GRAND HAVEN, Mich. — (Grand Haven Tribune) - Ace Covey – ace detective.
Covey is perhaps best known in these parts for reuniting people with lost items, with the help of his underwater metal detector.
Several times a week, you can find the Grand Rapids man wading waist-deep in Lake Michigan off the Grand Haven State Park, looking for “treasures” left behind by beach-goers. He’s located presumably lost wedding and class rings, and even unearthed Civil War artifacts in his ventures.
His passion began when he was a Grand Valley State University student, when he felt he was spending too much time indoors.
“Like any college kid, I was sitting on a couch playing video games,” Covey said of his 2006-07 junior year. “One nice, sunny day I asked myself, ‘What am I doing with my life? I should go on an adventure.’”
Covey thought it a grand idea to go look for treasure in real life, instead of in a video game.
“I hopped online and started researching metal detectors,” he said.
When his first detector arrived, he turned the power knob and energized his quest. Within minutes, he found a bottle cap and a quarter. Like any college kid hungry for money, he exalted in the opportunity.
“I thought, ‘Oh my gosh, I can make money with this,’” Covey said. “I joined online forums and a local metal-detecting club and learned about techniques, gear and all that kind of stuff.”
Over the past dozen years, he’s located many items, including his mom’s wedding rings that had been missing for three decades.
“My mom threw them out in the yard because she was mad at my dad,” Covey said. “I found them 30 years later, right in the middle of the yard, about 3 inches down. I found the other one 10 inches over to the right. I did a nice little surprise for my mom. It was just a little tiff between my mom and dad. They’re still married.”
As Covey gained more confidence in his metal-detecting skills, he formed a company, called Swing for the Ring. He launched a website (metaldetecting life.com) and a YouTube channel, where he posts metal-detecting blogs and videos, and advertises his recovery services. He also holds a Professional Association of Diving Instructors certification, and can dive to deeper depths to recover lost items at marinas and lakes.
Covey recalls a family from Illinois losing a class ring in Lake Michigan at the Grand Haven State Park.
“Their oldest daughter was wearing her mom’s old high school ring,” Covey said. “They were playing with a ball and it came off. The brother happened to see me (metal detecting in the water) and ran to the other end of the beach where I was. I found it within a minute or two, and kind of joked with them, ‘Are you sure it’s not on someone’s hand?’ The brother spotted it. That was a good surprise.”
Covey’s finds aren’t limited to the water or the state park.
“A young lady lost her engagement ring in dry sand in front of the concession stand at Grand Haven State Park,” he said. “On the third circle in the area where she had lost it, there it was, buried in 4 inches of sand. She had put it on her beach towel, forgot about and flicked her towel to shake off the sand.”
Covey recovered another wedding ring for a man who was installing his dock in Spring Lake.
“As he was putting in posts and reaching down for tools, his wedding band fell off,” Covey said. “A friend of his happened to drive by me and asked me, ‘Can that thing find rings?’ It was challenging to find. He lost it right at the end of his dock and I kept hearing the metal posts.”
Covey’s scoop recovered the wedding band.
He said his finds over the years have more than 10-fold recovered the cost of his equipment. But it’s not just about the money – Covey said he most enjoys the joyful reunions, the adventures and the stories.
“It’s definitely been a worthwhile hobby,” he said.
But “finding” isn’t Covey’s only mission. He’s also committed to cleaning up the environment and helping to hinder harm for beach-goers. He visits Grand Haven State Park nearly every Saturday evening or Sunday morning.
“I basically liken myself to being the lakeshore janitor,” he said. “I pick up anything and everything on the beach from pop tops and bottle caps to rings and coins, metal spikes and shards. I don’t want kids or anyone to step on that stuff.”
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