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September 2012    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Available to the Public Vol. 38, No. 9   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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This Was a 13-Year-Old’s First Dive

from the September, 2012 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

Even if you dive daily in less-than-stellar conditions, you should have enough sense to realize that, if it's a day with strong current and poor visibility, you shouldn't be taking a youngster on his first openwater dive -- especially when there's no one on the boat to monitor your return. According to the Mobile Press-Register, two experienced divers from Gulf Breeze, FL, and a 13-year-old making his first openwater trip were rescued by a recreational fishing boat on the night of August 2 after a strong current made it impossible to swim back to their anchored boat.

The three were anchored 15 miles south of Orange Beach, AL, when they started their dive about 2:30 p.m. They were aware of the strong current and poor visibility, but went ahead with the dive because it was the boy's first trip. Upon surfacing, they realized the current had carried them much farther from the boat than they'd anticipated, and they could not make headway against the current to get back to it. Without a bubble watcher on the boat waiting for them to return, they had no choice but to drift with current and wait to be found.

A family member told the Press-Register that the men "dive just about every other day, so they were prepared for anything." As for the boy, well, probably not so much.

Luckily for them, the crew of the Reel Worthless was preparing to fish the Orange Beach Billfish Classic, going out past the tip of the Perdido Pass jetties that evening. At 10:30 p.m., Myles Colley was steering the boat 15 miles south of the pass when he caught sight of three green strobe lights blinking ahead. He eased closer and focused a spotlight on the blinking lights. "That's when we could hear them yelling and screaming and blowing their whistles," Colley said.

The crew got the divers, who were clinging to an inflatable tube, into the boat. Despite the 85-degree water temperature, the 13-year-old looked to be suffering the early effects of hypothermia after eight hours in the water, so the crew wrapped him in a blanket. Colley said one of the divers knew the GPS numbers where his boat was anchored, and requested that they be taken to it. He said the divers had drifted about three miles southeast of their boat's location.

All three divers were unharmed, according to the family member, but perhaps wiser for the experience. "They did it against their better judgment and they got in trouble. They'll live and learn from this and they'll try it again." Hopefully, that teenager knows now when not to follow in those so-called experienced divers' footsteps.

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