The Story of a Bad Day Off Key West

One of my web friends, Charlene, tells her story of a dive trip that went seriously wrong one day recently off Key West. Here it is the way she tells it:

Hi Capt’n Tom,

It’s pretty cool being on your website, so I’ve added a few more pictures in case you want to modify it. In the picture back at the Coast Guard Hdqtrs that’s me to the very right sitting there and the crew members are to the rear of the pier with the Captain first to be seen to the left; tall with white shirt talking to a CG member.

So here is my story:

It was a Thursday afternoon on September 9th, 1999 when my friends who do not dive went with me to the boat and in saying ‘goodbye’ I said I’d be back around 6:30. Before leaving the Capt. indicated it was really rough out there and if we wanted to reschedule he would understand. Heck no, the only hard part is getting back up in the boat after your dive so I went ahead. We left the dock at 2:00 and I went up top to sit with the Captain to get a good view of everything. Around 2:20 the boat just stopped and the Capt. looking very concerned called for a mate. As they were trying to figure out what was going on someone below yelled that water was coming in.

They opened the engine hatches and water started coming in fast and bailing began. The Capt. looking more and more panicked (not to mention my own real concern) said he would try to get over to Zachary Island. As soon as he turned the key to try and start the boat it was like someone had just released a dam and the boat just sucked in the ocean which started panic among all. and the Capt. then placed the “MAYDAY MAYDAY”.

The lifejackets were up with me so we started throwing them down to all the passengers and everyone was going around in circles not knowing what to do. Boats where just watching us go down and off in the distance you see that the Coast Guard (CG) was one their way.

Just as they arrived the boat was really going quick and it was difficult getting people up to the CG boat because we were so much lower than them. I was the last passenger to get off and as they were pulling me up and the crew pushing, the boats started splitting apart and I screamed for dear life picturing me falling between the two boats coming back to smash me between them. I fell back into our boat and a second attempt was made and I was literally thrown into the back of the CG boat where I stayed and didn’t move.

No sooner than the last mate got aboard the CG boat did the boat go go go gone!!! I had tears in my eyes the entire ride back to the CG Hdqtrs and thanked God we were not out another couple of miles, because the story could have turned for the worse as a terrible storm came through and the CG would have never made it in time. Thank God for Guardian Angels.

By 3:00 we were back at the CG Hdqtrs where I had to compile a written statement of events. When I got back to my cottage so early, my friends could not believe what had happened. The front page of the local paper the next day told the story for all to see!!!!