TBT - (1991) "Disaster At Sea!"

As a SCUBA diver your worse nightmare would be having your boat sink or disappear while you are swimming around underwater unaware of the impending disaster. And this mishap is so much worse if you are miles from shore and there are no other boats in your vicinity that can come to your aid.

We had such an adventure in 1991, three miles out in the Atlantic Ocean near Key Biscayne, Florida.

Barbara and I launched our boat on a calm day in February to collect 'Live Rock' for our marine life aquarium business. The weather had been bad for weeks so we found ourselves alone at sea that day. All went well underwater until we discovered most of the equipment belonging in the boat laying around the ocean floor near our work area.

Looking up to the surface we could see our boat hanging vertically in the ocean with just 18" of the bow breaking the surface due to flotation material in there. Shock and disbelief flooded our thoughts as we went up to look around. The sea was still fairly calm and our aluminum boat hook with attached dive flag floated nearby. On the far horizon was a single boat moving along. With desperation I waved the hook with the dive flag back and forth and just as I was about to give up the boat turned to us.

What luck! They pulled us aboard and radioed a Coast Guard boat that was in the general area. What luck again! I took a line from the CG boat and tied it to the bow of our boat so they could pull it to the surface and drag our boat until the water ran out the drains in the stern. Then when I climbed back into our boat that is when I discovered the reason the boat flooded and sank - the drain plugs were missing. The shifting breezes tangled our equipment float lines attached to baskets on the bottom with the exterior handles of the boat's stern drain plugs - and then the plugs pulled out when the breezes shifted the boat again. What bad luck!

The CG would not tow us back to the Coconut Grove marina where our truck and boat trailer was parked - but they would drop us off at the Watson Island marina near the CG station. We had a waterproof security box bolted into the boat that held my wallet and keys, but most everything else was lost in the fiasco, including my clothes and shoes! So holding my wallet and keys in my hands, walking barefoot and only wearing a Speedo swimsuit, I went out to the main road to South Beach and caught a bus to downtown Miami. Then I took the Metro Mover to the Metro Rail station and on to Coconut Grove. Boy did I get some looks from the other commuters! It was quite a sight - even for Miami.

It was getting dark when I finally was able to get back to Barbara and the boat on Watson Island. She was more concerned about being at that marina alone then sinking a boat at sea.

Like she always says: "Swimming with sharks in the ocean - no problem. It is the 'Land Sharks' that concern me more".