The Okinawa Tug: Before & After Irma

I took the top photo of the Okinawa Tug and Dive Bar on Aug 18th, the night before she was towed out and sunk one nautical mile east of the Pompano Beach Pier. The next morning was a perfect sinking and I took photos and video from my boat while the tug became a perfect artificial reef, landing upright and intact.

The Okinawa was a 107 foot Army Tug. Now underwater, the wheelhouse reaches to a shallow depth of just 35 feet. Artist Dennis MacDonald created the Dive Bar amidships with a mermaid bartender, eels, starfish and reef fish as customers. The mermaid gazes into a reflective globe looking off to the stern of the tug.

Hurricane Irma got in the way of a lot of divers getting the chance to check out the new wreck, including me and a buddy. We were way overdue to get our kayaks out freediving, so in the morning on a weekday in early November we hit Pompano Beach. It started out calm but didn’t stay that way long as the current was running to the south with a king tide and green water. I knew it was going to be tough gearing up and juggling the GPS, the paddle and a GoPro while trying to remain on the site, then slipping into 70 feet of Ocean. As soon as we did, I couldn’t see anything. So, when in doubt – dive! At 20 feet it cleared up some, but no wreck or bottom was in sight and at 40 feet I started to drift down current and zig zag, hoping to spot the wreck. I was exhausted, but luckily I saw the big dark shadow off to the east and kicked to her and ascended above the tug. The current was making it tough to relax and breathe up for the next dive, but fortunately the top of the wreck was just in view and the Dive Bar was just under it. On my next dive, I saw the hull was listing to port, so it would be a bit deeper. I dropped on the bow and had to swim past the stack to reach the Dive Bar. The magical mermaid was there, but with no globe in hand. I couldn’t imagine anyone taking this piece of art. My next drop was on the stern and I finally got a good look and shot some video of the Dive Bar, which was wrecked and gone with the exception of the mermaid and one of the bar tops laying on the seafloor. The Okinawa is a solid tugboat and will last through many storms to come, as will her mermaid. I have a feeling that she will not want long for a new globe.

On the way back to shore, we shot a few lionfish on the Pompano drop off. These delicious fish are now our fall back dinner, and every lionfish we remove helps the reef.

Shoot straight and dive safe!

Capt. Chad Carney
(727) 423-7775
email: [email protected]