Metal Detectorist Seeks What’s Lost on the Key Peninsula

A local metal detectorist (not “metal detector”) searches for cell phones, keys and jewelry while “dirt fishing” all over the KP.


Ralph Drahos and his wife Arlene swallowed the anchor. That is to say, they gave up the sailing life they enjoyed for most of their lives together in exchange for an existence on dry land. Their sailing odysseys took them the equivalent of 10 times around the globe. After raising four children on a trimaran based on Vashon Island, they built a business of delivering multihulled boats to their owners around the world. This kept them busy for 30 years.

They have not given up on adventures, however. The thrill of discovery and mystery has taken a different form.

In 2006, they bought property on the Key Peninsula to be closer to family. They are in the process of building a home.

Ralph said he always dreamed of being an archeologist. About 15 years ago, he began metal detecting, which both fuels and satisfies the dream. There is always the hope of finding that important artifact.

“I love history,” he said “One of the things about metal detecting is that I get to do lots of research. Always looking for old home sites, and what happened in an area. When I find things, I research the article and who had it last.”

Metal detectors send an electromagnetic pulse into the ground. Metal reacts and bounces back. They are sophisticated devices, he said.

“You can get approximate depth, possibly what it is. So you get a range.”

Most often, a day’s detecting results in a pile of random metal that can include pop cans and nails, the detritus of everyday living.

Sometimes, however, there are significant discoveries.

DeAnne Charles of Home lost her wedding ring about 12 years ago while gardening. She and Ralph were already acquainted when she asked him for his help finding it. She gave him a couple of likely search options on her property, and he found the ring quite quickly in a flower bed.

“I can’t believe he found it,” Charles said. “I thought it was in the back garden and it was in the front.” She has since learned to use care wearing rings when gardening. “I think I had garden gloves on, and it came off when I pulled my gloves off. I have heard this from others, too.”

Ralph belongs to a group called The Ring Finders ( based in Vancouver, B.C., with over 500 members around the world. Anyone who has lost a ring may contact the organization and be put in touch with the closest detectorist. The detectorists will use their equipment to search for the lost ring at no charge, although they will accept a reward for items returned.

There is even an online album of Ring Finder photos showing people whose rings have been found and returned, including Ralph’s discoveries. The joy of having a prized possession, the symbol of a relationship, returned is clear on their faces.

Rings are a commonly lost item. Detectorists also search for cell phones, keys and other jewelry. While every lost item has a story, rings in particular often have a great emotional attachment for the people who have lost them. When a ring is found, “everyone is so happy and that makes it worth it right there,” Ralph said.

Tom Morgan of Longbranch lost his wedding ring while cleaning up debris from a windstorm, which had caused a tree to fall on his car. “Ralph came over and spent quite a bit of time, but did not find the ring. We had a delightful time and became friends.”

Ralph and Arlene express great satisfaction in restoring lost rings to their owners. “The joy of that, to give something back, is really astounding.”

They recently recovered a ring on Joemma Beach. It appears to be an engagement ring created in the ’90s.

“We are hoping that someone will read the article and identify it,” Ralph said.

Anyone with information about the ring may contact Key Peninsula News for more information at