Goodbye Hector…

Hector Bado was my Uruguayan friend, a treasure hunter and a man of the sea…

Hector Bado, diver and captain.

I was 48 when I first jumped into Uruguay’s silty Rio de la Plata a short distance off the warm, soft beaches of downtown Punta del Este. Hector Bado and Crayton Fenn (Crayton is  Forrest’s nephew, Skippy’s son and a premiere adventurer in his own right) were right there next to me as I made my first dive onto the wreck of the Salvador. A Spanish troopship that went to the bottom in August of 1812 carrying supplies and combat seasoned troops to put down a heated revolution led by colonials against the unpopular Spanish government.

Visibility was about five feet that day and as we dived over the timbers of the wreck the entire ship was splayed out below us like a foggy engineer’s drawing. The Salvador looked like someone had come along and yanked out all the bolts that had held her monstrous frame together. The heavy wooden keel and ribs were stretched out on the seafloor like a giant’s open ribcage. Laying between the ribs were crates and canons, plates and glassware, copper sheeting and piles of silver coins.

The Salvador’s crew had tried to outrun the ravages of a terrible storm, a pampero, and in the pitch black of night had roared up unto a sandy shoal. Stuck fast, the giant wooden ship was beaten apart by satan’s furious sea. Sailors and passengers alike were literally fighting for their lives, pleading with all manner of saints to remove them from the deadly shoal where their ship was being blown apart and smashed in two.

Hector holding two ebony and brass sextants in perfect working condition salvaged from a 200 year old wreck.

Under the splayed ribs and broken timbers below me were human remains, the skeletons of hundreds of poor souls who at the moment of their demise in 1812 had no knowledge that beyond the terrifying sea that was murdering them, a mere hundred or so meters from the Salvador, was land and safety. By daybreak, 400 would not be alive to see the lovely white sand beach and swaying palms of what would in subsequent years become one of South America’s premiere beach resorts.

Nearly two hundred years later some of the skeletons below me still had on their linen shirts and leather, knee length boots. Some had their belts, swords, knives, pistols, coins in their pockets, scapulars and rosaries around their necks.  It must have been a terrible night.

Over the next five years I would be working with Hector and Crayton to survey, salvage and catalog the wreck of the Salvador and to plumb the Uruguayan coast and discover hundreds more wrecks from the 16th, 17th, 18th and 19th century, wrecks from England, Portugal, Spain and France. Many of these vessels thought to be carrying tons of gold, were pointed across the Atlantic to their motherlands before they vanished in a sailor’s graveyard that would become known as the “English Banks”.

Our American and Uruguayan crew. Hector Bado is on the far right. Crayton Fenn is next to him and I am next to Crayton. I believe that is the first bronze canon that we recovered from the wreck of the Salvador. The town of Punta del Este, Uruguay is behind us. The guy kneeling in front is Timboni. He couldn’t speak a lick of English but he could whistle the theme to any American TV show you could name.

Our small crew of divers, sailors, archeologists, navigators and salvors, Uruguayan, English and American at various times, lived together in Montevideo and Punta. We employed a million dollar research vessel built in Seattle and all the modern technology we could muster to sail the coast and chart its wrecks. We ate, drank and partied together. We shared in the wonder of our findings as stories of lost ships unwound beneath us.  We laughed, worried and sometimes fought. Through it all, Hector was our Uruguayan host, guide, traveler, fearless diver, interpreter and homeboy.

Hector visited my small island in the States a few times over the past ten years. We ate, crabbed, drank and laughed together. Crayton and I took Hector up to the mountains in summer where we played like children in the slippery, soft snow. Hector had never seen snow. He took to it immediately.

Now he is gone. Cancer. I miss him.
Here, is to Hector Bado, primo buzo, and treasure hunter, who died last Sunday



By the way, cancer has also struck the family of one of our own searchers. Mike, or MichaelD has set up a GoFundMe site to help pay for his daughter-in-law’s medical care as she continues her battle against cancer. If you have a spare buck to help his family out, I know he will appreciate it.You can find out more here:

35 thoughts on “Goodbye Hector…

  1. sorry to hear about the early fate of your Uruguayan brother, Dal.

    that’s a fantastic photo of you guys with the bronze cannon, and speaks volumes of all the great adventures that you undoubtedly shared together.
    ..which I (for one) would enjoying hearing more about.

    flying the flag at half-mast tomorrow.

  2. Dal, I’m sorry for your loss. I’m glad you and Crayton took Hector to the mountains to see snow, I bet he loved it. You must have some great memories of your friend.

  3. Dal,
    I’m very sorry to here about your friend Hector. I’m glad you guys shared so many great adventures and that he was right out in the middle of it LIVING not sitting back on the sidelines watching!
    His friends and family are in my thoughts and prayers.

  4. Sorry for your loss Dal. Even a compadre can become a brother after being together for a length of time.
    Again Sorry for the loss…


  5. Dal, I’m sorry for the loss of your diving buddy…may you always carry Hector in your heart’s memory with laughter and adventure.

    It’s not about how many moments we live, but how we enjoy each moment.

  6. Dal, my condolences on your loss. Friends like Hector only come in our lives like dragonflies in the wind. One day they are the bright part of your day, then they vanish. Always the good ones.
    He’s in your heart and memories, and you both left footprints on this earth, so rejoice!

  7. Sorry to hear about your friend Dal… Sounds like you found some true treasures topside in Uruguay. Positive thoughts to Michael D and his Family.

  8. Dal, when I hear the word cancer it makes me think of how the cure was suppressed by the AMA in the 30’s.

    Rife’s World of Electromedicine: The Story, the Corruption and the Promise (Paperback) by Barry Lynes

    The future of medicine is in light and electromagnetic fields …

  9. Dal sorry for the loss of your diving mate. My wife & I were in Bellingham last week for my son’s wedding. Wanted to call you to meet for a cup of coffee on Lummi but alas we were schedule poor. Good friends and memories are truly one of the finest treasures in life. Happy New Year to all.

  10. Sharing in your sorrow and offering my deepest sympathy.
    My older brother passed from cancer at age 60 recently.

    Everyone can master a grief but he that has it.
    W. Shakespeare.

  11. I write this here it might be in the wrong spot-if so I am sorry- its for all who have lost close ones A LITTLE PAIN

    When something starts as a little pain ,it may come and go
    but if a pain decides to stay, it then becomes a foe
    It tears apart the tissues , and digs far into the bones
    It spreads throughout the body, and with itself it clones
    It makes its way through organs and never needs a rest
    Flowing through the bloodstream, makes its way into the chest
    Never giving up the quest ,or slowing down once it starts
    Through many ways the little pain can finally stop the heart
    Only GOD can save us, through all the comming days
    Yes only God can save us, through all his glorious ways
    Yes even at death, GOD can save us, and make us whole again
    But we must make the greatest step to Jesus from within
    Go get a test that might stop the pain,at an early stage
    To walk along with GOD through flowers or through sage
    To walk again in mountain high and down to valley floor
    To see the red and yellow hues I see and more adore
    I walk with GOD to feel the breeze and see the sky so blue
    To use a brush to paint a scene that once was shared with two

    • Whisker bill, thank you for sharing your words. You did indeed paint a picture. I saw both the pain and the beauty in your poem. I hope it brings comfort to those who may need it.

  12. Dal, I am very sorry for the loss of your friend. Your words paint such a clear & poignant picture of your searches together along the coast of Uruguay. I’m glad Hector got to experience snow!

  13. Thanks for sharing Dal and sorry for your loss. Looks like you guys had one heck of a good time. He was a lucky hombre to have a crew of amigos to share a treasured part of his life with.

  14. Dal, I apologize for this belated post but I am not receiving new topic notifications. Nevertheless, I am so very sorry to hear of your loss. He obliviously was an important part of your life and the void he leaves so hard to heal. Heal it will, but that does not diminish the hurt.

    Personally, I find your loss especially poignant because I lost my mom last week and the family will be saying our final goodbyes tomorrow. Mom was approaching 94 and lived a good life, coming from a Shawnee, Oklahoma farm family of 13 brothers and sisters. Unfortunately, dementia took its nasty toll over the course of several years, and then she caught the flu sometime after New Years. That’s when I knew it wouldn’t be long. I will miss her so much. Mom and Dad are together again in Heaven and will soon be together again on Earth.

    May God bless Hector, Mom, and Dad.

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