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SCUBA-L  September 2000, Week 2

SCUBA-L September 2000, Week 2

Subject:

New Artificial Reef (New Jersey)

From:

"Huntzinger, Hugh A [AMSTA-AR-CCL-B]" <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Scuba diving discussion list <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Wed, 13 Sep 2000 12:59:08 -0400

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (105 lines)

From:  http://www.nj.com/news/ledger/index.ssf?/jersey/ledger/10c479d.html

-hh



From life lost to life anew
09/13/00
BY TOM FEENEY
STAFF WRITER
They gathered on the deck of a dive boat four miles out of the Manasquan
Inlet yesterday with flowers and cameras in hand to sink a stripped-down old
tugboat in memory of Charlie McGurr.
McGurr, who lived in Brick, died a year ago while diving on the Andrea
Doria, a legendary shipwreck with a hard-won reputation as the Mount Everest
of the deep-sea world. At age 52, he became the fifth man in two years to
perish at the site of the Doria wreck, which lies 50 miles off the coast of
Cape Cod.
A group of his diving buddies arranged through a state program to have a
decommissioned canal tugboat sunk as part of an artificial reef off the
Jersey shore. The boat was renamed the "McGurr Tug."
"It's our way of trying to make a lasting tribute to Charlie," said Jim
Collins of Brick, McGurr's close friend and diving instructor. Collins, like
McGurr, is a former president of Ocean Wreck Divers of New Jersey, the
organization that sponsored the sinking.
The tug, stripped of its engine and cleaned of oil, was towed from a dock in
Staten Island early yesterday. Collins was among two dozen friends and
relatives who met the craft at sea and watched the sinking from the deck of
a Brielle dive boat called the Sea Inn.
The 85-foot tug was known as the "Patrick McHugh" during the more than 60
years of its useful life. Its home port was Groton, Conn. By the time it
arrived in New Jersey yesterday, it was a ghostly looking thing -- its doors
and windows removed, its bulkhead and decks sawed through, its hull long
since gone to rust.
Charlie McGurr's name was spray-painted in day-glo orange on the front of
the boat and in two spots each on the starboard and port sides.
Though it looked barely seaworthy, the tug was not easy to sink.
It arrived at the reef site at about 10:30 a.m. Crewmen from the Staten
Island tow boat climbed aboard and opened three 6-inch valves -- or "sea
cocks," as they are known -- at the bottom of the vessel.
Once water began flooding through the open cocks, the boat was expected to
sink in 30 minutes or less. But as McGurr's family and friends waited to
celebrate, the McGurr Tug continued to bob on the waves.
McGurr, a Jersey City native, lived in Wayne before moving to Brick Township
in Ocean County in 1979. He made his living as an auto body mechanic. He and
his wife, Kathy, also owned Piranha's, a sports bar in South Belmar. She
jokes that buying the bar was his way of giving her something to keep her
busy during the hours he spent diving.
"He loved diving," said Kathy McGurr, who was accompanied yesterday by the
McGurrs' two grown children, Jennifer and Tony. "He loved every minute of
it."
McGurr served with the Green Berets during the Vietnam War. He tried scuba
diving for the first time during the war when he was in Guam for some R&R.
Though he enjoyed it, friends say, he didn't pursue the sport when he
returned home. Instead, he kept busy with his work and his family. And he
spent his free time pursuing the sport he loved best -- sky diving.
McGurr was in his 40s before he became a serious scuba diver. He and his
son, Tony, took their first lessons with Jim Collins. McGurr went on to earn
several advanced certifications. He became very serious about the sport very
quickly.
"I used to bitch about not being able to sit on our back deck and relax,"
said Kathy McGurr, who is not a diver herself. "He had all his stuff --
tanks, wet suits -- spread out all over the place. I used to tell him he had
to clean it up, but that's an argument I never won."
McGurr occasionally worked on a Long Island dive boat -- the Seeker -- that
runs charters out to the site of the Andrea Doria wreck. He had dived the
Doria several times successfully before drowning during an attempt on July
28, 1999. Kathy McGurr wears around her neck a pendant made from a small
piece of Andrea Doria china Charlie salvaged during one of his successful
dives.
The Doria was a luxury Italian cruise ship that sank in 1956 after colliding
with the Stockholm, a Swedish liner. Fifty-one people died. Twelve others
have died since while diving on the wreck, including five in fairly quick
succession in the summers of 1998 and 1999.
It took 11 hours for the Doria to sink after the collision with the
Stockholm ripped a hole in its starboard side.
The McGurr Tug took three.
Just a few minutes before 1:30 p.m., it slipped beneath the water at last.
Charlie McGurr's family and friends applauded. The captain of the Sea Inn
tooted his horn.
And Kathy McGurr turned and kissed her son.
The McGurr tug now is part of one of 11 artificial reef areas off the Jersey
shore, said Bill Figley, who runs the artificial reef program for the state
Division of Fish and Wildlife. There are no natural underwater outcroppings
along the Jersey shore, just smooth sandy bottom from the coastline to the
end of the continental shelf.
The artificial reefs provide what nature does not -- a habitat for fish and
plant life. Figley said a study by the state Department of Environmental
Protection showed that one reef had attracted 70 new species within three
years of its construction.
The first visitors to the reef yesterday were supposed be two of Charlie's
diving pals, Jim Collins and Ron Davison. Kathy McGurr had given them a
small container of Charlie's ashes and asked them to hide them somewhere on
the sunken tug. Because it was much later than expected when the boat
finally sank, those plans had to be shelved. Collins said he and Davison
plan to leave the ashes on the tug this weekend.
Instead of the dive, yesterday's final tribute to Charlie was paid from
above water. Everyone on board took a flower from McGurr's brother Joe and
dropped it over the side of the Sea Inn, on the waves above the spot where
the McGurr Tug was settling onto the reef.
And Kathy McGurr walked around the deck, hugging her husband's friends and
thanking them for what they'd done.
"I miss Charlie every day," she said. "But it's comforting to know that
there are people who cared enough about him to do this."

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