Rescued Freediver Receives Buoy Memento

February 2023

For more than 40 years, mooring buoys have been saving the coral reefs of the Florida Keys. Now, they have saved a human life. After freediver Dylan Gartenmayer was stranded in waters off Key West on Jan. 26, 2023, the swift current carried him into Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary’s Western Sambo Ecological Reserve, which features several mooring buoys used by recreational boaters to tie up instead of dropping anchors on coral. With his knife, Gartenmayer cut loose three of Western Sambo’s 18-inch buoys and fashioned a makeshift raft that kept him afloat until his family found him in near darkness. Understandably, the buoys were cast away during the rescue. One week later, Sugarloaf boater Ronnie Rupp found the buoys washed up on shore and reached out to the sanctuary. The buoy team is scheduled to replace the moorings in the coming days, but on Feb. 7, 2023, one buoy — W1 — was presented to Gartenmayer as a memento.

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