Drone captures dramatic sinking of the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Tamaroa, formerly the Navy fleet tug Zuni, at the Del-Jersey-Land Inshore Reef. The reef is located 26 nautical miles southeast of Cape May. (Video by Andre Malok and Craig McCarthy | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com)
By Craig McCarthy | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com
MAY 10, 2017
A famed Coast Guard cutter and former Navy tug has entered its third tour of duty as it now sits 135 feet below sea level off the coast of New Jersey, creating a destination for divers and adding to an already thriving ecosystem of marine life.
The Tamaroa, famously featured in the book and movie “The Perfect Storm” –where its crew saved three from a sailboat caught in the storm and four of five members of the Air National Guard whose helicopter had ran out of fuel– was first commissioned by the U.S. Navy in 1943 as the Zuni and tugged torpedoed ships to safety during the assault on Iwo Jima.
“Now she’ll serve forever,” said Rollie LeDoux, who was stationed on the ship 35 years ago. “It’s sad to see her go, but it’s better than her becoming some beer cans.”
Planning began last summer to scuttle the Tamaroa, which was retired in 1994 after nearly 50 years on the seas. The 205-foot ship began its trip to waters off the Jersey coast Monday night after it was towed to Suffolk, Va., where it was cleaned and prepared for its sinking.
Shortly after 1 p.m. Wednesday, The Tamaroa was on her way to join up with the largest vessel ever deployed on the East Coast, a 563-foot destroyer, in the artificial reef off Cape May Wednesday afternoon.
“It could last for 100 years, creating a marine environment for fisherman and the diving community,” said Peter Clarke, who coordinates the artificial reef program at the state’s Department of Environmental Protection. Clarke said the site where the Tamaroa was sunk has attracted a variety of fish, including mako shark, blue fish and tuna.
“She’ll be serving long after I’m gone,” LeDoux said.