Staring at the limestone wall surrounding Windley Key State Park in Islamorada, I can make out polyps of brain coral, tunnels dug by worms, and the filigree of sea fans– all while standing on dry …
Diving South Florida’s Best New Underwater Attraction: Lady Luck
By Sue Cocking, Guy Harvey Outpost Travel Journalist
Pulling myself hand over hand down a descent line to the shipwreck Lady Luck against a stiff current took a couple minutes. But when I finally reached the main deck of the 324-foot-long former sludge tanker, I was glad to see it sits perfectly upright in the sand. Sunk on July 23 about 130 feet deep off Pompano Beach, Florida, the region’s newest shipwreck is attracting hundreds of eager divers– and also some fish.
Exploring the Lady Luck is an exciting and challenging experience; there’s really nothing like it underwater anywhere. Longer than a football field with its main deck sitting about 100 feet beneath the ocean’s surface, the former Newtown Creek that for decades performed the mundane task of transporting New York City’s sewage sludge is now decked out as a mock casino. And divers are taking full advantage of the opportunities for underwater selfies.
Our group — consisting mostly of members of the South Florida Divers Scuba Club — arrived at the stern of the ship and worked our way slowly forward, using its giant stacks and bulkheads to shield us from the current. No marine growth coats the wreck, but that’s understandable given how recently it went down. We swam into the wheelhouse to find some navigation equipment still intact, then discovered some unexpected decorations outside on top: sculptures of shells and starfish created by Pompano Beach artist Dennis MacDonald.
Continuing forward, we found giant dice; a poker table surrounded by sculptures of card sharks and a mermaid cocktail waitress; an octopus shooting craps; and a couple slot machines. Ironically, a school of real Atlantic spadefish hovered around the poker table!
Because of Lady Luck’s length and depth, it’s tough to cover in a single dive. Divers will want to return again and again to visit parts of the ship that they didn’t have time to see the first time around. And it won’t be too long before sponges and soft corals begin to attach to its decks and bulkheads and extensive network of piping, creating habitat for fish both large and small.
The Lady Luck is expected to be the centerpiece of Shipwreck Park, surrounded by 16 other sunken vessels. Its deployment was the work of a non-profit formed by the city of Pompano Beach, the Isle Casino and several local businesses that raised more than $300,000 to purchase, clean and sink it. Captain Jeff Torode, operator of South Florida Diving Headquarters, a Guy Harvey Outpost Outfitter in Pompano Beach, was a key player in the project.
To book a dive trip to the Lady Luck, call 800-771-DIVE (3483) or visit the SFDH web site.
Sue Cocking chronicles the Guy Harvey Outpost travel and adventure experience in regular blog posts on GuyHarveyOutpostNews.com/. For 21 years, Cocking covered the full spectrum of outdoors adventure opportunities in South Florida and beyond for the Miami Herald, including fishing, diving, hunting, paddling, camping, sailing and powerboat racing. She is a certified scuba diver and holder of an IGFA women’s world fly fishing record for a 29-pound permit.
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