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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