New Additions to Crystal Coast Diving
A wide variety of marine life awaits divers on the wrecks out of Beaufort Inlet. In addition to the World War II vessels, there are also several artificial reefs that provide structure for fish to thrive and flourish. The last few months have seen more structures added to Artificial Site 330, the location of the USS Indra.
The USS Indra was a 328-foot Landing Craft Repair Ship that was sunk as an artificial reef in 1992. The ship is sitting upright in 70 feet of water; the highest part of the wreck is at 45 feet, while the main deck lies at 50 feet. The shallow depths make this the ideal location for new divers to get their first introduction to wreck diving.
On June 11, the Eastern Carolina Artificial Reef Association (ECARA) sank its first ship. The Nepamuk was a schooner that was built in France in 1973. It is 50 feet long, 15 feet wide, draws 8 feet and has a raked stem with a curved transom. She came from the Irish Town of Gibraltar. For the past several years, the Nepamuk has been sitting at Bock Marine Yard, falling into a state of disrepair after being neglected and abandoned by its owner. Bock Marine realizes how important artificial reefs are to maintaining a healthy marine environment by providing structure for fish of all sizes. As a result, Kenny Bock of Bock Marine donated the Nepamuk to ECARA.
For the past two years, members of ECARA were cleaning the Nepamuk of oil, loose materials, and other hazards. Buster Thompson was instrumental in donating his time to get the boat ready for sinking. Others that donated their time were Dan Gillahan, David Osborne, Pat Noe and Debby Boyce.
Once the Nepamuk was cleaned and inspected by the US Coast Guard, Marine Fisheries gave the approval for the sinking. TowBoat US donated the towing of the Nepamuk to the site. It was hoped that the boat would be sunk on the port side where there were no other structures, but it landed on the starboard side, resting upright against the USS Indra. Just this month, the Nepamuk fell down the side of the USS Indra so it is no longer upright, but now lies on its side.
On July 4, Discovery Diving held their annual Underwater Bicycle Race. This year's event had five participants. Before the race, the competitors decorated their bicycles to give them a scuba theme. Once the bikes were decked out, they were loaded aboard the Outrageous V for the ride out to the USS Indra.
Upon arrival, the mate tied the anchor to the wreck and then the bicycles were dropped off of the stern platform to the wreck. The mate lined all of the bicycles up in the sand beside the wreck so they were waiting for the riders when the competitors arrived. When the signal was given for the racers to begin, Cyle Ridley Casey jumped out to an early lead and held on to finish first. Stephanie Braswell finished second, Brent Greenberg was third, Katy Locke was fourth, and Sindee Greenberg finished fifth after being held up by a curious stingray that wanted to be more than an observer. Cyle plans on defending her title next year. After the race, the bicycles were left beside the wreck to add to the artificial reef site.
Even though a diver may have explored the USS Indra many times, each dive is a new experience. Whether it is the marine life or additions to the site, there is always something different to discover. The bicycles will be ridden until the ocean claims them and begins the transformation from bicycle to marine habitat. The Nepamuk became a home for marine life shortly after it rested on the ocean floor. As the first divers descended onto the wreck, there were already fish inside.
For more information about diving on these new additions of the Crystal Coast, visit DiscoveryDiving.com. — Lee Moore, Atlantic Beach, NC