suit in Southern California as I have a low BMI and get cold easily.

The 1st dive was calm but the swell started to build on the 2nd dive with the incoming storm and there was a good swell going on the 3rd dive which made it the most challenging, both getting to and from the rig. Safety stops were interesting but the diagonal braces provide a vertical reference. You usually just tried to stay aligned with a spot on a beam, but with the swell moving a good 3 ft, I ended up doing 15 feet-ish sometimes being swept to 21 ft and then pushed up to 12 ft. When I surfaced some of the swells blocked the sight of the boat. But you give them a big OK on the head and wait to get instructions on when and how to approach the boat. You would stay within the the oil rig structure until they signaled you to swim to the boat. If you were up with other divers they wanted only about 4 divers at a time to come to the boat. They get that group on and then reposition for the next pick up.

I ended up getting a lot of sun both from waiting in the water to be picked up and on deck waiting to jump in. The only down point to diving nitrox on the Magician is the fills take a long time. The boat has to switch from filling air to nitrox so usually nitrox are the last to be filled because of how the system works. Plus Nitrox takes longer to fill because of the membrane system. So I'd be waiting for my tank to finish but it gave me a long surface intervals, again ok given the depths. But the fills were never short, plus they can fill HP tanks unlike some other boats.

Because of the building swells a few of the divers that sat the 3rd dive out got sea sick being on the boat. Usually most divers have issues in the mornings on the way out, but today was the opposite. Plus there were a few big rollers that had some utensils and bottles fly off the counters in the galley. But that the nature of diving in the open waters.

It was a hour ride back to the harbor. So between eating warm chocolate brownies with icecream, rinsing off and packing up your gear thereís no time to nap on the way back.

It was a fun dive day and a good workout. Fantastic colors, rich marine life, and a really neat day.

The dive boat Magician is a well maintained boat, clean and comfortable. Captain Carl runs a great boat and the crew is always helpful. The food is both ample and good. I always dive nitrox, they provide analyzers to verify you mix, but theyt are always at 32%. It is my boat of preference as they are very professional and always maintain safe practices.
Websites Dive Boat Magician   

Reporter and Travel

Dive Experience 501-1000 dives
Where else diving Florida, California, Caribbean, Micronesia
Closest Airport Los Angeles Getting There

Dive Conditions

Weather sunny Seas calm, surge
Water Temp 54-59°F / 12-15°C Wetsuit Thickness
Water Visibility 30-40 Ft/ 9-12 M

Dive Policy

Dive own profile yes
Enforced diving restrictions Stay within the Oil Rig until signaled to approach the boat.
Liveaboard? no Nitrox Available? yes

What I Saw

Sharks None Mantas None
Dolphins None Whale Sharks None
Turtles None Whales None
Corals 3 stars Tropical Fish N/A
Small Critters 4 stars Large Fish 3 stars
Large Pelagics N/A

Underwater Photography 1 (worst) - 5 (best):

Subject Matter N/A Boat Facilities N/A
Overall rating for UWP's N/A Shore Facilities N/A
UW Photo Comments [None]
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Note: The information here was reported by the author above, but has NOT been reviewed nor edited by Undercurrent prior to posting on our website. Please report any major problems by writing to us and referencing the report number above.

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