Don Rodocker

  • In the early days of subsea technology, there were a number of pioneers: men and women who stepped over the edge of what we knew about the underwater world. These individuals left the comfort of solid ground to explore beneath the waves and report back to the rest of us what they had seen. They pushed boundaries, raised the stakes and in some instances opened our minds to the possibilities. They were subsea visionaries. Today, those boundaries continue to be pushed, and undersea technology, now more than ever, is reaching new heights. The pioneering spirit has never been better represented than in the father and son team of Donald and Jesse Rodocker, founders of SeaBotix Inc. LLC. Don began his career as one of the early pioneers in the diving industry. His cutting edge designs in dive equipment, hyperbaric support systems and remotely operated vehicles laid the groundwork for many of the systems we see operating in the field today. His son, Jesse, has also had an impressive career working on high profile projects such as the search for Amelia Earhart, counter mining measures for WWI and WWII seamines in the Baltic Sea and the archaeological investigation of a WWII Japanese midget sub. MTR recently sat down with Don Rodocker to not only get a glimpse into the origins and history that led up to the creation of SeaBotix, Inc., but to also visit, if just for a moment, that golden age of subsea technology.

    You’ve had an illustrious career in the subsea industry. Can you recap some highlights?

        I started diving in 1965. I was in the Navy stationed at the Bremerton Naval base off the coast of Washington State. I would go snorkeling in the waters there – which were about 45°, a bit on the chilly side. You could snorkel for about 30 minutes or so, and then you would have to jump out. It would take about that long just to warm up and to get the color back in your lips. Then I would jump in again, maybe for 20 minutes and jump back out. It would take progressively longer to warm up. Mind you, I was not wearing a wetsuit of any kind. Still, I was hooked. The incredible flora and fauna was very intriguing. There were so many alien creatures. And there was treasure down there. You would find something on every dive, anchors and shell casings, all kinds of things. It was so interesting to me. Since I was limited by my lack of thermal protection, I finally decided to make myself a wetsuit. I got a pattern, bought some material and made a shorty. I thought I had died and gone to heaven. I could stay much longer and see so much more that way. Then the limitation was not thermal but rather how long you could hold your breath. So I decided to take a SCUBA course at the YMCA and got certified. I then got a part-time job so I could afford some equipment and bought a custom wet suit. That’s when life really got good.
     

    Sounds like you made it happen. Serving in the Navy and a part-time job kept you busy.

        Yes, I was serving in the Navy and married with kids. I had a full plate. I remember there was a dive locker on the ship I was on, which was a submarine tender that we used as a base for all these reserve ships. So we would go into these decommissioned ships, haul away all the machinery and paint the bilges. Just go through them completely. So during this time I got a part-time job, and that allowed me to buy more diving equipment. On board the ship I also started making my own diving equipment including weights. You couldn’t tell them apart from the ones you bought. I then bought a double manifold from someone and got a couple of tanks and had hydros done on them. I made my own harness.

    So you started building diving and subsea equipment from the beginning.


        Yes, I didn’t really have a choice. So then I left Bremerton, went to Naval school and got qualified in a very short period of time – less than three months. As a reward, they gave me Navy SCUBA School. I became the ships diver on the submarine. This happened just in time for a six-month Western Pacific cruise, so I got to do some really exciting diving which continued all over the world. At the end of that tour, I was getting out of the Navy, and they tried to entice me to stay.  They asked me what it would take. I said I wanted second-class diving school, first class diving school, saturation training and assignment to the Man in the Sea Program. Well, they laughed and said they could get me one school and one duty station or maybe two schools, but all four is asking too much.

    What is the Man in the Sea Program?

        It was a Naval initiative started in 1964 when the first Sealab was established. There were three Sealabs, which were experimental underwater habitats. They were part of the Deep Submergence Systems Project.
     

    So no cigar.

        No, and I said, “Well, you asked.” But then when I got back from the Philippines early – about a month later – the boat came in. I met it, and they said, “Hello, Mr. Man in the Sea.” So then I had to make a decision: I had to either sign on or get out and head to college as I had planned.

    Did they let you participate in all four schools?

        Yes, I did all that. I got an amazing education in the Navy. From nuclear power school to jet propulsion school to air conditioning and refrigeration school, machinery repair school and then all the diving schools.

    What was it like being involved in the Man in the Sea program?


        Our job was to carry out the operational and technical evaluations on the Sealab III. Sealab III was really Sealab II after an overhaul. Both were located off the coast of La Jolla, California. Sealab III was also, about three times deeper than Sealab II. We were also support for the landing class ship IX501, also known as the Elk River or what was more affectionately referred to as Moose Creek. We put the thing together, sorted out a bunch of things wrong with it and then did some saturation dives and trials. We hit 1,010 feet. That was the world record at that time.

    Another first.

        Yes. So following the Navy I started Saturation Systems Inc. with Chris DeLucchi. One of the things we did early on was a dive on the Andria Doria. This was the first commercial saturation dive of a salvage operation ever.
    That must have been quite the feat in those early days.

        It was. When we did the dive on the Andria Doria we built a closed circuit diver gas recovery system because we could not afford the gas. We were in Fairhaven, Mass. rolling cylinders down the dock. That was first generation. Then we did another generation for Seaway Diving at Sat Systems. We were interested in recovering the purser’s safe on the Doria, and the objective was to cut a hole in the wreck. To do this we built a portable saturation habitat called “Mother” that was lowered to the side of the wreck where we could breathe a mixture of 92% helium and 8% oxygen. This would allow us to work for several days before decompressing and surfacing. We did not get what we were after, but we did get a great deal of publicity. That publicity really took us to the next stage, which was to build equipment and use the money we made there to do more treasure diving. The two would then feed on each other.

    You went back to the Doria years later with a SeaBotix ROV as well.

         Yes. We went back on the 50th anniversary of the sinking just to bring new technology back to the Andria Doria. We used a SeaBotix LBV200 on that dive, and did a bunch of investigation on the wreck.

    What followed the earlier dives on the Doria?

        We then got a sizable contract with a Norwegian company called Seaway Diving who was just setting up their saturation diving program. This was to support the oil operations in the North Sea. We got heavily involved and ended up working with a company called Draeger.
    We were working with Seaway Diving when Draeger had started building saturation diving systems and of course rebreathers, including semi-closed and closed circuit systems rebreathers. We did some testing with those and some evaluations on the diving systems they were building.
    That company grew, and we sold lots of diving systems. It grew fast over a five-year period. We had 130 employees, but we were underfunded. Most of the units we were shipping from San Diego were going to the North Sea and the Gulf of Mexico. There was a lot of freight involved, which made it very expensive. So once the technology caught up and other companies could build similar equipment, it made it very competitive. Also, the way we wanted things done and how we thought they should be done was not really what the industry was about. It was do the minimum to get the job done. We were quite a ways away from that ideology, so we decided to shut it down. We shut it down and disbanded.

    You were really at the forefront of underwater technology on several levels.

        I then started a company called Gas Services Offshore Limited. It was to develop a system for gas recovery. I developed a system called the Gas Miser, which was a deep diving gas reclaim system. Chris DeLucchi and I also developed the Sat Hat, which was a versatile dive helmet. It had a demand regulator and a push-pull regulator with mixed-gas reclaim capability. It could also be used with open circuit, free flow mode or with a semi closed-circuit rebreather.

    What were some projects in the field that used the systems?

        We participated in raising five tons of Russian gold. That got things started with that company. That company went on to become the Pressure Products Group, and later DiveEx was one of the companies that we acquired. It still exists today. I then sold the company and was approached by an offshore-diving supervisor. He had built this concept of an ROV and I ended up funding that. I got heavily involved. The company was called Hydrovision. Hydrovision produced the Hyball.

    Were those the origins of your involvement with ROV technology?

        Yes. We spent a bunch of money and developed this vehicle. There is a little over 400 Hyballs out in the field. It was the first production built ROV. The Hyball 225 was known in the field as the eyeball. It was an incredible learning experience. At that time I sold the balance of the companies known as Pressure Products Group. I then became semi-retired in Seattle but continued to dabble in hyperbaricoxygen and ROVs. I wanted to develop a small ROV. It was really what we wanted to do from the first concept with the Hyball. But now the cameras had shrunk quite a bit; it was much easier to shrink this thing down. We worked with a company in Vancouver that built a small ROV called the Scallop. They were interested in selling the IP on this and another system. I looked at it and got one, but you couldn’t really get it across the pool. I used this as a proof of concept for a small vehicle and went off of my boat with a drawing board. We built a prototype of the LBV in my shop in Washington. We did some initial testing and built some thrusters that had certain criteria that we had to meet, such as a 3-knot current minimum. We determined how much thrust we needed to have. We built thrusters that would produce enough to propel it at 3-knots. It was in the early days of solid modeling and the cost to do the solid modeling was quite expensive. 

    Did this early investigation into smaller ROV technology lead to the inception of SeaBotix?

        My son, Jesse Rodocker, was down in Austin when he called me and said, “It’s time to get the Little Benthic Vehicle off the shelf. The market is ready.” I said, “If you will help me, let’s go for it.” So we did. In 1999 we put together the business plan and started developing the framework for what is now SeaBotix Inc.

    What are some of the concepts behind the SeaBotix LBV and vLBV ROV lines?

        We progressed the concept and design and really did a lot of testing and trials to make sure it was capable. The problem with the Scallop was it wasn’t able to get across the pool because the thrusters were too far apart. You have to remember, when you’re talking about the smaller robots there is also an optimum at the size endpoint. The smaller systems or the micro ROVs just cannot carry the payload and deliver the payload with maneuverability. You can pile a whole bunch of stuff on it, and it struggles to get there. You can pull an 18-wheeler with a Volkswagen, but you don’t go very far or very fast. Today, our systems are being used all over the world in all sorts of applications. We can carry the payload our end users need and maintain maneuverability. In one application, for example, some of the early adopters were able to take the vehicles and do inspection work. The first tunnel inspection was more than 1,100 meters inside a pipeline. We have since gone past two kilometers. There have been many “firsts” achieved with our vehicles.  We dealt with all of those early challenges, and we also dealt with the price point. By pushing the price down and taking the risk, we were able to increase the volume substantially. We are now just about to go over 1,000 units sold.

    So looking toward the future for SeaBotix …


        We will continue to do what we do best: push the envelope and continue to deliver industry-leading technology.

     

    (As published in the March 2013 edition of Marine Technologies - www.seadiscovery.com)
     

  • The A.L. Don Company of Matawan, N.J., has developed a greatly improved version of its pilot ladder which now features steps which can be quickly and easily replaced aboard ship. The steps are held in place by a mechanical clamp instead of hand serving. As a result, a step can be replaced onboard

  • Bill Wood, Marine Leasing Corporation, was elected president of the Northwest Towboat Association at its recent 15th Annual Membership Meeting. Don Lusk, Puget Sound Tug and Barge Company, was elected vice president; while Bill Epping, General Construction Company, was elected secretary-treasurer

  • at its recent Fourteenth Annual Membership Meeting in Seattle, Wash. Bill Wood, Marine Leasing Corporation, was elected vice president, and Don Lusk, Crowley Maritime Corporation, was elected secretary-treasurer. Other members of the board of directors elected to serve until March 1981

  • narrative accounts— along with over 240 photographs to bring the history of the shipyard alive. "Always Good Ships" is published by the Donning Company in a limited hardback edition of 1,500 copies, numbered and signed by the author. The 387-page hardback book is priced at $29.95 and

  • elected secretary- treasurer. Other members of the board of directors elected to serve until March 1984 are James L. Dunlap of Dunlap Towing Company; Don Foss of Puget Sound Freight Lines; Don Lusk of Puget Sound Tug and Barge Company; Bill Wood of Marine Logistics Corporation ; and Jerry Russell

  • 2877 Historic Decatur Road San Diego, CA 92016 T:  619-450-4000 E:  Sales@SeaBotix.com W:  http://www.SeaBotix.com CEO:  Donald Rodocker President:  Rick Timm CTO:  Sheldon Rubin No. of Employees:  65 Sq. Footage:  17,500, Mfg. facility Annual Sales: $18 million+   Company Profile: SeaBotix

  • In a joint announcement, Gerald A. Gutman, president of NAVCOM, Inc., Tom Collins, president of Collins Marine Corporation, and Don Derryberry, vice president of Gulf Radiotelephone and Electronics, introduced a new high level of service called R.S.V.P. for vessels making port in or near New York

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  • vessel is outfitted for crabbing and for packing salmon and herring. Owners of the vessel include Charles Bundrant, Philip Fuller, William Howell, Don Leuthold, Kaare Ness, George Schmidt, and Don Tucker. Dave Kopra, experienced North Pacific fisherman and skipper of the Columbia, is fishing the

  • , so welders can produce consistently higher quality welds throughout the shift. For free literature and further details on the DryRod TED write to Don Warren, Dept. MR, Phoenix P r o d u c t s Company, 4715 North 27th Street, Milwaukee, Wise. 53209

  • of the American Society of Naval Engineers, Southern New England Section, was held recently at the U.S. Submarine Base in Groton, Conn. Chairman Capt. Don Kern, USN (ret.), presided over the meeting. Lt. Comdr. Michael Goodwin, USCG, presented a discussion accompanied by slides and a video tape of

  • MT Apr-19#54  the days of Jacques Piccard and Don Walsh’s un-
ployed in the)
    April 2019 - Marine Technology Reporter page: 54

    made in ocean observation. We’ve come a long funded AlterEco project, the Wave Glider called Lyra was de- way since the days of Jacques Piccard and Don Walsh’s un- ployed in the central North Sea. Lyra spent 41 days at sea, precedented exploration to the bottom of the Marina’s Trench repeatedly covering

  • MR Apr-19#9  systems and am a ?  rm  I don’t think anyone could have)
    April 2019 - Maritime Reporter and Engineering News page: 9

    equalizer in our society.” cation model; 100% Bachelor of Science institution offering a ? rst rate maritime vania State school systems and am a ? rm I don’t think anyone could have said it programs, hands on labs and cutting education within a state school system. believer of a public education, as

  • MR Mar-19#27  and others including recently  don, also provides insights)
    March 2019 - Maritime Reporter and Engineering News page: 27

    law ? rm, headquartered in Lon- sea like never before…”, referring to these ? oating cities is often focused on Azamara and others including recently don, also provides insights into the com- glass walled promenade along the ves- the “hotel” side – rooms and suites, res- acquired Silversea, in the expedition

  • MT Mar-19#31  service models, with a num-
Leadon  Rubie & Renee  LPD1
ber)
    March 2019 - Marine Technology Reporter page: 31

    and Af? eck Markham ST1 supply chain has been gearing up to Brent topsides Athena Viking Satellites pipelines offer new service models, with a num- Leadon Rubie & Renee LPD1 ber of companies, including the likes Murchison Miller Leman BH of BHGE, as well as new startups like Schiehallion and Loyal

  • MT Jan-19#20  UUV 
Propulsor Design
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rom the standpoint)
    January 2019 - Marine Technology Reporter page: 20

    Insignts UUV Propulsor Design Contemporary UUV Propulsor Design By Don MacPherson rom the standpoint of vehicle propulsion physics, life (or greatest distance traveled for the battery budget), max- an unmanned underwater vehicle (UUV) is little imum body diameter, minimum operational speed, consider- diffe

  • MT Jan-19#2  
 Hydrocomp
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Unmanned Vehicles
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    January 2019 - Marine Technology Reporter page: 2

    of vehicle propulsion physics, an unmanned underwater vehicle (UUV) is little 20 different from your personal ski boat Hydrocomp or a tanker. By Don MacPherson Unmanned Vehicles 26 25 Years of Milestones Key milestones in Unmanned Maritime Vehicles evolution. By Justin Manley Vehicles The Future

  • MN Feb-19#57  and side loading  resentatives Don Young (R-AK) 
Shipping)
    February 2019 - Marine News page: 57

    Act Sea States and Boston’s Seaport District, offering sional Gold Medal Act with Rep- Sea States: both bow-loading and side loading resentatives Don Young (R-AK) Shipping Documentary capabilities. Blue Atlantic Fabrica- and Susan Brooks (R-IN) joining as Film is in Production tors built the

  • MN Feb-19#52  of the USN Second Fleet and 
don, CT, Dixon holds a Bachelor)
    February 2019 - Marine News page: 52

    Man- Coast Guard Academy in New Lon- ager for Anchorage. Thomas will serve ship roles that included deputy com- mander of the USN Second Fleet and don, CT, Dixon holds a Bachelor of as the central point person for admin- Science degree in Management and istrative and commercial operations, commander

  • MP Q3-18#64 .......... 22, 23, 24, 26
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    Sep/Oct 2018 - Maritime Logistics Professional page: 64

    ..............38 Harbor Harvest ................................................... 43 Port of Gdynia, Poland ....................... 22, 23, 24, 26 Allee, Don .............................................................36 HK Stock Exchange ............................................. 30 Port of Immingham

  • MP Q3-18#40 .
three deep water ports: New London, New Haven and Bridgeport)
    Sep/Oct 2018 - Maritime Logistics Professional page: 40

    ; representing low hanging cut’s maritime economy, including a major focus on the State’s fruit, waiting for action. three deep water ports: New London, New Haven and Bridgeport. Consider, for example, highway congestion and level-of-ser- The CPA, though, has a big picture vision and its focus includes

  • MP Q3-18#36 .
long-time port director Don Allee announced he would)
    Sep/Oct 2018 - Maritime Logistics Professional page: 36

    port is now evaluating options In October 2012 at a Port of Gulfport commission meeting to complete that dredge and fll project. long-time port director Don Allee announced he would leave the By the end of 2017 Daniels had rebuilt the port and more. With next month. He had been criticized when he disclosed

  • MP Q3-18#34  before Daniels took over from Don  opment Authority (MDA))
    Sep/Oct 2018 - Maritime Logistics Professional page: 34

    back two years with much to do. In December 2007, almost two years later, the Mississippi Devel- As has been the case since before Daniels took over from Don opment Authority (MDA) fnally requested funding from the U.S. Allee in 2013, the Port of Gulfport is under a federal mandate to Department of Housing

  • MT Oct-18#18  Bathyscaph Trieste pilot #1 Dr. Don 
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    October 2018 - Marine Technology Reporter page: 18

    by of the world’s most preeminent ? gures in deep ocean science Rainbow? sh employees. and technology, including Bathyscaph Trieste pilot #1 Dr. Don Rainbow? sh has also embarked on design and construction Walsh, Dr. Sylvia Earle who brings her Ocean Everest advo- of twin 4-man 6km rated submersibles

  • MR Sep-18#22  scrapbooks.  And, as his son, Don,  pines on the opening)
    September 2018 - Maritime Reporter and Engineering News page: 22

    , The newest of the six boats, Sealion, models, pictures, newspaper clippings, was attacked and damaged in the Philip- and scrapbooks. And, as his son, Don, pines on the opening day of the war with recently learned, he had cachet covers of Japan, and scuttled soon after. But the submarines. other

  • MT Jul-18#61  / www.massa.com
CEO/President: Donald P. Massa
Annual Sales:)
    July 2018 - Marine Technology Reporter page: 61

    have evolved, so have CEO/President: Mark Wood rical arrays or spread out over many km. Massa Products Corp. Hingham, MA / www.massa.com CEO/President: Donald P. Massa Annual Sales: $15 million Massa, founded in 1945 by Frank Massa, is a third gen- eration family business. Massa’s business is electroacoustics

  • MN Aug-18#76  life without grease. There 
Thordon Bearings designs and manufacture)
    August 2018 - Marine News page: 76

    the need for crew to grease. ThorPlas-Blue rudder bearings offer THE COMPANY: low friction and long bearing wear life without grease. There Thordon Bearings designs and manufactures a complete is no maintenance due to the self-lubricating properties en- range of journal bearing and seal systems

  • MR Jun-18#47  Pier: Flexibility for Donsö Harbor Project
SF Marina)
    June 2018 - Maritime Reporter and Engineering News page: 47

    SF Marina Floating Pier: Flexibility for Donsö Harbor Project SF Marina has built pontoons and ? oating breakwa- × 10 meter pontoon is 1.8 meters tall and weighs almost in Gothenburg. ters for a range of bespoke marinas designed to suit lo- 200 metric tons, i.e. almost 800 metric tons for the main So far

  • MR Nov-17#89  inter- personal emblem of Don Manuel I, the  which was)
    November 2017 - Maritime Reporter and Engineering News page: 89

    coat of arms and the of a Portuguese explorer ship Esmeralda Lthe wreck of a sunken 15th historically signi? cant was a really inter- personal emblem of Don Manuel I, the which was sunk by a storm in the Indian century ship in the Indian Ocean is the esting opportunity.” King of Portugal from 1495-1521

  • MP Q3-17#26  from Lon- get quotes from dif-
don Business School MBA program)
    Jul/Aug 2017 - Maritime Logistics Professional page: 26

    studied for and received his Nautical Sciences go out to the market and degree at South Tyneside University and graduated from Lon- get quotes from dif- don Business School MBA program. ferent suppliers, Inatech provides cloud Energy Trading and Risk Manage- helps monitor ment (ETRM) and fuel management

  • MR Aug-17#22  with the latest knowl- of London Authority, fell from a)
    August 2017 - Maritime Reporter and Engineering News page: 22

    Pilot with the Port ? nding them quickly in poor conditions structor. Subject matter expertise in- of experts armed with the latest knowl- of London Authority, fell from a pilot and their recovery on board. cludes high speed craft consultancy, edge to identify problems that affect the ladder

  • MT Jul-17#20 , AKA “the Father of Modern So- Don, have all contributed to)
    July 2017 - Marine Technology Reporter page: 20

    was founded in 1945 by Frank tion. Frank, and his sons Frank Jr. and ration. Massa is a family company with Massa, AKA “the Father of Modern So- Don, have all contributed to the funda- Don Massa (pictured above, left), CTO nar Transducers.” He co-authored the mental patents in electro acoustic

  • MN Aug-17#85 THE COMPANY:
Thordon Bearings Inc. was incorporated in 1990.)
    August 2017 - Marine News page: 85

    THE COMPANY: Thordon Bearings Inc. was incorporated in 1990. Since then, the company has grown to become the global leader in the design and manufacture of high performance, non- metallic journal bearing solutions for marine, pump, hydro- T BHORDON EARINGS 3225 Mainway turbine, offshore oil and other

  • MR Jun-17#56  & control (EA&C) sys-
don earlier this year, Mikael)
    June 2017 - Maritime Reporter and Engineering News page: 56

    century. At a company presentation held in Lon- ship design and operation and ship intelligence, and include electrical, automation & control (EA&C) sys- don earlier this year, Mikael Mäkinen, President of tems. The driver for technology development at Rolls- Rolls-Royce Marine, outlined the company’s vision

  • MR Jun-17#13  of impacts coming to our parts  don from being ?  ooded by)
    June 2017 - Maritime Reporter and Engineering News page: 13

    meet or exceed the IMO Standards it can and does provide us with a fore- tion since 1984 to protect Greater Lon- warning of impacts coming to our parts don from being ? ooded by exceptionally GAP CLOSING TRAINING of the Earth – and some of the most sig- high tides and storm surges. At the time for