Derelict Cruiseliner to Get Second Life as Artificial Reef | Florida News

Contractors work to upright the El Dorado on Jan. 14, 2019 in St. Andrews Bay in Panama City, Fla. (Patti Blake/News Herald via AP) The Associated Press

By PATRICK MCCRELESS, News Herald of Panama City

PANAMA CITY, Fla. (AP) Hurricane Michael took Lee Ingram's boat, but he refused to let his vessel remain another victim of the storm's wrath.

For 10 years the Panama City native has owned the El Dorado, a 157 foot-long, 300-ton former luxury cruise liner. Ingram had been trying to restore the boat and eventually return it to service. Then came the hurricane, which flushed the boat from its dock in Crooked Creek, across West Bay and left the vessel on its side, just off shore behind Florida State University Panama City.

There the El Dorado has remained as a visual, half-floating reminder to travelers on Hathaway Bridge of the storm's destructive power.

But within a few months, thanks to Ingram's donation, the vessel will become something else an artificial reef for divers and fisherman and a symbol of Bay County's defiance in the face of devastation.

"I wanted to do something for Bay County," Ingram said. "Life is what you make of it."

Crews of men were busy on a Tuesday morning, using a crane and air bags to slowly turn the El Dorado upright. The green Christmas tree with the words 'Happy Holidays' painted on the ship's top deck by at least one festive, anonymous resident more than a month ago, were still clearly visible.

The work has been underway since after Jan. 14, when the Bay ....

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