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Old 11-05-2019, 04:40 PM   #1
grey2112
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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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Old 11-05-2019, 04:47 PM   #2
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Re: Information regarding 3 divers on Saturday, and some lessons to be learned

Wow, Mike Yagmin and I go back a long way and dove together on his boat the Main Squeeze many times. Glad to hear they all made it back safely.
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Old 11-05-2019, 06:42 PM   #3
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Re: Information regarding 3 divers on Saturday, and some lessons to be learned

Great story and a happy ending, swimming three miles in a heaving sea is some feat of endurance and the lives of all three were totally in the balance, a desperate situation if all had gone wrong.
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Old 11-05-2019, 07:20 PM   #4
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Re: Information regarding 3 divers on Saturday, and some lessons to be learned

Yes, Melody certainly was the hero and saved everyone's lives.

Recently I've dove with a few different crews and one leaves the boat unmanned. They at least always clip a PLB off to the jug before the dive. I see the advantage as it's a much more efficient way to dive and allows a small crew to get 6-8 dives each in the same time it take a 2 up 2 down crew to do a total of 4 dives.

As I've evolved in this sport I have become of the mind set that I need to be 100% self reliant and so from very early on I've dove with a PLB in a canister tucked under my wing in a lift bag sleeve.

Shit can go wrong quick, hell the boat you're on can short electronics and sink in a heart beat while you're diving, then what? $350 is dirt cheap insurance to have on you to contact search and rescue anywhere in the world.

If I were diving with them, screw that swim!!! I'm hitting the button and fücking sending it!!!
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Old 11-06-2019, 09:41 PM   #5
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Re: Information regarding 3 divers on Saturday, and some lessons to be learned

Hey cuzza, i now dive with that same plb and canister that you recommended to me a year or 2 ago. It sure brings me a lot of piece of mind. You never know what can go wrong at the surface when you are down there.

Post up the links again in case others are interested?
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Old 11-06-2019, 11:16 PM   #6
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Re: Information regarding 3 divers on Saturday, and some lessons to be learned

Quote:
Originally Posted by grey2112 View Post
They all geared up for the dive in calm surfaces
Mistake #1. It always surprises me how experienced divers still chance it with nobody on the boat, that’s the first thing you learn when getting certified. If I had to guess the marine forecast wasn’t absolutely perfect either, or just bad luck. I’m happy they all made it back without any serious injuries. Sometimes we underestimate just how dangerous the ocean/or gulf can be.

Quote:
Originally Posted by CuzzA View Post
Yes, Melody certainly was the hero and saved everyone's lives.

Recently I've dove with a few different crews and one leaves the boat unmanned. They at least always clip a PLB off to the jug before the dive. I see the advantage as it's a much more efficient way to dive and allows a small crew to get 6-8 dives each in the same time it take a 2 up 2 down crew to do a total of 4 dives.

As I've evolved in this sport I have become of the mind set that I need to be 100% self reliant and so from very early on I've dove with a PLB in a canister tucked under my wing in a lift bag sleeve.

Shit can go wrong quick, hell the boat you're on can short electronics and sink in a heart beat while you're diving, then what? $350 is dirt cheap insurance to have on you to contact search and rescue anywhere in the world.

If I were diving with them, screw that swim!!! I'm hitting the button and fücking sending it!!!
What happens when “that button” doesn’t work? Unfortunately I know a teen that died climbing when his SPOT device, and partners Garmin InReach failed after he fell hundreds of feet down a mountain being left to die. I’ll take a reliable captain, taking a dive off even on a good spot, and getting out earlier over risking my boat drifting off. Stay safe everybody
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Old 11-09-2019, 07:15 AM   #7
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Re: Information regarding 3 divers on Saturday, and some lessons to be learned

Thanks for posting. Glad this has a happy ending. Takes some big heavy cahones to go swim after a boat like that. I imagine she left her BC & tank with the other two?

After having a challenging time swimming against current back to an anchored boat I decided, like Cuzza, cheap insurance to have a tool on hand to ensure rescue is on the way.

"that button" is your best chance at rescue when things go sideways. If you don't PMC your equipment to ensure it is in working order (battery not dead) or if you fall a hundred feet off a cliff with your PLB breaking your fall then you might be SOL.

I dive with this canister which is sold on ebay for $100
https://www.ebay.com/itm/CANISTER-fo...0AAOSw7I5TwJD2

No problems with water infiltration. Been down to 100ft with it. Large version is enough to fit a ResQLink PLB, dye marker, and mylar blanket.

https://www.westmarine.com/personal-...r-beacons-plbs
https://www.westmarine.com/buy/orion...arker--5367149
https://www.leisurepro.com/p-blrdbds...uxe-6-183m-smb
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Old 11-09-2019, 08:10 AM   #8
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Re: Information regarding 3 divers on Saturday, and some lessons to be learned

Quote:
Originally Posted by SEA_ARCHER View Post
Hey cuzza, i now dive with that same plb and canister that you recommended to me a year or 2 ago. It sure brings me a lot of piece of mind. You never know what can go wrong at the surface when you are down there.

Post up the links again in case others are interested?
Good to hear, man. There's no reason a diver should get lost these days with all the tech options we have.

This is ACR's latest and greatest option as it comes with a oled screen. They have another new option that is cheaper without the screen. They also acquired the very small PLB1. The down side to that unit is it does not float without a neoprene pouch.

https://www.acrartex.com/products/resqlink-view

The canister I use is the CustomDivers PLB canister. It's about a $100 shipped from the UK. It is the most streamlined option available. All the others, including the Grenade looking option are rather big.

https://www.customdivers.com/plb-div...ount-744-p.asp

Since it's a smaller canister there's obviously not room for dye markers and such, but I did cut off the hood from a mylar solar poncho I bought off Amazon and squeezed it in the canister. The idea of having my head get fried for hours waiting for pickup just doesn't sound appealing.

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0...?ie=UTF8&psc=1

I clip it all off to an 8' SMB from Piranha Dive Mfg. It appears they are currently out of stock so no link.

I put this whole kit in a lift bag sleeve and mounted it under my wing. You wouldn't ever know it's there.

XS Scuba offers one as well competitively priced.

https://www.divegearexpress.com/dgx-...ift-bag-sleeve


It may also be a good idea to but a fold up snorkel in with the kit. I haven't, but am considering this one.

https://www.piranhadivemfg.com/item/...is-model-12262

Last edited by CuzzA; 11-09-2019 at 09:09 AM.
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Old 11-09-2019, 08:14 AM   #9
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Re: Information regarding 3 divers on Saturday, and some lessons to be learned

Quote:
Originally Posted by Alec View Post
Mistake #1. It always surprises me how experienced divers still chance it with nobody on the boat, that’s the first thing you learn when getting certified. If I had to guess the marine forecast wasn’t absolutely perfect either, or just bad luck. I’m happy they all made it back without any serious injuries. Sometimes we underestimate just how dangerous the ocean/or gulf can be.



What happens when “that button” doesn’t work? Unfortunately I know a teen that died climbing when his SPOT device, and partners Garmin InReach failed after he fell hundreds of feet down a mountain being left to die. I’ll take a reliable captain, taking a dive off even on a good spot, and getting out earlier over risking my boat drifting off. Stay safe everybody
I run the test on my PLB before every trip. There's always the chance it could fail to work, but probably not a big one.

They certainly made an error in judgement. That front was scheduled to hit at noon and they posted on FB they were just departing around 10am. They should have known better.
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Old 11-09-2019, 12:32 PM   #10
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Re: Information regarding 3 divers on Saturday, and some lessons to be learned

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They certainly made an error in judgement. That front was scheduled to hit at noon and they posted on FB they were just departing around 10am. They should have known better.
Sounds like a...communication breakdown, it's always the same..

3 hrs swimming? Geesh...it sounds as if she was somewhat fit for it. Hero move there.
Crazy story. I've done plenty of solo diving myself but it was always in less than 45' with excellent scope on the rope and making sure anchor was set visually. I certainly didn't make a habit of diving during an approaching front though.
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Old 11-09-2019, 05:10 PM   #11
grey2112
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Re: Information regarding 3 divers on Saturday, and some lessons to be learned

Despite all the tech, I'll never, EVER leave an empty boat up top. And everyone on my boat knows how to run it, troubleshoot, use the VHF, and knows to throw the anchor if the motor stops and they start to drift.
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