Adventure IO guide Captain Danny Hampson is a man of many talents. The Florida Keys native was one of the world’s best wakeskaters (see video below) for over a decade before he hung up his shoes and became a professional realtor and charter fishing captain in South Florida. Now, after a recent trip to the Bahamas, Captain Danny can also add “lifesaver” to his growing list of skills. And we’re not just kidding around. While making their way across the Atlantic Ocean to Great Harbor Cay, Bahamas, Captain Hampson and his crew three individuals – who wrecked their plane an hour before – drifting on a yellow life raft 20 miles away from the Bahamian shores. The daring rescue was a first for Captain Danny and landed him some airtime with the local news and even ABC’s “America This Morning.” After hearing this, we knew we had to catch up with the man himself to get his take on the situation. Here’s what Captain Danny had to say:
Adventure IO: Okay, to get started, describe what you were doing before noticing the raft?
Danny Hampson: Yeah, so we take this trip out to the Berry Islands, Bahamas for my dad’s birthday every year. This time we went on his boat, a 33 Contender called “Reef Freak.” Haha.
After we checked into Customs, we stopped at Cat Cay island before heading out to the Great Harbor run along the Bahama Bank. We were running there for a while about 20 miles off of Cat Cay when I noticed a little yellow mat. I wasn’t really sure what it was at the time so I told my dad to go over there, and we did. When we got close, we were all surprised to see it was a life raft, and that there were actually people inside of it! At that point, we asked them if they could speak English, and if they knew what was going on.
You never really know what’s going on in a situation like that, you know?
But then one of the guys in the raft was like, “Yeah, our plane just crashed.” And at that point we were pretty sure this wasn’t a dangerous situation, so we brought them on board.
AIO: What was going through your head when you realized people were on the raft and needed help?
DH: Umm … honestly, we were all sketched out. There are certain situations when people in rafts pretend to need rescuing, but they’re actually trying to set you up for something else. That was my initial concern. I knew they weren’t refugees though, because of the direction they were floating. We were all a little bit apprehensive, but I quickly realized it was just a group of guys who crashed a plane and needed help.
AIO: How long do you think the three men were floating around before you showed up to save the day?
DH: My guess is somewhere between one or two hours. I actually think they incorrectly signaled for help after going down because no one on the island had seen or heard of any activity from the Coast Guard.
Unfortunately, they didn’t have a beeper or a satellite phone with them to call for help, and I think one of the guys was around 80 years old, too. They were only about 20 miles offshore so they would’ve been saved eventually, but it’s always better sooner rather than later. They’re just lucky it was a calm day on the water.
AIO: Was this the first time you’ve rescued a flight crew while on a fishing trip or is this standard stuff for you?
DH: Definitely the first time with a plane crash, haha. I’ve had situations before where we’ve seen Cuban refugees floating over and gave them water. If you get them on your boat, it’s illegal and you can’t really aid them. If you call on them, they get sent back so there’s not much we can do but give them water. Those situations are still a bit iffy but usually much safer.
AIO: What advice would you give to other fishermen in a similar situation/others stranded in the water looking for help?
DH: I think both sides should be prepared before they go out on the water. If you’re a recreational boater doing a long run, make sure you have a satellite phone, a life jacket and other necessary survival equipment. The biggest thing is the water. As long as you have water and can float, you’ll be alright. That’s a big thing. Also, make sure you always double-check your equipment to make sure everything is working correctly and bring a back-up method of communication.
As far as offering assistance to people – make sure you first understand nautical law before doing anything. Always look out for other people in the water and try to approach each situation with caution and your best judgment. When in doubt, call the Coast Guard. As captains, it’s written in our bylaws that we help anyone we see in distress. It’s a no-brainer to offer assistance.
And that’s it, just be prepared before you go – you never know what’s going to happen out there. Like the guys that got lost in Florida recently, those poor dudes were going out for a nice day on their boat, and now they’re lost.
AIO: Let’s go back to the crew you rescued. So you brought the men onto your boat, what happened next?
DH: We partied! Haha. Nah, I’m kidding. We brought the guys back to Cat Cay where the Bahamian authorities held us all so they could write down our statements. They, of course, took forever, but once everything got taken care of, we went back out to Great Harbor and caught a bunch of fish! The entire thing didn’t really affect our trip; we just kept on going – it went great! We even caught some massive fish that same day, it was kind of good luck!
AIO: We hear you used to be a pretty good wakeskater. Give us a little background on your wakeskating career and what led to your decision to pursue becoming a boat captain instead?
DH: Uhh … just getting older. Haha. I also wasn’t making a ton of money as a professional, and I grew up on a boat fishing with my parents along the Florida Keys, so it was a natural transition for me. I love being on the water, and I love fishing. It was an easy decision.
AIO: As an Adventure IO guide, what makes your fishing Adventure different from other non-AIO fishing experiences?
DH: All of our adventures on the app are customizable to our guest’s desires. We bring along live bait, the best equipment available and take you to some of the most incredible fishing spots in Florida and the Bahamas. We also try to make every Adventure personal and make it a point to visit locations regular tours aren’t familiar with.
AIO: What can Adventure IO users expect after they book with you?
DH: Users can expect a more personalized fishing experience. We’ll provide them with all the needed equipment and show them how to use each piece before we head out. Once we’re out on the water, we’ll hit the well-known fishing spots to get some practice in before visiting the more exclusive locations. We also take our guests to our favorite hang out places where we can all enjoy some breathtaking views before ending the Adventure.
AIO: Sounds fun! Are these Adventures suitable for everyone or just the more advanced fishermen?
DH: Not at all. Anyone can come on board and have a great time. We have the equipment to handle pretty much all requests, and there’s always something fun for everyone. Whether it’s snorkeling for conch in shallow waters or if it’s a higher level experience like spearfishing some big fish. Whatever you want to do, we can cover it.
AIO: How many Adventures do you offer through Adventure IO? How do they differ?
DH: Right now, we offer two experiences. The Bahamian one with my dad, and I offer several packages with just myself here in West Palm Beach. The Bahamian Adventure is the exact same trip as the one I was just on, where I rescued the flight crew. That’s a really really cool Adventure because it’s 100% custom from start to finish. Once users book their Adventure dates with us, we all jump on a call and discuss exactly what they’d like to do before we build it out for them! For the user, it’s like crafting their dream fishing trip without having to worry about a thing.