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Old 11-05-2019, 04:40 PM   #1
Capt. of Pickled Pelican
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Join Date: Jun 2013
Location: New Port Richey FL
Posts: 1,834
Information regarding 3 divers on Saturday, and some lessons to be learned

Saturday, November 2, 2019 started out as any other planned, leisurely spearfishing trip out in the Gulf of Mexico for Florida Skin Divers Association members Michael Yagmin, Melody Shearin Engle and close friend of theirs.

As it goes with many trips offshore doing what many of us love to do (dive and spear fish), things didn’t go as planned. At one of their spots along the gas pipeline about 25 miles offshore, Mike set the anchor on his 42-foot boat and they all geared up for the dive in calm surface conditions. At the bottom, Mike reset the anchor from the sand to the large boulders that were along the pipeline for added security. During the dive Mike realized that the anchor had slipped, and everybody surfaced together.

Upon surfacing the three immediately knew that they were in big trouble. The surface conditions had changed causing the anchor to come free, and the boat was far on the horizon. Their only hope was for the anchor to grab and for one of them to catch the boat. Melody was the strongest swimmer and there were several times where she wanted to quit, but in her mind, she didn’t have a choice. She could not let Mike and her friend down. Using this determination, Melody battled those conditions for 3 hours, ultimately reaching the drifting boat which according to the boat GPS, had drifted almost 3 miles.

She immediately called the Coast Guard on the VHF radio and relayed to them that she had two divers still in the water, not knowing their condition. The Coast Guard deployed two helicopters, a C-130 aircraft and a 45-foot rescue boat. By this time, surface conditions ranged from 5 to 6-foot waves, and some bigger. By coordinating with and following heading instructions from Melody, a Coast Guard Air Station Clearwater MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter crew spotted Mike and hoisted him into safety after swimming for 4 hours.

A U.S. Coast Guard Sector St Petersburg 45-foot Motor Lifeboat rescued her friend and pulled her to safety after drifting for 5 hours. Mike suffered severe leg cramping and her friend had mild hypothermia from being in the water. Scuba diving and spearfishing are high risk sports and we all can learn from each other and from events like this one.

What counts here is that everyone is safe. As a direct result from Melody’s heroic actions and her physical and mental fortitude, and swift support from the US Coast Guard, all three friends are safe and back home with their family and friends. “We are very grateful for the US Coast Guard and their fast response. With sunset approaching, if Melody had not reached the boat the outcome could have been very different for all of us”, said Mike.

I never anchor anymore after doing something similar (though not as far away, or as bad of conditions, me and my buddy still almost didn't make it back against current). There is now ALWAYS at least two competent boat operators on my boat following bubbles. We always drop a buoy, sometimes two. Everyone has a SMB on their BC. Everyone knows if the engine quits how to go through the steps to get it started again (primer bulb, kill cord, neutral, switch batteries, etc.) - if that doesn't work, they know to immediately drop the anchor. They also know that if they hear the engine revving (can do this in neutral) that something is wrong and they are to ascend.

Pretty basic stuff, but it amazes me how many people still don't do any of these things, and leave boats unattended.
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