Former Baltimore Water Taxi Added To Russell’s Reef

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OCEAN CITY — The ever-growing artificial reef system off the coast of Ocean City got its newest addition last Friday when a 50-foot retired water taxi from Baltimore was sunk on a picture-perfect late November day.

The water taxi was the third of its kind donated to the Ocean City Reef Foundation in the last year or so, and likely the last for a while. The 50-foot vessel was towed to an area over the existing Russell’s Reef artificial reef site early last Friday morning and went down by the stern quickly thereafter following a considerable amount of prep work.

Before the retired water taxi ever hit the water, it was scoured clean of paints, fuels, chemicals and any other potential pollutants. It was then fitted with all manner of concrete blocks, metal bars and other materials to enhance its usefulness as at artificial reef. Just before it was lowered into the boat ramp at Sunset Marina last Friday, it was adorned with the message “Ake’s Reef,” in honor of long-time fishing and reef building advocate and West Ocean City tackle and marine supply store owner Doug Ake.

Salisbury Brick provided a couple of large pallets of cinder blocks, which will serve the dual purpose of weighing down the vessel and providing the nooks and crannies needed for a successful artificial reef. High Tech Marine also contributed welding services on the vessel and cut holes in its hull that were plugged and covered before the water taxi was towed to its final destination.

Once the mitigation work was completed and a decent weather window presented itself, the vessel was towed out by Maryland Coast Towing to Russell’s Reef about five miles straight out from the Ocean City Inlet. The water taxi was anchored over the reef site and secured with lines as the final preparations took place.

After the patches and plugs were removed, the vessel started slowly slipping below the water line, but the sinking was expedited when the tow boat set up a pump and started pumping seawater into the stern. The stern started settling quickly, and when the sea flowed over the transom, the 50-foot retired water taxi “Ake’s Reef” went down in less than a minute with the tip of its bow the last to go.

“She went down picture-perfect,” said Captain Monty Hawkins of the “Morning Star” which accompanied to tow boat to the reef site. “By 2015, it will be a very toggy place. You could positively refer to it as an increase in that reef site’s habitat carrying capacity.”

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