Ponce Inlet, FL - Two ships were sunk off the Volusia shore over the weekend, adding to the county's artificial reef program.
In front of a crowd of boaters, a 150-foot long steel ship known as the Lady Philomena (above) and the Tug Everglades (below) - a 90-foot steel tugboat - plunged down to 80 feet under the waterline at artificial reef site 12 on Saturday morning. That site is about nine miles offshore of Ponce de Leon Inlet.
The county paid around $125,000 to acquire both boats from the South Florida area, bring them to Volusia, scour down to bare metal and tow out to sea to be sunk, according to Joe Nolin, the county's Coastal Projects Manager.
"Within two or three years, the artificial reef's structure is indistinguishable from a natural reef," Nolin added.
Holes were cut into the hull as part of the preparation process, aiding in the sinking of the vessels. A pair of two-ton chunks of concrete at the stern and bow served as anchors as the ships fell to the sea floor.
The "Lady Philomena" was seized by U.S. Customs and Border Patrol in Miami during a drug operation in March 2017, with 47 kilos of cocaine hauled off the ship. Volusia was able to get that vessel for free from the federal government since the county pledged to turn it into an artificial reef.
The tugboat was found at roughly the same time at the same shipyard as the Lady Philomena, though there was a small cost associated with its purchase, according to Nolin.
The county has been building artificial reefs since the late 1970's, with nearly 150 locations across 15 permitted off-shore areas.
Photos of the ships are courtesy of Volusia County.