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Refloating Sunk Vessels Service from Catfish Diving and Salvage Company

The process of using inflatable air bags to bring a sunken vessel (or other object) back to the surface. I have in stock various sized marine salvage air bags with a combined total capacity of 40,000 lbs. along with necessary slings, hoses, straps, manifold, and compressor to complete the job.

Proper refloating does not just mean bringing it to the surface, but bringing it to the surface with NO further damage to structure. Inexperience, improper lifting points, poor quality slings, wrong size bags, even improper filling of bags can spell disaster! The process begins with a recon dive to survey damage, and determine sling placement. Then to the drawing board to calculate hull distribution loads, structural weaknesses, # and size of lift bags required, cubic feet of air required, and pressures with which to deal. Only once all the numbers are in place, can the physical act of rigging and lifting begin.

I keep 40,000 lbs. capacity of lift bags on hand for immediate use. Once floated, an 11 hp Hale fire pump with inductor handles the dewatering process. A 3-hp Pacer pump handles the smaller compartments not accessible to the big pump.

Air bags have other uses also such as salvage repositioning, stabilizing vessels, keeping vessels from sinking, floating pipes into position for installation, lifting any number of items from the bottom of the river.

Please scroll down the web page to view photos of some of our work...


This is how we find them...

This is what we do with them...



The 1933 63’ wooden vessel above was resting in 16’ of water, but the actual keel was buried in mud an additional 6’. Three tunnels had to be dredged completely under the boat to install the lifting straps. Total time to rig boat for lift was about 50 hours yet it only took 50 minutes to inflate bags and put boat on surface. Prep time is by far the most time consuming part of the lifting operation.


The above 30' sailboat was refloated in Collington Harbor, NC in 2003. Total time to complete job was only 5 hours.


Refloating of $1,000,000.00, 50', Ocean Yacht in Long Shoal during 3' seas.


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