Hard to believe that it’s been almost a year since the Palm Beach County Dive Association and Palm Beach County Environmental Resource Management successfully sank a 100-foot World War II tugboat, formerly known as the Pocahontas, to add to an eclectic collection of engineered reefs for visiting and area divers to explore.
It’s even harder to believe how rapidly the vessel has attracted marine life. Corals and sponges have recruited there, several goliath groupers have taken up residence, and dozens of species of reef fish as well as pelagic visitors swarm the wreck.
The reef is dedicated to Danny McCauley, who died in a traffic accident, and his name stretches broadly across the bow. It sits in about 75 feet of water just north of the North Lake Worth or “Palm Beach” inlet, just a short run from North Palm Beach and Riviera Beach marinas, where most nearby dive operators leave from.
If you’re staying on the barrier islands, you can probably see your hotel from the reef. The run is that short. And there are literally hundreds of fantastic dives to the north and south as well, including coral reefs, dramatic ledges and plenty of other artificial reefs.
When you come to dive this area, keep in mind that Palm Beach County straddles the boundary between the tropical and temperate climate zones. The reefs to the south of the North Lake Worth Inlet are typically more colorful, with more tropical coral cover and coral species diversity. You also typically see more species of tropical fish, including angelfish, parrotfish, rays, eels, sea turtles, and loads of macro life, including snapping shrimp.
Definitely bring your Fish Identification slates and books for these dives!
To the north of the inlet on past the Jupiter Inlet, most dives are along dramatic, cavernous limestone ledges and artificial reefs. I’m generalizing, but typically you see more large animals, including the legendary goliath groupers, sea turtles and sharks.
Keep in mind that you can dive the day you land if you’re flying in. The Palm Beach International Airport is so close to the reefs—probably not more than four miles as the osprey flies—that you can arrive in the morning and dive that afternoon. Don’t forget that Boyles Law rules out flying out within 24 hours of diving. You may suffer decompression sickness, otherwise known as the bends.
Happy safe diving. Check out this amazing video of the "reef" being sunk.