Mystery 'ghost ship' to become part of Adventure Coast artificial reef

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A so-called ghost ship will soon sink to the bottom of the ocean off Hernando County to create the Adventure Coasts' first shipwreck dive site.

The 16-ton, 46-foot vessel has sat abandoned at the Hernando Beach Marina for about 14 years. Two years ago, it caught the Hernando County Port Authority's attention.

“Since the boat is made out of cement, it’s the ideal material for a reef," said Frank Santo, chairman of the Hernando County Port Authority board.

After years of paperwork and permitting, the county now has permission to sink the vessel at its Bendickson Reef, which is located about 20 miles offshore.

The artificial reef project, which started in the 90s, consists of other structures, like culverts and 10 M-60 World War II Army tanks, according to Santo.

However, the ghost ship is expected to transform the underwater experience for divers and fishermen.

"As a diver, when you get down there, it's just full of life, lots of things to look at," said Keith Kolasa, with Hernando County Waterways. "It becomes, basically, an oasis down there of marine life."

No one knows how the ghost ship, which was built in California, got to Hernando Beach.

“It sailed all extensively through the Bahamas and the Caribbean, and then somehow, the boat ended up here," said Santo.

The Hernando Beach Marina donated it to Hernando County, on the condition that it would be used for a reef project.

Groups of volunteers have been helping clean it out and prepare it for the big day.

“Without their help, there’s no way this project would move forward,” said Kolasa.

County officials expect to sink the ghost ship April 23.