ORANGE BEACH, Ala. - Vince Lucido, chairman of Alabama Gulf Coast Reef and Restoration Foundation, is traveling to Huntsville on Monday to pick up the Governor’s Tourism Award for the board’s work raising the money to sink the LuLu.
“We’re real excited about it,” he said. “It’s an honor just to be nominated for it.”
On Memorial Day weekend David Walter's Reefmaker company sank the 271-foot LuLu about 18 miles off shore. The foundation raised the $500,000 needed for that project with the naming sponsor, Mac McAleer of LuLu’s, donating $250,000.
Now that process likely starts all over again.
The LuLu may be gone beneath the waves, but she is certainly not forgotten. Divers visit her in droves and have sent back countless images and videos of the ecosystem she is becoming.
And the folks at the foundation who brought her to her watery grave aren’t done. More plans are in the works for more underwater playgrounds and fishing grounds.
Sometime this weekend Walter of Reefmaker and Walter Marine will dock another ship at his business on the Intracoastal Waterway. It is on the way to Orange Beach from Miami to possibly sink for another reef in the Gulf of Mexico.
The ship is currently called the Kinta S and was built in 1976 in Japan. Its primary uses were for trading in the Gulf of Mexico and East Coast to the Caribbean, South and Central America.
Via text message on Tuesday, Walter said the ship should make it to Mobile Bay by late Saturday or early Sunday. The Kinta S is 155-feet long according to a profile on Stiegler Shipping's website.
“It’s just another project,” Lucido said. “It’s up to the board, I can’t speak for the board but I feel pretty sure they’ll want to do something with it. That’s our goal, to put two more vessels out there. We’ve just got to raise the money.”
When the LuLu arrived it was ready for sinking once the $500,000 was raised. The Kinta S will require more work.
“It’s a not all stripped down like the LuLu was,” Lucido said. “They have to clean it up. It’s got asbestos and stuff like that on it from insulation, but that kind of stuff can get cleaned up.
“It’s just a little bit smaller than the LuLu, about 100 feet smaller. It’s fully intact though.”
And though there’s plenty of work to do to get the Kinta S ready and resting on the bottom of the Gulf, Lucido said that’s not the only project the Foundation is hoping to bring to fruition.
“We’ve got a couple of options that we are working with David on,” Lucido said. “We’ve got a possibility of acquiring an old work barge kind of like what they did in Pensacola with the Joe Patti barge.
“We’re still negotiating with the owner on that. If we do it, we’ll bring it over here and sell advertisements or sponsorships kind of like we did with the LuLu. Where they put the name on the side of the vessel or mount some sort of memorial plaque on the side of it.”
Another project Lucido is excited about is the possible deployment of snorkeling reefs just off the coast of Orange Beach and Gulf Shores. The area is not in the permitted reef zone and the first step would be getting the permits.
“We discussed some possible sites for snorkel reefs,” Lucido said. “We hope to get something going on that really soon right here in Orange Beach and also in Gulf Shores so that we can have something ready in the next few years to implement our program.
“We want to install some reefs just a few hundred yards off shore where people can swim out there with snorkeling gear can dive and fish and snorkel around it. That’s an effort we are working on.”
Lucido also pointed out areas right now that are accessible for snorkeling.
“The snorkeling aspect is a lot of fun,” he said. “The jetties are a lot fun to snorkel. It’s a pretty good hike to get to ‘em but once you get out there there’s a lot of marine life out there, especially late in the summer and into September. The water’s still warm and there’s lots of tropical in the area, real colorful fish that are real neat to look at, take pictures or just observe.”
Another easily accessible area for snorkeling is the Whisky Wreck directly off shore in the area of Bahama Bob’s in Gulf Shores, Lucido said.
The wreck was a Spanish rum runner that was about 200-feet long. According to divebuddy.com it sits in about 15 to 25 feet of water and has a three foot high section of the hull sticking out.