Captain Diver “Z” is an amazing man. Emigrating from the Czech Republic twenty years ago he started his own marine salvage business. He and his crew are the best in the business. This story is just one example of his challenging career. It’s about courage, perseverance, team effort, and what it means to bring results, by never giving up, even in the harshest, winter blizzard conditions on the waterfront. Vision, planning and action were the driving forces and the only things that brought warmth during the entire gigantic operation.
Looking over the beautiful waters of Rockaway, undisturbed reflections from a marina dock are a calming sight for most or a site of challenge, a porthole into the world below the surface, for others. Marine Salvage is ‘The other”. It’s about 16 hefty water pumps roaring as if they were fighting to overcome one another, and a calmness overcome by a commotion of hard work on two100 ft. parallel docks floating 40 ft. apart. The crew is busy managing the pumps, bystanders run about with their cell phones taking pictures and no one knows what to expect except for the crew of the amazing salvage operation about to take place.
A call came into Captain “Z’s office at Marine Diving Service with a request to assess a salvage operation and place a bid which was awarded to his company. The task was to refloat a giant barge and tow it away. Most salvagers would require heavy equipment such as a giant crane and a small fleet of boats, but Capt. “Z” doesn’t think that way. ”Z” thinks physics and decided to accomplish the task with just a pickup truck, pumps, his crew and a few hand carts to carry “Stuff”. His attitude? “Just do it!” So, it began on one mean, cold, day. “Z” suited up and dove below to inspect the giant barge which had been submerged for about a year. He could feel the cold water seep into his wet suit. Soon his body would heat it. He must keep his mind in sharp focus to accomplish his underwater tasks.
Some winter sun penetrated the dark water and “Z” could see the barge was covered with marine growth. He could see the barge was used to host summer parties at this Yacht Club. It was fully equipped with tables, chairs, railings, flag posts and a full barbeque. He also could make a hole which probably could be attributed to its sinking. Inside the barge were separate equal compartments. There was a huge hatch in the deck that provided entrance into the sixth compartment in its hull. This was the first of six and he recorded the measurements, sketches and conditions of each while trying to focus in the cold water. This was critical to the operation. His last transmission to his crew above was “Coming up!” He takes his diving equipment off and takes a “Hot portable shower”.
Captain “Z” s next task was to take all his intel from his notes and design a system to keep all the hatches locked in place, calculate the pumping power, pump suction lift, the pressure exerted on the large hull, number of pumping ports, and the air introduction system which would refloat the barge. It was a complex engineering task. Every angle of possibility had to be figured out including adapters, connectors, wood, Etc. “Z” spent days until he figured it all out ending up with a pile of drawings and requirements on his desk. Now the time for planning was coming to cumulation. Now came the time for action.
First off was a journey of four thousand miles to obtain all the pumps required.
In addition, all connections, suction hoses, seals for hatches, and tools of every kind had to be transportable in small carts and assembled easily on rocking, floating docks. It was all in place on a freezing January Sunday after a Nor’easter that left crunchy frozen snow all over the docks. Pumps were placed in position along a 100 ft. perimeter on floating docks over the sunken barge which made a real obstacle course of strapped down pumps to work around. Next came the installation of the watertight hatch covers underwater by “Z”. His crew above provided everything he needed to do the job. While below the surface he places the pump hose ends tightly into the Pump holes and the other end he passed up to hook up on the strapped down water pumps on the perimeter floating docks making it look like a giant octopus was coming out of the water.
Once all was in place the pumps were fired up and they began to pump out 10,000 gallons of saltwater per minute to raise the barge. “Z’ was still below peering into the sealed hatches to see the progress as the water began to be replaced by air. There was enough power to raise the barge from the mucky bottom. Sometimes the suction of the mud is too strong to succeed but luckily this was not the case. Slowly, the barge began to rise, and the top came to the surface. Hand signals had to be used on the docks above because of the noise of the pumps but the crew and Capt. “Z” worked as a great team. Soon the railings appeared. It was coming up!
There was excitement all around as muddy, barnacled and long seaweed-covered chairs, tables, and the barbecue all rose into the cold surface air. The entire barge then rose rapidly. So fast in fact that it surprised everyone with its immense size as it now floated 4 ft. above the water and 10 ft. out from the dock. It looked ugly, muddy and gloomy. Seaweed and undersea growth were all over it. Yet the crew was ecstatic and none more so than Capt. “Z” who had planned and accomplished a so large a salvage in a way that had never been attempted before, starting from the back of a truck! Things could have gone terribly wrong, instead, they went amazingly right.
It took forty hours for the tug to come and take the barge away. All that time pumps had to be used to keep the old hulk afloat because the wreck had so many other leaks. Finally, after forty hours of watching and pumping day and night, early dawn saw the tug arrive and take the barge away in tow, with some pumps still pumping to guarantee that she would make the trip to the place of final salvage. She was last seen going through a calm Rockaway Inlet as the day began.
Capt. “Z” did good by spiffing up the bay bottom where the wreck was as a “Good deed”. He had taken a big gamble. The deal was that if he failed, he would not have been paid but he took the gamble, did his planning and had a great support crew and he ended up a winner. It was featured on a TV show called “Deep Sea Salvage” on the weather channel and you may still Goggle it and catch it somewhere.
And just to show you what type of a Captain of Salvage “Z” is, he thanks all his amazing crew members for their amazing dedication, without whom the salvage would ever have been successful.
Check Out “Z’s” website at marinedivingservice.com You never know when you may need his services.