Story by Lehia Apana | Photo by Jason Moore
TITLE: Owner, Maui Metal Detecting
FIRST RESPONDER: A retired police officer and paramedic, Mac McMinn knows crisis. These days, the cries for help come from desperate couples who have lost a wedding ring at the beach, or a panicked traveler whose family heirloom was swept underneath a waterfall.
“When you get in [cold] water, you lose two ring sizes,” McMinn says. “There are thousands of rings in the ocean because of that.”
McMinn recovers lost jewelry — mostly wedding rings — throughout Hawai‘i. A certified diver for twenty-five years, he is equipped with more than $30,000’s worth of search tools, including metal detectors, an inflatable boat, and a mountain of scuba gear.
PROVING HIS METTLE: McMinn flips through a photo gallery on his phone, each swipe of the finger inspiring an anecdote of the people he’s helped. There’s the woman who, while taking sunset photos at the beach, lost a 150-year-old pearl bracelet that belonged to her great-grandmother. McMinn located it just moments before dark. He recently fielded a call from a couple on Moloka‘i; the wife had been holding her husband’s ring while he surfed and dropped it as she walked the beach. McMinn was on a flight that afternoon, and the ring was back on the man’s finger within fifteen minutes of searching.
Not all that’s lost is found. A rock star once contacted McMinn to find a $50,000 ring purchased from an NFL player. The athlete had designed the piece using diamonds from his Super Bowl ring. “The guy lost it over coral, but the metal detector isn’t effective over coral, so it’s still out there somewhere,” says McMinn.
Another challenge is finding a person’s jewelry before someone else does.
“We have what I call ‘beach scalpers,’ people who search for rings and never even try to return them,” McMinn explains. “It’s a race to find [the missing item] before they do.”
DELAYED GRATIFICATION: When he’s not searching for someone’s missing treasure, McMinn often spends his free time combing the beach on his own. He estimates he has nearly one hundred unclaimed rings and a handful of necklaces locked in a safety deposit box.
“I log everything with the date and location I found it,” he explains, adding that he checks Craigslist’s “Lost & Found” section daily in hopes of connecting with an item’s owner.
“I might get a few hundred dollars by pawning the ring, but my greatest reward is finding the owner. I’m giving people back their happy memories.”