TUG ORANGE WRECK
Average Depth: 50 ft. / 15 m
Max Depth: 80 ft. / 24 m
The Tug Orange is the highlight of the South County Artificial Reef site. The tug was built in 1903 as an 80-foot long, steel-hulled harbor tug. Orange was a workhorse used to push railroad barges in the New York Harbor area before moving south and pushing ships around Tampa Bay. The Tampa Bay Towing company donated Orange to the Pinellas County Artificial Reef Program. It is an 80′ tug with an intact main cabin, but the wheel house was removed prior to its sinking in April of 2003. With 20′ of bottom relief it is a favorite of free divers as well as scuba divers. The St Pete Times ran a beautiful centerfold illustration article of this reef in its Gulf & Bay section on Nov 4th 2005, but sadly only the text is archived. The bow points SSW and the hull still leans about 45 degrees to port.
The Orange and the surrounding reef are home to a variety of fish including Spanish and king mackerel, jacks, bonita, black sea bass and Goliath grouper. Friendly nurse sharks and barracuda are often spotted near the tug. The stern with her large 4 blade prop and rudder is a hot spot for fish. The marker buoy on the wreck is long gone but the concrete blocks and junction boxes around the wreck add an attraction for gag grouper like the one shown at right. Since the 2005 red tide clean-off the Goliath grouper population has rebounded and is once again out of control… commonly 25 to 50 of the behemoths roam the wreck. During the fall of 2008 witnessed a school of about 16 cobia was witnessed in the site.
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