THE "LOWRANCE" REEF

        My next story is most recent, and took place near our winter home in Florida in March 1984.
        One day I discovered that a rotting old 10,000 ton ship called the "Mazon," lying in a corner of Port Everglades, Fort Lauderdale, was actually one of the first ships I had been responsible for in Canada.
        The "discovery" was the result of a phone call from a ship surveyor, who upon inspecting the hulk to determine its condition, found, on the wall of the Captain's cabin a photograph of Mrs. Lowery and yours truly. The ship was one for which I had been responsible some 35 years before.
       It had originally been named the "Ciudad de Maracaibo" and was one of six sister ships, built for a Columbia, Venezuela and Equador consortium.
       Her name was now "Mazon." She had been purchased by a retired Greek Captain Forgarini who had intended to fill it with scrap, sail it to Japan, and sell the lot.
       Unfortunately, the scrap market failed, and so did the project, resulting in a rotting eyesore and blight in the beautiful Cruise ship port of Port Everglades, Florida.
       When we went down to see the ship again, it was already a hive of activity. The citizens of Fort Lauderdale and nearby resorts had decided to get rid of this eyesore and yet turn it into something useful.
       An organisation called Lowrance Electronics, working with local fishing clubs and City authorities, had come up with the idea that the "Mazon" could be used to fill a 600 foot long gap in the offshore reef. This gap had been caused by a hurricane some years before. The reef had been a breeding ground and habitat for tens of thousands of fish and converting the "Mazon" into an artificial reef might bring back the fish.
       With an enthusiasm only possible in the United States, and after an initial donation by Lowrance of $25,000, everybody went to work on the project, cleaning up the ship and preparing her for becoming a reef. Everyone gave their services free. Boy Scouts, Girl Guides, and Senior Citizens groups etc. cleaned the ship up and got rid of all the rubbish. Local welding, trucking and removal companies etc. cut down the masts and derricks and dumped them in the holds.
      All transverse bulkheads were breached and six feet deep open "windows" were cut through the side shell some 5 feet above the water line--all to prepare the ship for its new role.
     The U.S. Navy, U.S. Coastguard, and any authority which could help, did so.
     The great day dawned, March 31, 1984, Florida was ready. The local beaches and grandstands were full of spectators, there were literally hundreds of small craft and dozens of private aircraft escorting the ship.
       The U.S. Coast Guard and Navy kept all at their proper safe distances as the tugs, working without charge, towed the ship out of Port Everglades and North to the chosen site.
      On the bridge was Captain Forgarini in a white silk suit and Panama hat.
      Those others of us who had been involved all wore white suits and Tshirts depicting the ship going down and headed "Where's the Reef?"--a take off on a then popular T.V. advertisement, "Where's the Beef?"
       On site, the ship's flag was lowered, Captain Forgarini shed a tear as he left the "Mazon" in a motor launch.
      The U.S. crack navy underwater demolition squad, blasted holes in the bottom by remote control and the "Mazon," according to plan, gracefully sank to the bottom. Our last view being that of her cruiser stern gently diving down to its allotted place.
      That night every coastal hotel and dining room had "Lowrance Reef" parties. Mr. Darrel Lowrance agreed that as my name was Lowery we might assume the reef was named for both of us.
      Last winter it was my great joy to see underwater photographs taken some 200 feet down and showing hundreds of fish that had already made the Lowrance Reef a living success story.
      Surely, the long arm of coincidence had been stretched to the limit; a ship for which I had signed a building contract, 7500 feet high in Bogota, Columbia, was now, some 35 years later--resting at the bottom of the ocean virtually opposite our Florida home!
 
 

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