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View Full Version : A close call and what I learned. The boat that hit me.



Splitlip
08-09-2007, 18:52
I have related bits and pieces of this story on this forum as well as a couple others. People have asked me about it so I will tell the entire story. I will change some names.

A number of years ago, my dive buddy Mike had his brother Larry visiting from a land locked place up north. I offered to take Larry and Mike for a boat ride to see the Town of Palm Beach from off shore. We set out in the early afternoon.

Larry I learned was taking an open water class back home and was not certified. He saw that I had 2 sets of gear on the boat Both my brother and my father were certified so we often left the gear on board. Mike asked me if I would let his brother and him use the gear so Larry could get a taste of ocean diving. Aginst my better judgement, I agreed providing I were the one diving with Larry.

I had a flag for the boat but no float so I figured we would try a spot near the Breakers Hotel called the Cable Crossing in about 25 ft of water and anchor dive as the current would not be bad. The plan was simple. We would anchor over the cable which runs east and west to the Bahamas. We would drop in, swim south up current until I decided to turn the dive than we would drift/swim north to the cable, locate the boat than assend the anchor line. Mike would remain on board.

Well we were not down very long when Larry decides to shoot to the surface. I followed him and he tells me he is worried about losing the boat. I assured him that I can find the boat. We head to the bottom again. A few minutes later, Larry is shooting to the surface once again. This time though I could hear the high pitched whine of an outboard. I could not tell what direction it was, but I knew it was close.

I kicked hard after Larry and grabbed him. (I was aiming for his harness, but really don't know what I got, because here things started moving fast.) I pulled down hard on him. When I did, I popped up and was now face to face with him. I knew the boat was upon us so I threw up my right hand which broke the surface.

At that point things started moving really fast. I wrapped my left arm around Larry's neck and tried to get really "small". I kind of layed back pulling him to me. I became aware of a couple things just then. The pitch of the engined changed and then there was white all around us, foam and the boat hull.

Now it gets really blurry but was able to kind of put this together with the five witnesses to the incident. The operator had apparently seen my hand and chopped the throtle. When he did the boat came off plane and the keel came down hard on Larry's cylinder just below the valve. I don't know how far below the surface I got us before the collision, but after we were hit the prop, still spinning passed by us less than arms length.

Larry lost his mask and reg after the collision but I continued to pull us down. To Larry's credit, with my help he recovered his regulator and when we reached the bottom, I was able to recover his mask which he replaced and cleared.

We stayed a very long time before we surfaced. I could not find my boat's anchor line, but when we got to the surface we swam to what I thought was my boat. It was the boat that had hit us instead. The operator pulled us on board. His wife/girlfriend? had fainted.

Since that time, I have refused to ever surface without something above me. Marker, support vessel or other divers.

Here is the kicker. After the incident, I always took a pole spear with me on which I could place an orange glove should I ever need to surface unprotected again. I also experimented with folding and telescoping poles on which to attach a dive flag. I even went so far as to talk people about developing some kind of buoy which could be sent up from the bottom like a lift bag or those little CO2 inflated whoopy cushions divers used to locate stuff on the bottom. Except I wanted the buoy, to stand up high and be visible without having to lookk for it. People told me I was nuts. Oh well.

Anyway, I know I made a couple of errors, but we suffered nothing but bruises. Larry had a sore back for a while.

Osprey
08-09-2007, 19:14
That's really scary! I'm glad you were both ok after such an incident!

deepdiver47
08-09-2007, 19:37
How visible was that flag? It makes me wonder if they REALLY saw it.

Agreed, always grab something or better yet, don't come with a sound that you think is that close.

cummings66
08-09-2007, 22:17
I'm wary of boats but not scared I guess is how I'd phrase it. I carry a SMB that if I did have to come up somewhere other than where I went down I'd shoot it.

I routinely have jet ski's buzz my bubbles, common idiot drivers. I've thought about what can happen, so you do what you have to do. I'll tell you something that's loud, the Branson Bell when it's close to you. I've been fairly close to it underwater as it was under way, it will do a tour and sometimes you just happen to be near, it's loud!

nferra2
08-09-2007, 22:28
You finished the dive after "Larry" got you whacked. Joe must have not been around. So why did Larry surface the second time?

Splitlip
08-09-2007, 22:34
How visible was that flag? It makes me wonder if they REALLY saw it.

Agreed, always grab something or better yet, don't come with a sound that you think is that close.

Good question. The flag was up on the VHF antenna. Very visible. I m guessing I was pushing the envelope as far as my distance from the flag, but it was a big ocean. The guy had no need to come within a thousand feet even.
The guy on the boat attempted to waive him off. The boat operator was new. Did not know what the flag was.
He told me he saw my hand pop up and realized there were people in the water and backed down. He was good enough to hang around until we surfaced.
An incident in the keys a couple years ago, the boater was not so kind. He ran down and killed a kid snorkeling well within the flag's zone, and then fled the scene.

Splitlip
08-09-2007, 22:38
I'm wary of boats but not scared I guess is how I'd phrase it. I carry a SMB that if I did have to come up somewhere other than where I went down I'd shoot it.



There was nothing like that available at the time. That is what I wanted to develop. People said "why, nobody would bother with anything like that"

Splitlip
08-09-2007, 22:41
You finished the dive after "Larry" got you whacked. Joe must have not been around. So why did Larry surface the second time?:smilie39:

We really were just afraid to surface.
Larry surfaced the seond time for the same reason as the first. To look for the boat.

DivingsInMyBlood
08-09-2007, 22:46
Glad to hear you both made it out in one piece.

dmdoss
08-09-2007, 22:49
wow sounds like a close one.

Splitlip
08-09-2007, 22:53
Which brings up a point I have made before about safety stops. I hate the damn things.
Time was if you had to thumb the dive, you simply surfaced under the float. (drift diving here). Now if and when you make a damn safety stop, you can be drifting as much as 2.5 knots faster at 15 feet than the guy below pulling the float. Do that for 3 to 5 minutes you can end up a hell of a distance from your surface protection. Worse if the guy on the bottom stops. That is why it is nice to have a DSMB. I carry 2.
I have made over 200 dives without safety stops. Mostly 60 footers. Simply stayed within the tables.
The last 7 years I have not blown off a safety stop that I can recall, but I would in a heart beat if I thought the circumstances warranted it.

Edit: don't get me wrong. I think I feel better with safety stops. I just don't like the inconvenience stated above.
I like to come up by my surface support and safety stops add a wrinkle. Perhaps I am just obsessing and being overly paranoid. Oh wait, I was hit by a boat once.

Phestr
08-09-2007, 23:38
Kinda really makes me want to buy one of those safety sausages.

Foo2
08-10-2007, 09:46
Holy cow Splitlip! It's a miracle that you guys weren't seriously injured or killed! I'm so glad that things worked out in your favor.

medic001918
08-10-2007, 10:51
Glad you guy's were both okay. A good story to learn from.

Shane

Splitlip
08-10-2007, 11:38
Thanks for everybody's thoughts. And, thanks for not flaming me for diving with an uncertified diver:).

One thing we had going for us, was I did not need to deal with trying to empty BC's.
We were both diving basic hard backpacks with steel 72's. We were early enough in the dive that we were still pretty negative.

Foo2
08-10-2007, 12:04
No flaming here. The reality is that we are all human and not one of us is perfect. We all hope to learn from our own mistakes as well as others. Not to mention the fact that you admitted fault in your story by letting us all know that it was against your better judgement. I think we have all been in a situation that we have done something against our better judgement. Thanks for being honest and letting others learn from your experience.

creggur
08-10-2007, 13:19
Thanks for everybody's thoughts. And, thanks for not flaming me for diving with an uncertified diver:).


I don't have enough experience to flame anybody for anything!!

I try to take stories and experiences like this and learn from them. Much more productive than nit-picking every little mistake you made and trying to crucify you over it!!

I dare you to post this over on SB though, the responses would be hilarious...:smilie39:

Disneymom
08-10-2007, 13:37
wow - that's quite the story, and a good one to learn lessons from. Thankfully you and "larry" were OK!

namabiru
08-10-2007, 16:09
Eek... I'm really glad nobody was injured. I'm curious, though--what was the operator's reaction to almost hitting you all?

Splitlip
08-10-2007, 17:03
Eek... I'm really glad nobody was injured. I'm curious, though--what was the operator's reaction to almost hitting you all?
There was no "almost" about it. The boat did hit us and he knew it. The operator was very distraught. He saw my hand. He said he did not see our heads break the surface and I was never sure if they did. After seeing my hand, the hull ran across my buddy's tank. He knew he hit something attached to the hand. His companion passed out. The operator told me they were certain they killed a diver.
He waited around the area as did my friend in my boat watching our bubbles. He brought us on board his boat when we surfaced.
I was angry, but very happy we were not really hurt. I almost felt sorry for the guy. He was a new boater who knew nothing. Typical.
Larry took the brunt of the hit and was still kind of in shock afterwards or he would have taken the guy apart. Larry, (not his real name) is a pretty tough and savvy guy and was out of his element or things would have been real bad for the operator.
Something interesting, which speaks to how people react in crisis. Neither the guy who hit us nor my friend thought to call the Coast Guard.

JodiBB
08-10-2007, 18:29
That was a very close call! Glad to hear that both of you came out of this alive and unscathed.

namabiru
08-11-2007, 11:14
Yep, I'm sorry. 'Did' hit you, not 'almost'.

Which brings home the usual thing--any yokel with a down payment (or parents with a down payment) can take to the water in a high-speed vehicle with no training required...

*shakes head*