The Magruder, Captain Andy Matroci
first meet Andy Matroci, Captain of the J.B. Magruder, you would never guess that
this soft-spoken, unassuming man has had such a fascinating life, an illustrious
30-year diving career and has logged over 21,000 hours underwater.
Andy grew up in the windy city of Chicago. Being drawn to diving at a very early
age, he became certified during his first year at Triton College and was a dive
instructor by age 19. He achieved his next level of dive training in 1975 at the
Ocean Corporation in Houston, TX, attaining his commercial dive certification.
For the next few years, Andy worked commercial dive jobs in Morgan City, LA,
San Diego, Chicago, and finally Gary, IN, where he was diving in an industrial
holding tank. Needing some time away from such difficult working conditions,
Andy felt a little awkward asking his boss for a vacation after only 2 months
on this job, and was quite surprised when he was told yes, since Andy had already
endured longer than any of the companys previous employees.
So in early 1981, Andys vacation took him from the cold Chicago weather to the
Fort Lauderdale area for a visit with his grandmother and then on to Key West for
some recreational diving. The first diver he met in Key West was Captain Billy
Deans, who was to later become a very good and influential friend. Andy also
heard of a man named Mel Fisher, a treasure hunter and diver looking for a lost
Spanish galleon. Having never heard of a diving job that involved searching for
treasure, it was Andys curiosity that led him, with his resume, into Mels
office the following day. After looking over the resume, Mel said to Andy,
Ive never seen a diving resume before. Would you like to start today or tomorrow?
I can pay you $103 per week. Before he could catch himself, Andy laughed and then
explained to Mel that he made more than that in one day at his present job.
Mel said that was all he could afford to pay his divers, but offered a percentage
of the treasure they find, as well. They had already discovered huge amounts of
treasure now and were likely to find the Motherlode of the Atocha any day now.
Like so many others who had been influenced by Mel, Andy thought about it for a
day or two, and in two weeks time he had gone back to Chicago and moved all of
his belongings to Key West, thinking that he would try treasure hunting for a year.
Andys first assignment was on the Dauntless and his eyes still light up when he
talks about finding his first GOLD after only a few months there! He enjoyed his
work and decided to stay on longer than planned. He loved history and became
fascinated with the history and archaeology of the Atocha. And more importantly,
would he ever be able to live with himself if he left and then later read or
heard about the discovery of the Motherlode without his being a part of it?
On July 20, 1985, as First Mate on the Dauntless, Andy had been plotting the charts
and had spent time studying them. The crew knew they were getting close to something
big because of all the treasure they were finding. On the 5th dive of the day, Andy
said to his dive buddy, Greg Wareham, Before we pick up anything, lets swim a
compass course out of the hole to the southeast and see whats out there. So they
swam out of the hole to the southeast, swimming parallel lines but out of each
others sight. Andy was heading back to the hole when Greg came up and motioned
for Andy to follow him. There it was! Ballast stones and silver bars rising 3 feet
out of the mud. They hugged each other and then took ten to fifteen minutes to
swim around the huge ballast pile, knowing they were the first to see and would
never have an opportunity to see the Nuestra Senora de Atocha like this again.
They then surfaced and screamed, Its the Motherlode! Its right here! Needless
to say, Andy has countless fascinating stories of the recoveries, celebrities,
and adventures that followed as the result of this great treasure find. He
continued to work the Atocha and Margarita sites through 1991. At one time or
another during his tenure, he has captained or co-captained the M/V Dauntless,
M/V Magruder, M/V Virgilona, and the M/V Swordfish, as well as doing some work
on the 1715 and 1733 fleets.
Deciding it was time for a career change, Andy left in 1991 to work on the Nuestra
Senora de Pilar, a 1690 Spanish Manila galleon off the coast of Guam. The depth of
this wreck required him to bring his crew to Key West to be trained in mixed-gas,
deep water diving by his friend and accomplished diver Billy Deans. Andys diving
career has also taken him to many wrecks in the waters of the Philippines, Anguilla
and Honduras and includes subcontract work on Emerald City in 1994 and on the
Santa Margarita site in 2000. Also in the 1990s, Andy helped form a marketing
company which has given him the opportunity to speak to thousands of children
and adults in schools, universities, civic clubs, etc., sharing with them his
knowledge of the history and archaeology of the Atocha and other historical
Despite such a busy career, Andy is a very dedicated and loving husband and father.
He and his wife Monica are extremely proud of daughter Melissa, who will be attending
Yale University this fall, and of their son Andy, who is 6 years old.
Those who know and work with Andy are very happy to have his knowledge, experience,
and strong leadership back on the trail and searching for the remaining treasures of
the Atochas manifest.