Tale of Tears and Treasure – Part 2 (The Treasure)

Please make sure you read part 1 first:

Part 2 (The Treasure)

If you would need to hide something really well, where would that be? Something valuable or dangerous maybe. Or compromising. When you would need to make sure the wrong people will never find it. 

Your obsolete bio-weapon CoVid lab equipment maybe. Or the unfortunate remains of your lover‘s husband. Or your recent unauthorized bank withdrawal.

Yes, exactly. You want it to vanish from the face of the earth. But when you do your homework you will find that underground is too risky. You hardly can do it without leaving evidence on the surface. They have drones nowadays that can detect if earth was moved. And make no mistake, trained dogs can smell up to five meters underground. Also, on land things can change quickly. When you get out of jail eventually your treasure might be underneath a skyscraper or someone whose karma was better than yours donated the results of your hard work to the local gardeners association. 

I would easily bet the best part of the aforementioned bank withdrawal that sooner or later you will consider underwater options, especially if you plan to come back and retrieve it one day.

Underwater Is much Better

Underwater is so much better. No trails, no dogs, no drones. No construction projects, no lucky gardeners. Just water. And sharks. They will thankfully help you with your lover‘s husband and they will guard your fresh cash, too. I don‘t know how they feel about decommissioned CoVid labs, though. Anyway, underwater is a good alternative. There must be a reason that many intercontinental ballistic missiles with nuclear warheads are installed on submarines.

If it wasn‘t for this one little caveat: What goes for others also goes for you.

Underwater treasures are hard to find and even harder to retrieve. Especially if you don‘t exactly remember where you put them. Especially when currents and tides are helping with the hide rather than the search.

Now I am sitting in the navigation corner of my boat S/V Seefalke racking my brains. The depth in the target area is just five to six meters but the wind is still churning up the water, making a treasure hunt impossible. Relief is in the forecast but only in two days. So I have two more days to make a plan. The countdown is on.

The countdown is on for two reasons. First, I am concerned that the current that mainly sets in one direction only will slowly burry the treasure forever, underneath a pile of sand. And second, my Italien friends, well, I thought they were my friends, left a message on our local cruisers‘ net Facebook group that raised people‘s attention. It said: „Maik knows a little secret that might be of some delight for a lucky diver.“ So I have to expect competition. Thank you very much, Michele! Also I need to take the Port Captain into consideration. I cannot afford to raise his suspicion again. The good news however, is that in two days it will be Sunday, and the Port Captain‘s office is closed on Sundays.

So, if I want to be successful, and my own ambition would not allow any other option, I had to be fast and effective. My phantasies take wing and fly. Really high. I get dressed, my face is painted green. Then I swiftly crawl out of a torpedo tube of the submarine that brought me here at night. I use the newest underwater scooter that takes me to ground zero. Within a few minutes I have found and retrieved the treasure and return back to my submarine mother ship. My name will never be mentioned but the honor will be mine and mine only. 

Fast and Effective

Still in my inebriety of the excitement of anticipation I try to recall the mottos of the world‘s best special forces. I think I will need to combine them all. I need to be “fast and heavy“ as the Russian Speznaz, “strong and guileful“ like the British SBS and with the “decisive will“ of the German KSK. So, eventually “it will pay to be a winner“ like the US Navy SEALS. Of course in my defense I want to emphasize that their budgets are slightly higher than mine and their tasks are usually much easier. 

Back on sea level I have to admit to myself that I would probably not qualify for any of those elite units and that I may be a good swimmer but certainly not a great diver. Also the search area is right between the ferry terminal and the navy base. In absence of a submarine scooter chances are good I get knocked over by one of the high-speed ferries or the coast guard ship without them even noticing. I need a wingman. I don‘t like this idea but it is the bitter truth.

So I share my secret with Günther from S/V Acapulco and also Andreas from S/V Chipidarra and Steffen from S/V Argo are standing by. Sunday will be D-Day. No wind, no current, no Port Captain. Perfect.

On Sunday in the early morning the radio comes alive. It is Günther with a coded message:

„Captain Flint, Captain Flint this is Long John Silver. The water is clear. Over.“

„This is Captain Flint. Roger. Out.“


The rest of the anchorage is still asleep when I load my dinghy with my GPS tracker, a marking buoy, a retrieval anchor, some lines and my snorkel equipment and head over to S/V Acapulco, a beautiful 57 foot sloop from Hamburg, Germany. I wish I had a silent running stealth mode. It feels like I would wake up the entire anchorage with the deafening noise of my outboard motor. Long John Silver is already waiting for me. He has his scuba gear ready. Just in case. We quickly load everything into his dinghy that is much bigger than mine and transit to our designated operation area. 

Retrieval Equipment

When we arrive we notice a navy soldier on the pier, watching us with great tactical interest. If you can’t defeat your enemy, make him your friend. So we decide to give him a heads-up. We tell him a slightly modified version of the truth and he is fine. Then we go back to ground zero and anchor the dinghy. Long John Silver takes the port side, Captain Flint starboard. Our search pattern is 30 meters in one direction then 6 meters on opposite course back and again and again. And again. Loop after loop. After a little less than two hours we have covered an area of approximately 10.000 square meters, but we have found nothing. Nada. Niente. No, I don‘t want to lie to you, we found a few tires, a fridge, a pipe and something that looked like a part of an airplane wing. But no beer.

But our skin is cured and pickled and I am sure we have completely satisfied our Natrium demands for the rest of our lives when we crawl back into the dinghy and retreat from the search area, exhausted and a bit frustrated, too.

Fast and heavy? Not really. Strong and guileful? Not anymore. A decisive will? Maybe this is what is left at least. We are Germans after all.

With a Little Help of Sherlock Holmes

A little later I see a few dinghies searching closer to the navy pier. Way too far upstream, I think and relax. I sit in my navigation corner again and I continue to re-evaluate the search area. We searched where the Italians thought they lost their beer. Most probably they remembered it where they thought they were at the time of the accident. But probably they have not taken into consideration sinking rate and current. And also they drifted some time on their wrecked dinghy before the beer went overboard.

The Navy Pier

But the Italians are not to be trusted. Maybe they put up a huge show. Maybe they are now laughing their asses off and having our beer in the middle of the Atlantic! But let‘s stick with Sherlock Holmes: „Once you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, no matter how improbable, must be the truth.“

We are talking about glass bottles full of a liquid with the same density as water. With a little air, too, because the bottles are not filled to the rim. The glass, again, is slightly more dense than water. It sank, this means the buoyancy was not enough to make it float. However, the sinking rate must have been extremely low. But the current at the time of the incident was strong. So it must have drifted a considerable distance downstream before it hit rock bottom. 

And there it strikes me. Suddenly I understand where we have to search. It strikes me right into the face. It is the most dangerous and most uncomfortable place. Nobody had searched there yet, not the Italians, not us, not who else was out there. Because there cannot be what is not supposed to be. And Sherlock Holmes is right again.

Decisive Will

So, in the late afternoon we give it another try. This time with S/V Chibidarra, my Swedish friends. They are high-tech equipped with echo sounder and GPS. This time we don‘t anchor the dinghy but Andreas is dragging Anders and Hanna behind the dinghy (Please don‘t do this at home!), while I am the wild card and search the area that struck my mind: right in front of the ferry port entry.

Once I really think this is it, as one of the catamaran high-speed ferries backs out of the harbor heading right for me. But luckily it turns and heads the other way before its propellers make minced meat out of me. We sure are braver than we are smart. It takes a while until I can breath again and my heart rate is back in the two-digit area. But who wants to live forever anyway and not everyone has the pleasure of dying doing something that makes the world a better place.

The High-Speed Ferry Terminal

And hey, is there something? Yes, I think there is something. It does not look like a beer case but it certainly looks like one of those heavy duty IKEA bags full of bottles. I flag down my Swedish friends and Anders is the first diving to the bottom and lifting up the bag. It is far lighter than what we all expected, yes, my buoyancy calculation was right. The bottles were just marginally heavier than water. Only when we lifted it up to Andreas in the dinghy suddenly the bag turned heavy and we all had to help pushing it up. The curse of the Italians? Or just physics?

Then Hanna, who swam a few meters ahead, calls us. „Here is more!“ We swim to her and Anders is the first at the bottom again. This time however, the bag seems to be much heavier. Anders is visibly struggling to lift it. Then I see the bag is anchored to the ground, at least it looks like that. So I go down and retrieve a small dinghy anchor and a trolley. The bag, the trolley and the dinghy anchor are all tangled in the anchor line but together we manage to securely save the second part of the treasure. The third bag is kindergarten.

We are exhausted, almost too weak to pull ourselves back into the dinghy. But we are euphoric. We simply can‘t stop laughing and not believing it. We found the fucking needle in the haystack. No, better! We found 72 bottles of Dos Equis XX Lager Special on the bottom of the sea. It took them 73 years to find one Titanic, it took us less than one day to find 72 bottles of beer!

The Victory Selfie

Then we take the mandatory victory selfie and head back to the anchorage to begin our victory parade. We decide to share the treasure with everyone who helped (or competed with) us. We go from boat to boat and drink and laugh and celebrate until the last bottle is filled with air and their buoyancy changed for good. Just making sure this does not happen again.

Tomasso, Michele, Renato, I know you are still on the high seas of the Atlantic Ocean. Thank you for making our day. I swear every single bottle was dedicated to you guys and never have so many people thought of you and wished you a save voyage. With all your sacrifice I am convinced the winds will never be fairer and the seas will never be more following than on this passage.

Before this I never drank beer in my life. So all it takes is prohibition and a treasure hunt.