When he was just a teen, he sailed on his own to the Bahamas on the family’s small boat without telling anyone. He was away for five days with just the help of a compass, his twin sister Cherie Martinez said.
“He had learned celestial navigation and he wanted to see he if he could do it,” Martinez said.
One of his best friends, Harlan Richardson, 56, said that even though Dyche was adventurous from a young age, he was also cautious. “He took calculated risks,” he said.
Dyche and his wife moved to Panama City two years after their son was born, David has kept his friendship with many of his classmates from Coral Shores High School.
John Gray calls him “his brother” and Gray’s children see him as their “other dad.”
“He didn’t have his own child until late in his life. So he took us under his wings,” Gray’s daughter, Brandy Shaknaitis, 38, said. “David taught me to drive a stick shift, he gave me my first credit card, taught us how to sail and surf.”
Her brother is named John Harlan David Gray, after Richardson and Dyche’s two first names.
Gray helped David build the wooden house across the street from his, in the Key Heights neighborhood. His daughter said Gray is having a hard time dealing with the ordeal.
Shaknaitis said she is still hopeful she will see Dyche again. She has done research on the longest survival stories from those adrift at sea. Among them, she says, is one of four men who survived on the wreckage of a ship off the coast of New Zealand for 119 days.
Some who know Dyche believe he is one of those experienced sea dogs capable of braving the worst storms.
“If there is anybody that can keep that boat up, it’s him,” said Sheryl Rose, a former classmate.
In addition to the Dyche family, others aboard the boat include: Evi Nemeth, 72, a mathematician; Matthew Wootton, 35, an environmentalist; Danielle Wright, 19, a psychology student at the University of Louisiana; and Kyle Jackson, 27, a University of Nebraska graduate.
The fate of the schooner also is being closely followed by the sailboating community because the Niña has an illustrious history as the first “small” Transatlantic racing yacht. In 1928, the Niña won a 3,900-mile regatta from New York to Santander, Spain, for which she was expressly built. Her arrival was greeted by Spanish King Alfonso XIII.
Dyche bought the vessel in 1988 and renovated it. His friend, Dunn, said that people usually recognized the boat and Dyche rejected multiple offers to buy it. “Sometimes he even met people who said, ‘Hey, I have a picture of your boat on my wall,’” Dunn said.
The trip between New Zealand and Australia was going to be the family’s last trip with young David before he flew back to Florida to start college, Hernandez said.
Dyche’s 82-year-old mother Carol said that she last saw her son in West Palm Beach before he flew to New Zealand.
He visited her at a rehabilitation center where she is recovering from cancer treatment. Dyche told her that he wanted to settle down at his house in the Keys.
She said she has given up hope of seeing him again.
“He took me out on my wheelchair and it was wonderful talking about the old times,’’ she said in a phone interview. “David has traveled all around the world but he said there was no place nicer than West Palm Beach because I’m here.”