Much of our community knows of John Michael Baker’s tragic boating accident in August 2015. Three years later, his life is memorialized with a 70-ton Underground Playground Artificial Reef.
On Tuesday, August 14, 2018, the GO AMERICA Offshore Supply Ship left the Dania Cut Superyacht shipyard with family members, friends, local conservation officials, supporters and the ship staff. After a quick ride into 70 ft of water, we arrived at the deployment site. The artificial reef is made up of 10 individually standing pieces strategically placed underwater for divers and fish alike to swim between each piece and enjoy as a “playground”. The operation to build this unique design took not only the strength of the supply ships cranes, but also a coordinated underwater dive team. The team’s radio conversation was repeated with each piece “6 ft to the left, 2 ft more, 2 ft more”. Every piece put exactly into its intended place.
The concrete formations were found by Jamie Baker, Chloe Baker (John’s sister), and Howard Jacobs of Cardio Access/Skeleton Optics Offshore. Each piece picked out individually with cavities to encourage growth and fish activity. Looking down from the massive bridge of the GO AMERICA ship, the 70-tons of concrete resembled a playground.
One by one the massive concrete shapes where craned, deployed and placed with care. The family and friends on board were hands-on in the process, watching each piece, discussing future projects and getting up close and personal for the best memories.
As the last piece stood on the deck, a moment of somber came over the ship. For the ship staff, a day’s hard work almost through, for the friends and family, the final touch on the underwater playground that they’ve worked so hard to create and the last piece to finalize Johnny’s memorial. With a family signed bouquet of weaved palm attached, the final piece was craned into the air and submerged for the divers to place.
The Underground Playground Artificial Reef now finalized, the deck is bare and we are headed back to the shipyard. You can feel the sense of love and accomplishment. Not only for the memorial but for the efforts that are going into promoting marine life in areas of featureless bottom.
The John Michael Baker Fishing Tournament will be held on Saturday, May 19, 2018. For more information on this memorial tournament, visit: www.jmbfishingtournament.com
To find out more information on the development of artificial reefs, visit the CCA Florida website at www.ccaflorida.org/CCA-