BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - It is a call the DMR gets from time to time: a boat is sinking. But it's not a call the department is used to getting about one of its own boats and crew.
Luckily, the two member crew aboard the Conservationist was able to think fast and not only save their lives, but also some of the equipment aboard the boat.
"It was a pretty scary situation," DMR Marine Fisheries Scientist Charlie Robertson said, "but I'm just glad we made it out.
Robertson and co-worker Michael Brouchard had just picked up around 800 sacks of oysters from Pascagoula and were headed to Biloxi when they noticed something wasn't right. At that point, they were about three miles south of Graveline Bayou.
"It happened really fast," Robertson said. "We were underway, everything was going pretty smooth, and we noticed the boat starting to list."
Roberston said he checked the hull and noticed water was inside.
"We grabbed our life jackets and made a call to marine patrol," Robertson said. "We turned on the bilge to get as much water out as we could to maybe buy us some time, but I think we knew at that point there was so much water in the hole that the boat was going down. It was just a matter of what can we get off the boat before it gets down?"
With the boat sinking fast, the two men jumped into action trying to gather everything they could from inside.
"We put it up on the roof thinking that once we sunk, we were only in ten feet of water, and the boat is actually about 15 feet from the bottom of the hull to the top," Robertson said, "so we thought that once it sank that the top would be above water."
As the men were stacking equipment on top of the boat, it capsized, sending everything into the water.
"I had literally enough time to get out of the cabin before it actually went under because it happened really quickly," Robertson said.
The men were eventually able to get on top of the boat and wait for Marine Patrol.
"We had thrown the laptops and GPS inside a cooler and duct taped the cooler and were able to keep it dry that way," Robertson said. "We had all that stuff up on the boat. It was a pretty weird feeling sitting on top of a sunken boat."
Meanwhile, back at the DMR office, Executive Director Jamie Miller said he was anxiously awaiting to hear about his employees.
"We knew the situation must have gotten bad because both of the captain and the passenger are experienced people, boating all their lives," Miller said.
Miller said he is extremely proud of the way his men responded while in distress.
"We can replace all those material things, obviously, but it just goes to speak of the dedication of the employees," Miller said.
As soon as the vessel gets back to shore, the DMR will begin an investigation to find out what went wrong with the boat to cause it to sink.