Lady Luck, an underwater art exhibit located off the coast of Pompano Beach, isn't your usual art museum. It's 120 feet underwater-- and you need to don scuba gear to reach it.
The 324-foot New York City environmental tanker built in 1967 was sunk off Pompano Beach on July 23 (the museum opened the same day) and is the latest addition to Shipwreck Park Pompano, three square miles worth of sunken ships that attract divers from around the world.
But unlike many of the world's biggest museums, this tanker is free for divers, provided they have their own boat. And because it’s a 10-minute boat ride from Hillsboro Inlet, it’s known as one of the most easily accessible major dive sites in the nation.
Divers descend down to the stack, which is about 50 feet below the surface to explore the ship’s deck and its permanent collection of artwork sculpted out of concrete, steel and recycled ship parts. This ship is as long as a football field, so there is plenty to see.
There’s a faux casino complete with a poker table and three “card sharks,” a mermaid cocktail waitress serving patrons, an octopus working the craps table, giant dice and starfish. Beyond that, there are four slot machines created mostly from recycled ship parts. In other words, there are plenty of perfect spots for taking scuba selfies.
Divers also get to swim through 16 staterooms, the captain's deck, galley, engine room and tanker holding bays. The museum plans to features a variety of rotating underwater art exhibits.
But this cool attraction has a lofty purpose. The end goal is for the ship to serve as an artificial reef, a new habitat for marine life in Florida. Over time, the pieces of sunken artwork-- and the ship itself-- will evolve and change. Lady Luck has already attracted a large school of Atlantic spade fish and schools of pelagic fish like blue runners. Soon, museum officials say soft and hard corals of all shades will start to grow and algae will form on the ship’s hull.
Nearby wrecks in Shipwreck Park play host to everything from tiny invertebrates like arrow crabs right up to large pelagic sharks. And because of the tall structure of the ships, they also attract schools of amberjacks, barracuda and huge bait balls followed by pelagic predators.
And sinking ships isn't child's play.
“We worked 12-hour days steadily for two months to create the art,” says Dennis MacDonald, the artist who designed the underwater masterpieces. “I wanted the entire project to evoke a sense of playfulness and good humor, and in this regard, I consider the project to be a success.”
MacDonald hopes his creations will bring more tourists to the area. It certainly has potential. It’s predicted to attract 35,000 divers each year, according to The Shipwreck Park, Inc.
If you like your art underwater, there are a few galleries around the world that are a must-see. Cancun's Underwater Museum features dozens of sunken sculptures. In October, artist Doug Aitken will debut his epoymous “Doug Aitken: Underwater Pavilions" with MOCA, an underwater installation with three sculptures that will float off the coast of Santa Catalina Island. Each geometric figure with reflective surfaces will be interactive-- swimmers can go inside and through them.
Once you’ve crossed Shipwreck Park off your list, there are plenty of other warm-water wrecks that are a plane ride away, including the Kittiwake and theTibbetts (world’s largest diveable Russian warship) in Grand Cayman, the Spiegel Grove in Key Largo and the Bianca C. Fire, a 600-foot luxury liner in Grenada.
Where to stay:
Bahama Beach Club, which has charming one-bedroom apartments, is a short walk away from the dock. Nearby, Pelican Place has studio, one and two-bedroom apartments perfect for families. Coral Tides Resort is another cozy option.
What to know:
Lady Luck’s art exhibits are on the deck of the ship, whose bottom is resting in 120 feet of water, so you need to be a certified diver to view them. South Florida Diving Headquarters offers a 4-hour, two-tank dive to Lady Luck and Rodeo 25, a Dutch freighter wreck that offers lots of great silhouette photos thanks to its towering wheelhouse. Price: $60, $10 tank rental or $45 full-gear rental.
What to do above the surface:
Take a SUP class with Sunrise Paddleboards. Choose from manatee tours, nighttime tours, SUP yoga sessions and fitness workouts. For something a bit more extreme, consider flyboarding with Flyboard Ft. Lauderdale. It’s part hoverboard, part jetpack thanks to high-powered water jets that send you 30 feet into the air.