It was quite a sight about 16 miles off the Delaware beaches last week as a 180-foot floating casino sunk to the bottom of the ocean at a depth of 86 feet.
The sinking of the Texas Star was intentional—the old vessel is the newest addition to Delaware’s artificial reef system that already includes a retired Lewes-Cape May ferry boat, a former menhaden ship, and a military freighter/supply ship. The latter was sunk in August 2020 at a site known as Redbird Reef, and that is where the Texas Star has just been placed, too.
Redbird Reef covers 1.3 square miles of ocean floor and is also home to 714 retired New York City “Redbird” subway cars, a 215-foot-long Chesapeake Bay cruise ship, 86 tanks and armored vehicles, eight tugboats, a fishing trawler and two barges.
The Texas Star was built in 1977 on a multi-purpose supply ship hull. It was a commercial scallop catcher and processor before its life as a floating casino. Now its third career will be on the ocean floor, as habitat for marine life.
Delaware’s Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC) worked with Norfolk, Va.-based marine contractor Coleen Marine on the sinking. It was approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Coast Guard for environmental cleanliness and safety.
Watch DNREC’s video of the sinking below (the action picks up around the 2-minute mark):
All three of the artificial reef vessels sunk in the last three years have become popular fishing spots.
“When we sank Twin Capes four years ago as a centerpiece of Delaware’s artificial reef system, it was unmatched, providing fish habitat and a spectacular dive with its five decks for underwater exploration. Now anglers, the fish they are pursuing, and divers all will have another new destination,” says DNREC Secretary Shawn M. Garvin.
DNREC invested $325,000 in federal Sport Fish Restoration funds to buy the Texas Star from Coleen Marine after the ship settled onto the Redbird Reef.
-Meg Walburn Viviano