Just offshore, outside the upscale Sabbia Beach luxury condominiums scheduled to open in 2018, is a stretch of the Atlantic known as the “wreck capital” of Florida. This ominous-sounding term refers to the many shipwrecks that lurk just offshore, and attract serious diving enthusiasts from all over the world.
Most of these ships were sunk deliberately after their useful lives to provide an artificial reef which attracts an array of marine life, while also helping to slow the erosion of the coastline. Certified environmentally safe before being scuttled, these intentional wrecks serve to increase tourism as they allow a thriving dive industry to flourish.
While numerous opportunities for scuba diving and snorkeling in the crystal-clear waters off Pompano Beach are accessible from the shore, wreck diving provides an additional attraction for more advanced divers.
Just last summer, the 324-ft. Lady Luck was sunk a mile-and-a-half from the Pompano Beach fishing pier, and serves as the cornerstone of Shipwreck Park. A tanker ship formerly known as Newtown Creek, Lady Luck was purchased from the city of New York by the non-profit organization Shipwreck Park, Inc. This organization was originally funded by the city of Pompano Beach and the Isle Casino Racing Pompano Park and others to form the backbone of a far-reaching endeavor which will also encompass the existing 16 shipwrecks in the area.
Beyond the usual opportunities for viewing marine life and the interior workings of the ships, Shipwreck Park also offers a unique and innovative experience as an underwater cultural arts attraction, as it will also provide a rotating display of art exhibits. The first, by Pompano Beach artist Dennis MacDonald, features a casino-themed array of such whimsical sculptures as a gambling-savvy octopus, giant dice and a poker table featuring “card sharks.”
“Our mission, starting with Lady Luck, is to preserve the reef ecosystem by developing this underwater cultural arts park as a significant dive attraction,” Shipwreck Park, Inc., chairman Greg Harrison told Scubadiving.com. “We think divers worldwide will love this new artificial reef, and we expect the popularity of Shipwreck Park to take pressure off of the natural coral reefs nearby.”
The draw for Shipwreck Park is its close proximity to shore, just a 10-minute boat ride, as opposed to the hours-long travel required to access wrecks in deeper waters. As noted above, wreck diving is generally restricted to more advanced divers who have been certified for this type of diving.
Any one of the numerous diving centers in and around Pompano Beach can accommodate trips to Shipwreck Park and the nearby wreck sites, and most offer the courses required for wreck diving.