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Tugboat Joins Artificial Reef Fleet In Gulf Of Mexico

Florida Fish & Wildlife

Fishers and divers are getting a new artificial reef in the Gulf of Mexico, compliments of a retired tugboat.

Built in 1952, “Ocean Wind” was a ship docking assist tug, largely in the Pensacola area, until its retirement two years ago. She’ll be scuttled in 90-95 feet of water, about ten nautical miles southeast of Pensacola Pass.

“It was actually the tugboat that towed out many of our existing artificial reefs into the Escambia County artificial reef inventory. So it’s very fitting that this tug herself will take her place among our artificial reefs,” said Robert Turpin, Escambia County’s Marine Resources Manager.

“We will soon be executing a contract and purchase order, with a firm to clean the vessel, prepare it for reefing, and then to deploy it.”

That firm is the Florida Artificial Reef Program, which will provide $100,000 toward purchase and preparation. Escambia County will kick in another $45,000 in local option sales tax proceeds.

Work on prepping the boat is underway at the Port of Pensacola, and could be finished by week’s end. Turpin says getting an 87-foot tugboat ready is pretty much the same as preparing the 900-foot aircraft carrier Oriskany a few years back.

The work includes removing glass, plastics, and any remaining fuel and oil in the tug’s five tanks. As for the Oriskany, which was sunk south of Pensacola Pass in 2006, Turpin says it’s been an unqualified success as an artificial reef.

The county has until the end of this year to sink the tug. When deployed, the Ocean Wind will break new ground, wait,  make that water.

“The Ocean Wind will be the first reef deployment, at Escambia County’s newest artificial reef site,” Turpin said. “It’s a little over eight square miles in state waters. It will be just east of the Russian freighter.”

The Russian freighter, a U.S. Navy target ship which was reefed in 1943, is part of the San Pablo reef area.

The rough coordinates for the Ocean Wind when deployed, will be 30 degrees and 11 minutes north latitude, and 87 degrees, 12 minutes west longitude.

A list of the public artificial reefs maintained by the county can be found at www.my-escambia.com/community/artificial-reefs.