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Longboat Key Wednesday, Jul. 1, 2009 8 years ago

Smooth sailing

by: Robin Hartill Managing Editor

The Meridian model boat is named “Archangel.”

John Tendall, former fleet captain of Bird Key Yacht Club, named it in honor of his wife, Michael.

But Sunday, June 19, as John and Michael Tendall headed back to Longboat Key from a four-day Bird Key Yacht Club cruise to South Seas Plantation, the boat’s name seemed especially fitting.

John Tendall, a certified diver, knew something was amiss when he spotted a red-and-white dive flag in the Gulf of Mexico approximately three miles south of the Venice Inlet. The flags, which divers attach to a float to warn boaters that divers are nearby, typically are close to the diver’s boat.

But Tendall didn’t see a boat.

He headed toward the dive flag. As he got closer, he saw a diver waving his hands in the air. Tendall approached the diver, who swam toward the boat. Tendall helped pull him onboard. Tendall didn’t get the diver’s name, but he estimates he was in his 40s and an experienced diver.

“Boy, am I glad to see you,” the diver said.

The diver was approximately one mile from shore, and his boat had drifted a half-mile away, probably the result of a broken anchor. He had been treading water for 45 minutes.

The diver was in luck that day. The wind was down, so the Tendalls ventured into the Gulf of Mexico.

“If the wind were up, I would have stayed in the Intracoastal Waterway,” John Tendall said. “I just happened to be there.”

Plus, the diver was fortunate that an experienced diver spotted the flag. Other boaters might have mistaken it for a fisherman’s flag.

The diver had ventured out with a partner, who, at the time of the rescue, wasn’t aware that the boat had drifted away from them.

Tendall took the diver back to his boat and, then, followed him as he went to find his partner.

The diver told the Tendalls that the name “Archangel” was an appropriate one for their boat.

He also gave Tendall a token with which to remember him — a shark’s tooth he had found while diving.

Tendall said the rescue was a matter of being in the right place at the right time. He said that any of his fellow Bird Key Yacht Club members would do the same thing if they spotted a diver they knew was in distress.

But, still, his fellow yacht club members thought his actions deserved recognition. At a recent luncheon, he received a Commodore’s award. Usually, they’re given as a joke — but not this one.

Tendall received “The BKYC Eagle Eye Award.”

It read: “John’s actions represent great credit to his own personal qualities of seamanship and to the Bird Key Yacht Club of which he is a valued member.”

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