Five divers stranded in Florida waters when anchor line snaps; rescued when party boat happens to pass by
Whilst heading back to Key Largo through rough seas on Tuesday of last week, Capt. Joe Hall on the Sailors Choice party boat saw something he couldn’t believe.
A lone diver, frantically waving his arms, bobbed alone among 6-foot seas near Pickles Reef off Tavernier.
“It was really rough. Waves were crashing over the bow of our boat,” said Capt. Joe. “I barely caught a glimpse of him.”
Mate Jamie Stephenson put the ladder down and helped the diver onto the 65-foot fishing boat. “Then [the diver] asked, ‘Is everybody else here?’ I asked him what he meant.”
An intense rescue effort was then started that found four other divers, scattered from near Molasses Reef to Pickles Reef, approximately three miles away.
The group of five divers from Georgia was diving at Molasses Reef when the anchor line from their unmanned boat snapped.
“One of the divers was underwater when he saw the anchor line go slack,” said Officer Bobby Dube, a Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission spokesman. “They went to the surface and saw the boat drifting away.”
“They didn’t leave anybody topside,” said Officer Dube. “This shows why it’s always a good idea to leave a safety man on deck.”
The owner of the boat tried to swim after it, but 25 mph winds pushed the vessel away.
The Sailors Choice started running a search pattern after hearing Lunsford’s story. Many of the 18 fishing customers aboard went forward to scan the seas.
“Everybody on board helped out,” Capt. Joe said. “You could see they knew they were part of something important.”
Four FWC patrol boats headed offshore after getting the 5 p.m. call. One of the FWC boats later rescued a diver, who apparently tried to follow Lunsford, near Pickles Reef.
The Sailors Choice, accompanied by a Sea Tow Key Largo boat, spotted the remaining three divers, who had inflated their BCDs and stayed near Molasses Reef.
“By the time we saw them, they were drifting farther offshore,” said Capt. Joe. “We got on the loudspeaker and told them they were going to be OK. Sea Tow went in and scooped them up.”
A TowBoat US Key Largo vessel found the Wellcraft adrift on the shoreward side of Pickles Reef. The U.S. Coast Guard also took part in the search.
The divers were in the water for approximately 2 hours. After the first diver was found at around 5 pm, the rest were out of the water before 6.
“It’s a really nice feeling” to help in the rescue,” Capt. Joe said. “It was the end of the day so no other boats were going to be out there. Those guys probably would have spent the night at sea.”
New Fins from Scubapro
Continuous development and innovation have always been a top priority for Scubapro. The new Seawing Supernova high performance fin, introduced at boot 2023, is currently revolutionising the dive fin market.
Now, Scubapro is implementing its new innovative two-piece design to another fin model – the new S-Tek Fin. Furthermore, the company is launching the Gorilla version of the GO Sport in two colours and four new colours of the popular GO Travel Fin!
NEW – S-TEK FIN
A new addition to Scubapro’s S-Tek line of technical diving equipment, the S-Tek Fin is a purpose-built, next-gen technical diving fin providing maximum power when needed and featuring the innovative two-piece design like the Seawing Supernova.
NEW – GO SPORT GORILLA in Black & Orange
While identical in design to the GO Sport Fin, the Gorilla features a slightly stiffer blade and heavy-duty bungee, providing that extra umph for experienced divers manoeuvring through demanding conditions.
NEW – Available in black & orange.
NEW – GO FIN in 4 new colours
The GO travel fin combines the benefits of an open heel fin, with the comfort and barefoot freedom of a full foot fin. The GO is lightweight yet virtually indestructible, plus it is a fast and nimble performer in the water. The popular leisure fin is now available in the new colours blue, yellow, pink, and turquoise.
More information available on www.scubapro.com.
Philippines Fun-Size: Critters and macro life
Guest Blog By Cath Bates
Instructor and Sales Consultant Cath, from Dive Worldwide, gives a rundown of some of the top areas for macro life in the Visayas region of the Philippines.
The volcanic and tectonic activity around the western Pacific Ocean has formed a nutrient-rich environment for some of the strangest marine critters to call their homes.
The Visayas region is within the central part of the Philippines – a colony of islands that are very easy to get around, with Luzon and Mindoro to the North, and Mindanao to the South. Although many divers rave about this being Big Fish Country (thanks to the thresher sharks of Malapascua and the whale sharks of Oslob and Donsol), it is also a macro diver’s paradise.
The diversity within this area of the Coral Triangle means that within a few days you can go from diving steep walls, being cushioned by sea grass beds, hovering over sandy plateaus, or getting lost amongst hard coral heads, to suddenly being cuddled by lush, fluffy coral colonies.
Pygmy Seahorses, Mandarin Fish and more in Bohol and Anda
Anda (on the eastern side of Bohol) has a coastline that is 15 kilometres of incredible biodiversity. Dive sites are between 5 and 45 minutes away from your resort house reef. Seahorse Point and Pygmy House dive sites are home to Pygmy seahorses that balance delicately on their bendy sea fan hosts. No bigger than 2.7 centimetres in length, the pink Bargibanti and yellowish Denise are protected by the Pygmy Seahorse Code of Conduct, displayed in all good dive centres.
The island of Bohol also has nudibranchs on steroids and carpet flatworms patterned with psychedelia that would make even the most open-minded hippy have a weird trip! Night dives reveal sea pens, swimming crabs, sand eels and egg cowrie.
At dusk you can enjoy the Mandarin fish courtship dance. This is a flamboyant event with two of the most colourful fish in the sea, whose names come from the dress of the Imperial Chinese Mandarin. The female Mandarin fish is joined at the pelvic fin by a male that she has deemed worthy of her attention. At rocket speed, they swim from their rubble or staghorn coral habitat high up in the water column to release hundreds of eggs and sperm.
Out-of-this-world Shrimps, Crabs and Lobsters in Moalboal
The Tanon Strait connects the Visayan Sea to the Bohol Sea. This is where you will find the island of Moalboal (meaning bubbling water). Best known for the dramatic drop offs of Pescador island and local sardine baitball, Moalboal also has a vast array of macro dive sites.
At Copton Point, Peacock mantis shrimps scuttle about, changing direction the way Austin Powers drives his luggage cart, and Kasai Wall’s hairy orangutan crabs duck and dive in bubble anemone like they are in a child’s ball pool. Masters of disguise, the crinoid shrimp and squat lobster cling motionless to their spikey homes, avoiding being dive-bombed by hungry reef fish.
At Fish Feeding (where they don’t of course feed the fish) Tozuma shrimp and Xeno crabs adorn whip corals like bosses, and punkish candy crabs decorate themselves with broccoli coral hats.
Masters of camouflage in Dumaguete/Dauin
Negros Island has the Sulu Sea to the west and Cebu to the East. This is a mountainous province, and Negros Oriental’s capital city Dumaguete is known as the “City of Gentle People”. There is a narrow channel between it and the island of Cebu, as well as the deep Negros trench. Such topography can only mean good things for divers! The Dauin coastline boasts some of the best critter diving in the region.
At Secret Corner in octopus season (October to December) you can expect to see blue ring, Mototi, wonderpus and algae octopus crawling stealth-like over the sand. These are camouflage masters who occasionally flash colour and cut some textured shapes to warn or to decorate. You may even be lucky enough to witness mating within this period.
During Frogfish February you can see all the usual suspects like painted, hairy and sargassum as well as pin-head sized juveniles. The Atmosphere Resort and Spa house reef has a vibrant yellow guy who has even been filmed for television!
Shaun the Sheep is a loveable name given to the Costasiella kuroshimae sea slug. Not much bigger than a grain of sand, the likeness to a certain plasticine animation is uncanny. They graze on a leaf-like algae, containing chlorophyll, and are otherwise known as the “sap-sucking” sea slug because of this. Take a magnifying glass with you to catch a better glimpse of these cute creatures.
Colourful Critters in Malapascua
Famous for its larger “shoals”, Malapascua also has some exquisite reefs and seamounts that are teeming with macro life. Along the white sandy coastline are hidden muck sites that many pelagic-lovers wouldn’t even know were there. Even on the shipwrecks around Malapascua, you can find the world of the tiny: shrimp patrolling the holds, schooling glassfish shielding gangways and bright mauve Hypselodoris laying their egg skirts.
The pinnacle known as Bugtong Bato is home to various types of frogfish, nudis and carpet anemone, keeping crabs and anemone shrimp safe from the current.
Chocolate island, to the south-west in the Visayan Sea, is a popular night dive location where double-snouted spindle cowrie, flatworms and banded boxer shrimp clock in for the night shift on a background of pulsating soft corals.
Gato Island is a grassy seamount poking out of the sea 45 minutes north-west of Malapascua. The island is well known for its swim-throughs and overhangs where you can expect to find Pharaoh cuttlefish, thorny seahorse and broad-banded pipefish. It also sounds like a cake, which is a winning formula for most divers!
Diving holidays for macro, muck and critter lovers
Below are some inspirational trip ideas from the Dive Worldwide website for getting to the best macro meccas in the Philippines. Not all the dive sites are beautiful to the eye at first glance, like muck and rubble, but what lies within them are some of the most vibrant and fascinating creatures you ever did see!
Discover the Visayas
This popular itinerary includes dives in Malapascua, Monad Shoal and the Moalboal peninsula.
Access some of the best diving locations in the Philippines by liveaboard, including Dauin, Balicasag, Pescador and Malapascua.
Island Hopping Dive Safari
A stress-free diving adventure exploring stunning islands in the Visayas. An excellent choice for viewing macro life and pelagics.
Magic Dive Experience
Experience the magic of the Philippines! This trip combines two dedicated dive resorts in the Visayas – expect superb reefs, turtles, and exceptional macro life.
Dive Into Luxury
A luxury island-hopping itinerary, spending five nights in two of the Visaya region’s finest dive resorts – Atmosphere Resort & Spa and Amun Ini.
If you are interested in any of these trips, please get in touch with the friendly team of travel consultants and diving experts at Dive Worldwide or call 01962 302 087. You can also subscribe to Dive Worldwide’s regular enewsletter.
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