GRASONVILLE, Md. — A 53-foot yacht was sunk in the Chesapeake Bay Wednesday to expand a habitat for aquatic life and create an attraction for recreational divers.
The unique boat's last voyage was from the Cedar Point Marina near Kent Narrows to an existing artificial reef area near Love Point.
The yacht, which was made of a type of floating formed concrete unusual for recreational vessels, went down at about 4 p.m. Wednesday, sunk by a crew led by TowBoatUS operators Adam and Sarah Lawrence, with the help of Maryland's Department of Natural Resources.
"They decided rather than cutting it up, we're going to turn it into something useful," Adam Lawrence said as the mission got started.
Lawrence said many of the details of the boat's background died with the owner years ago, making it a "ghost boat" of sorts.
According to Lawrence, marina operators believe the boat was built in the1960s. It sat at the marina for decades but was never used. Eventually, the owner died and Maryland authorities transferred the title to the marina.
That's when the plan to turn the yacht's unique concrete structure into something more useful was hatched.
Unlike many other boats, concrete makes excellent underwater structure mimicking natural materials such as stone, according to Mike Malpezzi, the director of the Maryland Department of Natural Resources Artificial Reef Initiative.
"Fish love structure, because it gives them someplace to hide," Malpezzi said.
The yacht was sunk next to one of Maryland's 21 existing artificial reefs, enlarging and enhancing the habitat at the Love Point location.
Malpezzi said it is important to note that abandoning boats in waterways is strictly prohibited. But the unique nature of the concrete yacht sunk at Love Point makes it an environmentally acceptable exception. The boat was stripped of all hazardous items and meticulously cleaned of oil and other potential pollutants before the sinking was carried out.
Lawrence and his crew pulled the drain plugs out of the boat after anchoring it at the precise location for the sinking at about 2:30 p.m. Wednesday. It took more than an hour for the old yacht to finally take on enough water to go down in about 27 feet of water.
Nautical charts will be updated so boaters, fishermen and divers will know exactly where to find the remains of the ghost yacht in years to come.
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