California Ships 2 Reefs: Helping Local Communities Go From Wrecked to Wonderful

Greg Wolf at the California Ships 2 Reefs program is excited about wrecks, and that enthusiasm is completely contagious.

DeeperBlue.com chatted with Wolf and other folks involved with Ships 2 Reefs at DEMA Show 2014 in Las Vegas.

Born of the collaboration between divers and fishermen, the nonprofit company specializes in helping to work through the miles of inevitable red tape faced by any community wishing to enhance their underwater environment with wrecks of any kind. They locate likely vessels, help raise community awareness and excitement, and then lend their expertise and know-how to help California communities add unique underwater features that, to paraphrase Ships 2 ReefsEleanor Rewerts, provide tax revenues and homes for fishes.

Encouraged by the resounding success of the acquisition and sinking of the HMCS Yukon in San Diego in 2000, Ships 2 Reefs has once again teamed up with the San Diego dive community in hopes of adding a new wreck to the San Diego Underwater Recreation Area (SDURA).

The SDURA is a 512-acre underwater park located just a mile out from another popular San Diego attraction: Belmont Park on the Mission Beach boardwalk, and boasts a total of five wrecks . . . and counting.  Though still caught up in that red tape that so often signals the death of this kind of project, San Diego and Ships 2 Reefs have high hopes of acquiring the HMCS Annapolis, a decommissioned Canadian destroyer, and sister-ship to the Yukon.

In the event that this legendary family reunion never materializes, Ships 2 Reefs has a couple of other strategies already in the works for San Diego: Potential participation in the Guardian of the Reef Ball Project, and perhaps the opportunity to sink some Ticonderoga-class cruisers that may already be stored in San Diego.

The Guardian of the Reef Ball Project would incorporate a privately-purchased bronze replica of Simon Morris“Guardian of the Reef” sculpture at the northwest corner of the SDURA, facing southwest with a myriad of memorial reef balls fanning out around it.  These cement balls can be privately purchased as memorials, and provide a hard substrate that has proven to be ideal anchors for flourishing reefs and, Greg Wolf thinks, would be perfect anchors for kelp, the fast-growing but imperiled cornerstone of the San Diego underwater ecosystem.

Reefing wrecks is an environmentally-friendly method of not only disposing of ships that are no longer useful as vessels, but creating locations where underwater organisms can gather and thrive, which in turn makes diving more exciting, fishing more abundant, and tourism more profitable. In order to do their visionary work, Ships 2 Reefs rely heavily on local support and enthusiasm to raise funds, provide community outreach, and do the hard work of stripping, cleaning and sinking approved wrecks.

Divers, fishermen and local governments really have to want it, but if they do, they find a willing and expert partner in the California Ships 2 Reefs program.  Find out how you can get involved in projects in San Diego, Redondo Beach and Santa Monica Bay or look into bringing a wreck to your area at www.CaliforniaShipstoReefs.org.

Erin Durbin-Sherer