One of Broward County’s popular scuba diving sites — the Ancient Mariner artificial reef — just got a little more interesting. The 70-foot deep shipwreck off Deerfield Beach now is decorated with a large, colorful steel sculpture of a coral reef.
Members of the South Florida diving community deployed the underwater ornament Wednesday in honor of Ray McAllister, retired Florida Atlantic University professor and diving pioneer from Lighthouse Point, who died two weeks ago at 89.
The “reef art” sculpture was created in 2000 by David Whitman Alger to decorate the entrance of Tails Island Grill, a waterfront restaurant in Pompano Beach. The restaurant closed several years ago and was set for demolition by the property’s new owner, Hunter Hospitalities LLC. Jeff Torode, operator of South Florida Diving Headquarters and a friend of McAllister, persuaded Hunter Hospitalities to donate the reef art to Broward County’s artificial reef program. With permission from Broward County officials, Torode and fellow divers lowered the sculpture to the deck of the Ancient Mariner and secured it with a chain. Then they held a short dedication ceremony.
Also, Miami-Dade County’s artificial and natural reefs got a boost last week with the donation of $10,000 toward maintenance of more than 40 mooring buoys at nine locations from Sunny Isles Beach south to Key Biscayne. The not-for-profit Miami-Dade Reef Guard Association, a group of divers and ocean conservationists, gave the money to the county’s Department of Regulatory and Economic Resources. Mooring buoys protect the sea bottom by allowing boaters to tie up to them, instead of dropping anchor on fragile coral or sea grass. The county seeks more funds to expand the program, and urges residents to donate to the “Adopt-a-Buoy” program.