How to get Lost at Sea.

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How to get Lost at Sea.

Postby Behslayer » July 3rd, 2020, 11:00 pm

A few months back some friends of mine had a real close call. It's a mistake I think a lot of us have made, and one which is easy enough to overlook.

My buddy has a nice 18' Terncat over here in Hawaii. He's one of the best divers in Hawaii because he's a good hunter, has great aim, and can dive to 250' without fins.. I don't think there is a better Uku Diver in the State, and there are some incredible divers here. He's had a boat over here for years, teaching Freediving and working Construction.

There was a good Weather Window so he hit up some friends to go out on a Commercial Bluewater Spearfishing Trip. Two other good divers and one brought a friend to drive the boat. They left before Dawn and headed out 30 miles to some of the FAD Buoys. The first one they reached was good, had a few Mahi on it, They took a couple and decided to move on. As they were travelling they spotted some floating Debris. A Piece of Net attached to some buoys. It was LOADED... Bluewater Spearfishing of Dreams ensued. Big Mahi, One Hundred Wahoo, and a Floor of 40# Yellowfin. They dove their asses off and landed 42 fish all Mahi, Wahoo, and Yellowfin over 20#. They filled every Cooler to the top. It was 11am and they were done. They got in the boat and were all high fives. They took off their suits and thought hey.. Why don't we take one more nice Yellowfin for Sashimi on the ride back. So, the three divers jumped back in without their suits. Within a few minutes one of them shot a 40# Yellowfin. At that moment a 150# Marlin swam up and started following the Bleeding Yellowfin. One of the divers thought to shoot the Marlin and asked the Boat Driver to throw out his buoy. But the Yellowfin made some runs and the guy had to put a second shaft in it to secure it. A few minutes later he asked the Boat Driver "Hey, where's my float" and the boat driver looked around and saw it drifting about 1/3 mile away through the 7' swell and 10mph wind chop. He said he'd go get the buoy and be back soon.

Once the Boat driver picked up the buoy he became disoriented. He didn't really know how to work the GPS and when he went to press the buttons to see his path, the screen changed and he couldn't figure out how to get it back. So he started driving in big circles looking for the guys. Even worse.. He did not know how to use the VHF.

The guys looked over and realized what was happening. They were screaming, waving their guns, and watching the boat doing circles getting further and further from them. This went on for 2 hours.. They were getting Colder. They stayed with the Net.

After more than two hours looking the Boat Driver realized that the only hope he had of finding his friends was to get within Cell Range of the shoreline. He knew which direction that was.. He could see it. He took off.

The guys watched him leaving and they realized they needed to plan for the long term. They tied the net together in a cone with their reel lines and got inside. They cut the Yellowfin up and ate it, and they started huddling for warmth.

As the Boat driver got within 15mi of land he had cell service. He called 911. and said. "We are on a Boat. Three divers are missing..." and then the phone ran out of batteries. At this point the Police Dispatcher who is the unsing hero of this story, traced the number and the location of the call. They figured out who it belonged to and did some kind of search for his friends and spoke with some of them. They said he was out Spearfishing offshore, and the Dispatcher alerted the USCG. They dispatched a Helicopter which had been in Air and they found the Boat. They lowered down an airshipman and he accessed the last known co-ordinates of the divers. Then they initiated a Helicopter Search and Called in Local USCG Boats as well as the Cutter.

As it was getting dark the divers were really feeling the cold.. even though it's Hawaii.. being in the Water for 6 hours with no wetsuits was taking its toll. They were very nervous. Floating 30 Miles out. Then they saw a Helicopter with Lights searching. It was Far away, but it was hope. Over the next few hours they got closer and then finally made their way over the divers. The Infra Red cameras showed the Divers waving their fins and the Helicopter marked their position and had to immediately leave as they were out of Fuel. Quickly a USCG Coat arrived and rescued the guys. The next day my buddy Sold the catch and went by the Local USCG with several cases of good beer. But those three divers are just now, 9 months later able to hang out again..

The moral of the story is to make sure everyone on the boat knows how to use the GPS, The Radio. Everyone should know the basics of starting and driving the boat. Especially that guy/girl you bring to drive while the rest of you are diving..
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Re: How to get Lost at Sea.

Postby Donzi Paul » July 4th, 2020, 5:01 am

Great story Jon, it can happen to any of us with the wrong crew and bad decisions.
Thanks, Don
Last edited by Donzi Paul on July 5th, 2020, 7:05 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: How to get Lost at Sea.

Postby Jeff Bonisa » July 4th, 2020, 7:12 pm

I remember this..... Good to hear the actual story versus what was in the news. Thanks Jon. Very glad everyone was okay. There have been WAYYY to many stories here in the islands that have gone the other way recently.
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Re: How to get Lost at Sea.

Postby John Hughes » July 5th, 2020, 10:20 am

Thanks for always passing the stories along so that we can learn from them and be safer out there Jon.

I've had my experiences with yahoos running the boat and try not to get in that situation any more. Most of the guys I run with do some type of a safety speech each time we go out but I would say the GPS would be something we all need to expand on for the inexperienced.
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Re: How to get Lost at Sea.

Postby dam » July 5th, 2020, 9:58 pm

Holy shit, that sounds unreal! Glad everyone was alright. Could've gotten ugly!
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Re: How to get Lost at Sea.

Postby Behslayer » July 6th, 2020, 2:30 pm

They did mention that they continued to watch Shoals of Big Mahis, Wahoos, and Yellowfin circling them for hours. Luckily/Strangely, no Sharks showed up.

One thing I thought was interesting was how those Carbon Fiber Fins Stood Out in the Infra-Red Camera.
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Re: How to get Lost at Sea.

Postby chris oak » July 7th, 2020, 7:18 pm

Man Jon thanks for sharing that, too often we are afraid of getting laughed out but this story had a great ending. I know of a similar one here were some tuna divers got separated on two different fish and one of the divers was lost. They called coast guard but luckily found the diver before they dispatched a team.

Your story tells a good plan THE DIVERS STAYED TOGETHER.

After hearing this and talking to some divers, I now have 2 flares sealed in a food saver waterproof bag and also a whistle attached to my Gannet bluewater float. Keep in mind the flares only last about minute, they aren't like road flares and you will have to fire them when you see someone who will notice it. I also try to dive with my surface signal (diver safety sausage) when I'm hunting bluewater tuna. You will be amazed at how hard it is to spot a diver when there is no float or something that sits high on the water.

I was diving with my buddy and he had a great idea. He keeps a fishing rod on his boat and he said if two divers shoot fish, they tie a quick line to one float and bring the diver aboard and then go watch the other diver. Who cares if you lose that fish, you will be haunted the rest of your life if one of your crew dies because you thought you could find them.
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Re: How to get Lost at Sea.

Postby Matthew Rice » July 7th, 2020, 8:30 pm

@Chris- Good reminder on the flares in the gannett. I have a whistle on mine, but I remember Paul mentioning throwing flares in there, too. What did you wind up with that fit in that dinky vinyl pocket? The snap doesn't instill a ton of confidence, in my eyes. Did you tape yours shut or anything?

After reading a story like this, it makes sense to think out how to rig a tuna float for the possibility of separation from the boat. That coastal float he came out with in the 50# size would certainly give more rigging options, but it's too small for a stopper float and too big for a fighting float for a tuna.
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Re: How to get Lost at Sea.

Postby gringo sushi » July 8th, 2020, 2:07 pm

I love the fishing rod idea Chris! Makes me think of a rig I have that has a ton of spectra on it that will be perfect.

When chasing bluefin I have been keeping what I called the "Split Kit" which was a bag of 4 flares, whistle and submersible hand held vhf that can be clipped onto the second float. We haven't had the occasion to use it.

The idea of watching a buddy disappear into the horizon makes the fishing rod seem like a much better plan. I like the worst case scenario of the rod plan much better.
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Re: How to get Lost at Sea.

Postby Karma Trees » July 14th, 2020, 1:51 pm

chris oak wrote:Man Jon thanks for sharing that, too often we are afraid of getting laughed out but this story had a great ending. I know of a similar one here were some tuna divers got separated on two different fish and one of the divers was lost. They called coast guard but luckily found the diver before they dispatched a team.

Your story tells a good plan THE DIVERS STAYED TOGETHER.

After hearing this and talking to some divers, I now have 2 flares sealed in a food saver waterproof bag and also a whistle attached to my Gannet bluewater float. Keep in mind the flares only last about minute, they aren't like road flares and you will have to fire them when you see someone who will notice it. I also try to dive with my surface signal (diver safety sausage) when I'm hunting bluewater tuna. You will be amazed at how hard it is to spot a diver when there is no float or something that sits high on the water.

I was diving with my buddy and he had a great idea. He keeps a fishing rod on his boat and he said if two divers shoot fish, they tie a quick line to one float and bring the diver aboard and then go watch the other diver. Who cares if you lose that fish, you will be haunted the rest of your life if one of your crew dies because you thought you could find them.


I have always ran that same deal Chris! My dad always taught me to have a backup for the backup so that was my marker/floating buoy on the blue water weightbelt setup


I can with one hand reach back and undo the velcro then inflate it for that long bright orange buoy marker to stick straight into the air. I run this little marker float on my weight belt ANYTIME i dive off a boat with anyone new or on bigger charters etc where it may be easier for folks to leave ya behind
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Re: How to get Lost at Sea.

Postby Bill McIntyre » July 14th, 2020, 4:26 pm

chris oak wrote:I was diving with my buddy and he had a great idea. He keeps a fishing rod on his boat and he said if two divers shoot fish, they tie a quick line to one float and bring the diver aboard and then go watch the other diver. Who cares if you lose that fish, you will be haunted the rest of your life if one of your crew dies because you thought you could find them.


Chris, I'm not sure I understand what the fishing rod contributes. If one guy shoots a fish we should bring the other guy aboard, but if we can get to his float and tie a line to it, why not just pull the float aboard along with the diver at the other end.

Everyone else seems to get it, but for some reason I don't.

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Re: How to get Lost at Sea.

Postby chris oak » July 15th, 2020, 6:53 am

If you have a cow tuna on, you are going to have to wait until the fish tires before you can get that float safely on the boat, the bungee will stretch but eventually that pressure is going to tear the fish out unless it is a perfect shot. If the other tuna is running fast it is towing the diver at a pretty good rate, you would have to throw the other float overboard and keep up with him or lose the fish as you pull the boat in one direction to follow the other diver.
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Re: How to get Lost at Sea.

Postby Bill McIntyre » July 15th, 2020, 8:30 am

Duh. Somehow I missed the part about both divers shooting fish. I thought just one had a fish and we were getting the other guy out of the water.

Thanks. I’ll try to read more carefully.
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Re: How to get Lost at Sea.

Postby NaClAddict » July 16th, 2020, 12:15 pm

Bill McIntyre wrote: And Dam, no wise cracks about dementia.
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Re: How to get Lost at Sea.

Postby rene » December 2nd, 2020, 9:56 am

OMG, that's always an issue on the east coast. The fog can come in and disorient anyone, not just newbies. We had a close call at a competition in 2015. Someone didn't have a compass or a gps and tried to reach the shore from a mile out... it didn't go well for him but he was eventually found safe.

I wrote a fictionalized version, where it ended even worse for him (guns and bikinis are involved, I dare you to try to figure out where the story becomes fiction, it's very subtle). I was sort of resentful for the scare he gave us... This hit me hardest since I was the one who last saw him in this story.

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Re: How to get Lost at Sea.

Postby JoeZ » April 6th, 2021, 8:11 am

An earlier thread was mentioning great literature for salty spear's - I still say this forum should make a binder and split the profits - these stories are real and incredible.

JZ - 5 weeks till WSB hunt. =)
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