In North Carolina, a group of divers and fishermen want to honor former Artificial Reef Coordinator Jim Francesconi by sinking a ship in his name. They have started a fundraising campaign to help pay for the purchase of a vessel and the towing, cleaning and sinking process.
The group wants to purchase a 180- to 200-foot vessel, rename it after Francesconi, and sink it on the Howard Chapin Reef (AR-330), about 12 miles outside of Beaufort Inlet.
The N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries has agreed to the plan and hopes to schedule the project for mid-July in commemoration of Francesconi’s passing.
Francesconi, who began working for the division in 1987, headed the Artificial Reef Program for 14 years before losing a battle with leukemia on July 18, 2014.
His efforts resulted in hundreds of enhancements to artificial reefs from the Outer Banks to Long Bay, including the creation of the New River Reef (AR-398) near Jacksonville, the Jim Knight Reef (AR-430) near Oak Island and the Bob Black Reef (AR-400) near Frying Pan Tower.
He also oversaw the sinking of the U.S. Coast Guard cutter SPAR, the Tug Titan, the Captain Greg Mickey, the Tug Pawtucket, the Admiral Charlie, and two U.S. Coast Guard Falcon aircraft.
The fundraising group is headed by Bobby Purifoy of Olympus Dive Center in Morehead City, Debby Boyce of Discovery Diving in Beaufort and Carteret County diver Steve Broadhurst. They have set up accounts for donations with the East Carolina Artificial Reef Association and the Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament.
About $70,000 of the cost will come from a special fund that receives money from the sale of SCUBA license plates, created in 2005 through the N.C. Division of Motor Vehicles license plate program to develop North Carolina’s artificial reefs. The division estimates another $50,000 is needed to make the project a reality.
Donations may be made through the East Carolina Artificial Reef Association at 252-728-2265 and the Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament at 252-247-3575. Donations may be made electronically to the Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament account through http://www.gofundme.com/jjf-reef-project.
source: North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources