BORN TO DIVE: A Master Diver’s tale of Bravery

Special to the PRESS

master diver“One day, when I was free diving, resting on the bottom of the bay near Catalina Island off the coast of California, I looked up at the sun’s rays reflecting rainbow colors on the fish swimming above me. I wished that I could stay longer, I felt peaceful, the best feeling I have ever had in my life and from that moment, I decided I wanted to be a scuba diver.” These are the recollections of Captain John Godfrey, Master Diver.

John was born in Santa Monica, CA. He was in the Army for three years, was a tanker and guarded the Berlin Wall. He went to school to be a Para-Medic in Arkansas and worked about 11 years in that profession. In 1996, he went to college to get a degree in Biology at the University of Texas in Denton, TX. In 1996, he had a work related accident causing him-self to suffer a fractured neck and lose the use of his arm for four months. By 1998, he moved to Mission to start a Digital Imaging Cath lab in the Mission Hospital. By 1999, he took retirement, bought a sailboat in California, wanting to do something different. He ended up living in the Channel Islands for about four and a half years and became certified as a Master Diver and started working in 2005 in the Tourist industry.

Today, he works as a Master Diver on the Texas Gulf Coast catering mostly to the Shrimp Industry, working in the water repairing boats. He works in prop cleaning and Freon cooler cleaning and in salvage, bringing up vessels. He makes underwater repairs and is involved in search and rescue. He has searched for broken pipelines for the City of Port Isabel and the Port of Brownsville and for Sub-C Seven Corporation. He helps people in the private sector needing help from a professional diver as well. Visibility in the water is slim many days due to weather conditions and repair and cleaning work is often done by feel alone due to the inability to see. While he works below, Mel, his faithful dive-tender, keeps things safe and secure above the surface, braving all types of weather to protect the master diver below.

One time, a tourist forgot to fasten his motor down and the motor took off without the boat. In approximately 30 minutes or less, he recovered the lost anchor. As he walked out into the sea he accidentally ended up standing on it submerged under six feet of water, yelling back, “I think I found it,” bringing a smile to the boat owner’s face.

Another time, the owner of a Schooner en route to the Island told his crew member to throw the anchor overboard. Unfortunately, the crew member also forgot to see if the anchor’s rope was attached securely. In a short period of time, John found the anchor.

A yacht owner called him once in the middle of the night and John immediately responded. The yacht owner confessed he had lost a money clip, with about $5,000 cash in the sea. It was a gift from his deceased mother of great sentimental value. When he got to the boat, he dropped a weight of similar weight to the item lost in the sea. Due to his fast response, he knew if he would find the weight, he would shortly find the money clip in the general area where the weight had sank. He dove about 90 feet down in frigid 58 degree murky waters in a wetsuit as his blood pressure dropped along with a 1-2 degree drop in body temperature. He had an underwater light and froze all movement as he saw two Mako sharks swim nearby. Despite the pain of these conditions, he continued looking for the money clip of great value to its owner and found it about eight feet from the weight he dropped, in about 90 feet of water. It took him about 10 hours to physically re-cooperate from the ordeal but the words of the yacht owner made it all worthwhile. “He said, ‘You could have kept the $5,000 and I would have never known, but the money clip was the most important to me!’ Honesty and determination paid off and the gratitude in this man’s eyes made me realize why, despite the hardships, I love this profession.” John said. For any questions or inquiries, John welcomes comments. Call him at (310) 721-4122 or e-mail

Read this story in the Jan. 10 edition of the Port Isabel-South Padre Press, or subscribe to our E-Edition by clicking here.

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1 comment

    • Linda Hartley on March 21, 2013 at 11:06 pm
    • Reply

    Wow, quite a story! Tell John I said hello and glad he’s doing so well!

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