Car Keys: Underwater Search And Recovery

car keys

Last weekend we practiced underwater search and recovery techniques … unwillingly, I must admit. And we learned some lessons we will remember.

On Friday morning we packed our car with the equipment, took our small RIB and headed to Mahurangi Harbour, where we booked a holiday bach for one night. When we arrived to the place, we checked the house, unpacked and went for a walk to Scott Point, which was only about 500m from the bach. The weather was great, the water in the harbour unbelievably calm and warm. We decided to launch our boat, cross the harbour and go for a swim in one of the tiny sandy bays there.

After a couple of hours we decided to go back. When I started the engine I touched the pocket on my togs and immediately that weird feeling appeared … where are the car keys? We searched the whole boat (it’s small), but nothing. That meant the keys were either on the sea bottom, or I hadn’t locked the car, only I thought I had and the keys were either in the car or somewhere around.

We got back to the car park, the car was locked. We searched the whole area, also the shallows around the ramp, but no success. That could mean only one thing: The keys were on the sea bottom. We rushed back to the bay, did the search in the shallows, but without goggles or a diving mask it was almost impossible to see anything.

On our way to the car park we agreed we would ask people at the wharf to break into our car. We had two sets of scuba equipment inside, we could use them for the proper search the next day. The people at the wharf were very helpful and supportive. However, when we explained our plan to them, they were very sceptical. With the tidal flow running up and down the harbour, they could not believe we could possibly find the keys. Anyway, after about one hour and half they finally got into the car. As it was dark already, we took what we needed, tied the boat to the wharf and went to our bach to plan and have a good sleep before the coming day.

Our plan was simple. We would get up in the morning, pack the boat with our scuba gear, get to the bay and do underwater search for about two hours. If we didn’t succeed, we would ask some locals to allow us to store our boat on their property and tried to find an alternative way to get back to Auckland. Also I was planning to call the Honda service to see if they could get us a new key. Our spare key was on the same key ring as the main one … resting on the sea bottom.

In the bay we anchored the boat, tied a rope to the anchor chain and started searching the bottom in circles extending the length of the rope with each circle. While doing the third circle, a really strong feeling of despair overwhelmed me: “Trust the locals. It’s a flat bottom, the tidal current is quite strong. Are you not fooling yourself thinking you can find the keys?” I paused for a while and realised: “While we have air in our tanks there is hope.” I started to search again. About ten seconds later here they were, our car keys sticking up from the bottom.

Acknowledgements and a lesson learned

We are really grateful to all the people who helped us that evening. Especially to two unknown gentlemen who actually broke into our car. Their families were waiting, yet they persisted. We also learned something: There is only one car key in my pocket now, the spare one sits on a shelf in our kitchen. Also there is a yellow plastic float attached to the main key. And by the way, we will always keep it in a watertight container attached securely to the boat.