Three South Floridians have submarine, will travel

The Deep Sea Adventures submarine explores Antarctica.
The Deep Sea Adventures submarine explores Antarctica. Courtesy photo

Hunt for sunken treasure? Sample deep-sea creatures for scientific study? Produce an eye-catching TV commercial?

The three-man Deep Sea Adventures team would love to help you out. Stored in the company’s nondescript West Palm Beach warehouse is its three-person submarine — lovingly restored over the past decade and certified to dive as deep as 1,000 feet for a wide range of commercial uses.

“It needs to get busy or we need to sell it,” said Robert Wicklund, one of the company’s three owners.

Wicklund, a West Palm Beach commercial diver and boat builder, and partners William Neunzig — a retired Hallandale Beach firefighter, boat captain and marine engineer — and Patrick Lahey, president of Vero Beach-based Triton Submarines, have sunk hundreds of thousands of dollars, plus equal amounts of sweat equity into the sub.

Built in 1976, it may be the only original Perry-class submarine still in operation.

At 23 feet long, a little over 8-feet wide and more than 9½-feet high, it can accommodate a pilot and two passengers. Powered by a bank of batteries, it can cruise silently for up to 12 hours on a single charge. With a large propeller instead of thrusters, Wicklund says it can travel as fast as 4 knots even in a strong current, but optimum cruising speed is ½ to 1 knot. The emergency life support system lasts seven days.

Neunzig says the sub can be configured for a wide range of uses.

“We could set up for treasure hunting. We can do science stuff. It can adapt to all kinds of different jobs underwater,” he said.

Recent missions included exploring a shipwreck 250 feet deep off Norfolk, Va., shooting a television documentary off Palm Beach, and escorting a wealthy family on rides beneath the ocean in Antarctica.

Leasing the sub costs about $7,500 per day, according to Wicklund, which includes three crew and support equipment. Rates are lower for long-term leases. Shipping costs extra. Purchasing a new three-person sub such as a Triton costs around $3 million.

The partners would like to keep the sub in operation because they really enjoy working on it and traveling in it.

“I’m fascinated by going on different adventures,” Neunzig said. “And when you show up with a submarine, people get so excited.”

Said Wicklund: “I like fixing them and working on them. You get to see things that nobody else would ever see.”

To learn more about buying or leasing the rebuilt Perry 1201 submarine, visit Deepseaadventures.com.