When all else fails, call a diver

Diver Brian leBlanc replaces zincs on a Catalina 30. Photo by Ali Wisch Fabre

August 2022

By Randy Randall

Jim was shoulder deep in the water at our launch ramp alongside his sailboat. He was reaching under the hull trying to get a grip on the stuck centerboard, but it was difficult. Crowbars and a hammer weren’t cutting it. That board was stuck in the centerboard trunk good and tight and nothing Jim could do would dislodge it. I told him; “You need Diver Lou.”

Two days later Jim was back at the dock and Diver Lou was in the water swimming under the boat. It only took a few minutes for Lou to break the centerboard free and get it to drop. He used an old saw to scrape out the barnacles and rust and had Jim raise and lower the board a few times. “I think you’ll be okay now,” Lou said.

Around the working waterfront there are times when there’s just no other solution to a difficult problem than a diver. And Lou is one of the best. We ask him to find lost moorings for us. The cables break or the buoys sink, and we call Lou to find them. Our usual method for renewing cables and chains is to lift the mooring block and bring it ashore where we attach a new chain. But now, thanks to Lou, we simply pass him the end of the chain and the shackle, and he swims down and fastens it to the granite block. For that task alone, he is worth every cent he charges.

While Lou is swimming beneath our docks, he also retrieves various tools we’ve knocked overboard; gone for good except when Lou picks them up. Last summer a customer stumbled boarding his boat and both his phone and his wallet went overboard. He knew the phone wouldn’t survive, but the wallet was valuable. Lou found the wallet and the phone almost as soon as he submerged. The relief on Tom’s face was obvious.

Other marinas and boatyards use him to find their lost moorings and remove trees and old pilings that obstruct the boat slips. We hired him to remove an entire tree that was entangled under our docks. He used a special saw to cut the limbs and bit by bit pull the tree apart.

He cuts lobster traps loose from propellers, changes zincs on a powerboat, replaces damaged props, and scrubs sailboat hulls before the upcoming races. He’s found car and house keys, bracelets and rings. He got an urgent call to come quickly and install the drain plug in a boat that had already been launched. He’s been called on to remove milfoil and algae from ponds and to inspect the hull of a boat after it had run aground. He takes underwater photographs and videos for various companies.

A specialty is finding and repairing leaks in swimming pools. Most of the jobs are in shallow water, less than 40 feet, and he is diving nearly every decent day. We’d be a lot worse off if it wasn’t for Diver Lou and the other commercial divers in our area. They truly are, like St. Jude, the patron saints of desperate cases and lost causes.

Frequent contributor, correspondent and friend. Randy Randall is co-owner of Marston’s Marina in Saco, Maine and a dreamer and waterman of the first order.