The General Hoyt S. Vandenberg was blown up and sunk seven miles south of Key West’s coast Wednesday. The event, hyped more than Super Bowl XLIII was in the Conch Republic, was executed without a fin ruffled in the aquamarine waters. Now, for the real trepidation. A new wreck dive to explore. As The Weekly Newspapers has discovered, area dive shops are being inundated with reservations to Dive the Vandenberg.
Cece Roycraft, of Dive Key West flashes a stack of yellow manila envelopes.
“All paid for. These trips are all paid for. Reservations have been booked from now until August,” Roycraft exclaimed whole-heartedly. “The response is what Joe was talking about ten years ago when he began talking about bringing the Vandee to Key West and sinking her off the coast.”
Joe Weatherby, a fixture at the Green Parrot and Half Shell Raw Bar is the project organizer who took the helm to synthesize the ‘sinking’.
“We sank the Vandenberg to benefit the economy and the environment,” he declared as his reasoning. “It outs heads in beds and takes pressure off the natural reefs.”
“We’re ten minutes away. When they’re five minutes away from sinking her, you’ll see a flare,” Captain Westy of Fury Watersports announced to the crowd gathered on the starboard side of the Catamaran. “One minute away, you’ll see another.”
After a ten minute delay, because a sea turtle was spotted romping around the Vandee, the announcement came again, and this time the flares were shot into the air, alerting the crowd to the event they were about to witness.
Weatherby and his team had consulted with Naval architects, blasters and cutters, gathering the input of a myriad of experts before electing to use explosive cutting charges to bring her to the bottom.
“I was ready for her to sink,” Weatherby told The Weekly Newspapers. “That’s what she was designed to do.”
The Vandenberg, a retired missile-tracking ship amongst a host of other noble duties, was ready to sink as well. There was rumble, an awe in the crowd, clouds of smoke, and she sunk below the sea’s surface in less than two minutes.
“The culmination is the result of a long and difficult process but we learned a lot. I’m relieved it went so successfully. I think we really demonstrated something really cool today,” Weatherby said after dipping in for his first 20 minute dive. “There’s already a Barracuda living on the ship.”
A prelude of what’s to come. Weatherby predicts a couple hundred species of fish will join the Barracuda, building their own biomass. “They will become a living and breathing part of the eco-system. The synergy is similar to magic. “The wreck only serves to bring more attention to the Keys.”
And to businesses such as Dive Key West, busy booking trips, scheduling refresher courses, and channeling the excitement to divers around the globe.
“The sinking has created a lot of interest,” Cece says across the counter at her dive center on Roosevelt Boulevard. “We’ve been booking five to seven days of diving. There is still a big interest in reefs.”
“We had over one million hits on our website this morning”, Weatherby noted, “If that tells you anything.”
The Vandenberg is sunk 140 feet, seven miles off the coast, but stretches high enough towards the surface snorkelers will be even be able to clearly see the creatures swimming around the artificial reef.
“This is going to be the best summer ever in the water,” Joe reiterated after his first Vandee dive. “That’s for sure!”.
The General Hoyt S. Vandenberg was sunk with explosive cutting charges. She was ready to go down … and sunk in two minutes, seven miles off the coast of Key West. Project Organizer, Joe Weatherby dove soon after. Only to discover she is already the new home of a Barracuda.
The Summer of 2009 is marked for snorkeling and diving Weatherby exclaimed to The Weekly Newspapers. She’s going to lure sea life and tourists around the world, putting a shot in the arm of the Keys’ economy.