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July 2011    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Available to the Public Vol. 26, No. 7   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Diver Rescued off Bimini

thanks to not one, but three skilled captains

from the July, 2011 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

The diver could see his boat, but could not swim to it. He saw his wife onboard as she searched for him, looking in the opposite direction. Within minutes, Captain Mike Galgana heard the wife's radio call reporting her missing husband. His mind immediately shot back to a similar call years ago, a call he didn't answer, a call he thought other boaters would help with.

"I'll never forget the time. Guys were trapped in an overturned boat and they didn't survive," he said. "I regret not going to help." He didn't want that feeling again, so he conferred with Captain Baron Rohl on M/Y Texas Star II, who immediately put a call out for nearby vessels to help in a search. Captain Russ Grandinetti, aboard M/Y Jade Mary, heard that call and jumped in his tender.

It was late May near Bimini. Sara Cesbron had called for the U.S. Coast Guard about 4:30 p.m. when her husband, Jean-Jacques Cesbron, failed to return from a dive. She, their 18-month-old son and his 81-year-old father had remained onboard. "She was on the radio and calm, but you could tell she was getting frantic," Grandinetti said. When he arrived at the rendezvous spot, he found Rohl, a friend he had known more than 20 years. The three yacht captains each had many years on boats, and they pooled their knowledge to define the area using location and conditions, with calculations made from the coordinates of the diver's anchored vessel, the Jacques Angelo, between Turtle Rock and Gun Cay, about two miles off of Cat Cay. "All the boats fish there," Rohl said. "It's shark alley."

To figure out which direction Cesbron might have drifted, Rohl filled a water bottle with seawater and enough air to keep it above surface, and tossed it in the water. Grandinetti used the same technique to verify the wind was pushing his tender south as the current flowed north. They determined the Gulf Stream was flowing about three knots to the north, and organized the search at the south end of South Bimini. Radio contact between the tenders was limited because of technical issues, but the three instinctively made the right decisions in how to proceed with the search. "We all knew what had to be done," Grandinetti said.

For a couple of hours, Rohl and Galgana ran their tender parallel to the beach a mile from shore, and searched with binoculars while Grandinetti ran a zig-zag from shore to their tender and back to shore. It was after 7 p.m. As dusk fell, the winds picked up to 15 knots out of the northeast. The tenders were running low on fuel. With the setting sun, objects in the water were harder to see against the choppy sea.

Cesbron had been in the water several hours and had ditched his tanks. He was tired and dehydrated. He spotted a tender and held up his mask. The last glints of sunlight caught it and alerted Grandinetti. "I saw what looked like a little black coconut in the water. I literally almost ran into him." Pulling him aboard, Cesbron asked, "How did you find me?"

"By the grace of God," Grandinetti said. "Now get in the boat."

Hours after the rescue, Grandinetti was somber when thinking about the waning light and time. If they had not found him when they did, he said, the outcome would have been much different. "It would have been the difference between a celebration and a funeral.

This story, written by Dorie Cox, originally appeared in The Triton.

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