It has been quite some time since I have been diving on the A.C.E. wreck (which is a bit crazy since it is probably the closest wreck to my house). For some reason, there was a mid-week trip going to the ACE on Tue, 13 December so I decided to join in with the plan of creating a photogrammetry model.
There were a few other single-tank divers on the boat and a few guys taking some kind of technical diving course, so I was alone (which was quite okay with me). My plan was to do one long single dive with a runtime of approximately 90 minutes. That would give me a long period of time when the other divers were on their surface interval and I would have the wreck to myself for the photos.
It was a great dive, but more on that later. First, some history on the A.C.E. Wreck.
There have been a few articles on the A.C.E. but not a lot written about it. There are quite a few videos and pictures of the A.C.E. but no dive cards or overall layouts of the wreck so a photogrammetry model makes a lot of sense.
The A.C.E. was named after the grandfather (Adolphus Charles “Buck” Everingham) of the owner of the boat, Buck Everingham. Adolphus started the Everingham Bros Bait Company back in 1951 when he and his two sons Roy and Charles bought it from Lyman McDonald. The story gets a little confusing because Roy’s son is also named “Buck.” Now Buck’s son Matthew also works at the company making him the 4th generation to work there.
Early morning on November 26, 2005, the A.C.E. was en route to the Dana Point Harbor after bait fishing all night. There was a ton of wind that night and the wind created a lot of wave chop with short intervals which slammed the A.C.E. around and it eventually capsized. Apparently the vessel also had a deck hatch that was leaking.
Luckily, the captain, Robert Machado, and the three crew members all survived and swam to the small skiff the A.C.E. was towing and shot emergency flares and were rescued by the Harbor Patrol.
I don’t have any pictures of the A.C.E before sinking.; however, her sister ship the Catchalot is slightly larger (68.5 feet) and there are numerous pictures of that ship.
After the accident, the Orange County Sheriff’s Department underwater search & recovery team looked for the wreck but could not locate it. It sat dormant for a couple years. In 2007 a couple years after the sinking and as happens many times, fisherman on the San Mateo out of Dana Point noticed fish on their sonar system on a structure that was unusual. The captain thought it could be the A.C.E. given the location and he wrote the coordinates down.
They kept the location a secret and would only fish the spot occasionally to not draw attention to it and only when the fishing was slow at other locations. It stayed a secret for about a year and then news slowly leaked out. About a year after they located it, a local diver, Roger Healy, convinced the fishermen to give him the numbers and Healy and Bob Lohrman were the first people to dive the wreck.
Independently, in 2010, DJ Mansfield and Riviera Dive Charters received a tip about the location and went to find it. They saw some anomalies on the sonar and DJ and Andrew Bolling started doing search patterns and quickly located the wreck.
The wreck is about 5 miles south of the Dana Point Harbor and only takes about 20 minutes to get to on the Riviera. They dive the wreck on a regular basis and I highly recommend diving with them.
The ship lays on her port side and is covered in white metridiums and California scorpionfish. In my experience, it is a bit odd for that density of white metridiums at that depth. I usually only see them on deeper wreck. There is also a LOT of the scorpionfish “nesting” on the wreck. I did one dive that was about 90 minutes long with close to an hour of bottom time.
Note how similar this wreck is to the Midnight Hour which I dove a few weeks ago.
The visibility was amazing so I was able to get some really good photos. As usual, these photos were all taken with the goal of building a photogrammetry model and not necessarily for composition.
Boom, mast & crows nest
The wreck lays on her port side and the boom, mast, crows nest, etc. are all sticking out over the sand and are covered in strawberry anemones and some white metridiums which make a really nice, colorful scene with the blue water as a backdrop.
“Nesting” California scorpionfish
There are a ton of scorpionfish on the wreck and they are nesting in a lot of different places if you look closely. Below is a sampling from the prop area, the bait tanks, the pilot house, etc.
Pilot House & Bow
Stern / Prop area
Near the stern, there are the nets still on the reel, a small boat that is “under” the stern which I find a bit odd since they abandoned the ship onto a small boat they were towing but I guess this was a different boat, and then a prop. Note that it has a very similar structure / look as the Midnight Hour prop. Also, on the underside of the ship is what I believe is a cooling unit for the water in the bait tanks.
My primary goal was to get the photos to build a good photogrammetry model. The mission was mostly a success. I think the colors and the overall model is a very good representation of the wreck. I also believe it will help divers that have never been on the wreck to identify certain structures and areas they might want to visit. There is one gap in the model on the hull. Sometimes when there are surfaces that are all looking the same (e.g., the hull), it is hard to track what areas you have photographed and those you haven’t. If/when I go back, I’ll be sure to fill it in.
Online “live” 3D Model