As the Southern Heritage sank beneath the choppy gulf waters, a huge sense of accomplishment came over Garrett Ard. Thursday, May 7, 2020 was a special day. The Eagle Scout from Troop 49 in Gulf Shores sank the 50-foot steel shrimp boat to complete his public service Eagle Project. The sinking was no small task, taking four years to complete.
“We started the task when I was a freshman in high school and right then it seemed something that we just couldn’t do because buying a twenty-thousand-dollar boat just seems overwhelming, so we took it step by step,” Ard said. “We gave presentations. We raised money and we’ve taken it kind of slowly.”
Between the city of Orange Beach, the Gulf Coast Reef Foundation and family friend and fellow commercial fisherman, Buddy Guindon of Galveston, Ard raised $20,000. Garrett drummed up remaining $5,000 it took to purchase and deploy the steel-hulled boat. If you’re wondering why he chose such an ambitious project of this kind, you could say it runs in his blood. His late grandfather, Captain Gloyice Ard and father, Captain Tom Ard are both well-known Orange Beach charter fishermen.
“I grew up on this…in this marina, riding on boats and growing up on the water and the idea of making a reef, that just kind of made sense,” explained Ard. “My grandfather passed away in 2009 and doing a memorial reef just seemed like the right thing to do.”
The Southern Heritage was put down 13 miles offshore in about 90 feet of water. The area already has several smaller reefs in the vicinity and the state will be adding its own material to the site. The shrimp boat will end up being the centerpiece and is sure to attract not only a huge variety of fish, but plenty of fishermen as well.
“That was the most exciting part is that this is a reef that I can take my kids to. It’s going to be hopefully a huge part of the fishing industry down here and something I can say when I’m an older man and say this is something I did when I was your age,” Ard said.
The reef is part of the Alabama Artificial Reef Program and will be listed in the next update to the reef mapping. You’ll know it by its name, “BSA Troop 49.”