On April 22, 2017, local dive shop, Neal Watson’s Bimini Scuba Center, in collaboration with Resolve Marine, Key Construction and Shannon Bullard and The Rock Shed Crew, sunk the 165 ft long J.P. Kipp Barge just miles off North Bimini.
Within the following week, a 90 ft long Tug Manatee, a 70 ft long Landing Craft, dubbed The Lady in Red and a 30 ft Cuban Refugee Boat, were also sunk in the same area. All at a depth of 85 ft and within swimming distance, the four boats make up what is now called “The Coach Sugar Memorial Dive Site” — named after Bimini’s beloved chief youth mentor, Grathen “Sugar” Robins.
The Coach Sugar Memorial Dive Site is expected to have a booming impact on Bimini dive tourism. Once marine life begins to colonize, the wreck site will become home to a variety of reef fish, marine corals and various pelagic species.
“These artificial reefs provide a great sanctuary for undersea critters, help establish coral growth and recruitment, as well as being an awesome playground for scuba divers and water enthusiasts!” comments Duncan Brake, underwater cameraman and former Bimini Biological Field Station Manager.
The vessels — donated by Resolve Marine, Key Construction and Shannon Bullard and The Rock Shed Crew — are a welcomed addition to Bimini’s wreck dive options. Like the S.S. Sapona and Bimini Barge, the new boats come with their own colorful histories. Starting with the Tug Manatee, built in 1944, this craft was instrumental in the construction of Nassau’s mega resort Atlantis. Next, the Cuban Refugee Boat that ran ashore on Cat Cay in 2015 with 19 Cuban refugees on board — yes, 19! The passengers were said to have been found celebrating on the golf course thinking they had arrived in Miami. They were all sent back to Cuba.
Between the four companies — Neal Watson’s Bimini Scuba Center, Resolve Marine, Key Construction and Shannon Bullard and The Rock Shed Crew — an estimated one-half million dollars was donated in terms of cleaning crews, dive crews, dive equipment, monies and physical vessels. The sinking of these four ships was an incredible community effort and will no doubt benefit the entire Bimini — from divers to fishermen to hospitality establishments.
Neal Watson’s Bimini Scuba Center, located at the Bimini Big Game Club Resort & Marina, currently offers trips to the new dive site on an on-demand basis. Dive trips can be booked a la carte or as part of a Dive + Hotel Package. For more information about our dive rates and/or package information, please visit www.biminiscubacenter.com or call 800-867-4764.
About Neal Watson’s Bimini Scuba Center
Neal Watson’s Bimini Scuba Center operates 3 dive boats including a 60-foot glass bottom boat well-suited to accommodate divers, snorkelers and sightseers alike. In addition to reefs, wrecks and wall diving, Neal Watson’s Bimini Scuba Center offers Great Hammerhead Shark, Wild Dolphin, Reef Shark and Sting Ray Safaris. PADI certifications and courses are also available. For more information, please visit www.biminiscubacenter.com.