26° 45.191' N
80° 00.622' W
March 17, 2002
RECOMMENDED MINIMUM TRAINING
The coastal freighter Gilbert Sea (IMO number 6610546) was built in 1966 as the Geulborg by Scheepswerf Gebroeders Sanderat Delfzijl, Netherlands. Originally employed by E. Wagenborg’s Scheepvaart 8 Expeditiebedriij. V., the coaster Was 175.8 feet long, 28.7 feet wide, and displaced 529tons. In 1977, the freighter was sold to Taylor Corporation, Limited of Nassau, Bahamas, and renamed Miranda. She was later sold to a Honduran company, reflagged, and renamed Paradie Express in 1996, and then El Compain 1999.
Later that same year, she was renamed Gilbert Sea. In 2001, the Gilbert Sea changed her flag state to Bolivia and registered with Registro lnternacional Boliviano de Buques.
On June 4, 2001, while searching the Gilbert Sea during ”Operation Riverwalk,” the U S . Customs Service and Coast Guard seized 74 pounds of cocaine worth $630,000
wholesale. Inspectors initially found two pounds of cocaine inside paint cans on the forward deck, while further inspection of the ship revealed additional cocaine in various locations, including in a 55‐gallon oil drum that had a false bottom. The vessel was forfeited, sold to Palm Beach County for use as an artificial reef, and summarily sunk in 90 feet of water on March 17, 2002.
Part of the Governor’s River Walk Reef, the Gilbert Sea is the furthest north of four wrecks; all four vessels (Sha Sha Boekanier, St. Jacques, Thozina, and Gilbert Sea) were confiscated for smuggling narcotics and are of similar design. While the Thozina rests further to the east than the other three ships, the Gilbert Sea rests generally in line with the Sha Sha Boekanier and St. Jacques, and 800 tons of deployed concrete bridge material connect the wrecks of the St. Jacques and Gilbert Sea. Since their deployment, all four freighters have been significantly impacted by hurricanes, which have flattened their cargo holds and torn each of their hulls in half. The bow of the Gilbert Sea is resting hard over on its starboard side, while the stem is listing to port. The wheel house has collapsed from the superstructure, revealing the remains of the wooden deck. Nevertheless, the wrecks of the Governor’s River Walk Reef still offer a fantastic diving experience, and the twisted hulls perhaps offer a more interesting underwater scene than if the freighters were still upright and intact.
Due to the proximity of the Gulf Stream to the coast of Florida in this area, current is often significant. Due to all the vertical relief offered from the wrecks and additional concrete material, however, divers can easily hide in the lee of structure and leap‐frog from wreck to wreck. Typically, Visibility is phenomenal, and it’s n o t uncommon to observe massive goliath grouper, sea turtles, roving sting rays, and sharks while drifting along the Governor's River Walk Reef.