The Magruder

 

Mel Fishers Treasures

The Magruder Mel Fishers Treasures

The Magruder, Captain Andy Matroci

Andy Matroci

When you 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.

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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 company’s previous employees.

So in early 1981, Andy’s 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 Andy’s curiosity that led him, with his resume, into Mel’s office the following day. After looking over the resume, Mel said to Andy, “I’ve 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.

Andy’s 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, let’s swim a compass course out of the hole to the southeast and see what’s out there. So they swam out of the hole to the southeast, swimming parallel lines but out of each other’s 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, “It’s the Motherlode! It’s 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. Andy’s 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 1990’s, 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 shipwrecks.

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 Atocha’s manifest.

 

The Magruder

Manufacturer: Custom Hull

Year: 1956

Reg Length: 81'-1"

Reg Breath: 22'-7"

Reg Draft: 10'-6"

Gross Tons: 125

Power: Twin 12-71 Detroit Diesels with twin disk transmissions

Generators: Twin Kabota 30kw Diesels

Top Speed: 10 Knots

Electronics: Updating to Raymarine System

ICOM VHF Radio

Includes: 3 Anchor Mooring System with 10HP Electric Winches and Motor Brakes

Twin Prop Wash Deflectors

4"-12" Airlifts Powered By CP120 Air Compressor

Bauer 20cfm SCUBA Air Compressor

Aquapulse Metal Detectors

Sleeps up to 15 people

Tender & Anchor Vessel: 21' Workskiff with Mercury 150 Engine

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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