Thursday, July 10, 2008

No Time for Losers

A guy buys himself a Rolex watch 40 years ago. He's fanatically careful with it, and even though its a dive watch good to about 180', he never wears it swimming, for fear of losing it. 3 days ago, he gently placed it on a cockpit cushion while he and his wife went for a dip off their chartered sailboat.

As they get out of the water, the cushion gets moved, and the Rolex goes overboard. Imagine his pain as he watched his watch sink in 30' of water...

This man is a diver, but away from home and on vacation, he has no dive gear. He is a part time captain for another tower, and he knows I'm out here, so he calls me within 20 minutes of the watch going overboard. But its now late in the day, and very overcast, so I know the light will suck down there. I tell him to buoy it off and we'll hunt for it in good light tomorrow.

Its been my experience that the chances of find small objects are greatly increased by a well placed marker. If you can drop a marker within about 5' of where the thing is, it can generally be found. I stress this point to the watchless guy, and he completely agrees, further stating that he is quite sure he put a mark very close to the spot.

The guy's luck starts to go from bad to worse while he is at dinner that night, and a very diligent harbor patrol spies a suspect fender floating in the mooring field, just off the transom of a transient sailboat. When brought to the surface, said fender has a large, heavy box wrench tied to it. That curious set-up is brought to the HarPat's office and secured in the evidence locker, in hopes of solving the great box wrench planting mystery of 2008.

The next morning, the watchless guy replants a second marker, this time a cement block, as close as he can figure to the spot where his treasured Rolex now lies. But, with the wind changes and swinging boat, the accuracy of this new mark is pretty suspect. At about 1100, I suit up and head down there to search.

The bottom here is pretty mucky, and the top few inches are silt. When diving down there, you have to stay just off the bottom, and every time the silt is disturbed, it becomes a cloud of dust, reducing visibility to zero. Without the dust cloud, I had 4' visibility at best.

Because Watchless Guy is a friend of a friend kind of thing, I'm on the "tryin to help a guy out" rate, so I tell him I give it my best for one dive.

There is all kinds of cool stuff down there! I saw three wine bottles, a huge boulder, and a lobster who came out of a Spackle bucket ready for a fight. I found this pair of RayBans, perhaps dropped by the same guy who drank those 3 bottles of wine.

Alas, I didn't find the Rolex. I fear the loss of the original marker has doomed our efforts.

Watchless Guy wasn't giving up that easily. The dockmaster had half a tank left from some other job, and he had quick look around the cement block, and then another diver spent 40 minutes around 2pm -they both came up empty handed. That afternoon, Watchless Guy heads into town and starts asking around about dive equipment. He is about 6'-2", so my medium wetsuit isn't gonna help, and the island dive shop closed down three years ago. What he finds is a guy who will loan him an underwater metal detector!

So Plan B is to begin the search the following day with the metal detector and a renewed optimism. By this time, I have retreated to the cheering section, offering only encouragement and maybe some dive gear. Secretly, I figure this whole operation is hopeless, due to the loss of the original marker and the bottom conditions.

By now, the story has spread through the marina, and everyone is pulling for this guy, who has not once complained, or bemoaned his luck. He has accepted every gesture of assistance graciously, and not once demanded a thing from anyone. He's everyman's optimist.

Once again, diver #3 heads down armed with the metal detector, but that operation fails, because there is a lot of metal stuff down there, and after sticking your hands into the muck a few times, you are lost in a cloud of thick, murky water.

But diver #3 is a larger size, and Watchless Guy is such a nice guy that #3 loans WG his wetsuit. WG is a dive instructor, and we round up another tank, my BC, some eles's booties...

Watchless Guy tries the metal detector, and quickly abandons that. But he move his cement block and searches, and moves the cement block, and searches....and feels, and searches.

Eventually, he's down to his last few minutes of air, so he surfaces and looks one last time at the transom of his boat, and makes one last, determined dive in the spot where the watch should be. He knows that watch is down there, ticking, keeping perfect time for a lobster who lives in a spackle bucket.

And there it was, right were he dropped it. Barely a half inch of the stainless band above the mud.

He returned to the dock to a hero's welcome, a man who's luck had made a complete about-face in just 48 hours. When I saw him on the dock, I don't think his feet were touching the ground. I suggested that he rush off to the casino while his luck was good, but he was content to just know what time it was.