2016-10-06 / Life in Leelanau

Diving doctor goes extra mile

By Amy Hubbell
Of The Enterprise staff


DR. MICHAEL Ziter of Northport, retired diving instructor, recovered suitcases, wallets and even passports, from the wreck of the WhoDo, a 48-foot yacht that sunk off Pyramid Point during the Chicago to Mackinac sailboat race. DR. MICHAEL Ziter of Northport, retired diving instructor, recovered suitcases, wallets and even passports, from the wreck of the WhoDo, a 48-foot yacht that sunk off Pyramid Point during the Chicago to Mackinac sailboat race. It can never be said that Dr. Michael Ziter doesn’t go all out for his patients — even for those he’s just met.

The Northport physician was called into duty Sunday, July 24 to examine crew members from WhoDo, the Northport-based 48-foot yacht that sunk off of Pyramid Point during the Chicago to Mackinac Island race.

“They had lost everything — medication, clothes, shoes, wallets and passports,” Ziter said of the crew, which included a number from sailors from New Zealand. “They came to me so they could get new prescriptions for medication.”

Little did they know that the man with the stethoscope around his neck was equally comfortable in a wet suit as a retired certified diving instructor.

“I taught recreational divers,” Ziter said. “People who dive wrecks for fun.”

Someone in the office mentioned that the doc was a diver and they asked him if he could help.

Ziter grabbed his diving buddy, son Adam, an EMT specialist with Leelanau Township Fire/ Rescue, and the group, which included several wreck survivors headed to Leland, hopped aboard and set off for the dive site.

It took the Ziters 30 to 40 minutes to reach the site of the wreck, located off Pyramid Point in about 30 to 35 feet of water.

“It was daytime and the visibility was good. The water wasn’t mucked up at all,” Ziter said.

Through the windows of the wrecked sailboat, they could see items left behind when the ship went down.

But to get to the items, they had to do a “penetration dive,” diving directly into the wreck, which can be dangerous.

“There’s a potential for danger by becoming entangled in the rigging or loose ropes,” Ziter said.

Taking great care, the Ziters dove into the wreck while another, spotter diver, monitored from the surface.

One by one, they collected items from the hold and brought them to the surface diver.

“We’d bring it up to him and they hauled it into the boat,” Ziter said.

During the 90-minute dive, the Ziters were able to salvage 10 to 12 suitcases; all crew members’ wallets, which included credit cards; tools; other equipment; a couple bottles of wine and all but one of the 12 crew members’ passports.

“They were tickled pink,” Ziter said of the crew whose trip to Mackinac was cut short, earlier in the day. “The passports were a little waterlogged, but salvagable.”

The crew was thankful to the Ziter dive team.

“It was fun for us and good for them,” Ziter said. “We’re just here to help.”

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