DENNIS, Mass. (AP) — A lone figure, up to his chest in the cold ocean, waves a strange magic wand, seeking treasure. Why does he dare challenge King Neptune for the fruits of the deep?
‘‘The quest,’’ said Richard Browne. ‘‘It keeps me off the streets and out of the bars.’’
Browne, of South Yarmouth, is a member of Ring Finders, a group of metal detector specialists spread throughout the world who offer their services to folks who lose precious stuff.
‘‘They give me a call and I go out anywhere on the Cape and find it for them and return it to them for nothing,’’ Browne said. ‘‘Two years ago, I returned 22 rings and this past year, 10.’’
He is currently trying to find the owner of a 1970 Cornell University ring found off Sea Street Beach in Dennisport on Jan. 10. Browne, who began detecting in 1982, estimates he has returned 100 class rings during his career.
‘‘I don’t accept rewards; they’re taxable,’’ he said. ‘‘If you want to give me a gift, I'll think about that. A thank-you note is wonderful.’’
Browne said his biggest thanks have come after he found missing wedding bands or engagement rings. He believes he has saved at least one marriage that was strained to the breaking point after the loss of a ring.
Browne said the most valuable object he has returned is a $20,000 diamond ring he located at New Seabury.
When Browne isn’t helping others, he is helping himself to the bounty under the sea, in locations on- and off-Cape. Sometimes he pulls up soda cans and spark plugs; sometimes he finds unusual coins and jewelry.
‘‘Trying to find a little fortune here and there,’’ he calls it.
A sticking point for those who want to join in the treasure hunt may be the cost of equipment. Browne estimated that the detector, special scooper, waders and other odds and ends total $2,000.
Prospective hunters should always check pertinent local, state and federal regulations regarding metal detecting in a specific area.
The reward of plumbing the depths goes beyond booty, Browne said.
‘‘It’s just relaxing,’’ he said. ‘‘I don’t like going to the gym to work out. And you get out there and it gets cold and your heart starts pumping and you dig and try not to get water down your gloves and stay dry. It’s peaceful.’’